Artist: Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)
Medium: Drypoint on japan paper; second state of eight
Dimensions: Plate: 15 1/8 x 17 11/16 in. (38.4 x 44.9 cm)
Frame: 24 1/2 × 30 1/2 in. (62.2 × 77.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his family, 1941
Accession Number: 41.1.34
The Roman governor Pontius Pilate on the dais points to Christ at his side as he asks the people whether he should release Barrabas or Christ (Matthew 27:21–23). Just as fascinating as the riveting central subject of this powerful print are the varied characters, attitudes, and poses to be found within the crowd of spectators witnessing the event from the street below and the surrounding windows. Rembrandt composed this print entirely in drypoint, which accounts for the velvety quality of many of the lines. With drypoint, Rembrandt could combine the immediacy of drawing with the ability to print many impressions of a single image. This impression was printed on Japan paper, whose yellow tone bathes the scene in a warm light. The standard-size Japan sheet was smaller than Rembrandt's printing plate, but the printmaker solved this dilemma by adding an extra strip of paper to the top of the sheet.