Sheet with Two Studies: A Tree and the Upper Part of a Head of Rembrandt Wearing a Velvet Cap

Artist: Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)

Date: ca. 1642

Medium: Etching; only state

Dimensions: Sheet: 3 1/16 x 2 9/16 in. (7.8 x 6.5 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1970

Accession Number: 1970.705


At first glance, this image looks like a small man contemplating a large tree with a mysterious dark pattern to its right. When the print is viewed sideways, it becomes clear that this area is actually the beginning of a self-portrait that Rembrandt never finished. The combination of fragmentary elements on this sheet reveals how spontaneous Rembrandt's prints could be. He moved from studying how light plays across his velvet cap and eyes, to the structure of the tree, and finished by experimenting with hatched lines in the space beside the tree and across its trunk. Significantly, the cap studied here is worn by Rembrandt in many of his self-portraits, including the Museum's painted version of 1660.