Writing Master: Smaller Plate, c.1658

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Writing Master: Smaller Plate, c.1658


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

Medium: Original etching, engraving and drypoint printed in black ink on laid paper

Dimensions: 9 3/8" × 7 11/16" (20" x 24" with frame)

Lieven Willemsz van Coppenol (1599-1667) was the principal of the "French school" in Amsterdam until 1650. An important part of the curriculum in those days was calligraphy, and ordinary schoolmasters were among the most proficient practitioners of this art. When Coppenol suffered a kind of nervous breakdown and was prevented from continuing his work as a schoolmaster, he devoted himself altogether to calligraphy, becoming something of a fanatic about it. He traveled all over the country giving demonstrations and showing off his work, and he soon came to be a well known figure.

His fame was due in the first place to his capacity for self-promotion. Among his gimmicks was the commissioning of etched portraits of himself by famous artists (including Cornelis Visscher and Rembrandt) which he would send to as many poets as he could think of with the request to write poems of praise to him or his work. If they insisted upon it, he would even pay them.

Given this practice of Coppenol's, it would seem fairly certain that Rembrandt's etched portrait of him was commissioned. 

Catalogue Raisonné: Bartsch 282 vi/vi; Hind 269; Biorklund-Barnard 58-I; Usticke 282 vi/vi; New Hollstein 305 vi/vii.

Literature regarding this artwork: Christopher White, Rembrandt as an Etcher: A Study of the Artist at Work, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1999, pp. 165-68, no. 217 (ill.); Erik Hinterding / Ger Luijten / Martin Royalton-Kish, Rembrandt the Printmaker, Fitzroy Dearborne Publishers, Chicago & London, 2000, p. 358 (ill.); Clifford S. Ackley, Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter-Draftsman-Etcher, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2003, no. 210, p. 301 (ill.); Gary Schwartz, The Rembrandt Book, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 2006, no. 493, p. 291 (ill.); Émile Michel, Rembrandt Painter, Engraver and Draftsman, Vol. I, Parkstone Press International, New York, 2008, no. 20, p. 34 (ill.); Erik Hinterding, Rembrandt Etchings from the Frits Lugt Collection, Thoth Publishers, Bussum, 2008, no. 210, vol. II p. 236 (ill.).


In the collection of:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The British Museum, London

Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Kupferstich-Kabinett der Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

Graphische Sammlung, Albertina, Vienna.