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Faust in His Study, Watching a Magic Disc

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

European Art

In this luminous print, in which lightly etched passages contrast sharply with richly dark areas of drypoint, Rembrandt captures a moment of mystical revelation. A scholar looks up in wonder as a radiant disk and a shadowy figure with a spectral hand appear before his bright window. The disk is inscribed with symbols and religious abbreviations, including “INRI” (Latin for “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews”).

For many years the scholar, whose profile echoes the skull in the gloom behind him, was identified as Dr. Faust of German legend, who made a pact with the Devil in his quest for knowledge and immortality. Rembrandt was often inspired by theater and might have seen the popular stage production of Faust, where the hero was forewarned by a divine force. He never titled this work, however, and its meaning remains elusive.

This impression is printed on one of the Asian papers available in Amsterdam after 1647 that Rembrandt began to use often from then on.
MEDIUM Etching and drypoint on Eastern laid paper
  • Place Made: Netherlands
  • DATES ca. 1652
    DIMENSIONS image: 8 × 6 5/16 in. (20.3 × 16 cm) sheet: 8 × 6 5/16 in. (20.3 × 16 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 57.188.59
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mrs. Charles Pratt
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). Faust in His Study, Watching a Magic Disc, ca. 1652. Etching and drypoint on Eastern laid paper, image: 8 × 6 5/16 in. (20.3 × 16 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Charles Pratt, 57.188.59 (Photo: , 57.188.59_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 57.188.59_PS9.jpg., 2019
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). <em>Faust in His Study, Watching a Magic Disc</em>, ca. 1652. Etching and drypoint on Eastern laid paper, image: 8 × 6 5/16 in. (20.3 × 16 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Charles Pratt, 57.188.59 (Photo: , 57.188.59_PS9.jpg)