Rembrandt van Rijn, ‘Abraham Francen, Apothecary’, ca. 1657, Christopher-Clark Fine Art

Abraham Francen (born in 1613), an apothecary and art collector, was a good friend of Rembrandt's. He swore to affidavits for him on a number of occasions, stood by him in times of financial crisis and, after Rembrandt's death, accepted the guardianship of the artist's daughter Cornelia.

Jan six, in his inventory of Rembrandt's studio at the time of his death, connected this etching with a document of 1655 in which Rembrandt was contracted to etch a portrait of Otto van Cattenburgh. The contract stipulated that the portrait had to be “of the same quality as the portrait of Mr. Jan Six, in the amount of 400 guilders.” Six did not doubt that this etching by Rembrandt must have been the work that resulted from the agreement. Six suggested that Francen took over some of the payment that Rembrandt was required to make, including this etched portrait.

This is Rembrandt's only oblong portrait etching. By adopting this format, the artist was able to show the sitter in his own room, amidst his own possessions. On the table and the wall are a number of works of art, including a triptych of the Crucifixion. The death's-head can be interpreted as an attribute of an apothecary.

Series: Bartsch's tenth and final state; Usticke's seventh state of nine. Printed by Pierre Francois Basan circa 1797.

About Rembrandt van Rijn

A prolific painter, draftsman, and etcher, Rembrandt van Rijn is considered the greatest artist of Holland's Golden Age. He worked from direct observation, and despite the evolution of his style over the course of his career, Rembrandt’s compelling descriptions of light, space, atmosphere, modeling, texture, and human affect are the result of intense perceptual study. A prominent portraitist, Rembrandt is most famous for The Night Watch (1642), a monumental painting of militia guards that features Rembrandt’s distinctive use of chiaroscuro.

Dutch, 1606-1669, Leiden, Netherlands, based in Amsterdam and Leiden, Holland