© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch (Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam)
Abraham Francen, Apothecary
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Abraham Francen, Art Dealer
Work Type
c. 1657
Physical Descriptions
Etching, engraving, and drypoint with plate tone on vellum (the reverse of a mariner's chart)
Etching, engraving and drypoint
plate: 15.6 × 20 cm (6 1/8 × 7 7/8 in.)
sheet: 15.8 × 20.4 cm (6 1/4 × 8 1/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • collector's mark: verso, black stamp: H. W. [Hermann Weber (Lugt 1383)]
  • inscription: verso, graphite: Cl. 270 II
  • collector's mark: verso, purple stamp with black ink numbering within: [Gray Collection accession stamp (Lugt 4836)] 3277
  • design: verso, brown ink: compass headings from the earlier use of this parchment as a mariner's chart
Hermann Weber, Bonn (Lugt 1383), sale [Rudolph Weigel, Leipzig, April 28, 1856, no. 388]. Francis Calley Gray, bequest; to his nephew William Gray, gift; to Harvard University, 1857.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
New Hollstein 301, Bartsch 273.ii (v), Hind 291.iv (ix), R. 273
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of William Gray from the collection of Francis Calley Gray
Object Number
European and American Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish , written 2014
Printed Portraits

Unlike paintings, printed portraits were multiples, circulated widely. Printmakers used portraiture to experiment with lighting effects and
the depiction of costume and accessories. Portraits could be studies of character and emotion while also presenting the sitters’ status or social aspirations. As a young artist without access to paid models, Rembrandt inspected his own reflection to study countenance and clothing, a practice he continued throughout his career. Presented here are a self-portrait and the etched copper plate from which it was printed.

Rembrandt’s contemporary Anthony van Dyck employed portraiture to record his own bearing and that of fellow artists, their elegant miens and opulent attire affirming their celebrity status. Van Dyck kept his portraits spare, but Rembrandt creates a portrait of the sitter’s world in depicting the apothecary Abraham Francen, an avid collector of prints and drawings, as he examines an artwork in his lavish study.

Portraits sometimes commemorated the achievements of long, successful lives. Records suggest that Jan Lievens’s old man was 112 years old when portrayed, an artist’s opportunity to show the body marked by time. Jacob Matham produced a funerary portrait of his stepfather and mentor, Hendrick Goltzius, within an elaborate tomb-like framework. Impressions of the print are rare, perhaps because it was intended as a tribute distributed among intimates and admirers.

[2008.25.1-2, 2006.168, G461, G462, 2013.44, 1994.120, M22555, G3277]

Publication History

Ivan Gaskell, Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2006), checklist

Exhibition History

Fine Art for Harvard: The Gray Collection of Engravings, Fogg Art Museum, 09/02/1986 - 11/02/1986

Lifeworld: Portrait and Landscape in Netherlandish Prints, 1550-1650, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/30/1999 - 01/23/2000

Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, Harvard University Art Museums, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 09/09/2006 - 12/10/2006

32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 04/09/2015

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu