Dutch artists of the 1600s often depicted landscapes and city views that went beyond descriptive appearance and suggested national pride in their small country's political independence, free religion, and international sea trade. Rembrandt, the great history and portrait painter, made relatively few landscapes. This View of Amsterdam was his first landscape etching and features a distant, panoramic view of the city where he lived.
To the left are the sea and its shipyards. Church steeples, windmills, and the warehouses of the East India Company interrupt the low horizon. Rembrandt combines fine detail with tonal variations of line and shadow, taking advantage of the reserved white of the paper to establish an open, light-struck vista of the city under the expansive Dutch sky.
View of Amsterdam, ca. 1640
March 31, 2006