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Two new Rembrandt etchings, 1632

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Two previously undiscussed etchings that illustrate a book issued by Leiden publisher Justus Livius (Lievens) in 1632 raise the question whether they might be identified either as the work of the publisher's brother Jan Lievens or of these brothers' friend, Rembrandt van Rijn. Justus Livius's production was limited to thirty-two books between 1632 and 1649, with only one illustrated title page beyond the two 1632 etchings, unrelated to them. Reviewing past attempts to distinguish between the early works of Jan Lievens and Rembrandt, we discover that confusion has persisted for over three centuries. A cavalcade of style critics has paraded one apodictically proclaimed oeuvre separation after another. Each one may be correct, but all cannot simultaneously be correct; and the more recent proclamations have nothing to recommend them as necessarily superior to those of the past. An iconological approach, however, suggests that the pictorial themes in the 1632 title page recur throughout the earlier and later signed etchings and paintings of Rembrandt, while the same themes are absent in the signed works of Jan Lievens. This circumstantial evidence resolves the problem of attribution in favor of Rembrandt.


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