A side to Rembrandt most people never knew of was his experimentation with nudes. Rembrandt was most popular for his landscapes and self portraits but he like many other artists had a keen fascination with nude art.
The British Museum in London caused a sensation with an exhibition dedicated to a side of Rembrandt few people have experienced. A virtuous Joseph is portrayed resisting the advances of a nude Potiphar’s wife.
Eroticism in Art
This style of eroticism was well established in the fine arts by the seventeenth century. Rembrandt’s nudes were not meant to be provocative. His subjects were not portrayals of muscular men or striking women, they were his interpretations of the human condition.
Rembrandt etched only eight female nudes during his long prosperous career. A Woman Bathing Her Feet in a Brook is a print that started as a study of a nude model in his studio. He added foliage and a brook in the background to create a warm outdoor setting.
Rembrandt used the women in his life as models for his nude paintings. Saskia clutches an apple as she poses as Eve. He painted his sons nursemaid Geertghe Dircx as a lush figure in some of his prodigally erotic etchings.
Hendrickje Stoffels appeared in some of his greatest paintings. He painted her while she was pregnant and as a wondrous wader absorbed in the rippling reflections of the water.
Often his nude paintings would be absent in his art exhibitions. Art curators would often consign these erotic prints to the store room. Not many people today are even aware of their existence. Many recent catalogs of his prints do not even mention the existence of any nudes.
Unlike other artists who had engravers make prints of their work, Rembrandt produced his own. He experimented with techniques like drypoint as well as qualities of ink and paper that influenced the finished print. Drypoint was an intricate technique where a design would be etched directly onto a copper plate with a sharp instrument that resembled a pen with a sharp edge.