Daniel Libe­skind’s Favourite Paint­ing

John Mcewen com­ments on David in Prayer

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

The ar­chi­tect chooses an etch­ing that makes him think ‘how won­drous Rem­brandt was’

Print etch­ing de­rived from gold­smiths and other metal work­ers. its adap­ta­tion to the re­pro­duc­tion of draw­ings is cred­ited to Daniel Hopfer (about 1470–1536) of Augs­burg.

A metal plate, usu­ally cop­per (prob­a­bly an ital­ian in­no­va­tion), is cov­ered with wax. the artist draws into the wax with an etch­ing nee­dle to ex­pose the metal. the plate is dipped in acid, which ‘bites’ (Fr. etchant) into the metal ex­posed by the draw­ing. the re­main­ing wax is wiped off, the plate painted with ink and wiped again to leave only the

This lit­tle etch­ing was gen­er­ously given to me by my wife, Nina, as a birth­day present a few years ago. It hangs on the wall of our house in New York and I look at it ev­ery day. It de­picts David kneel­ing by his bed with his hands in prayer and there is a lyre next to him on the floor. It’s very small, no larger than about 8in by 6in, but I find it in­spi­ra­tional to look at and think about how won­drous Rem­brandt was to be able to cap­ture God, mu­sic, scene’ light and si­lence in one

etched lines inked. the plate is then stamped by a print­ing press onto a sheet of pa­per to re­pro­duce the draw­ing. the plate can be used many times be­fore the lines be­come worn and re­pro­duce a faint or fuzzy im­age.

Print­mak­ing added to an artist’s in­come and spread a rep­u­ta­tion in ways paint­ing could not. Along with the printed word, the pic­to­rial print—whether etched, en­graved or cut in wood, pub­lished as an illustration or a fine-art edi­tion—had be­come, by rem­brandt’s time, the ma­jor means of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

the 17th cen­tury was etch­ing’s golden age and it was rem­brandt’s mas­tery of the medium, cir­cu­lated through­out Chris­ten­dom, that ac­counted for his in­ter­na­tional fame. ‘i frankly con­sider him to be a vir­tu­oso,’ said the ital­ian painter Guer­cino, renowned for his draw­ing.

rem­brandt’s re­li­gious etch­ings achieved an ex­tra­or­di­nary em­pa­thy. David, once the shep­herd boy who slayed Go­liath, was ap­pointed king by the Lord God to rule over is­rael. For­bear of Joseph, and char­ac­terised by his harp, he was renowned as the most pro­lific au­thor of the Psalms.

Daniel Libe­skind is an ar­chi­tect. He is best known for de­sign­ing the Jewish Mu­seum in Berlin and the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum North in Manch­ester

David in Prayer, 1652, by Rem­brandt van Rijn (1606–69), 5½in by 4¾in, Col­lec­tions var­i­ous

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