ANDY WEISLOGEL: --encourage varied pedagogical approaches as well as new modes of quantitative inquiry into their manner of making and distribution that allows scholars to continually pursue new discoveries about the artist and his practice. We've seen, as we intended, that the exhibition invites close looking, long looking, repeated looking, and renewed looking at both Rembrandt's images and his supports. And our choice of speakers and topics for today, we hope, goes along with this idea in a variety of ways. We're honored that they have come far to be with us and eager to hear from them all today.
There are so many deserving of gratitude for helping to bring this exhibition and program to life and I want to recognize some of them. Our many faithful and supporters and sponsors of the exhibition in the accompanying catalog, [INAUDIBLE] Johnson, class of '58, and Dick Johnson '57, Seymour Askin Jr., class of '47, Nelson Schaenen Jr., class of '50, and Nancy Schaenen. Joseph Simon, class of '80, Leslie Simon-Nib, '85, and Ernst F. Steiner '63 in honor of Vera C. Simon '55. Additional support has been provided by Malcolm White and Karen White and a gift in doubt in memory of Elizabeth Miller Frances class of '47. So we have a range of Cornellians supporting, and for them we're very grateful.
We're also grateful to the Cornell Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies for their kind co-sponsorship of today's event and their presence in the show and in the room today. We thank, of course, the many colleagues at college and university museums who relinquished for a whole academic year teaching with certain Rembrandt treasures so they could travel here to inspire our audiences. And we note the generosity of the Morgan Library and several private collectors whose loans so brilliantly augment the rest. On the Johnson Museum team, our gratitude to director Stephanie Wiles for her steadfast support of this project, Cathy Klimaszewski for partnering in planning from the beginning, and to Elizabeth Saggese for her uncommon organizational skill and dedication in preparation for today. And to BJ Woodams for martialing today's audiovisual resources.
I'd also like to acknowledge and thank the Johnson museum's former director Frank Robinson-- Rembrandt scholar, mentor, and donor of Rembrandt prints to the museum and the exhibition. And lastly, I wish to thank my wonderful colleague Andaleeb Banta of the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin, co-curator for the exhibition, co-conspirator on today's program, for her hard work, unerring instincts, and admirable scholarship throughout.
Now before we proceed, a couple of logistical details about the schedule for today. During the lunch break and after the symposium, lithographs and etchings responding to the Rembrandt show by students in Professor Greg Pages and Elizabeth Meyers classes will be on display in our Citron Center, which is on the right at the end of this hallway in the 1973 building. After the lunch break at 1:30, please join us in the exhibition where Gregory Page, associate professor of print media and drawing at Cornell, will be in conversation with our own Cathy Klimaszewski, associate director and curator of education on the topic, Reflections of Rembrandt Across Printmaking Media. And we thank these professors and their students for bringing the key aspect of learning, printmaking practice, to today's proceedings. And finally, of course, I'd be remiss for not mentioning that the catalog of the exhibition is available for sale in the museum lobby at any time you wish to acquire one.
And now it's my great pleasure to introduce our morning keynote speaker. Erik Hinterding is curator of prints at the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam. He has published on subjects including King Willem II's 19th century art gallery, the prints of the mannerist engraver Jan Muller, and Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the 16th to the 19th century. He is of course a specialist in Rembrandt's etchings on which he's published widely.
Dr. Hinterding has held posts at the paper history department of the National Library of the Netherlands in The Hague and the print room of the Pinacoteca Nazionale and Bologna. There he developed an interest in early prints in general and Rembrandt's print in particular, as well as in paper and in watermarks. In 2006 his PhD thesis was published as Rembrandt the Etcher: the Practice of Production and Distribution.
Hinterding has worked on publications and exhibitions for the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, the Fondation Custodia in Paris, and numerous others. In 2013 he coauthored the new seven volume catalog raisonné of Rembrandt etchings which me and my students all know as NHD, published as part of the prestigious New Hollstein series. So please join me in welcoming Eric Hinterding.
ERIK HINTERDING: Thank you, Andy. Thank you for showing up in such generous numbers. I'm flattered and happy to be here and honored to be the first speaker. Some of you may know that I initially was not, but here I am. My presentation today is called Rembrandt's paper, state of research and where to go from here. What I want to do in the following hour is sketch for you what we learned on Rembrandt's paper so far and how that was helpful in furthering our understanding of how Rembrandt made, printed, and distributed his etchings.
Up until now the study of watermark mostly implies-- the study of paper, I would say-- mostly implies the study of watermarks. And you are probably aware that in the last few decades we've made some important progress in that field. But the study of watermarks in connection with prints is definitely not new at all. As early as 1861, Bernhard Hausmann noted the remarkable correlation between the quality of Durer's prints and the watermarks that appear in their paper. And he published these watermarks and where they were found and explained which one belonged to the early ones, which one to intermediate ones, and which watermarks belong in the late impressions.
In 1877, it's also a long time ago, Franz Wibiral used watermarks in Anthony van Dyck's iconography, [NON-ENGLISH], to date those sprints quite accurately to about 10 years, which is a good accomplishment. And in 1932, probably the most important and the most [NON-ENGLISH], of them all, Joseph Mader managed to date watermarks in Durer's print actually quite accurately. For that reason his work for Durer is still very important to this day.
The method they used-- I think that this should work, yes-- is tracing the watermark on a light box. I've got two examples here. One of them is Wibiral. And actually, it's probably that one. [INAUDIBLE] Hendrix, the 1991 reprint of Wibiral. But it includes a lot of watermarks and they were made by tracings. And the tracings made from Haywood, which is a 1953 watermark volume.
Especially here I chose deliberately these two examples because you can see some of the watermarks, part of the watermarks is missing. It has to do with the method they used. If you put a watermark on a light box, you get interference of the picture that is on it's. It's either a drawing or a print, but you can't see all of the watermark. And that's really something serious because it means that even if it's a drawing and it's an interpretation of what you see in the first place, but also the missing parts just interfere with what you're doing.
It's for that reason that it's hardly surprising that as late as 1986, George Bjorklund, who was a Swedish collector and the founding father of watermark research in Rembrandt etchings in a way, explicitly stated that watermark research in Rembrandt etching was of no use at all. That always amazed me. And I might add well, we proved him wrong.
In the 1980s, new initiatives developed to register watermarks using more modern methods than the lightbox. And in Washington, in the National Gallery of Art, this was done by Nancy Ashe and Shelley Fletcher-- and I'll show you a beautiful book they produced-- who used beta radiography to register the watermarks in Rembrandt's etchings in American collections, mainly east coast. And only a few years later, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a similar project started with Theo Laurentius who was a print dealer and [INAUDIBLE] who was a dentist and Jan Piet Filedt Kok who was, at the time, curator of prints in the Rijksmuseum.
And they use a method with soft X-ray. And this here you can see to the left, Theo Laurentius, and to the right, [INAUDIBLE]. And [INAUDIBLE] was responsible for the remake of the X-ray machine, to bring down the kilovoltage they used in order to get an image if you X-ray paper, because you only need very little. I was involved in this project in Amsterdam as a museum intern. I just finished my studies and I thought well, what to do? I ended up in the Rijksmuseum and was lucky enough to get involved in this project.
These two good researches met in 1989-- no, '98, sorry. Reversing the numbers. And they integrated the Amsterdam results and the American results and that resulted in the publication you saw by Nancy Ash and Shelley Fletcher, Watermarks in Rembrandt's Etchings. For me that was a wonderful start of a journey that eventually led to my PhD, which was called Rembrandt as an Etcher, the Practice of Production and Distribution.
Well, the importance of both registration methods is twofold. For one thing, the extreme accuracy if you make an X-ray or better, you just get a more or less photographic image. And the second very important advantage is you eliminate whatever is on the surface of the paper. Either the drawing or the etching, you just, at least usually, you don't see it at all which makes it possible to make very close comparisons-- and even, if you're lucky, to superimpose the negatives. We were in the analog age at that time so you could superimpose the image. And if you, against the lights, could make it into one image you're absolutely sure it's 100% identical.
To explain why that is so important I have to digress a little bit into how paper was made. And I'm sure I'm not going to be the only one who's doing that. So by the end of the day you'll have a thorough understanding of how paper was made. Until deep into the 19th century, paper was made by hand. And it was made from old rags, which is basically old clothes.
And they were torn up and sorted for the type, and then beaten in a paper mill literally into a pulp. You can see it here. That's the stampers where the pulp was made. And you use the force of the paper mill, basically, to make the hammer, or what you called it, move.
And the pulp, you put into a large tub with water to make the paper pulp. It's a milky substance. Here you have a paper maker working on the vat. And you see him working with a paper sieve. There are a few in the background.
Now, the important thing here of course are the paper sieves. I have a few examples here. As far as I know, there are no known examples left from the 17th century. But from the 18th and 19th century there are a few and these are some examples. These are the instruments where you make the sheets with. And actually, a paper maker-- and that's important for the rest of the story-- would use two sieves to make his paper.
With one sieve, he would be dipping into the vats making one sheet. And when he was finished he would put it on the stand. And then take the other sieve and then do the same thing. And while he was doing the same thing again, his colleague who was called a catcher, would remove it from the-- remove the wet sheet from the sieve.
And that's what you see here. There the paper maker is obviously doing his thing. But his colleague there is with the paper sieve, adding the wet paper to the next pile of paper.
And in the background again you see where the paper pulp is made. This I found an interesting image because it's not the usual Jost Amman or 18th century example. But this is the ex libris of Hank Voorn, and he's a very famous Dutch paper historian. And his ex libris basically shows in one picture perfect what is going on when making paper.
These sheets would eventually be dried and then folded into quires. And those quires would be bundled into piles of about 500 sheets. It kind of depends because you also have quires of 24 sheets instead of 25 and it's slightly less. But those are large piles. And you can see an example here, which shows also the paper wrapper that would go around it and here the size.
They're called reams. And if you hold the sheets inside this ream against the light, you would see a structure of horizontal and vertical lines and also a watermark too. In Dutch and in French what we would call that [FRENCH]. I don't think there is an English equivalent for the same term, because it's very obvious what you would see.
And that's here, the chain lines and the laid lines and watermark. This as you by now would understand is nothing more than an imprint of the sieve in which the paper was made. All these sieves were made by hand which goes for the watermark as well. So no sieve is the same and no watermark is the same.
And it even goes for the two pairs of sieves that the paper maker used to make his paper. They were intended, as we will see in a lot of examples of those. They were intended as the same watermark. But you always see some minor differences. From the production point of view, this means that in one pile of paper, in one ream, you have two sets of watermarks-- one from the one sieve that was used to make the ream and the other one from the other.
Now back to Rembrandt. How can you use that information to date watermarks? The artist, any artist, would buy a pile of paper that could be a ream but probably, more likely, that he would buy a couple of quires because it's still quite a lot of paper, and then use that up. And each quire would have its own watermark. And by the time he bought a new one because he finished up all the paper, the new quire would have a new watermark, or at least a set of watermarks, a twin march, what you would call it.
This has a promising consequence because it means that if you can date the particular use of one watermark in the work of an artist, you know when they were printed. I will give you an example of how that works. Here we have the first two twin marks. It's a Strasburg lily with the initials BA underneath. And you can see that they are very much alike.
These are twin marks, so they are very much alike. But especially this one has a little bit of space between the Strasburg lily inside. See here, and there, and it's not there. And it's only one of the minor differences but it goes to show that it can be very close but there are differences after all. This watermark was found in 25 impressions of 12 different etchings. And that's something you should remember during the rest of my talk.
There is a very important difference between an etching and an impression. An etching is an impression you make from a copper plate, and an impression is that particular impression. So when you're talking about the etching, you're talking about the general image. And talking about impressions is far more specific. So these are 25 impressions of 12 different etchings.
I'll show you a few. The Lion Hunt with two lions which is around 1629. It's an early Rembrandt etching. And The Good Samaritan, which is dated in the final stage 1633. Obviously I'm not going to show you everything because I only have an hour. So I'll continue with the earliest, which is Rembrandt's mother, or-- it's probably his mother, which is dated 1628 as you can see. And next to it, the fourth Oriental Head which is around 1635-- very good impression.
The dates of the prints on this paper, with the two Strasburg lilies, range from 1628 to 1635. But the impressions must all have been made around 1635. First of all, that follows from the printing quality of the individual etchings, of the individual impressions. The fourth oriental head which I'm showing you here is really, on this paper, is really a beautiful impression-- very black, very intense.
The self-portraits I'm going to show you later on, but the self-portraits with the lower sable, is 1634. And it's still a very good impression but it's not the same for Rembrandt's mother here, and it's-- not really this impression, but the impression on this paper looks a little bit worn. And the same goes for The Lion Hunt that I showed you earlier.
So the further back you go in time, the less the printing quality of the impression is. Apart from the decreasing quality of the earlier prints, none of these early prints occur in an early state. They're all final states or later states. And this is not completely the case with the most recent prints. But in the case of the earlier impressions, you realize that these all are restrikes, reprints from a copper plate you already had, which is not the case from the 1635 impressions.
And I'm going to show you two others that are also on the same paper. It's the great Jewish Bride in a first-- in the second state, actually, in the second state proof. And in the third state, which is still a proof because he's going to continue working on her right hand. But there is already dates in the plates which says this is 1635. So if you have two different steps and the latest one of them dated 1635 then you know that at least those definitely must have been made around that time.
So all the other papers you can deduce from here are restrikes of paper that was in use around 1635. This example I show you here is typical of a phenomenon that you find in Rembrandt's etchings over and over and over again. The dates of the prints with the same watermarks can vary considerably. There can be a 20 year time span between the earliest one on the paper and the latest one on the same paper. But it's always that the latest ones are the best in quality and the earlier ones just deteriorate and get more gray the older they are.
So as a rule of thumb, when using a watermark the latest dated prints on the group with identical watermarks serves as a reference point for establishing the date of when the entire group was printed. But you have to cross-reference that with, do I find any proofs? Because also in the 18th century, the phenomenon would be exactly the same but you don't have any reference point to say, well, OK, these must be 1751 or something. So you need early states to go with that.
In that manner, we have been able to date an incredible lot of watermarks in Rembrandt's prints. But maybe even more important, even if there is a watermark it doesn't automatically mean that you can date it because sometimes you just don't have enough information to pinpoint it somewhere. And that's something that you should not underestimate. And especially the posthumous impressions can have a watermark but they're never-- it's impossible to date them exactly.
This method tells you of when a certain paper with a certain watermark was in use in Rembrandt's studio around a certain time. But it also works the other way around. Obviously if you know that the paper was there in that time, then you know that all the impressions on the paper must have been printed then. And that also has very nice possibilities because it allows you to distinguish editions. I'm going to give you an example of that as well.
It allows you a glance into the workshop practice of Rembrandt. I'm going to show you another picture to get a little bit of the feeling. This is not Rembrandt etching and his decisions on how to tell a story, but it's literally Rembrandt at work, inking and doing paper. And this is a picture, it is 1607 from Vittorio Zonca, but it depicts a very early printing shop.
And what I like a lot about it is the wet sheets coming from the press hanging to dry in a corner. But also that you can see a number of examples where more than one impression is printed on one sheet. I will not be able to go into that with Rembrandt but if you want to talk about it later, please do because also Rembrandt does the same thing.
I'm going to show you one example of a print where you can distinguish a lot of editions and also be able to date first and second states. But also when you run into posthumous states it's actually quite clear and nice. As an example I have this one, The Presentation In The Temple, which is around 1640, 1641, with the first state to the left and the second state to the right. And you can see that Simeon, one of the main characters in the scene, is emphasized a little bit by re-hatching him. Maybe easier to see with these enlargements.
And there is a third state that we didn't trace yet. I mean, we did use it. It must be in first state because here literally in the copper plate there's a cross. There appears a cross. Somebody just marked the copper plate.
But so far we haven't found an impression showing only that addition. But the fourth stage, I'll show you here. To the left you see the second state and then the fourth state. And you can see it's completely reworked. All the shadows are enhanced and the arches in the temple are made more clear and the column is better distinguished.
But it's not contemporary, and I'll show you why. The first state of this print is quite rare. It only has 10 impressions. And of course, it occurs with two watermarks. The first one-- and that's recent. It's not in my dissertation, it came up later on-- has this watermark. It's called five pointed variant EC, but it-- well, just skip that. And it occurs in an impression of the 1634 Presentation to the Shepherd. It's a very good impression.
And it's in Oxford. However, most other impressions occur with another watermark, which is this watermark. It's the basilisk. And when I go again show you the two variants, they're up there in the exhibition too. You don't have time enough here to spot the differences, but they are very deceptive. It's difficult to see.
Both the first state and the second state occur in the same paper, which in this case means-- and you see that a lot-- that Rembrandt must have made those states shortly after each other. On the same paper, with his watermark, there are 25 different prints, so it's quite a lot, and 72 different impressions. So that it is really a large group of watermarks-- actually of impressions with exactly the same set of twin marks. I'll give you a brief impression of those.
Here again, The Angel Departing From The Family, which is dated in the first state, you can see it's underneath, 1641. This is the first state and it's from the Fitzwilliam in England. And the second state where you can see that he-- it's a kind of minor adjustment. Can you see the difference? It's on the skull of his head.
In the first state, it's blank and in the second set he more or less redefined the back of his head. That's the type of thing that Rembrandt was looking at. There's another example. The Great Lion Hunt this is the first state, and this one is in Paris-- same watermark. And I add the detail of the second state showing where the second horse is hatched a little bit additionally.
And all these instances, the first and the second state are on the same paper. They all show this basilisk watermark. Again this print is also 1641. The final example, The Baptism of the Eunich, this is the first state impression in Oxford. And the second state in the British Museum where the waterfall to the right has been redefined. It's all very minor differences, but they are all both states on the same paper so they must have been made more or less consecutively.
So many other prints from 1641 occur in the same paper, but there are also older plates like this one. Rembrandt posing as a beggar, or at least this is a beggar but the face is identified as a self-portrait by Rembrandt. And The Raising of Lazarus. The self-portrait is 1630, The Raising of Lazarus, 1632. And I kind of rearranged the size, but this one actually should be a lot smaller than it is here.
I will not show you-- again, not show you all but you get my point. In this case, too, you have a lot of prints around 1641 in two states indicating that that was when the paper was in the workshop. And a group of older prints on the same paper. But now to return to The Presentation in the Temple, the second state which is on the basilisk paper, is also reprinted. And this edition, the first one is a Strasbourg bend watermark. Again, I'm showing you the twin marks easily to distinguish, because the four-- or at least I called it the four-- points in opposite directions.
And this watermark is found in other prints as well. And it's dated around 1646. But I'll continue to the next watermark in my discussion, which is a paschal watermark-- again, the twins. This watermark actually goes with a countermark as well, but I'm not showing you those.
On this set of twin marks there's a large group of prints, among them The Return Of The Prodigal Son. But the most telling are these two, that's the portraits of Clement Jonghe, 1651, and a beautiful impression of the [INAUDIBLE] field is also 1651. Yet this is not the most telling edition of the second state because there's still another one. And we have seen, or at least I have pointed to, 1646, 1651. This is way later.
This is a watermark with a countermark, and to countermark reads as PVL. And that indicates that the paper was made by Pieter van Ley who was an Amsterdam paper maker. And we know from the archives that he took over the paper making shop of his father in 1675. So any paper showing that countermark is either 1675 or later. Rembrandt died in 1696 so by the time Pieter van Ley took over-- 69, I keep doing that.
I think in Dutch it's the other way around. But it doesn't matter. But Rembrandt already died. So that shows that if you find any impression with this watermark, you're dealing with a posthumous impression. The question is, probably Clement Jonghe in this case, but that's not our puzzle.
And I show you, obviously, to give an example of how you can date with the help of watermark. Not only the editions, but also establish which editions are not made by Rembrandt anymore. It also goes that the third and fourth and later states of this print are not by Rembrandt anymore. So it's only the first two out of, I think, six or seven that are actually made by Rembrandt.
So far, I explain how dating Rembrandt's watermarks works. And I gave an example of how you can date impressions, states, and editions of the same print. And now to summarize a few other results from the watermark research, Rembrandt reprinted so much that if you start counting the number of editions and the number of impressions on them then you come to the conclusion that Rembrandt must have printed small editions. It's not like you make a copperplate, you finish it, and then you start printing.
But he just kept reprinting, probably selling prints as he went. And when he went out of impressions, just made some new. And I'm going to give you an example of that only briefly, because you'll see this print again later on this morning. From this self-portrait that started out as this-- well it's more an Oriental figure, but believed to be, or at least he used his own features to make it. And he turned it into an oval, sold it.
This print, especially the version in the oval, is known in 11 editions. And the print was made in 1634. So, OK, 1634, 1635, 1636, 1637, '38, '43, 1650, and 1651. And then there are four more editions that we couldn't date. So you really see him printing small editions. That's something amazing. I mean, you would think if a print maker made a print, more or less you print it until it's gone. But that's at least not how Rembrandt worked.
And also in this case you see that the latest print of Rembrandt in each edition goes in the same group with much earlier work that was reprinted at the time. But once you get that Rembrandt kept on reprinting his prints, it's only obvious to find in the same group all kinds of older and newer copperplates together. Another conclusion drawn from the watermark research is that there are obvious peaks in Rembrandt's etching and reprinting activities. And one such peak occurs in 1640-1641, and I already showed you the watermark. with this remarkably large group of impressions with the same paper.
But it also has, the 1641 group consists of 17 new etchings. That was more than he would ever make again in one year in the rest of his life. And it sort of begs the question, why? why would he be so active, both in making new etchings as in reprinting them? It may be that he just bought his new house, the present day Rembrandt House Museum, and he had to make a down payment.
But at that time, he was working. It's all very basic, even profane. But that's also in the 17th century what happens. And he was working on the nightwatch. And it was a large project so he had to wait a long time for his money.
And it may have been that he used his prints to basically tweak his income a little bit. Another remarkable peak in his etchings and reprinting activities occur around 1650 and 1652. I already showed you the paschal lamb, which is found in 16 different prints and 65 impressions. It's a large group, but there are more examples of the same phenomenon around the time.
Again, the paschal lamb on the left and on the right, a very important other-- I was actually expecting another slide. Doesn't matter, it's the Strasburg lily with the PR. There's also the example that I apparently didn't fit in, which is the fool's cap five pointed collar with the K, which you'll see definitely later on today. And that is a fool's cap that appears in 26 prints and in almost 90 impressions-- again, the earliest ones from 1629, the latest from around 1650.
And then there is the Strasburg lily that you can see over there, which is in 27 prints and 117 impressions. The reason for this increased reprinting activity is not completely sure. But it's very difficult not to associate it with his increasing financial difficulties, which lead up to his bankruptcy in 1656. That's right, yes? Yes. Thank you.
Pointing out this increased printing activity to you allows me to go into a completely different use of watermark material. This doesn't have to do with dating watermarks and dating impressions and editions. But the overall structure of watermarks. Let me explain that. Up till then, up to now, the overall structure of the watermarked material indicates that Rembrandt made a print and when he was printing that he reprinted his older prints. And that time and again and again and again and again. So that's what you see.
But around 1654, that pattern completely disappears. And whenever you see which was up till then not only very distinctive but really only present from the recent prints and shiploads of all the prints on the same paper. If you find a watermark in a Rembrandt print at that time, it is usually only found in other impressions of the same print. And I'll give you an example. This is again the Strasburg lily, and it occurs in both the first and the second state of Christ at Emmaus.
Where in this case, it's quite clear to see what he did in the second. He added a lot of dry point. So only those two prints on the same paper. And when a watermark occurs in other prints as well, it is always and exclusively in prints that Rembrandt made around the same time. Let me give you an example.
That is The Portrait of Jan Lutma in the first state, without the window in the back, which is around 1656. The second state is actually dated 1656, but this is before the date. And next to it, [INAUDIBLE], a friend of Rembrandt's in the fifth state, around 1657, and Christ at the Woman from Sumeria, which is the first state which is dated to 1657 too. And they all appear with this watermark, which is a double headed eagle.
Obviously the question is, what does this mean? When a pattern that was so omnipresent until then and then everything changes. Whenever you find a watermark it's on paper of, on different prints, either the same print or different prints but from the same period. And it took me a while to figure out how to interpret that. But it definitely indicates that Rembrandt's copperplates were not in the same place anymore. Whenever you made a new print, apparently he was not able to print his older plates on the same paper.
No doubt that why that is is that he just lost his copperplates. You have to remember again these are literally the years close to his bankruptcy and he must have been, well, trying to get some money. So he may have pawned his copperplates. But it's more likely that he sold them.
And we know nothing about that. And I mean, about when, but what we do know is that shortly afterwards all the major print dealers in Amsterdam have copperplates by Rembrandt. So our question is, but when did that happen? And the watermarks here give at least an indication of when it started. The dealers I'm talking about is, the most obvious one is [INAUDIBLE] who died before Rembrandt died, and in his inventory there are a number of Rembrandt plates listed. Of course, the most famous is Clement Jonah, who died shortly afterwards. And also his inventory lists more than 70 Rembrandt plates. But there's also Nicholas Fischer, who in 1680, he was still alive, but published a stockist. Again, I think he had almost 30 copperplates by Rembrandt.
So apparently they all scatter over Amsterdam. There are other examples. But this basically is enough to make the point that in this case, the watermarks, it's not the dating exactly but the overall structure that alerts you to a strange, well change in structure in the watermarked material that begs for an explanation. And then this is a very nice example of that.
These were all examples where the watermarks and the understanding of when papers were made help you understand Rembrandt's printmaking practices. But even without dates assigned, watermarks can be helpful in understanding other aspects. With all the watermarks that I showed you so far you might think that Rembrandt's etchings always contain a full watermark. That is completely not the case. It's usually only a fragment.
And if you're lucky, you'll find a full watermark. But the majority of the watermarks in Rembrandt's papers are fragments. And that has to do with how Rembrandt used his paper. In the 17th century, paper was comparatively expensive and when printing his etchings Rembrandt would cut the sheet of paper to accommodate for the size of the print that would be printed on them.
You would not use this tiny self-portraits, print on a full sheet. You just cut it into four. You can see that here. But that will return.
This is a diagram of a full sheet which is more or less 30 centimeters high and 40 centimeters wide. And I indicated where the watermark would be, which is in one half of the sheet. And if you print an impression on the full sheet you would find the watermark in either the top half or in the bottom half. And if you cut it in half, the watermark should be in the center of the sheet.
And if you cut it before, the watermark would be either a fragment-- showing you again. And this is a quarter sheet. A fragment of a watermark-- this is the top fragment of a watermark. But it also indicates this impression was printed as a quarter size impression. And the point of this is if you look at the watermarks and you look how the watermark is situated in the paper, you can deduce how large the paper was but also what the format of the paper must have been before it was printed.
And then it turns out that Rembrandt was actually incredibly traditional and regular in his use of paper. From all the prints with the same watermark on the same paper are printed in the same formats. So if you find one impression as a folio sheet, you're likely to find all the others with the same watermark also as folio sheets. It also goes to show, and this is another point that I had some discussion with Theo Laurentius, actually, a dealer, that what comes from this is that Rembrandt prints must originally have had generous margins.
And by now you usually find them just with threat margins or no margins at all. But that's not how they were born. You can see the example here, which is an impression in Amsterdam where you can see the full fragment of the watermark. But it's in the margin. If you were to clip the margin, you wouldn't see anything of the watermark at all.
But there are other examples that will show you that Rembrandt's etchings, when they were printed, actually had a generous margin. This is a painting by Sebastian Stoskopff, a painter working in Strasbourg in the early 1630s. This painting is around 1635, so the print you see here with a generous margin is about four years old when this was painted. It's very rare, but there are examples of other impressions that still show this beautiful margin around.
So this is something else that you can learn from looking at the paper and looking at watermarks, but without dating the watermarks but just deducing the printing formats. A last subject I want to discuss briefly is Rembrandt's collaboration in Leiden. With [INAUDIBLE] von Fleet, who was a printmaker, a Leiden printmaker, at the time. Not in the least because that type of watermark research relating to the subject is very relevant to the question, where do we go from here?
It has to do with comparing two artists and-- OK, von Fleet is known as a printmaker who translated Rembrandt's paintings into prints, and already at a very early date. I have two examples. This is The Repentant Judas, from the painting that's now in England. So it's a detailed close up, but you can see it signed by von Fleet, 1634.
And that is the prophetess Anna, I think it's 16-- 1631 or 1632. Can't read it, but it's very early. And this is examples of for this von Fleet, translating Rembrandt's paintings into prints. Not long ago, really little was known about this artist, about this von Fleet, and about his relationship with Rembrandt.
Was he a pupil? Some scholars thought he was a pupil. Or did he work for Rembrandt? Or did they know each other at all? Or was it just by chance that he chose-- we didn't know. And just, you find some similarities in an artist working after Rembrandt, well, it could be that they collaborated but it could be just complete coincidence.
What we did know at the time is that von Fleet's prints after Rembrandt's paintings appeared in the first half of the 1630s, or really early on, when Rembrandt, in his own etchings, displayed a clear tendency to reproduce his own paintings. You have two examples of that. This is the oil sketch in the Wallace collection in London of the Good Samaritan in the first state-- no, I think it's the fourth state-- no, it's the first state, with the white tail-- of the etching that Rembrandt did himself. And the final state is dated 1633.
And there is another example where you see Christ Before Pilate, and the etching, it's a proof where the-- obviously you can see, where the center is not added yet. And the painting is now in the National Gallery in London. And this is a very rare example where Rembrandt seemed to have been preparing his etching with the help of an oil sketch. However, in 1984 Martin Royalton-Kisch, at the time assistant keeper of the prints in the British Museum, quite convincingly asserted that it was not Rembrandt who etched this prints, but it must have been Von Fleet, with the help of the oil sketch that Rembrandt prepared for the occasion.
So it's a complete reversal of what was thought up till then. I wanted to see-- I was at the beginning of my PhD at the time and I wanted to see if the watermarks could in any way substantiate or even confirm what Martin Royalton-Kisch claimed. And the results were actually quite good. Two watermarks that I found in the proof that I just showed you and older prints associated Von Fleet it by Martin Royalton-Kisch, and they are countermarks.
It's difficult to read. I just called it a 4 HP, but I don't know what it is. The four, it actually means something else but I haven't been able to figure out what. These watermarks occur in the proof that I showed you of Christ Before Pilate. But it also shows in a couple of other prints.
Proof of The Descent From the Cross, this one, which is after the painting that's now in Munich. But it's also one of those examples where there is a connection between an etching and a painting. This one shows the same watermark. And one of the impressions in the fog here, in the United States, also shows the same watermark, which is nice, but it doesn't prove anything.
What is interesting is that the same watermark that I showed you, the 4 HP, also occur in a lot of other prints that were made by von Fleet. So there is a definite connection and it's stronger in von Fleet's prints than it is in Rembrandt's prints. So that seems to auger very well for OK, maybe they shared a workshop.
I have another-- these two are prints by von Fleet, and they occur with another watermark. And interestingly it's the same watermark that you find in Rembrandt's. And that is this watermark. This is what we call the Arms of Burgundy.
So again, you have the example of a watermark that occurs in both von Fleet's prints and Rembrandt's prints at exactly the same time, because obviously that's important that there is also, it's in the same where you would expect them to collaborate. I'll show you two more examples. One of von Fleet, Lot and His Daughters. And again, the first state of The Good Samaritan with these watermarks.
It even shows something else because as far as we knew, Rembrandt went to Amsterdam in 1631. He left Leider and went to Amsterdam 1631. And some of the prints of von Fleet and also of Rembrandt or actually dated 1632. So how is that possible that there is still a connection between von Fleet, who never left Leider, and Rembrandt, who was supposed to be in Amsterdam still showing the same watermarks?
And a very interesting example is actually this Good Samaritan, because in the final state, it is dated 1633. But the first state occurs on the same paper which is around 1632. So it just makes you think how to explain that. And what you actually end up with is the realization that Rembrandt's copperplates probably stayed in Leider and were printed by von Fleet, or in the workshop that was mastered by von Fleet, until 1632. And after that, the copperplates were transferred to Rembrandt in Amsterdam and all the watermarks from then on are completely different from what you see with von Fleet's prints.
So that's the kind of result you want when you're looking for a connection between the artist in the same period and you do find it. Case closed, but in a way it's not. And I'm posing a problem here because I think that's interesting for the occasion. When I was working on this material, I deliberately chose to interpret the watermarks following this question. If they were sharing a workshop, what would show in the watermarks?
And obviously if they were sharing a workshop you would expect them to be at least a number of watermarks that they have in common. And they did, indeed. Yet even at that time I realized I was kind of molding my results because I never explicitly asked the question, is there any other way this could be explained? And I still realize that that's a very relevant question. And it is definitely a very relevant question if we are going to continue with comparing watermarks and seeing if there are connections with other artists.
In this case, I still stand with my conclusions. The one thing I would do differently is pose the question, for I know that it can also be interpreted in a different way. But considering the fact that we are assuming that they were working together, the watermarks more or less confirm that.
But it is important to realize that you're always confronted with the problem, how do you interpret what you find? Is that the only solution? Is that you only answer to the phenomenon you see? And usually it's not. Usually there are other possibilities.
One of them is, say, Rembrandt's on a casual Tuesday afternoon went to his paper seller and run into von Fleet, who he knew but had nothing to do with. And they both bought the same pile of paper, and went home and did their thing. That would also explain why there are the same watermarks in both sheets, or in both their prints. And again, in this case there is good reason to assume that it's more than that. But you have to be aware that that's quite tricky at times.
And you should be at least careful not to engage in wishful thinking or choosing the conclusions that's you want. And to work around that, you usually need other data to corroborate whatever you want to conclude. The other two important things I want to mention today in the context of the state of research are two projects that will be discussed more later on this morning. The first one, CLiP, which is the Chain-Line Pattern Matching Project. And it's centered around Rick Johnson who's here today.
And of course, WIRE, the Watermark Identification in Rembrandt's Etchings that is central-- there are more people involved-- but around Andy Weislogel and Chris Jones. I'm not going into that because they will. But I do think they are really important because they are about the prospect of semi-automating paper recognition and also about expanding the corpus of watermarks. That is a very exciting prospect.
And for me, it goes beyond saying actually, that if you have 500 watermarks you can figure out how to do that manually. But by the time you get to 5,000 or even more, you definitely need help. And if there's help from an automated system that would be really important. We're still working on that.
Which brings me to the final question, where to go from here? And it's kind of twofold. Where to go from here with Rembrandt? And where to go to here from Rembrandt?
We by now collected a large corpus of Rembrandt etchings. But there are many white spots left. There are many first states that you just don't know what happened because so far no watermark has been found in any of them. I know one example-- I discussed it yesterday with Andy. There's one example of the plated Rembrandt, we worked the plate from [INAUDIBLE] where there are very little watermarks that seem to be more or less contemporary and now the WIRE project found one that is new.
I'm not going to tell you all about it because they will probably do that. But it's one of the most exciting finds that I think, well, that's what you want. One of the white spots in the Rembrandt research that is filled in with new watermarks. One of the other notorious white spots are the early prints in the early prints of Rembrandt. They are usually so tiny that there is, if there's a watermark in it, it's only a fragment.
But we desperately need more watermarks there, even if it's only a fragment. And maybe with the help of an automated system, we can still identify them and help explain how they were printed and how they fit into groups. So I also mean to say that expanding the research on Rembrandt watermarks is really worthwhile doing, because there are still questions that remain open. So anything new will fill in the gaps and help us understand a little bit more about how Rembrandt was working.
Yet another very promising prospect is to work from Rembrandt and go to other artists, around his pupils, his followers, contemporaries, and see at first if there are connections, but also do the same thing there. And that is at least as promising. I am myself starting on adding the watermarks in Rembrandt's drawings to the project, which is something unusual because usually the drawing papers are produced in a different way. Especially if you were going to use a pen on a paper, you don't want to bleed. So drawing paper is prepared differently.
But there are connections possible there. And we don't know anything much about Rembrandt's paper, so that's one of the other new fields. And the other thing-- and those are my final remarks-- what are we doing in Amsterdam to add to new watermark information is actually, we acquired a new tube and we acquired a permanent photo studio to make x-rays of prints and drawings. So far, you would think well, the Rijksmuseum, that's a serious institution and they do good things, and we do.
But so far when we were making x-rays of drawings, we had to take it away from the paintings departments because they usually do it, and then bring it over to where we want to make x-rays, and put our drawings on the floor, in the dark, and then make an X-ray, and then flip on the light again and change it. And I thought, well that's not safe enough, especially if we want to make a lot of registrations. So we are now going to build a studio where it will be permanent, where we have our own tube and possibility of safely making new material.
But it also promises to give the opportunity to really start X-raying a lot of works on paper. And it will probably end up being a very interesting addition to what watermark research project we did so far. I thank you for your attention.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Thank you very much, Erik. I think the way we're going to work the morning session today is that we're going to take questions after both of the morning talks, when we've had a chance to hear Stephanie Dickey's response. So since we're running just a little bit ahead of schedule for the live streaming, this might be a good opportunity to stretch your legs. And we'll start right up again in about five minutes. Thank you.
Excuse me. If I could ask you to take your seats, please.
Well, thanks very much. Again, I'm Andy Weislogel, the Askin curator of earlier European and American art here, just in case someone new is joining us online who didn't hear me say that before. I want to thank Erik for a wonderful talk and a brilliant way to kick things off. The goals of our talk with the WIRE project team here this morning are threefold.
The first is to introduce the Watermark Identification in Rembrandt's Etchings project, or WIRE, here at Cornell, and detail it as a student driven cross-disciplinary research project in which students are providing invaluable extension of Hinterding's groundbreaking research. Second is to detail some initial discoveries springing from the project that are continuing to incrementally expand the corpus of Rembrandt watermarks, all of them examples from prints that are all on display upstairs in the exhibition. And the third is to offer a sense of future avenues for further research that may be opened up by the project's methodology.
So our format today will be that I'll do a brief introduction to some of the background of the project. Then you'll hear from our WIRE student team with a demonstration. Then I'll step back in. And then finally we'll hear from my project co-director, Rick Johnson. First, in lieu of further explanation about how watermarks are made, I will just let you know that papermaking tools are presented in the exhibition gallery and explained in an accompanying didactic video there which is also available online at the link that's shown above. But this is a slide showing literally the wet impression the watermark makes on a newly formed sheet of paper.
I also want to make you aware that our students will be in the gallery during the lunch break and following a symposium, and they'll be happy to talk with you further. So before I turn things over to them, I'd just like to offer a little background about the project. Operating since 2015 is a blending of the engineering research group and the art history seminar.
The research objective of the WIRE project is to continue and expand the chronological ordering of impressions of Rembrandt's etchings by year printed. The approach is to gather and match watermarks and other mold characteristics as revealed in beta radiographs, low energy X-radiographs, and transmitted or raking light images. Its goals are to broaden access to watermark information elucidating Rembrandt's printing practice and chronology, to build interrogatory decision tree branches for each of the 54 types of watermarks on Rembrandt's papers, to develop a full online decision tree that allows rapid confident visual identification of Rembrandt watermarks for non-specialists, to add new watermarks to this tree as they arise, and to lay the foundation for a watermarks database for Rembrandt's marks in US collections.
Among many sources these three have chiefly anchored the project. Stevenson's article was very important for us. His 10 points of difference are something of a Bible for the project. They teach visual tools for watermark identification and differentiation. As you can see here, in addition to discussing watermarks from paired molds as twins, as Erik was mentioning, Stevenson had the idea that we are still using, namely that the relationship of the watermark position to the chain lines makes a unique signature and an important point of difference that can be used in identification. And we'll see this principle in action, of course, shortly.
Again, as Dr. Hinterding mentioned, Nancy Ash and Shelley Fletcher's book to which he contributed was the first comprehensive catalog of watermarks in Rembrandt's prints and introduced many of the concepts that we use today. And of course, most importantly, I have my copy right up here on the podium somewhere-- oh, no, it's under my under my chair over there-- the 2006 publication that resulted from Dr. Hinterding's dissertation. Yes, he's promised me that he'll autograph it after the symposium. We've been fortunate to have Doctor Hinterding explain his methodology and help us so immensely along the way. And now we're trying to overcome some of the limitations of the print format for presentation of this information and the easiest comparison of watermark images.
So since the very beginning, which is 2015, we've stressed intensive involvement of students in the project. We've convened five semesters of student research groups, often with overlapping membership, to consider the questions and move the project forward. Since the goal of the project is to make the identification of watermarks easier, faster, and more certain, the student groups engaged with Dr. Hinterding's guidance, have spent a good deal of time considering strategies for classification of watermarks. Their verbal and written work results in a unique set of criteria to describe every single sub-variant in a given type.
And we believe that providing users with written and visually annotated descriptions of the differences adds value because it likens the process of watermark identification to other forms of print connoisseurship already long in use. So now I'm pleased to introduce the current team who will present for you some of their process for choosing and distinguishing between features in which we're constantly engaged.
MARGARET CANFIELD: My name is Margaret Canfield and I'm one of the current WIRE team members. So first, to identify these watermarks and therefore date the prints we need to be able to tell the differences between the watermarks. So looking at these three examples, at a glance it's just really easy to see the numerous differences. This one on the far right is a basilisk. And then we have two different eagles, but they're obviously very different.
So now I get to the next level. These three watermarks are all eagles, but which two are the most similar? While there are different features you can look at, it is clear there are two double headed eagles and one single headed eagle. Now let's just look at these two. These are both double headed eagles which are the same type of watermark.
At this level, we're getting down to the variant level of differentiation. To establish a difference between these, we must look at certain features such as the eagle's claws or wings. So what is different? Some examples and these are, the one on the left the wing feathers are pointing upward and the one on the right, the wing feathers are pointing downward. Or the one on the left has ruffles on the neck while the one on the right does not.
So it gets really difficult when we get down to twin marks. As said before, twin marks come from the same batch of paper. The paper maker tried to make two identical molds and designed them to be as similar as possible. But since they were handmade, there will obviously be differences.
So when we look at these, it's easy to see-- it's not easy. You can tell that they're different but it's harder to articulate what the differences actually are. So that's where we come in with the WIRE software. This is the task we are trying to tackle, is articulating what these differences are.
The software helps tell the difference and also helps illustrate our thought process necessary to identify a watermark. Its goal is to guide non-experts and make this information less esoteric. So now we need to have vocabulary, specific vocabulary, that helps us narrow down the watermark from it's type to its variant to its sub variant.
NINA SIMPKINS: Now we are going to dem-- oh, hi, I'm Nina Simpkins. I'm also a student on WIRE. Now we're going to demonstrate the process of picking distinguishing features of a watermark with an example. We are going to use the five pointed fool's cap watermark to go through our process of decision making that will end up leaving us from a type to a sub variant.
The first thing that we have to determine is how to describe the features we see or the vocabulary that we will use. One of the issues is that vocabulary for how to describe the parts of a watermark is difficult to standardize. To describe differences, we need to be consistent about how we refer to different features. We have tried to create a standard set of terms to prevent confusion and mistakes in description.
For example, there are circles on three different parts of this watermark. We need to distinguish between them with vocabulary because we cannot refer to them all as circles. Because of that, we have come up with a set of three terms. The bells are the circles at the uppermost part of the watermark at the top of the cap, so up here. The balls are found at the end of each collar point at the center point of the watermark, there. And finally, the rondelles can be found at the bottom of the watermark and are arranged in groups of three.
Having consistent terminology that is established at the beginning of the process makes it easier to articulate differences between watermarks that might be challenging to describe the different parts, such as the braid, the peaks, and the collar points.
KATRINA FERRERA: Hi, my name is Katrina Ferrera and I am also in the WIRE project. So now that we have the terms and vocabulary to describe the watermark we can walk through the process of determining how to distinguish which features are important for the purpose of differentiation and how to group the different sub variants around these features. So this is the example that we are using here, which comes from the print, Cottages and Farm Buildings With a Man Sketching.
And so basically what we're asking here are, what are the features that define this sub variant of the watermark? And basically that entails figuring out what features define it and how does that lead to determining which sub variant it is. So this slide shows the 59 possible sub variants of the fool's cap with five pointed collar. And so as you can see, there are a lot of different sub variants. And that makes it very difficult for us as researchers to describe the differences between all of these different sub variants and group them according to the differences in their features.
So this is going to be the basic process that we go through when identifying a watermark sub variant. And so figuring out what sub variant it is, we have to look at the features that define it. And we need to ask questions that eliminate the difference sub variants without the features that our example shows. And as you can see, all of these sub variants have distinguishing features that characterize them as separate sub variants.
So the questions that we use, which I'm about to go through, are designed to logically group and distinguish sub variants by their defining characteristics in a way that is clear and precise as to what we are looking for. So the first question that we're going to use to determine which sub variant our example is is, are the rondelles-- which, again are at the bottom of the watermark. Are the rondelles in a pyramid form or pointing down? And as is highlighted, we can see that they are in a pyramid form. And so that takes away those sub variants which do not fit that configuration.
Now we're looking at the peaks in the cap and whether they have stripes, and our example does. So this again gets rid of many sub variants that do not fit this characteristic. So now looking at the collar shoulder, we can see that it is straight. And so that again gets rid of all the sub variants that have bent collars. Moving to the circles across the brow, ours does and that eliminates those that do not.
And now looking at the bottom part of our watermark, looking at the line that extends from the bottom of the central collar point, we can see that there is not a numeral four on that line. And that eliminates the ones that do have a numeral four, which was two of them. And now looking at the chain-line, which is a feature that we can look at that does distinguish a lot of sub variants of the watermark, and our chain-line does not touch the bell on the foremost peak. And so we again get rid of those that do.
And looking at the center collar point again, we can see that it's straight and not crooked. And so that gets rid of more sub variants. And now looking at the braid at the top of the face of our watermark, we can see that the braid does not continue for two circles and then bow after the head. Instead it just bows directly after the braid. And so that leaves us just with two sub variants of this watermark to distinguish between.
And at this level we have to ask very specific questions in order to differentiate at this level where there's only two different sub variants that it could be. And so looking at the chin of the face, we can see that it seems to be right about halfway through the second collar point there. And so that leaves us with just one sub variant left, which is what our example matches and that is fools cap with five pointed collar, sub variant K.a.a, which would be a twin mark of K.a.b.
And so looking at Dr. Hinterding's work, we can see the other plates that are printed on this paper. There are 15 of them. Some of them, including The Shell and The Boathouse. And so since we can see that the latest print with this sub variant on it was printed circa 1650, we can thus deed our print, our example, to around the same time.
And this is just a list of the sorting criteria for all the sub variants of fool's cap with five pointed collar. And you can see, there are a lot of different sorting criteria that goes into this. And this list of criterion features is basically what we use to distinguish or categorize the different sub variants. And you can see that it takes a lot of different factors into consideration when determining which features are important in distinguishing between the different sub variants.
SJ LIN: As Katrina was saying, there are so many sorting criteria for just five pointed fool's cap watermarks. And all this information can be seen in these decision tree branches. The process that you just saw essentially lead you through all this diagram of all the possible questions and answers. And through this series of yes and no questions, we reached the correct sub variant, and it is the K.a.a watermark.
And students who have been involved in the WIRE project have all made their decision trees and coded into the website. And this is the real student work that went into the website that you're going to see. This is the branch diagram for single headed eagle type, which I have the fun task of sharing the demo of. So let's see.
This part needs audience participation. So I would very much appreciate it if you don't leave me hanging. So let's get started. So the idea is that you'll be able to upload your own watermark and for this sake, we'll say that we have the option three watermark.
OK, so the first question, is there a crozier on the Basal type with three leaves at the bottom on the eagle's breast? And the really great thing about this website is that even if you have never seen other watermarks other than the one that you just have, we have the example image on the left corner with the annotated red circles and lines to see exactly what you're looking for. So is there a crozier? Yes or no. No? No?
It looks different. Well, here it looks like a-- what do you think? Well, so this one looks more like a swirly line and this one looks more like a cap. So no, this one does not have a Basal type. Is there a fleur de lis at the center of the eagle? Does the center of the eagle have this kind of fleur de lis? No, yes? No.
And another question, does the same chain-line intersect the beak and the crown? Yes, here we see that it actually matches the example image we have on the bottom. Perfect, so now we have it. Your watermark is eagle single headed, A.a.a sub variant.
You'll see that we are actually not completely sure if it is the a.a. sub variant or its twin mark, A.a.b. But the important point is that no matter whether it's A.a.a or A.a.b sub variant that you have, they're made from the same batch of paper so they can be dated to the same approximate era. And you can restart this branch however many times you would like.
We have all this technology, but I still can't get back into PowerPoint. So there you have it. You just saw the demo of our project. And just to go over some of the tasks that the WIRE team has done over the years. My name is SJ Lin and I am a sophomore in arts and sciences.
I joined the WIRE team as a freshman when I didn't even know what I was getting myself into. But now I've been in this project for three terms, all the terms I've been at Cornell. And now I spend a lot of time looking at papers. I worked at the print room with Brittany. And some of the things I've done for WIRE includes making the branch diagram for Strasburg lily variant and coding into it, and also helping the team transition from semester to semester. Thank you.
MARGARET CANFIELD: As I said before, my name is Margaret Canfield. I'm a sophomore studying chemistry and art history. This is actually my first semester in WIRE. I kind of stumbled across it when I was emailing Andy about my interest in paper conservation but I'm so glad that I did because I love the intersection of the science and the art history side. And while I've been here, I've helped teach student peers about the WIRE project at museum programs and annotated branch ends with relevant information from Dr. Hinterding's study.
NINA SIMPKINS: Hi, I'm Nina Simkins. I'm a junior studying art history with a minor in information science. This is also my first semester on WIRE and it's been really wonderful getting to combine my two biggest areas of interest into one real time project. And while I've been on the project team, I've helped develop website graphic design and the logo and also annotated branch ends with relevant information from Dr. Hinterding's study.
KATRINA FERRERA: Hi. Again, my name is Katrina Ferrera. This is my second semester with WIRE and I am a sophomore in the industrial and labor relations school. And so with WIRE I've looked for distinguishing features between watermarks and built decision tree branch diagrams and coded those branches into the earlier version of the website for the seven provinces watermark, and also helped develop watermark reports for other institutions such as Oberlin. And although the WIRE project does not directly relate to my major, it's given me a lot of insight into an amazingly complex subject that I otherwise would have had no experience with. And it has taught me research goals and methods which are applicable far beyond the field of art history.
SAMANTHA SIGLER: Hi. My name is Samantha Sigler. I'm a senior studying art history here. I was involved in the WIRE project in the fall of 2016. And I created the decision tree branch for the Strasbourg bend watermark type and coded that into the version one software. I also researched and wrote about fragments and the feasibility of using fragments in our software. I'm currently an intern at the museum so I've been able to stay involved and keep up with the WIRE project and lend a hand.
ELIZABETH MARTINSON: Hi. My name's Elizabeth Martinson. I graduated in May of 2017. I studied history and archeology. I began becoming involved with the WIRE project in the spring of my junior year and I coded the decision tree branch for the basilisk watermark. And then I interned with Andy during my senior year where I mainly developed watermark supports for other institutions such as Syracuse and identified watermarks for outside inquiries.
PHOEBE: Hi. My name is Phoebe and I also graduated May 2017. And I did WIRE for a year in my undergrad. And now I'm a digital consultant, which I realize most people don't know unless you're a consultant or you watch this because I actually interviewed for a different job and I talked about WIRE in my interview. And I ended up doing work that's really similar to this which is digitizing otherwise very human experiences like I did in my watermarks. And when I was on the project I worked on Paschal lamb, fool's cap, and strasburg lily, as well as doing some catalog work also.
CATARINA MARCUCCI: Hello. My name is Catarina Marcucci. I'm a sophomore in electrical and computer engineering at Cornell. And this is my second semester in the project. And I helped to create the most updated website. So outside of this project, I mostly just do circuits and math. So this is a really unique way to use computing and I've learned a lot about art along the way. Thanks.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Thank you, WIRE team. So thus far the project has made progress on the following branches, which you can see up here. This constitutes, numerically speaking, 14 of the 54 types. But many of the remaining types actually have only one or two sub variants. So another way to say this is that we've chosen some big branches to work with upfront, and the students' work on these 14 types covers well over half of the total approximately 500 or so sub variants known. And all of these feature decision tree branches that we're working on coding into the new version of the website.
In recognition of the value added by the student efforts so far in July, the project was awarded the National Endowment for the Humanities digital humanities advancement grant. This will, we hope, establish the Johnson Museum as a logical supporting home for a computational art history project of this type. And I just want to mention that, as an engineer, my co-director of the Project Rick Johnson is particularly tickled to be a co-principal investigator on a humanities grant.
So during the grant term, we will consolidate and complete the decision tree for all 54 Rembrandt watermark types. The goal is to include every complete watermark image in Hinterding's 2006 book by the end of this coming summer. The grant includes resources for two new student positions, a WIRE undergraduate intern, and a graduate student programmer to help with the website. And we'll also offer a summer 2018 week long student workshop for completion of the decision tree and training students perhaps from other institutions as well about the project. And we'll be announcing more about that soon.
We'll also, in the spring, hire a consultant for beginning to plan a database of Rembrandt watermarks in American collections. And at the grant's end, we'll present the decision tree model for other classification tasks. So for example, we've been approached by the Arcadia in the Hague about possibly applying our method to sort images of guild and panel maker marks on historic paintings, which provide a somewhat similar classification problem to the watermarks one.
So in addition to developing the decision tree research here at the museum, at other institutions and in private collections has begun to turn up new instances of uncatalogued watermarks, including some not seen before in Rembrandt's prints. So I'd like to just detailed a few of these and mention again that all of the ones I'm mentioning today are on prints that are upstairs in the exhibition. So you can go upstairs and see, and most of them are clued in by these types of images on the labels.
These discoveries address project goals by adding to our store of knowledge about the number of editions, in some cases the number of prints in an edition, that Rembrandt made from the plates. In some cases new watermarks discovered can complete the puzzle of missing twin marks. They can also help us link together watermarks and countermarks that have been cut apart from the same sheet, or show us prints being made at the same time that we didn't know about. In summary, these instances show that there is still much to be discovered to further the growing picture of Rembrandt's printmaking practice.
This is catalog number one in the exhibition-- a gift, I'm pleased to say, from our previous director Frank Robinson that he gave us last year. This Basel crozier watermark, which you can see on the right thanks to the wonderful image from Margaret Holden Ellis at the conservation center at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, indicates yet a further addition from the plate, in addition to the 11 the Doctor Hinterding just mentioned. Although the watermark cannot yet be dated, the quality of the impression, we feel, indicates a lifetime print.
Also in the exhibition, there are two previously undocumented examples of the basilisk A prime a.a and A prime a.b twin marks from a large batch of paper. Again, as Dr. Hinterding mentioned, it was used across a multi-year period by Rembrandt in the 1640s. These come from the same group of over 25 different plates and nearly 90 impressions made on this batch of paper.
11 impressions of the Ephraim Bonus portrait on this paper were previously known. Now we've added two more to flesh out that edition further. We're getting an ever better sense of the size of this paper batch.
The single headed eagle watermark on this impression of Studies of the Head of Saskia, from a private collection in the exhibition, illustrates the contribution that private collection impressions can make to broadening the Rembrandt watermark picture. It's nearly identical to the single headed eagle A.a.a watermark on the impression of the same print in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And you can see here on the left, the radiograph which will look familiar from our demonstration of the Mets impression.
The one on the left, we've seen. The one on the right is on the print upstairs. The two marks are nearly identical except for, and here's the differentiation again, a slightly bent wire in the right wing of the eagle. But both impressions are rich and early and comparable and lend credence to the assumption that these two marks are in fact twin marks.
This Strasbourg bend D prime a watermark is found on Harvard University's impression of the three crosses, again upstairs in the exhibition. Rembrandt used this batch of paper to print all four states of the print, proving that he achieved the changes in relatively rapid succession, which Dr. Hinterding discovered in his study, all within or around the years 1653 to '54. And this particular instance of the watermark was previously undocumented in the literature. To our knowledge, this is the only fourth state impression of Three Crosses in an American collection with this watermark.
And here's another example. This is one in our collection of a new watermark, found on this previously unpublished state five A impression of the Flight into Egypt, altered from Segers. This watermark helps to reconstruct a batch of paper used for a later edition of the plate. And let me show you what I mean here. The letters IHS are a countermark, which means it's a separate, additional watermark that often appears on the left side of a paper mold while the main watermark appears on the right.
The Johnson Museum version of IHS in left in the yellowish image there, seems to be a twin with the IHS countermark found on other impressions of this later edition of the print, such as one impression from the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam shown at right. The prints in question were all printed on half sheets, which means that the print from the left side of the sheet gets the IHS watermark and the one from the right gets the main watermark. And so here's a possible solution to what the watermark on the right half of the paper would be, appearing on an impression from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The only documented half sheet impressions from this state all appear either with IHS, like the one we've just seen, or a Strasburg lily like this one. Therefore, we now apparently have both watermarks and both countermarks from each mold in the same batch of paper.
So we're seeing that the discovery of this one watermark in our collection-- countermark in our collection, is helping to solve a late edition question and linking together prints in quite distant collections. In the course of conducting research for the Lines of Inquiry exhibition, we've sought out collections previously untapped for watermark cataloging and also revisited some collections that were already examined. And so far those include, in addition to Cornell and Oberlin, Syracuse University, Yale, Vassar College, Harvard, and Princeton. And we've counted approximately 50 previously unpublished watermarks on Rembrandt prints in these collections.
And additionally, we've found eight watermarks or sub variants that have not been seen before on Rembrandt's prints at all. And most of these appear in the exhibition catalog. So we want to thank these partners for their kindness in opening their collections to us. And we feel that increased data and multiple images of the same watermark often currently available only in a single image, which is sometimes as we've seen of questionable quality, will enable fuller and more confident description of image characteristics and clearer identification of those sub variant types. So we look forward to broadening and strengthening these relationships toward the development of the database and to talking with curatorial and conservation colleagues about models for that.
And now it's my pleasure to introduce my partner in the WIRE project for some remarks about the future directions for the project. I'm going to say a little bit about your credentials, is that OK Rick?
RICHARD JOHNSON JR: Oh, I guess.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Come On, come on.
RICHARD JOHNSON JR: I'll do my best right over here.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: It's like that game show where--
RICHARD JOHNSON JR: What's My Life.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Yeah, right, exactly. C. Richard Johnson Jr. received the first PhD minor in art history granted by Stanford University, along with a PhD in electrical engineering in 1977. 40 years later he's the Jacobs Fellow in Computational Arts and Humanities at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech. And he's also, as he has been for a long time, the Geoffrey SM Hedrick Senior Professor of Engineering at Cornell.
He's also currently a visiting research professor in the conservation center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, and has a number of appointments as a scientific researcher at other museums, including the Rijksmuseum and other research institutes-- the Arcadia in the Hague. And in the past, he's founded four multidisciplinary, multi-institutional pioneering projects in the new field of computational art history, including the canvas thread count automation project in 2007, historic photographic paper classification in 2010, laid paper chain-line pattern marking and matching in 2012, and of course the WIRE project which began in 2015. So, Rick?
RICHARD JOHNSON JR: Wow. All right, so I'm done. My time's up now. Sorry, the introduction is long, but I'm actually very fortunate to have all these interactions. And if you'll notice, several of people that are going to be speaking to you today are people that I've interacted with over the last 10 years since I became a computational art historian.
So let me tell you what makes me most happy to see today, and that's all the students. So one of the things that's most amazing about this project is that we're sitting in a place where the field is brand new, the technology that's needed to answer some very interesting, open questions in art history is very basic. So this is a window that only opens up for a very short time in any new research project, where you've really leapt from one side of the world to another where they don't speak mathematics at all. And so what's happening is that there are very simple things that can be done by engineering students-- it's stuff we teach them by the time they're sophomores or juniors-- that actually provide the technical key to unlocking some of these things that we'd like to do on the art-- we already know we'd like to do them on the art history side.
But they're too labor intensive or whatever. I mean, I'm going to talk about chain-lines in a little bit. And the person that introduced me to the problem who's also going to speak later, Peggy, will tell you a lot more about it. But imagine measuring the distances. That's your job, OK?
For the next six years, you're just going to measure distances in chain-lines in images. And you're going to use that piece of information to help you decide which ones they are, and nobody takes the job it's just too tedious. So if you could do it with a computer, OK, now you can actually accumulate this piece of information you weren't thinking you could use before. So that's my job is, I get to look around for the things that maybe could be done by students, and I'm finally realized the reason I'm here, and that is I really wanted to bring the research experience to undergraduates.
Because that's what's going to convince them to stay in school and do other marvelous things with their education. And if there's something we need, I just will point to the group that you saw before, one of them could easily end up being the world leader in this new field some day. That's my hope. Maybe not one from this group, but the point is I speak to lots of--
Well, you never know. I mean, you only get to be one and the other guys are already ahead of you. So the Dutch are beating us pretty badly on this one. But what I get to do is try and decide what should we be doing next? So I'm going to tell just a few minutes of that. But first I'm going to tell you the truth about how we got here.
OK, it's not like Andy and I sat down and we said, hey, I know Erik Hinterding. How could we use him somehow? Let's see, maybe we could look at watermarks. Nope, wasn't like that at all. So what happened, as I mentioned a minute ago, Peggy saw me give a talk about thread counting-- that was one of the projects Andy mentioned. and said, can't you use some of that same technology to look at the pattern of chain-lines?
And so you've seen plenty of the images so far. Those are the chain-lines that are the ones that are about an inch apart. And where they are relative to the watermark gives you a lot of information as you saw in the demo. And so the answer was yes, so we started looking.
And we got really lucky. We ended up with a dataset of about 800 images from the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence, which is a terrible place to have to visit for a month, to convince them that they would loan me the data, right? So here we have these things. And what I want to show you, I'll come back to the image later. Here's one of the things from our data set.
And what we did was we looked at all the chain-lines, took the distances. We wrote programs to do that in between with other engineering students. And we've matched it to this one. You can see it's a different print, the shelves in the middle. But notice along the bottom there's this little blip.
This is-- everybody keeps talking about fragments. That's all we have in these images is just a fragment of a watermark. We can't use the watermark to identify the paper. Here's another one, little bit more. You can see it's a fool's cap, right? It's the one we've been talking about.
And here's the only one of these four that has the full image. But all four have exactly the same chain-line pattern. So what you could do is, you could conceivably use the chain-line pattern as a forensic that allows you to identify fragments, because if they don't match identically it's not the same sieve. It's not the same screen.
So that's one of the things we're going to look into is that maybe we can-- and you've heard the fragment problem has been mentioned a few times. Erik mentioned it as well as the students. So there they all are, all lined up. And because again, for me, as an engineer, you could give me a bunch of numbers and I'd be happy. But if I turn around and tell a bunch of numbers to my colleagues in art history, it falls flat.
So that's the other thing we have to learn is how to communicate with each other. So I'm trying to exploit the tools that the art students side of my class have in abundance compared to the engineers. And that's this close looking and seeing patterns, et cetera and so forth. So we're always also trying to find ways to visualize and communicate with each other. And that's another thing that the classroom does for us because we've got both sides, or all sides, in the same room.
Here's another thing we've talked about, twins. So OK, you made the watermarks to be the same. You really think the same person that's making the watermarks is making the screen? I mean, by the way this was a very craftsman like job. It was a lot of effort because you've got to have two that are exactly the same size for various reasons. But my thinking is that probably the screens are just a little bit different even though the watermarks look really identical.
So when we get down to that last stage when we're trying to distinguish between twins, why not use the spacings again that we can accumulate semi-automatically? And here you can see an example of two things that were twins, again from this K.a.a and K.a.b group that we've been talking about over and over again. And you can see that as you make the two in the middle, the red and the yellow line up. And then you can see that the others don't.
So they can't be the same watermark. And they look so similar it's got to be-- so here's another place where we can use some technology we're developing to try and help with this decision making process. Instead of having to look at really, really specific, hard to see things, something that's easy to visualize.
Somebody, Erik mentioned the interest in bringing in the watermarks in drawings. And what about, what if you could find a watermark in a student's drawing, one of Rembrandt's pupil's drawings, that was the same watermark as in one of his etchings? It would mean they'd used the same paper. Drawings usually don't have dates. We now know the etchings can.
So it might end up being a real tool to help you date some of the things of his pupils' drawings. But just increasing the universe of Rembrandt watermarks, as Erik pointed out, is a useful thing to do. Well, actually I went looking and here's, one on the left is it Ferdinand Bol drawing, one of his students, and the one on the right is a Rembrandt etching. And Erik tells me they're the same.
I don't trust myself. This is another thing I don't do as an engineer. I just show them what I think the answers are but the expert's always the one making the final choice.
Here's another pair. So these, as far as I know, are the first two documented pairs of cross usage-- is that right? Am I saying that correctly? Yeah, OK. Sorry, I just wanted to make sure.
We can always oversell ourselves but we try not to, right? And then again we have the new watermarks that are showing up. And the question is, is OK, where do we add this in this taxonomy that already has 500 and something end points, so that it's consistent in this idea of type and then variant is another grouping and then sub variant is a different grouping. And so this becomes a very interesting mathematical problem if you think of it as the decision tree built.
Remember that big table of all the features they looked at in five points? Let's imagine we answered all those questions for all the watermarks. And then we have this big math table and we can actually play math with it and come up with ways to redraw the decision tree. For instance, assuming you have fragments, part of the image is missing, can you ask the questions that are just about the part you have first and see how far you can get with the classification? But how do you add a new watermark?
It becomes an interesting, in my opinion, math problem. And now I'm on the edge of finding problems that I'm going to need PhD students for. And that's kind of when it starts moving away. And it's like when I was a kid, my dad never trusted me to help him work on the car but I got to hold the flashlight. And so the problem is that that's what I always felt like I was doing to the students until this project.
Now I'm watching them do the whole thing. I guess it's like, let's end with, rah, rah, Cornell. But this is something that happens here that I wouldn't have been able to do a lot of other places. I know because some of my colleagues have struggled to be in this new area. And I've been very lucky to be here.
So what we're working on is, we're looking at watermarks and joins by Rembrandt and his pupils. We're going to distinguish twins. These are all things that haven't happened yet. But they're going to happen here first.
Talking about fragments, adapting the decision tree mathematically. And the other one that I didn't mention was, we were really ambitious-- we're Americans, so we're really ambitious. What we want to do is take images of everything and have them tomorrow. But we can't do that because they're private collections or museums that don't have some of the fancy gear that the Rijksmuseum et cetera, has.
So we're also interacting with two-- with three other teams at the National Gallery at Yale and Northwestern, the technical people I know. And we gave them the task of building a box that's portable that you can use to image watermarks in drawings and prints. And our idea is to have a few of these that we then loan to any museum that wants to use them. And that's how we're going to build our database.
So those are our five future things. And give me another week and there'll be five more. And the whole idea is to put these in front of the students and let them pick and have the real experience of participating in our research project. Thank you very much.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Thank you, Rick. For the final portion of our morning session it's my great pleasure to introduce Stephanie Dickey, who will offer a response to the topics we've been discussing. Stephanie Dickey holds the Bader chair in northern baroque art at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Much of her research focuses on Rembrandt and the history of printmaking and print connoisseurship, including the book, Rembrandt, Portraits in Print, which of course immensely helpful for myself and my co-curator in preparing this exhibition. And articles in journals, such as The Art Bulletin and The Journal of the Historians of Netherlandish Art.
Forthcoming she has an essay on collecting Rembrandt's prints in 18th century Britain for the exhibition, Rembrandt in England opening in Edinburgh next July. She has just finished editing two volumes of collected essays, Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flink, New Research, has just appeared. And Rembrandt and His Circle, Insights and Discoveries is due from Amsterdam University Press later this fall which includes five essays on printmaking by Rembrandt and related artists written by Peter [INAUDIBLE], Amy Galani, Nadine Orenstein, Jaco Rutgers, and a team of researchers led by Rick Johnson.
So just a note regarding our live streaming format, I'm mindful of this. So that all questions and discussion in this part of the morning can be relayed to our online audience, when the time comes please put up a hand if you have a question and we'll bring a microphone to you so that all the questions can be heard by everyone. So please welcome Stephanie Dickey. Thank you.
STEPHANIE DICKEY: Where do I begin? This is just such an inspiring project for so many reasons. I've been working on Rembrandt for more than 30 years, and particularly his prints. And I think in terms of Rembrandt exhibitions, the peak probably came in 2006 which was the anniversary of Rembrandt's birth. There were over 125 exhibitions about Rembrandt that year all over the world. A lot of them were about prints.
But this one is still unique in many ways, and particularly in the way that it involves the synergy of art and science. And just from a practical point of view, those of us in the humanities who are struggling for funding, for recognition, for acknowledgment in this world where the so-called STEM disciplines gain so much of the recognition, we are trying to put the A into S-T-E-M to turn STEM into STEAM. And this is a perfect example of that. Couldn't imagine a better one.
I don't have a-- oop. Could we go back to the slide of the announcement for the exhibition as a whole, rather than this one?
AUDIENCE: Forward one slide. Keep going.
STEPHANIE DICKEY: There we are, OK. Well, this one will do. It's fine. Yeah I think that Erik must be quite amazed. I think when you began your PhD thesis, you had no idea that it would spawn this kind of work on the opposite side of the ocean.
And it's really remarkable. You never know where your work is going to lead. And I think it's really a surprising outcome in a certain way. And it has to do, in part, with the availability of new technologies.
I'm not really here to talk about my own work, which is why I don't have a PowerPoint of my own. But I have been studying the history of collecting of print. And I've been using Rembrandt as a focal point for that because there's a lot of data about Rembrandt in various collections, partly because they've always been highly admired and sought after and treasured in a way that a lot of prints are not. There have been over 20 catalogs raisonne attempting to account for the scope of Rembrandt's oeuvre.
So one of the things I'm doing is comparing the descriptions and value judgments that you find in those different catalogs. And it starts with Francois-Edme Gersaint in 1751 before the catalog that Erik and Jaco Rutgers published in the New Hollstein series. The last major catalog was in 1969. And of course in those days, they really had very little technology to work width apart from black and white photographs.
So it's really light years ahead what we can do now. Even so, that New Hollstein catalog should be acknowledged as another very important outcome of this research. All those 20 plus catalogs from 1751 to 1969, all depended on the same framework, the same system, the same original descriptions from 1751. This catalog, the New Hollstein one, is the first one to bravely go into new territory, to really start from scratch.
And they could do that, in part, because of everything they'd found from the watermarks. Many, many new states, new-- and also very bravely arranging things chronologically rather than thematically. And that has its difficulties for people who, those prints which are not dated. That means they had to make a choice, where are we going to put this? Even if Rembrandt didn't, in the few cases where he didn't list a date.
So that is a judgment which is based on something which I think we need to recognize is still at the heart of this project, as scientific as it may be, and that is connoisseurship-- good old fashioned connoisseurship. That's what enabled Gersaint to create his catalog in 1751. That's what enabled buyers of Rembrandt's prints in his own time to compete for who can-- we've seen already some of the examples of minute differences in state between one print and other. People even in Rembrandt's own day were competing to acquire the rarest and the most beautifully printed of those impressions. They were using close looking and comparison.
And it strikes me that for all the science involved in these projects this is still what it boils down to. Those students are looking carefully and finding those minute differences like one bent wire. It's the human eye that is discerning that. Maybe eventually the goal is to get computers to be that sensitive, but for now we have to acknowledge the human element in this project. And it would be an interesting thing to discuss, actually, the possible pitfalls of that.
The human eye is individual. And I wonder if there have been cases where two students followed that decision tree and ended up in a different place, because they saw something differently. So there is still the human element to be considered. And I hope, in some ways, there always will be because that's what makes this a humanities project.
The potentials of this work are enormous as we can see. Moving into drawings is really fascinating. Moving into the work of Rembrandt's students is really fascinating. And that should be, I think, the beginning of increasing circles of information that can be brought in because I find one of the things with Rembrandt-- and this is true of his paintings too-- is that he is too often studied in a vacuum. He can be all consuming.
I mean, my whole career, I think almost everything I've published has the word Rembrandt in it somewhere, for better or for worse. Most people who get sucked in to Rembrandt get totally absorbed in him and it's partly because he is so experimental, so unique, so constantly pushing the envelope in everything he does. And you see that in his prints maybe even more than in his paintings. But oddly, that makes him a strange focal point for a study like this because this is not a normative data set. This is a data set based on the most anomalous, individual, idiosyncratic person you could possibly choose to study as a printmaker.
So one of the things that I hope will happen is that this data can be synthesized and compared with data for other printmakers who were maybe working in more pedestrian ways. One of the things about funding, to be realistic, is that it's easier to get money to study Rembrandt, or van Gogh, or a major artist, than it is somebody that no one's ever heard of. But the people no one's ever heard of are the ones crying out for new research. So we need to figure out how to get that to happen.
And certainly moving out from Rembrandt, there are more than 100 artists who worked with him, probably. We don't even know very much. That's at least what the documents tell us. Most of them we don't even know anything about their work at all. At least 40 have been identified.
Surprisingly only two or three were any good as print makers. Unlike the paintings, he really-- even his early biographer [INAUDIBLE] says that he was very secretive about his printmaking methods, that he wouldn't share them with his students. And it's really only Ferdinand Bol, who we've just heard mentioned, who managed to really create an oeuvre of any substance at all. So why that is is still a mystery, but the studying of his students will allow us to kind of work by baby steps out from this dataset maybe to larger ones.
The other thing is that this kind of work goes on in other disciplines as well. I've recently been made aware that musicologists, for example, have been using watermark research for decades to study the paper on which a Bach symphony was written, or things like that, to help to date musical compositions. And there's a body of data from this very same time period in that discipline. So wouldn't it be interesting to try to fuse these not only across artists, but across humanities disciplines and see what we could see?
Within the world of Rembrandt himself, there are all kinds of interesting conclusions that can be drawn from this research. And we've heard about some of them already today. And these can perhaps also be extrapolated to other artists. Sometimes they have nothing to do at all with his printmaking.
I'm thinking particularly of this question of his relationship with Jon van Fleet, who, he's a good example of an artist who could benefit from further study. He has a huge oeuvre of prints that still exist. He is not the most brilliant or admirable aesthetically. Especially once you've seen Rembrandt he seems honestly-- I'm sorry for anyone out there listening who has spent a lifetime collecting prints by Jan van Fleet. They are idiosyncratic and fascinating in their own way but he has not gained the reputation that Rembrandt has so he hasn't been studied that much.
We don't know who taught Rembrandt to make prints. This is one of the mysteries that remains undiscovered. Van Fleet was a well established print maker in Leiden before Rembrandt even got started. One of the essays in this book that I've just edited by Jaco Rutgers who is Erik's co-conspirator in the New Holstein, he suggests that van Fleet might have had quite a strong role to play in helping Rembrandt to learn how to make prints, and that it may have been his press on which Rembrandt executed some of his early experiments.
Rembrandt lived at home in Leiden with his family in a relatively small house. And it's already been observed that his paintings don't get big until he moves to Amsterdam, because he just didn't have the room. So all these tiny little etchings, he's probably making that in his mother's attic and then maybe taking it down to van Fleet to print.
So learning how to pull those prints from the press, that's technical work. Maybe van Fleet taught him to do that. Who knows? We don't know. But it's a possibility. And the more we can build the relationship between them, the more this becomes an option.
Also the dating of these things-- when did Rembrandt move to Amsterdam? That is a point of some debate. It used to be thought for sure 1631. But a lot of us now think it's as late as 1633 that you can really say he has settled in the city. And that's because there are various documents that pull him back to Leiden over that period. I for one think that he was going back and forth regularly. And so probably working with van Fleet was one of the reasons to do that.
Then you see that he takes his early plates and he brings them with him to Amsterdam. And they get printed by him, and then they get later on taken over by other publishers. One of the things that makes it difficult is that in many cases plates were passed along from one publisher to another. But most of the time, those publishers would put their own address on it. That happens in a few cases with Rembrandt but very often not.
It seems as if they didn't want to compromise the integrity of these truly unique images by adding inscriptions. There are, in fact, relatively few inscriptions at all on Rembrandt's prints compared to those of many other artists. So this poses a puzzle as to where and when a lot of these things were printed that watermark research becomes even more crucial because you don't have this other data such as inscriptions to help you find out about it. And when it comes to those later impressions, again this is something that connoisseurs have been less excited about. The farther you get from Rembrandt himself, the less desirable something is on the market.
A posthumous impression-- you can buy Rembrandt prints on E-bay And they're actual Rembrandt prints. But they were pulled by Basan in the 18th century or even by somebody in the 19th century. And they're probably worn out versions of that brilliant richly inked impression that a real collector would want to own.
But for the history of collecting, I think if we could bring ourselves to pay attention to some of these posthumous watermarks as well, it might show interesting new patterns such as, are there peak periods in which Rembrandt's prints are being reprinted and sold? When does that happen? And I think there is a huge market for Rembrandt in the 18th century. So that's certainly one of the times.
And we're already beginning to see some of that. Erik's research has shown a number of 18th century collectors and publishers who were interested in Rembrandt. So those are some of the ways in which maybe this research can go forward, can go outward, can bring us new discoveries not only about Rembrandt but about other artists too.
And there's obviously a lot more we could say but I don't want to take up time that could be used for questions from this wonderful, large crowd we have here. So I'm delighted to be here. I think we need to congratulate everybody in this team for a remarkable job.
So we are open for questions.
AUDIENCE: This is probably for Erik. It's just such a basic question, but for some of us who are new to the whole field can you give me an idea of how many different etchings Rembrandt made and how many total impressions? What's the whole universe of data we're talking about here?
ERIK HINTERDING: Now it's on. That's a very relevant question. And we do know that he made some-- well, that the count is now 314 copperplates, about 314 etchings. But how many impressions he printed, we don't know.
There is this fairly common estimate that from a copperplate you can make around 200 very decent impressions and after that you see the wear stepping in. And I feel that that may be an accurate number. But the bottom line is, we don't know. I did some counting but it's no more than a first effort to reconstruct the numbers and the size of the editions. And I did that by basically counting the impressions and recalculating, OK, if we have that watermark and that watermark and that watermark, would it add up to a grand total?
And I don't know the numbers by heart but I do remember the first state, the first impression, was on the three trees, and it had some 66 impressions that you could still trace. So that really is quite a lot and probably indicates that somewhere there or between there and hundreds in the first edition. But it's almost impossible to extrapolate from that what the other impression would do, because that is a very important, very representative, famous landscape etching that you would expect to be printed in large numbers, where as far as the, for example, the tiny self-portraits in early years are concerned, I don't think they were printed at first in those kind of numbers. So it's really difficult.
But looking from the other way around, if you take Noel [INAUDIBLE] catalog, who is one of the early catalogs that were printed in, I think, 1976 or something-- '67. I keep doing that. He indicates how common impressions are. And what you can see there, there's something more than 5,000. It's almost always the plates where the copperplate are still around. So Rembrandt definitely did print that much numbers.
AUDIENCE: Can you tell me if the craftsperson had a watermark that was permanently woven into the screen, or could it be portable from one screen to another?
ERIK HINTERDING: No. A watermark would be sewn onto onto the sieve. The sieve is basically a structure of copper wires and the watermark is another copper wire. And you can bend it with use of nails, just bending your-- well, whatever you want to make. But once you're done, you just pull the wire.
You get onto the sieve and then sew it to it. I think one of your first slides beautifully showed that. That you can see the tiny copper wires used to attach the watermark. But I think theoretically speaking, you could take it off and replaced it by something else.
But I think that that's not really a sensible thing to do because it is very-- it's a lot of work. And the sieve is going to wear down anyway, so you'd better just replace it when you're done with it. Also here you have to realize, or it's useful to realize, that these sieves, they were used to make paper.
But you have to brush them clean every night, literally, to make sure that all that remains of the paper pulp was out of it because it would get hard and clog to sieve. So you had to really brush it, which also accounts for the deformation of the sieve over time. So I think it's theoretically possible to replace a watermark. But I don't think it was ever done, or only rarely.
AUDIENCE: Could a watermark deteriorate during that process of cleaning it every night and using it every day? I mean, could some of those changes be an actual change in the same wire or would that not happen?
ERIK HINTERDING: No. There are various examples where you can see that happen, where you can see from well, it definitely did, probably because of the brushing. But there are a couple of examples where the deformation of the watermark must have been due to it being, well, let's say, not a brand new sieve when the paper was made that Rembrandt used. But you can also see minor tiny almost indistinguishable changes happening to it over the different impressions you find indicating that it deteriorated more or less rapidly. So yes, that happens. And it makes the identification of twin marks, which is Andy's problem, even more difficult, because it should be close but a deformed watermark is not exactly the same as a--
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Yeah, is it a twin or is it the same watermark that just had a slight modification due to damage?
AUDIENCE: I wonder if, when the plates changed hands and they got to various publishers, have we learned that those publishers had a favorite paper that they were then using? And that you might learn other pieces that were printed by that same publisher-- Rembrandt or other 17th century Dutch print maker?
ERIK HINTERDING: That's a good question. By now, we are quite well able to distinguish at least which states are no longer by Rembrandt. So any watermark you find in those impressions, you can put under the posthumous impressions and posthumous papers. But especially those papers have not been studied systematically. Also not in the least because in those cases it's almost impossible to put a date on them.
It's just a large group of posthumous watermarks that you know, it's not Rembrandt, but for the rest-- and also, when I was doing my research my main interest was OK, but what can watermarks add to my understanding, or to our understanding, of how Rembrandt worked? And not how, later-- so that's basically a field that's still very much open.
We can distinguish and we can say that, OK, that must be posthumous watermarks. But for the rest, whose paper it was and-- well, and any other structure or connections there, will still need to be researched at one point. I saw Stephanie also.
STEPHANIE DICKEY: I forgot to mention why I had this slide up here, which is that it shows you the one little thing that Rembrandt changed in this print, in the second state, which is the hat. You see the dark lines at the top of the hat band? And yet he also created a number of touched proofs where he's working it out in chalk. And that's another thing that your research has shown through the watermarks, did those-- because people assume that that kind of working process, with touching up proofs and then going back to the plate, happens over the course of developing the design in the first place.
But I think what you've shown is that, in this case, some of those come much later. So even after he's finished with this, years later, he's still thinking, well, what more could I do to this plate? So I wonder if you could talk a little more about, are there other examples? Or have you found that there's a pattern of his going back to a place several years later rather than a lot of it all in one go? Or did you find it more the other way around?
ERIK HINTERDING: I think what is most common is I think the other way around, that he just-- especially in the early years, that there is no other word, that he keeps fiddling with his plates. The changes he makes, and it's mainly in the self-portraits and the numerous beggars he makes, are so-- well, he is developing the image. But at the same time, the changes he makes are so tiny and basically insignificant, at least each single step, that that's something that surprised me when we realized that during our research on the New Holstein volumes, where a number of self-portraits and beggars turned out to have far and far and far more steps than we ever anticipated.
And if you look at the individual steps, then it's about nothing. It's about basically an inexperienced etcher finding his way and learning the ropes. At the same time, it does tell you something and it's very interesting, and it touches upon something that you mentioned. If you go about making your etchings in that way, and you will literally add three lines or four lines and you make another impression, then that is almost proof that he printed these on plates. And that's something different from assuming that he had a printing press.
But he must have had access to a printing press somewhere, where he could just do his thing because imagine that you would go to a printer. Well, I added four more lines. Can you make another impression? And then again, and again. But it makes it all the more tangible what's happening there.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: If I might just add to that, and I think this is perhaps where you were going by singling out this one on the screen. This impression from the LA University Art Gallery actually is one of those touched proofs. And it's just out of view. It's just out of the field of what's the detail shown here, but there's black chalk that expands the hatband on the image to the right. So that's an invitation for close looking upstairs in the exhibition to see if you can find that.
ERIK HINTERDING: If I may be so bold, I have a question for you.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Oh, sure.
ERIK HINTERDING: I had a very evil thought last night. And I'm actually very nice, but I realized that in the old handbooks, in the old watermark handbooks, the old authors, they grouped together watermarks more or less by the same type. The students showed a couple of examples where they distinguish between certain types, but they really want to bring them into some sort of order.
While in the watermark books, they are in some sort of order but it's kind of random. All the watermark case are grouped together but not necessarily in that order, any other order. Do you understand where I'm going?
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Sure, I understand.
ERIK HINTERDING: And the evil thought was, if you're building a decision tree would you actually continue to need a specific order? Or if you just run down to well, these are the two twin marks and they can be dated, that's enough? And I was thinking of that just by thinking, OK, but what if we have almost a million watermarks? Will you still be able to bring them together in a very organized system? And it's more of a thought experiment--
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Right.
ERIK HINTERDING: --but I would be interested to know what your response is.
ANDY WEISLOGEL: Yeah, that is an interesting question. I mean, I think thus far, since we are dealing with the types from your study that are in Rembrandt's prints, those are all relatively easily distinguishable at the level of type. And you can, when you enter the tree, the first step is going to be, as you saw in the software, we had only for the moment a demonstration of one specific type so you have an entry point. If you have a single headed eagle, that's your entry point. There will be an image of each of those types at the entry point of the software. So that for the moment, I think the system is small enough to admit for the variations just between types so that someone gets started on a type. But beyond that, yeah, that is an interesting question. I don't know.
RICK JOHNSON: Maybe I can answer that partly, OK? So this was actually the reason I chose Rembrandt, was because so much was already known. So in other words, if I'm trying to develop a new procedure to help you, the last problem I need to start with is one where you don't know the answer because no matter what I tell you, the experts will take opposite sides if it's a new piece of untrusted information. So what I wanted to work on was something where the answers were all known.
My fear is that-- and there are other watermark projects that have been developed over the years. There's some big ones in Europe and internationally. And I know several people that have worked in them. And they all kind of get to a certain point and stall out because it's really hard to tell the differences. I mean, once you pack in too many things into the same space, it will not only be hard for you it will be hard for the computer.
And it will be so tiny little differences that you end up debating where you should make the divisions. And I didn't want to be susceptible to machine learning, which is the other thing. If you don't know the answer but you've got a lot of data, give it to the machine learning guys and they'll tell you an answer. But you don't know what the answer is and it doesn't come with anything except, this is twin one and this is twin two. So I really was looking in a place to try and try out the things we wanted to add. Once we've added them, now that's why we're talking about enlarging the group to include drawings and stuff because I think we can withstand that.
But as soon as we get up to everything in the Netherlands in the 17th century, I think we're going to lose the ability to do it this way. I just don't think that the distinctions will be-- for us, the biggest problem is, somebody raised the question of what happens when the students make the wrong choice? OK, that's when we know we've got to change the feature because every question should be answered with as close to 100% confidence as possible. So one of the things the students didn't tell you is that's where a lot of our debate occurs is, do we think this one's question is better than that question? And it should be that every time there's just no doubt whatsoever and all the hard questions are right at the end.
So that's why we're looking more for things that are quantified in a certain way, so you can actually make the difference distinct. And this means ultimately that we'll probably try to bring extra tools to bear on picking things off the feature. We talked about some of this. It's one of the ones that's hard to describe.
But imagine trying to compare the distance between two points and these other two points and one of them is longer than the other one. And if you've ever seen optical illusions you know, depending on all the surroundings you can get the answer wrong every time. So what we need are more interactive tools to try and capture features that people would not use visually because they're not confident enough that they're seeing the right thing. But if I can actually measure this part and measure the other part and show you that one's 10% truly, literally, longer than the other one and on the other print it's the other way around as to which one's large and small, OK, you do that a little bit you'll start buying it.
And what'll happen is you'll see features you wouldn't have used before. That's where I think the answer is going to come from. So it's this intermediate ground, by starting and trying to enlarge, I really feel like that's the place I want to stay because I feel like there will be some. But at some point it will be too dense. And you know it's just, the world is too dense and distinguished and becomes a much harder thing. Does that--
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Morning session of the Rembrandt Symposium, 'Learning and Teaching with Rembrandt: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to the Master Etcher,' which took place at Cornell's Johnson Museum of Art on October 28, 2017.
Welcome and opening remarks: Andrew C. Weislogel, Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 Curator of Earlier European and American Art, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Keynote presentation: Erik Hinterding, Curator of Prints, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam - "Rembrandt's Paper: State of the research and where we go from here"
Andrew C. Weislogel and C. Richard Johnson, Jr., Jacobs Fellow in Computational Arts and Humanities, Cornell Tech/Geoffrey S. M. Hedrick Senior Professor of Engineering, Cornell University, with students - "The Watermark Identification in Rembrandt’s Etchings (WIRE) Project: Student Engagement, Initial Discoveries, and Future Directions"
Response to morning session, followed by Q&A: Stephanie S. Dickey, Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art, Queen’s University