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A travelling medicine vendor. Etching by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1635.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1606-1669.

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Credit: A travelling medicine vendor. Etching by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1635. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

About this work


Adam Bartsch (1757-1821), the great expert on prints at the Imperial Court in Vienna, described this etching by Rembrandt as follows: "A tiny piece, engraved with energy and lightness of touch. Its subject is a medicine vendor ("charlatan"), directed towards the right of the print. He holds a basket in front of him, from which he has pulled a packet of drugs that he shows with his left hand. His right hand is placed on his hip, and below hang a shoulder-bag and a sabre. His knees are slightly bent." Since Bartsch was closer to Rembrandt in time than we are, it seems worthwhile to accept his identification of the subject as a man holding up a piece of paper in which a medicinal powder, or perhaps a solid medicine compacted like toffee, is wrapped for sale to passers-by. Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam, having moved there from Leiden only three years previously, so the man portrayed probably sold medicines on the streets of Amsterdam. After a long period standing up and trying to engage the public, no wonder he wearily bends his knees. Bartsch calls him "un charlatan", which means someone who speaks out loud the virtues of his wares: Rembrandt depicts him open-mouthed in order to record the impression of the sound as well as the actual sight of this outlandish character


Rembrandt fe. 1635.



Physical description

1 print : etching ; image 7.1 x 3.6 cm

Publications note

A. Bartsch, Catalogue raisonné de toutes les estampes qui forment l'oeuvre de Rembrandt, et ceux de ses principaux imitateurs, Vienna 1797, p. 124, no. 129 ("Le charlatan. Très petit morceau gravé avec esprit et légèreté. Son sujet est un charlatan dirigé vers la droite de l'estampe; il tient un panier devant lui, d'où il a tiré un paquet de drogues qu'il montre de la main gauche; sa main droite est placée sur sa hanche, et au dessous pendent une gibeciere et un sabre; ses genoux sont un peu pliés")

Woldemar von Seidlitz, Die Radierungen Rembrandts, Leipzig 1922, no. 129 (as "Der Quacksalber")

André-Charles Coppier, Les eaux-fortes de Rembrandt : l'ensemble de l'oeuvre gravé ... catalogue chronologique des eaux-fortes et de leurs états, Paris 1922, p. 37 ("Le charlatan ... un petit bijou, comme Rembrandt aime à en ciseler, de temps en temps, pour faire oeuvre de bel artisan")

K.G. Boon, Rembrandt the complete etchings, London 1963, pl. 123

A.M. Hind, A catalogue of Rembrandt's etchings, 2nd ed., London 1967, no. 139 (as "The quacksalver")

C. White and K.G. Boon, Rembrandt's etchings: an illustrated critical catalogue, Amsterdam 1969, no. 129

Stephanie S. Dickey, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (The Illustrated Bartsch ; 50, Supplement), New York 1993, p. 112, no. 129 (as "The quacksalver (Le charlatan)")


Wellcome Library no. 20476i



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