Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Student at a Table by Candlelight, c. 1642

5 7/8 × 5 1/4 inches (14.9 × 13.3 cm)



The student in this etching by Rembrandt van Rijn glances upward with a hand to his temple as if in deep thought. The desk is barely illuminated by a single candle; darkness encroaches from every edge of the image. On Rembrandt’s depiction of candlelight in his prints, Samuel van Hoogstraten, a member of Rembrandt’s workshop, wrote that Rembrandt “has depicted the strength of candlelight to the best of his abilities in several dark prints, but if one covers these small lights, the rest of the work remains dark: just as, when someone shows us something by candlelight, we usually hold our hand in front of the light so that it does not prevent our eyes from discerning everything in as much detail and as recognizably as possible.”1

In addition to this etching, Donald Judd installed another Rembrandt etching, Nude Man Seated Before a Curtain, 1646, nearby in a small alcove in his Architecture Studio, and one in his kitchen in the east building at La Mansana de Chinati/The Block. He wrote of Rembrandt, “European art of the last few hundred years . . . is based primarily on immediate emotions, those you feel when you look out at the world. Rembrandt, for example, is a compendium of gloom, sadness, and tragedy. This immediacy of feeling is basic to all of his paintings.”2

1 Ernst van de Wetering, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings V: The Small-Scale History Paintings (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2011), 78.
2 Donald Judd, “Abstract Expressionism” (1983), in Donald Judd Writings, ed. Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray (New York: Judd Foundation and David Zwirner Books, 2016), 333.