Bartsch Numbers & Rembrandt
Serious art dealers, collectors and curators tend to
information on the works of artists that interest them, and sooner
or later many of them get around to publishing their catalogue.
The Paris art auctioneer, Edme-Francois Gersaint (1694-1750)
had maintained a large catalogue of Rembrandt's etchings.
Shortly after Gersaint's death in 1750, it was the first known
catalogue of Rembrandt's etchings to be published (in 1751).
This book was published in English one year later. Since then
some twenty other catalogues have appeared, each relying on,
and adding to, the material of its predecessors. Rembrandt's
etchings nearly all exist in more than one impression.
Adam Bartsch (Johann Adam Bernhard von Bartsch - 1757-1821),
custodian of the Austrian Imperial Library in Vienna. A
etcher and writer, he was an indefatigable cataloguer of graphic work,
his Rembrandt catalogue in 1797came as a 'new edition' of Gersaint.
From 1803 to 1821 he published in 21
volumes Le Peintre Graveur, a
pioneering work in the systematic study of Dutch, Flemish, German,
and Italian painter-engravers from the 15th to the 17th century. In 1821
he also published the 'Kupferstichkunde' (The Art of Engraving).
Now outdated in many respects, Bartsch's
remain of fundamental importance in the study of certain minor
artists. The Bartsch numbering system for Rembrandt etchings
is referred to by most subsequent works in this field.
In his lifetime, Bartsch executed
over 500 plates from his own
designs and from those of other masters.