Rembrandt. [The Woman Taken in Adultery].
Proof before letters. London: F.G. Moon, 1835. 20 3/8 x 15 (image); 24 x 17 5/8 (platemark). Mezzotint by G[eorge] H[enry] Phillips. Wide margins. Excellent condition.
A handsome mezzotint engraving by Phillips after Rembrandt’s painting of 1644, in the National Gallery in London since its purchase in 1824, as one of their foundation batch of paintings.
Rembrandt shows the episode of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery from the Gospel of John. In this scene, a few Jews, mainly Scribes and Pharisees, tried to catch Jesus condoning disobedience to the Jewish Law, knowing that Jesus pitied wrong-doers. To do this, they produced a woman who had been caught taking part in adultery. Then, they said "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?" Jesus replied, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8: 3-7).
Rembrant made Jesus taller than the other figures and more brightly lit. In contrast, the Jews are "in the dark" and appear lower. Symbolically, Jesus' height represents his moral superiority over those who attempted to trick him.