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The Shell

A work made of etching on ivory laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of etching on ivory laid paper.




Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch, 1606-1669

About this artwork

In the 17th century, seashells became popular collectible objects because they were considered rare and exotic. They also became common subjects for still-life paintings known as Vanitas, which symbolically represent the transience of life. The etchings of both Wenceslaus Hollar and Rembrandt van Rijn could represent the simultaneous beauty and fragility of existence. While still lifes in general are exceedingly rare in Rembrandt’s work, Hollar’s etching (1996.609) comes from a series of seashells, consisting of 38 plates. Rembrandt’s shell could have been inspired by Hollar’s work, though Rembrandt’s decision to render the shell in a three-dimensional space represents a marked difference between the two etchings.


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Prints and Drawings


Rembrandt van Rijn


The Shell


Holland (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Etching on ivory laid paper


Plate: 9.7 × 13.2 cm (3 7/8 × 5 1/4 in.); Sheet: 9.9 × 13.4 cm (3 15/16 × 5 5/16 in.)

Credit Line

Clarence Buckingham Collection

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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