Staging Narrative and Movement

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Nathan Admonishing David, c. 1652–53
Pen and brown ink on paper

How do artists tell a story? Artists employed various approaches to narrative drawings and prints in the early modern period. A number of sixteenth-century Italian drawings are highly detailed preparatory works conceived for paintings. Several seventeenth-century Dutch drawings, on the other hand, show the power of storytelling through a seemingly rapid manner of execution. While drawings circulated among artists and collectors, none did so as extensively as prints. This medium contributed significantly to the spread of artistic ideas as well as the links that existed among different participants: artists, printmakers, publishers, and collectors. The publication of a print could also protect an artist’s invention and authorship, suggesting important cultural—and financial—implications associated with exchange.