Ephraim Bonus, Jewish Physician

Ephraim Bonus, Jewish Physician
Etching with engraving and drypoint, 1647, a very good impression of the second (final) state, printing with burr on the cloak and the bottom of the balustrade, on paper with a Basilisk watermark, framed
sheet: 221 by 189mm 8¾ by 7½in
Ex coll. Rudolf Busch (L. 2190)
(B., HOLL. 278; NEW HOLL. 237; H. 226)

While Rembrandt was living in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter on Breestraat between 1633 and 1635 and again from 1639 to 1658, one of his neighbours was the physician Ephraim Hezekiah *Bueno (Bonus, 1599-1665), a prominent Portuguese Jewish physician, poet and translator. It was probably through the Hebrew publisher Manasseh ben Israel, a Sephardic rabbi who issued books on Jewish mysticism, that Rembrandt and him became friendly, as both men were contributors to his printing house.

In the present etching Rembrandt portrays Bonus standing at the base of a staircase with his hand resting on the banister. Aside from the white collar and cuff, he is all dressed in black, wearing a wide-brimmed hat. The artist sensitively captures the doctor in a pensive moment, with a dignified, friendly facial expression. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam owns a small Rembrandt oil sketch of Ephraim Bueno, which served as a preliminary study for the present etching.

Rembrandt van Rijn
Portrait of Ephraim Bueno, 1645 – 1647
Oil on panel
19 cm × w 15 cm
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam