Peter Peryer (b. 1941) After Rembrandt 1995 black and white photograph 34.6 x 52cm Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection

After Rembrandt was inspired by a postcard of Rembrandt’s notable etching of a shell. The shell was presumably acquired at the curiosity market in Holland. Current research indicates the shell was probably in Rembrandt’s own collection. Some time after purchasing the postcard, Peryer acquired such a shell in Germany.

The shell is positioned on a sheet of paper crosshatched with pencil, evoking the spirit of the etching but not replicating it. The focus is magnified to accentuate the marbled patterning on the surface, a design which uncannily replicates the shape of the shell. Peryer appears to delight in contrasts of light and dark and the optical effects of repetitive pattern.

Peryer’s photographs draw attention to the overlooked details of the material world. By returning the shell to its region of origin, Peryer uncovers a trail of meaning, one that connects the acquisition of knowledge with contemporary visual understanding, challenging our comprehension of photography, reproduction and simulacra.