The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds was meant to demonstrate Rembrandt’s unparalleled abilities as a printmaker. By the time Rembrandt first took up an etching needle the medium was already a century old, but the artist elevated etching to unprecedented heights of achievement. He was constantly experimenting with technique. Here he developed the darkest areas of the image first, creating a varied blackness from which the light-filled vignettes emerge. Virtually nothing in this elaborate scene is drawn in outline. Instead, a dense web of cross-hatching conveys volume and form. The print also speaks to Rembrandt’s gifts as a storyteller. The action is conveyed through dramatic lighting and gesture: the heavens open with a burst of putti surrounding the Dove of the Holy Spirit, while below an angel conveys the news of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, who react with alarm while their terrified animals scatter and fall. The figure in a hat looking directly out at the viewer recalls Rembrandt’s many self-portraits.