St Francis beneath a Tree Praying, 1657 by Rembrandt

In 1657, Rembrandt returned to the theme of an anchorite saint in the wilderness for St Francis beneath a Tree Praying, a traditionally Catholic subject, executed in both drypoint and etching and depicting his most luxuriant landscape. Sheltered by an immense gnarled tree, the saint kneels before a crucifix, his companion Leo seen from the back reading a book at the right. But for the absent lion, it might otherwise be taken as a depiction of St Jerome and, in fact, it was until the eighteenth century; proof - if it were needed - of the interchangeability of certain of Rembrandt's subjects. And, in the case of this St Francis, it is not just with Jerome that it might be confused. For in the first state of this print the saint is shown in profile, silently contemplating the crucifix, but in the second his head is turned and his mouth reworked so that he now appears to be speaking.