It cannot be said with certainty when Rembrandt started etching. This Circumcision is dated 1626 and could possibly be the first etching that Rembrandt made. The inscription 'Rembrant fecit' is undoubtedly of a later date and was not put in the plate by Rembrandt himself. This must have been done by the Haarlem publisher J.P. Beerendrecht, who at some point received and printed from the copper plate. In his Leiden time, Rembrandt always signed with a monogram, simply ‘R’, or ‘RHL’. In any case, the etching shows the hand of a novice. The modeling of the figures is not very convincing, their placement in space and the space itself are unclear. The etching is not very nuanced and betrays the inexperience of someone who is not yet familiar with the possibilities of the technique.
Rembrandt's authorship is not undisputed. It cannot be denied that the etching bears great resemblance to the prints that Jan Lievens (1607-1674) made at the same time. An attribution to Lievens must therefore certainly be considered. Still, most experts maintain the attribution to Rembrandt. In the inadequate modeling of the figures and their clothing they see more of the young Rembrandt than of the then more experienced Lievens.
The responsible artist must have gained inspiration for his composition from the work of older masters. Circumcision was an often depicted story from Jesus' childhood. The print connects to usual iconography: the high priest circumcising the child in Simeon's lap, while his parents and other bystanders watch. The whole takes place in a sacred space, which resembles a medieval church. Nothing in this print betrays the unconventional choices that Rembrandt would make later in his career.