Rembrandt: Wikis


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Self-portrait by Rembrandt (1661).
Birth name Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Born July 15, 1606(1606-07-15)
Leiden, Netherlands
Died October 4, 1669 (aged 63)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Field Painting, Printmaking
Movement Dutch Golden Age painting
Works Danaë, 1636

Jacob de Gheyn III, 1632
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632
Belshazzar's Feast, 1635
Night Watch, 1642

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history.[1] His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardship. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high,[2] and for twenty years he taught nearly every important Dutch painter.[3] Rembrandt's greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.[1]

In both painting and printmaking he exhibited a complete knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt's knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam's Jewish population.[4] Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called "one of the great prophets of civilization."[5]



Self-portrait in a cap, with eyes wide open, etching and burin, 1630.

Rembrandt[6] Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden, the Netherlands. He was the ninth child born to Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn and Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck.[7] His family was quite well-to-do; his father was a miller and his mother was a baker's daughter. As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leiden, although according to a contemporary he had a greater inclination towards painting; he was soon apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years. After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden in 1624 or 1625, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students, among them Gerrit Dou.[8]

In 1629 Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens, the father of Christiaan Huygens (a famous Dutch mathematician and physicist), who procured for Rembrandt important commissions from the court of The Hague. As a result of this connection, Prince Frederik Hendrik continued to purchase paintings from Rembrandt until 1646.[9]

At the end of 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, then rapidly expanding as the new business capital of the Netherlands, and began to practice as a professional portraitist for the first time, with great success. He initially stayed with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburg, and in 1634, married Hendrick's cousin, Saskia van Uylenburg.[10] Saskia came from a good family: her father had been lawyer and burgemeester (mayor) of Leeuwarden. When Saskia, as the youngest daughter, became an orphan, she lived with an older sister in Het Bildt. They were married in the local church of St. Annaparochie without the presence of his relatives.[11] In the same year, Rembrandt became a burgess of Amsterdam and a member of the local guild of painters. He also acquired a number of students, among them Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck.[12]

Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburg, ca. 1635.

In 1635 Rembrandt and Saskia moved into their own house, renting in fashionable Nieuwe Doelenstraat. In 1639, they moved to a prominent house (now the Rembrandt House Museum) in the Jodenbreestraat in what was becoming the Jewish quarter; the mortgage to finance the 13,000 guilder purchase would be a primary cause for later financial difficulties.[12] He should easily have been able to pay it off with his large income, but it appears his spending always kept pace with his income, and he may have made some unsuccessful investments.[13] It was there that Rembrandt frequently sought his Jewish neighbors to model for his Old Testament scenes.[14] Although they were by now affluent, the couple suffered several personal setbacks; their son Rumbartus died two months after his birth in 1635 and their daughter Cornelia died at just 3 weeks of age in 1638. In 1640, they had a second daughter, also named Cornelia, who died after living barely over a month. Only their fourth child, Titus, who was born in 1641, survived into adulthood. Saskia died in 1642 soon after Titus's birth, probably from tuberculosis. Rembrandt's drawings of her on her sick and death bed are among his most moving works.[15]

During Saskia's illness, Geertje Dircx was hired as Titus' caretaker and nurse and probably also became Rembrandt's lover. She would later charge Rembrandt with breach of promise and was awarded alimony of 200 guilders a year.[12] Rembrandt worked to have her committed for twelve years to an asylum or poorhouse (called a "bridewell") at Gouda, after learning Geertje had pawned jewelry that had once belonged to Saskia, and which Rembrandt had given her.

In the late 1640s Rembrandt began a relationship with the much younger Hendrickje Stoffels, who had initially been his maid. In 1654 they had a daughter, Cornelia, bringing Hendrickje a summons from the Reformed Church to answer the charge "that she had committed the acts of a whore with Rembrandt the painter". She admitted this and was banned from receiving communion. Rembrandt was not summoned to appear for the Church council because he was not a member of the Reformed Church.[16] The two were considered legally wed under common law, but Rembrandt had not married Henrickje, so as not to lose access to a trust set up for Titus in his mother's will.[15]

Rembrandt's son Titus, as a monk, 1660.

Rembrandt lived beyond his means, buying art (including bidding up his own work), prints (often used in his paintings) and rarities, which probably caused a court arrangement to avoid his bankruptcy in 1656, by selling most of his paintings and large collection of antiquities. The sale list survives and gives us a good insight into his collections, which apart from Old Master paintings and drawings included busts of the Roman Emperors, suits of Japanese armor among many objects from Asia, and collections of natural history and minerals; the prices realized in the sales in 1657 and 1658 were disappointing.[17] He also had to sell his house and his printing-press and move to more modest accommodation on the Rozengracht in 1660.[18] The authorities and his creditors were generally accommodating to him, except for the Amsterdam painters' guild, who introduced a new rule that no one in Rembrandt's circumstances could trade as a painter. To get round this, Hendrickje and Titus set up a business as art-dealers in 1660, with Rembrandt as an employee.[19]

In 1661 he (or rather the new business) was contracted to complete work for the newly built city hall, but only after Govert Flinck, the artist previously commissioned, died without beginning to paint. The resulting work, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, was rejected and returned to the painter; the surviving fragment is only a fraction of the whole work.[20] It was around this time that Rembrandt took on his last apprentice, Aert de Gelder. In 1662 he was still fulfilling major commissions for portraits and other works.[21] When Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany visited Amsterdam in 1667, he visited Rembrandt at his house.[22]

Rembrandt outlived both Hendrickje, who died in 1663, and Titus, who died in 1668, leaving a baby daughter. Rembrandt died within a year of his son, on October 4, 1669 in Amsterdam, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk.[23][24]


The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633. Still missing after robbery from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

In a letter to Huyghens, Rembrandt offered the only surviving explanation of what he sought to achieve through his art: the greatest and most natural movement, translated from de meeste en de natuurlijkste beweegelijkheid. The word "beweechgelickhijt" is also argued to mean "emotion" or "motive." Whether this refers to objectives, material or otherwise is open to interpretation; either way, Rembrandt seamlessly melded the earthly and spiritual as has no other painter in Western art.[25]

Earlier 20th century connoisseurs claimed Rembrandt had produced over 600 paintings, nearly 400 etchings and 2,000 drawings.[26] More recent scholarship, from the 1960s to the present day (led by the Rembrandt Research Project), often controversially, have winnowed his oeuvre to nearer 300 paintings.[27] His prints, traditionally all called etchings, although many are produced in whole or part by engraving and sometimes drypoint, have a much more stable total of slightly under 300.[28] It is likely he made many more drawings in his lifetime than 2,000, but those extant are more rare than presumed.[29] Two leading experts claim that the number of drawings whose autograph status can be regarded as effectively "certain" is no higher than about 75, although this is disputed. The list was to be unveiled at a scholarly meeting in February 2010.[30]

At one time about ninety paintings were counted as Rembrandt self-portraits, but it is now known that he had his students copy his own self-portraits as part of their training. Modern scholarship has reduced the autograph count to over forty paintings, as well as a few drawings and thirty-one etchings, which include many of the most remarkable images of the group.[31] Many show him posing in quasi-historical fancy dress, or pulling faces at himself. His oil paintings trace the progress from an uncertain young man, through the dapper and very successful portrait-painter of the 1630s, to the troubled but massively powerful portraits of his old age. Together they give a remarkably clear picture of the man, his appearance and his psychological make-up, as revealed by his richly-weathered face.[32]

Among the more prominent characteristics of his work are his use of chiaroscuro, the theatrical employment of light and shadow derived from Caravaggio, or, more likely, from the Dutch Caravaggisti, but adapted for very personal means.[33] Also notable are his dramatic and lively presentation of subjects, devoid of the rigid formality that his contemporaries often displayed, and a deeply felt compassion for mankind, irrespective of wealth and age. His immediate family—his wife Saskia, his son Titus and his common-law wife Hendrickje—often figured prominently in his paintings, many of which had mythical, biblical or historical themes.

Periods, themes and styles

The Abduction of Europa, 1632. Oil on panel. The work is considered to be "...a shining example of the 'golden age' of baroque painting."[34]

Throughout his career Rembrandt took as his primary subjects the themes of portraiture, landscape and narrative painting. For the last, he was especially praised by his contemporaries, who extolled him as a masterful interpreter of biblical stories for his skill in representing emotions and attention to detail.[35] Stylistically, his paintings progressed from the early 'smooth' manner, characterized by fine technique in the portrayal of illusionistic form, to the late 'rough' treatment of richly variegated paint surfaces, which allowed for an illusionism of form suggested by the tactile quality of the paint itself.[36]

A parallel development may be seen in his skill as a printmaker. In the etchings of his maturity, particularly from the late 1640s onward, the freedom and breadth of his drawings and paintings found expression in the print medium as well. The works encompass a wide range of subject matter and technique, sometimes leaving large areas of white paper to suggest space, at other times employing complex webs of line to produce rich dark tones.[37]

It was during Rembrandt's Leiden period (1625–1631) that Lastman's influence was most prominent. It is also likely that at this time Lievens had a strong impact on his work as well.[38] Paintings were rather small, but rich in details (for example, in costumes and jewelry). Religious and allegorical themes were favored, as were tronies, half-length figures not intended as specific portraits.[38] In 1626 Rembrandt produced his first etchings, the wide dissemination of which would largely account for his international fame.[38] In 1629 he completed Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver and The Artist in His Studio, works that evidence his interest in the handling of light and variety of paint application, and constitute the first major progress in his development as a painter.[39]

A typical portrait from 1634, when Rembrandt was enjoying great commercial success.

During his early years in Amsterdam (1632–1636), Rembrandt began to paint dramatic biblical and mythological scenes in high contrast and of large format (The Blinding of Samson, 1636, Belshazzar's Feast, c. 1635 Danaë, 1636), seeking to emulate the baroque style of Rubens.[40] With the occasional help of assistants in Uylenburgh's workshop, he painted numerous portrait commissions both small (Jacob de Gheyn III) and large (Portrait of the Shipbuilder Jan Rijcksen and his Wife, 1633, Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632).[41]

By the late 1630s, Rembrandt had produced a few paintings and many etchings of landscapes. Often these landscapes highlighted natural drama, featuring uprooted trees and ominous skies (Cottages before a Stormy Sky, c. 1641, The Three Trees, 1643). From 1640 his work became less exuberant and more sober in tone, possibly reflecting personal tragedy. Biblical scenes were now derived more often from the New Testament than the Old Testament, as had been the case before. In 1642 he painted the The Night Watch, his largest work and the most notable of the important group portrait commissions which he received in this period, and through which he sought to find solutions to compositional and narrative problems that had been attempted in previous works.[42]

In the decade following the Night Watch, Rembrandt's paintings varied greatly in size, subject, and style. The previous tendency to create dramatic effects primarily by strong contrasts of light and shadow gave way to the use of frontal lighting and larger and more saturated areas of color. Simultaneously, figures came to be placed parallel to the picture plane. These changes can be seen as a move toward a classical mode of composition and, considering the more expressive use of brushwork as well, may indicate a familiarity with Venetian art (Susanna and the Elders, 1637–47).[43] At the same time, there was a marked decrease in painted works in favor of etchings and drawings of landscapes.[44] In these graphic works natural drama eventually made way for quiet Dutch rural scenes.

Self Portrait, 1658, a masterpiece of the final style, "the calmest and grandest of all his portraits".[45]

In the 1650s, Rembrandt's style changed again. Paintings increased in size, colors became richer and brush strokes more pronounced. With these changes, Rembrandt distanced himself from earlier work and current fashion, which increasingly inclined toward fine, detailed works. His singular approach to paint application may have been suggested in part by familiarity with the work of Titian, and could be seen in the context of the then current discussion of 'finish' and surface quality of paintings. Contemporary accounts sometimes remark disapprovingly of the coarseness of Rembrandt's brushwork, and the artist himself was said to have dissuaded visitors from looking too closely at his paintings.[46] The tactile manipulation of paint may hearken to medieval procedures, when mimetic effects of rendering informed a painting's surface. The end result is a richly varied handling of paint, deeply layered and often apparently haphazard, which suggests form and space in both an illusionistic and highly individual manner.[47]

In later years, biblical themes were still depicted often, but emphasis shifted from dramatic group scenes to intimate portrait-like figures (James the Apostle, 1661). In his last years, Rembrandt painted his most deeply reflective self-portraits (from 1652 to 1669 he painted fifteen), and several moving images of both men and women (The Jewish Bride, ca. 1666)—in love, in life, and before God .[48][49]


The Hundred Guilder Print, c.1647-1649, etching

Rembrandt produced etchings for most of his career, from 1626 to 1660, when he was forced to sell his printing-press and virtually abandoned etching. Only the troubled year of 1649 produced no dated work.[50] He took easily to etching and, though he also learned to use a burin and partly engraved many plates, the freedom of etching technique was fundamental to his work. He was very closely involved in the whole process of printmaking, and must have printed at least early examples of his etchings himself. At first he used a style based on drawing, but soon moved to one based on painting, using a mass of lines and numerous bitings with the acid to achieve different strengths of line. Towards the end of the 1630s, he reacted against this manner and moved to a simpler style, with fewer bitings.[51] He worked on the so-called Hundred Guilder Print in stages throughout the 1640s, and it was the "critical work in the middle of his career", from which his final etching style began to emerge.[52] Although the print only survives in two states, the first very rare, evidence of much reworking can be seen underneath the final print and many drawings survive for elements of it.[53]

The Three Crosses, etching by Rembrandt, 1653, State III of IV

In the mature works of the 1650s, Rembrandt was more ready to improvise on the plate and large prints typically survive in several states, up to eleven, often radically changed. He now uses hatching to create his dark areas, which often take up much of the plate. He also experimented with the effects of printing on different kinds of paper, including Japanese paper, which he used frequently, and on vellum. He began to use "surface tone," leaving a thin film of ink on parts of the plate instead of wiping it completely clean to print each impression. He made more use of drypoint, exploiting, especially in landscapes, the rich fuzzy burr that this technique gives to the first few impressions.[54]

His prints have similar subjects to his paintings, although the twenty-seven self-portraits are relatively more common, and portraits of other people less so. There are forty-six landscapes, mostly small, which largely set the course for the graphic treatment of landscape until the end of the 19th century. One third of his etchings are of religious subjects, many treated with a homely simplicity, whilst others are his most monumental prints. A few erotic, or just obscene, compositions have no equivalent in his paintings.[55] He owned, until forced to sell it, a magnificent collection of prints by other artists, and many borrowings and influences in his work can be traced to artists as diverse as Mantegna, Raphael, Hercules Segers, and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione.

Museum collections

In the Netherlands, the most notable collection of Rembrandt's work is at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, including De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch) and Het Joodse bruidje (The Jewish Bride). Many of his self-portraits are held in The Hague's Mauritshuis. His home, preserved as the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, displays many examples of his etchings; all major print rooms have the majority of these, although a number exist in only a handful of impressions (copies). The best collections of his paintings in other countries can be found in the National Gallery, London, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, New York City, Washington, D.C., The Louvre and Kassel.[56] In addition, a number of Rembrandt paintings have been associated with Southern California individuals and institutions.

Selected works

The Girl in a Picture Frame, 1641.

Night Watch

The Night Watch or The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq, 1642. Oil on canvas; on display at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Rembrandt painted The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq between 1640 and 1642. This picture was called the Nachtwacht by the Dutch and the Night Watch by Sir Joshua Reynolds because, upon its discovery, the picture was so dimmed and defaced by time that it was almost indistinguishable and it looked quite like a night scene. After it was cleaned, it was discovered to represent broad day—a party of musketeers stepping from a gloomy courtyard into the blinding sunlight.

The piece was commissioned for the new hall of the Kloveniersdoelen, the musketeer branch of the civic militia. Rembrandt departed from convention, which ordered that such genre pieces should be stately and formal, rather a line-up than an action scene. Instead he showed the militia readying themselves to embark on a mission (what kind of mission, an ordinary patrol or some special event, is a matter of debate). Contrary to years of speculation, the work was hailed as a success from the beginning. Parts of the canvas were cut off (approximately 20% from the left hand side was removed) to make the painting fit on the designated wall when it was moved to Amsterdam town hall in 1715. However, the Rijksmuseum contains a smaller reproduction of the work in what is understood to be its original form; the four, foremost figures occupy the painting's center. The painting now hangs in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, where it occupies the entire rear wall of a gallery.[57]

Expert assessments

The Polish Rider - A Lisowczyk on horseback. The subject is of much discussion. It is possible that the person depicted was Grand Chancellor of Lithuania, Marcjan Aleksander Ogiński (1632-1690)

In 1968 the Rembrandt Research Project was started under the sponsorship of the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Scientific Research; it was initially expected to last a highly optimistic ten years. Art historians teamed up with experts from other fields to reassess the authenticity of works attributed to Rembrandt, using all methods available, including state-of-the-art technical diagnostics, and to compile a complete new catalogue raisonné of his paintings. As a result of their findings, many paintings that were previously attributed to Rembrandt have been removed from their list, although others have been added back.[58] Many of those removed are now thought to be the work of his students.

One example of activity is The Polish Rider, in New York's Frick Collection. Its authenticity had been questioned years before by several scholars, led by Julius Held. Many, including Dr. Josua Bruyn of the Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, attributed the painting to one of Rembrandt's closest and most talented pupils, Willem Drost, about whom little is known. The Frick itself never changed its own attribution, the label still reading "Rembrandt" and not "attributed to" or "school of". More recent opinion has shifted in favor of the Frick, with Simon Schama in his 1999 book Rembrandt's Eyes, and a Rembrandt Project scholar, Ernst van de Wetering (Melbourne Symposium, 1997) both arguing for attribution to the master. Many scholars feel that the execution is uneven, and favour different attributions for different parts of the work.[59]

Man in a Golden helmet, Berlin, once one of the most famous "Rembrandt" portraits, no longer attributed to the master.

Another painting, Pilate Washing His Hands, is also of questionable attribution. Critical opinion of this picture has varied since 1905, when Wilhelm von Bode described it as "a somewhat abnormal work" by Rembrandt. Scholars have since dated the painting to the 1660s and assigned it to an anonymous pupil, possibly Arent de Gelder. The composition bears superficial resemblance to mature works by Rembrandt but lacks the master's command of illumination and modeling.[60]

The attribution and re-attribution work is ongoing. In 2005 four oil paintings previously attributed to Rembrandt's students were reclassified as the work of Rembrandt himself: Study of an Old Man in Profile and Study of an Old Man with a Beard from a US private collection, Study of a Weeping Woman, owned by the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Portrait of an Elderly Woman in a White Bonnet, painted in 1640.[61]

Rembrandt's own studio practice is a major factor in the difficulty of attribution, since, like many masters before him, he encouraged his students to copy his paintings, sometimes finishing or retouching them to be sold as originals, and sometimes selling them as authorized copies. Additionally, his style proved easy enough for his most talented students to emulate. Further complicating matters is the uneven quality of some of Rembrandt's own work, and his frequent stylistic evolutions and experiments.[62] As well, there were later imitations of his work, and restorations which so seriously damaged the original works that they are no longer recognizable.[63] It is highly likely that there will never be universal agreement as to what does and what does not constitute a genuine Rembrandt.

Name and signature

Rembrandt's house in Amsterdam, now the Rembrandt House Museum

"Rembrandt" is a modification of the spelling of the artist's first name that he introduced in 1633. Roughly speaking, his earliest signatures (ca. 1625) consisted of an initial "R", or the monogram "RH" (for Rembrant Harmenszoon; i.e. "son of Harmen"), and starting in 1629, "RHL" (the "L" stood, presumably, for Leiden). In 1632, he used this monogram early in the year, then added his patronymic to it, "RHL-van Rijn", but replaced this form in that same year and began using his first name alone with its original spelling, "Rembrant". In 1633 he added a "d", and maintained this form consistently from then on, proving that this minor change had a meaning for him (whatever it might have been). This change is purely visual; it does not change the way his name is pronounced. Curiously enough, despite the large number of paintings and etchings signed with this modified first name, most of their documents that mentioned him during his lifetime retained the original "Rembrant" spelling. (Note: the rough chronology of signature forms above applies to the paintings, and to a lesser degree to the etchings; from 1632, presumably, there is only one etching signed "RHL-v. Rijn," the large-format "Raising of Lazarus," B 73).[64] His practice of signing his work with his first name, later followed by Vincent van Gogh, was probably inspired by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo who, then as now, were referred to by their first names alone.[65]

Optical theory

A letter published in 2004 by Margaret S. Livingstone, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, suggests that Rembrandt, whose eyes failed to align correctly, suffered from stereo blindness.[66] This conclusion was made after studying 36 of Rembrandt's self-portraits. Because he could not form a normal binocular vision, his brain automatically switched to one eye for many visual tasks. This disability could have helped him to flatten images he saw, and then put it onto the two-dimensional canvas. Livingstone theorized that this was an advantage for the painter: "Art teachers often instruct students to close one eye in order to flatten what they see. Therefore, stereo blindness might not be a handicap—and might even be an asset—for some artists."[67]



Other works


  1. ^ a b Gombrich, p. 420.
  2. ^ Gombrich, p. 427.
  3. ^ Clark, p. 203.
  4. ^ Clark, pp. 203-4.
  5. ^ Clark, p. 205.
  6. ^ This version of his first name, "Rembrant" with a "d," first appeared in his signatures in 1633. Until then, he had signed with a combination of initials or monograms. In late 1632, he began signing solely with his first name, "Rembrant." He added the "d" in the following year and stuck to this spelling for the rest of his life. Although we can only speculate, this change must have had a meaning for Rembrandt, which is generally interpreted as his wanting to be known by his first name like the great figures of the Italian Renaissance: Leonardo, Raphael etc., (who did not sign with their first names, if at all). [1]
  7. ^ Bull, et al., p. 28.
  8. ^ Slive has a comprehensive biography, p.55 ff.
  9. ^ Slive, pp. 60, 65
  10. ^ Slive, pp. 60-61
  11. ^ Registration of the banns of Rembrandt and Saskia, kept at the Amsterdam City Archives
  12. ^ a b c Bull, et al., p. 28
  13. ^ Clark, 1978, pp. 26-7, 76, 102
  14. ^ Adams, p. 660
  15. ^ a b Slive, p. 71
  16. ^ Slive, p.82
  17. ^ Slive, p. 84
  18. ^ Schwarz, p. 12. The sale was in 1658, but was agreed with two years for him to vacate.
  19. ^ Clark, 1974 p. 105
  20. ^ Clark 1974, pp. 60-61
  21. ^ Bull, et al., page 29.
  22. ^ Clark 1978, p. 34
  23. ^ Slive, p. 83
  24. ^ Burial register of the Westerkerk with record of Rembrandt's burial, kept at the Amsterdam City Archives
  25. ^ Hughes, p. 6
  26. ^ Art of Northern Europe, Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.
  27. ^ Useful totals of the figures from various different oeuvre catalogues, often divided into classes along the lines of: "very likely authentic", "possibly authentic" and "unlikely to be authentic" are given at the Online Rembrandt catalogue
  28. ^ Two hundred years ago Bartsch listed 375. More recent catalogues have added three (two in unique impressions) and excluded enough to reach totals as follows: Schwartz, pp. 6, 289; Münz 1952, p. 279, Boon 1963, pp. 287 Print Council of America - but Schwarz total quoted does not tally with the book.
  29. ^ It is not possible to give a total, as a new wave of scholarship on Rembrandt drawings is still in progress — analysis of the Berlin collection for an exhibition in 2006/7 has produced a probable drop from 130 sheets there to about 60.Codart The British Museum is due to publish a new catalogue after a similar exercise.
  30. ^ Schwarzlist 301 - Blog entry by the Rembrandt scholar Gary Schwarz
  31. ^ White and Buvelot 1999, p. 10.
  32. ^ While the popular interpretation is that these paintings represent a personal and introspective journey, it is possible that they were painted to satisfy a market for self-portraits by prominent artists. Van de Wetering, p. 290.
  33. ^ Bull, et al., pp. 11-13.
  34. ^ Clough, p. 23
  35. ^ van der Wetering, p. 268.
  36. ^ van de Wetering, pp. 160, 190.
  37. ^ Ackley, p. 14.
  38. ^ a b c van de Wetering, p. 284.
  39. ^ van de Wetering, page 285.
  40. ^ van de Wetering, p. 287.
  41. ^ van de Wetering, p. 286.
  42. ^ van de Wetering, p. 288.
  43. ^ van de Wetering, pp. 163-5.
  44. ^ van de Wetering, p. 289.
  45. ^ Clark 1978, p. 28
  46. ^ van de Wetering, pp. 155-165.
  47. ^ van de Wetering, pp. 157-8, 190.
  48. ^ "In Rembrandt's (late) great portraits we feel face to face with real people, we sense their warmth, their need for sympathy and also their loneliness and suffering. Those keen and steady eyes that we know so well from Rembrandt's self-portraits must have been able to look straight into the human heart." Gombrich, p. 423.
  49. ^ "It (The Jewish Bride) is a picture of grown-up love, a marvelous amalgam of richness, tenderness, and trust... the heads which, in their truth, have a spiritual glow that painters influenced by the classical tradition could never achieve." Clark, p. 206.
  50. ^ Schwartz, 1994, pp. 8-12
  51. ^ White 1969, pp. 5-6
  52. ^ White 1969, p. 6
  53. ^ White 1969, pp. 6, 9-10
  54. ^ White, 1969 pp. 6-7
  55. ^ See Strauss, where the works are divided by subject, following Bartsch.
  56. ^ Clark 1974, pp. 147-50. See the catalogue in Further reading for the location of all accepted Rembrandts
  57. ^ As of October 2007, the main galleries remain closed for renovations, planned until 2010 but the Rembrandts are being shown in a nearby adjacent part of the building according to the Rijksmuseum website.
  58. ^ See the pdf Preface on the Project website
  59. ^ See "Further Battles for the 'Lisowczyk' (Polish Rider) by Rembrandt" Zdzislaw Zygulski, Jr., Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 21, No. 41 (2000), pp. 197-205. Also New York Times story. There is a book on the subject:Responses to Rembrandt; Who painted the Polish Rider? by Anthony Bailey (New York, 1993)
  60. ^ The Metropolitan Museum of Art: European Paintings
  61. ^ "Entertainment | Lost Rembrandt works discovered". BBC News. 2005-09-23. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  62. ^ "...Rembrandt was not always the perfectly consistent, logical Dutchman he was originally anticipated to be." Ackley, p. 13.
  63. ^ van de Wetering, p. x.
  64. ^ Chronology of his signatures (pdf) with examples
  65. ^ Slive, p. 60
  66. ^ The New England Journal of Medicine, September 16, 2004
  67. ^ Livingstone, Margaret S.; Conway, Bevil R. (September 16, 2004). "Was Rembrandt Stereoblind?" (Correspondence). New England Journal of Medicine 351 (12): 1264–1265. PMID 15371590.
  68. ^ E. van de Wetering, 'Rembrandt laughing, c. 1628 - a painting resurfaces' in Kroniek van het Rembrandthuis, June 2008


  • Ackley, Clifford, et al., Rembrandt's Journey, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2004. ISBN 0-87846-677-0
  • Adams, Laurie Schneider (1999). Art Across Time. Volume II. McGraw-Hill College, New York, NY. 
  • Bull, Duncan, et al., Rembrandt-Caravaggio, Rijksmuseum, 2006.
  • Clark, Kenneth, Civilisation, Harper & Row, 1969.
  • Clark, Kenneth, An Introduction to Rembrandt, 1978, London, John Murray/Readers Union, 1978
  • Clough, Shepard B. (1975). European History in a World Perspective. D.C. Heath and Company, Los Lexington, MA. ISBN 0-669-85555-3. 
  • Gombrich, E.H., The Story of Art, Phaidon, 1995. ISBN 0-7148-3355-x
  • Hughes, Robert (2006), "The God of Realism", The New York Review of Books (Rea S. Hederman) 53 (6) 
  • The Complete Etchings of Rembrandt Reproduced in Original Size, Gary Schwartz (editor). New York: Dover, 1988. ISBN 0-486-28181-7
  • Slive, Seymour, Dutch Painting, 1600–1800, Yale UP, 1995,ISBN 0300074514
  • van de Wetering, Ernst, Rembrandt: The Painter at Work, Amsterdam University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-520-22668-2
  • Rembrandt by himself (Christopher White — Editor, Quentin Buvelot — Editor) National Gallery Co Ltd [1999]
  • Christopher White, The Late Etchings of Rembrandt, 1969, British Museum/Lund Humphries, London

Further reading

  • Catalogue raisonné: Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project:
    • A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings — Volume I, which deals with works from Rembrandt’s early years in Leiden (1629–1631), 1982
    • A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings — Volume II: 1631-1634. Bruyn, J., Haak, B. (et al.), Band 2, 1986, ISBN 978-90-247-3339-2
    • A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings — Volume III, 1635-1642. Bruyn, J., Haak, B., Levie, S.H., van Thiel, P.J.J., van de Wetering, E. (Ed. Hrsg.), Band 3, 1990, ISBN 978-90-247-3781-9
    • A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings — Volume IV. Ernst van de Wetering, Karin Groen et al. Springer, Dordrecht, the Netherlands (NL). ISBN 1-4020-3280-3. p. 692. (Self-Portraits)
  • Rembrandt. Images and metaphors, Christian Tumpel (editor), Haus Books London 2006 ISBN 978-1-904950-92-9
  • Van De Wetering, Ernst (2004) (2nd paperback printing). The Painter At Work. University of California Press,Berkley and Los Angeles. University of California Press, London, England. By arrangement with Amsterdam University Press. ISBN O-520-22668-2.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Choose only one master — Nature.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (15 July 16064 October 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher, generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in history.


In these two paintings the greatest and most innate emotion has been expressed, which is also the main reason why they have taken so long to execute.
Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about.
A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.
  • Because of the great zeal and devotion which I experienced in executing well the two pictures which His Highness commissioned me to make — the one being Christ's dead body being laid in the tomb, and the other Christ arising from the dead to the consternation of the guards — these same two pictures are now finished through studious application, so that I am now disposed to deliver the same and so to afford to His Highness. For in these two paintings the greatest and most natural movement has been expressed, which is also the main reason why they have taken so long to execute.
    • Letter to Constantijn Huygens on paintings commissioned by the imperial court (12 January 1639), as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 78
    • What Rembrandt meant in his phrase "die meeste ende di naetuereelste beweechgelickheijt" has been the subject of dispute. Variant translations have been proposed:
  • For in these two paintings the greatest and most innate emotion has been expressed, which is also the main reason why they have taken so long to execute.
  • The deepest and most lifelike emotion has been expressed, and that's the reason they have taken so long to execute.
  • Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 131
  • I can't paint the way they want me to paint and they know that too.
    Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can't do it. I just can't do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy.
    • As quoted in R.v.R. : Being an Account of the Last Years and the Death of One Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn (1930) by Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • Choose only one master — Nature.
    • As quoted in Rembrandt Drawings (1975) by Paul Némo, as translated by David Macrae
  • Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God.
    • As quoted in Rembrandt Drawings (1975) by Paul Némo, as translated by David Macrae
  • A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.
    • Statement attributed to Rembrandt in early biographies, as quoted in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-Century France (2003) by Alison MacQueen
  • A painting is not made to be sniffed.
    • Statement attributed to Rembrandt in early biographies, as quoted in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-Century France (2003) by Alison MacQueen

Quotes about Rembrandt

Rembrandt painted 700 pictures. Of these, 3,000 are still in existence. ~ Wilhelm von Bode
Rembrandt not only stops the time that made the subject flow into the future, but makes it flow back to the remotest ages. ~ Jean Genet
Rembrandt is truly called a magician... that's not an easy calling. ~ van Gogh
I believe in Michael Angelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of color, the redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting, and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed. ~ George Bernard Shaw
He can blend, like no one else, reality with mystery, the bestial with the divine, the most subtle and powerful craftsmanship with the greatest, the loneliest depths of feeling that painting has ever expressed. ~ Paul Valéry
  • The best history is but like the art of Rembrandt; it casts a vivid light on certain selected causes, on those which were best and greatest; it leaves all the rest in shadow and unseen.
  • Rembrandt painted 700 pictures. Of these, 3,000 are still in existence.
  • The psychological truth of Rembrandt's paintings goes beyond that of any other artist who has ever lived. Of course they are masterpieces of sheer picture-making. In the Bathsheba he makes use of studies from nature and from antique reliefs to achieve a perfectly balanced design. We may think we admire it as pure painting, but in the end we come back to the head. Bathsheba's thoughts and feelings as she ponders David's letter are rendered with a subtlety and a human sympathy which a great novelist could scarcely achieve in many pages.
    • Kenneth Clark, Civlisation (1969), ch. 8: The Light of Experience
  • Since music has never had a Rembrandt, we have remained nothing more than musicians.
  • A painting by Rembrandt not only stops the time that made the subject flow into the future, but makes it flow back to the remotest ages. By means of this operation Rembrandt achieves solemnity. He thus discovers why, at every moment, every event is solemn: he knows it from his own solitude.
    • Jean Genet, "Something Which Seemed to Resemble Decay" (1964), trans. Bernard Frechtman, Antaeus (spring 1985 issue)
  • There is something of Rembrandt in the Gospel, or something of the Gospel in Rembrandt, as you like it — it comes to the same, if one only understands the thing in the right way.
  • Rembrandt is so deeply mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. Rembrandt is truly called a magician... that's not an easy calling.
  • Of all the Baroque masters, it was Rembrandt who evolved the most revolutionary technique and who seemed to grow into the Italians' spiritual heir. Where others needed five touches he was using one, and so the brushstrokes had begun to separate and could sometimes only be properly read from a distance. The exact imitation of form was being replaced by the suggestion of it: to some of his contemporaries, therefore, his paintings began to look unfinished. It was from the Venetians that he had learned to use a brown ground so that his paintings emerged from dark to light, physically as well as spiritually. Yet, despite a palette that was limited even by seventeenth century standards, he was renowned as a colorist for he managed to maintain a precarious balance between painting tonally, with light and shade, and painting in color. Just as form was suggested rather than delineated, so the impression of rich color was deceptive. Never before had a painter taken such a purely sensuous interest and delight in the physical qualities of his medium, nor granted it a greater measure of independence from the image.
  • His temperament was that of a Prophet — a God-possessed man, brother to Dostoevski, and teeming with the future, a future he bore within him as the Hebrew prophets bore within them the coming of the Messiah, and as he bore within himself the past.
    • André Malraux as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 78
  • In common with Michelangelo and Rembrandt I am more interested in the line, its rise and fall, than in color.
  • Rembrandt was himself a universal spirit, and this spirit informs everything that he painted, so that a biblical legend, a carcass of an ox, a naked woman, his own self-portrait — all stand as symbols of an all-embracing sympathy. Perhaps only Shakespeare, in another art, has that kind of universal intelligence.
    • Sir Herbert Read in "Gauguin: The Return to Symbolism" in The Tenth Muse: Essays in Criticism (1957).
  • Rembrandt, the son of a miller, a pupil of Lastman, attained to a high degree of excellence in art through industry and natural gifts, although he never visited Italy and was but imperfectly developed. ... He sinned against the laws of anatomy, proportion, perspective, and the antique, as against Raphael's draftsmanship; and he warred also against academies and relied on nature.
    • Joachim von Sandrart, in Comments (1675), as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 80
  • His engravings bear witness to his industry, and by its means he acquired affluence... If he had been more prudent in his relations with others, he would have become still wealthier. But although he was no spendthrift, he cared little for social rank, and was addicted to the society of humble folks, who interfered a good deal with his work.
    • Joachim von Sandrart, in Comments (1675), as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 80
  • He can blend, like no one else, reality with mystery, the bestial with the divine, the most subtle and powerful craftsmanship with the greatest, the loneliest depths of feeling that painting has ever expressed.
    • Paul Valéry, Degas Danse Dessin (Degas Dance Drawing, 1935)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary





Rembrandt (plural Rembrandts)

  1. a work by Rembrandt van Rijn

Proper noun




  1. Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch painter and printmaker.

Simple English

File:Rembrandt van rijn-self
Rembrandt's self-portrait as an old man.
File:Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Rembrandt's portrait of Hendrickje
File:Rembrandt auto
Young Rembrandt, in chiaroscuro (light & shade)
File:Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Self Portrait, 1658. A masterpiece, "the calmest and grandest of all his portraits".[1]p28

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Leiden, 15 July 1606 – Amsterdam, 4 October 1669) was a famous Dutch painter and artist.

He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history, and the most important in Dutch history.[2]p420 His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.

After he success as a young portrait painter, in his later years he had personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, and his reputation as an artist remained high.[2]p427 For twenty years he taught nearly every important Dutch painter.[1]p203

Rembrandt's greatest creative work is seen in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits are a unique biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.[2]p420

Personal life

In 1631 he went to live in Amsterdam, because people there had heard of him and wanted him to paint their portraits. He married a woman called Saskia van Uylenberg. They had four children, but three of them died very young. Only their fourth child, Titus, who was born in 1641, survived into adulthood. Saskia died in 1642 soon after Titus's birth, probably from tuberculosis.

During Saskia's illness, a nurse was hired, who probably also became Rembrandt's lover. She later charged Rembrandt with breach of promise and was awarded 200 guilders a year.[3]p28 When Rembrandt learned she had pawned Saskia's jewellery, which Rembrandt had given her, he had her committed for twelve years to a poorhouse (a 'bridewell') at Gouda.

Rembrandt then lived with a young woman called Hendrickje Stoffels from Bredevoort who had been his maid. They had a daughter called Cornelia. Rembrandt died in Amsterdam on 4 October 1669.


Rembrandt painted many famous pictures. Some of them are large, and some of them are dark and sad. He was such a good painter, that many of his pictures make people feel as if they are taking part in what is happening. Paintings by Rembrandt can be seen in famous art galleries all over the world.

Throughout his work Rembrandt used colour which darkens as it approaches the edge of the painting, and lighter towards the center. There is always a certain person, or event, or group of people that is near the center, and they are shown to be brighter than the rest of the picture. However the dark backgrounds are not to be ignored, they are painted to be as interesting and important as the main focus. In most of his paintings there are deep whites and blacks which shows constrasts between different parts of the work.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Clark, Kenneth 1978. An introduction to Rembrandt. Murray, London.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Gombrich E.H. 1995. The story of art, Phaidon. ISBN 0-7148-3355-x
  3. Bull, Duncan et al. 2006. Rembrandt-Caravaggio. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


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