Rembrandt Hamerszoon van Rijn

Self portrait, cca. 1640, Louvre Museum


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on July 15th 1606, in Leiden, a town in today’s Netherlands, in a Catholic-Calvinist family, being the ninth child of a wealthy miller, Gerritz van Rijn (1568-1630) and Neeltgen Willemsdr van Zuytbrouck (ca. 1568-1640).

1613-1620 – he attends Latin School in Leiden. He is admitted at the Leyden University, but in the same year he quits his studies for becoming a painter. He is the student of Isaacsz van Swanenburgh, a painter from Leiden, well-known for his landscapes and his fantastic representation of Hell.

1624-1625 – Rembrandt continues his studies in Amsterdam, under the guidance of Pieter Lastman, a very popular painter, well known for his historical scenes. Rembrandt will later return in Leiden, working as a painter, in collaboration with a close friend, Jan Lievens. He finishes his first painting, The stoning of Stephen, in 1625.

1626 – Rembrandt’s first engravings. There is common presumption that these works were made in this year.

1629 - Constantijn Huygens, an influential politician and poet, also the secretary of prince of Orania, praises Rembrandt’s work. What follows for the artist is a great number of commissions. Rembrandt’s first apprentice, Gerit Dou, learns the technique of engraving in the artist’s workshop. Rembrandt’s first signed engraving, a Self portrait, and his first oil portrait, painted in Mönchen can be traced back for this year.

1630 – Rembrandt’s father dies; he is buried in Leiden. The artist, now 24 years old, devotes himself entirely to the art of engraving. Rembrandt’s engraving art reaches a first high moment. He has never done so many engravings as this year.

1631 – Rembrandt spends most of his time in Amsterdam. Somewhere at the end of this year he establishes here, opening a workshop in the painter and merchandiser Hendrijk van Uylenburgh’s house. He continues his engraving work, describing pretentious themes. This will be a prosperous decade for the artist. The incoming portrait orders will change his lifestyle, Rembrandt becoming interested in clothing and in collecting unusual objects of value that stimulates his fantasy.

1632 – Rembrandt becomes a very well known portrayer in Amsterdam and Den Haag. Fifty of his paintings are dated 1632-1633. From this period dates one of his most known works of art, The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp. But the number of his engravings significantly decreases.

The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, Mauritshuis, Haga


1633 – Being able to make his own copper plates for his biblical themes, Rembrandt concentrates once more on the engraving technique. The works were conceived for a wider spread. As an engraver, Rembrandt is now focusing on creating genre scenes, portraits and allegories.

1634 – After becoming citizen of Amsterdam in full rights, Rembrandt joins St. Lucas guild of painters. He marries Saskia van Uylenburgh, niece of his wealthy merchandiser, and daughter of the late mayor of Leeuwarden. The portraits orders keep on coming, but the artist chooses to concentrate on his engravings.

1635 – Rumbartus, Rembrandt’s first child is born, but he dies shortly after his birth. In his art, Rembrandt approaches the same genre themes as before, except his Jewish bride, one of his finest paintings.

1636 – Rembrandt’s number of paintings and engravings diminishes. He now finishes a work started in 1633 - Ecce homo, an example of his graphic style evolution. The analogue work for Ecce homo is the Road of the cross (Passions of Christ).

1638 – The birth and the death of his daughter, Claudia. The orders, once in great number, keep on diminishing. Rembrandt is blamed by late Saskia’s relatives that he is irrationally spending her fortune.

Rembrandt with Saskia, 1639, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden


1639 – Rembrandt buys, near by the house of Hendrick van Uylenburgh, an imposing home (today’s Jodenbreestraat 4, the headquarters of „Het Rembrandthuis” museum). He pays just a small amount of money in advance, planning to pay the rest in different future amounts. A Self portrait of him, dated 1639, shows us an artist completely capable of mastering his technique.

1640 – The birth and death of his second daughter, Cornelia. This year is marked by his mother’s death also. Four years after he painted his first landscapes, he uses the theme in his engraving also.

1641 – The first published biography of the artist appears in a second edition of ,,Description from Leiden”, by J. Orlers. This year is marked by the birth of his son, Titus, a future character in Rembrandt’s paintings. Titus is the only surviving child of Rembrandt and Saskia, their first three children dying in the same year as their births. Rembrandt’s number of works of engraving rises. Excepting self portraits, he uses all the other themes in his engravings.

1642 – He finished The night watch, his main work of his years spent in Amsterdam. This work represents the zenith of his carrier as an artist. Only 30 year old, after a long suffering, Saskia dies. For taking care of his son, Titus, Rembrandt hires Geertje Dircx, later Rembrandt’s life companion. His number of engravings diminishes.

The night watch, 1642, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


1643 – Rembrandt’s most famous engraving, The three trees, appears.

1646 – 40 years old, Rembrandt makes his first engravings using love scenes and male nudes.

1647 - Hendrickje Stoffels is hired as a GUVERNANTA/ nanny.

1648 – Geertge Dircx, Rembrandt’s life companion and housekeeper, is replaced by Hendrickje Stoffels, twenty years younger, who soon becomes his new life companion. Rembrandt finds himself more often in the impossibility of paying his house debts. From now dates one of his most famous engravings, the Hundred gulden engraving (this work can not be seen in this exposition because of the fact that the copper plate was not in a bad shape, so Amand Durand didn’t had to ,,restore” it).

1649 – No valuable works of art are known from this year. Rembrandt’s life is marked by a period of crisis, being blamed by Geertge Dircx that he did not marry her, and by that not fulfilling a promise Rembrandt made to her. Also, he is being blamed for not keeping his financial obligations to her. The authorities decide for Rembrandt to pay the amount of about 160 guldens to Geertge Dircx, without obliging him to marry her.

1650 – According to “Conjugal dispute Registry”, Rembrandt was due to pay an annually pension to Geertge Dircx, obligation that would make him to register her into a foster home (for alienated woman). His financial situation still remains precarious, so he is no longer able to pay his house rents. Rarely, he makes portraits, so far his only source of income. Most of his portraits are orders by his creditors. For the first time, the landscapes he makes are a result of only his pure imagination.

1652 – Rembrandt’s debts are becoming bigger and bigger. The war between England and France only makes thing worse.

1653 – The plague epidemic in Amsterdam. From this year we have Rembrandt’s work, Aristotle looking at Homer’s sculpture portrait, an order of Don Antonio Ruffo, a Sicilian noble and art collector from Messina. Now appears the first engraving of “The three crosses”, Rembrandt’s climax for his graphic work.

1654 – The Church blames Hendrickje Stoffels for ”adultery with painter Rembrandt”. Four month later their daughter is born, named Cornelia, after Rembrandt’s late mother and two daughters which he had with Saskia. The child, borne outside of a legitimate marriage, will be the reason for which Hendrickje will be forbidden by the church to attend communion. Due to the fact that his son, Titus, would immediately gain half of his property in case his father gets married again, Rembrandt decides not to marry Hendrickje.

1655 – Between 1654 and 1655 the number of biblical theme stamps outgrows the one of paintings. Rembrandt paints Jesus and the Samaritan and Joseph and Potiphar’s wife twice, probably due to his financial insecurities. (His “Ecce Homo” is not in this exhibition for the same reasons as One hundred guldens).

1656 – Rembrandt declares bankruptcy. The court decides for a settlement between him and his creditors. In doing so, Rembrandt’s belongings are being inventoried, an action that will turn out to be a very important one from an art historian perspective: we are able to know what objects were owned by Rembrandt, and most important, what works he had has in his workshop.

1657 – An auction – that will last three days - with Rembrandt’s belongings is being organized. For the next two years his properties are being sold. The artist now chooses to represent saints in poverty, Saint Francisco and Saint Geronimo (Rembrandt will make seven works of this saint) being among those.

1658 – Rembrandt’s house is sold, Rembrandt having the right to remain for two more years in this location. From now dates his Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, work that resembles whit the one made in 1631.

1660 – Titus and Hendrickje start a firm dealing with art commerce, in order not to follow the prescription imposed by the artist’s guild, which has forbidden Rembrandt to sell any of his works. Rembrandt become an employee to his son’s firm. His family now moves in Rozengracht, an Amsterdam neighborhood. The artist must give up his printing press, and stops making engravings. By this time in England a book is being published about Rembrandt’s engraving techniques.

1661 – Hendrickje, being sick, makes her will, in which she calls herself the painter’s wife. Nude woman with an arrow is one of Rembrandt’s last engravings.

Claudius Civilis conspiracy, 1662, National Museum, Stockholm


1662 – The painting he makes for Amsterdam’s town hall, Claudius Civilis conspiracy, is not well received by the commissioners and the work is being send back to Rembrandt. Angry because of this, Rembrandts cuts the paintings into pieces. This was Rembrandt’s last order. His painting does not reflect his contemporaries taste anymore.

1663 – Hendrickje dies before she turns forty years old.

1664 – Titus receives his share of the money gained in 1657/1658. This will make Rembrandt’s last years a little easier to handle. Jan Antonides van der Linden, made for a Leiden editor, is his last engraving.

1668 – On February the 10th Titus gets married with Magdalena van Loo, but he later dies, just months after his marriage.

1669 – After Titus’s death, his daughter, Titia, is being born. Rembrandt is her godfather. At the age of 63 years old, Rembrandt dies on October the 4th, being buried on October the 8th near Saskia, Titus and Hendricjke, at the church of Westerkerk, Amsterdam.

His engravings are being appreciated by collectors and graphic designers even after his death. Only in the 18th and 19th century his works will meet a larger public. He now regains the acknowledgements he deserves, because of the classic modernism and its ways to appreciate art and its artistic complexity.