Abraham’s Sacrifice, etching by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1655, Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam
Several of the museums I went to in the Netherlands were house museums, including the home of the master painter and etcher Rembrandt van Rijn. The self-guided tour included several rooms in the house and all the working areas, plus a couple of galleries.
It’s always interesting to see where someone famous lived, because you get a better idea of how and when the events of their lives unfolded, and especially if you are an artist studying an artist, it’s always helpful to be able to see the scene in your mind. Rembrandt built this house (very expensive in its time) during the most prosperous period of his life, but he later lost it to creditors. Many of the dramas of his life unfolded here, including the death of his wife Saskia shortly after the birth of their second son Titus, his subsequent involvement with his housemaid Hendrikje Stoffels and a major scene that occurred in the kitchen when it became clear that he was never going to marry her as he had promised. Clients came to the house to buy art–his and that of other painters whom he represented. He also had a large collection of artworks and natural specimens, which only the rich could afford.
I got to watch two demonstrations while I was there, one on engraving and etching, and the other on mixing paints. Rembrandt developed the etching process himself and made it popular. In fact, in his own lifetime he was known primarily for his etchings, rather than for his paintings. I’ve done a bit of etching and have mixed my own paint on at least one occasion (in a class based on Rembrandt’s techniques, in fact), so I was able to follow along quite easily. Still, it was interesting to see how this work was done in Rembrandt’s own home, using materials and equipment from 17th-century Holland. I’m rather glad that tube paints are available now and that you don’t have to charge extra for using ultramarine (the name means “from across the sea”) blue, but it’s still interesting to think of how intense a color you could get by learning to mix your own paints.
Anyway, below are some photos of the house, with explanations:
1. One of two art galleries for clients, this one in the entry. There was a cupboard bed for clients in the adjacent parlor gallery. 2. The kitchen. I developed a real interest in these cozy Dutch kitchens over the course of the week. 3. Rembrandt’s bedroom, with more paintings. The room was reconstructed based on an etching of Saskia at the time of Titus’ birth. Beds were so small because people slept sitting up for fear of dying.
1. Rembrandt’s etching and engraving studio 2. A close of up an engraving plate and materials used to cover the plates used for etching. 3. Rembrandt’s painting studio 4. A sketch showing the corner of the studio used for posing 5. Paint pigments for mixing 6. Rembrandt’s collection of other artist’s drawings and natural specimens.