Rembrandt van Rijn

   Rembrandt is one of the central figures of Dutch Baroque art. Educated in Latin school and then at the University of Leiden, he was the son of a millworker. He left the university a few months after enrollment to pursue a career as painter. For three years he apprenticed with Jacob van Swanenburgh whose wife was from Naples and who had spent some time in Italy. Swanenburgh surely would have exposed Rembrandt to the Italian mode of painting. In 1624, Rembrandt moved to the studio of Pieter Lastman, who had visited Italy in 1605 and who was then the leading Dutch history painter. Rembrandt's early style is closely related to that of Lastman, as his Stoning of St. Stephen (1625; Lyons, Musée des Beaux-Arts) denotes. This is his earliest dated painting and includes the Italianate setting and figures he was taught to render by his masters. By the following year, his style became more intimate, with a lesser number of figures placed closer to the viewer, exemplified by his Tobit, Anna, and the Kid (1626; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), a scene from the Apocrypha painted in the manner of the Utrecht Caravaggists with crude figure types pushed to the foreground and wearing torn garments. The scene speaks of repentance as Tobit begs his wife for forgiveness for having accused her falsely of stealing the kid. While the lighting effects of the Utrecht Caravaggists are lacking in this work, they do appear in the Money Changer (1627; Berlin, Staatliche Museen) where the candlelight adds theatrical effects to dramatize the scene. The man depicted examines a coin, his eyeglasses denoting his nearsightedness for not recognizing his avarice. Rembrandt's Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver (1629; Yorkshire, Mulgrave Castle) represents the culmination of his Leiden period. The work was highly praised by Constantijn Huygens for its successful conveyance of deep emotions, calling Rembrandt the greatest of history painters. With this work, Rembrandt's mature style emerged, a style characterized by the use of earth tones speckled with a golden glow that seems to come from within the individuals who populate his canvases.
   In c. 1632, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam where he acquired an international reputation and became very wealthy. In 1634, he married Saskia Uylenburgh who often appears in his paintings and whose cousin was Hendrik Uylenburgh, an art dealer who gave Rembrandt lodging and studio space when he first arrived in the city and who helped him obtain commissions. In Amsterdam, Rembrandt had the opportunity to study Flemish works, particularly those of Peter Paul Rubens. As a result, his scenes became more monumental and dramatic. His Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Tulp (1632; The Hague, Mauritshuis) shows this change in his art. Contemporary accounts state that Rembrandt by now was so busy that patrons had to beg him and offer exorbitant fees so that the artist would paint their portrait. The Descent from the Cross (c. 1633; St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum) is part of a series Rembrandt painted for the Stadholder Frederik Hendrik, prince of Orange, for whom Huygens worked as secretary. Inspired by Rubens' Descent at the Cathedral of Antwerp (1612-1614), which Rembrandt knew from an engraving, the work shows dramatic effects of light and dark and an unidealized, unclassicized, suffering Christ deeply mourned by the figures around him. The Blinding of Samson (1636; Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut) Rembrandt painted for Huygens himself as a gift for having procured the stadholder's patronage. In the letter Rembrandt sent to Huygens informing him that he was shipping the painting, he gave specific instructions on how the work should be hung so that the maximum dra-matic effect could be achieved.
   In the 1640s, Rembrandt abandoned the overly dramatic historic representations, instead opting for more subdued compositions. This change is reflected not only in his history paintings but also his portraits. His Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill (1640; London, National Gallery) is one of the artist's many self-representations. In this rendition, he shows himself as a gentleman in expensive costume, fur collar, and jewel-studded hat. The diagonal arrangements of the 1630s have been replaced here by a series of parallel horizontals, resulting in a more stable, less movemented composition. In 1639, Rembrandt attended an auction where Raphael's portrait Baldassare Castiglione (1516; Paris, Louvre) was put on the block. He made a quick sketch of the work on a small piece of paper, now in the Albertina in Vienna, noting the price and the buyer. The sketch became the prototype for the compositional arrangement in his self-portrait.
   In 1642, Rembrandt painted one of his best-known works, the Night Watch (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), one of the most innovative militia portraits ever rendered. Another major work belonging to these years is Rembrandt's Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer (1653; New York, Metropolitan Museum), commissioned by the Sicilian nobleman Antonio Ruffo, who was also Artemisia Gentileschi's patron. Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that Homer was the master of all poetry, which is why Rembrandt presented him admiring the poet's bust. Aristotle in the painting wears a gold chain with a medallion that features the profile portrait of Alexander the Great, his pupil. Supposedly, Alexander, who shared his master's admiration for Homer, slept with a copy of the Iliad edited by Aristotle under his pillow. Rembrandt's painting, then, brings together three major historical figures that shaped the world of literature, philosophy, and politics. The work is rendered with thick impasto applied with a palette knife, typical of Rembrandt's paint application method of the 1650s and 1660s.
   The Oath of the Batavians (1662; Stockholm, Nationalmuseum) and Return of the Prodigal Son (c. 1669; St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum) represent Rembrandt's late phase. The first presents an event from ancient history, as related by Tacitus in the Historiae.A tribe of Batavians from the Lower Rhine (now Holland), led by Claudius Civilis, rose against the Romans. In the painting, the figures are shown engaging in a barbarian swearing of allegiance. The work was commissioned as part of a series on the Batavians to decorate the newly built Amsterdam City Hall as reference to the fight for Dutch independence from Spain led by William of Orange. The second painting is a biblical story Rembrandt rendered not long before his death. It presents the prodigal son returning home to his father after squandering his inheritance.
   While Rembrandt enjoyed a successful career, his personal life was plagued by misery. Of his four children with Saskia, only one, Titus, survived. When Saskia died, she gave her husband control of their child's inheritance, stipulating that, if Rembrandt remarried, the money and properties would be transferred to Titus. Rembrandt, therefore, never remarried. He did take a common-law wife, Geertje Dircx, a widow who had cared for Titus as his wet-nurse. Geertje and Rembrandt had a bitter separation, went to court, and he was forced to pay her alimony. This separation may have had something to do with the presence of Hendrickje Stoffels who in 1647, at age 20, became part of their household. By 1649, Hendrickje was Rembrandt's mistress and, in 1656, Rembrandt, who spent lavishly on art and other luxuries, declared bankruptcy. Hendrickje died in 1663 and, in 1668, so did Titus, who was then only in his twenties. Rembrandt's death came in the following year.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • REMBRANDT VAN RIJN° — (1606–1669), Dutch painter and engraver, considered Holland s national cultural hero. Born in Leiden, he was probably reared in Calvinism, the official religion of Holland. There has been some speculation that Rembrandt became a Mennonite later… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Rembrandt van Rijn — (spr. Rein), Paul (von welchem Vornamen jedoch seine Zeitgenossen u. ältere Schriftsteller nichts wissen), geb. 15. Juni 1606 auf einer Mühle bei Leyden, kam als Knabe zum Maler I. von Swanenburg u. nach drei Jahren zu Peter Lastman in Amsterdam …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Rembrandt van Rijn — Selbstporträt, 1660, Kenwood House in London Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (* 15. Juli 1606 in Leiden; † 4. Oktober 1669 in Amsterdam; bekannt unter seinem Vornamen Rembrandt) gilt als einer der bedeutendsten und bekanntesten …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Rembrandt van Rijn — noun influential Dutch artist (1606 1669) • Syn: ↑Rembrandt, ↑Rembrandt van Ryn, ↑Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn • Instance Hypernyms: ↑old master …   Useful english dictionary

  • Rembrandt van Rijn — (1606–69)    Artist.    Rembrandt was born in Leyden, Holland. He achieved early fame as a portrait painter and he moved to Amsterdam in 1631. In the history of Christian art, he is remembered for his dark paintings, from which the figures glow… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Rembrandt, van Rijn — (1606–69)    Dutch artist. Born in Leiden, Holland, Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam close to the Jewish quarter. This and the fact that he had several Jewish friends have led to persistent but unfounded rumours that he himself was a Jew. However, a… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Rembrandt van Rijn — …   Википедия

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