Art e Dossier

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Art History

Rembrandt: biography

Rembrandt Harmenzzon van Rijn was born at Leiden on 15 July 1606; son of a well-to-do miller who gave him a comfortable childhood. In May 1620 Rembrandt registered at the faculty of letters of the University of Leiden, but soon left his studies to apprentice himself to Jacob Isaaczoon van Swaneburgh, a modest painter in the same city. Later, perhaps in 1624, he went to Amsterdam to Pieter Lastmann, one of the most famous painters of historical subjects of the era. Around 1627-1629 Rembrandt met another young artist, Jan Lievens, with whom he set up a studio in Leiden. In 1629 he painted The Tribute Money, that was highly praised by Constantijn Huygens, secretary to Prince Frederick Hendrick of Orange who commissioned the Passion series. Rembrandt’s relationship with the art merchant Hendrick van Uylenburgh was fundament to his life: he married the dealer’s cousin, Saskija and moved to Amsterdam. During 1632 he also worked in The Hague where he painted many portraits. Soon he was the most highly sought-after painter in Amsterdam and he also painted historical scenes. His son Titus was born in 1641 and the following year his wife died of tuberculosis. Even though Rembrandt’s atelier took on a growing number of pupils, between 1630 and 1650 he had a serious financial crisis and even public and private commissions were lacking. The factors that influenced this lack of work perhaps included his lifestyle that Amsterdam society considered unconventional – especially his private affairs. He had a legal dispute with Geertje Dircx whom he was forced to pay a considerable sum in damages, and in 1654 his mistress and former housekeeper Hendricke Stoffels bore him an illegitimate daughter, Cornelia. Oppressed by debts he had made to purchase a house, he was forced to sell his collection of art objects. In 1658 Rembrandt and his family had to leave the house in Sin Anthonisbreestraat and move to the Rozengracht in the Jordan district. The last decade of his life was marked by poverty and tragedy: his companion, Hendricke died of plague in 1663, and then, the following year, his son Titus who had been married to Magdalen van Loo for just a few months also died. The artist continued to paint until the final days of his life: he died on 8 October 1669 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Westerkerk.

The works