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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn


1606-1669 

Back to Baroque Style

Rembrandt in General        Rembrandt and the Women

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, the Dutch Baroque artist, was born on July 15, 1606, in Leiden, Holland, to Gerritz van Rijn and Neeltgen Willemsdr. His father owned a mill and his mother was the daughter of a baker. This means, that like most Dutch artists, Rembrandt came from the lower middle class, but contrary to popular belief, Rembrandt did not live a life of poverty or in squalor. 

The Netherlands 1956. Rembrandt. Etching "Farmer with Traditional Hat". The Netherlands 1956. Rembrandt. Etching "Young Tobias and an Angel". The Netherlands 1956. Rembrandt. Etching "Iranian with Colourful Hat". The Netherlands 1956. Rembrandt. Etching "Old and Blinded Tobias".

The Netherlands 1956. Rembrandt. Etching "Self-portrait".

His father, who thought that Rembrandt was the most gifted of his nine children, wanted him to follow a scholastic profession. The historical situation and circumstances that one finds oneself in, condition the scope and direction of each individual, even great ones. 

The Netherlands 1984. Rembrandt. Self-portrait. Etching.

The recurrence of subjects from Ovid’s "Metamorphosis" in his early work and his interest in Biblical subjects are probably an influence of his early education at the Latin School in Leyden that he entered at around the age of seven. On May 20, 1620, he was enrolled into the University at Leyden. After a few months at the University, his parents realized that his inclination towards painting was too strong to be ignored. At the age of fifteen, in 1621, he became an apprentice to Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburgh. 

It was here that he learnt the fundamentals of etching, a skill that never ceased to fascinate him. It seems that he did not learn much except the elementary techniques of drawing here. 

What played an important role in his development as an artist were the six months that he spent at the studio of Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam; Lastman made an enduring impression on him. 

The image is cropped from a philatelic postcard, issued in 1984 for the International Philatelic Youth Contest "Rembrandt - His Life, His Work". 

Indeed, it was Lastman who kindled his ambition to compose Biblical and historical paintings. Their relationship as student and teacher was very fruitful, as Rembrandt’s extraordinary genius was enhanced by his teacher’s robust personality.  

Not yet twenty, he set up his studio in Leiden on Lastman’s encouragement. Italian artists, especially Caravaggio, influenced him. He was barely twenty-two when he became established as an artist and began teaching, something he continued to do throughout his life.  

The Netherlands 1983. First Day Cover (No. 0859), franked with a stamp featuring Rembrandt's first wife, Saskia.
  • The Netherlands 1983. First Day Cover (No. 0859), cancelled in Rotterdam on 10th April 1983.  The stamp is a semi-postal showing Rembrandt's first wife Saskia, and the cachet is a reproduction of the most famous of his self-portraits, also shown on the Dutch 1956-stamp above, and the French stamp on the right. The proceeds of the sale were contributed to The Rembrandt Association, whose logo -- the winded R -- is also on the cover.  

The Netherlands 1983. Rembrandt. The artist's first wife, Saskia.

France 1957. Rembrandt. Self-portrait.

USSR 1970. Rembrandt. "The Return of the Prodigal Son".

It was his teacher’s firm instruction that provided him with the solid foundation to be able to scale the lofty heights that he aspired to, and his intensity of expression and subtlety in tonal gradation shows his superiority. 

Rembrandt's moving painting "The Return of the Prodigal Son" in one of his later biblical works where he concentrated on the inherent psychological drama rather than on the excitement on the narrative, as he had done in earlier works.   

  • USSR 1970.  "The Return of the Prodigal Son".  The painting belongs to the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.  

Rembrandt's greatest paintings were created during the last two decades of his life.  Baroque drama, outward splendour, and superficial details no longer mattered to him.  His self-portraits, portrayals of single figures and groups, and historical and religious works reveal a concern with mood and with spiritual qualities.  His palette grew richly colouristic and his brushwork became increasingly bold; he built thick impastos that seem miraculously to float over the canvas.  In the portrait of "The Painter in Old Age" (1669) Rembrandt's features betray a slightly sarcastic mood.  

The Netherlands 1999. Rembrandt. Self-portrait.

  • The Netherlands 1999.  Self-portrait.  The stamp is part of the souvenir sheet "Tien Uit de Kunst".  The painting belongs to Kenwood House in London (Great Britain). 

  • The Netherlands 1999. Humoristic postcard entitled "Café Rembrandt", with the above stamp inserted and showing Rembrandt having a nice time with fellow citizens, while having a glass together. 
    Art Unlimited, Amsterdam. 

The Netherlands 1999. Rembrandt. Humoristic postcard "Café Rembrandt".

Click here to see the card full size. The link will open in a new window. 

"The Night Watch" (painted 1642, when Rembrandt was only 36 years old) is considered the masterpiece of Rembrandt.  The painting was ordered as a group portrait by the archers guild. Archers guilds kept the memory of the Spanish occupation alive. One sees depicted the company of captain Frans Banning Cocq, it consisted of members of the wealthy Amsterdam citizens elite. Special accent in this painting on the triumph of the United Republic and its merchants.  In the centre of the painting a captain dressed in black and his lieutenant in lemon-yellow. The canvas is buzzing  of activity and creates a atmosphere of excitement by the contrasts between light and dark, shiny and dull colours and a high variety of positions, gestures and facial expressions. 

The Netherlands 2000. Rembrandt. "The Night Watch". (100c).

The Netherlands 2000. Rembrandt. "The Night Watch" (110c).

The painting measures 370x445cm. Originally it was even larger. When it was brought into the City hall, it got cut down on all sides. Especially the left side was cut down that much that the symmetry of the architecture in the background got distorted visibly. Nevertheless the "Night Watch"  appeals to many people.  

The first one of 100 c (or 1 HFL), issued on 14th April 2000, was a regular issue. 

On 1st August 2000 the postal rates were raised for international mail within Europe, so the second issue matched the new rate.  At the same time the priority label was added to signify a clear difference between the two issues. 

To this comes that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, who owns the original painting, celebrated its bicentenary, and the museum was therefore also honoured by the second issue of 110 c. Both stamps are self-adhesive.  

  • The Netherlands 2000.  Two different issues of Rembrandt's painting "The Night Watch". 

Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, teacher and art dealer, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656.  An inventory of his collection of arts and antiquities, taken before an auction to pay his debts, showed the breadth of his interests:  ancient sculpture, Flemish and Italian Renaissance paintings, Far Eastern Art, contemporary Dutch works, weapons, and armour.  Unfortunately the results of the auction, including the sale of his house, were disappointing.  

These problems in no way affected Rembrandt's work. Some of the great paintings from this period are "The Jewish Bride" (1632), and "Danae" (1634).  
 
The Netherlands 1999. Rembrandt. Humoristic postcard  entitled "The Harem's Bathroom" (in relation to the Rembrandt-painting "Danae"). The Netherlands 1999. Rembrandt. "The Jewish Bride".

The Netherlands 1999. Rembrandt. "Danae".

The time that he was born in was a peaceful period in Dutch history and a time of cultural growth.  Rembrandt’s generation was squeezed between that of the vigor and self-assurance of the generation of Frans Hals and the quiet refinement of the generation of Jan Vermeer. What distinguishes Rembrandt from his contemporaries is the subjectivity and spirituality of his art. 
Dahomey 1969. Rembrandt. Self-portrait. The Netherlands 1930- Rembrandt. Self-portrait. (The first Dutch Rembrandt stamp issued). Paraguay 1983. Rembrandt. "The Syndics of the Cloth Guild" [De Staalmeesters]. Monaco 1981. Rembrandt. Self-portrait.

Perhaps no artist ever painted as many self-portraits (about 60) as Rembrandt or subjected himself to such penetrating analysis. The self-portraits may have served to demonstrate his command of chiaroscuro (Clair Obscure), one of the main characteristics of the Baroque style. It is thus difficult to tell what Rembrandt really looked like from such self-portraits, but on the other hand the fact remains that he never attempted to disguise his homely features.  
 

No matter how successful Rembrandt was in his professional life, his personal life was marked by misfortune.  Between 1635 and 1641 his first wife Saskia gave birth to four children, but only the last, the son Titus, survived. 

Saskia passed away in 1642.  His second wife, Hendrickje Stoffels, who was engaged as his housekeeper about 1649 and eventually became his lawful wife, died in 1663, and his son Titus in 1668.  Eleven months later, on 4th October 1669, Rembrandt himself died in Amsterdam. 

  • The Netherlands 1941. Rembrandt's only surviving child (by Saskia), Titus.  

  • The Netherlands 1938. Self-portrait, issued as part of a set of summer-stamps for cultural and social welfare. 

The Netherlands 1938. Rembrandt. Self-portrait.

In 2006, The Netherlands have celebrated Rembrandt's 400th birth anniversary with a souvenir sheet of 10 stamps of five different designs, and a single stamp in a block, showing a self-portrait and a portrait of Rembrandt's first wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh. 
 
The Netherlands 2006. Block of one stamp, commemorating the 400th birth anniversary of Rembrandt, with portrait of Rembrandt and his wife Saskia. Germany 2006. Commemorative Rembrandt-issue, with a portrait of Saskia.

The Netherlands 2006. Souvenir sheet, commemorating the 400th birth anniversary of Rembrandt.

The Dutch prestige booklet issued on the occasion of 400 years Rembrandt contained a German 70c stamp depicting Saskia. It turned out that the printing - made in the Netherlands - was different from the printing  made in Germany for the German sheetlets.

The German wholesalers, when finding about them, protested tothe German Post Office that they would boycott any new German stamp should the Post Office recognize this 70c Saskia stamp. The German Post Office being blackmailed, thus responded with an accusation against the Dutch Post Office that they had forged a German stamp and that this stamp could only be described as a "vignette''. The Dutch backed down at 'admitted' some improbable misunderstanding on their behalf. So for the Germans (Post Office and wholesalers) the question was solved, not for the Dutch collectors who couldn't believe that Saskia wasn't part of an agreement [the German Saskia in Dutch booklets, the Dutch Saskia on German FDC's
and similar; a most likely deal between the two postal authorities]. The Dutch stopped the sale of the prestige booklets and declared the German stamp in it to be a proper Dutch stamp that could be used! 

The Dutch Stamp Dealers Association recognized the German stamp from a Dutch booklet to be a true Dutch stamp as well and assigned it a main catalogue number!  

About a month after the stop of sales in the Netherlands the Dutch Post Office sold the remaining booklets [some 15.000 out of 45.000] to the Austrian stamp wholesaler H.E. Sieger !  (contributed by Mr. R.C. Bakhuizen van den Brink (The Netherlands). 

Rembrandt's contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, (roughly coinciding with the seventeenth century), in which Dutch world power, political influence, science, commerce, and culture -- particularly painting -- reached their pinnacle.

"No artist ever combined more delicate skill with more energy and power," states Chambers's Biographical Dictionary. "His treatment of mankind is full of human sympathy" (J.O. Thorne: 1962). 

Rembrandt in General        Rembrandt and the Women

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