Rembrandt and his connection to Amsterdam
Rembrandt van Rijn is definitely one of the most famous painters of the Dutch Golden Age. He is also one of the rare ones who lived in Amsterdam during most of his career. You can still find many spots in Amsterdam where he or some of his clients lived, or that were important to him.
Rembrandt in Amsterdam
Rembrandt lived and worked along the canals of today’s Red Light District and what was a Jewish district in his time. Unfortunately, most of the buildings he lived in are not there anymore. Some of the guilds that commissioned paintings from Rembrandt had their offices in that neighbourhood too. Here are just a few of the places where you can learn about Rembrandt in Amsterdam:
There are two museums in Amsterdam where you can learn more about the famous Dutch painter:
The Rijksmuseum is home to many of Rembrandt’s paintings. A lot of his self-portraits are there, so it’s a great place to get to know the painter. Many of the portraits he painted of wealthy middle-class people from Amsterdam are also there. However, the masterpiece of the collection is his famous “The Night Watch”, which is known for its large size, the use of light and shadow and the perception of movement.
Rembrandt House Museum
This museum is located in a house which Rembrandt lived in for nearly 20 years. It was extremely expensive, so Rembrandt had to take out a huge loan to buy it. That loan, together with his desire to collect expensive antiquities, rarities and paintings from other painters led him to bankruptcy after living in the house for two decades.
Today, the museum shows what the house looked like when the famous painter lived there. Although they don’t have many of his paintings, the museum is home to a majority of his prints.
Visit some of the locations you can see in Rembrandt’s paintings:
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
When he was only 25, a young Rembrandt was commissioned to paint a group portrait of a guild of surgeons. It was a huge honour for him, so he went to their guild house and created the famous portrait known as the ‘Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’. The anatomy lesson was performed in De Waag, located in the heart of today’s Red Light District.
The building wasn’t only a home to a guild of surgeons, but also to a guild of painters. Since Rembrandt was a member of this guild, he visited De Waag many times.
The Night Watch
One of the most prestigious commissions Rembrandt received was for a group portrait of the civic guards of Amsterdam. They were decorating their new great hall and commissioned group portraits by a few different painters. Rembrandt negotiated a great price for it and that job secured him and his family financially for a few years.
The civic guards of Amsterdam had their office where you can find hotel NH Collection Doelen at the Nieuwe Doelenstraat today.
Syndics of a Drapers’ Guild
Rembrandt’s group portrait of the ‘Syndics of a Drapers’ Guild’ depicts the group in their guild house on Staalstraat 7. Rembrandt showed them doing their work; examining the quality of textiles they received from their suppliers. This guild house still stands today and it’s a wonderful example of a building from the Dutch Golden Age.
The following churches in Amsterdam were important in Rembrandt’s life (and death):
Rembrandt’s beloved first wife Saskia died when she was only 29. She was buried in the oldest church in Amsterdam, the Oudekerk. Her grave can still be seen there, together with a small exhibition dedicated to Rembrandt. All of their children were christened there as well, so it was quite an important place for Rembrandt during his life.
After he went bankrupt, Rembrandt moved to a small apartment at Rozengracht 184. He lived there during his last years.
After his death, Rembrandt was buried in the nearby Westerkerk. Since he died as a poor man, he was buried in a rented grave, somewhere in the church. It is likely that after 20 years, his remains were taken away and destroyed. However, there is a stone memorial plaque on one of the pillars in the Westerkerk with his name and date of birth and death engraved on it.
Many important places from Rembrandt’s life can still be seen today in Amsterdam. By walking in his footsteps, it’s easy to feel the glorious past of Amsterdam and its Golden Age.