Amongst many museums that I have visited this year, I had the opportunity to visit the 17th century artist Rembrandt’s House in Amsterdam. Although what you see today is an interior that has been reconstructed on the basis of in-depth scientific and historical research, it still gives you shivers as you enter knowing that Rembrandt use to actually live and work in the same house.
At the end of 1631, Rembrandt moved from Leiden, his birthplace to Amsterdam which at the time was the largest and most prosperous city in the Dutch Republic. The House was bought the same year Rembrandt was commission to paint a portrait of members of one of Amsterdam’s militia companies better known as The Night Watch (exhibited at the Rijks museum, Amsterdam). By the time he had bought this house Rembrandt was a celebrated artist. and he lived in this house for almost twenty years.
Meanwhile Rembrandt had built up a flourishing artist’s workshop, with numerous pupils and assistance. His studio tended to attract artist who had learned their trade elsewhere and wanted to learn to work in Rembrandt style.
Rembrandt had great success with his paintings and etchings. He also made very good money from teaching his pupils. He could certainly afford his house. But in 1658 he ran into financial difficulties and had to sell his house.
For several years after he finished The Night Watch, his artistic output was much lower that had been before. He stopped painting portraits, which was a significant source of income. He also lived a great style and amassed a collection of art and curiosities on which he must have spent a fortune.
The House consists of four floors, starting from the bottom floor were you find the kitchen which was the center of activity in the house. The first floor consisted of the Entrance Hall which was an elegant spacious hall which was the first room that visitors saw when they entered Rembrandt’s house. This Room lead to the Anteroom where his art dealing business took place. Behind the Anteroom there was his workshop where his etching took place. The Salon was the last room on this floor which was Rembrandt’s living and room and bedroom. On the third floor, one enters into his Large Studio were Rembrandt painted many of his masterpieces. Additional, one finds the Cabinet Room were Rembrandt who was not just an artist but also an art collector use to keep his collection. In the attic, Rembrandt had his Small Studio which was used by Rembrandt’s pupil.
I had the opportunity to see a live demonstration of etching using the same technique Rembrandt used in his same workshop. Rembrandt was a true master of the technique. The ambience light, the tools and the messy working top made me travel back to the 17th century. I also had the chance to visit his large studio were a good number of different pigments were on display which were grounded just like in the 17th century. Pigments used to be grounded with linseed
oil on a large flat hard stone to make paint.
Visiting Rembrandt’s house, and acquainting myself to his techniques was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Here you get to know Rembrandt as an artist, as a husband, as a teacher and as a collector. I have visited a good number of art museums but getting in touch with the artist’s workshop was a totally new and different experience, one which I highly recommend to all the connoisseurs out there.