Rembrandthuis (19)

Élie Faure, in his History of Art, wisely wrote the following words: “From where would Rembrandt have taken his gold and his reds, and that silvery or reddish light in which sun and water are blended in powder, had he not always lived in Amsterdam?”. 

Certainly if you wish to learn about and understand the work of this brilliant painter and one of the great figures of the history of European art, then you need to come here and try to imagine how, centuries ago, the famous artist lived and created.

A visit to the Rembrandthuis is therefore highly recommendable.  

This mansion, which is located at number 4 Jodenbreestrat in the Jewish quarter and is particularly opulent because of careful restoration work, still looks the same as it did when Rembrandt lived here between 1639 and 1658. 

At the time the artist bought the house, for some thirteen thousand florins, he was at the height of his career. The city was meanwhile experiencing a period of economic decline, during which numerous figures who had become bankrupt, or who were about to become so, moved to this district. Many of the Jews who had arrived in Amsterdam after fleeing persecution in their countries of origin also lived in the zone. 

Considering that the artist was at the height of his success, you might find it difficult to understand why he moved to a Jewish quarter that was showing signs of deterioration, in which different peoples, languages and religions mixed in the noisiest streets. This was a meeting place for the bearded Jews from eastern Europe and the aristocratic Jews from Portugal, all of whom served as models and types whom he expressed in his engravings and paintings with a Biblical atmosphere.

The sordid atmosphere of the city, in which the docks were full of scraps and coloured cloths hung from the houses of the Jews, were ideal material from which to shape his paintings. 

Here with his wife Saskia, the painter experienced great happiness but also suffered misfortune when he went bankrupt in 1656. Although it is difficult to believe, one of his great masterpieces, the Night Watch, was associated with his economic disaster. In fact, after receiving the painting, the company that had commissioned it was not satisfied. This prompted payment problems and thus left Rembrandt unable to settle the debts he had accrued over the years. 

Now you know the history, you will undoubtedly be interested in a trip around the rooms of the house, which have been duly restored. These feature not only 250 engravings of the 300 Rembrandt made, but also the paintings of his contemporaries, students and teachers, carved furniture and one of the museum’s highlights: four copper engraved plates. 

In 1998 and 1999, the house was arranged as it must have been during the painter’s life. It is well worth a visit and its genuineness can be felt in all the rooms and decoration. This is because after Rembrandt had been evicted an extremely thorough inventory of all the painter’s valuable possessions was drawn up by chance. This list of objects allowed for a reconstruction of all the rooms in which, where possible, only seventeenth-century materials were used.

This is the first reconstructed studio of a seventeenth-century artist to be opened to the public. To give an idea of the high standard of living, the kitchen has a hand pump which was part of a rudimentary running water system. 

From among the brushes, burins and palettes, if you look out of the window you might be able to imagine the Jewish quarter as it was at the time that Rembrandt contemplated and painted over and over again.

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