Rembrandt Bio


Rembrandt’s Bio

Name: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Born: 15 July 1606 – Leiden, the Netherlands

Death: 4 October 1669 – Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Work: 400+ paintings, almost 300 etchings and 1000+ paintings

Most famous works: night watch, Jewish bride, the anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, the syndics of the cloth merchants, Claudius Civilis, Jan Six, the hundred Guilder print and many more.




Rembrandt’s family house and windmill

The family van Rijn

The family name is derived from the river (old) Rijn.

The family of Rembrandt (from his father’s side) were millers, at the river Rijn. Rembrandt’s family from mother’s side is a wealthy baker’s family in Leiden.

In those times these were the middle class families. Rembrandt was the ninth child of the family. In total 10 children were born. Three children died very young and didn’t reach adulthood.

Father: Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn – died

Mother: Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuijtbrouck – died



Latin school Leiden, where Rembrandt attended

Youth Leiden

There’s not a lot known about his youth in Leiden. He went to Latin school from 1614 till 1620 and eventually started his student period at his first master Jacob van Swanenburg. Although he enrolled himself on the 20th May in 1620 to the university of Leiden, it’s assumed that he did that to avoid militia services for the city and have to pay lower taxes on beer and wine.

It’s probable that he knew and spends time with Jan Lievens before he went to Pieter Lastman, the last master of Rembrandt. Jan lievens was already very knowledgeable because he started to learn painting at the age of eight. Jan was already considered a great talent when he came back to Leiden.


Start painting career

First master – Jacob van Swanenburg

His first master was Jacob van Swanenburg, the son of the mayor Leiden. Jacob was just like his father a painter but instead went to Italy to study the art of painting. He got married there to a Catholic girl and returned to Leiden to continue working. He was forced to return to his hometown because of a work he made. The Catholic Church disliked his work of dancing witches in hell. His style is very distinctive because of the demonic and hellish subjects. You can see similarities between the usage of color and light. However Rembrandt’s topics and composition were completely different.

He stayed at this master for three years between the years 1620 and 1623. After that he went to Amsterdam to his last master.


Second Master – Pieter Lastman

Rembrandt stayed only for one student period at this master. Although he stayed for a half year, Rembrandt learned a great deal, the composition and usage of light was definitely something Rembrandt picked up and is clearly visible in his first work as an independent painter. This master was a well known painter and also went to Italy to learn the art of the Renaissance. He remained unmarried his whole life.


Return to Leiden

He started his career as an independent painter in Leiden and worked from the beginning very close with his friend Jan Lievens. Together they work a lot and experiment with different techniques. The technique of etching was probably introduced by Jan Lievens or Jacob de Gheijn III.  Jacob is probably the person that introduced the two painters to Constantijn Huygens. Constantijn Huygens was the secretary of the prince of Orange.

Constantijn Huygens was an important figure in the Republic and   had the highest connections. The assignment the two artists received where considered an honor and an important jumping board for their career. He found the two painters stubborn, probably because they mocked the idea of Constantijn, to go to Italy and study more there. However Constantijn was impressed by their skill and did excellent work for the two by promoting them to his inner circle. However the relationship deteriorated with Rembrandt after  a portrait that Rembrandt made of Constantijn’s cousin.

He already accepted his first students in his workshop. Leiden was a thriving city, but it wasn’t Amsterdam. He decided to start a partnership with Hendrick van Uylenburg and invested in his company in the year 1631 he moved to Amsterdam.


Map of Amsterdam

Return to Amsterdam

Hendrick van Uylenburg was a well connected person in the art district of Amsterdam. He provided all kinds of services next to art dealing, like restoring paintings.

Rembrandt stayed at his house till 1635 and lead the Uylenburg’s academy. The academy attracted many students and became very thriving. The student and eventually painter Govaert Flinck took over the lead of the academy when Rembrandt left.

Hendrick was the uncle of Saskia van Uylenburg and it’s probable they met in Hendrick’s house. Eventually he moved away from the house and went to a different neighborhood. Rembrandt already had a different dealer, he was Joannes de Renialme

Saskia van Uylenburgsaskia-self-portrait-rond-1

Was the daughter of the mayor of Leeuwarden, her family were wealthy and mainly students of law. She lost both her parents at a young age.

On the 10th of June in 1634 they announced their marriage in Amsterdam, they went to Friesland where the family of Saskia resided and got married on 2th July in 1634.

At the start of the year 1636 Rembrandt the couple got their first real house that we know off. One child was born here Cornelia 1 died after a couple of weeks.

Before his son Titus was born in their new house, now known as the Rembrandthouse he had three children who all died in the first weeks of their life. The first one was born in 1635 and named Rombartus then two  girls followed. They were born in the year 1638 and 1640 and both named Cornelia.





Titus at his desk

Breakthrough of Rembrandt

On the 5th January 1639 Rembrandt signs the deed of purchase for the house (Rembrandthouse) on the Saint Anthoniebreestraat (now named Jodenbreestraat). The purchase was completed on the 1st of May.

This house was the biggest of all painters in the art district and offered enough space for living and working. It became a showcase of the success Rembrandt had as an artist.

Not long afterwards he received the assignment for his masterpiece the Night Watch.

On 22 September 1641 Titus gets baptized in the the Zuiderkerk. Not long after Saskia died and knew she was dying. She changed her will in the last month before her death 3 times. The last time was on the 5th June, she died 9 days after on the 14th June 1642 and got buried with the highest honors in the Oude Kerk (Old Church). She probably never fully recovered of the birth of Titus and might suffered from tuberculoses.

Already during the illness of Saskia,  Geertje Dircx arrived in the house of Rembrandt to be a caretaker for Titus. Rembrandt and Geertje eventually got an affair and kept on being good until Rembrandt fell in love with the new maid Hendrickje Stoffels.

This caused in 1649 a serious conflict between Rembrandt and Geertje Dircx. Geertje filed a suit against Rembrandt. She pleaded that Rembrandt promised her to marry and showed the rings he had given to her. The court rejected the response of Rembrandt that he never intended to marry her and they didn’t had a relationship. The court ruled that Rembrandt needed to pay an amount of 200 guilders alimony annually.

Hendrickje Stoffels

Remained his wife until her death, the last will of Saskia made it complicated for Rembrandt to remarry. If he would remarry he needed to repay his part of the inheritance. Saskia left a vast amount to Titus and Rembrandt.

On 25 June 1654 the council of the Reformed Church decides that Hendrickje must appear before the council in eight days. She received three summonses and a month later she appears. She’s forced to admit that she has a relationship with whom she

Three weeks later, Hendrickje Stoffels is summoned for the third time, but does not appear. The church council decided that she was guilty of prostitution because she was 7 months pregnant while not being married to Rembrandt.

On the 30th October 1654 Cornelia, the daughter of Hendrickje and Rembrandt, is baptized in the Oude Kerk. Cornelia is the only family member that outlived Rembrandt.


Hendrickje Stoffels

Bankruptcy of Rembrandt

Money was during the biggest part of Rembrandt’s life not a problem, but he had an addiction on buying new stuff and bad in finance.

On the 14th July in 1656 Rembrandt applies to the court for cessio bonorum, meaning he would voluntarily surrender his possessions to his creditors. Within a month his inventory is documented and listed for auction. Two and a half year later the former house of Rembrandt got sold.

Hendrickje and Titus started in 1658 a corporation which would hire Rembrandt to make paintings. Rembrandt would receive a salary and this construction made sure he couldn’t be hunted by creditors.

He was in this period not the preferred painter in Amsterdam anymore, but still got some good assignments.

On the 24th July in 1663 Hendrickje Stoffels was buried in the Westerkerk. Five years after Titus dies after being married for a half year with Magdalena van Loo. Titus is buried on the 7th of September and never saw his daughter whom was born 6 months after her father’s death. Titia got baptized in  the Niewezijdskapel on March 1669.

On the 4th October 1669 Rembrandt dies. The funeral took place four days later in the Westerkerk and he got buried in an anonymous grave.


A self-portrait of Rembrandt in the year 1669