Rembrandt was a great painter of the Dutch Golden Age known for “The Night Watch”. He specialized in history pieces, mastering the highest esteemed genre of his time. His rise and decline in public and private life continue to fascinate people centuries after his death. Behind his exceptional works, here are the following facts:
1. His full birth name is Rembrant Harmenszoon van Rijn.
- Harmenszoon means he is the son of his father Harmen, and van Rijn refers to his hometown near the Rhine River.
- Rembrant first signed his paintings using his initials. He then went by his first name like the master painters before him, adding a ‘d’ to his signature.
2. Rembrandt was an expensive teacher.
- His tuition cost 100 guilders per year, not including lodging. He took no beginners and earned more by selling his pupils’ works. The students worked in an attic partitioned with paper or sail cloth.
- As per practice, students copied their teacher’s works before developing their own style. Some pupils became studio assistants. whose works were difficult to distinguish from Rembrandt’s.
3. He was legendary for his uncompromising realism.
- So much so, some of his critics called his paintings repulsive. His trompe l’oeil (“deceive the eye” in French) paintings make objects look like they exist in reality.
- Yet, Rembrandt’s portraits were the least accurate compared to those by other painters. As practiced in studios, his assistants painted certain portions, thus creating the discrepancies.
4. Rembrandt may have lacked depth perception.
- An analysis of his works from a Harvard Medical School neurologist proposes he may have been stereoblind or unable to see in full depth.
- His flattened perception may have helped him recreate figures on a 2D surface.
5. He lost his wealth to poor financial management.
- Rembrandt owned a house which cost 13,000 guilders, but paid only a third of the mortgage. He died in debt.
- His housekeeper and mistress took jewelry from Rembrandt’s late wife and pawned it. The jewels were part of inheritance for Rembrandt’s only surviving child Titus.
6. “The Night Watch” was originally bigger.
- The painting was trimmed on all sides to fit its second home at the Amsterdam Town Hall. Around 20% of the left side was removed.
- As a result, the two leftmost figures are completely missing. The original piece included a balustrade and steps, adding more depth to the scene.
7. “The Night Watch” suffered three attacks.
- In 1911 and 1975, two men slashed the painting with knives. In 1990, the piece suffered an acid attack. Despite restoration, damage from the knife attacks remain visible upon close inspection.
- In case of fire and emergencies, the museum installed a trapdoor beneath the painting.
With his outstanding mastery of realism, Rembrandt became a bonafide master painter. He is one of the most revered artists of all time.
To learn more about other inspiring artists, check out their interesting facts here.