Getting to Know Rembrandt
No visit to Amsterdam is complete for us without a visit to the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
For those in need of a quick history lesson, Rembrandt van Rijn was born in 1606 and lived to be 63. He is considered to be one of the greatest painters of his time. He was born in Leiden, just south of Amsterdam.
His family windmill is still there, as is a plaque marking a building where his family lived.
By 1625 he was an accomplished master.
He painted the Night Watch in 1642, the largest painting in his collection (almost 12 feet high by 14 feet wide). The painting was rolled up and moved to the town of Medemblik, in northern Holland in 1939 to avoid Nazi capture, and was returned to the Rijksmuseum when the war ended.
It’s worth spending a couple of hours in the museum to see the entire Rembrandt collection as well as other masters. While walking back to our hotel from the Rijksmuseum, we stopped at Rembrandt’s house, which has been turned into a museum.
The house, built in 1606, has been well preserved with the tight, steep staircases common in Dutch homes. It’s fun to imagine him living and working here alongside his students, creating some of the masterpieces we know today. It’s a fascinating recreation of the rooms where Rembrandt lived and worked between 1639 and 1660.
The museum reconstructs the painter’s rooms and his workshop. The spaces are too small to have held the Night Watch, so it is assumed the painting was done elsewhere. The house is filled with the furniture and objects common in the day, along with the prints, sculptures and paintings from Rembrandt’s time.
What is very impressive is a collection of more than 250 of Rembrandt’s sketches, many are self portraits, or sketches of friends. Others reflect his religious upbringing.
For opening times, cost and directions, go here.
Not far from the museum is Rembrandtplein or square. It’s a fantastic collection of bronze statues that recreate the Night Watch. Here, tourists can mingle with the statues and become part of the famous painting, if even for a few minutes. They were created for the artist’s 400th birthday in 2006.
There is a lot of information about Rembrandt, his life and his works. You might try “Rembrandt: The Painter at Work” on Amazon, or look through the many other books available there.
If you like to see what the soldiers might have looked like in real life posing for the Night Watch, the Rijksmuseum staged a flash mob a few years ago, centred around the famous painting. Have a look.
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