Rembrandt House (Rembrandthuis)

Although we’ve been to Amsterdam a few times now, we had never been to Rembrandt’s House. In fact, I admit that we didn’t know much about him or his work. But last year Mark bought us tickets to a documentary called “Rembrandt: The Late Works” as part of our vacation planning to return to Amsterdam. With it, we gained a newfound appreciation for the artist and his life.

Upon our return to Amsterdam, we made a point of going to Rembrandt House. Rembrandt made this his home from 1639-1658. The museum is set up similar to the Anne Frank house, in that a modern annex has been built next to the home, which is where you enter first to get your tickets.

Rembrandt House exterior

The tour starts on the lower floor, where you can hang up your coat, grab a locker for your bags, and grab an audio guide.

Rembrandt purchased the house for 13,000 guilders, (a large sum at the time), which he planned to pay off in instalments. He was already an established artist at this point. In fact he purchased the house in the same year he was commissioned to paint the Night Watch, one of his most famous paintings.

Rembrandt House kitchen

Pretty fancy kitchen, even by modern standards!

Unfortunately Rembrandt found himself in financial trouble, and he couldn’t pay his debts. He was forced to declare bankruptcy and in 1656 his belongings were inventoried and sold off, and in 1658 the house followed suit. Rembrandt was forced to move into a more modest abode where he lived out his remaining years.

I can only imagine what the auction was like for the stuff in this room, dubbed the “Art Cabinet”:

Rembrandt House curiosities room

Some pretty weird stuff in here….

Rembrandt was quite a collector of curious odds and ends, and he used many of the items to teach his pupils how to draw or paint various objects.

We weren’t long into the audio tour before a fellow came in to announce that there was an etching demonstration in Rembrandt’s former graphic workshop in a few minutes. We had arrived first thing in the morning, and we were glad we did, as there were only 8-10 people in the museum, and the workshop was small, it could maybe hold 16 people maximum.

Etching and engraving demonstration

A demonstration of etching and engraving in the workshop.

The printmaker showed how copper plates would have been scratched using a special etching tool to create burrs in the metal, which would hold the ink rubbed into the creases. The remaining ink was then rubbed off carefully, then the plate was placed in the contraption below for pressing:

The crank on the side pressed the paper onto the plate to pick up the ink rubbed over the surface.

The crank on the side pressed the paper onto the plate to pick up the ink rubbed over the surface.

A plate could be re-used a few times, but not indefinitely, as the scratches in the metal would dull and blur over time. I was glad we were able to catch the demonstration!

The museum also has demonstrations on paintmaking, which are made by mixing dry pigments with solvents by hand. We had just missed the demonstration, but I thought the media alone were beautiful even without seeing the demo:

paint pigments

Gorgeous colours. Especially that blue!

And if you fancy yourself an artist, they offer various classes in drawing as well. On the day we were there, they were going to teach a class in “drawing ears and eyes.” But, we decided, if we were going to try our hand at being artists, we wanted to create something complete, not just a few disjointed body parts. Still, if you have the time and inclination, it would make a great souvenir!

Rembrandt House drawing class

What better place to find your inspiration?

In the modern annex, there are rotating art exhibits to peruse before making your way back to the entrance and the small gift shop. For more information on admission and hours, check out the Rembrandt House website.

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