Rembrandt’s birthday celebrated


This video is called REMBRANDT – Master of Light & Shadow.

Like happened also last year, in the night of 14 -15 July 2013, the birth of famous Dutch painter Rembrandt was celebrated in Leiden, his native city.

To be more precise, in the Haagweg 4 building, where many artists of today work. That is only a few hundred meters away from the place where Rembrandt was born on 15 July 1606.

First, there was an introduction about Rembrandt, by art historian Lisette LeBlanc.

She mentioned that Rembrandt’s talents were discovered at a young age. One of the early admirers of the painter was Constantijn Huygens, the secretary of Prince Frederik Hendrik, “stadtholder” of Holland and other Dutch provinces, and absolute monarch of the principality Orange in southern France.

Let me give some historical background. So, Frederik Hendrik’s dynasty were unquestionably the rulers in Orange. Not so in the young Dutch republic, still fighting for independence from the Habsburg kings and emperors. The princely dynasty did not like their lack of power in the Dutch republic, compared to Orange. Often, the, mainly bourgeois, representatives of the provinces were more powerful than the stadtholders. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this led to many conflicts. Sometimes, to civil wars. Sometimes, to abolition of the profession of stadtholder.

Constantijn Huygens gave Rembrandt an opportunity to paint at the court in The Hague of Prince Frederik Hendrik. However, the prince’s wife did not like Rembrandt’s too realistic portrait of her. Rembrandt went on to paint, not at the aristocratic court in The Hague, but in bourgeois Amsterdam.

Lisette LeBlanc pointed out that Rembrandt differed from most painters in other European countries then, in living in a country where bourgeois ruled, not monarchs and/or feudal aristocrats. I have discussed the consequences of Rembrandt’s peculiarity, both in living in a revolutionary republic and in his individuality, for his art, if compared to, eg, Rubens’ art, here. Ms LeBlanc noted that Rembrandt sometimes broke established rules of how painters were supposed to work.

Lisette LeBlanc also mentioned that Constantijn Huygens told Rembrandt to travel to Italy. In conventional thinking on art then, all painters should go to Italy in order to become better artists. However, Rembrandt was a unconvential thinker. He told Huygens he was too busy for a journey to Italy. Dutch merchants and other people wanted him to paint their portraits. And to see an Italian artist like Caravaggio, an influence on Rembrandt’s painting of light and darkness, he did not need to travel that far. Work by Caravaggio was at Amsterdam art dealers’.

I might remark here that, instead of Rembrandt going to Italy, Italians eventually came to Rembrandt, from Genoa, to ask for his paintings in preference to their compatriots’ works.

Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, also went to Rembrandt in Amsterdam, to ask him to paint a portrait of His Grace. The Medici rulers’ employee, Filippo Baldinucci, wrote enthusiastically on Rembrandt; though, as a supporter of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation, he probably would not have liked Rembrandt’s liberal Protestantism.

Cosimo III’s family had not always been Grand Dukes. In the middle ages, they were medics in Florence city. Then, they became rich bankers and powerful politicians. The rise of city republics like Florence was a powerful boost to Italy as a center in economics and art during the Renaissance.

By the time of Rembrandt and Grand Duke Cosimo III, this central position had shifted away from Italy. When Cosimo III died, his Grand Dukedom was broke. Italy was a patchwork of territories of the pope of Rome, of other feudal rulers, and a few rather small republics. The Medici family were no longer bourgeois, but had found a niche in the feudal hierarchy. Catherine de’ Medici had married into the French royal family, becoming queen. Catherine’s relative, Maria de Medici, later also became queen of France. In spite of her by now Grand Ducal family, some French court nobles considered Maria an upstart, calling her “a fat banker’s daughter”.

The city republics of Venice and Genoa had lost their positions in transit trade between Europe and Asia after the discovery of Cape of Good Hope and the Americas. The established monarchical order did not see them as threats; contrary to the Dutch republic and the English republic of the 1640s-1650s.

Lisette LeBlanc continued that Rembrandt refused to go to Italy; but that did not mean that he rejected Italian Renaissance and later art. On the contrary, she said. Besides Caravaggio, Raphael was another influence. Rembrandt’s full name was Rembrandt van Rijn. However, he did not sign with his full name; only with his first name Rembrandt. This was inspired, according to Ms LeBlanc, by Italian artist Michelangelo, who also did not sign as Michelangelo Buoanarroti Simoni.

This video is called The Divine Michelangelo – Part 1 of 2 (2004) – David, Sistine Chapel.

Rembrandt, Lisette LeBlanc continued, had financial problems. Very unlike Vincent van Gogh later, not because of difficulty in selling paintings; but because he bought precious cloth, exotic seashells, etc. to figure in his work. He was generous in letting other artists borrow his utensils.

Before Rembrandt, etching was considered inferior to painting. One of the rules which Rembrandt challenged.

After Ms LeBlanc’s lecture, the celebration continued; so, stay tuned.

Google Doodle celebrates Rembrandt’s birthday: here.

23 thoughts on “Rembrandt’s birthday celebrated

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