In commencing an account of the life of Rembrandt Van Rhÿn and his works, I feel both a pleasure and a certain degree of confidence, as, from my first using a pencil, his pictures have been my delight and gratification, which have continued to increase through a long life of investigation. Though I cannot expect to enhance the high estimation in which Rembrandt is held by all persons competent to appreciate his extraordinary powers, nevertheless, the publication of the results of my study may tend to spread a knowledge of his principles and practice, which may be advantageous to similar branches in other schools; for, notwithstanding that his style is in the greatest degree original and peculiar to himself, yet it is founded upon those effects existing in nature which are to be discovered, more or less, in the works of all the great masters of colouring and chiaro-scuro. Of his early life little is known; for, unless cradled in the higher circles of society, the early lives of eminent men frequently remain shrouded in obscurity. The development of their genius alone draws attention to their history, which is generally progressive; hence a retrospective view is ambiguous. Little is known either of Rembrandt's birth or the place of his death; what is known has already been related, from Houbraken to Bryan, and from Bryan to Nieuwenhuys, and anecdotes have accumulated, for something new must be said. It is, however, fortunate that in searching into the source from which this extraordinary artist drew his knowledge, we have only to look into the great book of Nature, which existed at the time of Apelles and Raffaelle; and, notwithstanding the diversity of styles adopted by all succeeding painters, beauties and peculiarities are still left sufficient to establish the highest reputation for any one who has the genius to perceive them, and the industry to make them apparent. This was the cause of Rembrandt's captivating excellence; neither a combination of Coreggio and Titian, nor of Murillo and Velasquez, but as if all the great principles of chiaro-scuro and colour were steeped and harmonized in the softening shades of twilight; and this we perceive in nature, producing the most soothing and bewitching results. These digressions may, however, come more properly into notice when Rembrandt's principles of colour come under review.

Rembrandt Van Rhÿn, the subject of this memoir, was born in the year 1606, between Leydendorp and Koukerk, in the neighbourhood of Leyden, on the Rhÿn, but certainly not in a mill, as there is no habitable dwelling in the one now known as his father's. My excellent young friend, Mr. E. W. Cooke, whose works breathe the true spirit of the best of the Dutch school, in a letter upon this subject, says—

"My dear Sir,

"I send you another sketch of the mill; the picture, including the doorzigte, or view out of the window, I painted on the spot, and that picture is now in the possession of the King of Holland, having taken it back with me to show him. The mill was a magazine for powder during the Spanish invasion; it was soon after converted into a corn mill, and was in the possession of Hernan Geritz Van Rhÿn when his son Rembrandt was born; it is situated at Koukerk, on the old Rhÿn, near Leyden. I hope you will correct the vulgar error that Rembrandt was born in a mill. There are often dwelling houses attached to water-mills, such as we have in England; but in Holland, not such a structure as a water-mill, with water-power; the water-mills there are only draining mills, such as we have in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, &c. Surely the noise and movement of a windmill would ill accord with the confinement of any lady, especially the mother of so glorious a fellow as Rembrandt. For the honour of such association I hope you will not omit my name in the work, for I painted three pictures of that precious relic.

"Yours, &c.          
"E. W. Cooke."


The mill now known as the one possessed by Rembrandt's father is built of stone, with an inscription, and "Rembrandt," in gold letters, over the door. The one etched by his eminent son is a wooden structure, which must have long since fallen into decay. As they are both interesting, from association of ideas, I have given etchings of them.

The mother of Rembrandt was Neeltje Willems Van Zuitbroek, whose portrait he has etched. As he was an only child, his parents were anxious to give him a good education, and therefore sent him to the Latin school at Leyden, in order to bring him up to the profession of the law; but, like our own inimitable Shakspere, he picked up "small Latin and less Greek." Having shown an early inclination for painting, they placed him under the tuition of Jacob Van Zwaanenburg, a painter unmentioned by any biographer; he afterwards entered the studio of Peter Lastman, and finally received instruction from Jacob Pinas. The two last had visited Rome, but, notwithstanding, could have given little instruction to Rembrandt, as their works show no proof of their having studied the Italian school to much purpose. After receiving a knowledge of a few rules, such as they could communicate, he returned home, and commenced painting from nature, when he laid the foundation of a style in art unapproached either before his time or since. In 1627 he is said, by Houbraken, to have visited the Hague, when, by the price he received for one of his pictures, he discovered his value as an artist. The neighbourhood of the Rhine was now given up for the city of Amsterdam, where he set up his easel in the year 1628, under the patronage of the Burgomaster Six, and other wealthy admirers of the fine arts.

Rembrandt's first works, like all the early works of eminent artists, were carefully finished; the work that raised him to the greatest notice, in the first instance, is Professor Tulpius giving an Anatomical Lecture on a dead Body,1 and is dated 1632. Reynolds, in his Tour through Flanders, speaking of this picture, says:—"The Professor Tulpius dissecting a corpse which lies on the table, by Rembrandt. To avoid making it an object disagreeable to look at, the figure is just cut at the wrist. There are seven other portraits, coloured like nature itself; fresh, and highly finished. One of the figures behind has a paper in his hand, on which are written the names of the rest. Rembrandt has also added his own name, with the date 1632. The dead body is perfectly well drawn, (a little foreshortened,) and seems to have been just washed; nothing can be more truly the colour of dead flesh. The legs and feet, which are nearest the eye, are in shadow; the principal light, which is on the body, is by that means preserved of a compact form; all these figures are dressed in black." He further adds—"Above stairs is another Rembrandt, of the same kind of subject: Professor Nieman, standing by a dead body, which is so much foreshortened that the hands and feet almost touch each other; the dead man lies on his back, with his feet towards the spectator. There is something sublime in the character of the head, which reminds one of Michael Angelo; the whole is finely painted,—the colouring much like Titian."

Simeon in the Temple, in the Museum of the Hague, painted in 1631, is in his first manner; as are The Salutation, in the Gallery of the Marquis of Westminster, painted in 1640; and The Woman taken in Adultery, in the National Gallery, painted in 1644, all on panel, and finished with the care and minuteness of Gerhard Dow. His most successful career may be taken from 1630 to 1656. About the year 1645 he married Miss Saskia Van Uylenburg, by whom he had an only son, named Titus, the inheritor of the little wealth left after his father's embarrassments, but, though bred to the arts, inheriting little of his father's genius. In what part of Amsterdam he resided at this time we have no record, nor is the house now shown as Rembrandt's, and which was the subject of a mortgage, sufficiently authenticated to prove its identity; he may have lived in it, but it could not at any time have been sufficiently capacious to contain all the effects given in the catalogue extracted from the register by Mr. Nieuwenhuys.

The late Sir David Wilkie, in a letter to his sister, says:—"At the Hague we were delayed with rain, which continued nearly the whole of our way through Leyden, Haarlem, and Amsterdam. Wherever we went, our great subject of interest was seeing the native places of the great Dutch painters, and the models and materials which they have immortalized. At Amsterdam we sallied forth in the evening, in search of the house of Rembrandt; it is in what is now the Jews' quarter, and is, in short, a Jew's old china shop; it is well built, four stories high, but it greatly disappointed me. The shop is high in the ceiling, but all the other rooms are low and little, and, compared with the houses of Titian at Venice, of Claude at Rome, and of Rubens at Antwerp, is quite unworthy the house of the great master of the school of Holland. Even if stuffed, as it is now, with every description of the pottery of Canton, it could not have held even a sixth part of the inventory Nieuwenhuys found, as the distrained effects of Rembrandt, and the only solution is, that he may have once lived there; but as his will, still extant, is dated in another street, and as several of the pictures he painted could not be contained in the rooms we were in, we must conclude that, like the shell which encloses the caterpillar, it was only a temporary abode for the winged genius to whom art owes so much of its brilliancy."

As the place of his residence is veiled in obscurity, so is the place of his demise, which is supposed to have taken place in 1664, as Mr. Smith, in a note to his Life of Rembrandt, says—"that no picture is recorded bearing a later date than 1664, and the balance of his property was paid over to his son in 1665."

Mr. Woodburn, in a Catalogue of his Drawings, says:—"It is uncertain what became of him after his bankruptcy, or where he died; a search has been made among the burials at Amsterdam, until the year 1674, but his name does not occur; probably Baldinucci is correct in stating that he died at Stockholm, in 1670;" others have mentioned Hull, and some give a credence to his having fled to Yarmouth, during his troubles, and mention two pictures, a lawyer and his wife, said to have been painted there; they are whole lengths, and certainly in his later manner, but I could not gather any authentic account to build conjecture upon, as the intercourse between Amsterdam and Yarmouth has been kept up from olden time, and a Dutch fair held every three years on the shore. The ancestors of the family in whose possession they still are, may have visited Holland; but, amongst such conflicting opinions, it is useless to attempt elucidation of the truth of this. We may rest certain that his works will be appreciated in proportion as a knowledge of their excellence is extended.


Extract from the Book of Sureties of Real Estates remaining at the Secretary's Office of the City of Amsterdam, fol. 89, &c.

Legal Receipt and Discharge, given by Titus Van Ryn, for the Balance of the Estate of his Father, Rembrandt Van Ryn.

Good for Gls. 6952–9.
the 29.7bre—Willem Muilm.

I the undersigned acknowledge to have received of the said Commissaries the undermentioned six thousand nine hundred and fifty-two Guldens nine Stuivers, the 5th November, 1665.

Received the contents, Titus Van Ryn. }

Before the undersigned Magistrates appeared Titus Van Ryn, the only surviving son of Rembrandt Van Ryn and of Saskia Van Uylenburg (having obtained his veniam ætatis), as principal,—Abraham Fransz, merchant, living in the Angelier Straat, and Bartholomeus Van Benningen, woollen-draper, in the Liesdel, as guarantees. And jointly, and each of them separately, promised to re-deliver into the hands of the Commissaries of the Insolvent Estates, when called upon, the said six thousand nine hundred fifty-two Guldens and nine Stuivers, which the said Titus Van Ryn shall receive of and from the before-mentioned Commissaries, the money arising from the house and ground in the Anthonis bree Straat, A.º 1658, which was sold under execution, and from the personal estate of Saskia Van Uylenburg and Rembrandt Van Ryn aforesaid; hereby binding all their goods, moveables, and immoveables, present and future, in order to recover the said sum and costs. Therefore the before-mentioned principal promised to indemnify his said sureties under a similar obligation as above written.—Actum, the 9th September, 1665.

A. J. J. Hinlopen and Arnout Hooft. 
H. V. Bronchorst.

2207 : a 3 : 3 6952 : 1
(Stamp) 8
6952 9

The following Catalogue is extracted from the Register Lª R. fol. 29 to 39 inclusive, of the Inventory of the Effects of Rembrandt Van Rhyn, deposited in the Office of the Administration of Insolvent Estates at Amsterdam, Anno 1656.