Park West Visits Rembrandt House in Amsterdam – Part 2
Included in the tour were visits to Rembrandt’s painting studio (see photo above), his meeting room for his clients, bedroom, kitchen, cabinet, printing room for etchings and a gallery featuring a part of the Rembrandt House etching collection (which includes over 300 etchings). The house located on Jodenbreestraat, which coincidentally was built in 1606, the same year Rembrandt was born, was purchased in 1906 by a foundation set up to establish the museum which was opened three years later.
The Rembrandt House is a “reconstruction” of his living and working environment, as Rembrandt’s possessions were liquidated in his bankruptcy of 1656. However, due to the meticulous inventory prepared by the bankruptcy court and Rembrandt’s own drawings of his home and studios, the house has been reassembled with painstaking detail and reproductions of 17th century furniture, tools, painting materials and even a hand-turned flat bed etching press.
“It’s hard to really appreciate the substantial genius Rembrandt possessed,” says Morris Shapiro. “When one has the opportunity to observe his living and working spaces, examine the kinds of tools he used, and stand in the room where some of the greatest paintings created in the history of art were born, one can begin to absorb what he accomplished.
“For me, as a life long devotee to art history and deep fan of Rembrandt’s paintings and prints, to stand in that space was a special moment. Just to see the types of limitations he overcame everyday is astonishing—he had to mix and create his own paints; he stored them in pig’s bladders to keep them from drying up.
“In the photo of me in the painting studio, you can see a window behind me at the top left. Rembrandt would manipulate the drapery lifted above that window to control the amount of light that would illuminate his model. His use of light is of course legendary and Rembrandt is synonymous with the notion of ‘chiaroscuro,’ the strong and dramatic contrast of light and shadow, so experiencing that space and comprehending his method was such a powerful experience for me, and one that I will never forget. I am so glad we were able to share the experience with some of our clients.”
In 2008, Shapiro and Marc Scaglione were toured through the Rembrandt House by Leonore van Sloten, Assistant Curator of the museum and their tour was videotaped. Included in the video is a demonstration of the process Rembrandt used to print his etchings, and an etching plate is printed on a reproduction of a 17th Century etching press in the manner Rembrandt used.