There once was a Rembrandt in old Leiden town
On the 15th of July 1606, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in this house, 3 Weddesteeg, in the city of Leiden, then part of the Dutch Republic. He spent his entire youth here, moving to Amsterdam in 1631, and marrying Saskia van Uylenburgh in 1634.
Self-Portrait in a Cap, Open-Mouthed (1630) by Rembrandt van RijnNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC
The art of the selfie
Rembrandt is well known today due to the many characterful self portraits he produced across his entire career. He made around 100 portraits in various media; oil painting, drawings, and etchings - many more than other artists of the time.
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (1632) by Rijn, Rembrandt vanMauritshuis
Up close and personal
His close observation of faces and expressions helped him gain valuable group portrait commissions - and this is one of the most famous. He depicts the mayor of Amsterdam, Dr Nicolaes Tulp, leading an anatomical dissection of the corpse of the executed criminal Aris Kindt.
He signed early paintings with RHL for his latinate name Rembrandus Hermanni Leydensis, he then switched to RHL-van-Rijn, but this is the first painting in which he used the name we know him by today, simply, Rembrandt.
…and if you tilt your head to the left, you can see the navel of the corpse is painted as a capital R.
Going up in the world
In 1639 Rembrandt and his wife Saskia moved to one of the most desirable addresses in Amsterdam. The mortgage for this expensive house in an up-and-coming neighbourhood would later bankrupt him. Thankfully, the house survives, and is today the city's Rembrandt Museum.
The Night Watch (1642) by Rembrandt Harmensz van RijnRijksmuseum
Sick Woman with a Large White Headdress (Saskia) (c. 1641/1642) by Rembrandt van RijnNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Rembrandt and Saskia had four children, but Rumbartus, Cornelia, and another Cornelia died young. Only the last child, Titus, born in 1641, survived. Barely a year after Titus' birth, Saskia succumbed to Tuberculosis. Rembrandt drew many pictures of her on her deathbed.
Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels (around 1656) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van RijnGemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
By the late 1640s Rembrandt had settled into a long-term relationship with Hendrickje Stoffels. They were unable to marry, as that would have invalidated a clause in Saskia's will concerning inheritance, and Rembrandt was already living far beyond his means.
Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul (1661) by Rembrandt Harmensz van RijnRijksmuseum
What goes up, must come down
Nearly bankrupted by extravagant art collecting. He had to sell his house and most of his collection to pay his creditors. The Amsterdam Painters' Guild banned him from trading as a artist, and he was forced to set up a company in his wife's and son's names.
Rembrandt died in poverty and alone, having outlived both his wife and son. He was buried in a rented grave in Amsterdam's Westerkerk. As according to the contract, after twenty years his remains were dug up and destroyed. All that remains are his portraits.
Self Portrait (Around 1628 - Around 1629) by Rembrandt Harmensz van RijnRijksmuseum