Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rembrandt's House *UPDATED*

On Sunday (July 22, 2007), Ami and I went to Rembrandt's House. It is not a museum of his works. Rather, the museum is set in a house that Rembrandt bought during the height of his career and then later lost in bankruptcy proceedings. The house was refurnished using the inventory of his possesions listed in the bankruptcy.

Although it only gets one star in the Rick Steves guide, and you might want to skip it if your trip to Amsterdam is a short one, this museum is worth seeing. It has a complimentary audioguide, which is imperative to be able to understand and appreciate what you are seeing.

The beds in the house are "box beds," which are like Armoire cabinets with beds inside. They are very short, both because the Dutch back then were much (much!) shorter than today and also because they slept half-sitting up. It was believed that if you slept lying down, you would smother.

The house also featured Rembrandt's studio, with a live demonstration of how they made paint back then. I won't go into the details (because I can't), but I will tell you that they had to plan which colors they would want several days in advance. Also, bright colored paints were more expensive than muted tones. This is because paint was colored using natural colorings. Therefore, earth tones (made from different colors of earth or clay) were more readily found than blue or red, etc. This is partly why so many paintings during that time period are darker - and also why Vermeer's use of color (see the "Milkmaid" picture posted in my Rijkesmuseum post) is so extraordinary.

In addition to seeing the studio, there was a live demonstration of how Rembrandt made etchings. Etchings are printings made from a copper plate that has been "scratched" to make a picture. There are various methods of "scratching" the copper plate, from using various needles, or dowls, to covering the copper plate with a type wax and using acid to burn the copper. It was fascinating. The museum also has the largest collection of Rembrandt's etchings. They are very different than his paintings and worth seeing. The detail is remarkable. I have posted a few different ones here so you can see how they vary depending on the method used.

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