"O mighty master! Shakespeare of the brush!
Interpreting to eye, as he to ear,
The story of earthís passion and its strife,—
Thy genius caught the new dayís morning flush,
Saw glory in the common and the near,
And on immortal canvas gave us LIFE!"
—F. S. HOSMER
"Rembrandt was powerfully attracted by the ease with which the human emotions
could be followed in the looks and gestures of such uncultivated children of
nature as sailors, workmen, peasants and the beggars of the townsÖÖ.
The illustrious School of Holland without Rembrandt would have lost its poetry,
and the apex of its gloryÖ.
Rembrandt loves to tell us what ear has never heard, what eye has never seen."
"Rembrandt pleases the eye, but his superiority over every other painter in
Holland, and his rank among the great artists of the world, are largely due to
his pleasing the mind and the heart."
REMBRANDT VAN RYN
 IN our study of Reubens we considered Flemish art in the person of its greatest
representative. In our present sketch we shall pass on to the north, to the
little country of Holland, and likewise study its art in its most renowned
The history, the cleanliness, the picturesqueness, the industry and the
perseverance of the inhabitants of this country command from all alike
admiration and love. Her wind-mills like so many giant birds fighting the
elements; her cosey home life nurtured by the frequent inclemency outside; her
sturdy, upright burgers with their thrifty dames; her mastery of the very sea
itself in her system of dykes which says to Old Ocean,
"Thus far and no farther"—all these things and many more besides, attract us to
this diminutive kingdom wrested from the sea. We are especially interested to
 know what this practical people did in the way of picture making, what subjects
they selected, and how they treated their chosen subjects. Were there those
among her artists that towered above their countrymen, like Raphael and Angelo,
Murillo and Velazquez, or like Rubens?
Their art was just what we should expect to find it if we stop to think. The
Hollander loved above everything else his home and his country. His religion,
that of the Reformed Church, called for no pious pictures to deck the walls of
his house to worship, and so from the field in which the Italians flourished he
was cut off—that of religious painting. He was not at a loss however, for
subjects, for he undertook to draw a portrait of his dear Holland, that is, he
painted cosey rooms where home life was enjoyed by the family—they might indeed
be but homely and well kept kitchens, but, at all events, they were rooms to
long for on a stormy night when the winds rose, and the sea knocked hard at the
Besides these, there were all those good Dutch housewives, snug and neat, with
cap and apron, providing comforts for their families, cutting the bread, paring
the vegetables, bending above the garden bed of flaunting flowers and succulent
vegetables, plying the provident needle, or occupied with any other of the
 Things a housewife does to bless her family. Then there were the traveling
quacks and the beggars, and now and then a hermit praying.
There were also citizens or burgers who, besides accumulating comfort for
themselves and their families, had made themselves dear to their community by
looking after its affairs with the same wisdom they had used in their own
matters. Further still, there were members of military companies whose valor
the country owed its freedom. Surely such men and women as these, although they
might be far from handsome, were worthy subjects of the painterís art. The
landscape, monotonous at times, perhaps, but ever interesting, with its herds of
cattle, its canals with their lazy boats, and the ever present sea with its
ladened fleets from distant waters—all over-arched by a varying sky—was another
subject dear to the Dutch artist.
Thus we see in kitchens, dames, flowers, beggars, buyers and their guild-halls,
landscapes dotted with cattle or diversified with boat-bearing canals, and
cloud-flecked skies, the portrait, as I before said, of Holland. This is
pre-eminently the type of Dutch painting.
There were great men among the Dutch painters, great even to compare with the
Italian artists. Of the average great painter of Holland, perhaps, this may not
seem true, but the thought only comes on account of the
 subjects selected by Dutchmen and Italians. On first thought it seems greater
to paint an ecstatic saint or a soaring angel, than to depict the common
utensils and surroundings of every day life—the wooden bowl, the shining copper,
the homespun clothing, the coarse food—in other words it seems greater to us to
paint the ideal than the real thing, greater to be an idealist than a
realist. As we study more we shall come to realize the high place held
by each class, and the injustice of comparing them, so different are their
themes, so similar are their aims—to represent truth, the great
legitimate object of art.
In the rank and file of Dutch artists were Gerhard Dow, whose patience thought
it no hardship to spend three days painting a broomstick that it might be
perfect in detail; Franz Hals and Van der Helst, who represented the life about
them more accurately than a photographer could to-day; Paul Potter, who loved
the landscape and enlivened it with cattle; or Ruysdael and Hobbema, whose
poetic souls needed no breathing thing to make the landscape live—where clouds,
gnarled trees, cascades, an old mill in ruins, turned to the pure gold of a
beautiful picture under the alchemy of their touch. Such, as I said before,
were the rank and file of Dutch artists, for which we today revere the little
country by the sea.
 But one there is not listed here, for though he is of Holland he is still
unique, above his countrymen and possible above all other artists, in his
concentration of thought, in his almost miraculous use of light and shade. Of
course I refer to Rembrandt, the subject of this sketch, the mighty master of
shadows or, as some one has worthily said, "The Shakespeare of painting." The
great master was like the painters of his country in that he painted real people
and things. He was unlike them in that he revealed the mystery of the soul, and
also in his great versatility as an artist, for you will remember that he
painted, etched, and drew with equal facility.
REMBRANDT (ABOUT 22 YEARS OF AGE)
It is difficult to explain his mysterious and soul-stirring qualities, but an
illustration may help us somewhat. Many Dutch painters have painted humble
family life, and to us their work is expressive. Rembrandt touches his brush
and a simple enough picture grows under his hand—"The Carpenterís
Household." There is the humble room with the carpenterís tools upon the
wall, the workman at his bench, the mother tending her young babe and the
grandma leaning over to caress the sleeping child—the simplest elements, real as
life, out of which to construct a characteristic Dutch picture. Rembrandt,
however, has put these elements together in such a skilful way that one looking
 picture sees and feels more than the interior.
We see toil dignified, the blessedness of the care of little children, in short,
the beauty of family life, even though it be in a humble abode where the living
room is also the shop where the daily bread is earned. If this illustration
does not help to explain the subtle something in Rembrandtís work which so
appeals to us, turn to the copies of his pictures and study them. They, at
least, cannot long hide their charm.
This great master was born with the wonderful seventeenth century, the echoes of
whose wars for freedom still sound in our ears. From all the tumult, however,
he stood apart, rapt in his study of life, not the life of princes and saints,
but the life of the common people from whom he came.
His native city was Leyden, and the city of his mature life, of his fame and his
sorrows, was Amsterdam. They were two cities unique in their history, and
interesting in all their details, both bound to impress the thoughtful genius of
Leyden stands on the verge of the North Sea where the majestic and romantic
Rhine river, after dividing and subdividing as it approaches the dunes, finally
gives itself grudgingly to the sea. What an aristocratic course it has run, by
sunny vineyard slopes, by ivy-covered castles! Yet here at its deathbed how
insignifi-  cant it has become, almost losing itself in the sands! But Leyden is here, and
spite of some depressing surroundings, in Rembrandtís time it was rich and
beautiful with its wide streets and rose-bordered canals. Perhaps one hundred
and fifty bridges joined the ninety islands on which it was built. On an
elevation overlooking the town is the Burg, that old tower built by the Saxon
Hengist in honor of his conquest of Britain.
It is an interesting link that binds us of Anglo-Saxon speech to this ancient
city. Another and more direct link to us of America is the fact that at Leyden
tarried the little company of men and women who made a deathless record when
they braved the stormy sea and settled in New England. The very mention of the
name Leyden calls up before us that double siege which the city withstood in
1674. The details of that awful time throng upon the mind in spite of itself.
It is well that it is so, too, for it is wholesome that we, who now enjoy in our
boasted liberties the fruits of that great struggle, should stop once in a while
and count what it cost.
We remember the famine that followed the long waiting for William of Orange,
then the pestilence, and that long delay of William and his fleet when the great
leader lay sick of a fever. We remember his encouraging messages—then that
speck upon the waters which
 grew into the succoring fleet, the breaking of the dykes, the dispersement and
drowning of the hated Spaniards, the appeasing of the first hunger of the
citizens by loaves flung from the ships of the rescuers, and then the long
procession of the inhabitants that, even before the first hunger was wholly
appeased, wound its way to the house of God to give thanks for their
deliverance. All these are details that every school boy knows and yet loves to
No wonder that William of Orange, when he heard of the victory, shed tears of
joy! Not a day of the siege was without its display of heroism, but the very crown
was placed on heroism when, shortly after the siege, William offered to give the
city, in lieu of its great losses, a large sum of money or a university, and the
citizens chose the university! It was only the year following the siege, and
their losses were fresh in their minds. In spite of this, the high-souled
people selected the institution of learning. It is pleasant to relate that
their university grew and grew until it ranked the first in Europe, and numbered
among its professors and students some of the greatest scholars of all time.
Each city of Holland is an individual, and boasts something peculiarly its own.
The glory of Haarlem is its gardens, gorgeous with the most splendid flowers of
Europe, among which is numbered the tulip, the blossom
 that made and wasted fortunes at one time. Amsterdam boasts of its diamond
cutters, whose skill, unequalled elsewhere, shows the otherwise dull jewel how
to shine. To Leyden, however, belongs the glory of her university, and the
luster that comes from having been the home of the Elzevirs, and the birthplace
Rembrandt van Ryn, or Rembrandt of the Rhine, was the youngest child of Harmen
Garritszoon van Ryn. He was born July 15th, 1607, in the comfortable home of
his father, and not in his fatherís mill as some writers assert. There had been
several other children, four boys and a girl. The father was well-to-do. He
owned several houses and a large interest in one of the mills of a baker. The
mother was the daughter of a baker. She was yet in the prime of life when her
artist son was born, and little resembled at that time the wrinkled old ladies
known among the artistís pictures as "Rembrandtís Mother." It was indeed a
thrifty family of the quality that made up the best part of Hollandís
We know little of Rembrandtís early years, though it is but natural to suppose
that he was much at the mill with his father. Perhaps it was here that he first
became deeply impressed with the picturesqueness of those great arms that
ceaselessly beat the air.
It is evident from his erudition later in life that he
 was never much of a student of books, even for the short time that he studied in
the university of Leyden. The smallness of his library, too, when his
belongings had to be invoiced in later life, also bears out this supposition
regarding his early efforts at learning.
It is certain, however, that his art training began early. Lucas van Leyden was
the best engraver of his time, and in the town hall was hung one of his greatest
pictures. The young Rembrandt went often to see the great work, and in after
years became a friend of the artist. The boy who sought out objects of this
sort to study already showed the bent of his genius. His parents recognized
this, and when he was twelve they apprenticed him to Swanenburg, an aristocrat
of the city, and an artist of some reputation among his townsmen. Here he
remained for three years, though it is said that Rembrandt could learn only the
most elementary things from Swanenburg.
His parents now felt that he was old enough to go from home to more completely
fit himself for his art. After some inquiry it was decided that he should enter
Peter Lastmanís studio in Amsterdam. Lastman had studied in Italy and had
mastered the methods of the Italians. Rembrandt entered his studio in 1624.
Traces of the masterís careful finish are very apparent in Rembrandtís earliest
pictures. We can imagine that
 the youth was lonesome in the great cosmopolitan city of Amstel, and that he
often longed for the mill and the well kept home with his brothers and sister
and father and mother.
REMBRANDT IN HIS STUDIO
Whether it was this longing for home, or whether it was disgust with Lastmanís
commonplace art, we do not know, but Rembrandt stayed but a short time with
Lastman—probably six months. He returned to Leyden to study in his own way the
art he was about to glorify. He seemed to have no thought of doing what other
art students of the time almost invariably did—of going to Italy to study.
Lastman evidently had no notion of what a genius had escaped from his stilted
training. He kept no record of his pupil and he bought none of his works when
he became famous.
Although there was joy in the millerís family over the return of the favorite
child, yet we know that he did not settle down to idly enjoy the home to which
he was made so welcome. He almost immediately began that long list of drawings,
etchings and paintings which ended only with his death. Above everything else,
he seemed impressed with the necessity of painting or drawing what he really
saw—of working from nature.
In those early years he painted and sketched over and over again the members of
his family. His own portrait
 he represented in every conceivable attitude and wearing all sorts of
expressions. Of portrait work he was always very fond, and ever seemed inspired
in representing the faces of the aged. Among his studies of old women, though
all are excellent, there are a few that stand out as especially fine. Leading
them all in excellence we must place, I think, the picture in the Hermitage, in
St. Petersburg, and reproduced in this sketch.
Like all of Rembrandtís greatest pictures it seems impossible to analyze its
charm. We feel that here is one resting, with crossed hands, after a life of
usefulness. There is in the dear old face a sweet and strong record, but better
than all, the promises there indited are sweeter and stronger than the record
"Gazing upon that face where years have wrought
The record of their mingled loss and pain,
Where love and death, alternate joy and pain,
Have the hid soul to such expression brought—
Life fills with vaster meaning to my thought,
'Neath changes and loss I read what things remain
To crown at last the struggle and strain
Of all our days, remembered or forgot."
A less spiritual face but a most attractive one, is that known as "Elizabeth
Bas" in the Ryks Museum of Amsterdam. In this old lady, with her perfectly
 arranged cap and ruff, with her symmetrically buttoned gown, there is a
self-satisfied air, that speaks more of this world than the next. She has been
and is yet a prosperous and successful dame, and every line in her face makes us
feel it. Of a similar import is the old woman of the National Gallery, London.
PORTRAIT OF AN OLD WOMAN
The picture known as "Rembrandtís Mother," now in Vienna, is more of the
type of the St. Petersburg picture. Although many pictures of old women painted
by the artist are designated as "Rembrandtís Mother," there is only now
and then one which is a portrait. Critics generally agree that the Vienna
picture is one of the very best of these portraits. Certain it is that it is
just such a face as we should like to attribute to the mother of the thoughtful
artist. Hers has indeed been a life of usefulness and high thoughts. She has
accomplished much, and her children rise up and call her blessed.
Group pictures from the Bible also found favor with the artist. Although at
times we find Rembrandt worldly enough, and erring too, the Bible was to him the
book of books in his art. His mother, whom he so often represents with the
Bible open on her lap or closed beside her, must have trained her son well
regarding the good book. To its pages he returned repeatedly. One of his
earlier pictures represents a great scene from it, "The Presentation in the
 It is unlike Rembrandtís greatest work in that all the details are carefully
worked out. The beautiful pillars and arches of the Gothic cathedral, the
stairway to one side, the richly robed priest, the rejoicing Simeon pouring
forth his song of praise, the Virgin and some inquisitive beggars who have come
to see—everything is beautifully worked out and yet, after all, the Simeon
holding in his arms the Divine Child, with the light from above streaming in
upon him, is the central and attractive figure which every other detail of the
The artist, perhaps more than any other intellectual worker, needs an
atmosphere—that is, he needs to be among those who, like himself, are producing
pictures. We feel this to-day and Rembrandt felt it in his time. The city of
Leyden, beautiful, cleanly, and intellectual from the influence of its great
university, lacked artists and studios and consequently the opportunities for
improvement that every growing artist needs. On the other hand Amsterdam
furnished these very requirements and so, once again, Rembrandt said good-bye to
his family, the mill, and his native city and journeyed by canal to Amsterdam,
the city of his hope.
The longings and homesickness of his early student days vanished, except on rare
occasions when he gave himself up to moments of complete rest. He was on
 fire with zeal for his art, which no subject was too commonplace to grace. In
this spirit he entered the motley city with its artists, its Jews, its
merchants, and found for himself a place now high, now low, that he filled until
his death, for Amsterdam was henceforth to be his home city.
Although Rembrandt had led a quiet life at Leyden, studying from himself and
members of his family, yet through these portraits his fame had spread far. He
had often been asked by people of Amsterdam to paint their portraits. One
famous writer of the time speaks enthusiastically of "this miller, this
On arriving at Amsterdam his supply of money was limited and so it was necessary
for him to find cheap quarters. Many pupils waited only the opening of his
studio, so it was also necessary that these quarters be commodious. Such
apartments he found in a warehouse on the outskirts of the city. His pupils
that gathered about him at once numbered among them men who afterwards became
famous. Such were Grover Flinck, Ferdinand Bol and Gerard Dow. He was not only
original himself but he wished his pupils to develop their own individuality,
and so the studio was divided into stalls, as it were, where each man could work
out his own ideas.
He made many friends in the city in spite of his taste
 for retirement. He was a constant and accurate observer of the varied life
which is so striking a feature of Amsterdam. He was especially attracted by the
beggars of every degree who thronged its streets in some quarters. His pictures
of beggars would make a complete gallery of earthís unfortunates. For this
class of subjects he used the etcherís art, perhaps, because he could return to
the plates again and improve them.
Three of Rembrandtís friends deserve special mention. They were Burgomaster
Six, Hendrick Van Ulenburgh, a print seller, and Doctor Tulp, the professor of
anatomy in the surgeonís guild. Rembrandt was anxious to perfect himself in
drawing and so he had attended many of Tulpís lectures and had become well
acquainted with the professor. The guild wished their portraits painted in a
group that it might be hung in the guild hall as a reminder of Doctor Tulpís
great work. Rembrandt was selected to paint this picture.
His excitement was intense over this, his first great commission. The desire of
the guild was that the picture should represent Doctor Tulp lecturing to his
class. Many subjects of this sort had been painted and engraved by previous
artists, but there had been nothing that could be called a picture, only a
monotonous line of portraits, among which it was impossible to distinguish the
professor from the
 students. It never entered Rembrandtís mind that such a photographic
representation would at all satisfy Doctor Tulp and his associates. His plan
was to have a central point of interest about which to group his portraits. In
a few sketches he produced his wonderful "Anatomy Lesson," the most
famous doctorís picture ever painted.
THE ANATOMY LESSON
There sits Doctor Tulp, with forceps in hand, explaining the intricacies of the
tendons of the dead manís arm and hand. His listeners, seven in number, lean to
hear and see, each with an individual and absorbed expression that could never
have been obtained had the individuals "sat for their pictures," as we say. He
had observed these men when they knew it not and, like the genius that he was,
he carried his impressions accurately to his canvas. Our interest in the faces
of the men who learn, and of him who teaches, almost makes us forget the dead
body in the foreground. The surgeons were delighted with the picture, and the
fame of it soon spread throughout Holland. Many men of note came to sit for
The "Anatomy Lesson" was painted in 1632, and it was the first of three
great pictures which divide the artistís career and mark its beginning, its
turning point, and its climax. The other two are "The Night Watch" of
1642 and the wonderful "Cloth Makers" of 1661.
 Rembrandt went often to Hendrickís shop to look over the etchings, drawings and
other prints. Some times he found those by the German, Durer, or those by his
fellow citizen, Lucas van Leyden. Indeed he did more than look at these
treasures—he frequently bought a precious print for himself for which he gave no
One other thing at the print shop of Hendrick interested the great artist. A
beautiful young girl came also to see the newest prints, and to converse with
her cousin, Hendrick, on a thousand subjects dear to them. This was Saskia van
Ulenburgh, who afterward became as divinely associated with Rembrandt and his
work as Beatrice with Dante, or Laura with Petrarch. She was shy enough at
first, but the mighty master with his wondrous gaze soon became her idol by day,
her dream by night. On the other hand, to the young artist she became the one
thing delightful outside of his art.
Saskia was of a distinguished family. Her father was often at the home of
William of Orange. He sat at table with the great leader just before he was
assassinated. Both parents were now dead and Saskia lived with a sister.
Rembrandt went himself to get the consent of his parents for his marriage with
Saskia. After some delays the wedding took place, and Rembrandt, used to
 carrying treasures of great price to his home, now took thither, in Saskia, his
revered wife, his greatest jewel. The happiest period of his life was that
spent with Saskia.
Speaking of Rembrandtís home reminds me of the artistís zeal for collecting art
works, jewels, arms, and oriental stuffs. For these things he had an inordinate
desire, and perhaps excused himself for many expensive purchases by making them
adjuncts to his art. Before his marriage he had collected many of these things
to adorn the home to which he was to bring his beloved bride. It is sad to
relate that he often bought what he could not afford, and his failure to pay for
what he bought finally brought ruin on himself.
The house in which Rembrandt lived during his prosperity was a three story
structure opening onto the Breedstraat at the entrance to the Jewish quarter of
the city. Its situation here gave the artist fine opportunity for observing
this interesting people for whom he always had a great liking. If we enter the
house as it was in Rembrandtís occupancy, we shall find it a little short of a
His own art and that of others greets us in the very hall-way, for even here are
beautiful pictures. In the parlor are Spanish carved chairs upholstered with
rich velvet. In the center stands an elaborately carved table
 of black walnut, loaded with portfolios of rare etchings and drawings. Upon the
walls hang beautiful and costly pictures—here a head by Raphael, there a rich
Venetian scene by Palma Vecchio. In the corners are cabinets filled with
curious gems and beautiful vases, while on a little table yonder is spread a
piece of rare tapestry from Tourney.
Beyond is the drawing room where Rembrandt and Saskia spent so many happy hours,
and where he etched and painted her over and over again. Here was etched that
dainty portrait of few strokes under which Rembrandt wrote, "Saskia, my three
daysí bride." Here was the scene of that famous picture now in the Dresden
gallery, in which Rembrandt, quite unlike his usual sedate self, holds on high a
tall glass, while Saskia from her perch upon his knee, looks out at the
spectator, with just a suggestion of a smile playing about her lips. On the
table just at hand is a pie, gorgeously dressed out with the body and tail of a
In this room, too, where armor of various dates graced the walls, was a picture,
perfect in drawing and splendid in coloring, which the master valued very
highly. It was by Rubens, Rembrandtís famous Flemish contemporary. Why these
two men never met, why Rubens never mentions the great Dutch master is always
 a great mystery to the students of both men. To return to the drawing room—the
side-board was loaded with rare glass from Venice, silver tankards and a good
wine, although the master seldom drank. There were marble wine coolers, and
across one end of the room a great fire-place where roaring logs and dying
embers alike gave comfort.
Back of this was Saskiaís room, all blue and white like the cloud-flecked sky on
the day of the wedding. It was an ample room, and besides serving as sleeping
apartment, it was a sort of living room for the family. We can imagine an
evening with the artistís family in this room. The master sits at the table
etching perhaps some new portrait of Saskia, or their boy, Titus. Saskia sits
by occasionally dropping some cheerful remark while she plys her needle or tends
the babe. Now and then she stops to comment on the work of her gifted husband
whom she loved to address as "my master."
On the next floor was the art school, where pupils were instructed for about
sixty-five dollars a year each. There was also the studio where Rembrandt did
his own painting of the various sitters who came to him. Hallowed indeed was
this room. When the master was painting no one dared interrupt him. The king
himself, had he dared enter that inspired presence, must
 needs wait until the artist had completed his sketch.
Such was the home where Rembrandt and Saskia lived, where he entertained his
friends and where he instructed his students. Here he knew the greatest joy
that can come to man, and here he experienced the bitterest sorrows. Over its
blessed threshold he had carried success and happiness, and from it he had gone
a bankrupt and desolate man, bereft of family, friends and art treasures.
He never tired of sketching his Saskia in some new attitude. She leaned upon
the table with her smiling face shaded by a broad hat, and she was his youthful
bride. Her loaded her with jewels and oriental fabrics and she was 'The
Jewish Bride," or she sat upon his knee in one of his jocular moods, and it
was "Rembrandt and his Wife" in their dining-room. During all the nine
happy years of their life together hers is the face to which he reverts over and
over again. She revered her gifted husband, and yet, more worldly-wise than he,
she must often have remonstrated with him for spending so freely for the art
works which he loved so much, or for mingling so little with men of the outside
world, even though it was life itself to her to have him with her in the home.
Several children were born to them but all except one, Titus, died in infancy.
This sorrow wore upon the beautiful young Saskia, and soon
 her health became broken. Rembrandt could not realize the sorrow that menaced
him, but on it came, relentless as fate.
Through the happy years Rembrandt had been busy indeed with various commissions.
Besides the paintings and etchings of himself and Saskia, he had done many
notable works. There was "The Shipbuilder and his Wife," now in
Buckingham Palace. It seems only the handing of a letter to the builder by his
wife, and yet in its sweet composure we read the record of a happy, well-spent
life with yet more pleasure in it for this united, prosperous pair. There, too,
is "The Philosopher in his Cell," with its wonderful winding stairs and
its masterful light and shade. There is a "Samsonís Wedding Feast,"
"Manoahís Prayer," and the fierce but effective so called portrait of the
great Russian, "Sobieski." There were also "The Carpenterís
Household," before referred to, and that inimitable "Lady with a
Not one of these but is charming, but, if we seek to explain the charm, it
eludes us and will not be analyzed. To nothing can we attribute it so much, I
think, as to the masterís wonderful power in the use of light and shade. By
using transparent shadows and high lights very near together, Rembrandt found
the best expression for his own thoughtful nature.
 Every town had its own military company, its civic guard, and worthy indeed had
been the work they had done in the days of the Spanish oppression. The guard
had its guild hall which it took pride in decorating with the portraits of its
members. Such pictures were usually paid for by a sort of tax imposed for the
purpose on the members. Those of highest title paid most and the others
according to their rank. In this way a considerable sum could be paid for a
picture, and yet the burden fell heavily on no one individual.
There was another side to it, however. The men who paid even a small sum
expected to be prominent in the picture. It is easy to see that when there was
a central theme about which everything subordinated itself it was not always
possible to give the required attention to each individual. In 1642, the civic
guard of Amsterdam wished such a picture, and they commissioned Rembrandt to
paint it. He was determined, as always, that his portrait group should be
something besides portraits—that there should be some action to unify the whole.
With this in mind, he represented the whole company suddenly called out of their
quarters and given the order to march. The captain and his lieutenant march in
front with the light strongly concentrated upon them, while the men arm and load
as they go. The standard
 bearer lifts the flag. There is varied movement and our interest in the cause
of it all is intense. So precipitate has been the call and the response of
these soldiers that people passing along the street have become mixed in the
ranks—hence the presence of the children.
One thing should be remembered and that is that the name "Night Watch" is
entirely incorrect for this picture. It was given to the painting after it had
hung in the guard hall many years and had become blackened by smoke and dirt.
So far from its representing a night scene, the shadow of the captainís hand and
arm is plain upon the coat of the lieutenant, and shows the precise position of
the sun. It should be called "The Sortie of Banning Cockís Company,"
which would be plain to everyone, as Banning Cock was the name of the captain.
In all copies of the picture which we have, it seems overcrowded, not enough
marginal canvas—members of the company cut in two, etc. In making this
criticism we must not forget that in 1715 the picture was removed to the town
hall and, to make it fit into a given space, it was cut down several inches.
THE NIGHT WATCH
As before mentioned, the picture marked a turning point in the life of the
artist. Only a few of the sixteen men who had contributed toward the picture
were made prominent enough to please them. The exact meaning of the picture was
not evident to all. What
 did the artist mean by the lighting? How did the witch-like little woman or
girl happen to get in among the soldiers? Why were the weapons of the company
so varied? There were few, indeed, who were pleased with the picture as a
whole. What wonder that the artist became confused in the exuberance of his own
thoughts, for his beloved Saskia lay dying! In spite of all these criticisms
the picture stands to-day one of the masterpieces of the world, perhaps the
chief attraction that draws the traveler to Amsterdam.
Through "The Night Watch" and the death of Saskia, his double life of
artist and home-lover was interrupted. Then followed dark days when patrons
came not to the studio, and the lonely hours were filled with longing for "The
touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still." The artistís
work went on, but deeper and sadder subjects engaged his thought. During these
years the face of the Savior is very often found among his pictures. One of
these, "The Supper at Emmaus," ranks high among the masterís pictures and
among all pictures. There sits the worn Christ, who knows the secrets of the
tomb. He makes himself known to his companions. They are awed by the
revelation to such an extent that we see their feeling in their extended hands,
while the boy who serves them almost drops what he is carrying so excited
 is he by what he hears. As we study the face of the Christ we feel that he has
indeed walked with death.
The years wore on with our saddened artist. Public taste turned more and more
to the Italians, and, more and more, native artists were neglected. Rembrandt
suffered with the others. Moreover there were ugly rumors that the splendid
house in which the artist lived was not paid for and that much of the money used
in purchasing his art treasures had been borrowed and not repaid. The clouds
thickened about our artist until 1658 when there was a sheriffís sale of all his
belongings, studio effects and all. The house he loved so much, every room of
which spoke to him of Saskia and her children, was bought by a shoemaker. The
coveted etchings, prints, and paintings went to the highest bidders, and the
master of all, Rembrandt, the world-famous artist, was led away to apartments in
That auction must have been a stormy place, when, one by one his treasures were
sold before his very eyes. We can imagine him offering a spirited protest when
one picture by Palma Vecchio, and another by Raphael, were put up. How his
heart must have ached as the heartless auctioneer put up some oriental drapery,
some jewels with which, in those happy days now long gone by, he had decked
Saskia and painted her.
The many who had hailed the painter of "The
Anat-  tomy Lesson" as a new found genius, who had curiously eyed the mysteries
of "The Night Watch" had by this time forgotten the bankrupt painter.
There were a few friends, however, who stood by, and some of them of no mean
degree, as Burgomaster Six, whose home was as open to the painter as if he had
been a near relative. And one there was of humble station, Hendrickie Stoffels,
the peasant maid who had long lived in his family, that stood beside her master
in those gloomy years and helped to make his life less dark. Later on the
artist, loving her for the sacrifices she had made for his sake, for the light
she had brought to his declining years, married her. Even Hendrickie, young and
robust as she was, was not spared for long to comfort the painter; she died
seven years before him. Meantime Rembrandt had left the inn and settled in a
little house on the Rozengracht. It was an humble abode compared with the home
he had lost, but Hendrickie managed to make it restful and homelike.
Titus, the son of Rembrandt and Saskia, was about nineteen when his father
married. He too loved Hendrickie for what she had done to make his father
happy, and he welcomed her to their home, such as it was. So well did she and
Titus agree that they entered into a partnership as print-sellers and persuaded
Rembrandt to allow them to have the exclusive sale of his pictures.
 They did this hoping to wholly revive the artist from all concern in money
matters in which he had proved himself such a child. At first he was not
pleased with the plan, but he gradually came to see its excellence and the
freedom it gave him to pursue his art unmolested. For years the little business
prospered, Hendrickie and Titus agreeing perfectly.
It seemed that peace had at last returned to crown the painterís closing years.
But suddenly Hendrickie died and shortly after, Titus. The old artist, still
loving his art, though sight and health were failing, stood alone in Amsterdam
at the last end of his career as he had stood at the beginning. And what a
solitary figure he made as he towered above those who had noted him not, rapt in
the great thoughts that made his pictures so wonderful.
Death came to him, we know not how, in 1669, for only a line in the parish
register tells of his burial and the thirteen florins it cost. It was a strange
and sad fate that the man destined to be the best known, the most honored of all
the artists of Holland, should thus die like the day or the leaves of summer and
"none take note of his departure"!
The sumptuous house in the Breedstraat where Rembrandt lived still stands. The
little cottage where Hendrickie and Titus made a home for the artist has
 disappeared. Even his grave, where we might hope for rest for the burdened man,
when opened not long ago, was found to contain no body. As so, were it not for
his works made up of drawings, etchings and paintings, a body of work which for
power is above comparison with the work of any other artist, we might almost
feel, as some say of Shakespeare, that he never existed. The great
master[should be masterís] work, however, in each case is indisputable, and so
we know our race has been blessed by a Rembrandt and a Shakespeare.
It is pleasant for us to know that late in life, in 1661, Rembrandt received one
more important commission. By the beauty, repose and balance of this work,
excelling all his other great pictures, it shows that though the outward life of
the man had been disturbed and sad beyond expression, yet there was inward
repose and faith and power. I speak of that wonderfully simple but very
powerful and beautiful picture, "The Cloth Makers," that now hangs in the
Ryks Museum in Amsterdam.
THE CLOTH MAKERS
Five men, the chosen of their guild, sit about a table casting up the accounts
of the guild for the year to find the gains and losses. There is little in the
subject to call out the powers of an artist, but so wonderfully has Rembrandt
treated it that those five buyers and the one servant represented in the picture
tell us things never
 dreamed of in "The Anatomy Lesson" or "The Night Watch."
Rembrandt is often called the Shakespeare of painters and I think with good
reason. As we think over the work of each it seems that painter and dramatist
are wonderfully alike in their treatment of life. 'The Anatomy Lesson"
is like those early plays of Shakespeare, where everything is plain. There is
in them the self-satisfied air of gifted youth. In the middle of the poetís
career, when family losses were pressing hard, came "Hamlet," beautiful,
overflowing with meaning, but confused in its own richness—not clear. It was
like "The Night Watch" of Rembrandtís career. And then, when age
softened the soul and mellowed the intellect, see what lovely romances
Shakespeare wrote—"Winterís Tale" and "Tempest," where forgiveness
rules and the end is crowned with sweet concord. Poet and painter agree in so
representing life—Rembrandt and Shakespeare, the greatest in their lines of
work, using different arts and a different language, read alike the secrets of
Perhaps the most difficult thing to account for in Rembrandtís life was his
complete ignorance of money matters, of practical life, while in his art he was
a hero and the very acme of provident care. In practical matters he knew not
persistency, in his art he could and
 did persist even though all patrons turned from him to the idols of Italy. In
the list of years his art has triumphed, even though the artist died without
creating a stir. Such was the man and artist, vacillating on the one hand,
heroic on the other; a bankrupt from one point of view, a unique artist from the
What a host of pictures stand among the worldís great work to crown the hero
artist—old women, with caps and crossed hands, who by their dear faces tell us
that there is much left in the last days—still "The best is yet to be"; old men
and young men; beggars in every conceivable attitude; portraits of himself from
youth to age so that we know him at every stage as we would an old friend;
scenes fro m the Bible that drive the truth home to us as never before did
painter or preacher; calm landscapes where the windmill drones in the sunshine;
doctors, soldiers and cloth merchants doing the business of the world. What
variety of subject! What unity of treatment, done, as no other could do them,
by the concentration of light, by the deepening of shadows which at their
blackest have a certain transparency.
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