The Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam (or Rembrandthuis in Dutch) is one of the best museums in the Dutch capital. The former home of the famous artist isn’t only a house where he lived for almost twenty years but also a wonderful place to learn about his work. Recently reopened after a four-month-long restoration, it’s a great place to visit for anyone coming to Amsterdam soon.
The Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam
Rembrandt House Museum is one of the best museums in Amsterdam. It’s also a place where you can get the closest to one of the most famous Dutch painters, Rembrandt van Rijn. It’s not only a place where he lived between 1639 and 1658. But, it’s also where his large art studio was and where he created some of his most famous paintings. Rembrandt was leading a large workshop, and many of his students were also learning and working in some of the smaller studios in the house.
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Rembrandt van Rijn
Rembrandt van Rijn was one the world’s most influential painters and a symbol of the Dutch Golden Age. He lived and worked for most of his life in Amsterdam. Many places linked to his life and work could still be found in the Dutch capital. The most special among them is his former home, which became the Rembrandt House Museum.
Rembrandt became famous early in his life, already in his twenties. His clients were mainly wealthy Amsterdam merchants who hired him to paint their portraits. Today, he is most famous for his group portraits, the genre he revolutionised with his well-known painting, the ‘Night Watch’. You can see many of his portraits and group portraits at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
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Rembrandt House History
In 1639, at the peak of his art career, Rembrandt decided to buy a beautiful house in Amsterdam for 13,000 guilders. In that year he was commissioned to paint what will become his most famous painting, the ‘Night Watch’. As a comparison, the money he got for the Night Watch was 1,600 guilders, which was already a large sum for the painting. The house was built in 1606, symbolically in the year when the famous painter was born.
The house consisted of kitchen and living areas. But, it was also used for Rembrandt’s business purposes. On the ground floor, he had his art dealership shop. On the second floor, his large studio was located, and on top of that, smaller studios for his pupils.
Rembrandt lived in the house until 1658, when he had to leave it because he went bankrupt. The house and everything from it was sold at the auction. It had other owners in the later years, but it was in poor condition at the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1906, 300 years after the famous painter was born, it was bought by the city of Amsterdam. After a thorough restoration, the Rembrandt House Museum was opened in 1911.
Becoming the museum
After the house was purchased by the city of Amsterdam, the plans for its conversion into a museum started. The idea was to recreate the house interior in a way it looked like when Rembrandt lived in it. And it was easy to do that because of Rembrandt’s bankruptcy in 1658. All of his belongings were listed then and sold at the auction. That list was preserved in the City Archive. So the curators went through it and knew very well what kind of furniture and decoration he had in his house. You can see the replica of the inventory list at the Rembrandt House Museum today. The original furniture was lost over the centuries. Still, the similar one from the same period was borrowed for the house from the Rijksmuseum.
However, not only that inventory list was used to recreate the original house setting. Rembrandt showed it on some of his drawings, too. And it’s so fascinating to recognise some of the exact same details inside the house, too.
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Rembrandt House Museum highlights
The museum consists of two wings. One of them is the original house in which Rembrandt lived, where you can see its initial setting, join some of the daily art demonstrations and explore some of Rembrandt’s etchings. It is also where you can see paintings by some of Rembrandt’s students and contemporary artists.
The visit starts at the old kitchen, where you can see a huge fireplace and different kinds of pots and utensils. It’s interesting to see some special pots still in use in the Netherlands today. Like, for example, the dish for the typical small Dutch pancakes, poffertjes. Rembrandt probably spent little of his time in this room because the maid primarily prepared food for the family there. She was even sleeping in a kitchen in a box bed you can still see there.
From the kitchen, you climb to the upper floors, where a large living room is. It was used for living and sleeping, as was common in the 17th century in the Netherlands. With a huge easel, Rembrandt’s studio is fascinating because you can almost feel his presence still in that room.
However, a place that provides such a great peek into how painters worked during the Dutch Golden Age is the Cabinet of curiosities. There, you can see numerous exotic things Rembrandt collected and often showed in his artworks. You’ll find things like shells, stones, armour, Classical busts, and many more unusual things there.
Another museum wing located in a newer building next door, is where the museum is organising temporary exhibitions and workshops. They don’t have Rembrandt’s paintings in their collection, but they have most of his drawings and etchings. Although today famous for his paintings, during his time, Rembrandt was even better known as an etcher.
A few times throughout the year, the museum organises exhibitions with different themes, highlighting some of Rembrandt’s artworks from their collection.
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Art Demonstrations at the Museum
The Rembrandt House Museum stands out among the museums in Amsterdam because of the art demonstrations they organise daily. At their etching demonstration, the museum docent teaches you about that art technique, tools needed for it and even create an etching print on an old printing machine, similar to the one Rembrandt used. The famous painter revolutionised etching and made it an independent art technique.
At his old studio, you can join another demonstration to learn more about how painting pigments were produced and used in the 17th century. It’s fascinating to see how laborious and long-lasting the job of creating paint out of pigments was. That’s why it was a task pupils were first doing when starting their internship at the masters’ studios.
These fantastic art demonstrations help you understand Rembrandt’s art, how him and his workshop worked. These kinds of well-thought educational programs in museums bring art to life.
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Rembrandt House Museum Shop
Rembrandt House Museum Shop is one of the best museum shops in Amsterdam. So, be sure to check it out at the end of your visit. You’ll find many interesting things there, from great books and lovely souvenirs inspired by Rembrandt to art supplies. The last one is worth checking out because among them you’ll find paint, palettes, brushes and even some pigment powders.
Tips for visiting Rembrandt House Museum
⤷ Buy your ticket online: The museum advises all visitors to buy their tickets with a dedicated time and date online before their visit. Here is the link to purchase your Rembrandt House Museum online ticket.
⤷ Check out the demonstrations’ time slots: Ask about the art demonstrations’ time slots at the info desk so you can attend them during your visit.
⤷ Join the guided tour: If you want to learn even more about this special place during your visit, join this guided tour around the Rembrandt House Museum. It’s provided by the company I used to work as a guide in Amsterdam, so I’m definitely recommending it!
⤷ Special activities: The museum often organises unique activities like drawing lessons or special tours. If you’d like to join them, check out their schedule on this link.
⤷ Explore Rembrandt locations in Amsterdam: After visiting a house where he lived for 19 years, explore more sites linked to the famous painter. Visit the Rijksmuseum to see some of his most famous paintings. Or follow this self-guided tour about Rembrandt in Amsterdam to learn even more about that famous painter.
Rembrandt van Rijn is one of the most inspiring artists of all time. The place where you can get the closest to him is the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam. This guide will help you prepare your visit to that special place.
Have you been to the Rembrandt House Museum? What did you like the most there?