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Amsterdamned 3: Unearthing the Skeletons in Rembrandt’s Closet

Posted on by Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The personal lives of great artists are often as intriguing as their work. Rembrandt is no exception. His life was plagued by misfortunes involving money, love, sex, family stress, and untimely death. For your guilty pleasure, allow us to present a scandalous tip on an artist whose life was, for the record, Amsterdamned.

Rembrandt van Rijn; Man in a Fur-Lined Coat; c. 1655-1660; Oil on canvas; 56 1/2 x 46 1/2 x 5 3/4 in.; Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio; Clarence Brown Fund 1977.50

While his wife, Saskia, was dying, Rembrandt hired Geertje Dircx as a nanny for his son, Titus. Rembrandt and Geertje soon became lovers. Saskia died in 1642, and the affair continued till 1649. After a bitter breakup, Rembrandt offered Geertje an annual pension; she trumped his offer with a demand for triple the amount. At the signing of the settlement, Geertje created a scene, giving Rembrandt grounds to commit her to a spinhuis—a workhouse for deranged women—for a 12 year term. She died after 6 years.

About the time of Geertje’s death (c. 1656), Rembrandt painted Man in a Fur-Lined Coat. Must have felt the icy chill of his conscience.

Learn more about the skeletons in Rembrandt’s closet by visiting “Rembrandt in America” and picking up a copy of the exhibition catalog.

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