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Amsterdamned 4: 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; Self-Portrait; 1659; Oil on canvas; 48 3/8 x 41 in.; National Gallery of Art; Andrew W. Mellon Collection 1937.1.72

Following a bitter breakup with Geertje Dircx, Rembrandt began a heated love affair with Hendrickje Stoffels, 20 years his junior. Both his muse and mistress, Hendrickje was visibly pregnant by 1654—and an unwed woman’s baby bump in 17th century Holland was no cause for celebration. After repeated summonings by the church council, Hendrickje admitted to living in sin with Rembrandt and was excommunicated.

Rembrandt fashioned his Self Portrait in 1659, just a few years after Hendrickje was excommunicated from the church.

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

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