One of Amsterdam’s most famous historical residents is Rembrandt, who owned a grand house in central Amsterdam between 1639 and 1656, which still stands today. We had bought tickets for the museum that is now inside the house on our first day in Amsterdam, but in true Sarah & Jake style, completely forgot about them until our final day.
We had actually planned on going to the more famous Anne Frank Huis for our last day, but the queue was so long it would have taken up most of our time. As pretty as the streets and canals outside were, decided we needed a plan B. Enter magical forgotten Rembrandt tickets! I remembered them in my bag and so we headed over there.
The museum was fairly easy to find, on Jodenbreestraat near the Diamond Museum by central canal ring. We weren’t sure what to expect from the place, but were happy to see a distinct lack of queues when we arrived. Through our visit it became apparent that Rembrandt was actually a bit of a poser, often living beyond his means for appearance sake. Our first clue to this was that the interior of the house has been lovingly restored using a bailiffs inventory from when he was evicted in 1656. Inside there was an instant feeling of grandeur and a lot of his paintings were displayed on the walls. Remember the house had been restored and there is an adjoining museum to display further work so there was definitely more than a touch of vanity in this.
As we walked round we learned that when visitors arrived, they would be left to sit in the entrance hall for a good 45 minutes or so to admire the Rembrandt’s on display, at which point Rembrandt himself would saunter in and offer them a glass of white wine from a marble cooler. (I told you! Poser!) They would then be led into a room to the left where reportedly most of the business transactions were agreed and bizarrely a bed was ready. Presumably Rembrandt thought that after wine on an empty stomach the visitor might want a nap?
Sarah was keen to get the full Rembrandt experience and sat in a chair by the door, where apparently visitors could have a nice view of the street as they waited for the master to arrive. There was indeed a lovely view of the street but your not actually supposed to sit in the chairs. For the rest of the visit a lady who worked there followed us round making sure we didn’t touch things. Encouraged my this Sarah decided to be as suspicious as possible, making moves to climb in the ‘business nap bed’, showing expressive interest in less interesting objects and pointing out details with her finger far too close. The lady never said anything but we did leave her a little note letting her know ‘the crow flies at midnight’ in the visitors book which she read straight after we stepped away.
On the lower floors it was interesting to see some of the rooms like the kitchen and grand reception room in their original state. Rembrandt’s bedroom was again full of Rembrandt’s. In fairness there is a reason he is considered one of history’s best artists and the vanity, while insufferable, is quite understandable.
But more interesting was the upstairs of the house, with his studio and teaching rooms laid out as they were in 17th century Amsterdam.
Looking around the studio you can see Rembrandt’s painting desk laid out as it was, as well as his easel and some of the various props and subjects used in his paintings. There were weapons, costumes and all sorts of things you may associate with any old masters paintings. I noticed there was a set square and protractor on the wall in an arrangement that looked slightly Masonic, I joked that maybe we were stepping into a new Dan Brown novel ‘the Rembrandt code’. With that Sarah decided Rembrandt must be a mason, and because I noticed it – so must I. She returned to the visitors book to make a note of this.
The three of us – me, Sarah and the museum attendant who took a dim view of our sillyness – walked around the connected gallery for a little while, looking at some of the etchings and paintings of Rembrandts students.
In Rembrandt’s attic, he had an ‘student artists studio’ where about a dozen ‘students’ could work producing paintings. This was slightly reminiscent of a production line. Rembrandt would give his guests, who had arrived to buy paintings downstairs, a tour of his students quarters. We couldn’t help but feel by this point, after sitting in a hallway for 45 minutes, being force fed wine and possibly having an insisted upon nap, his guests would be trying to politely be trying to head to the door, but nevertheless! A tour would be happening!
Other things in the museum include an etching room with workshops. This would be great for kids, I’m sure, and adults too. Rembrandt would use this tecnique to mass produce pieces of work, it seems he had great ambitions to be famous in his lifetime.
Although we were in a bit of a cynically silly mood and not taking it completely seriously, we really enjoyed ourselves. There were some really interesting sketch books to look at and a lot of information about the work on display. For a last minute decision to go to the place we were not disappointed! While not the cheapest museum we went to – admission was about 9 euros, it was by far one of the most interesting and informative in Amsterdam and is well worth spending a couple of hours having a look at.