Art: Amsterdam's Rembrandt

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The great Dutchman, Rembrandt, lived in Amsterdam most of his life, put into his greatest pictures the faces of Amsterdam's burghers, surgeons, soldiers. Last week in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, went on view more indisputable Rembrandt pictures than have ever been seen before in one place. Included were the Rijksmuseum's own nine Rembrandts and 36 more borrowed from abroad for the summer. Among the U. S. importations were Andrew Mellon's Self Portrait, a sharp-chinned, bloated, anxious man of 53 with a Vandyke beard (see cut); Julius Haass's Hendrickje Stoffels, Rembrandt's amiable young mistress; the Knoedler Galleries' 'Joseph Accused By Potiphar's Wife. Among the Rijksmuseum's own canvases were Rembrandt's three most famed paintings, The March-Out of Captain Banning Cocq's Company of Amsterdam Musketeers, long miscalled The Night Watch because soot in the Harquebusiers' clubroom had murked the canvas; Dr. Deyman's Anatomy Lesson, rated far higher than the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp painted 24 years earlier; and The Syndics of the Cloth Hall.

The Dutch by no means rate Rembrandt the greatest Dutchman ever. The Rijksmuseum ordinarily shows its Rembrandts scattered among other 17th Century Dutch masters such as Jan Steen and Frans Hals, in some six rooms. Four years ago a Dutch court methodically turned down the whimsical application of U. S. Author Hendrik Willem Van Loon, collateral descendant of Rembrandt's wife, to have Rembrandt's 262-year-old bankruptcy wiped from the records.

Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn was no eccentric, no drunkard, no lecher, no misanthrope, no hermit, no seeker after scientific truth. He simply loved to paint. He also loved mankind and knew it as few painters have ever known it. He liked money and what money bought; he knew everybody in Amsterdam from the famed Burgomaster Jan Six to his Amsterdam Ghetto neighbors, the Portuguese Jews, and the tramps and prostitutes along the spotless city's spotty waterfront. He spent most of his life turning out an amazing total of paintings, etchings and drawings, most of them first rate.*

He was born in Leyden on the Rhine circa 1606, youngest son of a prosperous miller. His four elder brothers all became poor cobblers and millers. His parents soon assigned Rembrandt to something better, gave him a year at the University of Leyden before he brought home a pile of drawings, said he was determined to be a painter.

His parents staked him to three years of study in Leyden and in Amsterdam. Then at 18 he went to work on his own. By the time he was 25 he had made a brilliant reputation, which he proceeded to follow to Amsterdam, then one of Europe's greatest trading cities. There he stayed for the rest of his life.

At that time, almost exactly parallel with Rembrandt's career, The Netherlands was entering its "Golden Age" under the able stadtholder. Frederick Henry of Orange-Nassau. And Amsterdam was the golden city of the Dutch. Their armies were the crack fighting force of Europe. Their sea captains were preparing to smash Spain, rival Britain. All about him Rem brandt saw a young nation of tradesmen, sailors and soldiers, the litter of trophies brought home from the Orient.

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