How was Rembrandt involved in a company in the 17th century?

A post by guest blogger Professor Bob Wessels (University of Leiden) on Rembrandt’s Money. The legal and financial life of an artist-entrepreneur in 17th century Holland

One of the most appealing Dutch artists in the 17th century is Rembrandt (1606-1669). Many will have seen his paintings, prints and drawings with a wide range of styles and subjects, from the young inspired artist from Leiden (sketching ‘tronies’ in the 1620s) to his masterpieces, like The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaas Tulp (1632) and the Night Watch (1642) to the Syndics of the Drapers Guild (‘De Staalmeesters’) (1662) and The Jewish Bride (‘Het Joodse bruidje’) and selfportraits in the second half of the 1660s.

Rembrandt was not an easy man. Strikingly, he was engaged (in several legal capacities) in legal conflicts or battles of all kinds with opponents of several sorts: (foreign) patrons (delivery on time; quality of work; sharp business practices/fees), neighbours (regarding costs of reconstruction of the house/studio/workshop at the Breestraat in Amsterdam ), personnel (in his house), lenders (‘panic’ loans in 1653) and other creditors (e.g. related to not paying rent for an auction room and rent arrears for his last house where he lived in during the last ten years of his life at the Rozengracht in Amsterdam). In all, there is an abundance of legal and financial questions, and my recent book ‘Rembrandt’s Money. The legal and financial life of an artist-entrepreneur in 17th century Holland’ offers a comprehensive overview of all these aspects of the life and work of Rembrandt. These aspects concern his private life as well as his work as an artist, from a young master in Leiden in the mid-1620s, to a celebrated entrepreneur in the third and fourth decades of 17th century Amsterdam, culminating in financial distress (cessio bonorum; ‘cessie van goede’) in the latter part of his life.

Rather fascinating I found the fact that just after his cession bonorum, in 1660, with retroactive effect to 1658, Rembrandt’s life companion at that time, Hendrickje, and Titus (his son from his marriage with Saskia, who had died in 1642) established and commenced an art dealing business (a ‘compagnie’).

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