The Rembrandt House Museum is based in a townhouse in the Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where Rembrandt once lived and painted for a number of years. Rembrandt purchased the house in 1639 and lived there until he went bankrupt in 1656, when all his belongings were sold at auction. In 1906, a foundation was established to buy the Rembrandt’s house. Five years later, after a thorough restoration, the Museum was opened to the public. The Rembrandt House Museum is a reconstruction of Rembrandt’s rooms and his workshop. Furniture and objects of the era are carefully presented together with the prints, sculptures and a few paintings of Rembrandt’s contemporaries. A collection of almost all of Rembrandt’s prints (more than 250), his possible tools and the graphic techniques he used.
The restoration of the house was completed in 1911, and Queen Wilhelmina opened the museum. In the museum’s early years the collection of etchings grew steadily as a result of gifts and purchases. There were temporary exhibitions at regular intervals, but few changes were made to the interior of the house.
Then, in the 1990s some major developments occured. The trustees succeeded in acquiring the buildings adjacent to the museum, enabling them to build a modern extension to house addtional galleries, offices and facilities. The façade of the new building was designed by the architects Moshé Zwarts and Rein Jansma, the interior by Peter Sas. The new wing, which was opened on 7 May 1998, houses two grand exhibition galleries, the secretarial department, offices, and the library, along with the Rembrandt Information Centre.
Once the new wing was completed, it was possible to resurrect the old plan to restore Rembrandt’s former home to its original condition. Once the board of the Rembrandt House was given the go-ahead, the work proceeded very carefully. In order to tackle the restoration plans as meticulously as possible, a restoration team was put together. It was headed by the building historian Henk Zantkuijl, an expert in seventeenth-century houses.
The plan was based on historical knowledge built up over many years. There was also a thorough study of available sources. The inventories of the house were very important—the inventory of 1626 belonging to the first occupant of the house and, in particular, the inventory that was compiled in 1656 because of Rembrandt’s bankruptcy. This latter source enabled the experts to work out how the house was laid out during this period and how Rembrandt had used the different rooms. Some of Rembrandt’s drawings and etchings provided additional sources of information about the interiors.
The structural drawings for the restoration were made by architect Maarten Neerincx in consultation with Zantkuijl. The work was done by the firms of Kneppers and Midreth. The restoration was completed in 1999.
Today the museum is devoted to exhibiting works by Rembrandt and his Dutch contemporaries, in addition to providing a home base for scholars to source and study all aspects of the master’s life and livelihood.
For more information, please visit the Rembrandt House website.
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