Holland in the Age of Rembrandt

Country of Holland

The County of Holland a State of the Holy Roman Empire was a crucial part of the Habsburg Netherlands during the years 1482 to 1581 and became a leading province of the Dutch republic after 1581 and remained a part of it till the Batavian Revolution in 1795. The territory of the County of Holland corresponds roughly with the current provinces of North and South Holland in the Netherlands.

The county was roughly as large as the current Dutch provinces of North Holland and South Holland, as well as the northwestern part of the current province of North Brabant roughly between the towns of Willemstad, Geertruidenberg and Werkendam, and the islands of Terschelling, Vlieland, Urk and Schokland, although it excluded the island of Goeree-Overflakkee.

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Most of the Holland, current day Netherlands, was covered by peat bogs. These peat bogs not only restricted the size of arable land , but also was a good source of fuel. Small scale reclamation as close to 950 were set into motion on the enormous bogs in Holland and Utrecht, by the minor nobility. The 'Great Reclamation’, was born in the 11th century, under the leadership of the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht. Till the 13th century large parts of land in the north, the dunes in the west, the Lek and Waal Rivers in the south and the Old Rhine in the east had been reclaimed.

According to the evidences, Before the Great Reclamation, Holland and the bishopric of Utrecht had borders between them but they were very unclear, so much so that there existed a literal no-man's land. However, the counts of Holland were successful in expanding their influence at the cost of Utrecht during the period of the Great reclamation.

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Introduction: Rembrandt

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on 15 July 1606 and lived till 4 October 1669. He was a Dutch painter and etcher. Rembrandt is considered as one of the post prominent and famous painters and printmakers in European art culture since the early 1600’s. He played a pivotal role in the molding of the Dutch history and is considered an important part of the history. His various artistic contributions were seen in an age when there flourished a great wealth and cultural achievement in the Dutch Golden Age as the historians call it. During the Dutch Golden Age painting, as the Baroque style prevailed in Europe, Rembrandt’s paintings and etchings were considered extremely prolific and innovative. It gave birth to present day important genres in painting.

Rembrandt saw a lot of hardships and tragedies in his personal life leaving him with financial hardships till the end of his life. Yet he was one of the most celebrated artists in his time and his reputation and popularity soared with the passing time and increasing experience. He achieved early success in his youth as a portrait painter.

His success was so much so that he trained the most important Dutch painters in his life where he tutored artists for twenty years. Rembrandt's most prominent creative pieces exemplified most notably in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

Works of Rembrandt influencing Holland

Rembrandt created almost over 600 paintings, 400 etchings and 2,000 drawings. It is likely it is presumed that Rembrandt made many more drawings in his lifetime than 2,000. The most prominent characteristic of Rembrandt's work is the fine use of chiaroscuro. He is famous for his dramatic and lively creations of subjects, ignoring the stringent formality that his fellow artists often displayed. His paintings, etchings and drawings always reflected immense compassion for mankind, irrespective of wealth and age. Most of his work has His immediate family—his wife Saskia, his son Titus and his common-law wife Hendrickje. He often projected them as his prominent figures in his paintings.

Rembrandt’s style and period

All through his career Rembrandt depicted his primary subjects and themes through portrait, landscape and narrative paintings. He gained a lot of praises for his narrative paintings especially by his contemporaries, who lauded him for his excellence in interpreting biblical stories creating every piece of art with utmost emotions and detail.

Rembrandt’s art developed with passing time and we see development in his etching or printmaking style. His etchings reflect a sense of maturity and stability of nature particularly during the late 1640s. His works cover an array of subject matter and technique, sometimes leaving large areas of white paper to suggest space, at other times employing complex webs of line to produce rich dark tones.

During the period of 1625 and 1631 Rembrandt’s Lastman’s influence was the most prominent. His Paintings now were rather small, but consisted of a plethora of details in each like a detailed costume along with jewelry. He favored to depict Religious and allegorical themes along with tronies. In 1626 Rembrandt produced his first etchings whose wide appreciation gave Rembrandt an international fame. The completion of Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver and The Artist in His Studio in 1629 became very popular thus giving him an image of an artist who has interest in the handling of light and variety of paint application.

In the later years of Rembrandt’s art, biblical scenes were still depicted often, but his emphasis shifted from dramatic group scenes to intimate portrait-like figures like in his work James the Apostle in 1661. In the last years of his life, specifically from 1652 to 1669, Rembrandt painted fifteen of his most deeply reflective self-portraits and several moving images of both men and women shown in his work The Jewish Bride created in1666.

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