Today, I want to introduce you to Saskia van Uylenburgh, the wife of Rembrandt van Rijn, who lived from 1612 to 1642.
Saskia was born in the city of Leeuwarden, Friesland in the Netherlands. She came from a family of note. Her father, Rombertus van Uylenburgh, was a top lawyer, a town burgomaster, and one of the founders of the University of Franeker (1583 – 1811).
The University of Franeker was made famous for its committed and remarkable professors and faculty members, among which was Johannes Maccovius, professor of theology in 1615, brother in law of Saskia van Uylenburgh. But I digress…
Saskia was the youngest of the eight children. She was orphaned by age twelve. Her mother, Sjoukje Ozinga, died in 1619 and her father five years later. It appears that she met Rembrandt at the home of her first cousin, Hendrick van Uylenburgh.
It was a love match!
Rembrandt and Saskia were engaged on June 5, 1633 and married on July 2, 1634. Saskia had fallen in love with an artist and had no qualms about marrying someone who was not of her social standing. It was a short marriage brought to the end by the passing of Saskia in 1642, most likely of tuberculosis. She was 29 years old.
Fast forward to 2019. On the commemoration of the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death, exhibitions across the Netherlands displayed portraits of Saskia, which told the story of their short marriage. The half-length figure of Saskia in a Red Hat, completed in 1642 after her death was exhibited in 2019 for the first time in 250 years.
“But there is one picture that is rarely seen, and has not moved from the wall in a German castle on which it has been hanging for the past 250 years. It is the great portrait of Saskia that concludes the Fries Museum show. Rembrandt had painted his wife not long after their marriage. But he did not complete the picture until after her death in 1642. He kept her likeness with him, among his close possessions, until financial troubles forced him to sell his own works, as well those in his collection. It was bought by his old friend, the collector Jan Six. Around 1750, the portrait passed to the Elector of Hesse-Kassel, and it has been in Kassel ever since, until now. Saskia has come home to Leeuwarden especially for this exhibition.” The Guardian
Asteroid 461 Saskia was discovered on October 22, 1900 by German astronomer Max Wolf at the Heidelberg Observatory in southwest Germany. Asteroid 461 was named after Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrandt’s beloved wife.