#FridayPainting: Rembrandt van Rijn “Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh”

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.

15 Replies to “#FridayPainting: Rembrandt van Rijn “Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh””

  1. I like this painting, because it is beautiful, but also because of the love and the story that is attached to it. So sad that she passed away so young. I also enjoyed the painting on our Art Calendar! ! I wondered if you would put it on your blog. Thank you for sharing the additional information! !

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    1. The moment I saw this painting in our art calendar, I felt drawn to it. I would pass by and pause for a moment just to look at it. I had no knowledge of the love story behind it but something about the portrait resonated with me. When I did some research, the painting become more meaningful and memorable. Just an update on our 2022 calendar. It’s on order and I expect it to arrive just as we turn from 2021 to 2022. Stay tuned…

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  2. A beautiful painting indeed. How sad that Saskia died so young. I can so imagine Rembrandt working to finish the painting after her death. His heart must have been heavy, but he soldiered on and completed this enduring and amazing tribute to her. ❤

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    1. I agree – a very sorrowful time for Rembrandt. When I read that he finished the painting after her death, it was a reminder that, when we see an end, we will go back in time to remember the beginning. Knowing the back story of a painting enhances our emotional response to art and the artist. I am delighted that you joined me in the Vancouver Art Gallery!

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      1. Always a pleasure to join you, Rebecca. I btiefly saw your post about Monet a couple of days ago, but can’t find it now. Can you please give me the link? 🙂 xxx

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    1. Dies ist das erste Mal, dass ich von Saskia als Frau von Rembrandt hörte. Gemälde erzählen uns wundervolle Geschichten. Ich wünsche dir einen schönen Tag, mein Freund. Willkommen zu einer neuen Woche.

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    1. This is the very first time that I read about Saskia. It is always easy to marvel at Rembrandt’s paintings and extraordinary genius, but the stories behind the paintings give so much understanding to who he was! Sending many hugs!

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    1. I confess, Mary Jo, this is the first time I heard about Saskia. Every time that I walked passed my Art Calendar on May 26, I had to pause and simply look into the painting. Can you imagine what it would be like to see this painting in person. Rembrandt brought his wife to life, young and full of expectation for the future. Sending many hugs your way!

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