Online exhibition - Rembrandt and Leiden University
Rembrandt van Rijn is inextricably linked to the city of Leiden. He was born and raised here, went to school in the city, and spent the early years of his career in Leiden, a career that would one day make him one of the greatest painters in Dutch history. There is a similar connection between Rembrandt and Leiden University. He matriculated on 20 May 1620 as a student of literature and continued his studies until at least 1622. Rembrandt’s matriculation is kept at Leiden University Libraries (UBL), along with countless other sources on his life and work. A collection of etchings by Rembrandt, and works by childhood friends and other contemporaries are some of the crowning pieces in the Leiden Special Collections. The online exhibition 'Rembrandt and Leiden University'' presents a selection from the UBL Special Collections - sources, documents, etchings, and drawings by and about Rembrandt and his contemporaries.
Rembrandt’s reputation as perhaps the most striking artist in the history of Dutch art is undisputed. Exhibitions devoted to Rembrandt’s work are always assured of ample public attention; they always raise a crowd. Newly discovered paintings, changing attributions, new biographical data draw the public’s attention and fill newspapers, magazines and online fora. He is revered by art dealers, museums and libraries alike. In that respect, Leiden University Libraries is no exception.
A New Document
In 2019, a new document was found in the Leiden University archives at the UBL, Rembrandt’s renewed matriculation from 1622. What the exact nature of this document is, is discussed extensively in the exhibition. The finding that Rembrandt registered not once, but twice at Leiden University sheds new light on his formative years in Leiden and therefore on his biography.
Rembrandt and the University Library
In Rembrandt’s time the University Library was still a modest institution, since then, however, it has grown into Leiden University Libraries, a repository for millions of books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, photos, maps, and kilometres of historical archives. This also includes an extensive collection of prints and drawings by mainly Dutch artists, including Rembrandt. Leiden University Libraries does not only hold works by and after Rembrandt, but also sources and documents relating to his life and work, making it possible to place Rembrandt’s work in the context of the city of Leiden in the years 1620-1631. These sources and documents include the first biography on Rembrandt by Jan Jansz. Orlers from 1641, a bird's-eye view map by Pieter Bast (ca. 1550-1605) from 1600, showing Rembrandt’s family home and the Latin school he went to in detail, and the registers of Leiden University that exhibit Rembrandt’s enrollment as student.
In the publication Rembrandt en de Universiteit Leiden, Jef Schaeps, curator of Prints and Drawings and Mart van Duijn, curator of Western Manuscripts and Archives, discuss a selection of Rembrandt's work from the collections of Leiden University: sources, documents, etchings and drawings – including Rembrandt's re-registration at Leiden University discovered in 2019. They paint a picture of Rembrandt's time in Leiden, from his birth in 1606 until his departure to Amsterdam in 1631.
The booklet can be ordered in bookshops and and is for sale at Leiden University Press for €12.50.