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Directed by Rembrandt

Rembrandt was a masterful storyteller. But instead of words, he told his stories in pictures. He carefully ‘directed’ his characters, using tricks from the world of theatre. In spring 2024, Museum Rembrandthuis will host the exhibition Directed by Rembrandt. It showcases the close connection between Rembrandt’s art and Amsterdam’s theatre scene. It is the first exhibition to portray Rembrandt as a director.

The Rembrandt House Museum will be borrowing several masterpieces for the exhibition, including the painting Joseph Accused by Potiphar’s Wife (1655) from Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie, returning for three months to the place it was originally painted.

The exhibition Directed by Rembrandt will be open from 2 March to 26 May 2024 in the Rembrandt House Museum. The press preview will take place on Tuesday 27 February 2024.

Rembrandt: telling stories in pictures

The exhibition Directed by Rembrandt takes visitors into the ‘producer’s office’ and explores the ways in which Rembrandt ‘directed’ his compositions. Rembrandt was keenly aware that selecting the right dramatic moment from a story was key to a painting’s success. Painters often chose a turning point in a story – a concept known in theatre terms as ‘peripeteia’. This is the decisive moment when the main or other character gains a profound insight, often prompted by a sudden event. Many artists imbued their paintings with drama by depicting a character’s emotional outburst after this turning point. Rembrandt, however, preferred to depict the preceding moment– just before the climax. This approach draws the viewer into the moment, creating a sense of empathy and emotional engagement. A fantastic example of this is his painting of Susanna, on loan from The Mauritshuis (The Hague). Rembrandt depicts a nude Susanna, stepping into the pool for a bath, when she suddenly realizes she is being spied on by two men with unwholesome intentions.

Rembrandt looking in the mirror

As a director of his stories, Rembrandt applied a variety of techniques that were also used in theatre. One of them, which he explored from a very early age, was to look at facial expressions: he would act in front of the mirror and reproduce his reflection in etchings. He also learned about the universal hand gestures used by orators and actors to emphasize their words, and visited theatres and other venues to study costumes. Rembrandt had a predilection for dramatic lighting, and his pupils adopted this penchant for drama: they would occasionally model for each other in complicated poses. Visitors will learn about these and other aspects of Rembrandt’s role as a director through etchings, drawings, and paintings. Three of his masterpieces (Susanna, Joseph Accused by Potiphar’s Wife, and The Hundred Guilder Print) offer a more in-depth look at how Rembrandt employed theatre techniques and to what effect.

Rembrandt, the theatre-goer

The exhibition also touches on Rembrandt’s visits to the theatre. In Rembrandt’s time, Amsterdam’s theatre scene was undergoing drastic change. Until the early seventeenth century, theatre was a privilege of the elite and was performed in exclusive clubs known as chambers of rhetoric. The theatre experience of the less wealthy urban population was limited to sporadic street performances, such as during the autumn fair where charlatans and international touring theatre companies would perform. But this changed dramatically with the opening of the first theatre in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam, in January 1638. From then on, audiences could see performances as often as twice a week. There were three circles: expensive box seats, standard gallery seats, and cheap standing room.

Rembrandt visited the theatre, drew actors, and became acquainted with playwrights and theatre directors. Moreover, he lived close to the area where the bulk of the theatre repertoire was generated. The island of Vlooienburg, now the Waterlooplein, was home to Sephardic Jews who brought Spanish theatre to Amsterdam and translated it into Dutch. These pieces enjoyed resounding success.

Exhibition at The Amsterdam City Archives

At the same time as the exhibition Directed by Rembrandt, the Amsterdam City Archives will be organizing an exhibition in its Treasure Room. This exhibition highlights the wider context of the Stadsschouwburg of Amsterdam, its playwrights and actors, and its role in the city.




Rembrandt’s Peacocks

01.07.23- 15.10.23 

Rembrandt painted two peacocks – dead peacocks to be specific. It is a very special work of art. There is only a single other painting by him in which a dead bird plays the leading role (The Bittern Hunter, 1639). The picture with the peacocks has the character of a decorative piece, a work of art meant to enliven an interior. These were often hung up high, for example above a door. Peacocks are suitable subject matter for such a decorative piece, because it conjures the atmosphere of the countryside.

Coincidence or not, Rembrandt painted the peacocks around the time that he came to live in this house on the Jodenbreestraat. Perhaps he even made it for his own new house. In this way he could bring a piece of idyllic country life into his residence in the busy city.

In the multimedia tour you can find two ways of looking at and experiencing Rembrandts Still Life with Peacocks, much like a guided meditation.

Framing Rembrandt

November 4, 2023 – February 5, 2024

Rembrandt has many faces: the genius, the miller’s son, the rebel. All of these labels were pasted onto the famous artist over the centuries. In the exhibition Framing Rembrandt, The Rembrandt House Museum will take you on a journey along four centuries of imaging, through art, documents and surprising objects. Additionally, one of the exhibition rooms will be converted into a cinema, where fragments from biopics (biographical fiction films) about Rembrandt will be shown; from the earliest film from 1920 and a Nazi propaganda film from 1942, to the latest film adaptation of Rembrandt’s life made in 2006.

Rembrandt Open Studio

After a successful first edition of Rembrandt Open Studio in 2020, with artists Iriée Zamblé (1995, Amsterdam) and Timothy Voges (1993, Curacao), and this summer’s temporary tattoo studio which was run by Henk Schiffmacher (1952, Harderwijk) and Tycho Veldhoen (date, place), two contemporary artists will again work at Rembrandt’s home this autumn. Abul Hisham (1987, place) and Guy Vording (1985, place) will work in a studio in the Rembrandt House Museum for a month and a half. Hisham and Vording, just like Rembrandt himself, have their own styles and idiosyncratic views of the world.  They also share Rembrandt’s talent for telling stories, managing to capture a memory, social criticism, situation, or character sketch all in a single image.

With its Rembrandt Open Studio initiative, The Rembrandt House Museum repeats its own history. Rembrandt’s house was already a creative hub back in the seventeenth century, a place where Rembrandt and his students created art every day. Now, 400 years later, artists once again have the opportunity to work in Rembrandt’s house. The studio is inside the museum: it gives visitors an opportunity to see the process of creating contemporary art up close and meet a new generation of talented makers.

Rembrandt Open Studio with Abul Hisham and Guy Vording will take place from 1 October to 15 November 2023 in The Rembrandt House Museum.

Abul Hisham:

Being given the opportunity to interact more with the visitors will be a new experience for me, one that I look forward to: I like to meet and talk to people and I’m happy that I’ll be able to show them my practice personally.


Guy Vording:

‘I really believe that a residency in the Rembrandt House, immersed in its history, its residents and the public, will enhance Rembrandts’ influence on my work. I’m looking forward to this game, this interaction, like a student guided by the master.’



Abul Hisham (1987)  Hisham mainly works with pastels and raw pigments on wood. In this respect, he considers Rembrandt to be a great example: Rembrandt’s method of preparation and application of paint inspires Hisham in his own artistic practice. Many of Hisham’s artworks form a series; together, they reveal a bigger picture that deals with desires, death, religion and socio-political systems. His personal memories of his life and family in India often find their way into his art. Even so, he does not reveal everything; viewers are given the freedom to personally unravel and interpret the layers of symbols and meanings. Hisham completed his master’s degree in Hyderabad, India in 2012, and has been working as a visual artist ever since. In 2021, he moved to the Netherlands to follow a study programme at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten (State Academy of Fine Arts), which he completed this year.

Abul Hisham, Portrait of a Lawyer, 2022


Hisham: ‘As a painter I feel a great kinship with Rembrandt’s works. I still remember how I used Rembrandt’s famous painting of Belsshazar’s Feast as a reference. I have always been fascinated by his use of colour and texture, his experiments and his compositions. It is a rare experience to be working so close to his own studio, printmaking space and the collection of his etchings. I feel that through this residency I can continue my practice, research and experiment in Rembrandt’s footsteps. Being given the opportunity to interact more with the visitors will be a new experience for me, one that I look forward to: I like to meet and talk to people and I’m happy that I’ll be able to show them my practice personally.

Website: Rijksakademie – Abul Hisham


Guy Vording (1985) Vording is a real disciple of Rembrandt when it comes to knowing what to leave out and what to draw attention to in order to successfully convey a story. His artwork starts with American magazine articles from the 1940s, which he has been collecting in albums for years. After choosing a suitable page, Vording first decides which part of the illustration and text he wants to keep, then fills in the rest with pencil. What remains is a surprising, new visual story, which often deals with people’s inner lives versus social expectations or assumptions. Vording graduated from the HKU (University of the Arts Utrecht) in 2013, and has been working as a visual artist ever since.

Guy Vording, Black Pages: Vanavond niet (Black Pages: Not Tonight), 2020.


Vording: ‘Although it’s in my nature to cling to my own familiar studio, in recent months I’ve started to explore places outside of it. The fact that I now have the opportunity to work in the same house as Rembrandt is a real honour, and couldn’t have come at a better time. Rembrandt’s etchings have always attracted me, and consciously and unconsciously influenced my work, especially in my Black Pages series. I recognise the fine lines that he has placed in a controlled manner and the play of light and shadow. For this reason, I believe that a residency in the Rembrandt House, immersed in its history, its residents and the public, will enhance Rembrandts’ influence on my work. I’m looking forward to this game, this interaction, like a student guided by the master.’

Website: Kunstenaar | Guy Vording | Amsterdam

Rembrandt & Love

July 1 – October 15, 2023

Rembrandt is known as a passionate man. But do you see that reflected in his etchings? In the summer exhibition Rembrandt and Love you’ll look at love through Rembrandt’s eyes: from dramatic love to parental love, from charity to love for animals. Of course, Rembrandt’s own love life will also be featured: the artist immortalized his first great love, Saskia Uylenburgh, on the etching plate more than once. Rembrandt and Love will show more than 50 etchings from the collection of The Rembrandt House Museum. You can’t help but fall in love.

Great love

There is no doubt about who Rembrandt’s great love was. That was Saskia Uylenburgh, the daughter of the burgomaster of Leeuwarden. The couple married in 1634 and had a son. Quite soon disaster struck: Saskia died in 1642. Rembrandt was devastated by her death. After Saskia he went on to have love affairs with Geertje Dircx and Hendrickje Stoffels. But he only ever made etchings of Saskia. Rembrandts etched her at her most beautiful, hung with pearls, but also at her most vulnerable, during her sickbed. The exhibition Rembrandt & Love goes beyond Rembrandt’s great love. The eight themes that follow reveal all of Rembrandt’s loves, both in life and in art.

Getting to know Rembrandt

Rembrandt etched several scenes of dramatic love. They demonstrate his passion for grand and compelling stories. But his prints also feature playful love between people. His depictions of parental love and charitable love show his great empathy. And because of the many dogs sniffing around in his etchings, we can be fairly certain that Rembrandt must have been a “dog person”. His prints also reveal what Rembrandt’s two greatest hobbies were: collecting rarities for his art room and taking walks in and around Amsterdam – with both forms of pastime, he united the pleasant with the useful. And what about his self-portraits? Was this self-love, or just clever marketing?

A good look

Many of Rembrandt’s etchings in Rembrandt & Love are an invitation to look closely. After all, the display of love is not always laid on thick. Take, for example, one of Rembrandt’s most famous etching: The Three Trees from 1643. The swelling clouds, the pelting rain and the lone group of trees provide a lot of drama. This suits the fierce passion of the young couple. Can you spot the tucked-away lovers in this etching?

Titus is back Home

A Son, a Father, a Masterpiece
March 18 – June 4, 2023

The young Titus van Rijn stares dreamily over the edge of his lectern. Father Rembrandt caught his gaze in 1655, when he lived with his family in the stately building on the Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam. Nearly 400 years later, we managed to get Titus back home – to the place where Rembrandt’s masterpiece was painted, in the house where Titus was born. In The Rembrandt House Museum you will come face-to-face with the iconic painting from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam). A special room in the exhibition The Art of Drawing will offer a unique experience: visitors will be offered a guided viewing, like a guided meditation, with three options: an art historical story, a psychological description of father and son, and different types of musical accompaniment. With every option, you’ll discover something new in Rembrandt’s famous painting.

‘Titus Returns Home’ is made possible thanks to the ‘Buitenkans’-project of the Turing Foundation and the Vereniging Rembrandt and thanks to the lender Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. ‘Buitenkans’ offers art museums in the Netherlands the opportunity to organize a small presentation around a loan from another Dutch public collection. This is the first exhibition of this project.


The longer you look at Rembrandt’s famous portrait of his son Titus, the more you see. In The Rembrandt House Museum you can get some one-on-one time with Titus. In the multimedia tour you will find three ways to view and experience the painting, a kind of guided meditation. Would you like a preview? Click on the video and meditate with Titus, accompanied by sounds from the artist’s studio. What effect does this sound have on how you experience the painting?

The Art of Drawing

74 drawings by Rembrandt, Bol, Maes and others
The Peck Collection, Ackland Art Museum (USA)
March 18 – June 11, 2023

For the first time on view in Europe: 74 drawings from The Peck Collection (Ackland Art Museum, USA). The exhibition The Art of Drawing in The Rembrandt House Museum will feature works by Rembrandt, Bol, Maes and their contemporaries. You can hardly get any closer to an artist than through his drawings. Along the drawing lines, you can follow the artist’s hand – whether it’s a quick sketch or a meticulously finished artwork. The exhibition The Art of Drawing will be divided into seven chapters, which together answer the central question: ‘Why did a seventeenth-century artist make drawings?’ In the new, third exhibition room, the museum will host drawing workshops using seventeenth-century techniques and materials.


Click here for more information on the Peck collection

This exhibition has been organized by the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

See all activities surrounding the exhibition The Art of Drawing here

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