It pleases me greatly to have received several enthousiast reactions on my blog of two weeks ago, announcing the publication of my new book ‘Rembrandt’s Money’. The legal and financial life of an artist-entrepreneur in 17th century Holland, forthcoming in November 2021. See https://bobwessels.nl/blog/2021-07-doc6-rembrandts-money-forthcoming/. Let me now give you a peek on what the book covers and what it does not.
The study is organised in seven parts:
I CHILD OF HIS TIME – Towards the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands; The Van Rijn family in Leiden; Rembrandt’s early c.v.
II THE YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR – A young independent master in Leiden; The Uylenburgh years; Marriage to Saskia Uylenburgh
III INDEPENDENT MASTER IN AMSTERDAM – Business as usual; Telling legal matters; Rembrandt’s house and studio; The messy break-up with Geertje Dircx
IV PRELUDE TO INSOLVENCY – Life continues; Financial turmoil surfaces; Rembrandt, Titus and the house
V INSOLVENCY: PROCEEDINGS AND THEIR SETTLEMENT – Cessio bonorum; Position of Titus, his guardian and Saskia’s will; Liquidation of the estate and distribution of the dividends
VI STARTING ANEW – A PHOENIX COMPANY? – A ‘company’; Hendrickje Stoffels; Transactions and affairs
VII THE FINAL YEARS – Titus and his family; Rembrandt’s passing away; End of the Van Rijn line
It finalises with an Epilogue
What you get
What the reader gets is a detailed reconstruction of Rembrandt’s behaviour and actions and explain these from the legal-financial documentation studied, in light of the applicable law in those days and estimating the circumstances he found himself in. I hope to present insights into legal and financial matters surrounding Rembrandt and with that the historical and societal situation he found himself in, which in many respects is so totally different from the Netherlands today.
What I do not cover
Also responding to queries received earlier, now let me indicate what my study of the legal and financial life of Rembrandt does not do.
First of all, I do not claim to have unearthed new facts about Rembrandt. There is so much information (books; internet) available, that there is hardly anything new to report about the artist who became the face of the Dutch Golden Age. However, what the study does is focusing on the legal and financial aspects of Rembrandt as an entrepreneur and businessman, explaining and discussing these aspects, and attaching interpretations to them where possible.
Second. The book has taken the form of a case study. It is therefore limited in that the results of the research cannot be generalized. Therefore, for instance, no comparison of certain notarial deeds with many others to determine whether a certain regulation occurred more often, or was exceptional, or whether the causes stated in writing by Rembrandt for his insolvency (cessio bonorum) were unique to him or whether they were often repeated in comparable applications by way of standard wording. This publication may serve as the starting point for such comparative research by others.
Third, during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Low Lands went through long periods that I hardly cover. What is known as the (Dutch) Golden Age saw periods of war and belligerent rulers, was plagued-infested, with a high infant mortality rate (three of Rembrandt’s children died before they were three months old). Forms of intolerable human exploitation and discrimination occurred during the larger part of that era. The complexities of the subject of my study made it only possible for me to touch on these themes incidentally.
Fourth, and last, the book contains no illustrations and I do not discuss the iconographic side of Rembrandt’s work, the subjects tackled by him or how he represented what he wanted to say in his oeuvre. I try to abstain from psychologically analysing or fantasizing about his work, the motives behind his actions or the artist as a person. It’s a legal-financial case study which makes me wary to interpret situations for which no direct evidence is available. Any interested reader should consult other sources.
Runway to publication
Up to its publication I will regularly blog some background of the book’s themes and details of its content. I hope to be able to connect such information with actual developments in literature or shared via (virtual) meetings. Just let me explain to you that as main audience for readership I see legal and financial professionals, especially with an appetite for the developments in commercial and insolvency law in 17th century Holland. When details of the publication date will be known, I will inform you via this blog. And, by the way, if you are interested to get notified every time a blog appears, please follow Rembrandt’s Money on social media.
Information as to today:
Bob Wessels, ‘Rembrandt’s Money’. The legal and financial life of an artist-entrepreneur in 17th century Holland
Deventer: Wolters Kluwer. ISBN 9789013164893 (forthcoming Autumn 2021)