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Welcome / Blog Archive / English / 2021-10-doc2 Rembrandt’s Money (forthcoming) – Rembrandt’s ‘bankruptcy’

2021-10-doc2 Rembrandt’s Money (forthcoming) – Rembrandt’s ‘bankruptcy’

The eye of the financial storm around Rembrandt concerns his ‘bankruptcy’, another episode covered in my forthcoming book ‘Rembrandt’s Money. The legal and financial life of an artist-entrepreneur in 17th century Holland’ (see and subsequent blogs since). In July 1656, Rembrandt requested a court to grant him ‘cessio bonorum’. The historic roots and the 17th century meaning of cessio bonorum (or assignment of an estate; in Dutch ‘boedelafstand’), the proceedings and all its legal consequences I am explaining in my book. In that regard it is a pleasure to announce a webinar on Wednesday 13 October 2 – 3 pm (14.00-15.00 hours CET), organised by the Younger Academics Network of Insolvency Law (YANIL) of INSOL Europe, where a Tilburg University colleague and I will speak on the topic:

Restructuring and Insolvency in the Reverse:

Mastering 17th Century Insolvency with Rembrandt

Dr. Maurits den Hollander (Tilburg University) will share insights from his dissertation (2021) dealing with historic restructuring and insolvency regimes in 17th century Amsterdam and I touch upon Rembrandt’s insolvency.


14:00-14:05 | Welcome

– Gert-Jan Boon (chair, YANIL)

14:05-14:40 | Restructuring and Insolvency in the Reverse:

Mastering 17th Century Insolvency with Rembrandt

Chair: Dr. Emilie Ghio (Lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland)


Dr. Maurits den Hollander (Assistant Professor at Tilburg University, the Netherlands)

Prof. Em. Bob Wessels (Emeritus professor at Leiden University, the Netherlands)

14:40-14:55 | Q&A

14:55-15:00 | AOB and Closing Remarks

– Eugenio Vaccari (chair, INSOL Early Research Academics)

– Gert-Jan Boon (chair, YANIL)

Register by email at:

In my short lecture, but more elaborate in my book, I will address the causes mentioned by Rembrandt in the application for cessio bonorum. He had apparently come into financial difficulties ‘… due to losses suffered in business, as well as damages and losses at sea’ (‘door verliesen geleden in de negotie alsmede schade ende verliesen bij der zee’) as well as his submission that he was threatened with being captured by his creditors (‘wert gedreijcht … te sullen werden overvallen’). Were these merely legal boiler-plate formulations that were standard in such an application? Was he being threatened by his former lover Geertje Dircx, having obtained a judgment allowing her to take legal action? A structural aspect of 17th century legal and historical research gets in the way to robust conclusions: the imperfect, incomplete, lacunal and sometimes only minor or unreliable sources. Insolvency law in Holland in the 17th century was something of a legal melting pot, which included canon law and Roman law, legislative collections like the Great Placard books, collections of jurisprudence, opinions of legal authors and the publications of Hugo de Groot (Grotius). In the city of Amsterdam, an Ordinance dated 1643 applied to insolvency matters. This mixed legal system of law in Holland, the result of the growth of an uncoordinated set of rules and principles, is referred to as Roman-Dutch law, a term still used today in South Africa.

Chamber of Abandoned and Insolvent Estates (Desolate Boedelskamer)

In this area of law, the Amsterdam Chamber of Abandoned and Insolvent Estates (Desolate Boedelskamer) had a specific role; in today’s terms it would be a partly administrative, partly legal institution. After my manuscript was in the hands of the publishers of my book (Wolters Kluwer) Den Hollander defended his PhD. Based on research in its ancient records, he evaluates how the Chamber of Abandoned and Insolvent Estates and its staff were able to contribute to the development of, what he terms as innovative insolvency procedures in 17th century Amsterdam. He has found that it was a rather small size organization with politically appointed commissioners. They managed the institution in a classic collegiate form of power-sharing, as part of their ‘civic duty’ as regents of the urban community. He also has found that the Chamber introduced important improvements to the existing insolvency procedure and practices, such as transparency, objectivity, and an equal treatment of all parties.

Sounds rather modern, and here comes the 1000 Euro question: can present and future insolvency law learn for 17th century ‘Holland’ law?

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 civil, 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 November 2021)