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8 Underrated Facts About Rembrandt Oil Paintings

Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, whose name is usually just shortened to Rembrandt, is one of the most notable painters of the Golden Age of Baroque in the 17th century. He was well-known for being technically masterful especially when it came to the juxtaposition of light and shadow.

His subject matter ranged diversely, including everything from landscapes to portraits and self-portraits. He also took inspiration from many places whether it was the world in front of him or the more fantastic realm of the religious or mythological. As a man with such talent, there are plenty of tidbits to know!

He Went Beyond the Portrait

Since cameras weren’t invented yet, portraits were the only way to display images of yourself and others in Rembrandt’s time. This was a genre of art that Rembrandt excelled at. He was known to not only capture the image of a person on canvas but to leave an impression fo their personality as well. A Rembrandt painting portrait was and is considered an especially special piece to have around. A lot of the emotion he displayed in these paintings is thanks to the lighting and expressions that Rembrandt used.

He Trained Under Pieter Lastman

As for education, Rembrandt abandoned his traditional university education in favor of becoming a painter. Once he made this decision, he moved to Amsterdam to study under the tutelage of Pieter Lastman. Lastman was a talented painter in his own right who focused on history and Christian inspirations. This is likely where he was instilled with his interest in biblical and historical subject matters. It also seems like Lastman passed on the influence of Caravaggio to Rembrandt.

He Liked to Insert Himself In His Work

With so many self-portraits available, seeing Rembrandt’s face isn’t uncommon in his own work. This isn’t the only place you might see him, though. He also had a habit of inserting himself into non-portrait pieces.

This was often the case in his biblically-inspired paintings. He often painted himself into the role of onlookers. This can be seen in works as early as The Stoning of Saint Stephen and later in the Raising of the Cross.

There Are Debates As to What’s His

Rembrandt didn’t slack in the amount of content he created. Over his lifetime, he was credited with thousands of not only paintings but sketches and etchings as well. But, have they all been accurately attributed to him over the years?

While his most famous works are likely correctly credited, many of his later discovered paintings weren’t signed. This has led to the hypothesis that some of his unsigned works might actually come from students and assistants of his.

He Used More Than One Signature

In most cases, an artist claims their work with a signature. When it comes to famous artists, there’s often a singular, most often used signature associated with them. Yet, this isn’t always their immediate choice. Rembrandt actually wen through three signatures throughout his career.

To start, he used a simple Latin monogram for his name, RHL, for REmbrandus Herman Leydensis. This later transitioned to RHL-van-Rijn. Finally, he settled on simply using “Rembrandt” to sign off on his work.

The Story Behind The Night Watch

The Night Watch is probably Rembrandt’s most well-known painting in his collection. However, there’s a larger story behind it or, at least, a rumor to dispel. For one, the setting of the painting isn’t actually a nighttime one.

A bigger point to make is that the painting was once rumored to have been a flop that marked the end of Rembrandt’s career. On the contrary, it was actually a rare situation in which the painting was met with praise nearly immediately.

He May Have Painted with Stereoblind Vision

It wasn’t until 2004 that a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School reviewed Rembrandt’s work and theorized that the artist may have been stereoblind. In other words, he couldn’t see in 3D thanks to a lack of alignment in his eyes. This, in theory, could have helped him recreate 3D objects onto a 2D art form since it was similar to how he saw the world around him. The idea is backed up by the self-portraits the artist drew that suggested he had unilateral strabismus.

He Has an Impressive Number of Self-Portraits

As has already been mentioned, Rembrandt was no stranger to self-portraits. The sheer number of these types of portraits he did is impressive, to say the least, and dwarves the collections of most of his contemporaries. Estimates put these self-portraits, both in paintings and sketches, at about 40 to 90 versions.


Rembrandt was a man of great talent and creativity and there’s plenty to know about him. These are some of the most underrated facts, but there’s plenty more to see if you’re interested in doing more research of your own! FactRetriever’s facts can we of great help on you searches on art.

Atif Mallo

Atif Mallo is a freelance blogger with huge interest in technology, science, life hacks and health. He loves coffee, cheesecake and chess. Drop a line in comments to leave feedback for him.

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