Today (July 15) is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt. He was born in Leiden and grew up to be one of the most famous painters the world has ever known. Besides just liking his paintings, I’ve got a genealogical interest in him…
Rembrandt was born in Leiden on July 15, 1606 as the son of the miller Gerrit van Rijn and his wife Cornelia van Zuydbroeck. He was educated in Leiden, first in Latin school and later he attended the university that had been established there in 1574. He had more interested in painting and his parents allowed him to be apprenticed to Jacob van Swanenburg and later to Jan Lievens.
Rembrandt and Saskia
By 1631, he had established himself in Amsterdam. He was doing so well that he was considered eligible to marry Saskia van Uylenburg, the great-niece of one of his patrons in 1634. The couple had several children who died in infancy. Their only surviving child was Titus, born in 1641. Saskia died in 1642, leaving Rembrandt to take care of his infant son.
Rembrandt hired Geertje Dircx, a soldier’s widow, to take care of Titus. She became not only his son’s nurse but also Rembrandt’s lover. She even dragged him into court for not marrying him. At that time she had been replaced by another young woman, Hendrickje Stoffels.
Hendrickje Stoffels was born in Bredevoort around 1623 (she was 23 years old when she testified on Rembrandt’s behalf in the court case in 1646). Her parents were the sergeant of the Bredevoort garrison Stoffel Jegers and Mechteld Lamberts. She had one sister and two brothers.
Here’s where my personal interest comes in. One of the brothers of Hendrickje Stoffels is my ancestor Harmen Jegers. Hendrickje is called either Stoffels (a patronymic) or Jegers.
Hendrickje became Rembrandt’s wife in all but law. She ran his household, bore his child, and later even ran his artdealership together with Titus when Rembrandt was on the verge of bankruptcy. Rembrandt was never able to marry her, Saskia’s will meant he could not remarry without loosing her sizeable estate.
Hendrickje Stoffels also modelled for Rembrandt. There are several oil paintings that show a woman suspected to be Hendrickje Stoffels.
Rembrandt outlived both Titus and Hendrickje. Hendrickje Stoffels died in 1663, Titus in 1668. Rembrandt passed away on October 4, 1669 and is burried in the Westerkerk.