Rembrandt Laboratory at Museum Het Rembrandt-huis, Amsterdam

Left: Rembrandt, Portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, 1634. Rijksmuseum Collection/ Musée du Louvre Collection [seen as a reproduction in the exhibition] | Right: Macro X-Ray Fluorescence (MA-XRF) scan of Rembrandt’s portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, 1634. Image: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Interested in how Rembrandt created his paintings, etchings, drawings? Interested in testing your scientific skills? Consider yourself a bit of a Sherlock Holmes? Visit this exhibition to not just learn about Rembrandt’s techniques, but apply what you learn and try distinguish fakes from the real thing!

The exhibition is located in the modern part of Rembrandt’s former home, where he also had his studio and worked with his master-students. On two floors, visitors not just see works by the master. In a lab-like environment, they learn more about the latest techniques helping art historians and scientists determine what is a “fake” and what is real.

Take time for this exhibition and don’t skip the introductory video. Once ready, have a good look at the painting, etching, or drawing. Then follow the numbered steps at the “lab tables” in the middle of each room to find out, if you are as good as the experts!

In this “Rembrandt Laboratory”, not just Rembrandt’s techniques are investigated. Visitors learn more about the dilemmas researchers, curators, restorers and scientists face. Young and old are challenged to take tests and watch results. If you pass all without a single mistake, maybe you should consider a career-change?

At the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt’s Night Watch was being investigated using a Macro X-Ray Fluorescence machine a few months ago. This machine is now used not just to investigate works by Rembrandt. Though the results of it scanning Marten and Oopjen are revealed on the second floor.

How this machine works and its results are explained in detail. This machine allows researchers and restorers to “see underneath” layers of paint without damaging a work of art. Take the masterpiece hanging nearby: how did Rembrandt paint “Man wearing a red hat”?

For a long time, experts thought they knew exactly which paints Rembrandt used. In this exhibition it is explained why they were mistaken and what pigments, including toxic ones, Rembrandt actually used. And what about preparing the cloth, before Rembrandt started painting? All is explained, but if you think this is only about paintings you are mistaken.

Prints and drawings also await your scientific scrutiny! The drawing seems to show Saskia, but which ink did Rembrandt use and what happened next? Is it only ink? And what about Rembrandt’s prints and copper plates he used? He altered one by Hercules Seegers; did the same happen to his copper plates? 

This interactive exhibition also shows new discoveries. These range from pigments to what was found in the cesspit of Rembrandt’s home. New technologies not just show how Rembrandt changed paintings, drawings, prints, but also reveal more about the collaboration between the master and his students.

The museum mentions: “… this exhibition is divided into three parts: ‘Hidden ingredients’, ‘Rembrandt riddles’ and ‘Rembrandt at work’. In each part, a number of ongoing studies are discussed, in which the visitor is given the opportunity to think along with you about the results. A total of six cases with different research questions are highlighted”.

Definitely a hands-on experience, suitable for young and old and not just interesting for those who only want to stare at great art. Learn how IT, mathematics, science and other disciplines work together and investigate art by Rembrandt – and other artists.   Kate    27th September 2019


REMBRANDT LABORATORY continues until 16th February 2020