Tired, cranky, and tense, thanks to the inconsolable infant next door. Breakfast and a hot shower improved my mood before I Ubered over to the Rembrandt House for a three-hour tour (I can’t type that without hearing the theme from Gilligan’s Island). I booked it with Context Travel, based on the one other tour I’ve done with them at the Vatican Museum. http://www.contexttravel.com/city/amsterdam/walking-tour-details/rembrandts-amsterdam
Arrived at the Rembrandthuis and was delighted to discover the tour consisted of me, an American Rembrandt scholar for my guide, and a trainee docent, a Dutch woman from Rembrandt’s hometown of Leiden. Booyah! Let the education begin.
I was one enthralled client. Our timing was such that the man who does print demonstrations began the process to accommodate us. As he did each step, he explained both the how and the why of the process and how Rembrandt worked. Show and tell at its best. There were examples of the way Rembrandt changed plates over time, scraping away some figures, adding other details, how you can track the order in which a particular image evolves by putting the prints side by side.
He prepared to make a print on rag paper, explaining that Rembrandt also used linen, Japanese mulberry paper, and vellum. The demo guy used a decidedly anachronistic spatula to scrape the ink over the plate, then wiped it with cheesecloth, and finally his own chalked palm. One of those odd facts that will stick in my brain forever is the authentic tamp (instead of the spatula) was made from the skin of a dog. Since dogs don’t sweat they have no pores, and their skins were the best for not absorbing the ink.
Then he used the press to make a print. Magic! The print on the bottom is the one hot off the press.
Upstairs, in Rembrandt’s studio, there was another demo in progress; how Rembrandt made his paints. A woman ground organic pigments into linseed oil. I petted the brushes. Heaven.
My guide seemed to know pretty much everything there was to know about Rembrandt, his workshop, and clients. The Dutch trainee talked about the culture of the times. Big fun for me. Huge.
We parted in Dam Square after a brief walk around Rembrandt’s neighborhood. There was a funfair set up in the square, with carnival rides, a haunted house, ring toss type booths, lots of shrieking and screaming.
Welcome to hell.
I skedaddled around the side of the church to De Drie Graafjes café and ate a broodje on the second floor, watching the street scene below. Wandered afterward to the Nine Streets, known for boutiques of local designers/creators. Walked around until the no sleep thing cut my legs out from under me, and I headed back to my room. On the way, I passed a number of shops that reminded me just how seriously the Dutch take their cheese.
Very, very seriously.
Tomorrow, either back to the Rjiks or over to the outpost of the Hermitage museum for the Silk Road exhibit.