Universiteit Leiden

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About the Rembrandt Route

The year 2019 is the 444th anniversary of the University’s ‘birth’ and the 350th anniversary of painter, draughtsman and engraver Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). Reason therefore to celebrate both 444 years of Leiden University and Rembrandt Year. But what was the connection between Rembrandt, the most famous Dutch master of them all, and Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands? The answer can be found in the Rembrandt & Leiden University: The Bigger Picture route.

Enrolled in the University

Rembrandt, who was born and bred in Leiden, was enrolled as a student in Leiden University. Our anatomical theatre and Hortus botanicus would certainly have inspired him, and he painted the portraits of various distinguished men who studied in Leiden. What is more, the University Library has around 100 prints and two drawings by Rembrandt in its collection.

The route, which takes in seven University buildings

Portraits of alumni

This walking tour takes in seven University buildings, where you will see large reproductions of works by Rembrandt that have a special link to the University. You will see two of our alumni: Marten Soolmans, who studied law in Leiden and is now gracing the building of his faculty, the School of Law; and Dr Tulp, who trained as a physician in Leiden and attended lessons at the anatomical theatre on Rapenburg. His anatomy lesson is on display in the garden of the old University Library (Oude UB). Tulp took as his surname the Dutch word for the tulips that he saw flowering in the Hortus botanicus. The tulip can also be seen in Saskia’s headdress in Rembrandt’s painting of her as Flora.


You will see Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and symbol of Leiden University, pictured with a large book on the façade of the Academy Building. When he lived just a few minutes’ walk from this Building, Rembrandt produced two self-portraits – one a painting and the other an etching – that you will now see on the route. A reproduction of the painting, the mysterious History Painting, can be seen at Gravensteen. The original will be on show again in Museum De Lakenhal from June 2019.

Gift to the city

This route is about not just Rembrandt, but also his peers who studied at Leiden University in the 17th century. This outdoor exhibition is our gift to the city to celebrate our 444th birthday. For this special year, the municipality of Leiden has granted special permission for this exhibition that takes in several listed buildings.

So follow the route, see the bigger picture and discover the connections between Rembrandt, Leiden and the University.

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