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New Rembrandt Route takes in seven Leiden University buildings

Seven large reproductions of works by Rembrandt on seven Leiden University buildings reveal the relationship between the painter and the University. Rembrandt van Rijn enrolled in the University in 1620 and painted the portraits of various alumni of the University. In addition, the University Library has around 100 Rembrandt prints in its collection.

The outdoor exhibition Rembrandt & Leiden University: The Bigger Picture is a gift from the University to the residents of and visitors to Leiden. The year 2019 is the 444th anniversary of the University’s ‘birth’ and the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. For this special year, the municipality of Leiden has, as an exception, granted the University special permission to hang canvasses on a number of buildings, many of which are listed. The exhibition runs from mid-May 2019 to the start of February 2020. The first canvas, on the facade of the University Library, was hung up on 13 May.

The enrollment of 'Rembrandus Hermanni' in the album studiosorum in 1620. This admissions register is still kept in the University Library.


Rembrandt, who was born and bred in Leiden, enrolled as a student of the arts in the University in 1620. That is why a reproduction of his Self-Portrait with Gorget (from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum) can be seen on the Lipsius building that houses the Faculty of Humanities. Whether the young Rembrandt actually attended lectures is unknown. He attended the Latin School in Leiden, and pupils in the top class often enrolled in the University because the school was seen as preparation for university. In his work, Rembrandt does appear to have been inspired by the academic setting and University facilities such as the anatomical theatre and the Hortus botanicus. He also painted the portraits of various distinguished men who studied in Leiden.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait in a Heavy Fur Cap, 1631, etching, 63 x 57 mm, Leiden University Library (photo Marc de Haan)

Rembrandt collection in the University Library

A large reproduction of a small etching from Rembrandt’s Leiden period is on display at the University Library on Witte Singel. This self-portrait is one of the around 100 Rembrandt prints in the Leiden University collection. The Library also has two drawings by Rembrandt and works by his pupils and studio staff.

Marten Soolmans and Dr Tulp studied in Leiden

The famous portrait of Leiden law alumnus Marten Soolmans (Rijksmuseum/Musée du Louvre) can now be seen gracing the Leiden School of Law. Marten studied law in Leiden between 1627 and 1633. Another Leiden alumnus takes the leading role in a second famous painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (Mauritshuis). Tulp studied medicine in Leiden, learnt the ropes in the anatomical theater and called himself after the tulip (tulp is the Dutch for tulip), the flower that was introduced to the Netherlands through the Hortus botanicus in Leiden.

Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, 169.5 x 216.5 cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Minerva and Flora

At the University’s Academy Building, two large reproductions of goddesses depicted by Rembrandt can be seen: Minerva (The Leiden Collection) and Flora (State Hermitage Museum). Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, has been the symbol of Leiden University for decades and is part of its logo. Flora, the goddess of spring and flowers, represents the beauty of the flowers that can be seen in the Hortus botanicus in Leiden.

History Painting from Museum De Lakenhal

The University collaborated with some of the leading museums in Europe and The Leiden Collection in America to produce the exhibition. There is also a work from Museum De Lakenhal: the History Painting that can be seen at Gravensteen comes from the collection of this Leiden museum, which reopens on 20 June after years of renovation work. The exhibition ‘The Young Rembrandt 1624-1634,’ which opens at De Lakenhal on 2 November, will be about Rembrandt’s Leiden years.  

Text: Linda van Putten
Photos: Marc de Haan
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