Rembrandt managed to tell a story in a way never done before, by using a new, clever technique. The light appears to shine from the table, making the historic moment even more heroic.
Light is an artist’s most important ingredient. With light, you can tell a story, direct the viewer’s gaze and create drama. Rembrandt was an absolute master of the use of light. Probably the most impressive example of this is The conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (1661–1662). The painting was so extreme, in both the technique used and the way in which the subject is portrayed, that the patron did not accept it. When it was eventually returned to Rembrandt, he cut the work into pieces and sold the main part to another buyer.
Prestigious commission for the new town hall
The painting was the most important commission in Rembrandt’s latter years and the largest painting he was ever to make: it measured 5.5 by 5.5 metres. The painting was commissioned by the burgomasters of Amsterdam for the gallery of the new town hall on Dam Square. It was a monumental building, which was constructed after the Eighty Years’ War with Spain. The overwhelming richness of the building displayed Amsterdam’s renewed civic pride and self-confidence. A large number of paintings were commissioned to decorate the town hall, including twelve works on the subject of the Batavian revolt.
Empty eye socket
Rembrandt painted Claudius Civilis from the front, so that you can clearly see that he is missing an eye. It is not a pleasant sight.
Rembrandt painted some of the people with great precision, while others were depicted with a few broad brushstrokes.
A hidden light source on the table casts its glow on those present, but even more strongly on the tablecloth. This reflection in turn lights up all the people from below.
Over het schilderij
- The conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (1661–1662)
- Canvas, 196 x 309 cm
- Stockholm, Nationalmuseum
On display at the ‘Late Rembrandt’ exhibition will be more than a hundred works created during the last phase of Rembrandt’s life. To get you in the mood, here are twelve works included in this spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
The Syndics, 1662
A meeting of five important inspectors of the Amsterdam drapers’ guild behind a table. Rembrandt turned this meeting into a visually exciting scene.Read more
Self Portrait with Two Circles, ca. 1665-1669
Rembrandt made many self-portraits during his career. What makes this one so notable is his ruthless honesty in portraying himself.Read more
Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, 1654
This is one of the most famous paintings hanging in Louvre. Here we see a beautiful young woman bathing. She has just read a letter and now finds herself in a dilemma.Read more
The Jewish Bride, ca. 1665
What you immediately notice about this large painting is Rembrandt’s rough application of paint. In this work, Rembrandt broke with all conventions of the day by smeering on and scratching through the paint.Read more
The Family Portrait, ca. 1665
‘The Family Portrait’ has not travelled since 1956. Just for this once, it is on loan to the Rijksmuseum especially for this exhibtion.Read more
A Woman bathing in a Stream, 1654
Here we see an alluring woman wading through the water while slowly lifting the hem of her dress. But who is this beauty?Read more
Recumbent Lion, ca. 1660-1665
Rembrandt preferred to draw lifelike representations of things he saw around him in real life. This lion is a good example.Read more
A Young Woman sleeping, ca. 1654
This drawing of a woman taking a quick nap is very typical of Rembrandt: an artist who was always recording the little scenes in his everyday life.Read more
Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph, 1656
When painting this Biblical story about Jacob, Rembrandt chose an unexpected moment that must have been a surprising choice for viewers of his day.Read more
Titus at his Desk, 1655
Rembrandt made clever use of painting techniques to evoke a sense of endearment when viewing this work in which we can recognise his own son.Read more
The conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis, ca. 1661-1662
In this painting, Rembrandt made use of a clever and entirely new technique to tell a story.Read more
Portrait of Frederick Rihel on Horseback, ca. 1663
As an artist, Rembrandt was familiar with the rules of portraiture but he pushed the boundaries whenever possible.Read more