A seagull is sitting on Rembrandt’s head. Not his actual head – this year marks the 350th anniversary of his death – but a cast-iron statue in Amsterdam’s Rembrandt Square. On one side of the monument, neon palm trees tempt passers-by into Smokey’s coffee house. On the other, a brasserie called Titus, after Rembrandt’s son, cashes in on his name.
What would Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69), the finest painter, draughtsman and etcher of Holland’s Golden Age, have made of this commercialised scene?
I doubt he’d have minded much, because he was nothing if not materialistic. As well as a “painter”, he described himself as a “koopman”, or businessman. In his pomp during the 1630s and ’40s, when he had...
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