The Shipbuilder and his Wife Rembrandt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Rembrandt van Rijn was around 27 years of age when he put together this portrait of The Shipbuilder and his Wife in 1633

On other occasions Rembrandt had chosen to produce protraits of couples as two separate canvases, where as in this example he puts them together. This gives a great interaction and closeness which perhaps was the request of the commissioning couple.

Jan Rijcksen (1560/2-1637) and his wife Griet were connected to the wealthy Dutch East India company which explains how they were able to afford Rembrandt's highly fashionable services. The husband in this portrait, Jan, was a high ranking ship builder who would have been hansomely rewarded for his business-critical work.

The painting was purchased by George IV in 1811 for 5,000 guineas and has remained in the prestigious Royal Collection ever since. Its value now would clearly be in the millions of pounds but it is rare for such paintings to ever come up for a public auction. In such cases, national governments will often interveen inorder to avoid such significant cultural assets from leaving the country.

Rembrandt was skilled in multiple mediums and produced an etching based on the same theme as that found here. That work featured greater space around the two subjects, suggesting that this painting may have originally been upon a larger canvas before being cropped down. That may have been done at the request of the couple commissioning the piece, after hanging it in their home and finding it a little too large.

The amended piece measures 113.8 by 169.8 centimetres, which is still fairly large for a residentially-displayed piece of artwork, although homes in those days could potentially be somewhat larger.