Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrandt’s first wife

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Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrandt’s first wife, by Govert Flinck, earlier attributed to Rembrandt

Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrandts eerste vrouw (or, Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrandt’s first wife), oil on panel, painted in 1633 by Govert Flinck (formerly attributed to Rembrandt), 72 cm x 48 cm, Das Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

The portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh, with the translated title ‘Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrandt’s first wife’ is an oil on panel painting created in 1633 by Govert Flinck, one of the pupils of Rembrandt van Rijn and one of the artists of his workshop. The painting was earlier attributed to Rembrandt.

Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612-1642), born in Leeuwarden, was the youngest of eight children of Rombertus van Uylenburgh, a top lawyer and a founder of the University of Franeker. Rembrandt met Saskia through her uncle and an art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh, with whom he was staying and who helped the artist with commissions for painting portraits.

Rembrandt married Saskia on June 22, 1634 in Het Bildt. In 1639, when Rembrandt’s art became a financial success, the couple moved to a prominent house (now the Rembrandt House Museum) in the Jodenbreestraat.

The first three children of the couple died shortly after birth and their fourth child Titus, born in 1641, survived into adulthood. Aged 29, Saskia died the following year (1642), probably from tuberculosis.

Saskia was Rembrandt’s model for some of his most acclaimed paintings and drawings.

The famous works of Rembrandt in which Saskia posed as the model for her husband include ‘Artemisia Receiving Mausolus’ Ashes’ (1634, Museo del Prado of Madrid), ‘Saskia as Flora’ (1635, National Gallery, London), and ‘The Prodigal Son in the Tavern’ (1635,modeled on Saskia and Rembrandt, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden).

After the death of Saskia, Hendrickje Stoffels, who lived in Rembrandt’s house first as a maid and later as his mistress or companion, took care of both Titus and Rembrandt. She is believed to have modeled for Bathsheba at Her Bath (1654), A Woman Bathing in a Stream, (1655, aka ‘Bathing Woman’) and other works of the artist.

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