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Rembrandt, de verwarde bruidegom

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

The signature on Rembrandt's little sketch of Saskia in silver point on parchment, bearing the date '8 juni 1633', has long been a source of puzzlement. For how can Rembrandt's remarks - that Saskia was his wife and that on June 8 of that year the couple had been married for three days - be reconciled with the true date of their wedding, June 22 1634, recorded in the register of marriages of Sint-Annaparochie in Friesland? There is however an explanation for the mystifying caption. First, Rembrandt had written that Saskia was 21 years old. Her baptism was registered on August 2 1612, so that she was still only 20 in June 1633. Furthermore, it was compulsory by law to give notice of a marriage, after registration at the town hall and prior to the actual ceremony, by means of a public announcement in the next three weeks. The banns were usually called in church on three successive Sundays. Rembrandt's and Saskia's first bann was called in the church at Sint-Annaparochie on Sunday June 8 1634 - according to the Julian calendar still used in Friesland at that time, which was ten days behind the Gregorian calendar adhered to in Holland. On June 22, the Sunday of the third announcement, their marriage was solemnized. In the seventeenth century, however, many people regarded the day on which the banns were first called as the actual wedding-day, for the betrothed couple could no longer change their minds. Rembrandt and Saskia, then, regarded their wedding-day as June 8 1634 - according to the Frisian calendar. The caption to the sketch thus correctly reads: This is my 21-year-old wife, drawn three days after our wedding-day, and that was on June 8.


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