Form and Content
In R. v. R.: The Life and Times of Rembrandt van Rijn, Hendrik Willem Van Loon offers a fictionalized, but historically well-researched, account of the later years of Rembrandt by telling the story from the point of view of Joannis van Loon, the physician and friend to the great painter. The biography focuses on Rembrandt’s life from the sickness and death of his wife, Saskia van Uijlenburgh, in the early 1640’s to his own death in 1669. The account in eighty chapters (forty-one chapters in a revised 1939 edition) is prefaced by diarylike entries in which Joannis describes Rembrandt’s funeral and provides a rationale for the ensuing narrative: a need to purge himself of the effects of his friend’s death. The biography concludes with an epilogue by a distant descendant, recounting the waning fortunes both of the van Rijn family and of Rembrandt’s reputation.
The biography concentrates on Rembrandt’s domestic and daily life but provides substantial commentary on his art and historical context for many of the paintings and etchings. The narrative proper begins with Joannis’ introduction to Rembrandt’s household, when the painter engaged him as a physician for Saskia. Joannis then serves as a witness to the deepening financial and personal problems that Rembrandt faces during the next quarter century: Saskia’s death, the loss of his home and invaluable art collection in a bankruptcy proceeding, harassment by his servant Geertje...
(The entire section is 420 words.)