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From book to podcast


My name is Bob Wessels and I am from the Netherlands. I am lawyer since 1974, and have been an international legal advisor, arbitrator, judge and a law professor in Amsterdam and Leiden. Visit my personal website at

For a few years I did extensive research, leading to my book of Rembrandt’s Money. The legal and financial life of an artist-entrepreneur in 17th century Holland. The first edition of the book was published in the autumn of 2021. Currently, it is nearly sold out. (Find out more at or

What’s the book about?

The aim of the book is to provide a thorough picture of the legal and financial aspects of Rembrandt’s life and work. It is legal-historical case study that discusses the legal and financial facts, actions, difficulties, and disputes that arose or surrounded Rembrandt during his life (1606-1669), both privately and during his work as an artist.

Rembrandt’s period as an entrepreneurial artist spans more than forty years, from his start as a young master in Leiden in the mid-1620s, to his life as a celebrated entrepreneur in the third and fourth decade of the 17th century in Amsterdam. From the early 1650s, his financial distress started to play a central role in his life. Finally, from 1660 until almost the end of his life in 1669, he worked for a company (‘compagnie’) which was founded by his life partner, Hendrickje Stoffels, and Rembrandt’s only son, Titus.

That’s not all. In addition to the case study, the book also sheds light on the socio-economic, cultural and political developments in the period covered. It does describe to the environments Rembrandt interacted with (development towards the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands in the 17th century, citizenry of Amsterdam, complex religious circles, art market). I do not only discuss the glory of the Golden Age, I touch upon the dark sides of living and working in Amsterdam at that time: poverty, infant mortality, contagious diseases, slavery and the exploitation of (guest) workers on board the ships that made Amsterdam the centre of world trade.

In all, the book offers the opportunity to better understand the local, cultural, social and legal history of Holland, specifically Amsterdam.

I am pleased to say that the book received positive reviews

Book reviews (by lawyers, legal historians and art historians) were rather favourable. Some quotes:

The author succeeds in filling the gap in our knowledge regarding financial and legal entanglements in which the artist became entangled
Professor Eric Dirix, Belgium

Reading, there is no other way to put it, is an intellectual pleasure that you should definitely treat yourself to
Professor Reinhard Bork, Germany

Wessels’ masterly treatment of the broad range of legal, socio-economic, and cultural developments surrounding Rembrandt’s life will be much appreciated by a broad international audience of lawyers, judges, financial experts, art historians, and other academics working in any of these fields
Dr Maurits Den Hollander, Netherlands

The book adds something different to our understanding of Rembrandt
Professor Elizabeth Honig, Maryland, USA

The legal and financial life of Rembrandt. Why?

Bookcases are full of writings about one of the Netherlands’ most famous artists, Rembrandt van Rijn, or just: Rembrandt (1606-1669).

Countless authors from all corners of the world have covered almost every conceivable aspect of his life. This literature includes extensive overviews of his entire oeuvre and detailed studies of his work as a painter, but also as a graphic artist and draftsman. What I consider to be typical artistic topics form the main component of these publications. These subjects are the artists’ inspiration for and choice of a subject, his style, the preferred genre, the chosen composition, his treatment of lights and shadow, influences by or on other artists, and so on.

Nearly all these authors often also draw attention to certain matters relating to the legal and financial side of Rembrandt’s life, both privately and in his work. They do not often touch upon the legal or financial aspects. Examples include (i) the setting up of his own studio in Leiden around 1625, when he was around 20 years of age [was his art business successful?] , (ii) Rembrandt’s form of collaboration with art dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh when he took his first steps in Amsterdam around 1631/1632 [was he employed? Was it a shop in a shop? Or a joint venture?]. Other topics include (iii) Rembrandt’s marriage to Saskia Uylenburgh, the daughter of a wealthy burgomaster in Leeuwarden (did Holland law or Frisian law apply, to their marriage? And to their matrimonial property?] and, (iv) a few years later, Rembrandt’s hereditary position in 1640 with regard to the assets (including the famous mill) of the last surviving parent, his mother [how did Rembandt use his financial share, with a size of almost a quarter of the purchase price of his house/studio?]

Other examples are equally appealing:

  • The commissions that Rembrandt received to produce paintings. Which fees did he charge? Were contracts used and if so, what was regulated? Did he have unsatisfied customers? Were complaints dealt with in court? Via arbitration?
  • The purchase of a house and studio in Amsterdam, wasn’t it much too expensive?
  • What kind of problems were there surrounding the estate of Saskia, who died in 1642 when Rembrandt was in his mid-thirties?
  • Rembrandt’s financial problems that led to an insolvency procedure common at that time in 1656. Causes? Consequences? Bad behaviour towards creditors?
  • And what about his dealings with two other women after Saskia had died (Geertje Dircx and Hendrikje Stoffels)? Was he a good father to his bastard child Cornelia, born in 1652?
  • After his insolvency, Rembrandt lived and worked in another part of Amsterdam for another ten years. How did his creditors react? Was he successful or did he die in poverty?

A second edition, but as a podcast?

Indeed, not a new book. Some of you will know that I have written quite some legal books. It’s time to seek for another type of delivering information, in this case recent news about Rembrandt’s legal and financial life, now in the form of a podcast.

I am also responding to signals I have received. In 2022 and 2023 I lectured and did presentations to readers and audiences during conferences for (international) lawyers, financial specialists, attorneys and judges, legal research gatherings, cultural-historical and Art & Law events and Rotary meetings (in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK). All reacted positively to my suggestion that I would do the ‘second edition of my book’ as a podcast.

Because in the book I loosely follow Rembrandt’s life story through the years, this also determines the sequence of the podcast episodes. The general treatment during the podcast will be as if these topics would have been selected for a second edition, fully reworked edited text of the book, however now told by the author, lively and with verve. Telling the story in a new and unique way, where each episode is a standalone story, albeit set against the backdrop of the theme, ie the local, cultural and social history of Holland, specifically Amsterdam and its local financial and legal system.

What’s so unique about the podcast?

  • Starts early 2024, new episodes are released biweekly (twice a month); You may expect 24 episodes over the full calendar year
  • A podcast with hardly any distracting noise, loud music, inconvenient interruptions and irritating fuss
  • Evidently my personal presentation
  • Story telling delivery, in some cases to include interviews and discussion with experts
  • Substantive and in-depth
  • With unknown anecdotes, history of small events, small incidents, surprising facts, language details, fine arts and personal insights
  • Well-chosen topics, especially based on recently published new materials and views, on all facets of Rembrandt’s life, within the concept of the book
  • Length: between 15-20 minutes
  • All for free

Episodes & themes

I’ll be delivering the podcasts listed below under the condition that the required additional research has been completed or the intended expert is available. In addition, I want to leave room to respond to questions from listeners, for certain fresh news on new discoveries about Rembrandt and his work or newly available studies.

With these caveats in mind, the following topics will be highlighted:

  1. Rembrandt – A Dutch National Icon
  2. A young entrepreneur in Leiden
  3. From birth name to brand fame
  4. Uylenburgh’s art studio
  5. Guilds and glamour
  6. Marriage to Saskia Uylenburgh
  7. Amsterdam – City of migrants
  8. Rembrandt’s house and studio
  9. Transferring the house to Titus?
  10. Geertje Dircx
  11. Night Watch
  12. Rembrandt’s insolvency
  13. Amsterdam’s new Town Hall
  14. Jan Six
  15. The Chamber of Abandoned and Insolvency Estates
  16. Being a lawyer in the 1650s
  17. Conflicts about an ordered painting
  18. Rembrandt’s international ambitions
  19. Attribution of paintings
  20. His pupils from Dordrecht
  21. The last 10 years of his life
  22. Rembrandt’s association with women
  23. The end of the Van Rijn family
  24. The Rembrandt House Museum

Are there any extra’s?

There are! My primary channel is the podcast every fourteen days. I am, however, a multi-channel deliverer. On the day the podcast comes out, the written text of the episode (which will contain more details and sources) will be posted on my blog.

These posts also can include illustrations and photos (e.g. of paintings or archival documents) or YouTube videos. In this way, if you prefer, you can combine the podcast story telling by the author, assisted with visual aids (photos, illustrations, videos) to explain, illustrate or support the main story. And there is the possibility of posing questions.

So if you are on your way to work, in the airport waiting in the lounge, exercising or running, on a journey in a car, train or plane or just have an hour free: welcome to my podcast!

You can listen to the podcast via my website or your favorite podcast app. And don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss a single episode.

Hope to meet you soon.