The Rembrandt Database is an inter-institutional research resource for information and documentation on paintings by Rembrandt – or attributed to him, either now or in the past – in museums around the world. The Rembrandt Database is open to anyone, but focuses on academic and museum professionals and students.
The database is still in the development stage. The contents and functionalities of this website are being improved and expanded continuously.
The Rembrandt Database is a joint initiative of the RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art History) and the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its content is provided by a range of partner institutions around the world. The Rembrandt Database is generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York.
The Rembrandt Database started as a pilot project in 2008. The website was officially launched on 19 September 2012. It will be improved and expanded in the years to come and maintained by the RKD as one of its permanent facilities.
Why a Rembrandt Database?
For years Rembrandt’s paintings have been the subject of many exhibitions and publications and a specific focus of technical research, which has produced an extensive and wide-ranging body of information and documentation. This material is preserved in various museums, research institutes, archives and laboratories around the world. The documentation is generally difficult to access, still unavailable in digital form, and not yet organized as a coherent and interrelated body of material.
The Rembrandt Database is a sustainable repository of existing information and documentation that is made available in a technologically advanced way. This service does not aim to replace the study of original objects or consultation among colleagues, but rather to speed up and facilitate research.
Even though the infrastructure of The Rembrandt Database could just as well be used to carry out research on other artists and themes, such a project is particularly valuable in the case of Rembrandt, owing to the wealth of information and documentation available and the enduring scholarly interest in this subject.
Mission and scope
The Rembrandt Database aims to become the first port of call for research on Rembrandt’s paintings. For this reason The Rembrandt Database collaborates with a large number of institutions in order to add more paintings and more documentation to this website. Our objective is not to present a final set of data, but to develop and grow continually, especially as more documentation becomes available through new research and collaboration with new partners. The Rembrandt Database does not intend to stand on its own but rather to interface with resources already in existence or still emerging.
The Rembrandt Database is not a research project: it does not produce documentation itself, nor does it make attributions. Instead, it presents the various – current and former – findings in this area, together with their sources, and provides a platform for the presentation of new interpretations.
The sheer amount of material available on Rembrandt forced us, in the early stages of this project, to make choices about what to include and what not to include (at least for the time being). You can read more about this on the page What is presented and why
Connection to the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP)
The Rembrandt Database is not, nor does it seek to become, the successor to the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP), which was established in 1968 for the purpose of investigating Rembrandt’s painted oeuvre. The RRP was not involved in the development of The Rembrandt Database.
Naturally the body of information and documentation that has been collected by the RRP – whose archives are administered by the RKD – are being made accessible through The Rembrandt Database.
As of October 2014, the complete first five volumes of A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings are accessible on the Rembrandt Database website. Presently, the volumes are presented with basic functionality and – out of necessity – a somewhat limited quality of images to make the files light enough to present them through the standard Adobe viewer. In due time, the files will be offered through a more sophisticated viewer, with additional functionality (clickable contents page, etc.). The RKD has acquired the digital files from the publishers (Springer) to present them online as part of the Rembrandt Database. All rights remain with the publishers.
Connection to the Rembrandt Documents Project (RemDoc)
The Rembrandt Documents Project (RemDoc), which started in 2010, aims to collect and make available online all known written documents that relate to Rembrandt, as a person and as an artist, as well as to his ancestors and relatives – with a focus on original documents from the period between 1475 to circa 1750. All documents will be transcribed, translated to modern Dutch and English and annotated. RemDoc is an initiative of the Radboud University Nijmegen, in partnership with the Rembrandt House Museum and the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands. A first version of the RemDoc infrastructure was launched 16 October 2012 at www.remdoc.org.
The Rembrandt Database and RemDoc focus on different types of documentation for the study of Rembrandts art. The documents and information on both websites are complementary. The Rembrandt Database and RemDoc are currently exploring the possibilities for making the information and documentation in both resources available to scholars in an integrated way.
Contributors to The Rembrandt DatabaseThe Rembrandt Database is a collaborative effort of numerous museums, research institutions and individual scholars worldwide. For an overview of all the partners, see Contributors.
To learn more about becoming a contributor, please contact us.
Further content development
Content development for The Rembrandt Database is now fully under way. In cooperation with numerous museums and research institutions, information on paintings is collected and processed and documents are described and digitized. All of this takes place primarily behind the scenes, at the museums and research institutions where the paintings and documentation are kept. The information thus passes through various stages, from rough draft to final version. New paintings or groups of paintings and their accompanying documentation are regularly launched on this website.
Our goal is to present around one hundred fully documented paintings on the website by July 2014 (the end of the current project phase). The ultimate aim is to add information and documentation on a regular basis, by continuing and intensifying the collaboration with our current partners and by seeking out new partners.
Further website development
The current version of the website is a beta version, which means that it is still being tested. Its evolving state may affect speed and performance. We nevertheless think it useful to make the website public at this time, so that our target audience – Rembrandt researchers – can follow its development and make use of the documentation already available. To ensure that this website fulfills the expectations of its users, a variety of tests will be conducted to determine its functionality. All Feedback will be greatly appreciated.
The following sections or functionalities will be added in the near future:
The Rembrandt Database will continue to develop primarily as a research repository. It will not be working on the development of research tools, since that is the preserve of a related project, ResearchSpace, with which The Rembrandt Database will join forces. ResearchSpace, which is coordinated by the British Museum and also supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, focuses on supporting collaborative Internet research, information-sharing and web applications for the wider community of cultural heritage scholars. In addition to tools for collaboration, data and image annotation, web publication and authoring, ResearchSpace is also constructing an environment in which institutions with existing databases can share data with one another by means of semantic web techniques (RDF).
Other Mellon-funded research resources
The Rembrandt Database is just one of the projects supported by the Museums and Art Conservation Program of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation whose aim it is to foster international collaboration and the sharing of information and expertise in the field of conservation documentation:
Read more on the Issues in conservation documentation on the Mellon Foundation’s website.
Recent articles about The Rembrandt Database:
RKD Bulletin 2012/1, pp. 42-49 (text in Dutch and English), PDF file, 207 kb
Techné 35 (2012), pp. 122-126 (text in English and summary in French), PDF file, 604 kb