Information from the Rijksmuseum, 12 May 2016
Rembrandt painted the portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit in Amsterdam in 1634 when he was twenty-eight. The meticulous rendering of the opulent costumes, the vitality of the figures and the subtle use of light in these paintings place them among his greatest masterpieces. The portraits are also a milestone in Dutch history, marking the rise of the ambitious young Dutch Republic in the Golden Age. The fact that these two citizens of Amsterdam posed for their portraits in regal style, wearing the most magnificent outfits in the latest French fashion, says much about their pride and affluence and about the emergence and pretensions of the young republic. Until then life-sized portraits of people standing were the prerogative of monarchs and the nobility. They were Rembrandt’s first life-sized, full-length painted pendant portraits – and the only ones he would ever make.
Who exactly were Marten and Oopjen? Jonathan Bikker, Rijksmuseum curator, carried out extensive research into the two portraits by Rembrandt. Among other things, he established the subject’s name is Marten and not Maerten, as was always assumed. All his findings have been published in Two Monumental Portraits by Rembrandt; 52 pages; Dutch and English editions.
In the last century and a half the two portraits have only been seen once by the public in the Netherlands: in 1956 in the Rijksmuseum. From 10 March to 13 June 2016 they are being exhibited in the Louvre amid great public interest and from 2 July they can be seen in the Rijksmuseum for three months. On 2 October the portraits will be removed to the Rijksmuseum’s conservation workshop for restoration. They will then be shown in the Rijksmuseum for three months, followed by three months in the Louvre. After that they will be on display in the Rijksmuseum for five years and then five years in the Louvre. Thereafter they will be exhibited in the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre alternately for eight years at a time. The two museums have agreed that the paintings will always be shown together.