The forgotten women of Leeuwarden

This year, the city of Leeuwarden got the title of the European Cultural Capital. Rembrandt is one of the biggest artists in the history and what people might not be aware of is the fact that his wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, was born in Leeuwarden. So who was she?

By: Anna Greifeneder and Nadja Nordström

She was born over 400 years ago in a wealthy high-status family. Her father started to work as a lawyer and later on, he became the major of Leeuwarden. Looking back from a historical view, coming from the upper-class meant that the society was expecting certain things from you. Saskia on the other hand, choose to take another path by marrying the during that time insignificant painter. She only became 29 years old but her life was very turbulent. Her life ended when she died in pulmonary tuberculosis.

No Saskia, no Rembrandt
Regarding the fact that Leeuwarden got the cultural title, it might come as surprising when Saskia does not have any connection to the title. It is almost like she is forgotten considering that she was married to Rembrandt. What she did was very important because without her, Rembrandt would not have been the artist he is known as today. She was the muse and inspiration for several of his artworks. At the same time, whilst she was helping him financially, she was also supporting them so that they could get a chance to survive.

Breaking the typical traditions
The fact that she was the person who supported the family at that time, made her unlike other women. She stood up for herself and her believes and rather than to have Rembrandt supporting the family, she took over that position. The history says that Saskia told Rembrandt that after her death he was not allowed to get remarried. If he would have done that, he would lose the financial inheritance for their son Titus. Rembrandt followed her wishes and did not get married to anybody else but he had financial troubles and eventually sold Saskias grave in order to get money.

The mysterious woman on the wall
When visiting Leeuwarden, there is a possibility to see a graffiti painting of her. What many probably are not aware of though, is that it actually is Saskia who is on the wall. This graffiti painting can be seen next to the street between Prinsentuin and the Oldehove.

Curious to learn more? Please visit the Graffiti-series written by Anna Greifeneder, that can be found on the YourPost website: