The Easel

16th February 2021

Rembrandt and slavery: did the great painter have links to this abhorrent trade?

The prosperity of Holland’s Golden Age was built on global trade and … slavery. A new exhibition at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum highlights this link and, controversially, includes works by Rembrandt. He did not participate in the slave trade but did paint portraits of those who were. Perhaps his moral unease can be seen in those works. A century later, when Britain controlled the slave trade, the same tainted windfall came the way of Gainsborough.