Saskia van Uylenburgh (August 2, 1612 – June 14, 1642) was the wife of painter Rembrandt van Rijn. In the course of her life she was his model for some of his paintings, drawings and etchings. She was the daughter of a Frisian mayor.
Saskia was born in Leeuwarden, Friesland, the youngest of the eight children of Sjoukje Ozinga and Rombertus van Uylenburgh, a top lawyer, a town burgomaster, and one of the founders of the University of Franeker.
In 1631 and in the company of the Mennonite painters Govert Flinck and Jacob Backer, traveled to Amsterdam. There she met Rembrandt, who produced paintings and portraits for Uylenburgh’s Amsterdam clients. In turn Rembrandt travelled to Leeuwarden, where he was received by the painter Wybrand de Geest, who had married Saskia’s niece.
Saskia and Rembrandt were engaged in 1633, and on 10 June 1634 Rembrandt asked permission to marry in Sint Annaparochie. He showed his mother’s written consent to the schepen. On 2 July the couple married. The preacher was Saskia’s cousin, but evidently none of Rembrandt’s family attended the marriage. That Saskia fell in love with an artist who was socially no match for the daughter of a patrician and that she pressed for a speedy betrothal against all conventions certainly shows that she was a very strong and independent character. In 1635 the couple moved to one of the most desirable addresses in Amsterdam, the Nieuwe Doelenstraat, with prominent neighbors and a view of the river Amstel.
Three of their children died shortly after birth and were buried in the nearby Zuiderkerk. The sole survivor was Titus, who was named after his mother’s sister Titia (Tietje) van Uylenburgh. Saskia died the year after he was born, in Amsterdam, aged 29, probably from tuberculosis. She was buried in the Oude Kerk. For ten years Rembrandt focused on drawings and etchings.
In 1662 Rembrandt, having been in financial trouble for several years, sold Saskia’s grave. Hendrickje died the following year.
The vase of flowers is part of the work ‘Celebration (you only live once)(you only die once)’ that Job Koelewijn (NL, 1962) has created especially for the exhibition “Once in a lifetime” (12 May – 28 August 2016). The work consists of an installation of vases with colourful, fragrant flowers. The vases are placed carefully on the church’s tombstone floor, in memory of the dead who were buried here many centuries ago.