Throughout his life, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was considered an exceptional artist by contemporary art lovers. In this highly original book, Ernst van de Wetering investigates why Rembrandt, from a very early age, was praised by high-placed connoisseurs like Constantijn Huygens. It turns out that Rembrandt, from his first endeavours in painting on, had embarked on a journey past all the 'foundations of the art of painting' which were considered essential in the seventeenth century. In his systematic exploration of these foundations, Rembrandt achieved mastery in all of them, thus becoming the 'pittore famoso' that count Cosimo the Medici visited at the end of his life.
Rembrandt never stopped searching for ever better solutions to the pictorial problems he saw himself confronted with; this sometimes led to radical decisions and alterations in his way of working, which cannot simply be explained by attributing them to a 'change in style' or a 'natural development'. In a quest as rigorous and novel as Rembrandt's, Van de Wetering shows us how Rembrandt dealt with the foundations of his art and used them to try and become the best painter the world had ever seen. His book sheds new light both on Rembrandt's exceptional accomplishments and on the practice of painting in the Dutch Golden Age at large.