Miniature of the Month
Rembrandt’s Travel Sketchbook by Tine Krijnen
Rembrandt’s Travel Sketchbook by Tine Krijnen with 22 silver point sketches by Johannes Landman. Silver stift, mountings and snakewood stand by Martin Niemeijer. Case by Paul Briggs.
Rembrandt van Rijn may very well be one of the most famous artists in history. Known for creating in various media on diverse subject matter ranging from compositions, landscapes, figures, human expressions and gestures, he produced thousands of pieces during his 17th century career. It was the Dutch master’s silverpoint sketches, however, that inspired a miniaturist from his homeland to create them in 1/12th scale.
“As a person coming from Netherlands I am really interested in paintings by Rembrandt,” explains Tine Krijnen, who is a master in her own right in the field of miniature bookmaking. When she read an article on five rare silver pen sketches by the Dutch artist, she formed the idea to re-create the pieces in notebook form after one she had seen in the West Fries Museum in Hoorn. “I was fascinated by this notebook with ground parchment pages bound in leather. It closed by eyelids attached to its silver mounting and had an attached drawing stift,” she describes. Since the article suggested Rembrandt’s sketches may have once been part of a travel sketchbook, the concept to create the notebook became even more appealing to her.
“I read that those five sketches were the only surviving sketches and that they all were drawn in the summer of 1633,” says Tine—the same time Rembrandt traveled to Friesland for his engagement to Saskia. The silverpoint sketch of his 21-year-old fiancé is one of his most noted drawings with an inscription denoting the occasion and date (added by Rembrandt one year later). In analyzing the five silverpoint drawings, Tine also found out they had the very same measurements, which further led to her decision to present them in a sketchbook.
The 1/12th-scale silverpoint sketches include five rare works by Rembrandt including his first portrait of Saskia, sketched three days after they were engaged on June 8, 1633.
In her research, she located two of the sketches at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The other three she viewed online from Berlin's Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings). It was on those sketches that she discovered tiny holes within equidistance of each other along the top side of the landscape sketch. The holes looked to Tine to be sewing holes, which she then discussed with the conservator at the German museum. He agreed with Tine’s assumption regarding a possible notebook, adding that no travel sketchbook of Rembrandt’s had survived intact, but did say all five drawings were officially recognized as coming from Rembrandt’s hand at that time.
After receiving permission from both museums to replicate the five sketches in 1/12th scale, she proceeded in what would become a four-year project producing a limited five copies of the travel sketchbook with drawings created by Canadian miniaturist Johannes Landman, who Tine credits as “the only artist who can sketch in Rembrandt’s style in miniature.”
Johannes created 22 total sketches for each of the five notebooks which included the five distinguished silverpoint drawings and pre-studies of details and parts of later larger paintings. Johannes actually used a miniature silver stift to create all the drawings of the five silverpoint reproductions in the original style in which they were created. Silverpoint drawing, an ancient technique usually accomplished by dragging a silver rod or wire across a surface prepared with gesso, is unforgiving to say the least, as it is almost impossible to “erase.” Known as an incredibly sensitive and delicate medium, one can only imagine creating these fine reproductions in miniature. Johannes, indeed, described it as a challenge, says Tine, but his final sketches were intricately gorgeous.
In creating the notebook, Tine first sewed the parchment pages onto ropes to form the book block. The ropes/cords were then laced through the wooden board and tightened so that the wood was firmly securely against the book block. She used leather that was “thin as silk” to tautly wrap the book covers and added a silver centerpiece etched with “R” and “S” and the year 1633 on the cover for intimate detail. The centerpiece, mountings and eyelids were all created with silver by Netherlandish jewelry artisan Martin Niemeijer, who also crafted the attached silver stift. Tine commissioned English artisan Paul Briggs to make the showcase.
All in all, the collaboration covered four years, included artisans from three different countries and history and art experts who communicated in several languages. All revelled in the purpose of presenting one of the most acclaimed artists in history, known simply by his first name, Rembrandt, in miniature for art lovers of all scales to admire.
Rembrandt’s Travel Sketchbook premieres April 6th in the KSB Miniatures Collection’s newest exhibition Scaled to Perfection: Encore! Running thru December 31st, 2021.