Famous Painters and Paintings: Rembrandt's Syndics of the Drapers' Guild

About the famous paintings Syndic of the Drapers' Guild by the artist Rembrandt.


THE PAINTING: Syndics of the Drapers' Guild. The group portrait of the board (or syndics) of the clothmaker's guild, also known as De Staalmeesters, painted 5 years before the master's death, failed to satisfy Rembrandt's clients. It was thought of as queer, and did not look as if it had been "decently posed." Allowed to gather dust for some time, it is considered today one of Rembrandt's masterpieces.

Five staalmeesters, of 4 different religious beliefs, gathered in brotherly unity around a table, were a typical symbol of the power of commerce and the tolerance of Amsterdam during the age of prosperity of the Dutch republic. Rembrandt had represented the regents, giving an account of the year's business, as seated before an assembly. Probably the most objectionable aspect of the portrait was that such annual gatherings for the rendering of accounts were not usual. Further, Rembrandt dramatized the scene by having his group react to someone in the audience who had just accused the board members of some failing. However, at the time of the painting, Dutch officials were not accountable to the public.

While the aging Rembrandt had reason to be resentful toward the society of his day, there is no hint of this in the painting. With the Syndics, Rembrandt created his greatest monument to Dutch character. His group portrait has become the "exemplum" of good administration for generations of governors to come. The painting gained enormous popularity in the 20th century when it was adopted as an advertising label and image for Dutch Masters cigars.

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