I am Rembrandt’s Daughter

Written by Lynn Cullen
Review by Val Loh

This complex work of fiction is based upon the real person of Cornelia, the illegitimate daughter of Rembrandt van Rijn and his common-law wife, Hendricke Stoffels. The author was inspired by two paintings of Rembrandt’s: Bathsheba with King David’s Letter and a portrait of Nicolas Bruyningh.

The story is cleverly woven into the facts against a setting and time which are vividly explored and understood. Cornelia becomes her father’s main caretaker at a time when the artist is no longer fashionable, yet his character will not bend to new trends. The family is poor, and he is left with one surviving pupil, Neel.

Having lost her mother, and with her beloved brother married and moved away, Cornelia is left a heavy burden as she looks after a man who is slipping into madness. This seems to be a thankless task as he has never painted his daughter, never encouraged her, yet he has often done so with her brother.

Alternate chapters provide flashbacks into Cornelia’s past, building mystery and eventually understanding of the importance of the people therein. This book explores the complex nature of Rembrandt and the relationship with his daughter. It is rich in depth, drama, mystery, understanding, history and the coming of age of a young girl into a woman whose life is challenging and heartbreaking at times.

I would recommend this book for its skilful use of language and the depth of the subject matter by this talented author, along with the amount of period detail. It will certainly broaden and entertain the reader and is excellent value at the price too.