Thursday, 16 February 2012

Name in the Spotlight: Rembrandt


A name that is instantly recognisable but not commonly used, Rembrandt could very well have the makings of a great name.

The artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn has been a long time favourite of mine. There is something capitivating, provoking and haunting about his paintings, especially his portraits, so much so that the sitters' personalities and emotions practically jump out of the canvases. His art adds atmosphere, character and texture to a name that might other wise appear too serious or difficult to use.

Rembrandt was a seventeenth century Dutch painter, active during the Dutch Golden Age when the Netherlands dominated the art market. His talent manifested itself early, and around 1625 to 1630, when he was in his early twenties, he had already set himself up as an independent artist. His life seems to have started well enough. He was one of ten children, although only he and his siblings, Willem, Adriaen, Cornelis, Gerrit, Machtelt and Lysbeth survived childhood. He married his art dealer's cousin, Saskia, who gave him a son, Titus. Rembrandt had two well-known love affairs after the death of his wife in 1642, and all three women have been immortalised in his art. It is difficult to sum up the life of one of the greatest artists that there has ever been, but we can say that although he was gifted with great talents, Rembrandt was also cursed with numerous lawsuits and a liking for things beyond his means.

The spelling of his name can be attributed to the  man himself. Originally, it was spelt Rembrant, with the 'd' being added only in 1633. As a surname Rembrant likely dates back to before the 7th century. It is a name of Germanic roots made up of the elements ragin 'advice' and brand 'sword'. With names connected to literature being more talked about, such as Huxley and Bronte, you would think that names with artistic links would also be sneakily entering the charts. But, really, there are few of them being used. You won't come across a Picasso or Titian born in 2010, although a total of 25 babies, boys and girls, were given the name Matisse in the US. Its lack of popularity is apparent; however, I think Rembrandt may have a secret weapon up its sleeve: the nickname Remy. Many people in Name Land seem very keen on Remy, and it doesn't take much to connect Rembrandt with the sweet, unisex nickname.

Regardless of what the name could be shortened to, I would use Rembrandt simply because of its connection to the artist. If you are going to honour a literary or artistic figure, you might as well go for one of the greatest. And Rembrandt was undoubtedly that.