By MIKE CORDER Associated Press
AMSTERDAM (AP) — Henk Schiffmaker’s needle whirrs as he tattoos the familiar lines of an elephant on
Lilian Rachmaran’s back.
“Highbrow to lowbrow” is how the famous Dutch tattoo artist describes his latest project — inking
sketches by Rembrandt van Rijn onto the skin of visitors to the building the Golden Age master once
Or call it high art to body art.
The Rembrandt House Museum has transformed one of its rooms into a tattoo parlor for a residency it
calls “A Poor Man’s Rembrandt,” featuring Schiffmaker and other top Amsterdam tattoo artists for a week
For between about 50 euros and 250 euros ($54 – $270), visitors can get their own permanent reminder of
“It’s a juxtaposition — a jump from high to low, from highbrow to lowbrow,” Schiffmacher told The
Associated Press. “And it’s great that these two worlds can visit one another. Actually it’s really one
world because it’s about art.”
Museum Director Milou Halbesma said the event is a way of attracting new visitors to the historic house
and getting people closer to the artist.
“I think it’s a very good contemporary way to have your own Rembrandt,” she said.
The workshop has already proved a hit. All appointments available online were filled within 10 minutes,
she said, though there are still some slots available for people who walk into the museum and wait
Schiffmacher and his colleagues have adapted some of Rembrandt’s sketches to make them suitable for
tattooing — making lines thinner so they don’t grow together as the tattoo ages.
They see similarities between their work and the artist’s quick sketches — but there is one key
“The canvas is different,” Schiffmacher said. “The canvas can talk to you, move too much, float, even
faint. That didn’t happen for Rembrandt.”
Rachmaran, who works at the museum, was the first person in Schiffmacher’s chair.
She got his version of one of Rembrandt’s famous sketches of an Asian elephant believed to be Hansken,
which first arrived in Amsterdam in 1633 on a ship from Ceylon — now Sri Lanka — as a gift for the
Prince of Orange.
“I love the animals, they’re so spiritual and smart and impressing and Rembrandt also made Hansken, the
first elephant in Europe,” she said.
Getting a work by Schiffmacher in between her other tattoos was also part of the attraction Monday.
“I’m very honored to have one made by Henk himself,” she said.