Palette of Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history.

The range of colors Rembrandt employed falls firmly within the mainstream of painting practice in Holland in the seventeenth century. His palette is entirely made up of widely available pigments and, by that time, well understood in their qualities and drawbacks. Seventeenth-century Holland was a center for manufacturing artists' pigments on an industrial scale. The technologies required had evolved enough to remove the uncertainties in preparing standard products. Large-scale processes for producing lead white, vermilion, smalt, and lead-tin yellow, all of which are found frequently in Rembrandt's paintings, had reached an advanced degree of refinement, and these pigments were available in both domestic and foreign markets. Imported pigments from Italy and elsewhere made up for local deficiencies in naturally occurring mineral and earth pigments and some of the raw materials for preparing specific manufactured colors.

Rembrandt self-portrait

Rembrandt's paintings are dominated by a limited selection of lead white, bone black, and natural earth pigments, such as ochers, siennas, and umbers; other pigments are regularly used, but these are his staples. His palette consisted of the following pigments:


Oil Paint Equivalent

Pigment Equivalent


Smalt Pigment

Azurite Pigment



Smalt Pigment

Lead-tin yellow

Lead-Tin Yellow Oil Paint


Yellow ocher

Blue Ridge Yellow Ocher Oil Paint


Red ocher

Venetian Red Oil Paint



Vermilion Oil Paint

Cadmium Red Light Oil Paint


Madder lake

Alizarin Crimson Oil Paint


Carmine lake

Not available


Raw Sienna

Italian Raw Sienna Oil Paint


Burnt Sienna

French Burnt Sienna Oil Paint


Raw umber

Cyprus Raw Umber Dark Oil Paint


Burnt umber

French Burnt Umber Oil Paint


Cassel earth

Cassel Earth Oil Paint


Brown ocher

Italian Brown Ocher Oil Paint


Lead white

Lead White #1 Oil Paint


Bone black

Bone Black Oil Paint


In the table, we have listed the pigment used by Rembrandt on his palette and the equivalent available today from Natural Pigments.


David Bomford, Art in the Making: Rembrandt, Yale University Press, p. 35–46.

Waldemar Januszczak, Techniques of the World’s Great Painters, Chartwell, 1980.

Ernst Van De Wetering, Rembrandt: The Painter At Work, Amsterdam University Press, 1997, p. 149–152.