AMSTERDAM (AP) — Henk Schiffmaker’s needle hums as he tattoos the familiar lines of an elephant on the back of Lilian Rachmaran.
“From high to low” is how the famous Dutch tattoo artist describes his latest project: drawing sketches of Rembrandt van Rijn on the skin of visitors to the building the Golden Age master once called home.
Or call it art elevated to body art.
The Rembrandt House Museum has transformed one of its rooms into a tattoo parlor for a residence it calls “A Poor Man’s Rembrandt,” with Schiffmaker and other top Amsterdam tattoo artists for a week starting Monday.
For €50 to €250 ($54 to $270), visitors can get their own permanent reminder of Rembrandt.
“It’s a juxtaposition, a leap from high to low, from highbrow to lowbrow,” Schiffmacher told The Associated Press. “And it’s great that these two worlds can visit each other. Actually, it’s really a world because it’s about art.”
Museum director Milou Halbesma said the event is a way to attract new visitors to the historic home and bring people closer to the artist.
“I think it’s a really nice contemporary way to have your own Rembrandt,” he said.
The workshop has already turned out to be a success. All available online appointments were filled within 10 minutes, she said, though there are still a few slots available for people to walk into the museum and wait their turn.
Schiffmacher and his colleagues have adapted some of Rembrandt’s sketches to make them suitable for tattooing, making the 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 a key difference.
“The canvas is different,” Schiffmacher said. “The canvas can talk to you, move too much, float, even pass out. That did not happen with Rembrandt.
Rachmaran, who works at the museum, was the first person to take Schiffmacher’s chair.
He got his version of one of Rembrandt’s famous sketches of an Asiatic elephant believed to be Hansken, first arriving in Amsterdam in 1633 on a ship from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, as a gift to the Prince of Orange.
“I love animals, they are so spiritual, intelligent and impressive and Rembrandt also made Hansken, the first elephant in Europe,” he said.
Getting a Schiffmacher artwork among his other tattoos was also part of Monday’s attraction.
“I’m very honored that Henk himself made one,” she said.