Just as I enjoyed Todorov's essay on Vermeer, I learnt from and took pleasure in this little book about Rembrandt van Rijn. The no-nonsense writing style is the same, and the content is divided into thematic chapters which makes it easy to consult.
Regarding Rembrandt the man, the book pretty much confirmed my previous impression, i. e. that he was not a very nice person, at least if his love affairs are anything to go by. Indeed, even before becoming a widower, he had an irritating tendency to demand great versatility of his women; they had to be servants, housekeepers, models and lovers.
True enough, Saskia's last will was not helpful as it in practice prevented him from remarrying, and also incited unwholesome money transactions with his only surviving son (who inherited everything).
Todorov argues that this aloof attitude is part of the fine print when it comes to great artists; that in order to make statements on the universality of human nature, the artist must to some extent take his/her distances from individual human beings.
(Todorov also warns us against doing what I just did, viz pass judgment on these traits of character.)
I reckon Todorov is probably right on all accounts.
It won't keep me from :
A. Considering Rembrandt a self-absorbed twat and an artistic genius.
B. regretting that so few women had the opportunity to be self-absorbed enough for their artistic genius to develop, before birth control came along and made life better for all of us.