Rembrandt, Geertje and Saskia's jewels
In 1641 Geertje Dircx starts working in the house of Rembrandt and his wife Saskia, as nanny of their newborn son Titus. When Saskia passes away in 1642, Rembrandt and Geertje start a relationship which would last until 1649. In 1648 Geertje stated in her will that Titus would receive her jewellery, amongst which a diamond ring. These jewels are likely to have come from Saskia. Until Titus reaching the age of majority, Rembrandt had his late wife's inheritance at his disposal.
A nasty 'divorce'
The arrival on the scene of Hendrickje Stoffels, who became Rembrandts new lover and muse, meant an abrupt end to Geertjes relationship with the painter. The separation of the two became a drama and negotiations regarding alimony were lengthy and often nasty. When the Commissioners of Marital Affairs heard their case, Geertje demanded Rembrandt would fulfill his promise to marry her. Rembrandt needed to be summoned 3 times before he would appear in front of the commissioners. On top of it all, he denied every single statement Geertje made. He said it was up to her to prove they had slept together, which is a rather harsh position to take after 9 years of living together as lovers. The commissioners decided Rembrandt had to pay Geertje 200 guilders a year, and Geertje was not allowed to pawn out Saskia's jewels, like she had already done.
Despite the agreement, she did pawn them again in 1650. When Geertjes brother went to Rembrandt to collect the alimony on her behalf, the painter charms him into bribing one of Geertje's neighbours. She started to collect gossip on Geertje, and apparently those stories were so bad the mayors had her locked up in a house of correction. After 5 years of forced labour Geertje was released. She wanted to revenge Rembrandt immediately by preparing a new case against him. This never happened, because Geertje died in 1656, after which the jewels went to Titus.
In every phase of this unpleasant affair, Rembrandt did everything to make sure Geertje wouldn't pawn Saskia's jewels, because this might have resulted in the permanent loss of them. Since Rembrandt was only the custodian of these jewels, while Titus owned them. This must have played a role in Rembrandts behaviour towards Geertje and his resilience not to give in. Despite his unsympathetic demeanour, this last part is at least understandable.
The City Archives of Amsterdam published original documents regarding Rembrandt and Geertje's case with the Commissioners for Marital Affairs in the online exhibition Rembrandt Privé (only in Dutch).