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Revelers toast Rembrandt

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Art enthusiasts dressed up as the 17th-century nobles, beggars, priests and prostitutes portrayed in the paintings of Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn, honoring the 400th anniversary Saturday of his birth.

Celebrations centered on the cities of Leiden, where Rembrandt was born July 15, 1606, and Amsterdam, where he did his greatest work, suffered personal tragedies and died in 1669.

In Leiden, a torch-lit procession in period costume gathered by a statue of Rembrandt shortly before midnight Friday. After the clock struck 12, revelers toasted his memory.

In Amsterdam, an opera based on Rembrandt's life opened Saturday night at the Royal Carre theater. The city also was site of a series of major exhibitions of Rembrandt's work.

Beyond his mastery as a painter and printmaker, Rembrandt's enduring popularity lies in his ability to capture the essence of his subjects' characters with compassion for their humanity.

Unlike many artistic visionaries unappreciated during their lifetimes — for example, another Dutchman, Vincent van Gogh — Rembrandt won acclaim from an early age, and his work was always in demand.