May 2, 1664
Teenaged killer Elsje Christiaens is executed, then sketched by Rembrandt
Christiaens murder was seemingly more self-defense resulting in manslaughter than malicious intent. She had taken up a room while looking for a job as a servant girl, but two weeks later she was still unemployed and her landlady demanded rent. Christiaens tried to stall for time, but the landlady began assaulting the girl, hitting her with a broomstick. Christiaens grabbed the nearest object she could to defend herself, a hand-ax, and was able to push the landlady back. Unfortunately, the landlady was pushed back down a flight of stairs, killing her.
The sentence for such a killing involved being strangled while beaten with the same ax that killed her victim. Her corpse was then strung up with her murder weapon/instrument of her own death as a warning for others. The body was left up “until the winds and birds devour her.”
Rembrandt, upon hearing of this rare event (Christiaens was the first woman executed in the Dutch Republic in 21 years), rushed to sketch the unfortunate fate of the teenager, immortalizing her whereas she would have normally slipped into obscurity.