Seventeenth-century painter Rembrandt van Rijn (Charles Laughton) suffers the loss of his wife. After an affair with the housekeeper, he finds lasting companionship with his housemaid (Elsa Lanchester), causing widespread scandal. Rembrandt's unwillingness to shill his paintings for commercial gain leads to financial difficulty. He navigates between the world of kings and queens and that of lowly beggars, finding his place as an artist. The death of his second wife devastates the painter.