Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606-1669), the highly esteemed Dutch painter during the Baroque era, is well known for his masterful use of chiaroscuro and tenebrism — dramatic lighting with an extreme contrast between light and dark — and also his ability to capture the human spirit in his portraits.
However, Rembrandt shares many stylistic similarities with his pupils and fellow contemporaries which has made it increasingly difficult to piece together an accurate catalog of all of his works. In order to fully document his career as an artist, The Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) was established by the Dutch government in 1968. The RRP went to work and by 2006 they had concluded that out of 280 paintings thought to be Rembrandt’s 146 were indeed done by him , 122 were not his work, and 12 more were still in question.
A portrait of Rembrandt, donated to the National Trust in 2010 by Lady Samuel of Wych Cross, became the most recent cause of debate. It was dismissed as the work of one of the artist ‘s pupils by the RRP and Horst Gerson, a Rembrandt specialist, due to a discrepancy in the brushwork. But in 2013 Ernst van de Wetering, a leading Rembrandt expert, argued that he believed the painting to be a genuine Rembrandt.
So the National Trust sent it to the Hamilton Kerr Institute where the portrait underwent a deep cleaning to remove the yellowed varnish and a series of tests using X-ray and infrared technology. The tests revealed that changes had been made to the painting’s composition which was very common of Rembrandt. In addition, it was painted on a poplar or willow panel, which Rembrandt was known to favor. While the artist’s signature on this portrait looked similar to those on his later works, it was determined to been done in 1635, when Rembrandt would have been 29.
With all this evidence gathered the authenticity of the portrait was unquestionable and on June 10th it was officially declared to be a genuine Rembrandt. The self- portrait is estimated to be worth up to $50 million or £30 million. The National Trust will not sell it but see that it is taken care of. The painting is currently being displayed in Buckland Abbey for the public’s enjoyment.
To learn more watch The National Trust’s video here: