Rembrandt found in a bathroom cabinet

Rembrandt etching found in CUA bathroomThen years ago or so ago, Monseigneur David M. O’Connell, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was looking for paper towels in the bathroom cabinet of his office when he found a strange bit of frame poking out under some junk. He pulled it out and found an etching that seemed familiar.

The name Rembrandt was on the back, but of course the Monseigneur had no way of knowing if it was genuine or a print or a copy.

In January of last year, Father O’Connell finally got around to asking the university’s records management archivist Leslie Knoblauch to have the etching appraised. While they were waiting to hear the results, CUA doctoral student Paul Wesley Bush translated the French inscription.

The etching measures 4.5 by 5 inches and has a paper backing that is crumbly and darkened with age. It bears a French inscription saying the picture is “the bust of an old man with a great beard seen about most of the face… His head a little perched gives him… the attitude of a man who sleeps,” according to [Paul Bush’s translation].

In February the appraiser confirmed that it was the real deal: a genuine etching by Rembrandt. How it ended up with the paper towels in the bathroom cabinet, nobody knows.

Rembrandt was famous during his lifetime for his etchings. He made them by drawing with a needle on a resin-coated copper plate. The plate is dipped in acid which etches the needle lines into the plate.

Bush suggested they make an exhibit around the marvelous find, and so they have. “Fine Lines: Discovering Rembrandt and Other Old Masters at Catholic University” will be at the May Gallery in the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library through May 24. Admission is free.

The current exhibit also features two engravings of Abraham Lincoln photos taken by famed Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady: one by Scottish artist and engraver Alexander Hay Ritchie and the other by American John Chester Buttre, whose work includes a steel-plate engraving of a full-length portrait of President James Buchanan.

Additional exhibit pieces now on display at the May Gallery include a watercolor copy of a print of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein; two black-and-white engravings by English artist William E.C. Morgan; and six woodcut prints by Julius John Lankes, an American artist whose works are included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress and the British Museum.

22 thoughts on “Rembrandt found in a bathroom cabinet

  1. This story is so bizarre – who would shove a Rembrandt in a bathroom closet? It almost makes me wonder if the engraving was stolen from somewhere. But who knows? Nonetheless, its a great find.

    It’s funny that the news has recently had another story revolving around the discovery of art – and this story also revolves around the bathroom too! An Italian couple found a Raphael copy in their apartment after they decided to add a new bathroom in their home. I posted a little about it here:

    Funny, huh? I wonder who will come up with the next bathroom discovery.

  2. I am running to my bathroom closet! 😆

    A little bit similar story:

    In the storage of a museum was find a Giorgio Vasari’s painting “Angel’s greeting”. This picture was in the Saint Michael Chapel (in Vatican) from 1570 to the 19th century. A rich man gave it to the museum in 1925, but until now nobody has known that this is the Vasari’s painting.

    1. I often wonder what treasures are hidden away in museum storage vaults. I’m sure there are a lot of holes in old inventories. not to mention incorrect attributions and unknown items that just ended up forgotten in a dusty corner.

  3. We have an original Rembrandt that the big boys won’t give us the time of day for. It is an original to another copy that hangs in a major museum. No one wants to listen, but we have a huge amount of evidence (x-rays, infra-red, color seperations, negatives, documents, date, signature, undersketches, etc. etc.
    If you are not part of the art world, or well- connected, your efforts to be authenticated are futile. It’s interesting that the Catholic Priest was able to get an authentic appraisal so quickly?

    1. I’m not sure it’s the priest aspect so much as the institutional aspect that helped get a fairly prompt authentication in their case. Are you with a school? I honestly don’t even know how you go about getting an old master authenticated. Maybe try going through an auction house if museum experts aren’t responding?

  4. No, we are not with a school. All of the majors have been leary of working with us, because we don’t have the “welcome” as an institution would have. Although the copy that hangs in this particular museum is acknowleged by the museum to be probably an 18th or 19th century rendering, they have proudly displayed it for years. They call theirs “Style of Rembrandt”. Even so, no one wants to take the time to look at our evidence. Ours is on paper, a mixed media. Theirs is an oil on canvas. In one experts writings, he mentions the museums piece as formerly being in a private collection. He also states that it was a study and “never doubted in the literature on Rembrandt”. Funny how it was acknowleged as a study, but somewhere along the line became an oil painting.
    We have the proof. We need someone to listen.

    We need someone with a connection to have everything looked at. The results will be amazing.

    1. This is a long shot, but how about contacting The History Detectives on PBS? Your piece clearly has a great deal of appeal from a story-telling perspective, even if it turns out not to be an original. The investigation of a possible Old Master would be an exciting pursuit either way.

    2. Hello DC,and Livius Drusus

      I am James R. Garcia and along with Patricia Andersen, we are the ones who authenticated the Rembrandt Painting of Titus F1655. I and Patricia, do not see a problem in answerein to you with the History Blog, but only let us know, what is being written. Also to answer any potential questions. The title of my Book, is THE AUTHENTICATION OF REMBRANDT’S TITUS F 1655, written by James R. Garcia, please respond to my email address

      Thank You,

      James R. Garcia

  5. Thanks! I sent them the info. Here is our story if anyone cares to read.

    This portrait was bought in 1970 by Edward & Patricia Andersen at a used furniture store in Lacey Washington, called Reed’s Roundhouse 2ND Hand Store. Harlan and Ruth Reed purchased the portrait, among other items, from Killingsworth Auction Co. In Portland, Oregon. The painting was amongst other items that were put into storage in 1914 by the Maryhill family, of the Maryhill Museum, built by it’s owner Sam Hill, the famous wealthy industrialist. Sam Hill had friends such as the likes of Loie Fuller (internationally known dancer), Queen Marie of Romania, and heiress Alma Spreckles. He was known for entertaining many European guests. He dealt with prestigious pieces of art.

    $ It is a mixed media work, made up of charcoal, red & black chalk, bistre wash, water color & India ink on paper. This was determined from a spectrographic analysis done by the Boeing Aero-Space Laboratories. It is a completed piece. It is ½ length. The size is 19″in. X 14″in., and is under glass. Technically it is a drawing, but because of the materials Rembrandt employed, it could be called a painting. The materials used in our drawing are the same used in the only two other completed chalk drawings by Rembrandt, both dated 1634. They are “Portrait of a Man in an Armchair Seen Through a Frame”, and “Christ and His Disiples”. (all ½ lengths). Ours may be the most complete work on paper that Rembrandt did.

    $ There is a signature in the upper left corner signed: Rembrandt 1634

    $ There is a tag on the back of the portrait that says Beards Art Gallery-at Daytons (7th & Nicollet) Minneapolis, with the letter B, and the number 1607. The “B” means that it was framed for an individual person, and the number means it was framed sometime before 1905. Their records were destroyed in a fire, so they could not give us a name.

    $ The same portrait hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is done in oil on canvas, and is somewhat larger. They call it “Titus”. It is a copy of ours.

    $ We bought a copy of the portrait in the Metropolitan Museum. Photographs were taken of both portraits, and black & white positives were made. The positives were made to the same size/dimensions. When overlaid together, The Portraits matched identically on their perimeters of the subject, the eyes, nose & lips etc. also match perfectly. The inside brush strokes, crazing, etc. did not. Our piece has random crazing throughout the body & background. The metropolitans crazing is horizontal throughout, as it would if someone had rolled it that way on purpose, maybe to try to attain a look of age. Our face has NO crazing, as it appears to have been applied dry, a known Rembrandt technique. This shows that the two portraits had to be in the possession of the same person(s) at the same time at one point, and that one is definitely a copy of the other. It isn’t possible for two artists, not knowing each other, to paint the same subject where both paintings match identically in outline and body. Both pieces were together at one point, and a copy of ours was made in oil.

    $ Our Portrait has a wear spot extending up and down from the edge of the hat. It is a worn area on the painting. The metropolitan’s painting is described as a “feather”. First of all, the hat would not support a feather in that position. The copyist painted only what he saw, and thought the wear spot was originally a feather. It is outside of the under base white. There also is a smudge on our chalk drawing beneath the right eye of the figure. This smudge is painted in as a shaded area on the Metropolitan’s oil, even though the light source is from that side. There can be no painterly reason for this. Again, the copyist painted approx. 200+ years of wear into his rendition.

    $ Ours is dated 1634. The Metropolitan’s is dated 1655. Again, the copyist painted only what he could see, as our date is worn. Visually, the 3 & 4 are incomplete, and look like they were possibly “5’s”. The true date of 1634 was brought out with special photography. It took approx. 200+ years for our date to partially wear away. Remember, ours is a mixed media work, and subject to wear more so than an oil painting.

    $ The Metropolitan Museum states their painting to be “Titus”, Rembrandts son, who at 1655 would be about age 14. Ours was painted 7 years Before Titus was born. Titus was born in 1641. Recent news in the last year or two, shows a Rembrandt that was authenticated which is owned by the Norton Simon Foundation. Their painting is almost identical to ours, except the subject (portrait) is younger. It very well could be a relative to ours. The Norton Simon Rembrandt is titled “Boy In Fancy Dress”. It shockingly resembles our piece.

    $ Rembrandt is known for doing most of his large works on paper between 1632 & 1638. One example is the “Lamentation Over The Dead Christ”. It is called a “Study”. The media used are the same used in ours. Also, “Christ Before Pilate and the People”, called a study.

    $ Rembrandt Scholars call all of Rembrandts works on paper “Studies” or “Sketches”.Malcom Bell, a noted Rembrandt expert, mentions in his book “Studies” of Titus, ONE of which is in the collection of Rudolph Kann. We know of no other drawings or studies mentioned in the Kann Collection. We believe ours is the same painting that went through the hands of the Duveen brothers (known for questionable art practices). It was eventually donated to the Metropolitan Museum from the Benjamin Altman Estate as a bequest sometime around or after 1913. There is no History on the Metropolitan’s painting earlier than 1897. Somewhere the study of Titus in the Kann Collection became a full oil painting on canvas before it was donated to the Metropolitan by the Benjamin Altman estate.

    $ The Metropolitan Museum states that they believe their painting was not done by Rembrandt. They state that it was done by “a weaker hand”. Our letter from John Walsh, curator of the Metropolitan in the 1970’s , says they “doubt the authenticity of their painting”. They show their painting on their website and title it “Titus” “Style of Rembrandt”. Experts say probably a late 18th or 19th century rendering.! Why do they proudly portray a 19th Century Copy of a weaker hand?

    $ We have done a 4-color seperation on our painting. The Red color seperation shows that ours was free hand drawn. You can see the continuous red chalk color going from the eye to the nose down into the lips, etc. You can see the same style lines drawn in Harvard University professor Dr. Seymor Slives books on Rembrandt.

    $ The very techniques that Rembrandt used also are used on our painting, including materials, and even the scratching down to the paper to use the white paper underbase as highlights in the subject. He did this with the eyes of our drawing, as well as the glisten on the lip and the white on the tunic. These are verified by Boeing Scientific Lab Reports.

    $ The crazing on our painting has no distinct pattern. The crazing on the Metropolitan’s is Horizontal. This was done by “rolling the canvas”, which is a crude way of “aging a canvas”. On our painting, the face was applied dry, so there is no crazing, no swelling. The gown and background were applied wet (bistre wash) . Again, both paintings perimeter outlines match perfectly, but the inside crazing does not. When the copyist made the oil, he could not apply the face dry or match our crazing, he could only match the perimeter, eyes, lips, nose, etc. of the subject.

    $ Why make an oil copy? Oil paintings were considered more valuable, more durable, and perhaps the copyist wanted to steal “without stealing the physical painting itself”. Also, it appears that the Duveen Brothers had connections to sell the copy as an original to someone, with the appearance of legitimacy. Bernard Benson was employed by Duveen as an “art expert”, who authenticated works that Duveen sold. A conflict of interest?

    There are under drawings on our painting, some small and large. Cherub, Lamb, & Man with a staff to mention a few. There also appears to be a sketch of an old king, similar to the one Rembrandt used many times in other works. There is also another signature and a date of 1633, which was seen with a Florascope test done at Pacific Luthern University in Seattle. The date was somewhere in the left shoulder area of the subject. It was quite common to sketch/draw on paper & then cover over it and do a final work, as paper was quite valuable and harder to come by in the 1600’s. These under drawings were brought out with x-ray negatives. Remember, these tests were done with 1970’s technology. What we could find & see with today’s technology could be astounding.

    We believe our painting possibly started out in the Antonio Flinck collection, and also passed through the collection of King William the 2nd, possibly the Brondgeest collection, several others, and finally, it made it to the Rudolph Kann collection where it is noted by experts as a “Study”.

    $ Again, the drawing is on paper. It has been dated by Mr. Harold Sundene of Olympia, and formerly with the Washington State Printing Office, a noted authority on dating old documents and paper. He stated it to be the type of paper used in Holland at that time, 300+ years ago. It was also analyzed by the Boeing Co., and found to be paper and materials not used in modern day. Also, Thomas Ness of the State of Washington department of Printing also certifies that the painting is an actual rendering and not a mechanical reproduction.

    $ Rembrandt has employed in our drawing his technique of the Lost Outline, a technique for which he is noted. The body portion of the drawing seems to nearly blend into the dark background.

    $ Horst Gerson, a Rembrandt expert, said about the Metropolitan’s oil “never doubted in the literature on Rembrandt”, though Gerson also stated about the Metropolitan’s painting as “Certainly an eighteenth or nineteenth century imitation. In other words, he was saying that the subject in the Metropolitan exists, just not in the Metropolitan. This means somewhere in the writings about Rembrandt, our work of art is mentioned as an original work done by Rembrandt on paper and called a “Study”.

    $ Our evidence for our painting is quite substantial, and, very real. We have more proof to authenticate our painting than most paintings are ever subjected to. We welcome any one or any institution to put our portrait under the scrutiny of new technology. The results will only be even better.

    $ The Metropolitan Museum hangs a copy of ours in it’s museum. We have the original.

    1. Have you tried to ask these people to help you.

      Rebrandt Research Project c/o Kunsthistorisches Institut ,
      Herrengracht 286
      1016BX Amsterdam.

      Greetings and good luck,
      Peter Germany.

    2. To get more information on the above excerpt, which was essentially my original transcript, which is now published in a Book, Titled: The Authentication of Rembrandt’s Titus F 1655, written by myself, James R. Garcia. To see the underdrawings which were developed by myself, is truly the only way to see the number of underdrawings beneath the medium. If another story is to be written, it would behoove the writer to contact myself for additional research, that has been accomplished, and to review the photos of the underdrawings.

      Thank You,

      James R. Garcia

  6. Great story,I have some rembrandt prints.Don’t know what they are.I have tried contacting experts. No one gives the time of day and I don’t have $900-$1500 to find out if my prints are real. I found my prints under a counter in an old antique shop.

    1. Jeff Deyo:
      There is a new service from the art appraisers featured on Pawn Stars called E-Pinions (this outfit came in to evaluate a Rembrandt etching that was found at a garage sale, bought for $10, worth $3k, Pawn Stars gave the guy $1200 for it).

      It is $95, which seems reasonable but is not a certified appraisal and perhaps insurance won’t take it (I can’t pin my agent down on what exactly qualifies).

      I am thinking of submitting a Rembrandt etching I purchased at auction recently: Landscape with Square Tower 1630(?). I don’t think it is a printing from his lifetime but instead a later “state” or printing from the original plate. After the first 100 or so it has to be touched up until the Master’s hand is obliterated, the Pawn Stars one was said to be “from the 3rd and final state.” And not from Rembrandt’s lifetime.

      I’d be delighted if it is worth the $3k area the other was quoted. If I don’t find a local expert I might just do the E-Pinion since I’m selling or sending to a better auction not insuring.

      Ian Kennedy
      Kennedyhandmade and Vintage on Etsy

  7. DC:

    Amazing story, I would take your seriously!

    You must have the money to spend on all these tests (or friends I guess) but again, if sold, your drawing could be worth a fortune so it would be worth your investment.

    The only way to get someone serious would be if you were interested in selling or giving it to a museum. Although your insurance policy should be interested in this information as well.

    Christie’s and Sotheby’s won’t talk to you really? It would be in their interest to take your studies and also do something modern on whatever is in doubt, if anything. Selling or not, you could pay for this service (there is money to be made here for the expert).

    I’m going to feature your story on my blog if you don’t mind? :notworthy:

    Ian Kennedy

    1. Ian Kennedy, please contact me James R. Garcia, as I am the author and researcher of the Rembrandt Painting of Titus F 1655.

      Thank You for a reply.

      James R. Garcia

  8. James, I have a question. I am about to purchase an etching that is the same as this one (the one found at the school). Are there others of this around? I have not been able to find anything else about it or if it was only printed during his lifetime, not even a title really. It comes with another, “Heads of three women, one asleep”. I am curious as to what the value of the pair would be, since it is so difficult to find information about either. I believe the second is part of the second-state printing because the line on the bottom seems to be missing. Thanks for any input…

  9. Hello Erica,

    Would it be possible for you to email me a copy of the two Rembrandts that you have. I have an extensive collection of Rembrandt books that I could research and give you some type of an answer. I have yet to find another painting, etching or anything on Titus, however I could do additional research to see if in fact there is another etching or drawing of Titus F1655. Again, I have not totally researched my collection for another painting, etc., as I was only doing what was necessary to authenticate our painting. You are able to send me an email to:

    Thank You for a reply.

  10. I have a print rembrandt the artist son Titus and wonder if its real or fake, my grandmother had it for yrs and guarded it dearly now it’s mine and wondering about it . My name is wehnonah green 432-230-3022. If it worth something I need to sell to pay for my fathers funeral soon. Thank you.

  11. This is really crazy,but I have a painting that is identical to the also appers to have been a study,and then put on has the natural wear and tear that the one in the museum has is also layerd.and signed as well.the colors are seperting and cracking as well.would love to show you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.