First new Rembrandt since 1974 identified

A previously unknown painting by Rembrandt van Rijn has been identified, the first “new” work by the Dutch Golden Age master to appear since 1974. The hidden gem was spotted by Jan Six, an Amsterdam art dealer, art historian and specialist in Dutch old masters, at a Christie’s auction in 2016. Christie’s attributed the portrait “of a gentleman, half-length, in a black velvet cloak and white lace collar and cuffs” to the circle of Rembrandt van Rijn, dating it very generally to his lifetime. The painting itself is neither signed nor dated. The provenance couldn’t shed much light on the painting’s origin as the ownership record starts in England a century later at the earliest.

Six knew from the moment he laid eyes on the work in the Christie’s showroom that it was by Rembrandt, not someone in his circle. The direct gaze of the sitter making eye contact with the viewer was a rare approach in 17th portraiture, but they’re typical of Rembrandt’s portraits, including self-portraits. Then there was the matter of the collar. Six recognized it as a style that was in fashion for a brief period in 1633. Rembrandt had moved to Amsterdam from Leiden in late 1631 to begin his career as a portraitist. He quickly made a name for himself as a gifted portrait painter, but in 1633 there was no circle of Rembrandt yet.

Jan Six and an unnamed investor bought the painting at the Old Masters Day Sale in London on December 9th, 2016, for 137,000 pounds ($185,000), a sum nine times higher than the pre-sale estimate but chump change compared to its market value as a portrait painted by Rembrandt. Confirming attribution of an unsigned painting that is unknown in the literature is no easy task, however.

[Six] spent 18 months using X-ray techniques and analysis of paint samples to prove he had in fact bought a real Rembrandt.

The 39-year-old art dealer eventually won the backing of more than a dozen Rembrandt experts, including [Ernst van de Wetering,] the former leader of the Rembrandt Research Project, who spent a year verifying its authenticity.

“Seeing all these experts agreeing to what you’ve found is truly special. With the support of this vast body of knowledge, anybody contesting the painting would clearly represent a minority,” Six said.

The painting has been cut out of a larger piece. Researchers believe the dapper gentleman was part of a double portrait, likely with his wife as the other subject. That means there could be an unknown lady painted by Rembrandt out there for someone to find.

The cleaned and conserved portrait went on display at the Hermitage Amsterdam on Wednesday, May 16th, and will remain there until Friday, June 15th. Jan Six plans to seek a buyer for it. Here’s hoping it’s a museum.


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Comment by K
2018-05-18 03:36:51

Worth mentioning is that Jan Six already has a genuine Rembrandt hanging on his wall at home. It is a portrait of his ancestor Jan Six, a rather prominent member of Amsterdam cultural circles and an important arts collector.

Comment by Het Meisje van de Gutter
2018-05-18 05:07:10

That piece will probably become famous as ‘The Man with the Artificial Hand’. Maybe, Ol’ Harmenszoon van Rijn was simply about to hit a deadline.

Or, his ‘hand’ would precede what later Walt Disney the Elder would invent, i.e. a hand with a thumb and three fingers -or in this case three and a half- as an ‘artificial means’ to set it off from the dark velvet :confused:

Comment by Emily
2018-05-18 09:00:04

Who else thinks the cleaned version is just a bit too bright?

Comment by Theresa Nguyen
2018-05-18 14:05:12

That’s amazing how we can discover new 17th century art in this day and age!

Comment by Robin
2018-05-18 14:17:42

Perhaps he is wearing a glove that extends beyond his fingers. I agree it’s really odd. The hand looks almost cadaver-like.

Comment by Trevor Butcher
2018-05-21 07:25:27

I assume that the sitter had a reason for choosing to wear old gloves, or maybe they were all the rage that year as well?

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