Rembrandt Self-Portrait proclaimed (ctd.)*

June 10 2014

Image of Rembrandt Self-Portrait proclaimed (ctd.)*

Picture: National Trust/Brian Cleckner

I reported last year that the Rembrandt scholar Ernst Van der Wetering had decided that a picture belonging to the National Trust at Buckland Abbey was indeed a genuine Rembrandt, its status having been doubted in the past. Now the picture has been cleaned (and subjected to the usual battery of analysis, IR, X-ray and all that). Most importantly, the signature and date (1635) has been analysed and proved to be at one with the picture. So the picture, a self-portrait, is right as rain. From the National Trust press release:

David Taylor, Paintings and Sculptor Curator at the National Trust said: "The debate over whether this is or isn't a Rembrandt has been on-going for decades.

"The key element for me has been the cleaning.  The varnish was so yellow that it was difficult to see how beautifully the portrait had been painted. Now you can really see all the flesh tones and other colours, as well as the way in which the paint has been handled - it's now much easier to appreciate it as a Rembrandt.

"With the technical analysis backing up Ernst's claims, we are obviously very excited. Caring for the work of one of the great Dutch masters although in itself quite daunting, will also give us a great story to tell as we bring the mystery of its authorship to life for our visitors to enjoy."

Ernst van de Wetering visited the painting at the HKI just before it returned to Buckland Abbey.  He said: "Although I was pretty certain the painting was a Rembrandt when I saw it in 2013, I wanted to further examine it after cleaning and see the results from the technical analysis as this had never been done before. With all this additional scientific evidence, I am satisfied it is by Rembrandt".

The previous opinion that Ernst overturned was that of Horst Gerson, which is similar to the recent case of the National Gallery's Old Man in an Arm Chair.

The restoration was paid for by something called The People's Postcode Lottery. Good for them.

Update - I posted this story by mistake yesterday, before an 'embargo' had apparently expired. So that's why it appeared and then disappeared from the blog. The story is old news really, so I'm surprised it has caught on in such a big way in the papers (Telegraph, New York Times) today. It's also interesting to note, further to our ongoing discussions on connoisseurship, that Ernst Van der Wetering's judgement back in 2013 - that the picture was a Rembrandt - is only 'official' after the usual somewhat inconclusive technical analysis. But 'x-ray and infra-red analysis' sounds much better in the papers than 'an unassuming scholar's excellent eye'.

* Or, "Why Connoisseurship Matters (ctd.)"

Update II - I was on BBC Radio talking about the picture yesterday, which you can listen to here, at 1hr 21m.

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