Rembrandt self-portrait finally confirmed as genuine

Jun 10, 2014

Experts agree that painting is the work of the Old Master after 50 years of controversy


One of the art world's longest-running arguments has finally been settled with confirmation that a Rembrandt self-portrait was indeed painted by the Old Master. 

For nearly 50 years there has been doubt over the 1635 painting, which depicts a young Rembrandt wearing a black cloak and a feathered bonnet. At the time he was a 29-year-old artist living in Amsterdam, gradually acquiring the reputation that would later see him hailed as one of the greatest painters in history.

Though the portrait bears Rembrandt's signature, the Daily Telegraph reports that in 1968 Rembrandt specialist Horst Gerson argued that "areas of the painting were not accomplished enough to be the work of the Dutch painter".

Despite the accusations that the work was not genuine, and more likely to be by of one of Rembrant's pupils, the National Trust acquired the painting in 2010 when it was bequeathed them by the estate of Lady Samuel of Wych Cross.

The NT decided to subject the painting to scientific analysis, a £20,000 project funded by the National Lottery, in the hope it would be authenticated as an original Rembrandt. Now, reports the Telegraph, after months of analysis at the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridgeshire, which included "visual examination under magnification, infra-red reflectography, X-rays, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis", the painting has been verified a self-portrait. It will now form  part of the Rembrandt Revealed exhibition, at Buckland Abbey in Devon later this month.

Painting conservator Christine Slottvedd Kimbriel explained that analysts removed layers of aged and yellowed varnish to examine the painting's pigments.  This revealed that colours such as blue mineral azurite and blue cobalt were consistent with those used by Rembrandt. But it was the signature that provided the biggest clue.

"The signature and date of 1635... had been considered problematic in previous assessments as it was thought that the style and composition was much more akin to the artist's style slightly later in his career," said Kimbriel. "[But] the cross-section analysis left no reason to doubt that the inscription was added at the time of execution of the painting."

Prof Van de Wetering, the world's leading Rembrandt expert, declared himself "satisfied" that is authentic.

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