They were out of the picture for a few hundred years, but two portraits of a couple from the early 17th century are now attributed to Rembrandt. Auction house Christie’s speaks of a “historical rediscovery”, writes NRC.
The two small oval portraits were last seen in public in 1824, at a Christie’s auction. There they were sold as Rembrandts at the time. Since then they have been in the possession of an unknown British family. Art connoisseurs and scientists had no insight into the portraits all that time.
The portraits will now be auctioned again on July 6, almost two hundred years later, by auction house Christie’s in London. The portraits show the Leiden Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym, a wealthy plumber, and his wife Jaapgen Carels. The two would have been acquaintances of Rembrandt: the couple’s son married a cousin of Rembrandt.
Rijksmuseum researched portraits
The Rijksmuseum also attributes the portraits to Rembrandt, after the museum had examined the works of art at the auction house’s request.
The rediscovered portraits correspond materially to the paintings from Rembrandt’s studio, says director Taco Dibbits to NRC. “Then it could also be portraits of pupils. But on the basis of other facts, including the provenance, we support the attribution of Christie’s to Rembrandt.”
‘First see in real life’
But not everyone simply attributes the portraits to Rembrandt. Art connoisseur Jeroen Giltaij, author of The Great Rembrandt Book, points to two portraits in American museums that have been wrongly attributed to Rembrandt for some time. The two portrayed resemble Jan and Jaapgen like two drops of water, but the portrait of the woman is now attributed to Rembrandt student Jacob Backer.
The Rijksmuseum believes that two American portraits are later copies. Giltaij tells NRC that he must first see the portraits in real life before he can pass judgment.
It is quite rare that a Rembrandt still turns up with such probability, says art historian Joke de Wolf in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.
“Many Rembrandts turned up in the 19th century. But in the 1970s research was done with the Rembrandt Research Project and the collection of paintings attributed to Rembrandt was reduced.” It is difficult to estimate how many undiscovered Rembrandts there are today, says De Wolf.
The portraits are barely 20 centimeters and are one of the smallest painted portraits by Rembrandt. Christie’s expects a value of between 5 to 8 million pounds (5.7 to 9 million euros).
In 2016, 160 million euros was deposited by the Dutch and French states for the portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit. And the Netherlands bought De Vaandeldrager for 175 million in 2022. “In that respect, Jan and Jaapgen would be a bargain,” says De Wolf.
- Rembrandt’s smallest painting back in the Netherlands for a while
- Rembrandt’s Standard Bearer is in the Netherlands