Carol Vogel gives the entire modern provenance of Barbara Piasecka Johnson’s Rembrandt that Christie’s will sell this December. The picture has a $30-40m estimate range and has not been shown publicly for 40 years:
The portrait has a rich history. It was first shown publicly in 1847, when it was included in an exhibition at the British Institution in London, on loan from George Folliott, a notable British collector. His grandson sold it in 1930 at Sotheby’s, where it brought £18,500, then a huge price. Soon after that it was acquired by George Huntington Hartford II, the supermarket heir, who was in his 20s at the time. He donated it to Columbia University in 1958, and it hung in the president’s office until 1968, when, because of student demonstrations, it was removed for safekeeping and put in storage.
In 1970 Columbia lent it to “Rembrandt After 300 Years,” an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts. That was the last time it was seen in public. Four years later Harold Diamond, a New York dealer, sold it to the Johnsons on behalf of the university, which used the proceeds to benefit an endowment fund. The only other known Rembrandt executed the same year is a self-portrait in the Frick Collection.
Old Master Steps Out, Heading to Auction (New York Times)