This look back at the provenance of Rembrandt's self-portrait by Colin Gleadell is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
A self-portrait by Rembrandt that sold fifty years ago for £650 pounds is returning to the auction block this summer when Sotheby’s reckons it will make between £12 million pounds and £16 million pounds. In 1970, it was not considered a genuine Rembrandt, so Sotheby’s catalogued it as just “Rembrandt.” In art market parlance that means it looks like a Rembrandt but isn’t actually by the artist. For the real thing, the catalogue would have stated his full name—Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn—thus signaling their belief in its authenticity.
The buyer, Paris dealer J.O. Leegenhoek, and his wife, had held it for 26 years, before showing it to the German dendrochronologist, Peter Klein, who confirmed the wood it was painted on was from the same tree as the panel used for Rembrandt’s portrait of Maurits Huygens, which hangs in the Hamburg Kunsthalle. News filtered out in the art trade, and a nimble anonymous Dutch collector bought it from the Leegenhoeks for around $1.5 million, according to Rembrandt scholar Gary Schwartz—cheap for a Rembrandt, but then it hadn’t yet been openly recognized and wasn’t in very good condition. Analysis showed it had been overpainted by another hand in parts, and overzealously cleaned in others.
But it was a Rembrandt.
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