Portrait of a Young Gentleman measures 39.8 by 29.3 inches and is thought to have been painted around 1634, when the artist was 28 years old. It depicts a young man in a black velvet coat with an ornate white lace collar and leather gloves, and is possibly part of a larger double portrait. The pre-sale estimate of the then-unidentified painting had been just £15,000 – £20,000 ($20,000 – $27,000) when it was sold at Christie’s.
A gauzy 17th-century portrait of a young man is now on view at the Hermitage Museum in the Dutch Master’s hometown of Amsterdam for a brief celebratory run.
The Dutch art dealer Jan Six says that “Portrait of a Young Gentleman” is by Rembrandt, and several high-profile experts agree.CreditRené van Gerritsen/Jan Six Fine Arts
The Dutch art dealer Jan Six is a direct descendant of a 17th-century burgher who sat for one of Rembrandt’s most important paintings, “Portrait of Jan Six.” It has remained in his family’s possession for 11 generations. Naturally, he grew up to become an old masters specialist.
The Amsterdam-based dealer Jan Six acquired the portrait, an undated and unsigned oil painting attributed to the “Circle of Rembrandt van Rijn,” at a Christie’s London Old Masters Day Sale in December of 2016.
Mr. Six spent 18 months doing historical and technical analysis of the painting, including paint sample analysis, X-radiography and other scanning technologies. He has lined up 15 curators and art historians in the Netherlands and abroad who vouch for the painting’s authenticity as a Rembrandt.
Mr. Six placing the portrait into a frame during a news conference on May 16. He has published a book detailing evidence for his attribution of the picture to Rembrandt.CreditFrançois Lenoir/Reuters
The painting has been endorsed as genuine by Ernst van de Wetering, the world’s leading Rembrandt authority, who wrote a six-volume encyclopedic register of the artist’s works, “The Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings.” With this attribution, Mr. van de Wetering places the “Portrait of a Young Gentleman” as Rembrandt painting No. 342.
“I’m absolutely convinced,” said Mr. van de Wetering in a telephone interview, adding that the painting was “no doubt an authentic Rembrandt and an interesting contribution to Rembrandt’s oeuvre.”
Norbert Middelkoop, curator of paintings, prints and drawings at the Amsterdam Museum, also fully support this attribution. “It’s absolutely an Amsterdam-based portrait made by Rembrandt in 1634 or ‘35,” he said in a telephone interview. “There are so many similarities to 100 percent-secured works by Rembrandt.”
Left: Youthful self-portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1634.
But other experts said that they were not yet ready to weigh in on the attribution.
“We’re following the research and we’re very keen to hear what people are saying,” said David de Witt, senior curator at the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam. “Right now we’d like to have a chance to join everyone else in studying the work and considering the evidence.”
Rembrandt van Rijn, left: Marten Soolmans, 1634, oil on canvas, 2.1×1.4 cm. Courtesy: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; right: Oopjen Coppit, 1634, oil on canvas, 2.1×1.3 m. Courtesy: Musée du Louvre, Paris
Conservators at the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum, also examined the painting using macro X-ray fluorescence scanning, comparing its pigments with a pair of Rembrandt pendants, “Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit,” which the museum purchased along with the Louvre in 2015 for $180 million.
“It has many features in common with the Marten Soolmans portrait,” said Petria Noble, head of paintings conservation, in a telephone interview, “but it requires more research.”
“I personally think it’s possible” that it is a genuine Rembrandt, she added, “but what I still want to be able to do is to investigate further.”
The last full attribution of a previously unknown Rembrandt was “The Baptism of the Eunuch,” a small early work, in 1974. A missing painting from Rembrandt’s series on the five senses, “The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell),” was rediscovered at an estate sale in New Jersey in 2015.
1.2. Rembrandt. The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell), 1625, 31.8×25.4 cm • Oil, Wood
The artist’s highest price at auction, according to artnet’s Price Database was for Rembrandt’s signed Portrait of a Man With Arms Akimbo (1658) sold for £20,201,250 ($33,258,562) at Christie’s London in 2009.
Based on materials from Artnet, NY Times
Title illustration: “Portrait of a Young Gentleman” possibly by Rembrandt. Francois Lenoir/Reuters