December 01, 2020

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Rembrandt? Attribution of two Paintings in Mauritshuis Collection to be Researched

Rembrandt? Attribution of two Paintings in Mauritshuis Collection to be Researched

Mauritshuis will embark on new research into two paintings in its collection to determine whether or not they are indeed by Rembrandt.

The works in question are Study of an Old Man from 1650 and ‘Tronie’ of an Old Man from c. 1630-31.

Both were purchased as genuine Rembrandts by then Mauritshuis director Abraham Bredius, in 1891 and 1892, but are today considered ‘doubtful’ by the museum. Both paintings will also be thoroughly restored.

Rembrandt or not?
The ‘study’ and the ‘tronie’ have both previously been examined, but from September 2019 the latest techniques will be deployed to find out more about the paintings and later overpaint will be removed.

The results of technical analysis and restoration will hopefully provide an answer to their attribution.

The restoration and examination will take place in the Mauritshuis’s own conservation studio, and the museum will bring in external expertise to collaborate.

It is not yet known how long the work will take. Even if the research does not provide a definitive attribution, it will certainly reveal new information about how they were painted.

Both paintings were made as so-called ‘tronies’. Rather than depicting a specific individual, a tronie shows a character type or emotion. In the nineteenthcentury, when Rembrandt became famous as never before, people were keen to ‘recognise’ members of the master’s family in his works.

This is how Study of an Old Man became known as the ’brother of Rembrandt’ and the Tronie of an Old Man the ‘father of Rembrandt’.

However, there is no evidence to suggest that the sitters are Rembrandt’s brother Adriaen van Rijn or his father Harmen Gerritsz van Rijn.

Edwin Buijsen, Mauritshuis Head of Collections; ‘The techniques available to examine paintings improve with every generation. We are seizing this opportunity to hopefully answer the question of whether or not these are Rembrandts. An exciting quest that will provide all kinds of new information whatever the outcome’.

Rembrandt and the Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis has one of the world’s most important holdings of Rembrandt’s paintings. 2019 has been designated a national Rembrandt Year, and the museum will exhibit all 18 paintings that were once acquired as ‘Rembrandts’ for the occasion.

Of this group of eighteen, eleven are still considered authentic works by Rembrandt, or have been reattributed to him. They include the renowned works The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, Saul and David and Rembrandt’s Self-portrait of 1669.

The presentation also includes five paintings that are no longer attributed to the master himself, and two paintings that have a ‘question mark’ over their authorship.

The exhibition ‘Rembrandt and the Mauritshuis’ tells the story of how these works came into the museum’s collection. Who discovered the painting? Was it acquired or donated? How was it examined? Why (and how) did some paintings fall from their ‘Rembrandt pedestal’ over time? Visitors will be invited to take a closer look and make their own comparisons. Is there any visible differences between a ‘Rembrandt’ and a ‘non-Rembrandt’?

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