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Newly Discovered Rembrandt Artwork Goes on Display

  • Rembrandt artwork
March 11, 2016
Gordana Sretenović. Teaching English and writing for a living. Obsessed with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Desires to travel the world and not have a permanent address. Occasionally writes poetry.

Rembrandt van Rijn, a name that has always sparked much interest in the public, once again is in the center of the attention in the art world. Newly discovered Rembrandt artwork, The Unconscious Patient, will go on display at the Dutch art fair. But how did all of this happen? And how can any of Rembrandt’s work be “new”? Well, it all started with the discovery of a painting labeled as the masterpiece of an unknown artist from Europe’s Continental School. It was estimated to be between $500-$800 when it was auctioned last year in New Jersey. Thankfully, a French art dealer Bernard Gautier recognized that the painting was probably much older than thought, and he knew that the famous old master was the one who painted it. However, another dealer had the same feeling and the price of the painting skyrocketed to over $1 million when the Paris gallery owner bought it. On Thursday, the painting found its new home at the reputable TEFAF art fair in the Dutch city of Maastricht.

Rembrandt artwork
French art dealer Bertrand Gautier, left, shows off the painting in Maastricht, southern Netherlands, on Thursday, (Photo: Mike Corder/Associated Press) via cbc.ca

Rembrandt Artwork and its Incredible Journey

The Unconscious Patient is considered to be one of Rembrandt’s first pictures ever painted, according to professor Christopher Brown, an expert in Dutch art at the University of Oxford. It was created when Rembrandt was 18 or 19 years old, at the very beginning of his career, after he had moved back to his hometown, Leiden. Vivid colors of the masterpiece depict an old woman holding a handkerchief under the nose of a young man, trying to bring him back to consciousness with smelling salts after a surgeon has performed the deed of blood-letting. The painting is considered a part of the master’s series depicting the five senses. Three of these five sense paintings we already know about, and with the discovery of “smell”, “taste” is the only one missing.

Rembrandt artwork
Left: The Unconscious Patient via cbc.ca / Right: Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar, 1659 via wikipedia.org

Rembrandt that does not Look like Rembrandt?

What brings giggles to the table in this story is the identification of the painting that could have been done much sooner. As Gautier told The Associated Press, the reason it was not identified as a Rembrandt artwork sooner was an 18th-century attempt to make it seem more 18th century Rembrandt! Confusing, right? According to Gautier, the common practice of making pictures more Rembrandt-like was to add harsher lighting, enlarge the painting and make it darker around the edges, thus “Rembrandtizing” Rembrandt himself. Today it seems silly, but we are nevertheless very lucky to be able to place the painting in the correct historical surroundings.

Rembrandt artwork
Visitors to the booth of Galerie Talabardon & Gautier at the TEFAF fine art fair, Maastricht, southern Netherlands, AP Photo Mike Corder via wtop.com

Rembrandt’s Artwork Restored to its Original Glory

Upon buying the painting at an auction in New Jersey, Gautier and Talabardon had managed to restore it to a frame that can be opened. The reason behind this is simple. When closed, the frame shows the original scale of the painting but when opened it presents us with the “tampered” version, with all the additions. Another surprising event occurred: the earliest known signature by Rembrandt, “RHF”, has been discovered on the painting. It is considered to stand for Rembrandt Harmensz fecit, the artist’s version of his full name, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. This glorious masterpiece draws much attention at the invitation-only art fair. Unfortunately, prospective buyers will be disappointed as the painting has already been sold to Leiden Collection in New York, a privately owned collection already in the possession of two other “sense” pictures.

Editor’s Tip: Ernst van de Wetering – Rembrandt: The Painter at Work

Have a look at Rembrandt’s intriguing painting technique that has inspired many and astounded the world. In this revised version of the book with a new foreword by the author, Rembrandt’s astonishing pictorial mastery and the variety of materials and techniques he used are unraveled for the world to see. This book provides information on many other topics related to Rembrandt, such as his daily practice and artistic inspirations while simultaneously depicting a more in-depth image of the artist himself. While we wait for the “taste” sense painting to be found, let us enjoy the ingenuity of the old master through this interesting reading.

All images are for illustrating purposes.Featured image: A visitor to the Galerie Talabardon & Gautier booth at the TEFAF fine art fair examines the newly discovered Rembrandt painting via cbc.ca