Circle of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam)
The Adoration of the Magi - en grisaille
oil on panel
25.6 x 20 cm., with later additions of 0.6 cm. width to each side
Private Collection, Paris.
with P. de Boer, Amsterdam, 1955.
J.C.H. Heldring, Oosterbeek, by 1955; (†), Sotheby's, London, 27 March 1963, lot 13, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn' (unsold?).
Mrs. E.M. Heldring-Talma; her sale; Christie's, Amsterdam, 3 December 1985, lot 155, as 'Circle of Rembrandt', where acquired by the present owner.
D. Hannema, Catalogue raisonné of the pictures in the collection of J.C.H. Heldring, Rotterdam, 1955, no. 24, pl. 27, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn'.
J.Q. van Regteren Altena, 'Tekeningen van Rembrandt' in:Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 1956, pp. 57-8, fig. 2, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn'.
O. Benesch, The Drawings of Rembrandt, Oxford, 1957, VI, p. 424, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn before 1626'.
K. Bauch, Der frühe Rembrandt und seine Zeit, Berlin, 1960, pp. 231-2, fig. 193a, as 'Rembrandt-pupil'.
O. Benesch, The Drawings of Rembrandt, New York, 1973, I, p. 3, under no. 01B, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn before 1626'.
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, Landau, 1983, IV, p. 2963, no. 1979, as 'studio work of circa 1630'.
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Kunstschatten uit Nederlandse verzamelingen, 19 June - 25 September 1955, no. 99, fig. 18, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn'.
Arnhem, Gemeentemuseum Arnhem, Collectie J.C.H. Heldring te Oosterbeek, 6 April-1 June 1958, p. 20, no. 24, fig. 23, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn'.
Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Werken uit de privé-collectie van J.C.H. Heldring, 25 May - 24 July 1960, no. 28, as 'Rembrandt van Rijn'.
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Lot Essay

This picture was long regarded as an autograph work by Rembrandt and exhibited as such on several occasions. Van Regteren Altena placed it in Rembrandt’s early period of circa 1625-29, relating it to a drawing of 'Coriolanus and the Women of Rome' in the Louvre and 'The Offering of Abigail' in the Rijksprentenkabinet, both no longer considered to be autograph. Benesch thought both drawings and this picture to be among the earliest works by Rembrandt and dated all three works to 1625, until Bauch in 1960 no longer supported the attributions of any of the works. He remarked the Louvre drawing was stylistically close to this painting, but regarded all three to have been executed after 1630 by a pupil of the master.

Christiaan Vogelaar, to whom we are grateful for his help in cataloguing this note, relates this picture to Rembrandt’s grisaille paintings of the 1630's and noteworthy to the 1632 dated Adoration of the Magi in the Hermitage, which similarly displays the main scene amidst a large group of bystanders in oriental attire. Considered in 1986 by the Rembrandt Research Project as a possibly studio copy “after a lost original possibly from 1632” (Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 2, 1986, no. C 46), it was re-attributed to Rembrandt in volume 6 (2015, no. 109). However, the architectural setting in the present lot differs from the Hermitage composition, with its dominant feature of the unusual opening of the roof revealing the Star of Bethlehem, and the arched porchway in the background in which a multitude of armed soldiers can be discerned. Such an accomplished setting with a multitude of bystanders in exotic oriental attire recalls of the oeuvre of the Haarlem painter Willem de Poorter (1608-after 1648), who is by some believed to have been an apprentice with Rembrandt in Leiden around 1630. Moreover, it reminds of the oeuvre of the Leiden painter Jan Adriaensz. van Staveren (1613/14- 1669) who is thought to have trained with Gerrit Dou. Vogelaar points out that the similarity is especially strong with Van Staveren's Circumcision of circa 1640 (see: Sumowski, 1983, V, p. 3115, no. 2158, ill. p. 3307) and Esther before Ahasuerus in The Leiden Collection, New York, which is probably executed in the first half of the 1640s.

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