Sale 19030
Old Master Paintings and Sculpture
Online 2 - 19 June 2020
Literature

'Rembrandt, Notes on three early works by the Master', Le Monde des Arts/The Art World, 1925, I, pp. 44-45, illustrated.
J. Bruyn, B. Haak et al., A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, The Hague, Boston and London, 1982, I, pp. 238-239, no. 3 under 'Copies', fig. 6, as 'apparently a 17th-century copy on a slightly larger scale in a narrower compass'.

Exhibited

Brussels, Galerie Royale, Les 100 Portraits: Collection du Comte Cavens, 1 May-1 June 1909, no. 64, as Rembrandt.

The prime version of this composition is the example dating to circa 1629 in The Clowes Fund at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. A high-quality studio example, long believed to be Rembrandt’s original, is today in the collection of the MOA Museum of Art, Atamia, Japan (see E. van de Wetering, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings: The Self-Portraits, Dordrecht, 2005, pp. 598-601, no. I A 22 / Br. 3). No fewer than four additional variants on panel are known, including the studio version described by the Rembrandt Research Project as ‘a rather coarse copy’ sold Sotheby’s, New York, 16 May 1996, lot 28 (op. cit., p. 239, under no. A 22.5).
It is likely that Rembrandt kept one version of this composition on hand for quite some time following his departure from Leiden to Amsterdam in 1631. A number of artists who later joined his studio or knew his work in Amsterdam – including Paulus Lesire, Carel Fabritius and Jacob Backer – combined variants of the gorget, scarf and cap with evocative poses and expressions like those seen in this painting (S.S. Dickey, Rembrandt Face to Face, exhibition catalogue, Indianapolis, 2006, pp. 33-34). Recent dendrochronological analysis of the present panel undertaken by Art Analysis & Research Inc. confirms that it was available for use in the years immediately after circa 1631 (a copy of the report is available upon request). The report further notes that the panel is made of uncharacteristically soft wood, which is consistent with the poor quality panels encountered in the works of artists in Rembrandt’s orbit, including Jan Lievens, around this time (for a fuller discussion of this phenomenon, see E.M. Gifford, ‘Lievens’ Technique: “Wonders in smeared paint, varnishes, and oils”, in Jan Lievens: A Dutch master Rediscovered, A.K. Wheelock Jr., ed., exhibition catalogue, Washington, Milwaukee and Amsterdam, 2008, pp. 42-43).
Among the reasons given by Ernst van de Wetering in the fourth volume of the Rembrandt Research Project for the primacy of the Indianapolis painting is the existence of two red pimples, one on the proper right side of the chin and the other midway above the jaw line (op. cit., p. 601). Unlike the MOA and other versions of this composition, the present painting includes both blemishes, with the chin pimple being especially visible. Moreover, like the Indianapolis and MOA versions, the artist responsible for this work has employed the butt end of his brush to pick out individual strands of hair in the wet paint.

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