Saturday, 8 November 2014

Newly attributed Rembrandts

Picture: National Gallery of Art
Ernst van de Wetering with collaboration of Carin Van Nes, translated and edited by Murray Pearson A Corpus of Rembrandt Painting Volume VI: Rembrandt's Paintings Revisited Springer 2014 £834.65 (yes, really...)

I've just got Volume VI of the Rembrandt Corpus, and as it's not widely available yet I thought a summary of the re-attributed pictures might be useful given the different media accounts. I'll review it in a later post; for now I'm just giving a summary. The new and changed attributions plus recently discovered or resurfaced pictures have been identified with a asterisk in the catalogue, but what constitutes a 'new' attribution is neither clear nor consistent. Many of the asterisked works have already been upgraded between the earlier and later volumes of the corpus. Others that have been upgraded are not identified with an asterisk. Press reports said there were seventy new attributions, but I count eighty asterisked paintings, although not all should really qualify as 'new' attributions. 

For me the most remarkable attribution is the Washington version of Lucretia (above), which is downgraded to a pupil's work, with scarcely any argument at all. Unfortunately there is no list of rejected attributions, but it is discussed under the entry for the Minneapolis version. I think it's one of Rembrandt's best. Other exclusions are the Liverpool Self Portrait and the Met's Bathsheba, although Vol V of the Corpus has the latter as by a pupil with intervention by Rembrandt, a surprisingly precise judgment of such a poorly preserved picture. 

It's a monumental and impressive book with great illustrations, but it has some obvious limitations. There is no provenance, information on condition is patchy, references are sparse. That's fine for the summary of previous volumes, but I do wish there was a fuller account of the later pictures that weren't included in earlier volumes. The rejected late works are also excluded. And it's poor that such an expensive book should be marred by typos and errors. A hilarious example is the photo on page 15, which identifies all present except for the sole woman in the picture, whom they perhaps missed because she is largely obscured by one of the men! It's probably Lideke Peese Binkhorst. Talk about excluding women from art history...

Here is a list of the asterisked pictures, with numbering from the Corpus. I've added my own asterisks to indicate where a picture has already been attributed to Rembrandt by the RRP in earlier volumes, and I've added some selective commentary in parenthesis. 

1.* The Spectacles (Sight) c. 1624 Leiden, Lakenhal (Previously re-attributed in Vol IV p. 627)
2.* Three Singers (Hearing) c. 1624 Private Collection (Previously re-attributed in Vol IV p. 627)
3.* The Operation (Touch) c. 1624 Private Collection (Previously re-attributed in Vol IV p. 627)
9.* The Baptism of the Eunuch 1626 Utrecht Museum, Catherijnconvent (discovered in 1975, but considered autograph even in Vol I, under A5)
13.* The Flight into Egypt 1627 Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts (Vol V, p.154 lists this as autograph, but the reference oddly isn't provided in vol VI. Also given to Rembrandt in The Mystery of the Young Rembrandt exhibition)
17.* The Foot Operation 1628 Private Collection (accepted Vol V p. 160)
18.* Rembrandt Laughing c. 1628 Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum (recent discovery that I don't think any authority has doubted and included as a Rembrandt in Vol V p. 157)
19.* Study in the Mirror (the human skin) c. 1627/1628 Indianapolis Museum of Art. (re-attributed in Vol IV) Rare case of x-rays being decisive in attribution, in this case determining that the Indianapolis version is primary and a version in Japan is a copy, rather than vice-versa as assumed in Vol I of the corpus.
21.* Bust of a Man Wearing a Turban c. 1628 Private Collection (recently resurfaced, given to Rembrandt in Vol IV p. 637)
22.* Interior with Figures called 'La main chaude' c. 1628 Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland (accepted in Vol V, pp. 158-9)
30.* Self Portrait with a Gorget c. 1629 Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationamuseum (accepted Vol IV p. 197)
32. Self-Portrait c. 1630 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
33.* Self-Portrait with Beret and Gathered Shirt 1630 Stockholm, Nationalmuseum (Vol IV p. 166 - 171)
35.* Laughing Soldier c. 1630 The Hague, Mauritshuis (Vol IV p. 166 - 171)
36. Bust of an Old Man c. 1630 Private Collection (a privately owned version that was not widely known, re-attributed following technical examination and restoration)
44.* Oil Study of an Old Man c. 1630 Kingston, Queen's University, Agnew Etherington Art Centre (Vol IV p. 628)
45. Oil Study of an Old Man c. 1630 Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst
46, Bust of an Old Man c. 1630 The Hague, Mauritshuis
56. A Man wearing a Gorget and Plumed Cap c. 1631 Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum (Vol I listed as a 'B' picture, i.e. uncertain authenticity, but that view was not widely held and the Getty has consistently shown it as a Rembrandt)
61. Portrait of a Couple in an Interior 1632 Boston, Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum (stolen) (rejected in Vol 2 but most continued to regard as Rembrandt)
63a.* Portrait of a Man 1632 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (NB there is a typo in the reference; it is attributed to Rembrandt in Vol V pp 313-4, not 113-4 as stated in Vol VI, p. 512)
63b.* Portrait of a Woman (companion to 63a) 1632 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art ('Rembrandt and (mainly) workshop')
69.* Self Portrait 1632 Whereabouts Unknown (Vol IV pp. 199-206)
79.* Bust of a Young Woman wearing a Plumed Cap 1632 (re-attributed Vol IV p. 629)
81. Bearded Old Man 1632 Cambridge Mass. Fogg Art Museum
82.* Study of an Old Man with a Gold Chain 1632 Kassel, Gemäldegalerie (re-attributed Vol IV p. 628)
85. A Scholar near a Window 1631 Stockholm, Nationalmuseum
87a. Portrait of a Man 1632 Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum
87b. Portrait of a Woman (companion to 87a) 1632 Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum
109.* The Adoration of the Magi (grisaille) c. 1633 St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 180 accepts as autograph)
115. Portrait of a Young Bachelor 1634 St Petersburg, Hermitage (only one paragraph on this re-attribution, which van de Wetering now considers autograph except for the collar)
118b. Portrait of a Woman (companion to 118a) 1634 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts (118a isn't marked with an asterisk, and is given to 'Rembrandt and mainly workshop', also a new attribution, but the text states that "there can scarcely be any doubt that the man was entirely executed by a different hand from the woman", pp. 536-537, my emphasis.)
122.* Oval Self Portrait with Shaded Eyes 1634 Private Collection (Vol IV p. 615 accepts as autograph)
126.* The Descent from the Cross 1634  St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 190 - 191) accepts as autograph)
130a. The Flight into Egypt 1634 Private Collection (re-attributed following recent re-investigation)
134. Self-Portrait 1635 Buckland Abbey, National Trust ('and Workshop?) (mentioned in the corrigenda and addenda to Vol IV as 'Rembrandt workshop (or Rembrandt?), reserving judgment pending further investigation.
141.* Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress 1635 Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum (Vol IV p. 635)
142. Bust of a Bearded Old Man in Fanciful Costume 1635 London, Royal Collection
146. Self-Portrait transformed into a Tronie c. 1633-1636 Berlin Gemäldegalerie (In Vol IV p. 603 van de Wetering thought this a picture started by Rembrandt that may or may not have been subsequently transformed by another hand. He now considers it fully Rembrandt, but with no new argument other than that the decision was reached 'after further stylistic analysis'. Well, that settles it then.)
151.* The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard 1637 St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 206-207 accepts as autograph)
152. River Landscape with Ruins c. 1637 - c. 1645 Kassel, Gemäldegalerie (uncertain attribution in Vol III)
154.* Self Portrait c. 1637 London, Wallace Collection (re-attributed in Vol IV)
156. Portrait of the Preacher Eleazar Swalmius 1637 Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (re-attributed following cleaning in 2008, revealing a very well preserved original)
157. Bust of a Man with Plumed Cap c. 1637 The Hague, Mauritshuis (re-attributed with only brief discussion; essentially a change of heart)
171*. Bust of a Young Woman c. 1640 Washington, National Gallery of Art (Van de Wetering gave dissenting opinion in Vol III, maintaining then that it was by Rembrandt)
172.* Self Portrait c. 1639 Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum of Art (re-attributed in Vol IV)
173. The Holy Family with St Anne 1640 Paris, Louvre (lengthy and closely-argued case is made in Vol VI for re-attribution)
178.* Self-Portrait c. 1640 Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (re-attributed Vol IV)
180. Portrait of a Woman, Possibly Anna Wijmer 1641 ('Rembrandt and workshop or a later hand') Amsterdam, Six Foundation (re-attributed following cleaning in 1995 and restoration in 2013/14 - I'd love to have more details of the work done on it in two major interventions within a decade. The picture was significantly altered, probably in Rembrandt's studio)
182. Oil Study of a Woman lit obliquely from behind c. 1640 Private Collection (re-attributed following restoration and removal of significant overpainting 2003-5)
185. A Scholar at a Writing Desk c. 1641 Warsaw, Royal Castle
186. Girl in a Fanciful Costume in a Picture Frame 1641 Warsaw, Royal Castle (185 and 186 are likely pendants with shared history, both thought lost in World War II but resurfaced in the early 1990s. Attribution of 186 is less certain, with arguments set out in some detail in Vol VI)
188.* David's Parting from Jonathan 1642 St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 220-221 accepts as autograph)
189.* Self-Portrait 1642 Windsor Castle, Royal Collection (re-attributed in Vol IV)
191a. Portrait of a Man with a Hawk 1643 Private Collection ('Rembrandt and workshop'). Its companion, 191b, is not asterisked but is given to 'Rembrandt and (mainly) workshop' In my view, if these are considered to be at least in part by Rembrandt then there are strong grounds for regarding a number of other excluded works as at least in part his, including the recently sold Man with a Sword, which Van de Wetering rejects. Alternatively, and as least as likely, these may not be by Rembrandt at all
193. Bust of a Woman (Ruth?) 1643 Berlin Gemäldegalerie (lengthy entry gives full reasons for re-attribution)
195. Portrait of a Man with a Steel Gorget 1644 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
203. Old Man with Fur Coat 1645 Berlin Gemäldegalerie
206. The Mill c. 1645 Washington, National Gallery of Art (Despite the asterisk, this wasn't previously catalogued by the RRP and although it has often been questioned, many have continued to regard it as a Rembrandt, including in the National Gallery's own catalogue)
212. Saul and David c. 1645 and c. 1652 The Hague, Mauritshuis (rejected by Gerson in 1969, but many continued to regard it as Rembrandt)
216. Portrait of a Man Reading by Candlelight 1648 Williamstown, Clark Art Institute (having seen this last week, in my view this is one of the more questionable attributions)
217b. Oil Study of Christ c. 1648 Private Collection (Van de Wetering accepts this plus the generally accepted Berlin version from seven heads of Christ from Rembrandt's hand or studio. Solid reasons for regarding the group being from different hands are given, but after lengthy discussion of the series we are told that two are by Rembrandt, "Taking into account all the evidence (which is beyond the scope of this book to set out fully)", which left me feeling rather cheated.
221. Old Man in an Armchair 1652 London, National Gallery (I remain unconvinced, but lengthy argument is presented)
230. Oil Study of an Old Man in a Red Hat c. 1654 Berlin Gemäldegalerie (covered with discoloured varnish, but I confess I cannot see the great merit that Van de Wetering recognises in this picture)
235a.* Self Portrait 1654 Kassel Gemäldegalerie (was in poor condition already, but almost wholly destroyed in an acid attack in 1977. Already given to Rembrandt in Vol IV)
238 Oil Sketch of an Old Man 1655 Private Collection (only briefly discussed)
251 Venus and Cupid c.1657 Paris, Louvre (lengthy argument for re-attribution)
259. Portrait of an Unknown Scholar (also known as 'The Auctioneer') 1658 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (extensively argued for Rembrandt, contra the Met's curator Walter Liedtke.)
263. Portrait of the dyke reeve Dirck van Os c. 1658 Omaha, Joslyn Museum of Art (damaged and over-painted, re-attributed to Rembrandt following drastic restoration that seems from pictures to have seriously compromised the image)
266.* Tobit and Anna 1659 Rotterdam. Boijmans van Beuningen Museum (on loan from the Willem van der Vorm Foundation) (Given to Rembrandt in Vol V)
271. Oil Sketch for 272 (sic! i.e. for the Gothenberg Falconer) c. 1660 Copenhagen, Statens Museum (this picture looks really bad, but technical evidence puts its origin firmly in Rembrandt's studio, and it may possibly by his rather than a student's)
275.* Self Portrait (unfinished) c. 1659 Musée Granet, Aix en Provence (given to Rembrandt in Vol V)
276. Lighting Study with Old Man as Model 1659 Milwaukee, Daniel and Linda Bader Collection
277. Lighting Study with Hendricke Stoffels in a Silk Gown as Model c. 1659 Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut (on loan from the Federal Republic of Germany) (A surprising re-attribution of a picture that I didn't know at all, which is in store in Frankfurt and doesn't look great in reproduction, though very extensive argument is made for Rembrandt's authorship)
280. A Smiling Young Man (Titus) 1660 Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art (another surprise. Superficially unimpressive but cogently argued as a Rembrandt)
285.* Lighting Study of an Old Man in Profile probably painted in preparation of 286 (sic; i.e, for the Washington Circumcision) c. 1661 Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston Ontario (re-attributed in the Rembrandt: The Quest of a Genius exhibition)
288 Titus Posing for a Study of an Angel c. 1661 Detroit Institute of Arts (Van de Wetering had this reproduced as recently as 2006 in the Quest of a Genius exhibition as a studio work; eight years later he finds that inexplicable.
293 The Apostle James the  Less 1661 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art ("I belief it to be autograph" say Van de Wetering, in yet another typo)
309 Portrait of Jan Boursse Sitting by a Stove, probably painted in preparation for an unrealised etched portrait c. 1666 Winterthur, Museum Oskar Reinhart 'Am Römerholz' (Much damaged and uncharacteristic work)
310 A Presumed Sketch for the Male Sitter in 'A Jewish Bride' mid 1660s New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (in my view the weakest of all the re-attributions; in my view not a good picture and not a convincing argument)

Number 42, The Good Samaritan in the Wallace Collection, was also rejected and subsequently accepted, but is not asterisked as a new attribution. Number 77 (a & b), the Pelicorne portraits also in the Wallace, were also originally rejected and now included as partly autograph. Number 42, but not 77, is included in a master list in a footnote on page ix.

Number 86, Interior with a Window and a Winding Staircase in the Louvre was rejected in Vol II but accepted in Vol V pp. 196-197. All the re-attributions in Vol V are marked with an asterisk except this one and the Wallace's Good Samaritan

Number 92, Portrait of a Man wearing a Red Doublet from 1633, in a private collection, was included in Agenda and Corrigenda to Vol IV pp. 638-646 but unlike the other additions isn't marked with an asterisk. 

Number 192 was a much-publicised re-attribution of An Old Man in Rich Costume (Boas?) 1643 from Woburn Abbey, but it is not asterisked. It had been  widely considered to be a Rembrandt, but was not widely known as it was not on public display.

The Preface identifies a number of paintings as 'discovered or re-surfaced', but again it's a subjective list. It includes number 22, more accurately described as re-attributed, and a number of pictures that were in private hands and rarely seen for many years, but does not include the Woburn portrait or the Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo (261) recently exhibited by Otto Naumann at Frieze Masters.


  1. I think the Rembrandt Research Project, an interdisciplinary group of Dutch art historians set up to create a comprehensive and accurate list of Rembrandt van Rijn’s paintings, is on a hiding to nothing. When they reduced the number of "authentic" works to half of what had formerly been accepted, the owners and insurance companies went bananas. They lost millions of pounds worth of treasure.

    When they increased the number of now-authentic paintings, people began to doubt the Research Project's consistency and accuracy. When I heard their work discussed at a conference, the constant response from the audience was for more objective criteria for the attribution of Rembrandtian works.

    1. There was a deliberate shift half way through when Van de Wetering took sole charge and the older members left, sending a letter to the Burlington explaining their reasons. To his credit, Wetering does try to explain his methods in the introduction, but inevitably there's a degree of subjectivity involved. I understand why so many people have become frustrated by the whole thing, but I think we do now have a clearer view of Rembrandt than before, though it will continue to be contested.