Rembrandt ‘knockoff’ hanging in museum for decades could be worth MILLIONS after restoration crews discover it’s actually one of the Dutch master’s originals
- The work had been attributed to an artist in Rembrandt’s studio
- A cleaning at NYU revealed brushwork judged to be from Rembrandt himself
- Rembrandt works typically sell for tens of millions — but this one isn’t for sale
- The painting will be displayed at the Allentown Art Museum starting in June
A nearly 400-year-old painting that had long been attributed to an artist in Rembrandt’s workshop has been revealed to be a work of the Dutch master himself.
An oil-on-oak panel painting called Portrait of a Young Woman had been credited to Studio of Rembrandt until conservators at New York University used modern tools to strip away centuries’ worth of overpainting and dark, thick varnish — revealing delicate brushwork that they say is the work of Rembrandt.
Portrait of a Young Woman has been displayed at the Allentown Art Museum for decades. Two years ago, the painting was sent to NYU for conservation and cleaning, where the work’s true origin was ascertained.
This photo combo provided by Allentown Art Museum shows from left, before and after restoration of a painting called Portrait of a Young Woman. The 1632 painting had long been attributed to an unknown artist in Rembrandt’s workshop but has since been judged to have been a work of the Dutch master himself
The Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania, (above) will display a refurbished Rembrandt painting to the public starting June 7. The work, Portrait of a Young Woman, was long thought to have been painted by an artist from Rembrandt’s studio until a cleaning revealed brushwork that experts say is attributed to Rembrandt himself
‘Our painting had numerous layers of varnish and that really obscured what you could see of the original brushwork, as well as the original color,’ said Elaine Mehalakes, vice president of curatorial affairs at the Allentown Art Museum.
Most expensive Rembrandt paintings
- Pendant Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit: $180 million
- Storm on the Sea of Galilee: $50 million
- Portrait of a Man, Half-Length With Arms Akimbo: $33.2 million
- Portrait of a Lady: $30 million
Source: Rembrandt Research Project
Conservators used a variety of tools, including X-ray, infrared and electron microscopy, to bolster the case that it was the work of one of the most revered artists in history.
The scientific analysis ‘showed brushwork, and a liveliness to that brushwork, that is quite consistent with other works by Rembrandt,’ said Shan Kuang, a conservator at New York University´s Institute of Fine Arts who restored Portrait of a Young Woman.
Outside experts who examined the 1632 painting after the completion of its two-year restoration concurred with the NYU assessment that it’s an authentic Rembrandt.
‘We’re very thrilled and excited,’ Mehalakes said. ‘The painting has this incredible glow to it now that it just didn’t have before. You can really connect with the portrait in the way I think the artist meant you to.’
When Portrait of a Young Woman was bequeathed to the museum in 1961, it was considered to be a Rembrandt. About a decade later, a group of experts determined that it had been painted by one of his assistants. Such changes in attribution are not unusual: Over the centuries, as many as 688 and as few as 265 paintings have been credited to the artist, Mehalakes said.
A self-portrait of Dutch artist Rembrandt that was displayed in 2006 in Amsterdam. Authenticated paintings by the 17th century artist have fetched tens of millions of dollars
The museum has not had the painting appraised — and has no intention of selling it — but authenticated works by Rembrandt have fetched tens of millions of dollars.
The painting, currently in the museum’s vault, will go on public display starting June 7.