Two exceptionally rare portraits by Rembrandt, unknown to art scholars and never placed on public display, have been unearthed after 200 years in a UK family’s private art collection, APA reports citing Financial Times.
While carrying out a routine valuation, experts at auction house Christie’s came upon the paintings by the 17th-century Dutch master, whose works fetch millions at auction.
“I wasn’t aware of what I was going to be seeing,” said Henry Pettifer, international deputy chair of Old Master paintings at Christie’s, before he encountered the portraits of an elderly husband and wife from Leiden, Netherlands, dated to 1635.
“I dared to dream,” he said. “But it was extraordinary to me that the pictures had never been studied before. They were completely absent from the Rembrandt literature.”
The eight-inch-high portraits will now go up for sale at Christie’s showrooms in London on July 6, after going on display in New York and Amsterdam, with an estimated value of £5mn-£8mn for the pair. Ancestors of the family, whose identity was not disclosed by Christie’s, bought the pair of small-scale oil paintings in 1824, at a Christie’s auction. Painted just as Rembrandt was establishing a reputation as a sought-after artist, the portraits depict Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen Carels, a couple with family connections to the artist. Van der Pluym, who made his wealth from plumbing, was a prominent figure in Leiden. Their son Dominicus married the daughter of Rembrandt’s uncle. The year the portraits were painted, the subjects bought a garden next to that of Rembrandt’s mother.
After analysing the portraits and conducting research that showed a “virtually unbroken” line of provenance going back to the sitters who commissioned Rembrandt, Christie’s judged the paintings to be the genuine article. Christie’s sent the pictures for analysis to experts at The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a global centre of Rembrandt scholarship. The museum said Christie’s had attributed the two paintings to Rembrandt. “The Rijksmuseum conducted material-technical and art-historical research and came to the same conclusion,” it added. Pettifer said Rembrandt’s status as “a universal artist” meant that interest was likely to extend beyond the wealthy circles of Old Masters collectors to buyers of works across other categories, such as contemporary and modern art, as well as museums and galleries with deep pockets. Old Masters accounted for just 7 per cent of the value and volume of art sales last year. Compared with the market for contemporary art, which is continually refreshed with new works, activity in the sector is greatly influenced by the limited supply of high-quality works. “The challenge is supplying really great paintings which by virtue of our category are in very short supply now . . . The market is selective but is very strong for the right material,” Pettifer said. The auction record for Rembrandt was set in 2009, when “Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo” was sold for £20.2mn at Christie’s.