These Rembrandts Have Been Concealed for 200 Years

Artist's last known portraits held in private collection to be sold at auction in July
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2023 9:35 AM CDT
These Rembrandts Have Been Concealed for 200 Years
Rembrandt Van Rijn's "Portrait of Jan Willemsz van der Pluym" and "Portrait of Jaapgen Carels," both dated 1635.   (Christie's Images Ltd.)

For the first time in 200 years, the public is getting a look at two "extraordinary" portraits painted by the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn. British auctioneer Henry Pettifer rediscovered the small 1635 portraits—depicting a wealthy couple from the artist's hometown of Leiden, whose son had married one of Rembrandt's cousins—in a private art collection during a routine valuation, reports the Washington Post. "The pictures were completely absent from the Rembrandt literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, which was extraordinary," Pettifer, a Christie's expert in old masters, says in a Monday announcement. They were last seen in public in 1824, shortly before they were purchased by the ancestors of the current owners, who've now decided to put them up for sale.

The owners were previously unaware that the paintings are "confirmed originals," signed and dated by Rembrandt, per the Post. "The family liked the pictures but were never certain that they were by Rembrandt and never really looked into that," says Pettifer. "They have been quietly sitting in this collection, effectively hidden away from any attention at all." A photograph held in a Dutch library appears to be the only reference to the paintings within the last two centuries, and it had been labeled "copy," per the Post. Rembrandt experts at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum have since confirmed the portraits are the real deal. Together, they're expected to fetch up to $10 million at a Christie's auction in London on July 6, following showings in New York and Amsterdam.

Though they are some of the smallest of Rembrandt's known portraits, they are "extraordinary"—"much more spontaneous and intimate" than the artist's larger, grander offerings, says Pettifer. "I think the reason for that is that the sitters were very closely connected to Rembrandt." They show Leiden plumber Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife, Jaapgen Carels, who had a second connection to the Rembrandt family in that they'd purchased a garden next to that of Rembrandt's mother in the same year the paintings were completed, per Artnet News. The Post notes Rembrandt "honed his craft by drawing and painting portraits of family members and acquaintances." Christie's describes these as the last known portraits by the artist in a private collection, per Artnet. (More Rembrandt stories.)

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