Rembrandt painting dismissed as fake goes on display after it emerges it was made from same tree as other works

·3 min read
Head of a bearded Man
Head of a bearded Man

A Rembrandt painting dismissed as fake is to go on display after 40 years after it emerged it was made from the same tree as other works by the artist.

The painting written off by experts will be displayed again after being revealed as an authentic piece from the Dutch Master’s workshop.

Head of Bearded Man is a small painting the size of a postcard which depicts a forlorn and aged figure, and was for years consigned to the basement of Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

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But the museum will now put the painting on display this week after it was reassessed and found to be from the correct time period.

Analysis of the oak panel piece revealed that it was painted onto the same piece of timber as another of the Renaissance artist's works.

Andromeda Chained to the Rocks,
Andromeda Chained to the Rocks,

The painting was bequeathed to the Ashmolean in 1951, but in 1981 it was examined and dismissed as an imitation by the Rembrandt Research Project and hidden away.

“They saw it in the flesh and decided it wasn’t a Rembrandt painting,” Ashmolean curator An Van Camp explained to The Guardian.

“They said it might be an imitator painting in the style of Rembrandt and is possibly made before the end of the 17th century, so not even in Rembrandt’s lifetime.”

The painting was placed in the basement, but after Ms Van Camp took up her role at the museum in 2015 she decided the piece should be reexamined.

It’s subject matter and style were deemed too close a match to the Dutch painter’s works to be totally dismissed.

The 17th century painter’s early works were collected for a display at the Ashmolean entitled Young Rembrandt, which provided an opportunity to look again at the diminutive piece.

Head of a Bearded Man is painted with oils onto an oak panel, and portrays some of the tropes of its supposed Dutch creator.

She said: “It is what Rembrandt does. He does these tiny head studies of old men with forlorn, melancholic, pensive looks.”

The piece was dated by leading dendrochronologists Peter Klein and found to have been created between around 1620 and 1630, pointing towards its origins in Rembrandt’s time.

Additional results revealed that the painting was crafted from the same wooden panel as another Rembrandt work, Andromeda Chained to the Rocks.

This work, painted on a piece of the same tree as the contentious Head of a Bearded Man, hangs in Mauritshuis in the Hague.

Analysis is revealed this block of wood cut from a tree felled somewhere near the Baltic in the early 17th century, was the timber canvas for a third work, Jan Lievens’ Portrait of Rembrandt’s Mother, in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden.

Lievens was a long-time friend of Rembrandt, and worked in the same town.

Experts are clear this indicates the once-dubious piece at least had its origins in the studio of the famous artist, and during the correct period.

Further studies will be undertaken to ascertain whether it was painted by the master himself.

Rembrandt is considered the foremost artist of the Dutch Renaissance, and one of the great painters of all time.