“They saw it in the flesh and decided it was not a Rembrandt painting,” said Ashmolean curator of northern European art An Van Camp. “They said it could be an imitating painting in the style of Rembrandt and may have been done before the end of the 17th century, so not even during Rembrandt’s lifetime.
Discouraged curators have moved it to museum stores in the basement. Van Camp joined the museum in 2015 and became aware of the postcard-sized painting that “nobody wanted to talk about because it was that fake Rembrandt”.
Van Camp was quickly asked to help organize a major Young Rembrandt exhibit, which opened at the museum in February before closing in March.
It had always bothered him that the sign might not be a fake. “That’s what Rembrandt does. He does these tiny studies of the heads of old men with desperate, melancholy, pensive looks. This is very typical of what Rembrandt did in Leiden around 1630. ”
The panel was analyzed by Peter Klein, one of the world’s leading dendrochronologists, and it was determined that the wood panel came from the same tree used for Rembrandt’s Andromeda Chained to the Rocks, which is in the Mauritshuis in La Haye and the portrait of Jan Lievens. from Rembrandt’s mother, at Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, Germany. Both were painted around 1630 when the artists, childhood friends, were working in Leiden in the Netherlands.
Klein said the wood panel came from an oak felled in the Baltic region between 1618 and 1628. “By allowing a minimum of two years for wood seasoning, we can firmly date the portrait to 1620-30 He said.
Van Camp said all research indicated that the sign was at least from Rembrandt’s workshop. Further investigations will follow to determine whether there is any evidence of Rembrandt’s own hand in the work.
The Ashmolean and the Young Rembrandt exhibition reopened on August 10 with a lockdown delaying the addition of the newly assigned panel, which will take place on Wednesday.
Van Camp said: “It’s very exciting. It’s bringing the paint back into the crease.
• The young Rembrandt is at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford until November 1.