Rembrandt knockoff turns out to be real

A before and after image of the painting, post-cleaning.
Courtesy of the Allentown Art Museum

The Allentown Art Museum discovered that a painting they had hitherto accredited to an unknown artist in Rembrandt’s workshop was actually the work of the master himself.

The museum previously displayed the oil-on-oak panel named, “Portrait of a Young Woman,” as credited to “Studio of Rembrandt” according to NBC.

Two years ago, the painting was sent to New York University for cleaning and conservation. It was reported that as conservators started to remove layers of overpainting and thick, dark varnish, they started to think the work of art might have been produced by Rembrandt himself.

Elaine Mehalakes, vice president of curatorial affairs at the Allentown Art Museum, told NBC that, “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.” says that Rembrandt is famous for the use of the light and shadow, his portraits and his versatility. He is also well-known for his etchings and his self-portraits.

The conservators used an array of tools to investigate the matter further, such as infrared and electron microscopy and x-rays. Below are a few images from the process.


The x-ray comparison of the image. Courtesy of the Allentown Art Museum
The revealed signature Courtesy of the Allentown Art Museum

After the scientific analysis, Shan Kuang, a conservator at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts who worked on the painting, told NBC that it, “showed brushwork, and a liveliness to that brushwork, that is quite consistent with other works by Rembrandt.”

Another series of outside experts investigated the painting and authenticated it, stating that the 1632 painting was, in fact, an authentic Rembrandt.

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 the museum was first provided with the “Portrait of a Young Woman” in 1961, it was considered to be a Rembrandt. A decade later, some experts determined that the painting was done by one of his many assistants. It was reported that, usually, attribution changes are somewhat common. NBC reports that over the centuries, a range as wide as from 688 to 265 paintings were credited to the artist.

At this time, the museum has not had the painting appraised, and they have no intention of selling it. Authentic Rembrandt’s have been sold for millions of dollars.

It was reported that the painting is currently in the museum’s vault and is not on public display, however, this will change on June 7.

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