The many faces of a Rembrandt

Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

The results of the technical investigation into the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey, which I reported on earlier, have just been announced.

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

For more than forty-five years the authorship of this self portrait was in doubt. But the newly discovered physical evidence supports the opinion of Rembrandt scholar Dr Ernst van de Wetering that the picture is largely by the artist himself.

Painting conservation adviser Tina Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Painting conservation adviser Tina Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The self portrait has been cleaned and examined at the Hamilton Kerr Institute. This included visual inspection under magnification, infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis.

X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

The wood of the panel was identified as being of the poplar/willow family and the pigments include azurite, smalt and bone black. These are all materials that Rembrandt and his pupils used.

Infrared image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Infrared image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Signs pointing more specifically to the master himself were found when cleaning and removal of the yellowed varnish revealed the original depth of colour and skilful brushwork. The signature – thought possibly to be a later addition – was discovered to be contemporary with the creation of the painting.

Technicians Simon Jacobs and Martin Bartyle hang the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Technicians Simon Jacobs and Martin Bartyle hang the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The infra-red and x-ray images showed how the composition was changed as the painting progressed, something that is again consistent with an original work by a master and not with a copy being made by an assistant.

Young visitor Harry Dempster views the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Young visitor Harry Dempster views the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The investigation was funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. The picture will be the centre-piece of an exhibition at Buckland Abbey entitled Rembrandt Revealed, opening on Friday 13 June.

2 Responses to “The many faces of a Rembrandt”

  1. Princess of Eboli History Masquerade Says:

    This is Beautiful!!! I will like to reblog !!! <3

  2. Victoria Ross Says:

    I truly adore your blog. You write about such interesting pieces. Historic art has always been a soft spot of mine. Keep doing what you’re doing!

    Cheers,
    Vic

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