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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.