Chapter 52. The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
My client told me that he had inherited the painting on the left from a recently deceased German relative and that he remembers seeing the painting as a child. Au verso of the painting in cursive script are the words Rembrandt Orig. 1631 and the remains of a label. He did not know anything else about it and wished to have it appraised for fair market value.
As most art historians will tell you, historic paintings often take on a life of their own. They exist over time, are hesitant about revealing their true age, have distinct personalities, are nomadic, and sometimes deliberately mask their origins and the nature of their true character and identity.
This perception I think could be applied to the two paintings; one perhaps has a more respectable art historical pedigree than the other but both are essentially the same image of an old man wearing a cap.
The painting on the right, formerly known as Rembrandts Father or Rembrandts Brother, was acquired from the E. Habich Kassel Collection in 1891 by the Gemäldegalerie, Kassel, Germany. It was previously consigned to auction from the Freiherr von Friesen Collection and sold at the March 2627, 1885 Heberle Keulen (Moores Art Gallery) auction to Edward Habich of Kassel. It is dated after 1630, thought to have been painted by Rembrandt and was listed and illustrated as Rembrandts Father (Br 78) on page 70 of Rembrandt Paintings by A. Bredius and H. Gerson (1971). In 1986 the painting was reassessed and attributed to a contemporary of Rembrandts named Jan Lievens (16071674).
Attributed to Jan Lievens, Bust of a Man with a Cap, oil on oak panel
My clients painting exhibits some quite obvious similarities to the one attributed to Jan Lievens, and one wonders why it has not been subjected to traditional art historical inquiry to establish its origin and authenticity. The image appears to be stylistically consistent with other paintings by both Lievens and Rembrandt; however, its mysterious origin and lack of provenance tends to suggest perhaps an obstinately uncooperative personality intent on deception by its author.