Unknown Rembrandt Portraits Discovered After 200 Years

Two exceptionally rare portraits by Rembrandt, unknown to art scholars and never on public display, have been discovered in a UK family’s private art collection after 200 years.

While carrying out a routine appraisal, experts from auction house Christie’s came across the paintings by the 17th-century Dutch master.

Henry Pettyfer, Christie’s International Vice President of Old Master Paintings, said before encountering the 1635 portraits of an elderly husband and wife from Leiden, Netherlands.

„I dared to dream,” he said. „But it was extraordinary to me that the pictures had never been studied before. They were completely absent from Rembrandt’s literature.

After being exhibited in New York and Amsterdam, the eight-inch-tall portraits will now go on sale at Christie’s showrooms in London on July 6, with the pair estimated to be worth £5mn-£8mn.

An ancestor of the family, whose identity was not disclosed by Christie’s, bought a small number of oil paintings at a Christie’s auction in 1824.

Painted just as Rembrandt was establishing a reputation as a sought-after artist, the paintings depict Jan Willems van der Blum and his wife Jabjen Carels, a couple with family connections to the artist.

Van der Blum, who made his fortune in plumbing, was a prominent figure in Leiden. Their son Dominicus married the daughter of Rembrandt’s uncle. The year the portraits were painted, the subjects bought a garden next to Rembrandt’s mother’s garden.

After analyzing the portraits and showing an „almost unbroken” line of evidence to the sitters who commissioned Rembrandt, Christie determined the paintings to be the genuine article.

Christie sent the images to experts at The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the global center of Rembrandt scholarship, for analysis.

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The museum attributed Christie’s two paintings to Rembrandt. „The Rijksmuseum conducted material-technical and art-historical research and came to the same conclusion,” it added.

Pettifer said Rembrandt’s status as a „universal artist” will appeal to buyers of works in other categories, such as contemporary and modern art, as well as museums and galleries with deep pockets, beyond the wealthy circles of Old Masters collectors.

Old Masters accounted for just 7 percent of the value and volume of art sales last year. Compared to the market for contemporary art, which is constantly invigorated with new works, the sector’s performance is greatly affected by the limited supply of high-quality works.

„The challenge is to offer really good paintings that are in very limited supply right now because of our genre. . . . The market is selective, but very strong for the right material,” Pettifer said.

The auction record for a Rembrandt was set in 2009 when „Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo” sold for £20.2mn at Christie’s.

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