At Large  February 24, 2020  Chandra Noyes

Allentown Art Museum Finds Rembrandt Painting

Shan Kuang / Allentown Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Young Woman (detail), 1632.

The Allentown Art Museum is reporting that their Portrait of a Young Woman (1632), long attributed to the workshop of Rembrandt van Rijn, is, in fact, a true Rembrandt. The news came after the museum sent the painting off to New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts for routine conservation.

As scientists removed thick layers of varnish and dirt, it became immediately apparent that the painting was the careful work of Rembrandt. Under the scrutiny of expert Shan Kuang using x-radiography and infrared reflectography, the distinctive brushstrokes of the Dutch master were evident. This technology allows experts to see the layers of paint that build upon each other to create the final work, essentially letting us see the artist’s process.

Shan Kuang / Allentown Art Museum

Given to the museum in 1961 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the work was originally attributed to the master himself. But in 1970, the Rembrandt Research Project, a Dutch scholarly organization working to complete a new catalogue raisonné of his paintings, demoted the painting. The Project reevaluated all of the Rembrandt works they could access, removing many paintings from their official list. Several of the paintings, like Portrait of the Young Woman, have since been added back.

Because of the Research Project’s assessment, since 1971, the oil on panel painting was displayed with the caveat “attributed to the studio of Rembrandt van Rijn.” Now displayed without this stipulation, the subtle change in title reflects a huge leap in the value of the painting, and expands the list of known Rembrandt works, offering scholars new insights into his life and works.

The painting and conservation process will be showcased in an upcoming exhibition, Rembrandt Revealed, opening June 7. The exhibition will take visitors step-by-step through the conservation process, allowing us to follow in the footsteps of the conservationists as they make exciting discoveries.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

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