Two ‘rediscovered’ Rembrandt portraits on display again after 200 years

Two portraits of Rembrandt can be seen until Saturday at Christie’s auction house in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. In two weeks they will go under the hammer in London with an appraisal value of 5.8 to 9.3 million euros.

The double portrait from 1635 shows Jan Willemszoon van der Pluym and Jaapgen Carels, a wealthy Leiden plumbing couple. They were acquaintances of Rembrandt and his family. Art historian Sabry Amroussi: “During that period, Rembrandt got a bit tired of painting portraits and wanted to rediscover himself. By depicting acquaintances, he was able to experiment and found the freedom that he could not have with a well-paid assignment.”

Privately owned

Because the double portrait was privately owned, it was not on public display for more than 200 years. Manja Rottink, specialist in Old Master Paintings: “We didn’t know where they were, after they were auctioned at Christie’s in London. They were then bought by an art dealer, who sold the works to the ancestors of the current owners.” The latter reported to the auction house two years ago to have the works appraised.

The Rijksmuseum conducted technical and art-historical research into the provenance of the works for more than eighteen months. Led by Jonathan Bikker and Petria Noble, it was then concluded that these were genuine Rembrandts.

Amroussi: “Research has shown that these are the same pigments that Rembrandt used. You can also see that he changed some things while painting, for example on the lady’s collar. So you actually see the making process. From the wet painting you can deduce that he worked quite quickly, and that he mixes old pigments with the new, as only Rembrandt could do.”


In recent weeks there has been a lot of talk about a ‘rediscovery’ of the Rembrandts, but according to Amroussi this is a bit exaggerated: “They have not been scientifically studied for 200 years, which is different from the fact that they have been forgotten for 200 years. The real rediscovery is not that they are by Rembrandt, but that they have finally been properly researched and that we know the story behind the paintings.”

And does Rottink not think it’s a shame that these Dutch works will most likely disappear under the radar again? “They’ve been sitting quietly in a private collection for so long, so it would be nice if people could see them, but of course any collector can make an offer.”