For years considered a sketch by a minor follower, a painting in Dutch museum turns out to be a masterpiece

For years they have been saying ‘no’, that it was not and could not be a Rembrandt. For years, attributions to the Dutch painter were a monopoly of the Rembrandt Project. But the painting was of such quality that left no doubt, according to Jeroen Giltaij, former curator of the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam. An then the U-turn, which actually follows a considerable number of similar cases.

The work was exhibited in a corner of the Bredius Museum in The Hague, and considered to be too rough to be by Rembrandt. But it was a sketch and therefore the painting, as the expert maintained, could not be as refined as the final version, like for instance, the Elevation of the Cross kept at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. The refinement of the brushwork could not be a no-go per se.

A set of analyses, including radiography and IR reflectography, seem to prove him right. The most important results of technical imaging appear to be those which reveal the process of making the composition. “The research shows that the sketch has several changes made by the artist himself while painting, meaning that its composition was a creative process,” said the museum restorer. Apparently in this case Rembrandt started with a composition based on the Munich painting and then moved the figure of the knight – the heads of the soldiers – to the lower right corner. The image also seems to reveal the figure of a dog that was later replaced by the rider. “This means the painter was changing his mind while he was working. He was clearly not copying another painting“, she added.

The painting was also subjected to chemical analysis, and no anachronism or contradiction with the materials used by Rembrandt emerged.

Once again, technical analysis is fundamental to deepen the knowledge of a work and to rectify subjective opinions sustained for years. Who knows how many works are still waiting to be re-evaluated!

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