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Authenticity of Rembrandt's Paintings Centers on 8 Works

November 30, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — The authenticity of at least eight works by Rembrandt will be called into question when a research committee's new findings are published, the December issue of ARTnews magazine reports.

The eight works, all held in Great Britain, were scrutinized by the Rembrandt Research Project, a 20-year-old continuing study by a committee of five experts.

The findings, which could affect the value of the paintings, are not yet public. However, the magazine said it had learned that the works in question are "Landscape with Coach" from the Wallace Collection and seven others in the National Gallery.

"The committee is giving us a much leaner Rembrandt than we have had in the past. The number of paintings it will accept as his is expected to total 350, half the number (that) one scholar attributed to him early this century," said ARTnews' editor-at-large Sylvia Hochfield, who wrote the story.

"The Rembrandt Research Project has had a tremendous influence on Rembrandt studies. Every curator who has Rembrandts in his care has been forced to look at them again and reconsider his views if he disagreed with the committee's decisions," she said.

"The people I feel sorry for are those English and American families, a large part of whose family fortunes are invested in a Rembrandt which is going to turn out to be by somebody else," John Ingamels, director of the Wallace Collection, is quoted as saying by the magazine.

Members of the committee traveled the world to see the paintings and to fill out a detailed questionnaire on each work. Sometimes, the magazine says, they even counted threads in the canvas to help determine authenticity.

Two volumes of the committee's findings have been published so far. A third volume is due next year, to be followed by at least two more volumes. The work of the committee may not be completed for another 10 to 15 years.

ARTnews says some critics believe the project has an overly narrow conception of Rembrandt that has caused the rejection of too many pictures.

Among them, Christopher White, director of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University, says the committee is "trying to force the artist into a straitjacket that doesn't really fit."

Rembrandt shared a studio in his early working years with another painter and the two worked so closely together that collectors at the time described certain works as being by either painter.

Another work that may lose value because of the panel's research is "Portrait of a Bearded Man Standing in an Archway," which is about to come to auction at Sotheby's.

The magazine said, because of the committee's findings, the work will be catalogued there as "attributed to Rembrandt" rather than as a Rembrandt. Its estimated value will be $800,000 to $1.2 million; if the work had passed muster, it would have had a conservative value of $4 million to $6 million.

The seven works under question at the National Gallery, the magazine said, are: "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery," "The Adoration of the Shepherds," "A Franciscan Monk," "An Old Man in an Armchair," "A Bearded Man in a Cap," "Hendrickje Stoffels" and "Margaretha de Geer."

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