"It may come as a surprise to most people that Southern California -- Los Angeles in particular -- has the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings in the United States with the exception of New York and Washington," says Scott Schaefer, senior curator of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
That's the message in his recorded welcome to "Rembrandt in Southern California," a virtual exhibition on the Getty's website (www.rembrandtinsocal.org) that makes a strong point: Although the East Coast cities got a 100-year head start in collecting the 17th century Dutch master's work, SoCal has made up for lost time.
J. Paul Getty started it all in 1938 with his purchase of "Portrait of Marten Looten." He gave the painting to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before establishing his showcase. But the museum that bears his name has acquired Rembrandt portraits such as "An Old Man in Military Costume"; a portrayal of a biblical theme, "Daniel and Cyrus Before the Idol Bel"; and a history painting, "The Abduction of Europa."
Schaefer has been talking about the little-known wealth of locally owned Old Masters for years. No single Southern California museum's collection of Old Masters can measure up to those at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art or Washington's National Gallery of Art. But the collective richness of what the curator has dubbed "the greater museum of Southern California" gives the region plenty of bragging rights, he says.