Is this by Rembrandt? (ctd.)

September 13 2017

Image of Is this by Rembrandt? (ctd.)

Picture: National Gallery

Back in 2014 I reported that the leading Rembrandt scholar Ernst van der Wetering had upgraded a painting in the National Gallery to 'Rembrandt', long after it had been downgraded to 'Follower of Rembrandt'. 'Old Man in an Armchair' had been allocated to the National Gallery in 1957, as a Rembrandt, through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. But it was downgraded in 1969 by the Rembrandt scholar Horst Gerson, a decision followed by the Rembrandt Research Project in its earlier incarnation.

Prof. van der Wetering is now chairman of the Project, and has decided that in his opinion the picture is indeed by Rembrandt. When he announced his decision, the National Gallery held fast to its description as 'Follower of Rembrandt'. Now, however, the Gallery will re-label the picture as 'Probably by Rembrandt', and it is currently on display in the newly re-hung Dutch and Flemish rooms.

For what it's worth, I think this is the right call. 'Probably by' is a much underused term in the attribution game, and we should see it deployed more often. The term began to be used at the National Gallery during the directorship of Sir Nick Penny, replacing the sometimes baffling 'attributed to'.

Incidentally, I learnt this information through Twitter, when the National Gallery's new Dutch and Flemish 1600-1800 curator was taking part in #AskaCurator. Excellent all round.

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