A real Rembrandt? Study shows painting banished to storeroom is either by his studio or the master himself
Head of a Bearded Man at Oxfords Ashmolean Museum has undergone a scientific examination using infrared technology Courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
A Dutch Golden Age painting of an old man, long dismissed as not by Rembrandt or his studio, is now being brought back into the oeuvre. Head of a Bearded Man (around 1630-40) at Oxfords Ashmolean Museum had been banished to the storeroom, but will go on display on 2 September in the Young Rembrandt exhibition (extended until 1 November).
A recent scientific examination reveals that the picture was painted on a panel which comes from the very same tree as on an accepted Rembrandt, which makes it almost certain that Head of a Bearded Man originated from the masters studio.
The small painting has a 1777 auction label on the reverse, describing it as by Rembrandt. In 1951 it was bequeathed as a Rembrandt to the Ashmolean by Percy Moore Turner, a dealer and donor. However, in 1982 the Amsterdam-based Rembrandt Research Project rejected the painting as coming from “outside Rembrandts circle”, possibly later in the 17th century. There are two other lesser versions of the same composition—one at Houstons Museum of Fine Arts (described as “after Rembrandt”) and the other in a private collection.
The Ashmoleans 2004 collection catalogue recorded the work as in the “style” of Rembrandt, but explained that it can “only be loosely associated with Rembrandts style in about 1630”. It is currently described on the museums website as by a Rembrandt follower. Ernst van de Wetering, the leading Rembrandt specialist, excluded it from his 2017 complete survey of the oeuvre.
Peter Klein, an experienced dendrochronologist, recently studied the oak panel of the Ashmolean picture. He determined that it was painted on wood from the same Baltic oak tree as two other pictures: Rembrandts Andromeda Chained to the Rocks (around 1630, Mauritshuis, The Hague) and a work by Rembrandts collaborator Jan Lievens, Portrait of Rembrandts Mother (around 1630, Staatliche KunstsammluRead More – Source