Barron’s, Abby Schultz, 07.06.2020: “Rembrandt Self Portrait to Highlight Sotheby’s London Sale”
Sotheby’s will offer an unusual self-portrait by Rembrandt Van Rijn—one of only three in private hands—as a highlight in its cross-category evening sale in London on July 28.
Self-portrait, wearing a ruff and black hat, believed to have been painted in 1632, when the Dutch master was 26, is expected to fetch between £12 million and £16 million (US$15 million to US$20 million), and is the first lot to be announced for the first-of-its-kind live sale.
The other two privately owned self portraits of the estimated 80 that Rembrandt painted—from the time he was 22 until he was 63—are unlikely to come to market, Sotheby’s says. That’s because one, discovered in 2003 and subsequently sold for £6.94 million by Sotheby’s, is in Thomas Kaplan and Dafna Recanati Kaplan collection of 17th century Dutch art in New York, and the other is on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, the auction house said.
The painting was first sold in Paris in January 1891 to Henry Robert Brand 2nd Viscount Hampden, according to the catalog note. A descendant sold it to J.O. Leegenhoek, from Paris, in a Sotheby’s London auction in 1970 for £650, the note said. Leegenhoek’s wife later sold it to a private collector, who sold it to Noortman Master Paintings in Maastricht, the Netherlands. It was then sold to the current owner in September 2005.
The auction will be Sotheby’s first live event in London since government-mandated closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It also will be the first time the auction house is offering Old Master works, contemporary, impressionist, modern and modern British works, all in one live evening sale.
The cross-category event should “resonate with many of today’s global collectors who don’t see things in singular categories,” Helena Newman Sotheby’s worldwide head of impressionist and modern art, said at a virtual press event on May 29 announcing Sotheby’s summer line up.
The Rembrandt self portrait shows the young artist dressed more like the sitters he painted—in black, with a white ruff and felt hat—rather than in his usual informal garb, an approach he only used in one other of his self portrayals.
Sotheby’s offers two reasons for the formal look. The painting, which is relatively small (about 8.5 inches by 6.5 inches), may have been a kind of business card “to suggest that he was the social equal of the clientele he was busily building for his portraits,” the auction said in a news release. Or, he may have painted it to convince the “suspicious relatives” of his future wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh who he was courting at the time, that he “was a prosperous and suitable husband,” Sotheby’s said.
The work was likely painted at the end of 1632, a conclusion made in part because of a signature style Rembrandt only briefly used. Sotheby’s also pointed to tree-ring dating done on the panel it’s painted on. The process revealed the panel was cut from the same oak tree Rembrandt used to paint The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, a 1632 work that’s considered a masterpiece and is in the collection at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Sotheby’s said.