Abbey painting ‘is Rembrandt self portrait’

A painting on display in the former home of Sir Francis Drake may be a self-portrait by the Dutch Master Rembrandt valued at close to £20m. For decades the work showing Rembrandt aged 29 was thought to have been painted by one of the artist’s pupils. But leading expert Ernst van de Wetering has re-attributed it as a work by the 17th Century painter himself. If confirmed, the painting – given to the National Trust in 2010 – will be the only Rembrandt held by the charity.

It has been at Buckland Abbey in Devon since 2010, where it will remain for another eight months before being sent for further research and examination to shed more light on its attribution. Dated 1635 and “signed” by Rembrandt, it has been shrouded in mystery for 40 years after Rembrandt specialist Horst Gerson suggested in 1968 it may have been painted by one of the artist’s pupils.

Members of the Rembrandt Research Project came to the same conclusion when they examined the painting that same year, publishing their findings in 1989. Art historian Van de Wetering – who is also the chairman of the Rembrandt Research Project – said experts decided it was most likely to have been painted by one of Rembrandt’s pupils because of what was known of the painter’s style in 1968.

“But over the past 45 years we have gathered far more knowledge about Rembrandt’s self-portraits and the fluctuations in his style,” he said.

The National Trust said the new analysis by van de Wetering, based on an X-ray of the painting published in 2005 and newly found circumstantial evidence, “remarkably increased the likelihood it was by Rembrandt himself”. Edited from Abbey painting ‘is Rembrandt self portrait’.

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