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In its sixth and final volume, the Rembrandt Research Project reattributes 70 paintings—often discounted by previous scholars as well as the institutions that own them—to the Dutch master.


Ernst van de Wetering, the Dutch art historian and longtime head of the Netherlands-based Rembrandt Research Project, publishes the project’s sixth and final volume this week. Titled ‘Rembrandt’s Paintings Revisited—A Complete Survey,’ the work reattributes some 70 works that some scholars and museums have discounted, including this work in the collection of London’s National Gallery, ‘Old Man in an Armchair‘ (1652).


Volume 6’s American reattributions include ‘Portrait of a Man Reading by Candlelight‘ (1648) at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. The museum became aware of Mr. van de Wetering’s opinion in 2011, and in response upgraded its description of the work.


The new volume attributes four paintings at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to Rembrandt, including ‘Portrait of a Man,’ also known as ‘The Auctioneer,’ dated 1658 by Mr. van de Wetering. Walter Liedtke, the Met curator who oversees the Dutch collections, does not agree. ‘The scholarly consensus in the world very much remains that this painting is not by Rembrandt,’ he says. ‘And that has been the consensus for 30 years.’ He adds, with a nod to Mr. van de Wetering: ‘I have not yet heard his argument, so I should reserve judgment.’


Mr van de Wetering, 76 years old, is both a trained artist and art historian, and he views his dual background as key to his success. He argues that this portrait of Rembrandt’s lover, Hendrickje Stoffels, on loan to Frankfurt, Germany’s Städel Museum, is indeed by the artist and not by a Rembrandt pupil, as other experts have argued.


The number of accepted Rembrandts has fluctuated dramatically over the last century, peaking at 714 in the 1920s, and sinking below 300 thanks to the deattributions of the early volumes of the Rembrandt Research Project, published in the 1980s. Mr. van de Wetering sees his work as a reaction against the ‘reductionist’ tendencies of both the earlier incarnation of the project and decisions made by experts at leading museums. In the new volume, he reinstates this 1634 work, ‘The Flight into Egypt‘ to Rembrandt, reversing an earlier decision by the project.


Mr. van de Wetering and Christopher Brown, a noted British Rembrandt expert, disagree about an early self-portrait in the permanent collection of Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, shown. Mr. van de Wetering who addressed the work in an earlier volume, thinks it is by a pupil. Mr. Brown, director emeritus of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, thinks the work is by Rembrandt himself. Mr. Brown says he is ‘very interested’ to look at the new volume.


Mr. van de Wetering’s opinion can have a huge impact. Volume 6 will present his arguments for reattributing this 1658 work, ‘Portrait of Dirck van Os,’ part of the permanent collection of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Neb. Mr. van de Wetering’s hunch led to a cleaning and further analysis—and his opinion spurred the reattribution, announced by the museum this past May. Attendance figures are up this year, says Joslyn’s director Jack Becker. ‘Many times I have heard people asking ‘Where is the Rembrandt?’ or talking with one another about how they have to see the Rembrandt,’ he says.

(Source The Wall Street Journal)