Pennsylvania museum's 'knockoff' Rembrandt turns out to be the real thing

A 400-year-old painting originally thought to be a Rembrandt knockoff has turned out to be the real deal.

The Allentown Art Museum was in possession of a painting called Portrait of a Young Woman, a 1632 work said to have been painted by an anonymous artist who worked alongside the Dutch master.

The museum has had the painting for decades and has credited it to “Studio of Rembrandt” since the 1970s, according to the Associated Press. That would change when it was sent to New York University two years ago for cleaning and conservation.


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There, it was discovered that the work of art was likely one of Rembrandt’s own.

The stunning portrait had been covered in thick varnish over centuries, concealing some revealing brushwork underneath the layers of paint. When the brushwork was revealed, it became clearer who was behind the brush.

“Our painting had numerous layers of varnish and that really obscured what you could see of the original brushwork, as well as the original colour,” Elaine Mehalakes, vice president of curatorial affairs at the Allentown Art Museum, told AP.

Using tools like X-ray, infrared and electron microscopy, it became clearer than ever that Portrait of a Young Woman was crafted by Rembrandt himself.

“We’re very thrilled and excited,” Mehalakes said. “The painting has this incredible glow to it now that it just didn’t have before. You can really connect with the portrait in the way I think the artist meant you to.”

The oil-on-wood painting, ARTNews reports, was originally thought to be a Rembrandt when it was given to the museum in 1961 by the Samuel H. Kress Collection. It was later determined that one of his assistants painted it.


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The Rembrandt Research Project, a group of art historians dedicated to investigating pieces said to be by the artist, said the murky lighting and lack of texture couldn’t be the work of Rembrandt, the art publication said.

Turns out they were wrong.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

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