Rembrandt’s Century

On 24 June 2020, by Sophie Reyssat

Rembrandt’s studio propels the 17th century to success.

Studio of Rembrandt Hermenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), Portrait of a Man in a Beret, oil on panel, 66 x 51 cm.
Result: €450,200

Against all odds, Study of a Seated Woman (87 x 56 cm, 2.8 x 1.8 ft), a painting by Peter-Paul Rubens’ studio, did not achieve the highest bid in this distribution of Old Masters. It sold within its estimate, €29,900. Rather, the surprise came from this portrait of an anonymous man attributed to Rembrandt’s studio – €450,200, far outstripping its high estimate of €15,000. The international art market got carried away by this work, eventually outbidding the last private collector left in the race. The sitter’s face is remarkably expressive. His gaze catches the viewer’s eye. Beyond a mere portrait, this is the very image of bonhomie. Another painting from the same studio stayed within its estimate, fetching €19,500: Portrait of a Rabbi (panel, 71 x 56 cm, 2.3 x 1.8 ft). Unlike the previous face, this one looks familiar because it is a copy of a panel Rembrandt painted in 1635, now in the British royal collection. Both works belonged to the collection amassed by Eduard Mahler nearly 120 years ago, which the family took with them when they fled Nazism for Brazil in the 1930s. The last owner was Mahler’s great-grandniece. A mathematician and astronomer with a passion for history, this ardent scholar could not help but be touched by these portraits whose humanity transcends the centuries.

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