Information from the curator, 3 June 2014
A portrait of Rembrandt, formerly in the collection of the princes of Liechtenstein, came to Buckland Abbey in 2010 when it was gifted to the National Trust by estate of the widow of Lord Samuel of Wych Cross, the philanthropist and noted collector of Dutch and Flemish pictures. It was then catalogued as ‘studio of Rembrandt’, having been attributed this way since 1968, when the Rembrandt scholar Horst Gerson suggested it may have been painted by Govert Flinck, one of Rembrandt’s pupils. This judgement was confirmed by the Rembrandt Research Project, which also thought the portrait was painted in the master’s studio by a pupil (possibly Flinck). Some 45 years after Gerson’s suggestion, Professor Ernst van de Wetering, former chair of the Rembrandt Research Project, has reversed the earlier assessment of the picture, in view of subsequent research into the artist’s work and re-examination of the portrait. In 2005 Van de Wetering published an analysis of the development of the painting based on an x-ray, which he said ‘remarkably increased the likelihood’ that the picture was by Rembrandt himself, as well as noting various painterly details that strongly suggested to him that this attribution was correct. Eight months of technical analysis (including infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and medium and pigment analysis) at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, the University of Cambridge’s painting conservation studio, have helped to reattribute the painting’s authorship. This reassessment of the self-portrait means the National Trust now has an autograph Rembrandt, the first in its important collection of pictures, comprising over 13,500 paintings displayed in over 200 properties across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. The exhibition at Buckland Abbey celebrates the reattributed picture’s return to the house and explores its fascinating history, including its different attributions and the various technical analyses that have helped reveal it as a Rembrandt self-portrait.