Rembrandt’s earliest known paintings, The Four Senses, a set of four small panels representing sight, hearing, smell and touch, can be seen in the Rembrandt House Museum from 1 December 2016 to 12 February 2017. Rembrandt very probably painted these works as part of a complete set of the five senses, but so far no trace has been found of Taste. For a long time only three of the panels in the set were known, but Smell surfaced at a sale in New Jersey last year. The French art dealer who discovered it sold it on to the New York collector Thomas Kaplan. After restoration, this spectacular find was presented at last year’s TEFAF in Maastricht. It is the first time the four small panels have been brought together in the Netherlands and – fittingly – in Rembrandt’s former home.
The three works owned by Kaplan were shown for the first time last summer in The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. At present the four senses can be seen at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. After the show in the Rembrandt House, the works will travel to Musée du Louvre in Paris.
Earliest Known Works
The works date from around 1624 and were painted in Leiden when Rembrandt (1606-1669) was around eighteen years old. The paintings show the young artist in the throes of development: with talent and bravura, assiduously seeking convincing ways to tell stories and convey human emotions.
Rembrandt’s First Works: The Four Senses is made possible thanks to the generosity of the owners. The Spectacles Seller (Sight) is in the collection of Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden, the town where Rembrandt was born. The other three panels are in The Leiden Collection of Thomas and Daphne Kaplan in New York.
Statement by Thomas Kaplan
“We are truly thrilled that the first museum in The Netherlands to exhibit Rembrandt’s earliest known signed work, the Sense of Smell, together with its three known companions in the Allegory of the Senses will be the Rembrandthuis. … To see Rembrandt’s Senses together is to behold the first blush of genius that changed the arc of art history.”