Although reproduced in the catalogues raisonnés of paintings by Rembrandt since its exhibition in Detroit in 1930, the present lot's physical whereabouts was lost sight of for some forty years until the early 1990s. Consequently it was not discussed in the Project's Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings for the years 1631-1634, which were catalogued in its volume II, published in 1986 (see that volume, p. 827, under no. C81).
Professor van de Wetering had made known to the then owners of the painting the very positive findings of the Rembrandt Research Project as to the its authenticity prior to its sale at auction in 1998. The findings of the Research Project will be incorporated as Addendum 2 of the forthcoming Volume IV of the Corpus of Rembrandt's Paintings. The text of this addendum has been kindly made available, and forms the basis of the remarks that follow.
Since 1998, the painting has been the subject of an essay (in Otto Naumann's 1999 catalogue) by Peter Sutton, an authority on Dutch Painting in the Golden Age, and by Professor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, who is an acknowledged expert in the field of Rembrandt studies.
The Project's study of the physical aspects of the present painting leads it to conclude that they are typical of, or can be connected with, characteristics of other paintings of this time which are considered to be the work of Rembrandt. Thus the support has been identified as of oak of Baltic/Polish origin, and made up - like some other supports used by Rembrandt for portraits - of two planks of unequal width (it has been inferred that such a choice was made in order that the join should not mar the sitter's face). Dendrochronological analysis of the larger plank suggests a felling date of 1629. It seems likely that the support was originally rectangular, and was later cut down nearly to correspond to the oval format of the painted field. This format was popular in the 1630s; and that the sitter was originally thus presented is suggested by brushmarks which indicate the oval contour and the ground which can be detected between the painted oval and the edge of the support. It is possible that the support was thus reduced in the 1690s when the oval format came back into fashion.
Evidence of the creative process, which establishes that the painting was not reproduced by a copyist, is provided by the observation that the reserve for the figure left in the painted area for the background (which, as was Rembrandt's practice, was executed first) was partially ignored when the sitter came to be portrayed in the outlines of his hair and collar. Further, the shoulder at the left was lowered.
The painting is signed and dated, apparently contemporaneously with the execution of the portrait; and a forensic handwriting specialist, attached to the Project, has pronounced that the inscription is most likely to be autograph. An analysis of the paint of the inscription revealed the admixture of lead white, which has also been found in a number of other inscriptions by Rembrandt of this period. The Project believe that it was added so that the inscription would blend more happily with the background.
However as the Project states 'Final arguments favouring authenticity have to be based on more subjective criteria', and it concludes '... the confident execution; the astonishing command of form; the subtlety with which certain elements have been executed in contrast to the freedom and energy of the painting process; the specific 'handwriting' in the application of details ... [and such characteristics as the contrasts between lit and shaded areas, the undulating contours, the plastic coherence of form, and the delicate rendition of the face] proved decisive in our attributing the work to Rembrandt ...'. Closest in manner, perhaps, to the present work is the Self Portrait in the Musée du Louvre, of the same year (fig. 1; no. A72 of the Project's Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings).
The Project goes on to note that: 'Details hardly noticeable to the viewer, such as the differentiation in the execution of the catchlights of the eyes and the tip of the nose, attest to a great degree of forethought and astonishing manual control. The catchlight in the eye at the right is slightly weaker in tone than that in the eye on the lit side; a feature Rembrandt included in seven other portraits from the same period. While the paint of these catchlights is evenly applied, the highlight on the tip of the nose is slightly impastoed thereby contributing to the protruding effect of the nose. In other areas as well the brushwork has been subtly adapted to the function of the applied strokes. Hence, the somewhat grazingly applied light stroke on the curled-up edge of the collar plays a distinct role in the spacial effect in that part of the collar. A similar handling of the brush can be discerned in the highlights of the lit lock of hair. It is a device that Rembrandt employed with increasing frequency in later years to achieve an atmospheric spacial effect'.
The identity of the sitter is not known; Bauch though he might be Jacob Adriaensz. Backer, at that time a pupil of Rembrandt. But the sitter hardly bears any resemblance to the accepted Self Portraits by Backer, for which see W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schule, 1983, I, nos. 33, 35 and 36. That the sitter's identity should no longer be known is not unusual; more exceptional is the costume he is wearing which both in color and design is very different from the black attire usually worn by Rembrandt's Amsterdam patrons at this time.
The Project states that the red doublet with braid fastenings has military associations and, following Valentiner, compares it with the doublet worn by Philips van Dorp, a lieutenant admiral, in a lost portrait by Rembrandt of 1634, known by a print by Salomon Saverij (fig. 2; Hollstein, XXXIV, no. 120). However, van Dorp's military profession is clearly indicated by the gorget he wears. The same style of doublet is worn, perhaps as fancy-dress or in a light-hearted vein, in Jacob de Backer's A Young Man wearing a wreath of Vine leaves of circa 1640 in the Ashmolean Museum (see C. White, Catalogue of the Collection of Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum: Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings before 1900, 1999, no. A668, pp. 8-10). The doublet has also been compared with that worn by the elegant young dancer in an etching Le Bal by Abraham Bosse of circa 1635 (fig. 3; see A. Blum, L'Oeuvre Gravé d'Abraham Bosse, 1924, no. 1050), and thus can be compared with the flamboyant garment worn by Lord Russell in Van Dyck's double portrait of that sitter with Lord Digby at Althorp (see G. Glück, Van Dyck, Klassiker der Kunst, 1931, p. 401), although there the sitter's military aspirations are flagged by his baldrick and by the armor at this feet.
The collar is unusual, too, for it is worn without its lace trimming, as the Project points out. Similar collars are worn by the servants in Jan Miense Molenaer's Family on a Terrace in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (see B. Haak, The Golden Age of Dutch Painting of the Seventeenth Century, 1984, p. 236, fig. 491), but most comparable is that worn by Inigo Jones, the architect and Surveyor of the King's Works for Charles I, in Van Dyck's portrayal for the Iconography, (see C. Depauw and Ger Luijten, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Anthony Vay Dyck as a printmaker, Antwerpen Open/Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1999, pp. 192-195).
However, what conclusions can be drawn from comparable costumes so far found remains unclear. Evidently the sitter was not from the usual run of Rembrandt's clientele at this time. The Project concluded that the sitter may possibly have been a foreign soldier resident in The Hague, with which neither Peter Sutton nor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann demur. And, in fact, Rembrandt portrayed such a foreigner in a lost portrait early referred to as being of Marquis d'Andelot who was resident in Holland in 1633-34.
Against this is the absence of any specifically military accoutrements and the unmilitary demeanour of the sitter. Be that as it may, what can be said is that in all probability, the sitter was married, as by convention the husband was placed on the wife's right (with the light falling glancingly on his face). The Project remains undecided as to whether a Portrait of a Woman offered at Sotheby's New York, 30 January, 1998, lot 31 is the pendant of the present painting and thus the sitter's wife.
Whether the identity of the man in the present portrait is ever revealed or not, it displays Rembrandt's unparalleled talent for breathing life into painted portraits and conveying the sitter as a distinct and unique personality, confirming Rembrandt's position as one of the greatest portraitists of all time.
A copy of the catalogue entry for the present lot prepared by the Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project to be included in volume IV of A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings is available on request.
Portrait of a bearded man, bust-length, in a red doublet
Oil on an oval panel
THE PROPERTY OF THE BELLAGIO GALLERY OF FINE ARTS
Signed and dated 'Rembrandt.fec/1633.' (center right)
REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait in a cap
Musée de Louvre, Paris
copyright 1999 RMN - Jean Schormans
Salomon Saverij, after Rembrabdt, Portrait of Philips Van Dorp
Abraham Bosse, The Ball
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.67.17)
copyright All rights reserved, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, The Thirteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Master Paintings by Rembrandt, 2-31 May 1930, no. 23, lent by the Howard Young Galleries of New York.
Las Vegas, The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, 25 November-8 August 1999. Las Vegas, The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (new gallery), 11 August-28 May 2000.
25 x 20 in. (63.5 x 50.8 cm.)
W.R. Valentiner, 'Rediscovered Rembrandt Paintings', The Burlington Magazine, LVII, 1930, p. 260 (photographs of certificates by Valentiner of 29 May 1930 and C. Hofstede de Groot of May 1929 are in the Frick Art Reference Library (Photo Archives).
W.R. Valentiner, Rembrandt Paintings in America, 1931, no. 37, illustrated.
A. Bredius, The Paintings of Rembrandt, London, 1937, I, no. 176, illustrated.
K. Bauch, Rembrandt Gemälde, Berlin, 1966, no. 364 (as not seen).
H. Gerson, Rembrandt Paintings, Amsterdam, 1968, no. 151 (not seen).
A. Bredius, Rembrandt. The Complete Edition of Paintings, revised by H. Gerson, New York, 1968, p. 151 left, and note to no. 176, p. 562 (not seen).
G. Arpino and P. Lecaldano, L'Opera Pittorica completa di ,
Rembrandt, Amsterdam, 1969, no. 127.
C. Tümpel, Rembrandt, Mythos und Methode, Langwiesahe, 1986, p. 429, no. A83 (not seen, as by a pupil of Rembrandt).
C. Tümpel, Rembrandt. All Paintings in Color, Antwerp, 1993, pp. 431-432, no. A83 (not seen, as by a Rembrandt pupil).
P. Sutton, in Otto Naumann, Ltd., Old Master Paintings, New York, 1999, pp. 74-77, no. 25.
E. Haverkamp-Begemann, 'Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Man in a Red Doublet', in The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art: European and American Masters, ed. L. Lumpkin, The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Las Vegas, 1999, p. 26, illustrated.
To be included in volume IV of A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings by the Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project as a signed and dated work by Rembrandt.
Sir Philip John William Miles, 2nd. Bt. (1825-1888), Leigh Court, Somerset, and by descent through his eldest daughter, Alice Katherine, wife of Lt. Col. Gerard Vivian Ames, of the Hyde, Herfordshire, to their son, Captain Lionel Gerard Ames (b. 1889).
with Vicars Brothers, London, by 1929.
with Howard Young Galleries, New York, by 1930.
David Loew, Beverly Hills, CA.
with Findlay Gallery, New York, 1954.
Amon Carter, Fort Worth, Texas, from 1954 and by descent, until sold Sotheby's, New York, 30 January 1998, lot 18. ($9,077,500 to the following)
Purchased by Dr. Alfred Bader for Otto Naumann, Ltd., New York, from whom acquired by The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Las Vegas.