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Rembrandt? Yes, it has to be him!

By: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

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Duration: 13:34
  • Ernst van de Wetering 00:13

    Ernst van de Wetering (1938) is internationally known as the expert on the work of Rembrandt. He was educated as an artist and an art historian. From the very start (1968) he was involved in the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP), as researcher, writer and editor. The scholarly reference work Corpus of Rembrandt part I, dealing with Rembrandt’s first years in Leiden (1629-1631), was published in 1982. Part II deals with the early years in Amsterdam (1631-1634) and part III with the period thereafter in which the artist’s star is in the ascension (1635-1642). Part IV is a collection of all the study results about the self portraits and the small historical pieces are discussed in part V. A Corpus of Rembrandt VI is the concluding volume and will give a complete overview of Rembrandts painted oeuvre.

  • Research: dendrochronology 02:48

    In 2006, a team at the University of Hamburg studied the oak panel on which first the still life and then 'Tobit and Anna' were painted. Conclusion: the panel has 238 tree rings of which the youngest dates from 1592, the oak was felled between 1599 and 1613 and could have been painted on from 1611.

  • Research: X-ray photo 02:53

    X-rays penetrate soft materials and are obstructed when they encounter heavier materials, such as the skeleton in the human body. X-ray photos of 'Tobit and Anna' show the parties with lead white, including the pieces covered with a darker layer of paint. The window was initially somewhat larger and therefore the wall near the window was lighter. In addition, the still life that is under the painting of 'Tobit and Anna' is clearly recognisable on the x-ray, particularly if this is rotated through 90 degrees.

  • Research: infrared photo 02:58

    Using an infrared light you can - just as with x-ray - look through the various layers of paint. The infrared light hits materials in the painting containing carbon, which in practice often means the drawing below (charcoal, pencil, paint). Traces can be found, particularly in Tobit’s cloak and chair, of a daring, free way of drawing which is the same as that on a sketch that Rembrandt made that same year on the back of a mourning card.

  • Research: paint samples 03:40

    At the bottom edge of 'Tobit and Anna' is: Rembrandt f 1659. That would seem to be a strong indication of the authenticity of the work. But a signature can be faked or added later. To obtain more certainty, a paint sample was taken from top to bottom, right through all the different layers. The sample was examined both under the microscope and chemically. The test shows that all paint layers are from the 17th century and that the signature was applied directly to the painting, which was only just dry at the time.

  • Seen from behind 08:59

    In this etching dating from 1659, Rembrandt depicts the moment that Peter and John heal an invalid beggar at the Temple gate. The lame man is seen from behind and is seated on a small platform, exactly like Anna in the painting. This similarity indicates that Rembrandt was interested at the time in figures seen from behind and this, according to Ernst van de Wetering, makes it somewhat more likely that 'Tobit and Anna' was painted by the master.

  • How the painter works 11:48

    The publication Rembrandt. The Painter at Work from 1997 comprises all knowledge that Ernst van de Wetering gathered about Rembrandt’s working methods and his use of materials during the Rembrandt Research Project.

Who exactly painted Tobit and Anna in the Willem van der Vorm Collection? The panel was subjected to scientific analysis in 2010, and the conclusion was that it originated in Rembrandt’s studio. But Jeroen Giltaij, curator of this museum, and Ernst van de Wetering, head researcher of the Rembrandt Research Project, do not agree on who actually wielded the brush. Giltaij bases his opinion on intuition and traditional connoisseurship; Van de Wetering approaches the issue with the probability theory of the scientist Thomas Bayes. In this video, Ernst van de Wetering puts forward a series of arguments that support the idea 'Tobit and Anna' was painted by the great master himself.

From 24 March 2012, the cleaned and restored painting is exhibited in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; this video is part of the presentation.

Credits

Direction: Els Hoek
Camera: Ruben van de Broeke
Sound: Tim van de Broeke
Editing: Caroline Hoeberechts
Music: Ronald Kool
Mix: Michel van Schie