Friday 23 March 2018

Museum shows painting is Rembrandt

A Dutch television reporter strokes a 3D printed version of Rembrandt's Saul and David. (AP)
A Dutch television reporter strokes a 3D printed version of Rembrandt's Saul and David. (AP)

After a CSI-style investigation and restoration spanning eight years, the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague has declared that one of its star paintings really is by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn.

The announcement should end years of "is-it-or-isn't-it" debate about whether Saul and David was a real Rembrandt.

Researchers used advanced X-ray techniques to peer through several coats of paint that had been applied during previous restorations and establish that the original pigments were the same as those Rembrandt used in the 17th century.

Paint sampling showed that the primer used was typical of Rembrandt's studio in the 1650s and 1660s.

For decades, there was no question. A former director of the museum in The Hague, Abraham Bredius, bought the painting more than a century ago, but in the late 1960s Rembrandt expert Horst Gerson cast doubt on who actually painted the Biblical scene of King Saul using a curtain to dab a tear from his eye while David, kneeling below the king, plucks the strings of a harp.

Restorer Carol Pottasch said it was no surprise that Gerson questioned who painted the oil-on-canvas work, because previous restorations had added so much paint.

"I guess that was the biggest problem that he faced. He couldn't see a painting by Rembrandt because there was no painting to see," she said.

"And now we've taken off all these layers now you can actually see the original paint again and then there's no doubt."

Now newly re-attributed to Rembrandt, the painstakingly restored canvas is the centrepiece of an exhibition opening on Thursday and running until September 13 that goes into forensic detail on how the museum unravelled the mystery of who painted Saul and David.

Press Association

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