In Volume IV the focus lies on Rembrandt's self-portraits. During this research it became obvious that matters of authenticity cannot be viewed separately from questions relating to the original function and meaning of these works. Rembrandt's intriguing life-long practice of portraying himself in front of a mirror is examined in depth in this volume. As a result, not only has the group of approximately forty painted self-portraits gained transparency, but also new insights have been developed regarding Rembrandt's drawn and etched self-portraits. The problems of authenticity relating to a substantial number of self-portraits which in the past were attributed to Rembrandt, in this volume receive an unexpected nuance: through a combination of technical and stylistic research it is demonstrated that some of Rembrandt's self-portraits were in fact painted by others in his workshop.In clear and accessible explanatory texts the different paintings are discussed. Among the many illustrations are life-size colour reproductions of the faces of the self-portraits under discussion. Details are shown where possible, as well as the results of modern day technical imaging like X-radiography. The volume contains an -- in several respects eye-opening -- essay by the head of the Rembrandt Research Project, Ernst van de Wetering, on the problems of authenticity and function of Rembrandt's self-portraits. In addition, the book includes groundbreaking contributions by Marieke den Winkel on the meaning of dress and costume in Rembrandt's self-portraits, by Karin Groen on the use of grounds in Rembrandt's workshop and in paintings by his contemporaries, and a study by Jaap van der Veen concerning 17th-century ideas about authenticity in art.This reference work should be part of every serious art historical institute, university or museum. The enigma of Rembrandt's self-portraits, one of the most compelling phenomena in art history has been unravelled by Ernst van de Wetering with unprecedented thoroughness.
A revised survey of Rembrandt's complete painted oeuvre.
The question of which 17th-century paintings in Rembrandt's style were actually painted by Rembrandt himself had already become an issue during his lifetime. It is an issue that is still hotly disputed among art historians today.
The problem arose because Rembrandt had numerous pupils who learned the art of painting by imitating their master or by assisting him with his work as a portrait painter. He also left pieces unfinished, to be completed by others.
The question is how to determine which works were from Rembrandt's own hand. Can we, for example, define the criteria of quality that would allow us to distinguish the master's work from that of his followers? Do we yet have methods of investigation that would deliver objective evidence of authenticity? To what extent do research techniques used in the physical sciences help? Or are we, after all, still dependent on the subjective, expert eye of the connoisseur? The book provides answers to these questions.
Prof. Ernst van de Wetering, the author of our forthcoming book which deals with these questions, has been closely involved in all aspects of this research since 1968, the year the renowned Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) was founded. In particular, he played an important role in developing new criteria for authentication. Van de Wetering was also witness to the way the often overly zealous tendency to doubt the authenticity of Rembrandt's paintings got out of hand. In this book he re-attributes to the master a substantial number of unjustly rejected Rembrandts. He also was closely involved in the (re)discovery of a considerable number of lost or completely unknown works by Rembrandt.
The verdicts of earlier specialists - including the majority of members of the original RRP (up to 1989) - were based on connoisseurship: the self-confidence in one's ability to recognise a specific artist's style and 'hand'. Over the years, Van de Wetering has carried out seminal research into 17th-century studio practice and ideas about art current in Rembrandt's time. In this book he demonstrates the fallibility of traditional connoisseurship, especially in the case of Rembrandt, who was par excellence a searching artist.
The methodological implications of this critical view are discussed in an introductory chapter which relates the history of the developments in this turbulent field of research. Van de Wetering's account of his own involvement in it makes this book a lively and sometimes unexpectedly personal account.
The catalogue section presents a chronologically ordered survey of Rembrandt's entire painted oeuvre of 336 paintings, richly illustrated and annotated. For all the paintings re-attributed in this book, extensive commentaries have been included that provide a multi-facetted new insight into Rembrandt's world and the world of art-historical research.
Rembrandt's Paintings Revisited is the concluding sixth volume of A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings (Volumes I-V; 1982, 1986, 1989, 2005, 2010). It can also be read as a revisionary critique of the first three Volumes published by the old RRP team up till 1989 and of Gerson's influential survey of Rembrandt's painted oeuvre of 1968/69. At the same time, the book is designed as an independent overview that can be used on the basis that anyone seeking more detailed information will be referred to the five previous (digital versions of the) Volumes and the detailed catalogues published in the meantime by the various museums with collections of Rembrandt paintings.
This work of art history and art research should belong in the library of every serious art historical institute, university or museum.
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