Rembrandt? The Master and his Workshop

By Jakob Fibiger Andreasen

Works by the great masters are rare visitors to Danish museums but this year is an exception. The Danish national gallery, Statens Museum for Kunst, celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt van Rijn with the most extensive exhibition of his work ever featured in Denmark. And two of the highlights, which are from the museum’s own collection, have only recently been authenticated as genuine Rembrandts.

Few artists have wielded such lasting influence, and made such an indelible mark on the history of art, as the Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669). Picasso was well aware of this, and despite a time-lapse of three centuries, Picasso never ceased challenging the 17th century master both on canvas and paper. Now, for the very first time, Danish audiences have an opportunity to get a first-hand impression of Rembrandt’s variegated talent at an exhibition, entitled *Rembrandt the Master and his Workshop*, featured at the Danish national gallery, Statens Museum for Kunst. Masterpieces on loan are displayed alongside the museum’s own collection of Rembrandt etchings and drawings, representing the full range of his oeuvre. Rembrandt’s remarkable influence on the Golden Age of Dutch pictorial art is furthermore highlighted by examples of works by his pupils and the circle of contemporary artists he inspired.


Painter of the soul

Rembrandt is one of the most unique narrators in the history of art. His exceptional talent for infusing his works with a sense of drama combined with his profound ability to penetrate the character of his motifs have earned him the title *Painter of the Soul*. The evocative sense of presence and the intense realism of his work, whether in biblical motifs, portraits or self-portraits, have lost none of their nerve, even for a modern audience. Rembrandt was a unique pioneer and pursued an investigative approach to all aspects of his art: to composition and sentiment and to the mastery of light and shadow, *chiaroscuro*.   The


Rembrandt circle 

The circle of artists around Rembrandt, especially his students, has long been a neglected chapter of Dutch Golden Age art. In recent decades there has, nonetheless, been a surge of interest in their works due to advances in technology, which have led experts to attribute works once believed to be by the master himself to his pupils. The exhibition at Statens Museum for Kunst features a number of magnificent examples of free variations over Rembrandt’s paintings produced at the master’s workshop in Amsterdam by his pupils, who in later years went on to develop a unique style that further enriched the artistic idiom of the Dutch Golden Age. The exhibition offers a rare insight into how x-ray techniques and infrared photography can help experts authenticate a genuine Rembrandt.

Two Rembrandts authenticated 

The exhibition also spotlights the research undertaken into the museum’s extensive collection of Rembrandt drawings and prints as well as a number of paintings, which in the early 20th century along with numerous others worldwide were rejected as genuine Rembrandts and subsequently attributed to either his students or forgers. Now, a team of international experts have applied their methodical studies to reach the sensational conclusion that two paintings from the museum’s collections are, indeed, by the master himself. The first is a small study entitled *Study of Old Man in Profile* and the other is entitled *The Crusader* – the first having been painted at the beginning of, and the second towards the end of his career.   Among the many museums worldwide that have submitted works to the Rembrandt exhibition are the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the National Gallery in London, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the National Museum in Stockholm and Mauritshuis in The Hague.