A Rembrandt To Be Revealed At Allentown Art Museum Following Restoration, Reattribution and Restrictions

  • ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania
  • /
  • January 21, 2021

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Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Portrait of a Young Woman (detail), 1632, oil on panel. Allentown Art Museum: Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1961. (1961.35)

After a delay of nearly a year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Allentown Art Museum has targeted Sunday, January 24, 2021, as the date for the public unveiling of its 1632 painting Portrait of a Young Woman. The painting will be on display for the first time following conservation at New York University’s Conservation Center and its heralded reattribution to the master himself, Rembrandt van Rijn. The painting is the centerpiece of the exhibition Rembrandt Revealed, which tracks the provenance of the masterwork over the centuries and offers a deep dive into the conservation process and the complexities of art attribution.

Rembrandt Revealed opens to museum members on January 23 and to the general public on January 24 and continues through May 2, 2021. Advanced ticketing is encouraged. Learn more at AllentownArtMuseum.org.

The announcement of the reattribution of the painting to Rembrandt in early 2020 triggered international attention. While the work had been ascribed to Rembrandt since the seventeenth century, around 1970 scholars demoted it to “Workshop of Rembrandt van Rijn,” citing concerns of “indistinct brushwork in the whole of the head” and “lack of clarity in the depiction of the clothing and jewelry.” During conservation of the painting, which began in 2018, the use of ultraviolet photography, X-radiography, infrared reflectography, and analysis of paint samples with cross-section microscopy and  scanning electron microscopy revealed that overpainting in the costume area and thick layers of darkened varnish had obscured details and affected the overall look of the work. Removal of the overpaint and varnish revealed the true nature of the original brushwork, consistent with the masterful hand of Rembrandt.

Rembrandt painted Portrait of a Young Woman in 1632, shortly after he moved from his native Leiden to the city of Amsterdam, where he began working in dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh’s studio. A small group of paintings from this time seems to feature the same model, once identified as the artist’s sister and now thought to be Uylenburgh’s wife, Maria van Eyck.

Conservator Shan Kuang working on the Rembrandt.

Through a close focus on Portrait of a Young Woman, Rembrandt Revealed offers a deep dive into the conservation process, with a step-by-step description of the kinds of decisions and discoveries that are made by art conservators every day. It also explores the complexities and uncertainties of the attribution process and invites visitors to participate in that conversation.

Tags: old masters

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