Attrib. Rembrandt van Rijn, “An Old Bearded Man,” circa 1660, oil on canvas, 27 5/8 x 23 1/8 inches

In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week we feature a brilliant painting by arguably the greatest portraitist of all time.

Universally considered one of the greatest portraitists who ever lived  — if not the greatest —  Rembrandt van Rijn is a monumental painter and person who continues to captivate scholars to this day. It could be argued that, perhaps more than anyone else who ever lived, Rembrandt possessed a genius that allowed him to capture with amazing sensitivity an individual’s spirit and character — including his own.

Perhaps it’s these qualities that have led to much debate surrounding his original paintings. Indeed, Rembrandt inspired generations of painters, and his style was frequently imitated. A remarkable period portrait that has been attributed to the master heads to the auction block on July 6 during Christie’s “Old Masters Evening Sale” in London.

Titled “An Old Bearded Man,” the half-length visage bears much Rembrandt character. Dimly lit, a rather strained-looking bearded man with a beret and fur coat rests his left arm as he holds a cane. A warm light blankets the sitter’s face. He doesn’t engage the viewer, but rather glances downward toward our left. The muted tones of the piece, along with the sitter’s expression and glance, infuse the portrait with the psychological intensity that historians, collectors, and enthusiasts have come to love in Rembrandt’s painting.

Christie’s writes, “Documented since the mid-eighteenth century and recorded in all of the most significant works on the artist’s paintings, this picture disappeared from the public eye in the 1930s, only to re-emerge again in 2010 when rediscovered by Arthur Wheelock in an American private collection. Wheelock conducted a thorough re-assessment of the painting, further to restoration and technical study, publishing his findings in a 2011 article in which he puts forward a persuasive case to admit the picture unequivocally into Rembrandt’s illustrious late oeuvre.”

To learn more, visit Christie’s.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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