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Rembrandt: a portrait of the artist as a young lad

US scholar identifies rare depiction of the Old Master as a 16-year-old

It is well known that the Dutch Master, Rembrandt, painted himself throughout his lifetime, from his early 20s to the year of his death in 1669, when he was established as one of the most influential artists of his age.

Yet now, a portrait of the artist has been unearthed, which is the earliest depiction of Rembrandt as a hopeful teenager, not as he would have liked to have been seen but how he looked to a fellow art student in Amsterdam.

Jan Lievens painted Rembrandt at the age of 16, as the central figure in The Cardplayers, which is believed to have been completed in 1623-24. Dr Arthur Wheelock, an art historian at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, identified the portrait, according to a report in this week's Art Newspaper.

Rembrandt and Lievens studied together in Amsterdam under Pieter Lastman. Dr Wheelock claims that Rembrandt was the model for the jovial central figure who is wearing a blue cloak. The figure appears jaunty, and the young Rembrandt appears to be relishing the fate of the loser in the game. The figure is similar to Lievens' later Portrait of Rembrandt of 1629.

Even though Lievens' career began before Rembrandt's, he was often wrongly described a a follower of the great artist, but modern day art historians now recognise that Lievens was a ground breaking stylist and that his work influenced Rembrandt's own.

Rembrandt painted a host of self-portraits over his lifetime, which were mainly brooding images of himself, except for one that features him laughing, as a 22-year-old man, painted in 1628, which was unveiled last year.

The painting, owned by a private collector, is currently on show in a Lievens exhibition at the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam until 9 August.