Rembrandt uncovered after 300 years

By Andrew Clennell
Friday 31 January 2003 01:00

A Rembrandt self-portrait, hidden for more than 300 years after it was painted over by another artist, was displayed to the public for the first time yesterday.

The work was concealed beneath a painting of a Russian aristocrat by an unknown artist until it was discovered by a team of art specialists led by the Rembrandt expert Professor Ernst van de Wetering. After years of painstaking restoration, it has been put on show at the Rembrandt House museum in Amsterdam.

Experts believe the artist allowed his students to paint over pictures he could not sell, to save money. One or more students is believed to have painted over this particular painting, which shows a 28-year-old fresh-faced Rembrandt with long hair, moustache and a beret. "Rembrandt must always have had one or more self-portraits in stock. Some of them remained unsold. These 'wallflowers' were eventually recycled by Rembrandt himself or by one of his pupils," the museum said.

After the painting's discovery in 1994, Professor van de Wetering and his team put it under scientific examination, including X-rays, before embarking on its restoration.

The museum has not put a value on the signed portrait but usually Rembrandt's paintings are worth millions of pounds.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69) painted dozens of self-portraits and portraits of his wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh. The large house he bought in Amsterdam in 1639 is now home to the museum, where the painting is being shown until 16 March.

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