The small painting in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford that was branded fake in the 1980s, may have been painted by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn after all. New research by Peter Klein, one of the world’s leading experts in tree-ring dating, showed that the postcard-sized painting of a sad-looking man in a beard was painted on wood from the same tree as Rembrandt’s other wood painting Andromeda Chained to the Rocks, which hangs in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Jan Lievens’ Portrait of Rembrandt’s Mother was also painted on this same wood. Both paintings were created around 1630, when the two artist friends were working in Leiden. Klein said the wood panel came from an oak tree felled in the Baltic region between 1618-28.
The piece was rated as not genuine by the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) in 1981. This research group is internationally recognized as the highest authority on the authenticity of Rembrandt pieces. They concluded it that it might by an imitator painting and may not even have been painted in the Dutch master’s lifetime. But An Van Camp, the Ashmolean’s curator of northern European art, always doubted this conclusion. Van Camp said to The Guardian: “It is what Rembrandt does,” “He does these tiny head studies of old men with forlorn, melancholic, pensive looks. It is very typical of what Rembrandt does in Leiden around 1630.” Which is why she had Peter Klein called in.
According to the museum, the discovery means that the piece comes at least from Rembrandt’s studio. Further investigation will have to reveal whether it was painted by Rembrandt himself.