$2 Million Wager for Possible Rembrandt at Lempertz

The result was 100 times its presale estimate.

Lasset die Kinder zu mir kommen (c. 1600s) Photo: Courtesy Lempertz

A canvas only attributed to the Netherlands in the 17th century was purchased at Cologne’s Lempertz for 100 times its low estimate of €15,000 ($20,550), a whopping €1.525 million ($2.09 million). The winning bidder is only being identified as a “prominent american collector.” The painting, sold in the house’s spring sale of Alte Kunst (old art) and titled Lasset die Kinder zu mir kommen was consigned by a private collector from Berlin.

Its astronomical result has led some to believe that rather than Lempertz’s qualification of the painting having come from the school surrounding and followers of Rembrandt, that it might actually be the real deal. An opinion in 1954 suggested the painting was by Govaert Finck. However the claim was disproved soon thereafter.

The American wasn’t alone in hoping the painting might actually be by the Dutch master himself. The room was abuzz with hopefuls when bidding began, with numerous individuals sticking it out to top €100,000. Three of them followed above €400,000. As bidding rounded €900,000, that third dropped out. The American’s wager is a mighty one. Similarly sized canvases by Rembrandt have fetched upwards of $33 million at auction in recent years, according to the artnet Price Database. If, in the more likely case, it is just the work of a follower, the painting will be relatively worthless.

For the most part, results across the remainder of the evening were comparably mellow, the sale totaling €9.5 milion ($13 million).  After the possible-Rembrandt Dutch landscape painter Jan van Goyen‘s Strand von Scheveningen (1642) attracted the night’s most significant result. The work sold to a European collector for €793.000 ($1.09 million) over a €650,000–750,000 presale estimate.

The room was rife with enthusiastic bidding. Three lots leading up to the night’s main event each achieved results far beyond their estimated worth. A painting from the North German School, The Feeding of the Hungry with the Holy Family (circa 1520) more than doubled its €35,000–40,000 estimate for a €110,000 ($150,700) result. A dealer from London fought off competition for a €8,000–12,000 estimated work, Portrait of a Nobleman (1618) by Daniel Mytens to snag it at €91,500 ($125,400). The very next lot, a small, oval work, Windmill by the Bank of a River (1629) by eminent Dutch landscape painter Salomon von Ruysdaels brought €97,500 on a €25,000–35,000 estimate.

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