Recently Identified Early Rembrandt Goes on Display for First Time at TEFAF

But the art historical gem is actually not for sale.

Rembrandt Smell (17th century) (detail) Photo: Galerie Talabardon et Gautier via TEFAF Maastricht
Rembrandt Smell (17th century) Photo: Galerie Talabardon et Gautier via TEFAF Maastricht

Rembrandt,  Smell (17th century).
Photo: Galerie Talabardon et Gautier via TEFAF Maastricht.

A recently identified early painting by Rembrandt is going on public display at the TEFAF art fair in Maastricht for the first time since it was uncovered at small New Jersey auction house in September 2015.

Nye and Company in Bloomfield, New Jersey, billed the small oil on board work as a 19th century “Continental School” painting, and valued it between $500 to $800. Suspecting a hidden gem, a bidding war between dealers ensued propelling the hammer price up to $870,000.

The small oil painting The Unconscious Patient, also known as Smell, is believed to have been painted by the Rembrandt in his late teens and is amongst the earliest known works by the Dutch master, AFP reported.

TEFAF Maastricht focuses on Modern Art and Old Masters. Photo: Loraine Bodewes via TEFAF Maastricht

TEFAF Maastricht focuses on Modern Art and Old Masters.
Photo: Loraine Bodewes via TEFAF Maastricht.

The artwork depicts a barber or surgeon who has performed a procedure on an unconscious man, and an elderly women attempting to revive the patient by holding an ammonia soaked rag under his nose.

The Dutch daily NRC reported that the work is now owned by the American billionaire Thomas S. Kaplan, who reportedly paid an estimated €3 million to €4 million ($3.3 million to $4.4 million) to add the work to his Leiden Collection, which includes hundreds of Dutch masters. As such, the work is not for sale at TEFAF, the reputed Maastricht art fair that is hosting its preview today.

Smell belongs to a series by Rembrandt depicting the five senses, which also comprises Sight, Hearing, and Touch, which were discovered in the 1930s. Hearing and Touch are also part of Kaplan’s collection, while Sight belongs to the Lakenhal Museum in Leiden, Netherlands. The whereabouts of Taste remain unknown.

TEFAF Maastricht attracts high-profile collectors from all around the globe. Photo: Harry Heuts via TEFAF Maastricht

TEFAF Maastricht attracts high-profile collectors from all around the globe.
Photo: Harry Heuts via TEFAF Maastricht.

Ernst van de Wetering, an art historian and compiler of Rembrandt’s catalogue raisonné, described the painting as “a fantastic find.” “There’s no doubt that this is a sense painting,” he told NRC.

Smell is unique because it is the only painting in the series that bears the artist’s signature, which makes it the earliest known signed Rembrandt painting.

The work will be on display at the booth of the Paris-based Galerie Talabardon & Gautier. The French Old Masters specialists bought the work at the auction last September.

“TEFAF Maastricht” runs from March 10–March 20, 2016 at Maastricht Exhibition & Congress Center (MECC), Maastricht, Netherlands.


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