Now You Can Check Out This Recently Rediscovered Rembrandt at the Getty

A sharp-eyed buyer made a killing.

Triple Portrait with Lady Fainting offered through New Jersey auctioneer Nye and Company soared to $870,000 on an estimate of $500 to $800. Image: Courtesy of Nye and Company.

A painting that sparked an unexpected bidding war at a New Jersey auction house when a perceptive collector identified it as being by Rembrandt will now go on view at Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum.

The canvas, which emblematizes the sense of smell, was tagged at just $500–800 when it came to the auction block at Nye and Company, in Bloomfield, New Jersey. The seller had kept it in his New Jersey basement, according to the auctioneer. It was identified as a 19th-century “Continental School” work.

The bidding soared to $870,000 when two Paris art dealers, Bertrand Talabardon and Bertrand Gautier, who run Galerie Talabardon et Gautier, identified it as one of the Dutch master’s first canvases.

Rembrandt van Rijn, <em>The Three Musicians (An Allegory of Hearing)</em> (circa 1624–25). Courtesy of the Leiden Collection, New York.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Three Musicians (An Allegory of Hearing) (circa 1624–25). Courtesy of the Leiden Collection, New York.

The American billionaire Thomas S. Kaplan, CEO of New York investment and management firm Electrum Group, then bought the painting at a reported price in the range of $3 million–4 million and exhibited it at TEFAF, the Maastricht art fair that recently announced a New York outpost, in March.

The painting is one of five the artist made as a teenager depicting the senses. The Getty exhibition will also feature the hearing and touch canvases, on loan from Kaplan’s Leiden Collection. The sight painting belongs to the Lakenhal Museum, Leiden, the Netherlands, while the whereabouts of the taste canvas are unknown.

 

Rembrandt van Rijn, <em>The Stone Operation (An Allegory of Touch)</em> (circa 1624–25). Courtesy of the Leiden Collection, New York.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Stone Operation (An Allegory of Touch) (circa 1624–25). Courtesy of the Leiden Collection, New York.

It was not the first time in 2015 that a sharp-witted buyer found a canvas at auction that was attributed to a minor artist only to be upgraded to the work a major figure. A landscape by English painter John Constable turned up at Christie’s London attributed to one of the artist’s followers, and sold for just $5,300 in 2014. It was then reattributed to the master himself, and flipped for a stunning $5 million at Sotheby’s New York the next January.

To get a tax break, collectors often exhibit their new purchases at public institutions in states like Oregon, New Hampshire, and Delaware, which lets them avoid big tax bills because these state have no sales tax or use tax. California, however, has no such exemption, so this particular display doesn’t fall into the tax break category.

The Promise of Youth: Rembrandt’s Senses Rediscovered” will be on view at the Getty Center, May 11–August 28, 2016. 


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