Two Rare Rembrandt Paintings, the Artist’s Last Known Portraits in Private Hands, Commanded $14 Million at Christie’s London

The small paintings commanded a huge price.

Rembrandt's portrait of Jan Willemsz, van der Pluym and Jaapgen Carels from the Classic Week Sales at Christie's, London. Photo: James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images.

Christie’s managed to pull in £11.2 million ($14.3 million) for a pair of Rembrandt portraits, on July 6 during “Classic Week” in London, which were billed as the last of the master artist’s portrait works in private hands. The final price with premium was well above the high £8 million estimate ($10.3 million).

It has been almost 200 years since the works were previously sold at Christie’s, and the auction house called them a “landmark rediscovery.”

The sitters were identified as Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym (c. 1565–1644), a wealthy plumber from Leiden, and his wife, Jaapgen Carels (1565–1640), and are signed and dated 1635. The intimate paintings depict two of Rembrandt’s relatives and have a virtually unbroken line of provenance. The authenticity was supported by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which undertook an extensive scholarly investigation and scientific analysis.

The eight-inch-high portraits were rediscovered earlier this year by Henry Pettifer, Christie’s international deputy chairman of Old Master Paintings, in an otherwise routine valuation. In a statement, Pettifer called the find “one of the most exciting discoveries we have made in the Old Masters field in recent years.”

The year that the portraits were painted, the couple purchased a garden next to one owned by Rembrandt’s mother. Later on, their son married the daughter of the artist’s uncle.

Two paintings by Rembrandt Van Rijn:
Portrait of Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym (1635) [L] and
Portrait of Jaapgen Carels (1635) [R]. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Before last week’s sale, the paintings went on an international tour and were exhibited at Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York, followed by displays in Amsterdam and then London.

Christie’s holds the record for the most expensive Rembrandt ever sold at auction—Portrait of a man with arms akimbo (1658), which sold for £20.2 million ($33.3 million) in London in December 2009, according to the Artnet Price Database.

The second highest price was also set at Christie’s London nine years earlier, in 2000, when Portrait of a lady in black costume and a cap and collar (1632), sold for £19.8 million ($28.8 million).


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