Two Rare Rembrandt Portraits Will Hit the Block at Christie’s in July—199 Years After They Were First Sold by the Auction House

The rediscovered paintings are believed to be the last known portraits by the artist in private hands. 

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.

One hundred and ninety-nine years ago, a pair of portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn sold at Christie’s. Now, for the first time since then, the artworks are hitting the block again—at the same auction house. 

The two eight-inch-high portraits will be jointly offered in a lot at Christie’s Old Masters Part I Sale on July 6 in London, where they’re expected to fetch between £5 million to £8 million ($6.2 million to $10 million). 

Completed in 1635, the paintings depict two elderly acquaintances of the Dutch Golden Age painter: the wealthy Leiden plumber Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen Carels. The year 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. 

Heretofore unknown to Rembrandt scholars, Christie’s calls the artworks the last known portraits by the artist in private hands. They have remained in the same unidentified U.K. family’s collection since being acquired at the auction house in 1824.  

The portraits were recently rediscovered by Henry Pettifer, Christie’s International Deputy Chairman of Old Master Paintings, in an otherwise routine valuation, according to the Financial Times.  

In a statement, Pettifer called the find “one of the most exciting discoveries we have made in the Old Masters field in recent years.” 

“Painted with a deep sense of humanity, these are amongst the smallest and most intimate portraits that we know by Rembrandt, adding something new to our understanding of him as a portraitist of undisputed genius,” the executive said. 

After internal research, Christie’s confirmed the paintings to be legitimate and found that they have a “virtually unbroken line of provenance.” Experts at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam came to the same conclusion after conducting its own material-technical and art-historical studies. 

Ahead of July’s auction, the paintings will go on view at Christie’s outposts in New York (June 10–14) and Amsterdam (June 21–24) before landing in London for a pre-sale exhibition (July 1–6). The events will mark the first time the artworks will have been shown publicly in two centuries.  

The auction house has a long history with Rembrandt works. It was at Christie’s that the painter’s 1658 painting Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo sold for £20,201,250 ($25.3 million)—a still-unbroken record price for the artist at auction. In 2016, Christie’s helped facilitate the private sale of two prized Rembrandt paintings to France and the Netherlands.  


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