Rediscovered Rembrandt Portraits could fetch up to $10 million

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Rediscovered after 200 years, two Rembrandt portraits could soon fetch up to $10 million.

They’re thought to be the last known pair of portraits by Rembrandt to remain in private hands.

“The extraordinary thing about these paintings is that they were completely unknown,” says Henry Pettifer, international deputy chairman of Old Master Paintings at Christie’s.

“The extraordinary thing is that these paintings had never been registered in any of the Rembrandt literature, so they were essentially completely unknown, which is extraordinary.

“They tell you something about their character, and that’s something that you really get with Rembrandt, something that really drills into the human condition of these people.”

Painted in 1635, the two oil portraits show wealthy Leiden plumber Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen Carels, a prominent family in Rembrandt’s hometown of Leiden and loosely related to artist.

The portraits remained in the family of the sitters until 1760, when they were sold at auction in Amsterdam after the death of their great-great-grandson.

From there, they passed through the collections of several wealthy Europeans before being auctioned by Christies on 18 June 1824.

The auction house says the lot – number 76 – was listed as: ‘Rembrandt – very spirited and finely coloured’.

Then, for almost two centuries, they’ve remained in the same private UK collection out of the public’s eye, until now…

Christie’s experts say the intimate portrayals provide a unique insight into Rembrandt’s activity as a painter within his inner circle.

“So, you see something slightly different from Rembrandt. Not a big grandiose statement about very wealthy patrician Amsterdam clients who were commissioning most of his big portraits, but something much more personal. And so, I think from that point of view, they are extraordinary.”

Christies says it’s one of the “most exciting discoveries” to be made in the Old Masters field in recent years.

“(It) should be stressed how rare it is to discover two portraits by Rembrandt that were never known,” says Pettifer.

“Over the years, there have been several pictures that were known to be or possibly to be, by Rembrandt, who went through a process of rehabilitation. But to find two paintings that were completely unknown is extraordinarily rare and very exciting.”

Christie’s currently holds the world auction record for Rembrandt, which was set in 2009 when Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo sold for over £20 million USD.

The two portraits are set to go under the hammer in London on July 6.