Christine Sitwell, Paintings Conservation Adviser at the National Trust talks about her first visit to the Cambridge conservation studio where work is being undertaken to see if one of Rembrandt’s self portraits, previously thought to have been done by one of his pupils, was really painted by the grand master himself.
“We had our first meeting at the conservation studio to view our possible Rembrandt last month. It was really exciting to see the painting, as the conservator had cleaned a section which showed its sheer beauty. The previously murky embroidery on the coat is now stunning as the paint is thick and flecked with white highlights on the gold and silver embroidery so that it simply glows. They had also cleaned a small section of the fur of the coat and you could practically feel its softness so much detail has come to light. It really makes you respect the skill of the artist in capturing the sheer beauty of different materials.
“An x-ray revealed the possibility of a cuff indicating that initially Rembrandt might have painted himself with his proper left hand coming across this coat. Difficult to say at this point but paint analysis might help us as we might find pigments associated with the cuff and hand.
“The infrared reflectogram (this is different from an x-ray and shows other changes in the painting which the x-ray can not pick up) showed that his hat had been altered being initially larger in size.
“One thing that is still really puzzling us is the the wood of the support as it is not oak or even beech as had been recorded on its initial report. However, we are contacting wood specialists for more help.
“We’ll know in early 2014 if this Rembrandt is the real thing. Regardless we’ll have an amazing story to tell once it’s returned to its Buckland Abbey home.”