When Dutch art dealer Jan Six first saw Portrait of a Young Gentleman (c. 1634) in an auction in 2016, his keen eye told him the piece, then unattributed and unremarkable to most, was by Rembrandt van Rijn. The collar of the figure was singular, painted in a style used only by Rembrandt during the brief moment the collar was popular. Working with an investor, Six purchased the potential “sleeper” for $185,000—quite a large sum if it turned out to be by an unknown artist, but a paltry price for a Rembrandt. In 2015, the Louvre Museum and the Rijksmuseum jointly purchased, from the Rothschild family, a pair of portraits by the Dutch master to the tune of €160 million, then the highest price ever paid for an Old Master.
Now, after 18 months, more than a dozen Rembrandt experts as well X-ray analysis have confirmed his suspicion. “Seeing all these experts agreeing to what you’ve found is truly special,” Six told Reuters. “With the support of this vast body of knowledge, anybody contesting the painting would clearly represent a minority.” The work, the first Rembrandt to be discovered since 1974, will go on view for a month at the Hermitage in Amsterdam. While experts have attributed other previously-known paintings Rembrandt in recent years, the existence of Portrait of a Young Gentleman was a total surprise to art historians, making it a truly “new” Rembrandt.
Six declined to tell Reuters how much he believes the portrait to be worth. But Rembrandt is the most lucrative Old Master painter. In addition to the €160 million deal between the French and Dutch state museum and the Rothschilds, a portrait by the artist sold for $33.2 million in 2009, setting an auction record for the artist.