California museum acquires iconic Rembrandt

Rembrandt-Laughing

The Getty Museum of Los Angeles has enlarged its Rembrandt collection by adding a famous self-portrait of one of the key figures of the Dutch Golden Age.

Rembrandt Laughing, seen above, is a small oil-on-copper work probably done around 1628. It came onto the art market in 2007 after spending centuries as part of private collections.

It features Rembrandt, then around 22, dressed as a soldier in deep violet and brown clothes, and sporting a gleaming steel gorget while smiling broadly.

“Painted when Rembrandt was a young, newly independent artist, possibly the third self-portrait of his career, Rembrandt Laughing exemplifies his signature spirited, confident handling of paint and natural ability to convey emotion,” Scott Schaefer, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum, said. “It is a measure of the artist’s consummate skill that the dynamism of his pose and the act of laughing translates into a painting of tremendous visual impact, far exceeding its modest dimensions.”

Rembrandt Laughing was originally believed to be the work of a contemporary of the noted Dutch artist. It had belonged to an English family for approximately 100 years before they decided to sell it in 2007.

An initial valuation of $3,100 skyrocketed when researchers confirmed that the 8 3/4-inch x 6 5/8-inch work was an actual Rembrandt, and the painting sold for $4.5 million later that year.

At the time, its estimated actual value was between $30 million and $40 million.

The Getty Museum did not reveal a purchase price.

"An Old Man in Military Costume," 1630, another of the Getty Museum's Rembrandts.

“An Old Man in Military Costume,” 1630, another of the Getty Museum’s Rembrandts.

Rembrandt Laughing reveals how closely the artist studied every element of his own features, Ernst can de Wetering of the Rembrandt Research Project in Amsterdam told the Toledo Blade in 2011.

“His hair was a little fluffy at the temples, and he captured his exact type of eyebrow. His eyes convey amusement or lighthearted laughter and his mouth is slightly agape with smile lines on either side,” according to the publication.

The Los Angeles museum already has four works by Rembrandt.

“The Getty Museum possesses the most significant collection of early Rembrandts in the United States, and if you had asked what addition would best cap it off, the answer would have been a self-portrait, which many regard as his greatest and most sustained achievement,” museum director Timothy Potts said late Thursday.

(Top: Rembrandt Laughing, self-portrait by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1628)

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