Self-portrait, wearing a White Feathered Bonnet

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669) (and studio?)
National Trust Inventory Number 810136

Category Paintings
Date 1635 (bears signature and date)
Materials Oil on poplar panel
Measurements 912 x 719 mm
Place of origin Amsterdam
Collection Buckland Abbey, Devon (Accredited Museum)
On show at Buckland Abbey, Devon, South West, National Trust

This flamboyant painting portrays the great Dutch artist in the fanciful attire favoured by him in his self-portraits from the mid-1630s. He is wearing a sumptuously embroidered velvet cloak, a gorget (metal neckband) and gold chains. His jewelled beret has elegant golden and white plumes, attached theatrically in the centre with a large gem. He is standing in a starkly-lit studio and his shadow with the feathers is playfully depicted on the wall behind. The portrait was painted around 1635, after the artist had settled in Amsterdam from his native Leiden and had married Saskia van Uylenburgh, cousin of his art-dealer friend.

The identity of the painter was thrown in doubt after Horst Gerson reattributed it to possibly Govaert Flinck in 1968. In 2012 it was re-examined by Ernst van de Wetering, current Chair of the Rembrandt Research Project and again classified as by Rembrandt himself. To strengthen this reattribution, the picture was sent to the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge, where it underwent a detailed technical examination during 2013 and 2014, funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery.

The examination included visual inspection under magnification, infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis. Cleaning and removal of yellowed varnish revealed more of the original colours and painting style. It was found that the signature was contemporary with the creation of the portrait. The infra-red and x-ray images showed how the composition was changed during the execution of the work. The wood of the panel was identified as being from the poplar/willow family, and the pigments were found to include azurite, smalt and bone black.

These findings are consistent with the practice of Rembrandt and his assistants. The changing of the composition and the quality of the brushwork revealed by the cleaning, in particular, are compelling evidence that the portrait is by Rembrandt himself.

Summary description

Oil painting on poplar panel, Self-portrait, wearing a White Feathered Bonnet by Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669) (and studio?), signed and dated, at the lower right background: Rembrant / f (followed by three dots in a triangular pattern) 1635. A half-length portrait of the artist with a white feathered bonnet, cloak and gorget. Acquired as a genuine Rembrandt by Prince Joseph-Wenzel von Liechtenstein (1696-1772) and considered as such by Rembrandt scholars, until Horst Gerson reattributed it to possibly Govaert Flinck in 1968. Since then its authenticity has been in doubt. However, its high quality and the fact that it does not reproduce any other known self-portrait by Rembrandt suggest that it is a prototype. Furthermore, recent X-rays and infra-red refectology show that the artist has changed the position of his left arm, which would not be consistent with it being a copy. At least three copies of it are known: in Wiesbaden, in the Galleria Nazionale, Rome and formerly in the Cook collection, Doughty House, Richmond. The unusually mechanical execution of the feathers on the bonnet suggests that they may have been painted by an assistant.

Provenance

Acquired by Prince Joseph Wenzel of Liechtenstein (1696-1772), Vienna; collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, until at least 1948 (when exhibited at Lucerne); with Edward Speelman, London, 1960s; Harold Samuel, Baron Samuel of Wych Cross (1912 - 1987); acquired by the National Trust as a gift from the estate of the late Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross (1918-2008), 2010.

Credit line

Buckland Abbey (given from the estate of Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross (1918-2008) to the National Trust in 2010)

Marks and inscriptions

Verso: White exhibition label: Kunstmuseum Luzern 1948 Meisterwerke aus den Sammlungen des Fursten von Liechtenstein Katalog Nr. 104
Verso: In black ink: 1635 and more crossed out with blue chalk across
Verso: White label, maekedin blue in: 84 corresponds to its inventory number when it was in the Galerie Liechtenstein in Vienna and stamp

Makers and roles

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669) (and studio?), artist
previously catalogued as studio of Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), artist
previously catalogued as possibly Govaert Teunisz. Flinck (Cleves 1615 – Amsterdam 1660), artist
previously catalogued as after Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), artist
previously catalogued as Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), artist

References

Vosmaer 1868 C. Vosmaer, Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn, sa vie at ses oeuvres, Le Haye, 1868, p. 508
Bode 1883 W. Bode, Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei, Braunschweig, 1883 , pp. 411, 576, no. 131
Dutuit, 1881-85 E. Dutuit, L'Oeuvre Complet de Rembrandt, Paris 1881 - 85, vol. III, p. 50, no. 141
Wurzbach 1886 A. von Wurzbach, Rembrandt Galerie, Stuttgart, 1886, no. 26
Michel 1893 E. Michel, Rembrandt. Sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps, Paris 1893, pp. 215, 560
Bode & Hofstede de Groot 1898 W. Bode and C. Hofstede de Groot, Rembrandt, Paris 1898 - 1900, vol. III, 1899, no.168
Moes 1897-1905 E. W. Moes, Iconographia Batava, Amsterdam, 1897-1905, no. 6693, p. 33
Hofstede de Groot 1908-27 C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century..., 1908-27, 8 vols., vol VI, 1916, no. 584, pp. 285-6
Valentier 1908 W. R. Valentier, Rembrandt des Meisters Gemälde, Berlin 1908 , p. 150, no. 174
Bredius 1935: A. Bredius, Rembrandt Gemälde, Vienna 1935 , no. 25
Gerson 1968 H. Gerson, Rembrandt Paintings, London 1968, no. 171
Lecaldano 1969 P. Lecaldano, The Complete Paintings of Rembrandt, London 1969, p. 103, no. 164
Tümpel 1986 Christian Tümpel, Rembrandt in Selstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten, Amsterdam 1986, no. A 64
Bruyn 1989 J. Bruyn et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, 1989, no. C 92
Slatkes 1992 L. J. Slatkes, Rembrandt. Catalogo Completo dei Dipinti, Florence 1992, p. 378, no. 251
Wright 1982 Christopher Wright, Rembrandt Self-Portraits, 1982, no. 24, p. 41 & pl. 51

Related items

Place of origin Amsterdam (682)
Holland (957)
Materials Oil paint (8279)
Wood (126362)
Category Paintings (12624)
Collection Buckland Abbey, Devon (Accredited Museum) (915)
Periods 17th century (32764)
Maker Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669) (and studio?) (1)
Govaert Teunisz. Flinck (Cleves 1615 – Amsterdam 1660) (2)
Subjects Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669) (7)
Self-portrait (62)
Object Type Oil painting (11738)

Record Status

Enhanced

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