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Monday, December 5, 2011

X-ray scanning reveals hidden Rembrandt unfinished self-portrait

An X-ray fluorescence spectrometry scan, performed at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) light source in Grenoble, France, revealed an unfinished self-portait of Rembrandt, according to specialists.

In roughly 8 hours, the new Maia detector system, mapped the chemical elements in the colours used to paint the "Old Man With a Beard." The detected elements included copper for blue and green, iron for yellow, orange and brown, and mercury for red.

The 15cm x 20cm painting, hidden under the work "Old Man With a Beard", until now attributed to a Rembrandt's pupil, was supposedly painted when the artist was near 24 years of age and his reputation started to develop, leading him to move from Leiden to Amsterdam.

According to art historian Ernst van de Wetering, head of the Rembrandt Research Project, the discovered self-portrait, although not completed and lacking facial details, revealed contour lines of a beardless, seemingly younger male wearing a collar and beret, showing a typical posture characteristic of Rembrandt's early self-portraits.
Similarities with two denoted self-portraits, one of them dated from 1630, are also evident.
The attribution is attested by a 1633 print of the composition, with an inscription stating it was made by Rembrandt.

Authenticating Rembrant's works can reveal itself a complex task, as the old master encouraged his students to copy his works and he himself would perform final corrections in their works.

Between May 1 and July 1, 2012, the Rembrandt House Museum will stage a special exhibition of research into 10 paintings by Rembrandt and his contemporaries using XRF technology, including the investigation results about the unfinished self-portrait mentioned on this article.

Developed by Joris Dik of Delft University and Koen Janssens of Antwerp University, the X-ray fluorescence spectrometry enables the mapping of different chemical elements, revealing pigments in hidden layers of paint and allowing different views of the hidden image.
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