For many years an unassuming painting hung on the wall of a country home in the province of Rome, simply attributed to the Dutch school, until one day it fell. A restorer was called upon to fix the damage to the frame, but soon realised it was indeed a long-lost painting by the Dutch master Rembrandt (1606-1669).
“Finding a Rembrandt in Italy is not something that happens every day,” marvelled Guido Talarico, the president of the Italian Heritage.
Measuring only 54cm by 44cm, the small work depicts the story of the ‘Adoration of the Magi’. There are several surviving copies of the original, with the best known kept in Gothenburg, Sweden and St Petersburg, Russia, which experts have matched to the rediscovered painting.
The “accidental trauma” occurred in 2016 and since then the painting has undergone numerous tests to confirm the suspicions of art restorer Antonella Di Francesco. He began by removing the thick layer of dirt on the top surface of the oil on paper. Speaking about the conservation process, Di Francesco explained “during my work one of the most beautiful things that can happen during a lifetime: the sudden awareness of being in front of a work by a very great author who reveals himself to you, which comes out of its opaque zone and chooses you to be redeemed from the darkness.”
Conservators found that the artwork was painted using a very rare technique typical of Dutch masters working in the 1630s. Recently the findings were presented by the head of an Italian cultural foundation at a symposium in Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, at which the painting’s provenance and attribution to Rembrandt were officially confirmed.
Alongside his impressive breadth of style and innovation, Rembrandt was renowned for being an extremely prolific artist. Rembrandt decided not to travel to Italy where he could study the art first-hand, which was unusual for young Dutch artists of the time, learning instead from the art of his native country. He is now considered one of the greatest painters from the Dutch Golden Age for his spectacular ability to render stories in paint.
The family plan to lend the rediscovered painting to museums and galleries rather than selling it. Recalling the moment he stumbled across the lost Rembrandt, Di Francesco described it as “a thrill that has no equal, which vibrates until it drags you into an unstoppable impulse of morbid curiosity. I don’t fight it and I let myself be carried away by the spell.“