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  • Writer's pictureVan Weyenbergh Fine Art

Allentown museum discovers it has a Rembrandt in its collections.

The Portrait of a young woman (1636), until now attributed to Rembrandt's workshop, was, in fact, an original by the Dutch master, hidden behind the various restorations undergone in recent centuries.

The Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania acquired the oil on wood in 1961. It was part of the French royal collections, then of an aristocratic collection in England before crossing the Atlantic and joining the collection of the Samuel Foundation H. Kress.

It was then attributed to Rembrandt, a proposal contested in the 1970s by the Rembrandt Research Project, a Dutch university organization, because of the thick layer of varnish applied by restaurateurs over the years which disturbed the appearance of the painting, softened its colors and concealed the painstaking work of the painter.

The painting was analyzed by radiography and infrared reflectography, which allowed the restorers to observe beneath the surface of the painting and to identify elements characteristic of Rembrandt: the fine brushstrokes, the small touches of light, or subtle color changes.

The two-year restoration process took place at the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. It was as if all this time, the public had looked at the painting through a dirty window, said conservation assistant and researcher Shan Kuang in a press release.

The latter undertook to remove the layers of varnish and paint, to clean the painting, and used digital photography and electron microscopy to distinguish the original materials from subsequent alterations.

We had no idea this would happen, said Vice-President of Conservation Elaine Mehalakes. This is what every museum hopes for. The painting is currently on reserve, will find its place in the gallery on June 7, 2020. Le journal des Arts

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