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Rembrandt or pupil — The Holy Family with painted frame and curtain

Kassel, Staatliche Museen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Cat. No. Gk 240
  • Ernst Van De Wetering
Part of the Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project book series (RRSE, volume 5)

Abstract

The Kassel Holy Family with its painted frame and trompe-l’oeil curtain is one of Rembrandt’s most popular paintings. However, closer examination of the work raises the question of whether it really was executed by Rembrandt. Weighing the arguments for and against the authenticity of the painting is particularly complicated in this case, largely because considerable areas of the painting are almost inaccessible due to a thick, murkily discoloured layer of varnish. In its well preserved parts, the painting shows a remarkable kinship with a painting whose attribution to Rembrandt is widely doubted, The Prophetess Anna in the Temple in Edinburgh (V 17).

Keywords

Paint Layer Wooden Board Wooden Panel Paint Surface Cast Shadow 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    O. Eisenmann, Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldengalerie zu Cassel, Kassel 1888, p. 145.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Bruyn, ‚Een onderzoek naar 17de-eeuwse schilderijformaten, voornamelijk in Noord-Nederland‘, O.H. 93 (1979), pp. 96–115.Google Scholar
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    J.B. Rietstap, Armorial général, II, Gouda 1887, p. 98.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kühn, esp. p. 202; H. Kühn, ‚Untersuchungen zu den Pigmenten und Malgründen Rembrandts, durchgeführt an den Gemälden der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Kassel‘, Maltechnik/Restauro 82 (1976), pp. 25–33, esp. 32.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Information kindly provided in January 1994 by Mr H. Brammer, chief restorer at the Gemäldegalerie in Kassel. I.D. van der Werf, K.J. van den Berg, S. Schmitt, J.J. Boon, ‚Molecular characterization of copaiba balsam as used in painting techniques and restoration procedures‘, in: Studies in Conservation 45(1) (2000), pp. 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 7.
    See for example the description of the painting of velvet in: K. van Mander, Het schilder-boeck, Haarlem 1604, fol. 44r (quoted in: V 4 note 1).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Kühn 1976 (op. cit.4), examined three samples. The white taken from the rod from which the curtain hangs was lead white (with traces of copper and silver). Dark yellow taken from the frame consisted of brownish yellow ochre (with some lead white). The light yellow also taken from the frame proved to be lead tin yellow with some quartz added.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    B. Schnackenburg, Gesamtkatalog Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Kassel, Mainz 1996, pp. 242–243.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Eisenmann, op. cit.1, p. LVIII.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Eisenmann, op. cit.1, pp. 144–146.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    W. Kemp, Rembrandt. Die Heilige Familie oder die Kunst, einen Vorhang zu lüften, Frankfurt am Main 1986, esp. pp. 21–30.Google Scholar
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    Adam Camerarius, The regents of the orphanage at Naarden, signed and dated 1644, canvas c. 230 × 345 cm; Naarden Burgerweeshuis; see P.J.J. van Thiel, C.J. de Bruyn Kops, exhib. cat. Prijst de Lijst, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum 1984, cat. no. 92.Google Scholar
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    G. Mancini, Considerazioni sulla pittura (edizione critica e introduzione di Adriana Marucchi) I, Rome 1956, p. 146: ‚Delle tende non è da dubitare che, per conservarle, convengono…‘Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    C. Huygens, Mijn jeugd (My youth), translated and introduced by C.L. Heesakkers, Amsterdam 1987, pp. 80–81: ‚daarop is het afgehouwen hoofd van Medusa geschilderd, omkranst door slangen die uit haar haar ontspruiten. Het gelaat van de wonderschone vrouw heeft zijn gratie nog bewaard, maar tegelijk wekt het afgrijzen door de zojuist ingetreden dood en door de krans van afzichtelijke slangen. De combinatie is zo geraffineerd uitgevoerd, dat de toeschouwer door de plotselinge confrontatie (normaal is het schilderij namelijk afgedekt) geschokt wordt, maar tegelijk de ontroering ondergaat van de levensechtheid en de schoonheid, waarmee het wrede onderwerp is weergegeven. ‘(It depicts Medusa’s severed head wreathed by serpents springing from her hair. The face of the extraordinarily beautiful woman still retains its grace, but at the same time evokes horror through death just having occurred and through the wreath of hideous serpents. The combination is executed with such subtlety that the beholder is at once shocked by the sudden confrontation — because normally the painting is covered — and moved by the truth to life and beauty with which the cruel subject is depicted.)Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    ‚L’inuention de couurir vos tableaus est exellente, et les fere voir à un à un fera que l’on s’en lassera moins, car les voyans tous ensemble rempliroit le sens trop à un coup. ‘Letter of 22 June 1648 to Paul Fréart de Chantelou included in: Correspondance de Nicolas Poussin, ed. Ch. Jouanny, Paris 1911 [Archives de l’art français, nouvelle période, V], p. 384; see also Nicolas Poussin, Lettres et propos sur l’art, (A. Blunt ed.), Paris 1964, p. 130.Google Scholar
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    Tümpel 1986, pp. 245–246.Google Scholar
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    Kemp, op.cit.12, pp. 55–69.Google Scholar
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    J.K. Eberlein, ‚The curtain in Raphael’s Sistine Madonna‘, Art Bull. 65 (1983), pp. 61–77, esp. 63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See also J.F. Moffit, ‚Rembrandt, revelation and Calvin’s curtains‘, G. d. B.-A., sixth series, 113 (1989), pp. 175–186.Google Scholar
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    C. Plinii Secundi, Naturalis Historiae, Liber XXXV, 65.Google Scholar
  21. 27.
    See exhib. cat. Leidse Fijnschilders, Leiden Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, 1988, p. 116: in his notice of intended marriage dated 20 December 1646 at Leiden, Van Gaesbeeck’s place of residence is given as Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    See for example, P. Reuterswärd, ‚Tafelförhänget: kring et motiv i holländskt 1600-talsmåleri‘, Konsthistorisk Tidskrift 25 (1956), pp. 97–113; exhib. cat. La peinture dans la peinture, Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts 1982/83, pp. 234–237, 271; C.E. Gilbert, ‚Grapes, curtains, human beings: the theory of missed mimesis‘, in: Th.W. Gaetghens (ed.), Künstlerischer Austausch Artistic Exchange (Akten des XXVIII. Internationalen Kongresses für Kunstgeschichte Berlin, 15.–20. Juli 1992), Berlin 1993, Vol. II, pp. 413–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 29.
    H. Gerson, Philips Koninck: ein Beitrag zur Erforschung der holländischen Malerei des XVII. Jahrhunderts, Berlin 1936, p. 161.Google Scholar
  24. 33.
    J. Bruyn, ‚Rembrandt’s workshop: function & production‘, in: exhib. cat. Rembrandt. Paintings, 1991/92, pp. 68–89, esp. 75.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernst Van De Wetering

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