Experts unveil newly authenticated Rembrandt portraits

Dutch art experts unveiled four newly authenticated oil paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, the Renaissance artist who created about 600 pictures and is the Netherlands' most famous Old Master.

Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, on the site of Rembrandt's home from 1639 to 1658, today showed the paintings for the first time. The most important is “Lighting Study of a Woman in a White Cap,” painted around 1640, said Professor Ernst van de Wetering, chairman of the Rembrandt Research Project.

"I think more paintings like these will come to light," Ed de Heer, Rembrandt House's director, said today in an interview.

Rembrandt, who died in 1669 at the age of 63, is best known for his 1642 painting "Night Watch," the most-visited exhibit in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. His work is displayed in countries including the U.S., Russia, Germany, Spain, Brazil and Austria. Next year marks the 400th anniversary of the artist's birth.

“Woman in a White Cap'' is owned by an unidentified private collection in the U.S. and will be auctioned by Sotheby's Holdings Inc. in New York in January. The painting is valued at $3 million to $4 million, Judith Niessen, an expert in Old Masters at Sotheby's in Amsterdam, said today, reports Bloomberg.

According to New York Times, no other experts have seen the painting - until today, when it goes on view at the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam in anticipation of a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the artist's birth in 2006. Now, the theory will be posed to the world's Rembrandt scholars. The painting is then headed for the auction block, at Sotheby's January sale of old master paintings in New York.

George Wachter, director of old master paintings for Sotheby's worldwide, has put an estimate of $3 million to $4 million on "Portrait of an Elderly Woman in a White Bonnet" - a conservative figure, since it is not signed and a study. Mr. Wachter said he wanted to let the market decide how much it is worth. (The last Rembrandt to come up at auction was a self-portrait sold to the casino owner Steven A. Wynn two years ago at Sotheby's in London for $11.3 million.)

How "Old Woman" came to Sotheby's is a familiar tale in the world of old master paintings. More than two years ago Howard Walsh Jr., a collector from Fort Worth, approached Mr. Wachter to ask his opinion of the painting. He had inherited it from his parents, Howard and Mary D. Fleming Walsh, who bought it from the Newhouse Gallery in Manhattan in 1971. At the time they were told it was a Rembrandt.

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