London, December 2023 – In an intriguing tale of artistic resurrection, a small nocturne portraying a Biblical scene has emerged from the shadows of history to be attributed as an authentic masterpiece by the Dutch master, Rembrandt.
The painting, titled “The Adoration of the Kings”, is believed to have been created around 1628. The painting is set to headline Sotheby’s Old Masters evening sale in London this December, carrying an estimate of £10 million to £15 million.
Originally attributed to the ‘Circle of Rembrandt,’ the artwork surfaced in an online auction in 2021 with a modest estimate of €10,000 to €15,000. However, its actual value and authenticity were unveiled when Sotheby’s specialists meticulously researched its origins, culminating in a momentous reattribution. Now, proudly bearing the mantle of a “rediscovered” work, “The Adoration of the Kings” is poised to captivate collectors and enthusiasts with its rich historical significance.
The painting’s intriguing provenance history traces back to 1955 when it was acquired by the discerning Dutch collector Johannes Carel Hendrik Heldring. After Heldring’s passing in 1962, the artwork mysteriously vanished from records. It resurfaced in 1985 when Heldring’s widow consigned it to Christie’s Amsterdam, where it received the initial attribution to the ‘Circle of Rembrandt.’ In a surprising turn of events, the painting reemerged in an online sale at Christie’s Amsterdam in October 2021, captivating bidders’ attention and soaring past its humble estimate to achieve a remarkable €860,000, including fees.
Rembrandt’s creation, executed during his formative years in Leiden, showcases his rapid artistic evolution. The painting, rendered in monochromatic hues, bears the hallmarks of Rembrandt’s signature style, characterised by chiaroscuro and distinctive Leiden period traits, including haunting facial expressions and fluid brushstrokes. Sotheby’s specialists delved deep into the artwork’s nuances, utilising advanced infrared imaging technology to uncover layers of history beneath the surface.
Among the groundbreaking discoveries was Rembrandt’s deliberate alterations to the composition, intensifying the psychological drama within the artwork. By manipulating the angles of the protagonists’ heads, he intricately tightened the narrative threads, imbuing the painting with unparalleled depth and emotion.
Sotheby’s astounding estimate for “The Adoration of the Kings” echoes the resounding success of previous Rembrandt sales conducted by the renowned auction house. Notable among these triumphs was a self-portrait that commanded £14.5 million in July 2020, surpassing its estimated value of £12 million to £16 million. Additionally, an oil sketch featuring the head of Christ achieved a commendable £9.5 million in 2018, underscoring the enduring allure of Rembrandt’s masterpieces in the art market.
This upcoming auction promises to be a historic moment for art connoisseurs and enthusiasts, offering a rare opportunity to witness the resurgence of a long-lost masterpiece. As “The Adoration of the Kings” prepares to take its place on the auction block, its compelling narrative and artistic brilliance are poised to enrapture the hearts of those who recognise the enduring legacy of Rembrandt’s genius.