A 400-year-old Rembrandt painting thought to contain the actual fingerprints of the Dutch master Rembrandt is expected to fetch over $7 million dollars when it goes up for auction in London next month.
Rembrandt certainly had the King Midas touch in more ways than one. The Mirror reports that the Dutch genius’s fingerprints have been discovered in a 4-century-old oil sketch which he himself painted.
Study Of A Head Of A Young Man measures just 10 inches high but for such a small painting, it packs a powerful punch. One that’s worth over $7 million according to experts in these matters.
The portrait dating from around 1655 portrays Rembrandt’s model as Jesus Christ. Critics have called the 17th-century portrait both “powerful and touching.” Here’s the rub. In the lower edge of the portrait, buried in the original layer of paint, is what are believed to be Rembrandt’s fingerprints.
Now you may be thinking, “So what? What’s so special about some dead Dutch guy’s fingerprints?”
Here’ the thing. Rembrandt was regarded as perhaps the greatest painter ever, not just by the art-loving public, but by other acclaimed and well-known artists.
The French sculptor Auguste Rodin said, “Compare me with Rembrandt! What sacrilege! With Rembrandt, the colossus of Art! We should prostrate ourselves before Rembrandt and never compare anyone with him!”
Vincent van Gogh who knew a thing or two about what makes a work of art once wrote, “Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt—magician—that’s no easy occupation.”
And not one to mince words, the impressionist Max Liebermann once said, “Whenever I see a Frans Hals, I feel like painting; whenever I see a Rembrandt, I feel like giving up.”
As you can see, Rembrandt has kudos. Lots of it. So his fingerprints are kind of a big deal.
A process of technical examination and restoration revealed the prints for the first time and George Gordon, worldwide co-chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master paintings is excited at what he believes is an “extraordinary discovery.”
Gordon explained, “You often get finger and thumbprints in the varnish of painting, but that doesn’t really tell you anything of interest. This is in the original paint.
“This shows that Rembrandt was happy with the painting while it was still wet. He painted it very quickly. But what is certain is that it is somebody that picked up the painting as soon as it was finished.
“While as far as we know no comparable finger or thumbprints of Rembrandt have been found in other works to confirm the conclusion, the discovery of the marks in the original layer of paint…. make their connection to the artist highly credible.”
Gordon now expects other people will look for fingerprints in all of Rembrandt’s paintings, which will no doubt add considerable significance to their price tag.
As Oscar Wilde once said, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”