Rembrandt original comes out of hiding in Antwerp after restoration

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Layers of discoloured varnish were cleaned off a portrait thought to be by a pupil of Rembrandt to reveal the signature of the great master himself (David Charter writes).

Portrait of Pastor Swalmius has been verified as a Rembrandt after samples of its canvas were found to match the material used for two other masterpieces by the 17th-century Dutch painter.

Curators of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp were overjoyed at the discovery — not because the painting’s estimated value has increased overnight from €1 million (£850,000) to €20 million, but because it has evened the score of one Rembrandt each with its rival Royal Museum in Brussels.

“This museum bought the painting in 1886 and was assured at the time that it was a genuine Rembrandt but after some time the varnish became very dark and connoisseurs were no longer sure that it was genuine,” Véronique van Passel, a spokeswoman for the museum, said.

The painting was investigated in 1969 by the Rembrandt Research Project, which decided that it was the work of a pupil of the artist, Govert Flinck. The museum was able to challenge this classification only after a private donor gave it the money for the painting’s restoration...

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