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Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #109008: Mystery about a portrait by Rembrandt
Mystery about a portrait by Rembrandt
Portrait of a 17th-century servant.
The woman looks elderly with a stolid and severe face. She is wearing the
whitish bonnet of a servant but also a luxurious dark fur collar. Why was a woman of her class painted in such a manner?
When the painting was first received, the experts considered it a Rembrandt.
Afterwards, they changed their minds for two essential reasons:
On the one hand, there was a mistake in the way the woman was dressed. Rembrandt would never have painted a servant with a whitish bonnet and a wonderful expensive fur collar.
On the other hand, Rembrandt would never have made a technical mistake.
The light reflected on the woman's face seemed to come from the dark fur collar. That was impossible, the dark collar should have absorbed the light.
They came to the conclusion that this portrait couldn't be a genuine “Rembrandt”.
However a few years later, Mr Van der Wetering, a well-known expert and a former head of conservation for the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, was intrigued by the portrait.
For this expert, there was no doubt about it. It was a Rembrandt.
1. The way the bonnet was painted: the wisps of hair spilling out of the bonnet. (Rembrandt was known for adding these sorts of details).
2. The portrait's wood panel was the same as the one Rembrandt used to paint his self-portrait, with a hat (1633), which is in the Louvre.
3. Foremost, the light falling obliquely from behind the servant left her face in shadows. Only Rembrandt was able to paint that way.
The expert added: 'The fur collar had been painted and had been added by someone”.
X-rays tests of the pigment confirmed that the oil of the collar was not the same as the rest of the portrait.
The fur collar was removed and underneath a white collar appeared.
It was actually a genuine Rembrandt. The light on her face was reflected off the white collar.
Adapted fromThe Case of the Servant With the Fur Collar By CAROL VOGEL Published: New York Times Arts, September 22, 2005
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