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Has the Getty spent Tens of Millions of Dollars on a Small and Exquisite Rembrandt Self-Portrait?

May 10, 2013
The Getty's newest purchase: 'Rembrandt Laughing' by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, oil on copper, 8 3/4 x 6 5/8 inches. (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles / May 9, 2013)

The Getty’s newest purchase: ‘Rembrandt Laughing’ by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, oil on copper, 8 3/4 x 6 5/8 inches. (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles / May 9, 2013)

The Getty has recently acquired, though has not yet taken possession of, a small but powerful Rembrandt van Rijn self-portrait from 1628 according to Jori Finkel at the Los Angeles Times. Also acquired, and now hanging on their walls, is a Canaletto view of the Grand Canal in Venice From Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola.  Purchase prices were not announced, but the article cites experts who speculate the price for the Rembrandt runs into the tens of millions.

From the article:

Painted on copper plate, the work the Getty is buying is tiny — not quite 9 by 7 inches. It shows the artist in his early 20s in mid-laugh, with his head thrown back.

It first came to public attention at the English country auction [in 2007], which identified it as work by “a follower of Rembrandt.” The auctioneers estimated its value at around $3,000.

But scholars suspected this joyful image was the real deal, so a bidding war erupted. The painting sold for about $5.2 million to an unidentified bidder before it was even properly authenticated.

The painting has been authenticated by “the leading Rembrandt scholar Ernst van de Wetering.”  Though not specified, it’s believed the seller was the London-based gallery Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, which means an export license will needed:

The exact price could be revealed when the Getty applies for an export license from the British government, which gives museums there a chance to match the price for an artwork of “outstanding significance” historically or artistically and keep it in the country.

These purchases mark the first high-profile acquisitions under Potts, who began as museum director in September 2012 with a mandate from Getty Trust President James Cuno to make ambitious purchases. Potts said of the Rembrandt that the museum “had been aware of it as something we would love to have” for some time, but that “the pursuit” began upon his arrival.

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