Two “exceptionally rare” Rembrandt portraits that were unknown to art scholars have been unearthed in a family’s private collection.
The paintings by the 17th-century Dutch master, whose works frequently sell for millions at auction, have never been displayed publicly. They were discovered by experts from Christie’s during a routine valuation. The subjects of the eight-inch portraits are Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and Jaapgen Carels, an elderly married couple from the Dutch city of Leiden, and the paintings date back to 1635.
“I wasn’t aware of what I was going to be seeing,” Henry Pettifer, Christie’s international deputy chair of Old Master paintings, told the Financial Times. “I dared to dream. But it was extraordinary to me that the pictures had never been studied before. They were completely absent from the Rembrandt literature.”
The works have an estimated value of $6.26 million–$10 million (£5 million–£8 million) and will go on sale July 6 at Christie’s London after going on display in New York and Amsterdam. This will be the second time Christie’s handles the sale of the works: the auction house sold the oil paintings to ancestors of the undisclosed UK family in 1824.
Van der Pluym and Carels had family connections to Rembrandt: their son Dominicus married the daughter of Rembrandt’s uncle.
Christie’s said that there was sufficient provenance information available to suggest that the paintings were genuine Rembrandts. Pictures were also sent to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for its own expert technical and historical research, which, according to the auction house, resulted in “the same conclusion.”
These portraits are not likely to set a new benchmark at auction for Rembrandt. His record was set in 2009, when Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo (1658) was sold for $33.2 million. That price wasn’t far from the $25.8 million achieved by another biblical scene by Rembrandt, Saint James the Greater (1661), when it was auctioned in 2007.
Rembrandt paintings—and many other works by Old Masters—are often sold for even higher sums outside public salesrooms, however. In 2016 Christie’s facilitated a joint acquisition of rare pendant portraits depicting Dutch couple Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit through a private deal for €80 million ($96 million) each. The Dutch and French governments, working, respectively, on behalf of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris, paid the eye-watering cost.