The Standard Bearer (1636), which depicts the 30-year-old painter in historical garb, is one of the last masterpieces by Rembrandt still in private hands. The paintings is being offered for sale by members of the Rothschild family, with whom the work it has resided since 1844. Prior to coming into the Rothschild’s hands, it belonged to King of England.
Rembrandt used the work to advertise his skill in the hope of securing a commission to paint a portrait for the Amsterdam civic guard, then among the highest merits awarded to an artist from his region. In 1636, six years after completing this work, Rembrandt landed the commission to produce The Night Watch (1642), a group portrait of the Amsterdam militia under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq.
The purchase, which has yet to be finalized, will be backed by both public and private funding. The Rembrandt Association has pledged €15 million ($17 million) to buy the painting, and the Rijksmuseum Fund will put up €10 million ($11 million). The Dutch state will fund the remaining €150 million ($170 million), €19 million ($21 million) of which will be allocated from the museum’s acquisition fund. To secure the purchase, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science is awaiting approval from parliament for the funding, the terms for which were submitted in a budget review proposal to the government on Wednesday.
The Rijksmuseum’s director, Taco Dibbits, has been working on securing the painting for the museum for five years. The museum’s proposal process began with the presentation of one of its prized Marten & Oopjen wedding portraits by Rembrandt, which the Dutch and French governments jointly acquired for $160 million in 2016 from another group of Rothschild family members.
In 2018, the current owners alerted the French government of plans to sell the work. In 2019, the French Ministry of Culture denied an export license for the painting, allowing museums in the country 30 months to raise funds to acquire it, though no French institutions secured it for purchase.
In a statement, the museum said that the 22 works by Rembrandt in the Hague’s collection provide an “overview of the artist’s life,” and that the present work, being “one of the first paintings that Rembrandt made after he established himself as an independent artist in Amsterdam … has so far been the missing link in this overview.”
The deal for the acquisition may not have been closed yet, Dutch officials made it seem fairly certain that it would ultimately be completed. “After a journey of centuries, The Standard Bearer is now returning home for good,” Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Dutch minister of education, culture, and science, said in a statement.