ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WLVT) - The Allentown Art Museum has had a painting believed to be from Rembrandt’s studio for several decades, but after sending it to the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, it has been determined that Rembrandt painted the Portrait of a Young Woman.
“This is a huge deal,” said President and CEO of the Allentown Art Museum, David Mickenberg.
Samuel H. Kress donated this painting to the art museum in 1961, and it was originally donated as a Rembrandt painting. However, in the 1970s, the painting was rejected by the Rembrandt Research Project, and it was credited to Rembrandt’s studio.
The art museum said the painting was created in 1632. The reason it was rejected as an original was because the portrait had been painted over, and layers of varnish had been added through the years. “Varnish protects the painting, but it also darkens over time, and obscures our ability to see the original and how it was originally intended to look,” said Vice President of Curatorial Affairs, Elaine Mehalakes.
The portrait was on the list to be conserved, so nearly two years ago, it was sent to the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University for cleaning. Shan Kuang was one of the curators on the project, and she was able to remove unoriginal layers on the painting. “I, quickly, was able to see the lovely brush work and the subtle transition,” said Kuang. “Just the absolute quality of the picture, which most people looking at it would think it is absolutely consistent with Rembrandt’s work.”
Experts said the amount of technology that was available in the past does not compare to the technology that is available today, and that made the biggest difference. “It was rather difficult to evaluate it, but we could still see that it was of great quality,” said Kuang.
The portrait was picked up from New York and brought back on Thursday. It had to be climatized to the temperature of the museum archive room, so staff members unboxed the painting Monday morning. “We have a better understanding of the painting,” said Mickenberg. “We can see the painting almost in its original configuration.”
Mickenberg also said this is going to be an opportunity to educate students on how science, technology, and art coincide. The Rembrandt painting will be on display in the Kress Collection of the Allentown Art Museum starting June 7.