International collaboration looks closely at Rembrandt

16 February 2023

An international collaboration involving conservators and curators from Agnes and the Art Conservation Program at Queen’s University, the Mauritshuis, The Hague and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford focuses on utilizing new examination technologies to better understand the materials and painting techniques used by Rembrandt and his circle.

They are looking at character studies from all three art collections that are by or have been attributed to Rembrandt in the past. His Head of an Old Man in a Cap (around 1630) was examined with a 3D digital microscope (Hirox) and M6 Jetstream Macro XRF scanner, revealing the order in which the preparatory layers and paint layers were applied. The use of the Hirox microscope also allowed for a detailed examination of Rembrandt’s brush handling and the scratched paint he used to delineate hairs in the subject’s eyebrows and beard.

“Technical examination of more securely attributed works, such as our Head of an Old Man in a Cap, provides valuable context against which to analyse paintings with uncertain attributions,” says Suzanne van de Meerendonk, Bader Curator of European Art. “But since technical knowledge circulated and materials were shared in artist workshops, we can also learn a lot from works created in those settings.”

In expanding the technical knowledge of these paintings, the research study provides exciting new insights into Rembrandt’s stylistic development and material experimentation during his early period.

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