Unveiling Rembrandt’s Smallest Masterpieces: New Finds at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum

  • Two tiny oval portraits by Rembrandt, measuring under eight inches, were rediscovered after 200 years.
  • The portraits, dating back to 1635, depict Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen Caerlsdr.
  • Advanced scientific methods confirmed the authenticity of these works, now on long-term display at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

In a remarkable revelation, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has unveiled two of Rembrandt's smallest yet significant works, recently rediscovered after lying unknown for two centuries. These diminutive portraits, each under eight inches tall, showcase the mastery of the celebrated Dutch painter in a new light.

The Subject and Significance of the Portraits

The portraits, painted in 1635, capture the essence of Jan Willemsz van der Pluym, a wealthy plumber and slater, and his wife Jaapgen Caerlsdr. At the time these were painted, the couple was in their seventies, their mature features deftly rendered with Rembrandt's characteristic loose brushstrokes. These works not only highlight Rembrandt's skill in depicting his subjects with intimacy and empathy but also underscore a personal connection. The van der Pluyms shared a familial bond with Rembrandt, dating back to 1624 when their son married Rembrandt's cousin.

A Testament to Rembrandt's Artistry

The rediscovery and subsequent analysis of these portraits underscore Rembrandt's versatility and his adept use of materials. Using a suite of modern techniques, including X-radiography, infrared photography, and macro X-ray fluorescence, the Rijksmuseum's experts concluded that the build-up of the portraits and the alterations in the sitters' collars bore striking similarities to Rembrandt's known methods. The pigments, comprising lead- and iron-based paints along with Earth pigments, further corroborated their authenticity.

Rembrandt's Legacy Revisited

These miniature portraits add a new dimension to the understanding of Rembrandt's oeuvre. Known for his larger canvases, the discovery of these smaller works provides insight into the more personal and perhaps impromptu aspects of his practice. It's speculated that these portraits were painted as a personal favor, a testament to the close bond between the artist and the subjects.

Jaapgen Caerlsdr

Rijksmuseum: A Haven for Rembrandt's Works

The Rijksmuseum, housing the largest collection of Rembrandt's works, offers an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to experience the breadth of his artistry. With these two additions, the museum continues to affirm its status as a premier destination for appreciating the genius of this Dutch master.

Jan Willemsz van der Pluym

The rediscovery of Rembrandt's smallest formal works at the Rijksmuseum opens a new window into the artist's life and relationships. These portraits, intimate in size yet grand in artistic value, are a significant addition to the narrative of Rembrandt's enduring legacy. Visitors to the Rijksmuseum can now experience these unique pieces, connecting with a more personal side of one of history's greatest artists.