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Rembrandt self-portrait ‘home after 400 years’


A Rembrandt self-portrait bought from the Rothschild family with 150 million euros ($162 million) of Dutch state cash went on display at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum on Thursday.

The Netherlands agreed to buy “The Standard-Bearer” with public money in 2022, after Paris cleared its sale despite the painting being considered as a “national treasure” in France.

The painting had spent centuries in the hands of private collectors, most recently the Rothschild banking family, who had owned it since 1844.

“This is a party... it’s really the housewarming party for Rembrandt who came home after nearly 400 years,” Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits said.

The canvas, painted in 1636 when Rembrandt was 30 and showing him in a military uniform, is hanging alongside his famous “The Night Watch” in the museum’s Gallery of Honour.

The museum held a ceremony performed by eight classes of schoolchildren who had designed their own banners, while entry to the Rijksmuseum will be free on Saturday to celebrate the painting’s return.

“This is one of the most important self portraits by Rembrandt. It’s painted at a turning point in his career” when he began to fully express himself artistically, added Dibbits. The painting portrays Rembrandt as one of the standard-bearers positioned ahead of the troops in the 80 Years’ War, the war of independence which led to the creation of the Netherlands in 1648, the Rijksmuseum said.

“In this large self-portrait, Rembrandt paints himself looking rebellious and full of bravado. It was this artistic breakthrough that would lead to The Night Watch,” it said.

Paris said in December 2021 that it would allow a sale on the open market, after the Louvre had reportedly tried but failed to raise the funds to buy it.

As well as the Dutch parliament approving 150 million euros of public cash, the Rembrandt Association added 15 million euros to the pot and the Rijksmuseum funded 10 million.

The Rijksmuseum said it now had 22 Rembrandt paintings. — AFP

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