A rare oil sketch by Dutch master Rembrandt has sold for £9.5m at Sotheby’s recent Old Masters Evening Sale.
The painting, Study of the Head of a Young Man, sold above its estimate of £6 to £8 million, with a dramatic moment in the saleroom when a bidder called out an offer of £8 million before it sold to a telephone bidder for £9,480,800.
Dating from around 1650, Study of the Head of a Young Man is one of a small series of informal but intensely moving oil sketches painted by Rembrandt of the same young man from the neighbourhood in Amsterdam where the artist lived.
As in others from the series, Rembrandt envisions his model as Jesus Christ, seen here with his hands clasped in prayer.
Measuring just over ten inches, this work stands today as a testament to Rembrandt’s mastery of handling paint on a reduced scale, and his ability to render human emotions.
This powerful and touching portrait was one of seven oil sketches of the Head of Christ featured in the seminal exhibition Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus at the Louvre, Paris (2011).
During technical examination and restoration in preparation for the exhibition, two fingerprints – presumably those of Rembrandt himself – were found hidden underneath overpaint and darkened varnish.
The distinguishing marks – most likely thumbprints – while difficult to prove conclusively, are believed to be the only known fingerprints of the Dutch master.