The rediscovered and exceptionally rare portraits of Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym (circa 1565-1644) and Jaapgen Carels (1565-1640), signed and dated 1635, are estimated at £5,000,000-£8,000,000.
The intimate portrayals of relatives of the artist provide a unique insight into Rembrandt’s activity as a painter within his inner circle. With a virtually unbroken line of provenance, these pictures were acquired at Christie’s by an ancestor of the present owners almost two centuries ago and have remained completely unknown to scholars ever since. They return to Christie’s now after an extensive scholarly investigation and scientific analysis undertaken at the Rijksmuseum.
Small in scale and painted from life with Rembrandt’s characteristic virtuosity, these pictures offer a tender portrayal of a dignified, elderly couple who were related to the artist. The pictures will tour to New York, where they will be on public view from June 10 to 14, and Amsterdam from June 21 to 24, ahead of returning to London for the Classic Week pre-sale exhibition in London, on view from July 1 to 6.
The sitters, wealthy Leiden plumber Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym (1565-1640) and his wife Jaapgen Carels (1565-1644), were intimately connected with Rembrandt. The Van der Pluyms were a prominent family in Leiden, with their son Dominicus van der Pluym marrying Cornelia van Suytbroeck, the daughter of Rembrandt’s uncle on his mother’s side, Willem van Suytbroeck. Dominicus and Cornelia had one child, the artist Karel van der Pluym, who is thought to have trained with Rembrandt and included the artist’s only surviving heir, Titus, in his will. Karel’s uncle Willem Jansz van der Pluym also sat for Rembrandt’s most finished portrait drawing. In 1635, the year these portraits were painted, Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym and Jaapgen Carels acquired a garden next to that of Rembrandt’s mother in Leiden.
The portraits have a remarkable, virtually unbroken line of provenance. They remained in the family of the sitters until 1760, when they were sold at auction in Amsterdam after the death of their great-great grandson Marten ten Hove (1683-1759). From there they passed to the collection of Count Vincent Potocki (c.1740-1825) in Warsaw, before briefly entering the collection of Baron d’Ivry in Paris in 1820 and then James Murray, 1st Baron Glenlyon (1782-1837), who put them up for sale at Christie’s on June 18 in 1824, lot 76, listed as: ‘Rembrandt – very spirited and finely coloured’, where they were acquired. For the last two centuries they have remained in the same private UK collection.
Henry Pettifer, International Deputy Chairman, Old Master Paintings, Christie’s commented: “This is one of the most exciting discoveries we have made in the Old Masters field in recent years and we are delighted to bring this pair of portraits by Rembrandt to auction this summer, almost 200 years after they were last seen in public. Painted with a deep sense of humanity, these are amongst the smallest and most intimate portraits that we know by Rembrandt, adding something new to our understanding of him as a portraitist of undisputed genius.”
Christie’s holds the world auction record for Rembrandt, which was set in 2009 when Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo sold for £20,201,250. In 2016, Christie’s facilitated one of the most important private sales in history with two masterpieces by Rembrandt Van Rijn secured for the Louvre & the Rijksmuseum.