For Peter Hecht, who following his retirement from a celebrated professorship in art history at Utrecht University, entered the fray of interpreters of Rembrandt’s notoriously treacherous Leiden History Painting. Schwartz reviews the state of the question, especially with regard to the emotions of three of the figures, and reintroduces into the discussion a neglected piece of pertinent evidence.
To mark the publication of the Dutch edition of a book on Pieter Saenredam that I wrote with Marten Jan Bok, the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem invited us to install a small exhibition in the museum. The central work was Saenredam’s painting of the town hall of Haarlem. Marten Jan and I wrote a booklet to accompany the show. In it we expressed the wish that the museum acquire the painting. This has not happened. It remained with Wildenstein & Co. until they put it into a sale at Sotheby’s New York on 28 January 2016. I am told that it was purchased by a married couple of distinguished American collectors who are planning to donate it to a U.S. museum. All the better that it has passed into the hands of people who really want it.
In his paintings of faces Rembrandt displays knowledge of a particular muscular feature, the one that gives some people bags under their eyes. Schwartz became mildly obsessed with following this from face to face and found that Rembrandt never gave paying sitters the bags he admits to in some self-portraits and mercilessly records when painting old studio models.
Schwartz uncovers misappropriations of the great Dutch artist by a raft of writers and an artist. Is he sorry he didn’t write a novel about Vermeer? Maybe.
March 2001 Art in America pp. 104-07 (can be enlarged with CTRL+ for legibility)
Last paragraph and notes (all numbered i – you can link them to their place in the text if you really want to)
Like the conjunctions of stars and planets, artists can become aligned so closely that you can’t see the difference between one and another. When that happens, the result can be greater than the sum of the parts. Schwartz looks at two Italian and two Dutch pairs of artists who entered into bondings of that kind.
Publishing a book is in part like throwing a bottled message into the sea. One such message, in a book by the Holocaust victim Charlotte Salomon that I brought out in 1981, was answered with a beautiful letter from a witness to the creation of Charlotte’s masterpiece. Schwartz is upset that the author of a big new book on the artist exploits that letter but ignores its writer.
In a fraught discussion about Rembrandt’s motivation for making so many self-portraits, the leading Rembrandt expert of the day, Ernst van de Wetering, let himself be misled by a faulty publication of 1887, uncritically recycled in 1906 and 1979, into making an incorrect argument to which he attaches fundamental importance.
Donations to this installment of the Schwartzlist will be used not only for the website but also as a contribution to Loekie and Gary’s golden anniversary present, a new television set. See below.
The contributions of the Rembrandt Research Project to the study of Rembrandt paintings are countless and invaluable. In particular, the insistence of Ernst van de Wetering that the physical study of paintings be integrated into the practice of connoisseurship has changed the face of the field. However, inconsistencies in the six volumes of its Corpus of Rembrandt paintings leave us in uncertainty concerning its reconstruction of Rembrandt’s oeuvre. Schwartz puts his finger on a possible re-attribution that should be forthcoming, but isn’t.
Continue reading “364 The transparent connoisseur 5: Keeping the Rembrandt Research Project to its word”
“Saenredam, Huygens and the Utrecht bull” was Gary Schwartz’s first publication as an art historian. He looks back on how it came into being and what it meant in his life. Schwartz would like to think of the Dutch- and Flemish-speaking low countries as one culture, but circumstances keep intruding on this ideal image. Circumstances such as the lives and posterities of Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt van Rijn.
Schwartz looks back on his beginnings as an art historian. Grad student blues and release through new loves.