Authentication of Rembrandt's self-portraits through the use of facial aging analysis

Tal Friedman, Doron J. Lurie, Avshalom Shalom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) left behind the largest collection of self-portraits in the history of art. Although about 40 of his oil paintings could be considered "self-portraits," controversy still exists regarding 14 of them. We undertook to determine the identity of the painter or the subject. Our work was based on the generally accepted premise that these portraits represent a "realistic" rendering of the subject. Self-portraits on which there is consensus regarding the authenticity were chosen as the basis for our measurements. Using a computerized technique we measured the brow ptosis. We also subjectively analyzed Rembrandt's facial aging and the unique asymmetrical elements in his face. We could not add any useful information on 6 of the 14 portraits and suggest that 8 should be considered authentic. Facial aging analysis and the unique surface anatomy allowed us to confirm Rembrandt as the painter in four of six self-portraits. We confirmed Rembrandt as the subject and painter in three more paintings. Of the two paintings in which the subject's identity was controversial, we determined Rembrandt as the subject in one. We were able to date Rembrandt's age in two other works and considered another portrait to be a copy. Our methodology may serve as an additional tool for the authentication of self-portraits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-594
Number of pages4
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Volume14
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Analysis
  • Authentic self-portraits
  • Computerized technique
  • Facial aging
  • Rembrandt

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