Portrait of a Young Woman (1632) was among a donation of more than 60 Renaissance masterpieces received by the Allentown Art Museum in Philadelphia in 1961 from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The Rembrandt Research Project examined the portrait almost five decades ago and deemed it to be a work by one of the Dutch master's assistants rather than himself. This was because it was covered in layers of varnish and additional paint that did not reflect what they had seen with his other works.
The painting was sent out for a routine cleaning in 2018 to New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center. Conservator Shan Kuang worked on it there. "Portrait of a Young Woman has a very long restoration history," she says. "It arrived in our studios completely obscured in very thick varnish that had degraded over a century, and it was very difficult to evaluate it properly. With better technology, we were able to obtain an x-ray that showed brushwork and a liveliness to that brushwork that was quite consistent with other works by Rembrandt."
The newly-restored painting was evaluated by scholars and art historians, and a decision was reached to reattribute the work to Rembrandt. The Allentown Art Museum will be celebrating the return of this important work to its galleries with the exhibition Rembrandt Revealed, from 7 June, which will illuminate how conservation science has helped to better understand this painting and its authorship. It will offer a deep dive into the conservation process, and will explore the complexities and uncertainties of the attribution process.
For further information, please see the museum's website here.