A shocking discovery was made during the recent restoration of a Rembrandt masterpiece ‘Susanna and the Elders’ (1647), Focus reports. The work is a representation of the story of Susanna from the Bible. In the painting the elders are blackmailing Susanna and telling her that they will destroy her reputation if she doesn’t come with them, Suzanna replies that she will never have relations with them, and that God will protect her, and her reputation is saved through the work of the prophet Daniel – but as it turns out nobody saved the original work by Rembrandt – Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie has announced they’ve made a truly shocking discovery after an X-ray analysis of the oil painting revealed it had at one time undergone extensive alterations.
According to the daily Berliner Morgenpost art restorer Claudia Laurenze-Landsberg, who conducted the analysis, began to notice tiny pigments on the canvas that didn’t exist in the 17th century. What’s more, some parts of the painting did not correspond to a style that she would normally recognise as Rembrandt’s. The restorer found out that in the 18th century large areas of the painting were simply painted over, and shockingly entire sections were wiped out altogether using solvents and re-painted in a more modern, light shade.
The perpetrator of this historical act of vandalism is believed to be the English painter and collector Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) who collected Rembrandt and had a soft spot for old painting techniques. According to researchers at the Gemäldegalerie, Reynolds, who was known to frequently alter paintings in his possession, owned Susanna at the time that the alteration occurred. This belief has been supported by the Reynolds Research Project in the UK.
“This was a pretty radical alteration. Only the figures correspond to the version of the painting that Rembrandt finished.” One can only speculate on what Reynold’s motives might have been. “Clearly he thought the painting was in need of quite an improvement,” stated the museum director Bern Lindeman.