Questions raised about the authenticity of recovered LA Rembrandt – “This is clearly a work of Rembandt’s school rather than by Rembrandt himself.”- Dr. Martin Royalton-Kisch – British Museum Curator
Experts have raised serious doubts about the attribution of a 17th century Rembrandt sketch, measuring 11 in by 6 in (28 cm by 15 c) dating from about 1655 which was stolen from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Re at the weekend. The pen and ink valued at $250,000 (£153,625), titled The Judgement, was taken from an art fair. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it was a “well thought-out, well-executed theft”. The drawing belonged to San Francisco gallery The Linearis Institute a public repository for the visual arts specializing in works on paper by great masters of the past 500 years. Founded in 2002, Linearis Institute has the distinction of combining an intimate gallery space with extensive educational and community outreach. The theft occurred when a curator was distracted by another person, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. The pen-and-ink artwork, vanished from the wooden easel that it was resting on. There was no further security involved and at least two people were suspected to be involved with the theft, known as a distraction technique. It took place at the exclusive hotel between 10:20 and 10:35 p.m. “Detectives reviewed the hotel security video for information identifying those involved,” he said. The drawing signed on the back by the artist has now been returned. The pen-and ink drawing was found in an unlocked public area of an Encino church Monday evening after a caller recognized it from news accounts of its weekend theft, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore. It was later verified as being the stolen piece shortly after midnight.
Several curators and art historians contacted by the LA Times have expressed doubts about the piece’s authenticity, based on images of it published online. Retired British Museum curator Dr. Martin Royalton-Kisch, a Dutch specialist, stated that based on the style of the drawing, “It’s in my personal opinion a work of Rembandt’s school rather than by Rembrandt himself.” Other experts have said that it is not included in the six-volume catalog of Rembrandt’s work by Otto Benesch, the definitive catalogue raisonne of drawings, that experts generally accept as the Bible of the master’s work. It is also absent from a list of 70 authenticated, signed Rembrandt drawings compiled by scholar Peter Schatborn. The drawing was however insured for £250,000 and the police are interested in more details about the authenticity of the work. It is clearly a period, old master drawing but even though it is signed Rembrandt, without provenance, the attribution will be difficult to prove, without the backing of the art establishment.