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Two Unknown Rembrandt Portraits Were Found in a Private Collection. Now They Could Fetch $10 Million.

The single-lot portraits will be offered at the Christie’s London Old Masters Part I sale on July 6.

Rembrandt portraits of Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife, Jaapen Carels, from 1635 Christie's

Dutch Old Masters collectors are about to meet a very special couple.

A pair of previously unknown portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn are going under the gavel. Found in a private collection in the United Kingdom, the paintings—signed and dated 1635—are under eight inches tall and depict wealthy plumber Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife, Jaapen Carels. The couple was from a prominent family in the Dutch city of Leiden and related to Rembrandt by marriage. The two works, which will be offered at the Christie’s London Old Masters Part I sale, are expected to fetch between $6.25 million and $10 million.

In the year the portraits were painted, Jan and Jaapen had acquired the garden next to Rembrandt’s mother in Leiden. Their son, Dominicus van der Pluym, later married the artist’s cousin Cornelia van Suytbroec, and they had one child named Karel van der Pluym. The artworks stayed with the family of sitters until 1760, a year after Jan and Jaapen’s great-grandson Marten ten Hove died. The portraits then traveled to Warsaw, to the private collection of Count Vincent Potocki and briefly remained in the possession of Baron d’Ivry in Paris from 1820. James Murray, 1st Baron Glenlyon, was the last expert-known collector to own the works.

Glenlyon placed both works up for auction in June 1824 via Christie’s, where the listing described them as “Rembrandt—very spirited and finely colored.” They were bought by an ancestor of the current portrait owners nearly two centuries ago and have remained in the family’s possession ever since. After undergoing an extensive scholarly investigation and scientific analysis at the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, the works have returned to the auctioneer to offer collectors an intimate look at the towering Dutch painter’s take on his close relatives. 

“This is one of the most exciting discoveries we have made in the Old Masters field in recent years and we are delighted to bring this pair of portraits by Rembrandt to auction this summer, almost 200 years after they were last seen in public,” Henry Pettifer, international deputy chairman of Old Master’s paintings at Christie’s, said in a statement. “Painted with a deep sense of humanity, these are amongst the smallest and most intimate portraits that we know by Rembrandt, adding something new to our understanding of him as a portraitist of undisputed genius.”

Christie’s will showcase the portraits in New York from June 10 through 14 and in Amsterdam from June 21 through 24. The pair will then go on view at Christie’s London as part of the Classic Week pre-sale exhibit from July 1 through 6, with bids being placed at the Old Masters Part I sale on the last show day. 

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