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Pioneers in Digital Research and Attributions


"...signed with Rembrandt’s name, certified by an expert, and sold to a wealthy collector as Rembrandt."     The Rembrandt Research Committee was formed with a vision for the twenty-first centry. The vision was the development of a new standard for scholarly research and analysis. Through the application of modern technology and the utilisation of the global communications network, the vision is being fulfilled. The presentation of an ongoing dialogue is now a reality. The resource is regularly updated, refined and expanded as information is compiled. The result is this online Catalogue Raisonné. We believe that this Catalogue Raisonné will be the first of many.
    The fundamental problem addressed by this Committee was the authorship of paintings attributed to the hand of Rembrandt van Rijn. Unfortunately, the actual authorship of many of these paintings was lost in a veritable blizzard of attributions to Rembrandt.
    It was apparent from the beginning of this study that the number of paintings attributed to Rembrandt was not logically possible. This observation is easy to confirm. One only needs to examine the body of works from other successful but less monetarily valuable artists of the same period. The bodies of works attributed to these artists rarely reaches one hundred pictures. More often, the number is much less than fifty. Even the most egotistical of these artists seldom painted more than ten self-portraits during their entire lifetime. Many students of Rembrandt painted for more than thirty years; yet, they have less than ten pictures attributed to their names. The lack of paintings attributable to the followers of Rembrandt is founded in a very simple truth. Few paintings remain to their credit because the majority of their finest pictures were wrestled from their rightful names generations ago, often signed with Rembrandt’s name, certified by some "expert," and then sold to a wealthy collector as a Rembrandt.
    Since the turn of the century, many noted art historians and experts have conducted extensive research into the life and paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn. Their opinions have aired in volumes of Catalogue Raisonnés and other scholarly publications. With each new publication, the resulting number of paintings attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn has decreased. However, the problems of accurate and unbiased attribution remained. Far too many paintings by the students and followers of Rembrandt continued to rest under incorrect attributions.
    Sadly, these incorrect attributions are a great disservice to everyone. It is not fair to Rembrandt to hold him responsible for the paintings of his followers, whether the paintings be good, bad or indifferent. Such attributions take away from the genius of Rembrandt. Concurrently, it is not fair to his pupils and followers to have their very best works taken away and attributed to Rembrandt.
    Misattribution has destroyed the identity of many of Rembrandt’s pupils who, in their day, became important painters in their own right. Today the names of Backer, Bol, Dou, Drost, Eeckhout, Esselenens, Frabritius, Flinck, Hoogstraten, Horst, Koninick, Paudiss, van der Pluym, Wulfhagen and others have become lost in the snowstorm of Rembrandt attributions. Some of these painters are referred to as merely weak followers of Rembrandt.
    This great loss happened because most of the great pictures these artists painted were wrestled from their names generations ago, often signed with Rembrandt’s name, certified by some "expert," and then sold to a wealthy collector. The artist can hardly protest, for is long gone and nearly forgotten. It is one of the goals of the Rembrandt Research Committee to correct as many of these wrongful attributions as possible. The goal of the Committee is to provide a more honest understanding of both Rembrandt and those who were inspired by his genius. For the legend that became Rembrandt is interwoven between the master and his followers.
    Most paintings were produced in studios during the seventeenth century. The studio, or atelier, functioned like a factory. Often the master of the studio would layout the painting and then his students would fill in large areas. Specialists existed who only painted heads, specialists who painted backgrounds, et cetera. The master of the studio would often sign the painting although it may have been painted by his students.
    Rembrandt had a large number of students. When this factor is combined with seventeenth century work habits, the reason for so much confusion concerning the attributions to Rembrandt becomes obvious. It has been the goal of this committee to be as accurate as possible concerning attributions to the hand of the master. Only those works completed in the main by Rembrandt were designated as Authentic Rembrandt works. These works are very rare, but this is very understandable when one considers the life and times of Rembrandt.
    Rembrandt and all his notable peers took every advantage of the studio atmosphere to increase production and profits. These masters found themselves functioning as supervisors and had little time to devote to their own private projects. The committee has discovered most of the works previously attributed to Rembrandt were actually studio collaboration pieces.
    Studio production was a common and well-documented practice during the time of Rembrandt. Additionally, many paintings attributed to Rembrandt were signed with his signature years after they were painted, and some even long after his death. These factors have historically created significant problems when considering the proper attribution a work. The philosophy of many "experts" has been : "If the signature looks real, call it a Rembrandt." Unfortunately, this conclusion is far from the truth. The reality is that the signature, even if it is genuine, means very little in establishing the true attribution of a painting.
    It was obvious to the Rembrandt Research Committee that a new method and philosophy for examining authorship was necessary. The Committee was determined not to repeat the errors of those that came before us. It was crucial to develop a new method for attribution based on twenty-first century technology. It was imperative that attribution should not be dependent upon subjective opinions or dubious circumstantial evidence.
    Therefore, the Committee adopted a revolutionary new method of analysis and attribution. Scholars familiar with the works of Rembrandt van Rijn will immediately note the impact of this new method for attribution. The total number of authentic paintings attributed to the artist in this Catalogue Raisonné is well under one hundred and considerably less than the number included in any previous Catalogue Raisonné.
    It is now possible for both historical art scholarship and Catalogue Raisonnés to provide fresh information through the application of twenty-first century technology. This scholarship has been much to the dismay of many art collectors, dealers, galleries, and museums. Modern technology can dispassionately and reliably eliminate the most common of human errors. It is possible to use technology that can base conclusions upon technical analysis, not require human opinions.
    The Committee sees the correction of past attribution errors as an asset for all. The Committee believes that the accuracy of attribution is extremely important to the understanding of the artist. Only when the body of work of an artist is properly identified, can we glimpse the genius of the artist. In the case of Rembrandt, the works painted by his hand give us insight into his creative genius. When we examine the work of his studio, we see the genius of Rembrandt expressed through the hands of others. We also see the genius of his management and organisational skills in the studio paintings. Students, whose work has passed for that of Rembrandt, certainly must be examined in a new light. The true value of the works by these artists is bound to increase as we develop an understanding of their individual geniuses.
    Twenty-first century technology allows us to make a giant stride towards accuracy in painting attribution. The proprietary software developed for Rembrandt Research Committee usage is highly sophisticated and provides a visible horizon for our evaluation of attributions. The technology has eliminated unwarranted bias, human errors and other problems that have plagued art scholarship over the centuries.
    Computers can make dispassionate decisions based upon facts not opinions. Computers are not influenced by social pressures nor by any vested interests. Computers do not own paintings that they would like to see attributed to Rembrandt. The person who is paying for the research can not place a computer under pressure to make different decisions. In this fashion, computers become the perfect arbitrator of facts and administrator of judgements. Thus, the Rembrandt Research Committee has followed this path in its search for truth. The proprietary software uses
cutting edge technology to reveal facts that have remained hidden through the centuries.
    The difficulty for many is to understand the
limitations of twenty-first century technology. Certainly, this technology provides much accurate information, but this information is not an end in itself. It is not yet possible for a computer to evaluate artistic genius. Although it seems certain that, the day will come when a computer will be able to evaluate the realm of the aesthetic. It does not appear that it will be realised in the near future.
    Therefore, the Committee asserts that the role of art historians and experts remains vital in determining quality. Questions of the most inspired and the greatest of Rembrandt’s masterpieces can only be answered through human subjectivity. The research and conclusions of these individuals are essential to the continuing knowledge of the genius of Rembrandt van Rijn. These subjective opinions have been incorporated in this Catalogue Raisonné, when they did not conflict with the actual findings of the technological evaluation.
    There was no initial intent of the Rembrandt Research Committee to produce its findings on the Internet. The Internet of today did not yet exist. However, as the Internet developed so has this Committee. It became imperative that the Committee grow and change with the technology of the day. With the growth and change, grew the awareness that the Catalogue Raisonné must reflect the unbiased ability to record the information that twenty-first century technology provides. Therefore, inclusions in this Catalogue Raisonné are regularly updated as the Committee’s research and findings are broadened and enhanced.
    The Rembrandt Research Committee looks forward to the changes and the contributions that the new technologies of the forthcoming century will make to historical art scholarship. The Rembrandt Research Committee is fully committed to providing an on going analysis of the paintings attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn that is supported by objectivity rather than subjective opinion. The Rembrandt Research Committee is challenged to be on the cutting-edge of this technology and is committed to providing information that is both accurate and current.
"...become lost in the snowstorm of Rembrandt attributions."
"The master of the studio would sign the painting although if it was painted by his students."
"The Committee was determined not to repeat the errors of those that came before us."
"...the technology
eliminated unwarranted bias, human errors and other problems that have plagued art scholarship over the centuries."
"...must reflect the unbiased ability to record the information twenty-first century technology provides.

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