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The great-granddaughters of the German-Jewish painter Max Liebermann are growing impatient with Berlin museum authorities about two drawings from his collection they say were lost as a result of Nazi persecution.

The drawings by Adolph Menzel in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin are among thousands of works that Liebermann’s heirs are trying to recover. Liebermann was not only one of the most famous German Impressionists; he was also a great collector. Works by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir adorned his imposing home next to the Brandenburg Gate.

Forced to resign as honorary president of the Prussian Academy of Arts after the Nazis took power, Liebermann died isolated and embittered in 1935, leaving his estate to his widow. She sold some artworks to pay the rent and buy food and medicine before committing suicide in 1943.

“For the heirs, it’s difficult to understand why public institutions are so hesitant,” said Georg Castell of Heinichen Laudien von Nottbeck Rechtsanwaelte in Berlin, the lawyer representing the great-granddaughters. “Without cooperation from the museums, we can’t get very far.”

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October 30, 2011–January 22, 2012

Rembrandt in America is the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings ever presented in an American exhibition and the first major exhibition to explore in depth the collecting history of Rembrandt paintings in America. The NCMA is the only East Coast venue for this exceptional show that features works of art from across the United States, including some of the finest paintings residing in American collections. NCMA Curator of Northern European Art Dennis P. Weller serves as a co-curator of this must-see exhibition, which has been more than five years in the making.

While the primary focus of the exhibition is on the history of Rembrandt collecting in America, the show also explores his work across various genres, his artistic evolution, and his influence on other artists of the day. Included in this exhibition are a number of significant portraits from Rembrandt’s prosperous early career in Amsterdam as the city’s most sought-after portrait painter, as well as character studies, historical and biblical scenes, and three of his celebrated self-portraits. In addition, the exhibition features a gallery with Rembrandt catalogues since the mid-19th century. Visitors will also get a glimpse into the world of conservation with a painting on loan from the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Consisting of about 50 paintings, the exhibition brings together 27 autograph paintings by Rembrandt as well as others thought to be by the master when they entered American collections but whose attributions can no longer be maintained. These include paintings by Dutch masters Jan Lievens and Govert Flinck.

Rembrandt in America not only investigates the overall issue of collecting Rembrandts in America but also the collecting history of some of the works in the NCMA’s collection. In the 1950s Museum director and Rembrandt expert William Valentiner recommended the acquisition of two paintings then thought to be by Rembrandt. Since their acquisition, however, the paintings have been reattributed to other artists. This exhibition is the first to examine these paintings within the larger context of attribution and collecting Rembrandts during the 20th century.

Many exhibitions devoted to Rembrandt’s paintings were held in 2006, during the 400-year anniversary of the artist’s birth; however, Rembrandt in America is unique in offering visitors a rare opportunity to envision the evolving opinions of scholars and collectors regarding what constituted an autograph Rembrandt painting over a period of more than a century.

The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue explore the often-controversial issues of collecting and attribution, with a focus on individual paintings where these two related topics intersect.

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Wednesday, 17 August 2011 03:47

Stolen Rembrandt found in church pastor's office

An L.A. County Sheriff's official confirmed Tuesday that deputies recovered a stolen Rembrandt from the pastor's office of an Episcopal church in Encino.

The Rembrandt sketch stolen Saturday night from the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey was recovered Monday night from Saint Nicholas Episcopal Church in the 17100 block of Ventura Boulevard, said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Investigators were still trying to determine how it found its way into the office of Father Mike Cooper and to verify whether it is an authentic Rembrandt. Cooper referred questions to Whitmore.

The sketch titled "The Judgment" was recovered after authorities received a tip Monday evening that someone had seen the artwork on church property.

Deputies went to the property and recovered the drawing, which was positively identified by its owners, the Linearis Institute, Whitmore said.

No one has been arrested in connection with the theft, he said. "We have the Rembrandt at the station evidence lockup.... We are now seeking to authenticate it is a Rembrandt with other sources," he said.

Whitmore said detectives still plan to release a sketch and images of a person involved in the "well-thought-out, well-executed theft."
The 11-inch-by-6-inch quill pen and ink work dating to about 1655 was part of an exhibition staged by the Linearis Institute. Officials at the institute have not returned telephone calls.

The institute is described on its website as "a public repository for the visual arts specializing in works on paper by great masters of the past 500 years."

The artwork was stolen Saturday between 9:20 and 9:35 p.m. when a curator told investigators he was distracted by a guest.

"When the curator turned back to the Rembrandt, it was gone," Whitmore said.

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Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) is universally acclaimed as the greatest master painter of the Dutch Golden Age, the 17th-century efflorescence of art in the Netherlands. Thanks to an inventory of his home and studio conducted in July 1656, we know that Rembrandt kept in his bedroom two of his own paintings called Head of Christ. A third painting—identified as a "Head of Christ, from life"—was found in a bin in Rembrandt's studio, awaiting use as a model for a New Testament composition. Today, seven paintings survive (from what was likely eight originally) that fit this description, all painted by Rembrandt and his pupils between 1643 and 1655. Bust-length portraits, they show the same young man familiar from traditional artistic conceptions of Christ, yet each figure also bears a slightly different expression. In posing an ethnographically correct model and using a human face to depict Jesus, Rembrandt overturned the entire history of Christian art, which had previously relied on rigidly copied prototypes for Christ.

This exhibition, the first Rembrandt exhibition in Philadelphia since 1932 and the first ever in the city to include paintings by the Dutch master, reunites the seven paintings of this exceedingly rare and singular series for the first time since 1656. Of these portraits, three are being seen in the United States for the first time. Complemented by more than fifty related paintings, prints, and drawings, Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus allows visitors to consider the religious, historic, and artistic significance of these works. Objects of private reflection for Rembrandt, the paintings in this exhibition bear witness to Rembrandt's iconoclasm and his search for a meditative ideal.

In addition to major paintings, many of the selected drawings in this exhibition have been rarely exhibited or lent owing to their light-sensitivity and fragility. Indeed, never before have so many of Rembrandt’s finest paintings, etchings, and drawings that depict Jesus Christ and events of his life been assembled for an exhibition.

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Did Jesus sport a beard? Painters have held different opinions on that subject.

Following Roman custom, early Christian art in Western Europe favored a clean-shaven Savior while Byzantium portrayed him with a beard. Only in the 12th century did the bearded Christ become universal.

Rembrandt, too, painted him with facial hair. Unlike his predecessors, though, he presented him as a contemporary human being, not an idealized hero.

For the first time since the Dutch master’s death in 1669, the Louvre has brought together the seven portraits of Jesus attributed to him. (Only two are signed, which could mean that some are studio works.)

It’s generally assumed, though by no means certain, that the sitter was a young Jew from Rembrandt’s neighborhood. As evidence, art historians cite the inventory taken after the painter’s bankruptcy, in 1656, when his house and effects were sold at auction: One of the items was listed as “Head of Christ From Life.”

Much has been made of Rembrandt’s close relationship with Amsterdam’s Jewish community, mostly immigrants from Portugal. Four years ago, an exhibition at the city’s Jewish Historical Museum exploded that myth. No more than three of his male portraits are pictures of Jews.

Hazelnut Hair

What the seven portraits do have in common is that they seem to be inspired by the description of Christ in the so- called Lentulus Letter, allegedly written by a predecessor of Pontius Pilate. That is, in fact, a devotional tract from the late Middle Ages when the image of the bearded Christ also had caught on in the West.

“His hair is the color of a ripe hazelnut,” the letter says, “parted on top and falling straight to the ears yet curling further below.” And: “His beard is large and full but not long and parted in the middle. His glance shows simplicity adorned with maturity, his eyes are clear and commanding, never apt to laugh but sooner inclined to cry.”

Around the portraits, the museum has grouped some 80 related works -- paintings, drawings, prints -- by Rembrandt and other artists.
Among the highlights are Rembrandt’s two versions of “Christ at Emmaus.” The early version, from 1628, is one of his most daring paintings: The main figure is seen only as a silhouette while the light falls on his dinner companion who raises his hand in astonishment.

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