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Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship

Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 416
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    Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship
    Book Description:

    Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship is the first full-length study of the scholarly formation of the corpus of Rembrandt paintings at the end of the nineteenth century. From 1870 to 1935 the first true catalogues raisonnes of Rembrandt's paintings were produced, incorporating the results of individual connoisseurs' evaluations of authenticity and quality. The book concentrates on the written connoisseurship of Wilhelm von Bode, Abraham Bredius, Cornelis Hofstede de Groot and Wilhelm Valentiner, who, in their articles and catalogues published between 1870 to 1935, shaped the modern conception of Rembrandt as a painter through their delineation of his oeuvre. Their conception of Rembrandt was not challenged in print until the 1960s, and even today their decisions are referenced by other scholars. At a time when Rembrandt connoisseurship has again returned to the forefront of academic concerns with this artist, it is of great value to understand how earlier scholars reached their conclusions about the limits and characteristics of Rembrandt's painted oeuvre. In addition to analyzing their written work, the book includes discussions of the social context of their connoisseurial practices, as shaped by these scholars' museum careers and their relationships with dealers and collectors during a period of rapid expansion of the art market, through the founding and development of new museums in Europe and the US and the extraordinary boom in private collecting with the entry of American collectors into the Old Master market in the 1890s.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0367-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
    (pp. 7-10)
    (pp. 11-13)
    (pp. 15-34)

    In 1883, some two hundred years after the death of Rembrandt van Rijn, his painted oeuvre was estimated to number about 350 pictures. Forty years later, the number of paintings authoritatively attributed to Rembrandt was more than twice that. The connoisseurship that led to this doubling of the putative production of a long-dead artist was principally the work of four men. Sometimes collaborators, sometimes competitors, the four exercised extraordinary influence on the contemporary understanding of what was, and was not, a Rembrandt painting.

    This book traces the formation of modern Rembrandt connoisseurship in the period 1870 to 1935 by considering...

  6. CHAPTER 1 THE RISE OF A NEW ART HISTORIAN Wilhelm Bode and the Beginnings of Modern Rembrandt Connoisseurship
    (pp. 35-86)

    In 1870, a young German art historian named Wilhelm Bode wrote a lengthy review of Carel Vosmaer’s 1868 monographRembrandt: sa vie et ses oeuvresfor a German art journal.¹ Bode analyzed what he saw as the successes and failures of Vosmaer’s approach to the artist, which featured a study of the “life and times” of Rembrandt, and also discussed Vosmaer’s chronological catalogue of Rembrandt’s works, in many cases disputing the author’s attribution or dating of individual pictures.

    Today these practices are utterly standard, unremarkable conventions of art history. But this was not at all the case in 1870, for...

    (pp. 87-102)

    While Wilhelm Bode had given ample demonstrations of his practical gifts as a connoisseur, both in his acquisitions at Berlin and in his scholarship, he had never articulated any theory of connoisseurship, even while critiquing the work of other connoisseurs. Some understanding of how Bode rationalized his method can, however, be gained from an examination of his debates about connoisseurship with Giovanni Morelli. Morelli is today the most famous connoisseur of the nineteenth century because of his articulation of a method of connoisseurship, which he called “scientific” or “experimental” but which was later often referred to simply as the “Morellian”...

  8. CHAPTER 3 WHO IS REMBRANDT? Bode and His Protégés in Rembrandt Studies
    (pp. 103-126)

    Bode had expressed his concern about german students of art history following Morelli’s path to the detriment of the practice of the new discipline. However, Bode was hardly without his own younger followers, and the 1880s and 1890s he became an influential mentor to two young Dutch scholars, Abraham Bredius and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, who quickly became known as notable connoisseurs of Rembrandt as well as other Dutch painters.¹ The story of the rise of these Rembrandt specialists in the 1890s also reveals how the personalization of connoisseurship as a scholarly practice affected the course of Rembrandt scholarship and...

    (pp. 127-180)

    In the 1890s, rembrandt’s art became even more accessible and popular to the wider world of museum visitors and readers about art through museum acquisitions, exhibitions, and scholarly publications. In fact, this decade could be designated “the Rembrandt decade” in light of the notice and approbation paid to his work.¹ The attention culminated in the first internationally organized, large-scale temporary exhibitions of Rembrandt’s art in Amsterdam and London in 1898 and 1899 and the publication, beginning in 1897, of the volumes of Bode’s and Hofstede de Groot’s eight-partcatalogue raisonnéof Rembrandt’s paintings, the first fully illustrated catalogue of this...

    (pp. 181-209)

    Rembrandt left behind him 600 paintings, 2000 of which are in America. (Remark attributed to Bode inThe New Republic,1923)¹

    The confluence of events that placed Rembrandt and the Rembrandt specialists at the center of art-historical developments in the 1890s–the popularity of the innovative special exhibitions devoted to his work and the publication of Bode’s lavishcatalogue raisonné– both reflected and further shaped the rise in Rembrandt’s reputation as an artist worthy of comparison to the great painters of the Italian Renaissance. Another factor entered into this equation, however, that may have proven the most important element of...

    (pp. 212-240)

    The multiple successes of the rembrandt experts in the 1890s formed a capstone to their reputations. This was reified by the granting of honorary doctorates to Bode, Bredius, and Hofstede de Groot, along with Émile Michel and Jan Veth, by the University of Amsterdam during the 1906 celebration of the three hundredth-anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth. These scholars remained busy presenting new publications in this festal year: having finished the last volume of the Rembrandtcatalogue raisonnéin 1905, Bode published a book of essays about Dutch art entitledRembrandt und seine Zeitgenossen(Rembrandt and his Contemporaries) and co-produced with Valentiner...

    (pp. 241-280)

    The disruptions to life in europe during World War I caused a hiatus in active Rembrandt scholarship on the continent; most German art journals published only irregularly or not at all. Valentiner, who was in Germany at the start of the war, served in the German army, first at the front and later in the War Information Center in Berlin.¹ Soon after hostilities ceased, however, the pace of publishing on Rembrandt attributions picked up anew.² The first extended publication to reflect these changes was Wilhelm Valentiner’s new Klassiker der Kunst volume,Rembrandt. Wiedergefundene Gemälde (Rembrandt. Rediscovered Paintings)of 1921, a...

    (pp. 282-300)

    In 1923, the debates among the rembrandt scholars were abruptly interrupted by the work of an American amateur, John C. Van Dyke. Born in New Jersey in 1856, the son of a state Supreme Court justice, reared in the pioneer state of Minnesota and educated at home until he attended Columbia Law School in the 1870s, Van Dyke was a member of the cultured American elite whose Dutch ancestors first arrived in America during the seventeenth century.¹ As a man who traveled widely and with great curiosity, Van Dyke began to take notes on paintings in European museums and by...

    (pp. 302-320)

    In 1925 hofstede de groot had attempted to defend the results of his work as a connoisseur inEcht of inecht? Oog of chemie? (Genuine or False? Eye or Chemistry?)written after a public repudiation of his skills in this very field. In 1923 the Amsterdam art dealership Fred Muller & Co had purchased a painting,A Man Laughing,from its Dutch owner, H.A. de Haas, on the basis of Hofstede de Groot’s evaluation of it as a genuine work by Frans Hals. When significant doubts about its authenticity arose, however, they brought the case to court. Hofstede de Groot’s...

    (pp. 321-328)

    The period of the most intensive competition for Old Master paintings by both private and public collections ended long ago; today, few Rembrandts even remain in private hands. “Rediscovered” Rembrandts no longer appear by the dozens, but at a rate of one every decade or two. Meanwhile, modern scholarship – by the Rembrandt Research Project from the 1960s through the 1990s, and individual scholars such as Kurt Bauch and Horst Gerson in the 1960s, and Christian Tümpel and Gary Schwartz in the 1980s and 1990s – has reduced the size of Rembrandt’s surviving oeuvre to only 250 to 350 paintings. This was...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 329-380)
    (pp. 381-405)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 406-416)