Long-lost Rembrandt portraits go on display in Amsterdam

December 15, 2023 | by b1og.net


Get ready to step back in time as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam proudly showcases a pair of long-lost Rembrandt portraits. After being privately held for nearly two centuries, these small portraits, believed to be the last known privately owned works by the Dutch Master, are finally on public display. The paintings, depicting Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen, recently resurfaced after disappearing from view for almost 200 years. Thanks to the generosity of the family of Dutch businessman Henry Holterman, these portraits have been loaned to the museum, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the artist’s work. With their dynamic style and close ties to Rembrandt’s own family, this rare glimpse into the history of the Dutch Golden Era promises to be an unforgettable experience.

Long-lost Rembrandt portraits go on display in Amsterdam

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Welcome to Amsterdam, where a remarkable exhibition of long-lost Rembrandt portraits is currently on display at the Rijksmuseum. These portraits, which were privately held for nearly 200 years, have finally resurfaced and are now available for art lovers and enthusiasts to admire. In this article, we will explore the history of these portraits, their acquisition by the Rijksmuseum, their relationship to Rembrandt’s family, and the research conducted to establish their authenticity. We will also discuss the impact of these portraits on visitors and the significance of their display alongside other works by the iconic artist.


Description of the Portraits

These enchanting portraits, created by the renowned Dutch Master Rembrandt van Rijn, capture the essence of the subjects with remarkable skill and attention to detail. Measuring about 20×16.5 centimeters (8×6 inches), these small yet powerful works of art showcase Rembrandt’s signature style. With dynamic brushwork and a sketchy quality, the portraits exude a sense of spontaneity and life. Their size allows for an intimate viewing experience, enabling viewers to appreciate the intricate details and brushstrokes that make these portraits truly remarkable.

The subjects of these portraits are Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen. Through Rembrandt’s brush, the couple’s personalities and inner emotions are beautifully captured. Jan and Jaapgen appear dignified, with a sense of quiet introspection. Rembrandt’s ability to convey such depth and nuance in the portrayal of his subjects is truly remarkable. These portraits serve as a testament to his mastery of capturing the essence and character of his sitters.

Despite their age, the portraits are in remarkably good condition. Thanks to the efforts of conservation experts at the Rijksmuseum, the colors have been beautifully preserved, and the details remain vivid and captivating. Visitors will have the unique opportunity to witness firsthand the brilliance of Rembrandt’s artistry and the enduring beauty of these long-lost treasures.

History of the Portraits

For almost two centuries, these mesmerizing portraits laid hidden from view. Their disappearance from the public eye only deepened the intrigue surrounding their existence and provenance. However, two years ago, they resurfaced, finally offering art enthusiasts the opportunity to marvel at their beauty and significance.

The story of how the portraits were lost and then found remains a mystery. However, what we do know is that they once belonged to a private collection and were carefully guarded and cherished for generations. It is a testament to their enduring appeal and unmatched artistic merit that they managed to stay hidden from the world for so long.

Acquisition by the Rijksmuseum

After their reappearance, the portraits garnered significant attention from art experts and collectors alike. This year, they were finally put up for auction, where they were acquired by the prestigious Rijksmuseum. The acquisition of these long-lost Rembrandt portraits marks a significant milestone for the museum and the broader art community.


The decision to loan the portraits to the Rijksmuseum was made by the Holterman family, who had held the portraits in their private collection for close to two centuries. The family, led by wealthy Dutch businessman Henry Holterman, recognized the cultural and historical significance of these works of art and felt that they deserved to be displayed in a setting befitting their stature.

The museum’s acquisition of the portraits has been celebrated by art lovers and experts worldwide. This momentous event allows for the public to appreciate and study these masterpieces, contributing to our understanding of Rembrandt’s oeuvre and offering a deeper insight into the art of the Dutch Golden Era.

Loan by the Holterman Family

Henry Holterman, the head of the family that owned the portraits, chose to loan these remarkable works to the Rijksmuseum due to his close relationship with the institution. Recognizing the expertise of the museum’s team of experts and their dedicated research on these portraits over the years, Holterman believed that the time was right to share these treasures with the world.

This collaboration between the Holterman family and the Rijksmuseum is a shining example of the passion and dedication that drives the art world forward. It is through partnerships like these that rare and significant works of art can find a home in prominent institutions, ensuring their preservation and accessibility for future generations.

Relationship between the Portraits and Rembrandt’s Family

Beyond their individual artistic merit, these portraits hold a special place in the Rembrandt’s family history. Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen were not merely subjects of Rembrandt’s art; they were closely connected to the artist himself. Their son, Dominicus, married Rembrandt’s cousin, Cornelia Cornelisdr van Suytbroek, creating a familial bond that transcended art and commerce.

This familial connection adds an extra layer of significance to these portraits. They not only capture the essence of Jan and Jaapgen but also offer a window into the personal and intimate world of Rembrandt’s family life. As viewers gaze upon these portraits, they are transported back in time, witnessing the relationships and interconnectedness that shaped Rembrandt’s art and life.

Research on the Authenticity of the Portraits

To establish the authorship of these portraits, an extensive research process was conducted by experts at the Rijksmuseum. High-tech scans and paint analysis were employed to gather evidence and study the materials and techniques used by Rembrandt. The culmination of this rigorous research process provided compelling evidence supporting Rembrandt’s authorship of the portraits.

When taken together, the various research results offer a convincing case for attributing these portraits to Rembrandt. The uniqueness of his style, the use of specific pigments, and the overall artistic execution all point towards his involvement in the creation of these masterpieces. This authentication process was conducted in collaboration with leading experts in the field, ensuring a comprehensive and rigorous examination.

Display alongside other Rembrandt Works

The Rijksmuseum carefully curated the display of these long-lost Rembrandt portraits alongside other works by the iconic artist. This deliberate choice allows visitors to experience a comprehensive overview of Rembrandt’s artistic development and the themes that permeated his body of work.

The selection of accompanying artworks offers a glimpse into the various stages of Rembrandt’s career, showcasing his artistic evolution and experimentation. From his early self-portraits to his masterful depictions of biblical scenes, visitors can trace the artist’s journey and witness his genius firsthand. The juxtaposition of styles and themes highlights Rembrandt’s versatility and artistic prowess.

This carefully curated display not only provides an opportunity for art enthusiasts to appreciate Rembrandt’s mastery but also offers a deeper understanding of his artistic process and the historical context in which he created.

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Impact on Visitors

The display of the long-lost Rembrandt portraits at the Rijksmuseum has had a profound impact on visitors. The opportunity to witness these remarkable works firsthand has evoked a sense of awe and wonder among art lovers from around the world.

Viewers have marveled at the skill and craftsmanship displayed in these portraits, recognizing the enduring legacy of Rembrandt and his influence on Western art. The intimate size of the portraits allows for a more personal and immersive experience, enabling visitors to connect with the sitters on a deeper, emotional level.

Beyond their artistic merits, these portraits have the power to transport visitors back in time, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who lived during the Dutch Golden Era. As viewers stand before these portraits, they become part of a rich historical narrative, allowing for a more profound appreciation of the past.


The exhibition of these long-lost Rembrandt portraits at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam represents a pivotal moment in the art world. This comprehensive display, alongside rigorous research and collaboration, allows for a deeper understanding of Rembrandt’s art and the historical context in which he created.

The acquisition of these portraits and their subsequent display has ignited excitement among art enthusiasts worldwide. It opens up new avenues for research and discoveries, promising potential revelations about Rembrandt’s life and work.

As visitors stand before these masterpieces, they are not only witnessing the artistry of one of history’s greatest painters but also immersing themselves in a rich tapestry of familial connections and historical significance. The long-lost Rembrandt portraits serve as a testament to the enduring power of art, bridging the gap between centuries and offering a profound connection to the past.

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