Published: May 13, 2016
LOS ANGELES — The J. Paul Getty Museum is exhibiting three of Rembrandt’s earliest known paintings, lent by the Leiden Collection in New York, in a focus installation highlighting the recently rediscovered “The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell),” 1624. The works are in view through August 28.
One of a series by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) depicting the five senses, “Unconscious Patient,” the artist’s earliest monogrammed signed painting, will be exhibited with two others from the series — Hearing and Touch — as well as other early Rembrandts.
“Rembrandt is unquestionably one of the greatest and most-loved painters of the European tradition, whose work still grips modern audiences as strongly as it did his own contemporaries,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This special installation provides a unique opportunity to witness him at the genesis of his career, some 400 years ago, as a young man of only 18 or 19 just beginning on his professional career.”
“While it is not yet the Rembrandt we know from his maturity, these works already demonstrate his experimental approach and show some of the emotional intensity that was to be an enduring features of his work. It is particularly appropriate to be bringing these works together for the first time at the Getty Museum, as we possesses the most significant collection of early Rembrandts in the United States,” Potts added. “Complemented by other loans from Thomas Kaplan and Daphne Recanati-Kaplan’s Leiden Collection, this presentation represents a remarkable visual survey of the development of the artist. We, and other museums, are deeply grateful for Tom and Daphne’s continuing generosity in making his works accessible to a broader public.”
Until last year, only three of the five “Senses” were known to art historians. This exhibition will feature “The Sense of Smell” along with “The Stone Operation (An Allegory of the Sense of Touch)” and “The Three Musicians (An Allegory of The Sense of Hearing).” A fourth known picture from the set, “The Spectacle Seller (An Allegory of The Sense of Sight),” is in the collection of the Lakenhal Museum in Leiden. The whereabouts of the fifth sense, an allegory of taste, remains unknown.
“Rembrandt’s ability to convey emotions and create a compelling narrative on a small scale is fully evident in these fascinating and important paintings,” says Anne Woollett, curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. “Viewing these works with other important early paintings, including the Getty’s self-portrait “Rembrandt Laughing,” 1628, and “An Old Man in Military Costume,” about 1630–31, shows Rembrandt’s desire to capture a range of human emotions and ages in paint, and how rapidly he developed in only a few short years. Thanks to the generosity of the Leiden Collection, the ‘Senses’ allow us to trace this remarkable trajectory.”
In autumn 2015, “The Sense of Smell” surfaced as an unattributed work at Nye & Company auction in New Jersey. After a cleaning, it has since entered the Leiden Collection, the private collection and gallery of Thomas S. Kaplan in New York that was already home to its sister pictures: “The Sense of Hearing” and “The Sense of Touch.” Recently, “The Sense of Smell” was on view at TEFAF Maastricht where it caused a stir and commanded a great deal of attention. Two other Rembrandts from the Leiden Collection, “Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak,” 1632, and “Portrait of a Rabbi,” about 1640–45, among other Dutch Seventeenth Century paintings, have been at the Getty Museum on long-term loan and are shown in conjunction with the “Senses.”
“We are truly thrilled that the first museum to exhibit Rembrandt’s earliest known signed work, ‘An Allegory of The Sense of Smell’ and its companions is the Getty,” says Thomas Kaplan. “Reuniting the painting with two of the other known works in the series already in the Leiden Collection has been a tremendous delight for me and my wife, Daphne. Since the beginning of our lending program almost a decade ago, with our loan to the Getty of Jan Lievens’s ‘Boy with a Turban,’ the Getty has been a wonderful friend and partner, allowing us the joy of sharing the Leiden Collection with the broadest possible audience. Exhibiting our collection of Rembrandt and his school has far surpassed the privilege of being able to acquire such fine art. This exhibition is no exception. If anything, to see Rembrandt’s ‘Senses’ together is to behold the first blush of genius that changed the arc of art history.”
It is likely that Rembrandt painted the “Senses” in his hometown of Leiden in about 1624 to 1625, following his training with Jacob van Swanenburg (1571–1638) and prior to six months in Amsterdam studying with the illustrious history painter Pieter Lastman (1583–1633). The works attest to Rembrandt’s close relationship with his friendly rival in Leiden, Jan Lievens (1607–1674), whose “Card Players,” 1623–24, also from the Leiden Collection, will be included in this installation.
After being exhibited at the Getty Museum, the “Senses” as well as Rembrandt’s “Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak” and “Portrait of a Rabbi” will be exhibited internationally.
The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive. For more information, www.getty.edu or 310-440-7300.
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