In today’s NYTimes was this article about a “Rembrandt” that sold at a regional auction house in the UK for $4.5 million even though it was catalogued as “by a follower of Rembrandt”. The article ends with “If the experts change their minds someday, Friday’s buyer will have had a bargain”…
Friday’s buyer isn’t an English Ira Spainerman, trust me, if the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam says its fake (which they did) it is.
But let me tell you the back-story, the one that takes place before the NYTimes picked it up, and I’ll do it like a Visa commercial.
A guy gets an insurance appraisal (₤2000). The appraiser finds this unusual work in this local home and gets excited (priceless). He sends some jpegs to Christie’s and Sotheby’s Old Master departments and they ask them to bring the work to London (₤50 parking and city driving tax). Upon inspection, one or both of the auction agents first checks the Art Loss Registry (₤100 each) to make sure it wasn’t stolen. It wasn’t so they take new images of the work – front, corners, details of hands and hair and verso and send transparencies to the associate they just got off the phone with at the Rijksmuseum (₤250). The Rijks, which is the employer of the leading scholars in Dutch painting, needs to see the work in person. The owner of the work is told by the auction house that someone will have to authenticate the work and that could be costly (₤2500), but that “they would be happy to subtract that fee from the seller’s commission after the sale…” (Estimated sale price if the Rembrandt were real ₤26 million).
2 Dutch board and plane and travel to London to inspect the work (₤500). It doesn’t meet their requirements and they go home, this time on Ryan Air (₤15). The appraiser advises the guy to go to a smaller regional auction house and have them sell the work so atleast he’ll make back the authentication fee and the appraiser will finally get an introductory commission (2% of sale price) from some auction house. The auction house decides to sell the work but since the leading authority already gave it the no, they decide to catalogue the work including the word “follower”. Now Reader, please see below for important information regarding what these below clauses mean in your auction catalogue:
a. “Attributed to” – work is of the period of the named artist and maybe the work of that artist, but not definitely so.
b. “Circle of” – work of the period closely associated with the artist or from his studio.
c. “School of’ – work by a pupil or follower of the artist, in his style.
d. “After” – in our opinion, a copy of the work of the artist.
e. “Signed” – has a signature which in our qualified opinion is the signature of the artist.
f. “Bears signature” – has signature which in our qualified opinion, might be the signature of the artist.
Story continues – On Friday, someone buys a painting from “the School of Rembrandt” for at a regional auction house ($4.5million).
Local guy ($4.05 million after his 10% seller’s commission)
Appraisal ($90,000 for intro commission)
Auction house ($1.125 million – 675,000 from buyer and 450,000 from seller)
Buyer a.k.a. He who got the Bargain (-$5.175 million and an appraiser who is sure he needs his collection revalued…)
A Follower of Rembrandt
The Young Rembrandt as Democrates the Laughing Philosopher
Oil on copper, 9.5 x 6.5 in.