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After Six Decades, a Painting in a South African University Proved as a Fake Rembrandt

The paintings of Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn are displayed in prestigious art galleries in capital cities around the world. One – a small oil painting on a wood panel depicting the profile of an old man in a hat and cloak – made its way to South Africa in the late 1950s. It was part of an extensive collection belonging to a Dutch businessman, JA van Tilburg, who emigrated to the country. In 1976 the work was donated to the University of Pretoria. For decades, the work was attributed to Rembrandt, the world famous artist from the Dutch Golden Age of painting (1588-1672). After all, it had a good provenance. Provenance is the study of the history of an object after its creation. Typically in the case of a painting it would be the history of the ownership of the artwork. The painting was documented as being part of the Warneck Collection, an important private art collection in Paris, as described in the book by Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. But provenance research carried out in the Netherlands in 2015-2016 showed that the painting’s provenance to the Warneck Collection was in fact incorrect.