Two paintings by Rembrandt: “Girl in a picture frame” and “Scholar at his writing table” from the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw – history, examination and conservation
Dwa obrazy Rembrandta: „Dziewczyna w ramie obrazu” i „Uczony przy pulpicie” z kolekcji Zamku Królewskiego w Warszawie – historia, badania i konserwacja
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In 1994, the Warsaw Royal Castle was honoured with an unequalled artistic and historically valuable art collection in Poland – a donation from the Lanckoroński Family – including two paintings attributed to Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1660): Girl in a picture frame and Scholar at his writing table. The most precious of the Polish eighteenth century royal collection pieces were considered lost for about fifty years and that is why Rembrandt’s authorship was put into doubt, mostly as far as the Girl’s portrait is concerned. New research for an up-to-date attribution of both pictures became the main focus for the Warsaw Royal Castle team: between 2004 and 2006 the paintings were examined, treated and reattributed as a result of the cooperation of Polish scientists, conservators and art historians – under guidance of professor Ernst van de Wetering, the head of the Rembrandt Research Project. The two pictures are not typical portraits – they are depictions of unknown persons referred to by the Dutch term tronie. Both models are picturesquely depicted in historical costumes, a frequent Rembrandt feature. Since the 1994 Lanckoroński family donation, Rembrandt’s paintings were on display in the Warsaw Royal Castle, whose museum undertook a project concerning their thorough examination focusing on confirmation of their attribution to Rembrandt. Technical examinations of both paintings were carried out in Cracow and in Warsaw. Experience resulting from the conservation treatment of Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Merciful Samaritan from the Czartoryski Museum in Cracow was helpful to the Warsaw conservation project, as did the support from Martin Bijl, a restorer of Rembrandt’s paintings, a collaborator of the Rembrandt Research Project and former Head of the Conservation Department at the Rijksmuseum. An interpretation of the technical examinations results was consulted with Karin Groen from the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, another collaborator of the R.R.P. The following types of examinations were carried out: observation in visible (day) light; normal, raking, reflected light and macro photography; IR examination; UV – induced luminescence of paint layers; X-ray examination; identification of wooden panels; stratigraphic analysis and examination of pigments, fillers and binders in samples from the paintings; microscopic and micro chemical analysis; analysis on cross-sections with a LMA 10 laser microspectral analyzer with a ruby laser; microscopic and microchemical analysis realization of scans and spectra images with the SEM-EDS method; examination of paint layer binders with GC-MS and FT-IR as a complementary technique IR absorption spectrophotometry and gas chromatography in connection with gas spectrography.
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