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Significant New Rembrandt Discovered

A painting valued at $15,000 just two years ago is now expected to fetch up to $18 million at auction after being identified as the work of the Dutch master.

The Adoration of the Kings by Rembrandt
The Adoration of the Kings | Sotheby's

The Adoration of the Kings has been virtually unseen since the 1950s, when it first came to light. It was acquired by a collector in Amsterdam in 1955 and his widow sold it to a German family in 1985, where it remained until it was sold by Christie’s in Amsterdam two years ago. At the time of the sale, Christie’s attributed the biblical scene to the “Circle of Rembrandt,” suggesting it had been carried out by a student or an artist close to the famous painter, and estimated its value at up to $15,800.

Even with such a low estimate, it seems clear that more than one bidder had a feeling the painting was rather more special than Christie's experts had thought, as the winning buyer eventually splashed out $860,000.

Two years later, the painting is heading back to the market again - this time through Sotheby’s. In the intervening period, the artwork has undergone a long and complex verification process that included multiple forms of scientific imaging that ultimately concluded that the painting was not the work of one of Rembrandt's apprentices, but of the master himself. This has wildly transformed its value, now estimated to be around $18 million.

The auction house believes it was painted early in Rembrandt’s career, around 1628, when he would have been about 22 and living in the Dutch city of Leiden.

“I would say that it’s particularly significant because it adds to our understanding of Rembrandt at this crucial date in his development and career, when he was clearly very ambitious and developing very quickly as an artist,” George Gordon, co-chairman of Old Master Paintings Worldwide at Sotheby’s, told CNN.

The painting is currently on show at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, after which it will travel on to New York, Los Angeles and London, where it will be auctioned on 6 December.

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