The Rembrandt Research Project is an initiative of the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO), which is the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and the University of Amsterdam. Its purpose has been to organize and categorize research on Rembrandt, with the aim of discovering new facts about this Dutch Golden Age painter and his studio. The project was started in 1968, but it has since become the authority on Rembrandt and wields the final final say on whether a painting is genuine. Since the start of the project, the number of signed Rembrandt self-portraits around the world has been reduced by half. Also, more paintings have been attributed to students working in the Rembrandt studio, and more has been discovered about the ways in which these students worked. Recently, period copies of Rembrandt paintings have been studied for clues as to whether certain copies were in fact created as factory-style pieces for visiting functionaries. Rembrandt’s work was in high demand for decades in the 17th centruy, and he managed to keep productivity up while also keeping his prices high by enforcing strict quality control on the work done in his studio.
When the Project was established, its aim was simple: a small group of the greatest Dutch specialists would undertake a detailed examination of the paintings then attributed to Rembrandt, using the latest scientific techniques. Having assembled the data, the team would analyse the results, sifting the authentic works from those by Rembrandt’s studio and later followers.
The project continues to specialize in documentation, techniques, and forensic research on Rembrandt paintings from his early years in Leiden until his death. The project’s published A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings volumes I-V are considered the definitive authority by all auction houses, historians and dealers who work with works by Rembrandt and his studio. The Research Project has proved an invaluable institution to art historians and museums around the world.
Learn more about The Rembrandt Research Project in the behind-the-scenes video Rembrandt’s Hidden Self Portrait.
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