£30 million Rembrandt painting proved genuine by scientists is revealed to public at abbey

By Ben Miller Published: 02 February 2015

Gallery home of £30 million Rembrandt painting reflects "pretty amazing" eight-month investigation, say designers

A photo of two curators holding up a painting of a man
National Trust curators take a look at a surprise Rembrandt© National Trust / Steve Haywood
Visitors to a sprawling 700-year-old Devon abbey are being invited to make their own minds up about the detective work of art experts who carried out forensic tests to prove that a portrait of Rembrandt was made by the artist himself.

Hanging in a glass case which allows admirers to see the signature on its back, the origin of the newly-declared self-portrait – valued at £30 million and once owned by the Princes of Lichtenstein – has been debated since the 1960s. The most recent bid to name its maker took eight months, concluding last June when it was declared a genuine Rembrandt at Buckland Estate in Yelverton.

“The work to establish the painting’s authenticity was taking place at the same time as we were designing the exhibition,” says Dave Tonkin, of 20/20, the company commissioned by the National Trust to create the gallery devoted to the the portrait.

“It was an exciting time. We would get reports back that the painting was now 80 percent a real Rembrandt, 90 percent a real Rembrandt – it was pretty amazing to be part of that.

“Hanging a painting valued at £30 million isn’t an everyday task and needed a steady hand and a clear head.”

Although Tonkin says the white-gloved team completed their task with ease, the scientists caused them to decide on a different story around the space.

“When we design spaces for museums and galleries we delve into the object’s world, we learn as much as we can and think about what the big story is,” says Tonkin.

“We thought about the visitors and the fact they might not know the background story and all the scientific work that has gone into proving it is real.

“Our idea was that people walk into the room and look down through glass investigation screens, like a sort of crime drama where all this information gradually brings you down to the truth which is the real Rembrandt hanging at the end of the room.”

A digital remake is also allowing the public to send in their pictures for a modern mosaic version of the work.

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