In search of Rembrandt’s underdrawing

“Since the initiation of the Rembrandt Research Project in the late 1960s, technical study of Rembrandt’s paintings has gained increasing importance in the understanding of his working methods. Examining the artist’s works with dendrochronology, X-radiography and macro photography became the norm complemented by cross-sections of ground and paint layers as well as scientific analysis of binding media and pigments.

Rembrandt, Andromeda, c.1630, oil on panel, 34 × 24.5 cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. no. 707; (b) infrared
reflectogram of (a); (c) detail of (b). Photos (b) and (c): Jørgen Wadum

“Significant advances were made in understanding the materials and properties of the master’s use of and experimentation with supports and mediums. However, although some infrared photographs were taken, examination of early Rembrandt paintings using infrared reflectography (IRR) was not employed until the astonishing 1998 discovery of an extensive underdrawing below the paint layers of the painting once considered to be a cornerstone of Rembrandt’s early works: the Young Self-Portrait with a Gorget from c.1629 in the Mauritshuis (The Hague).

“This discovery prompted the author to undertake a limited survey into a selection of early paintings by Rembrandt and his close circle that revealed a wealth of hitherto unrecorded information acquired from beneath the visible paint layers of the paintings. This paper demonstrates the relevance of the IRR technique in the discovery not only of underdrawings but also how underpaintings and sketches can be visualised. Instigating a comprehensive search for Rembrandt’s underdrawing – in the widest sense of the word – in his early works may add significant new information to the corpus of the artist and his contemporaries…”

To read the full story you may download the entire volume of Rembrandt Now free of charge via the link below the front page:

https://archetype.co.uk/our-titles/rembrandt-now/?id=384

Published by Jørgen Wadum

Jørgen Wadum is a Danish technical art historian.

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