Smallest Rembrandts go for big money at Christie’s

The portraits will be auctioned on July 6. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2023

Two rediscovered portraits attributed to Rembrandt have been sold by auction house Christie’s in London for over £11.2 million  (€13.3 million).

The oval portraits, which measure 21 cm by 17 cm and are the smallest works ever produced by Rembrandt, depict elderly couple Jan Willemsz. Van der Pluym (1565-1644) and Jaapgen Carels (1565-1640) from Leiden, where Rembrandt was born and lived until he was 25.

Plumber Jan and his wife Jaapgen were acquaintances of Rembrandt. Their son Domenicus married Rembrandt’s niece Cornelia van Suytbroeck and their garden bordered that of Rembrandt’s mother.

The paintings, which stem from 1635, were last sold by Christie’s in 1824 and went on to be privately owned for the next 200 years.

‘I first encountered them on a routine valuation and was immediately stopped in my tracks,’ Henry Pettifer, International Deputy Chairman of Old Master Paintings at Christie’s, said.

The owners didn’t realise the painting were by Rembrandt, Pettifer said, but were happy to have them evaluated by experts at the Rijksmuseum who, after an 18 month investigation, gave them their seal of approval.

Although signed and dated by Rembrandt, not everyone is convinced of the paintings’ authenticity. Jeroen Giltajj, former curator at the Boymans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam and author of Het Grote Rembrandtboek, has said he doubted the paintings are by the master based on two larger portraits of Jaapgen in New York and Washington.

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation