Rembrandt is accepted as one of the greatest painters in the history of European art. He was especially celebrated as a portraitist who possessed an uncanny ability to incorporate an understanding of the sitter’s identity into a visual representation of their humanity. MAG’s Portrait of a Young Man in an Armchair offers the unique opportunity to examine the context and material makeup of this painting. It also addresses the question asked since the 1980s: “Is MAG’s portrait really by Rembrandt?”
The exhibition Under the Microscope: Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Young Man in an Armchair is a joint project of MAG and the Garman Art Conservation Department of Buffalo State. MAG’s portrait has suffered from a variety of ills over its lifetime, and has undergone multiple conservation treatments during the last century. In recent decades, doubt has been cast on the painting’s attribution to Rembrandt himself; this project is an effort to gain clarity based on newly developed scientific analysis and emerging research on Rembrandt’s technique and materials.
In May 2019, the painting underwent a wide range of imaging and scientific analysis to learn more about its composition and history. Faculty and graduate students at the Garman Art Conservation Center photographed the painting using high-resolution imaging techniques that can reveal underdrawings, surface features, and key structural components of the painting. The main compositional elements of the painting were examined with a state-of-the-art X-ray fluorescence scanner to determine the elemental composition of its materials, including pigments and materials. This information forms the basis for the exhibition’s interactive computer program, which allows visitors to explore the history of ownership and conservation as well as the scientific analysis that “looks beneath the surface.”
In addition to an in-depth exploration of the painting Young Man in an Armchair, the exhibition includes several rarely seen Rembrandt portrait prints. This provides visitors with additional insight into Rembrandt’s skill at capturing the character of the individual sitter.
The Lewis Norry Family
A gift in memory of George D. and Freida B. Abraham
Dr. David Z. Friedberg
Barbara and George Segel
Memorial Art Gallery Endowed Fund Support
Dr. and Mrs. James H. Lockhart, Jr. Fund
Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Fund
Nancy R. Turner Fund for Special Exhibitions