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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
'Lost' Rembrandt fetches nearly £7m
Click below to find out how the painting was uncovered as a Rembrandt

A Rembrandt self-portrait which lay undiscovered for centuries after it had been painted over has sold for £6.94m at auction in London.

It was bought by US billionaire casino tycoon Steve Wynn during a transatlantic telephone bid at Sotheby's.

The portrait, painted by the Dutch master in 1634 when he was 28, lay hidden under layers of paint for more than 300 years.

It fetched a precise total of £6,949,600 - the highest price in memory for a Rembrandt self-portrait.

Mr Wynn, 60, former owner of the Belagio resort hotel in Las Vegas, is one of the biggest private art collectors in the US.

In May he spent £25m in 24 hours buying artworks by Renoir and Cézanne.

It is believed he plans to house it at his latest Las vegas hotel project, Le Reve.

The portrait, painted by the Dutch master in 1634 when he was 28, lay hidden under layers of paint for more than 300 years.

According to Sotheby's auction house, the portrait was turned into a portrait of a Russian aristocrat by a Rembrandt student very soon after it was painted in 1634.

The painting, owned by a French collector, is the first Rembrandt self-portrait to go on sale for more than 30 years.

What struck us all when we examined it together was the quality of the painting in the area of the sitter's lower face
George Gordon, Sotheby's expert

If portraits did not sell quickly enough, they were sometimes painted over to make new, more saleable artworks.

The new painting featured the figure sporting a large red hat, long hair, earrings and a flamboyant moustache.

The painting was not recognised as one of Rembrandt's until the 1930s.

One of the painting's previous owners arranged for some of the Russian aristocrat's features to be removed, and by the time it was bought by the seller's father in the 1960s, the figure's hat had already disappeared.

'Superior hand'

The moustache and earrings were later removed.

In 1995 Professor Ernst van de Wetering, head of the Rembrandt Research Project, was invited to look at it. It was later sent to London for further examination.

"What struck us all when we examined it together was the quality of the painting in the area of the sitter's lower face, from the tip of his nose downwards," said Sotheby's art expert George Gordon.

"These parts stood out against the rest of the picture in a way that strongly suggested that they were the work of a different, and superior, hand."

More x-ray and infra-red tests helped restorers lift off the "overpaint" to reveal the original Rembrandt portrait.

The portrait was exhibited in the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam in March.

It is a rare find, with just three Rembrandt self-portraits still in private hands.




SEE ALSO:
Hidden Rembrandt up for auction
11 Mar 03  |  Entertainment


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