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Earliest Known Portrait of Rembrandt at Milwaukee Art Museum
Jan Lievens (Dutch, 1607–1674), Pilate Washing His Hands, ca. 1625–1626. Oil on panel, 33 x 41 5/16 in. Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, the Netherlands.

MILWAUKEE, WI.- The Milwaukee Art Museum has announced that the Dutch master Jan Lievens used Rembrandt van Rijn as a model in four works painted over approximately six years between c. 1623 and 1628. Highlighting the close working relationship between the artists, three of the paintings can be seen in Jan Lievens: Out of Rembrandt's Shadow February 7–April 26 at the Museum.

Recent research by exhibition curator Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., curator of northern baroque painting at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., (where the exhibition was on view from October 26, 2008 though January 11, 2009), reveals that Rembrandt modeled for The Cardplayers, c. 1623–24 (cat. 3); Pilate Washing His Hands, c. 1625–26 (cat. 7); Youth Embracing a Young Woman, c. 1627–28 (cat. 12); and Lute Player, c. 1628 (cat. 13). The young Rembrandt (1606-1669) was portrayed with a head of dark curls, a slightly bulbous nose, rounded cheeks and full lower lip. The Cardplayers is the earliest known surviving portrait of Rembrandt, who models holding a pipe.

The faces in the four Lievens paintings closely resemble Portrait of Rembrandt which Lievens painted in 1629, following the years Lievens used his colleague as a model. Moreover, during the same time period, Lievens served as a model for a background figure in Rembrandt's Allegory of Hearing, c. 1625, and also in Music Lesson, 1626.

“Arthur Wheelock was personally responsible for all of the identifications of Rembrandt as a model in the cited paintings as he researched the exhibition catalogue,” notes exhibition collaborator Laurie Winters, curator of earlier European art at the Milwaukee Art Museum. “This remarkable discovery has been hiding in plain sight.”

Lievens, one of the most fascinating and enigmatic Dutch artists of his time, and Rembrandt were born in Leiden just over a year apart, studied with the same master, Pieter Lastman (1583–1633), and lived near one another until about 1632. Many parallels exist between the works that each produced in Leiden in the 1620s and early 1630s. Even though Lievens' career began earlier, he was often wrongly described as a follower or student of Rembrandt.

Nine paintings in the exhibition Jan Lievens: Out of Rembrandt's Shadow at the Milwaukee Art Museum were formerly attributed to Rembrandt between the 17th century and modern times, including Saint Paul, c. 1624–25 (cat. 4); The Feast of Esther, c. 1625 (cat. 6); Still Life with Books, c. 1627–28 (cat. 11); Portrait Head of an Old Woman (“Rembrandt's Mother”), c. 1630 (cat. 21); The Penitent Magdalene, c. 1631 (cat. 24); Preciosa and Doòa Clara, c. 1631 (cat. 26); Bathsheba Receiving King David's Letter, c. 1631 (cat. 27); Raising of Lazarus, 1631 (cat. 31); and Gideon's Sacrifice, early 1650s (cat. 47).

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