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Rembrandt's 'Scholar in his Study' returns to the National Gallery in Prague
Together with Dürer’s “Feast of the Rosary”, Titian’s “Apollo and Marsyas” and Picasso’s self-portrait the painting is one of the most valuable works of art in the Czech Republic.

By: Pavel Besta

PRAGUE.- Last Monday, after almost a year of restoration, “A Scholar in his Study”, the famous canvas by the Dutch master of chiaroscuro, Rembrandt van Rijn, returned to the collection of the National Gallery in Prague. It was hung in its former location, at the Sternberg Palace in Prague, where the general public can again see it.

Together with Dürer’s “Feast of the Rosary”, Titian’s “Apollo and Marsyas” and Picasso’s self-portrait the painting is one of the most valuable works of art in the Czech Republic. The canvas was painted in 1634, when the artist married Saskia van Uylenburgh, daughter of an important art dealer and lived probably the happiest years of his life. He was then living for the third year in Amsterdam, where he had gradually attained the position of being one of the most respected Dutch painters. By that time, Rembrandt had already rejected painting in smaller formats and was devoting himself fully to larger compositions with life size figures. The canvas arrived in the Czech Republic around the year 1819, when it was purchased by the local wealthy Nostitz family. ‘A Scholar in his Study’ subsequently moved to the National Gallery from their art collection.

Originally he should have worn a turban
In recent years, however, traces of minor damage began to appear on the canvas. Last autumn, the National Gallery therefore decided to take it down and have it restored. The restoration work on it was entrusted to the hands of the renowned restorer of paintings, Adam Pokornı, who cooperated on the renovation of the canvas with the international MOLAB laboratory. The National Gallery obtained money for the project from a grant provided by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The cost for repairing this painting, which is valued by experts at around EUR 25 million, has soared to EUR 10,000.

The actual restoration work was preceded by a thorough examination of the painting using the most advanced methods. This revealed that Rembrandt intended that the Scholar should have a turban on his head as is the case with the painting of “A Man in Oriental Costume”, owned by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. However, he replaced the original headwear at the last moment with a burgundy beret. During the almost year-long renovation Adam Pokornı was able to consolidate the loose paint and remove the top layer of synthetic varnish. The restoration also included retouching and removing intrusive putties. The sturdy gold picture frame was also repaired.

Current reflections on Rembrandt
The painting entitled “A Scholar in his Study” was returned to Sternberg Palace in Prague Castle on the 22nd September. “We are very pleased that we can present this painting to visitors almost exactly in its original state and that now they can admire Rembrandt’s masterful technique and colour-sense,” stated Andrea Rousová, the Curator of the National Gallery, after the painting had been reinstalled in its original location. She remarked on that occasion that the collection of the largest Czech gallery contained seventy Rembrandt prints that visitors can also view. The recent restoration of the painting has been followed immediately by the ‘After Rembrandt’ project - four paintings by contemporary Czech artists that were created as artistic reflections of Rembrandt’s painting will sequentially appear on the wall opposite “A Scholar in his Study”.

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