Could this portrait be painted by Rembrandt himself?

Bendor Grosvenor with Knightshayes' portrait of Rembrandt

A portrait of Rembrandt from the collection at Knightshayes has been put under the spotlight in BBC Four's TV programme, 'Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.' Learn more about why this little portrait caught art historian Bendor Grosvenor's eye.

Under the spotlight

Investigations into the history of the portrait of Rembrandt, currently on display at Knightshayes near Tiverton in Devon, which was part of the Heathcoat-Amory family’s private collection, have been undertaken by art historian Bendor Grosvenor, as part of BBC Four's 'Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.'

In the series, Dr Bendor Grosvenor and social historian Emma Dabiri seek to uncover hidden treasures among painting collections using a combination of restoration, research and scientific analysis.

In the Knightshayes episode, Bendor Grosvenor investigated whether a copy of a self-portrait by Rembrandt was in fact by the Dutch master himself.

The portrait of the young Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), shown in the early years of his career, was bought for Knightshayes in 1948 by Sir John and Lady Joyce Heathcoat-Amory.

For many years, it has been regarded as one of two copies of a self-portrait by Rembrandt, with the other copy in Kassel Museum in Germany and the original in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam but Bendor believes it is in fact a study for the finished picture by Rembrandt himself. 

Going through in-depth analysis

The painting underwent various tests and analysis including dendrochronology (tree dating) on the wooden panel, specialist cleaning and infra-red and x-ray photography to determine aspects such as the background technique and whether it was consistent with the way Rembrandt prepared his portraits. 

The programme shows all of the tests that took place and reveals what the findings were.

Is it, or isn't it?

Despite some impressive research and analysis, through a journey that took Bendor Grosvenor to the Netherlands and Germany as well as to specialist studios in the UK, the final word from the world’s leading Rembrandt expert, Ernst van de Wetering, was that the Knightshayes portrait is a copy.

You can watch the investigation in full on BBC iPlayer, find out more here.

Take a look for yourself

You can decide for yourself by paying us a visit and seeing the portrait in the flesh. It's currently on display in the house, so you can take the opportunity to have a look and see what you think, or chat to our team about the process.