AN OLD Master which may have been painted in Hull is up for sale next week – for £30m.
One of the least known works by Rembrandt, Portrait of a Man With Arms Akimbo, was conceived during one of the most turbulent periods in the artist’s career.
The painting, which shows a man in his 30s, in beret, white chemise and doublet, confidently meeting the viewer’s eye with a direct, unswerving gaze, was painted in 1658 when Rembrandt’s whereabouts were a mystery.
Two years earlier he had been forced to start selling off his art collection and possessions, including his elegant house on the Sint Anthoniebreestraat in the centre of Amsterdam after declaring bankruptcy.
The artist disliked travelling but an intriguing historical source suggests the painting may have been done when he was in England. The reference comes from diarist George Vertue in 1713, who noted “Rembrandt van Rijn was in England, li’d at Hull in Yorkshire”.
The portrait has been put up for sale by New York gallery owner Otto Naumann at the Frieze Masters art fair in London’s Regent Park.
Mr Naumann told The Sunday Times Rembrandt may have visited England as many as three times, including in the 1640s when he drew three views of cities in the south including Canterbury, and in 1658, the date on the painting.
He said: “All the furniture was removed from his Amsterdam house in February 1658 and he doesn’t appear in documents in Holland for the rest of the year.”
The painting, which sold at auction in 1939 for a reputed $185,000, was sold in 2009 to the Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn for £20m, the highest known price for a work by Rembrandt, who is considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art.
Despite its huge worth, no one has been able to say who the subject of the work was.
When it was sold in 1839 it was described as The Portrait of a Dutch Admiral” in “rich Dress and Beret Cap.” But it could be “simply an image of a picturesque individual in a historicised costume with vaguely exotic associations”, according to the gallery’s website.