Unknown and Exceptionally Rare Rembrandt Portraits Worth Millions Discovered in Private UK Collection
In a remarkable find, a pair of previously unknown portraits by Rembrandt has been uncovered in a private collection in the UK. The intimate paintings, depicting relatives of the renowned Dutch master, are anticipated to fetch between £5 million and £8 million ($6.25 million-$10 million) at auction.
Created in 1635 and measuring just under 8 inches in height, the portraits feature an elderly couple—wealthy plumber Jan Willemsz van der Pluym and his wife Jaapgen Carels—who were connected to Rembrandt through marriage. Jan and Jaapgen were from a prominent family in Leiden, the Dutch city where Rembrandt was born.
Their son, Dominicus van der Pluym, was married to Rembrandt’s cousin Cornelia van Suytbroec. Notably, the couple’s only child, Karel van der Pluym, is believed to have trained with Rembrandt and even mentioned the artist’s sole surviving heir, Titus, in his will.
During the same year the portraits were painted, the subjects acquired a garden adjacent to Rembrandt’s mother’s property in Leiden. Christie’s auction house, responsible for the upcoming sale, highlights the portraits’ “remarkable, virtually unbroken line of provenance” in a press release.
The artworks remained in the family until 1760, after the passing of the couple’s great-grandson, Marten ten Hove. They then made their way to Warsaw, entering the private collection of Count Vincent Potocki, before briefly being held by Baron d’Ivry in Paris in 1820, and later by James Murray, 1st Baron Glenlyon.
In June 1824, Murray placed the paintings up for auction at Christie’s, where they were described as “Rembrandt—very spirited and finely colored.” Since that sale, the portraits have remained within the same British family’s private collection, unknown to experts. The current owners have chosen to remain anonymous.
Henry Pettifer, international deputy chair of Old Master paintings at Christie’s, shared in an interview with CNN that the discovery was made a couple of years ago during a routine valuation. The significance of the paintings was immediately recognized by experts, surprising even the owners who had not expected such a remarkable find.
After the earlier auction records from Christie’s in 1824 emerged, extensive research and scientific analysis were conducted at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to confirm the authenticity of the portraits. It was only then that the identities of the sitters were officially established.
Pettifer expressed his excitement about the discovery, noting that the paintings had been completely unknown until now, absent from any Rembrandt literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. He described the portraits as “small, very intimate, very spontaneous,” suggesting a close relationship between the sitters and the artist. These paintings are believed to be the smallest known portraits by Rembrandt.
The newly discovered portraits will be exhibited in New York and Amsterdam before returning to London for a pre-sale exhibition and the highly anticipated auction on July 6th.