"Save Rembrandt from the Experts"
Nigel Konstam Exposes the Errors of Modern Rembrandt Scholarship

Question from Philip Houghton
Philip Houghton Fundamental errors of scholarship PostPosted: Jan 15, 2006 - 03:39 PM Guest

I am most interested by your website but could you summarize for me as briefly as possible "the fundamental errors of scholarship" that you mention in the review section so that I can recommend the site to others.

Reply Nigel Konstam

Post subject: Reply to Phil Houghton PostPosted: Jan 21, 2006 - 10:11 AM

THE FUNDAMENTAL ERRORS OF SCHOLARSHIP Discussion Forum answer 1. In a nut-shell the fundamental mistakes of the scholars stem from four misunderstandings, first and foremost it is the scholars unwillingness to recognize Rembrandt's limitation: his inability to draw from his head, nowadays unhelpfully known as “imagination”. We have lauded this ability for so long that it has become a part of our culture but as far as Rembrandt is concerned it is a big mistake.

It may come as a shock to the layman that Rembrandt could not draw from his head but anyone who has been to art school will recognise the Rembrandt-type. Drawing the figure from “imagination” is really no such thing; it is a matter of manipulating an over used formula based on cylinders for limbs and an egg for a head. Rembrandt does it when he has to but with very bad grace, even when drawing a heavenly being. Look at this angel,

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is it not obvious that Rembrandt is saying - take no notice of this angel, I have not seen him! It is a joke. Rembrandt is taking the mickey out of Rubens and the like who produced these stereotypes ad lib.

The second source of error is the dating of the drawings by style (example Hagar series). A third mistake stems from the attitude which tends to discount the human feeling (example: The Virgin and Child). Modern criticism looks primarily at the abstract qualities in a work of art. The fourth blind-spot is more technical. I am working on a DVD that will explain it: It is Rembrandt's unique sense of space, which is unmistakeable, and allows him to use a shorthand in drawing.

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May I take this opportunity to expand on Rembrandt's limitation. Rembrandt turned his limitation into the driving force of his art. He worked almost exclusively from observation “anything else was worthless in his eyes” as a contemporary Amsterdamer, A.Houbraken reports. As a result of this insistence Rembrandt developed the most formidable grasp of human expression. His art is recognised by people from all over the world: it is universal. Rembrandt has seen and held up for our inspection the body language that unites the human race. This is the centre-piece of his art and it too is largely ignored by the experts.

As a result of his limitation it must be recognised that Rembrandt produced many different levels of art depending on the source of his inspiration. At the bottom are those works such as 'Jupiter with Philemon and Baucis' (Imagination) that he did produce out of his head. Next up, are those drawings that he produced from a large mirror that was probably made of polished metal and gave a blurred reflection such as 'The Dismissal of Hagar' drawings dated by scholars 1656 or 1648. (in Mirrors)

When the reality is closer to the reflective surface the image is better and so is the drawing, ie Musicians, Mummers and The Lady in North Holland dress (Imagination). When the reflection is provided by a much smaller, glass mirror the drawing is better still; we cannot fault his self portraits! But what really turns him on is reality, either beyond his control in the street or best of all under his control, either in the studio or in some location, like The New Town Hall which was under construction for most of Rembrandt's active life in Amsterdam and seems to have been used for some of his more elaborate settings. Theatrical rehearsals provided a similar level of inspiration.

Rembrandt was at his very best when he had one person posing for him in the studio. If the Lady in North Holland Dress was indeed his mistress, Gertje Dircz, as the drawing is inscribed on the back, then we can assume that love also played a part in the production of perfection itself. We see here a rising level of quality from rank bad to perfection and they all come from the master, limited as he was. I would not wish him otherwise.

These categories are intended as a guide, they are by no means water-tight. We have seen in Solomon's acolyte and The Virgin's right hand that Rembrandt is not reliable. This too must be taken into account. I suggest that in future the good in the work under discussion should be the guide as to whether it is a Rembrandt and we should learn to accept the indifferent parts that are mixed in as a result of his limitation and what we might call his carelessness. Better to think of it as his focused attention - parts may be left out of focus!

If I could mount an exhibition of the beautiful drawings once attributed to Rembrandt but which have been wrongly dismissed by scholars over the last 90 years but which now reside in the wrong boxes of the Rijks, The Boymans or The British Museums, the world would be flabbergasted by the folly that has been perpetrated in those supposed sanctuaries of art.

 

  • 23:00 - 09.04.2007

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    The recent 2 x 60min Channel 4 documentary (shown July 21st, 28th 2007)
    (made by Lion Television) including Nigel Konstam's contribution to our understanding of the art of ancient Greece (the revolutionary demonstration of why we can be certain that Phidias and his workshop used body casts as the basis of there life-size, sculptural compositions) in Part II.


    You can see the whole story in my book;- SCULPTURE, the Art and the Practice, 2nd edition ISBN 0 – 9523568 or, less completely, on the website www.verrocchio.co.uk

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  • 09:53 - 12.10.2007

    Click here to watch 5 minute video on the Adoration

    National Gallery Rejects The Adoration

     National Gallery Rejects The Adoration - see video on its web site

    There are two versions of The Adoration of the Shepherds, one in Munich and the second in the National Gallery (London). Both were once attributed to Rembrandt: The Munich version is still a Rembrandt. The London version has been de-attributed by the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) in spite of the fact that the National Gallery experts examination of the materials confirmed that the painting was from Rembrandt's studio. The object of this demonstration is to prove that the London painting is truly a Rembrandt though the RRP insists that this version cannot possibly be by him.

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    See Large image

    On the right of the photograph you see a maquette made from the figures and architecture in the Munich painting, that Rembrandt observed and painted direct from life. A cow and a basket also form a part of the composition.

    The reflected part of the photograph you see in the mirror (on the left) matches up with the subject matter of the London painting to such a degree that we cannot doubt that Rembrandt (or whoever else was painting from Rembrandt's precise position) painted what he saw in the mirror. As the use of a mirror can be demonstrated many times in Rembrandt's accepted drawings it is most rational to assume that Rembrandt stayed in the same position and painted both paintings; probably concurrently, with the same palette and brushes.

    It is amusing to note that while the humans are static, only the cow moved: the hats of the figures remain the same, the basket on the post is seen in elevation in the Munich version and in plan in the London version, the lantern is still carried by the man with the broad brimmed hat, lots of tiny details are transmuted but most of all the infinitely complex space relationship between the figures remains constant.

    By understanding the extreme complexity of the task of constructing the London subject from the Munich painting, we can be certain that a mirror was used.(This is no simple print image. It is a reversal of a new point of view of the same very complex, three dimensional group we see in the Munich painting.) From this understanding we not only regain a lost Rembrandt, we demonstrate that the impressionistic style of the London painting is also Rembrandt's. Thus widening the stylistic spectrum that has been imposed arbitarily by the RRP.

    Furthermore it is proved that Rembrandt worked from a theatrical-type production. I believe he set up live models dressed with costumes (mentioned in his inventory of 1656) in the adoration paintings, I believe the scene was staged in a barn. These tableaux-vivants, the very life's blood of Rembrandt's work as artist and teacher, are implicitly denied by the RRP and their followers, who are keepers of Rembrandt drawings in the museums: a fundamental error, which invalidates many of the experts' judgements over the last 100 years.

     

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    Two legitimate questions may arise from this demonstration 1. did mirrors of this size exist in Rembrandt's time? Answer � not made from one sheet of glass � this large mirror was probably made of polished metal. And 2. Why should he work from an inadequate reflection of his models when he had a group to observe direct from life? Answer � Rembrandt was not alone in the barn. There are student versions of this same scene, both drawn and painted, that show that students were working side by side with the master, each with their own individual viewpoint. This would have inhibited Rembrandt's freedom to move himself or change the group of models. Alternatively, it may just be Rembrandt's explorative spirit that drove him to this single experiment, which he never repeated in painting, but many times while drawing.

     

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    If you have doubts please look at the rest of this website before submitting your questions.

    It is my belief that the other end of the spectrum of style in Rembrandt's paintings should also be redefined by testing a painting in The Wallace Collection: The Uncharitable Servant. This painting was once the most highly valued Rembrandt in the world. It has been described as Rembrandt at the extreme limits of his ability, it is not typical of Rembrandt but Rembrandt is a most varied artist and we need to define the outer limits of his variability as precisely as possible. If The Uncharitable Servant, was put through autoradiographic tests this would show us the way the painting had been built up right from the original drawing on canvas, thus establishing a clear attribution. The result of this could be to re-inflate Rembrandt's oeuvres and reputation back to where they both stood 50 years ago. If the London painting turns out not to be a Rembrandt the case for widening the spectrum towards a loose impressionistic style remains imperative.

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  • 10:57 - 04.07.2008

    See Nigel's YouTube Contribution to the campaign to unseat Sir Nicholas from his 21 Year reign at the Tate Gallery London. Sir Nicholas Serota Considers a New Aquisition for the Tate Gallery

    Take this link

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  • 08:14 - 16.02.2010

    Nigel's new YouTube Video comments on the Getty Exhibition of 2010 Rembrandt and Bol

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  • 10:29 - 24.11.2008

    Take link to see video
    Recent video (Takes only 2 minutes to watch) by Nigel Konstam

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