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Posted: Jan 01, 2006 - 08:20 PM Nigel Konstam

The fourth volume of the Rembrandt Research Project's report has recently been published. It is now 16 years since the publication of the third volume. The long gap had led me to hope that The Project had been abandoned or at least rethought. Sadly that is not the case. The outward form has changed but the fundamental errors remain. The previous volumes had led us to expect volume four to deal with the paintings after 1642. Instead it deals exclusively with all the self portraits. The one ray of hope is that some of their earlier mistaken disattributions in that area have now been re-attributed to Rembrandt.

Prof. Van de Wetering, who is the leader of The Project and the chief contributor to volume four, seems to derive his style from the late Peter Ustinov's parodies of academe. He seeks to disarm his critics: he is ever so humble and cautious. He then bores them into submission. I guess very few will ever get to the end of the 700 pages of volume four. Nor is there any light at the end of the tunnel. He envisages that his reassessment of Rembrandt will take us deep into the new millennium. In his Preface he writes – “... new information on a previously unimagined aspect of Rembrandt's workshop practice can revise the probabilities and shift the balance of the entire structure of convergent argument such that the earlier conclusion, developed from the evidence previously amassed, now has to give way to a different solution......(Ch III, pp 117 – 132). And that deals with only one “unimagined aspect of Rembrandt's workshop practice”.

Readers of this web site will know that I have been trying to draw Prof. Van de Wetering's attention to many aspects that remain so completely unimaginable to him and his team that they have not begun to consider them. They continue to believe that Rembrandt's students constructed their large and elaborate canvases from Rembrandt's drawings without recourse to the model groups that I have proved to be present in the studio. They still deny both models and mirrors.

Will no one tell them enough is enough? Enormous sums of money are being squandered on an enterprise that is hopelessly ill-founded. It is profoundly damaging our understanding not only of Rembrandt but of art in general. The little useful information that The Project have uncovered is so lost in the mass of misguided opinion that it is unlikely ever to be found by future generations.