A painting that was dismissed as a Rembrandt copy and kept in a British university museum comes from the Dutch master’s studio, the institution said on Monday.
“Head of a Bearded Man” was bequeathed to the Ashmolean at Oxford in 1951 and was originally classified as one of the early works of the 17th century painter.
However, experts rejected it as a copy in 1982 and it was put into storage.
The museum, which is showing a “Young Rembrandt” exhibition until November 1st, called in tree ring dating expert Peter Klein to determine the date of the wood used on the panel.
The dendrochronologist determined that it came from the same tree used for Rembrandt’s “Andromeda Chained to the Rocks” and Jan Lievens’ “Portrait of Rembrandt’s Mother”.
Both were painted around 1630 while working in Leiden, the Netherlands.
“The Ashmolean’s ‘head of a bearded man’ was painted on a tablet made from a Baltic oak that was felled between 1618 and 1628,” Klein said.
“If we allow at least two years to season the wood, we can firmly date the portrait to 1620-30.”
Museum curator An Van Camp described the discovery as “incredibly exciting” and said the work will now be exhibited alongside other works from the same period.
Further research will be carried out after the exhibition ends to determine if Rembrandt painted it himself, as a touch of paint was added by an unknown hand.
Another version of the painting, depicting a dejected elderly man, is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.
Rembrandt’s work from Leiden included similar head studies.