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

Hagar series
The etching was signed and dated by Rembrandt in the copper plate 1637. It follows that the eleven drawings made from the same recognizable models dressed in the same clothes must have been done around the same time as the etching. However, the eleven drawings have been dated by the scholars according to style, dating them anywhere from 1640 to 1656. The scholars have resolutely kept faith with the stylistic theories of Benesch rather than the proven reality of the group of live models in the studio. They are behaving like medieval theologians in the face of scientific advance. This must be wrong. Common sense suggests that these drawings were all done around 1637. There are many other examples of this flawed system using stylistic analysis as a method of dating Rembrandt's drawings. Rembrandt's art is much too varied to pin him down to one style at any given time.

Maquette showing Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael - the models and the mirror

The maquette represents the group of three live models who posed for Rembrandt and his students for the Dismissal of Hagar. On the left you see the reflection of the group in a mirror.

Etching of same group with date
- Etching reversed so that we can see what Rembrandt actually drew on his plate.
The group was certainly assembled in Rembrandt's studio in 1637 because he made an etching of the subject and dated it on the plate. We can see in the etching that the models were wearing elaborate costumes doubtless supplied by Rembrandt from his theatrical wardrobe (there were 92 items mentioned in the inventory when he went bankrupt - 1656).

Painting by Victors
In the painting by Jan Victors we can see that Abraham was wearing the same outfit as we see in the etching. The disposition of the figures is similar but not identical.

The group must have been present in the studio for around 6 months at minimum for Victors and other students to complete such large and elaborate paintings. Many of them have found their way into the worlds most important galleries. The scholars would have us believe that the student paintings were done from Rembrandt's drawings, Rembrandt's drawings do not contain enough information to paint from. He himself never attempted to paint from his drawings. The scholars lack studio experience so they do not understand the impossibility of their ideas.  
Rembrandt's drawings are not the preparatory studies that we find in the Italian schools, they were his way of thinking into the subject. He made more than 20 drawings of the Dismissal of Hagar.
Eleven of those drawings were observed from the same group and from the same seat in the studio as the etching. Some were observed from the mirror seen on the left, others direct from life.

Dated 1840 by scholars Dated 1852 by scholars

I used these two drawings to make the maquette. The scholars chose to date the first one 1640 and the second 1652 because they are different in style; but they are the same in content. The etching is a minor variant on the grouping of these drawings. There are a number of drawings that show other minor variations but are essentially the same group. If we turn our attention to the reflection on the left we can match it with two further drawings

Further drawing of same group Further drawing of same group
B499 ("c.1642")


Reflection in mirror

Note that the disposition of the figures match with the reflection, but Hagar's left hand now holds the handkerchief - and the right, the water-bottle and kit-bag! These have been dated by scholars 1642 and 1656. The absurdity of these dates can only be explained by the scholars insistence that the drawings came from Rembrandt's imagination. The scholars do not accept the presence of groups of models.


We can assume that the large reflective surfaces were made of polished copper or pewter or from small pieces of glass mounted together. Glass of this isze was not available in Rembrandt's life time. Note the great difference in quality between the drawings made from life and those made from the reflection. Those drawn from the inferior source are comparatively schematic. They show none of Rembrandt's subtle sense of materials etc that we have noted in the David drawing and can see again in the “1640” drawing, which comes from direct observation.
This difference in quality is surely much better explained by the difference in the quality of the original source of inspiration ( working from life) than by the scholars idea that Rembrandt deteriorated as he grew older. No parallel deterioration is found in his etchings which, unlike the drawings, are dated by Rembrandt himself. ( Age does not necessarily enfeeble.


I can vouch that some of my own drawings made at the age of 72 are more precise and controlled than many I made at 25.)
On accepting my article (1976) the editor of The Burlington wrote to me “Scholars must now get down to revising the whole corpus of drawings”. The same goes for the paintings. A very much wider range of quality must be accepted from Rembrandt by scholars in future. There should be a complete ban on dating works by style.
For other examples of this drastic change in quality due to the difference between reality and reflection as a source, see my article “ Rembrandt's Use of Models and Mirrors” in the Burlington Magazine (Feb 1977).

  • 23:00 - 09.04.2007


    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

  • 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

  • 23:00 - 11.07.2007

    Follow this Fast Track Introduction to gain a quick overview of the controversy surrounding Rembrandt scholarship.  Or use the menu on the left for exploring the ideas in greater depth

    The Story of a Discovery
    Written by Nigel Konstam
    Edited by Nancy Grossman-Telfer

    Recently Rembrandt scholars have reduced the number of drawings and paintings that they accept as being by Rembrandt by between 50% and 70%. A massive change of opinion from scholars in the past. Why has this happened and where does the truth lie? I have studied this problem for over 35 years. I have come to the conclusion that we are dismissing works that are truly by Rembrandt because of a misunderstanding of his character as an artist.



    PART I: Crude Fake attributed to Rembrandt (2 Minutes)

    PART II: Genuine brilliant Rembrandt attributed to a Dull Student (2 minutes)

    Adoration of the Shepherds YouTube video


    YouTube Video - The Adoration of the Shepherds

    YouTube video challenging Sir Nicholas Serota's directorship of the Tate Gallery

    The Blindness of the Experts: Rembrandt and Bol




    This Six Chapter DVD Nigel Konstam reveals Rembrandt's working methods, creative process, interests and values. Nigel takes a critical look at how the Great Master has been reinvented by modern art scholars.

    1. INTRODUCTION - In which we see how scholars' expectations of genius lead to the loss of great works of art. Looking at style rather than human content misleads. -INTRODUCTION -THE DEATHBED OF DAVID -THE VIRGIN AND CHILD
    3. IMAGINATION - Shows how what we admire in Rembrandt's work is observed from life, and what leads scholars to disqualify is made up -ISAAC AND ESAU -REMBRANDT MISUNDERSTOOD -THE LION HUNT
    4. MIRRORS - The use of mirrors proves that Rembrandt did indeed draw from life and challenges present methods of dating works of art. -MUSICIANS, -MUMMERS, -TWO DRAWINGS (Woman in North Holland Dress) -MANY DRAWINGS (Hagar series) -CONCLUSIONS
    5. CHRIST RAISING A SICK WOMAN Rembrandt's interests and working method
    6. THE UNWORTHY WEDDING GUEST Rembrandt shows us the inner thougts of his characters and his own creative process
    New for 2010 The Adoration of the Shepherds - Nigel Compares two oil paintings by Rembrandt - one of which has been de-attributed and demonstrates that one is a mirror image of the other.

    Nigel would like to make a TV documentary to make the position of Rembrandt scholarship better known. His DVD is available now free of charge to anyone interested in making the documentary. (Running time about 1 hour total). The DVD takes the arguments presented here much further. Nigel Konstam, the author and discoverer of the above is available for consultation or participation in the project.













    LINKS: Rembrandt , Nigel Konstam , mirrors , modern criticism , Adoration , THE DEATHBED OF DAVID , THE VIRGIN AND CHILD ,JOB AND HIS COMFORTERS , ISAAC AND ESAU   MUMMERS Hagar series  THE UNWORTHY WEDDING GUEST , David anoints Solomon , Museum of Artist's SecretsNancy Grossman-Telfer

  • 10:29 - 24.11.2008

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

  • 08:14 - 16.02.2010

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

  • 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.

    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.



    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.



    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.



Current Rembrandt Scholarship....