Self-portrait verified as a Rembrandt after months of scientific analysis

Tina Sitwell, Paintings conservation advisor, (left) and Patricia Pertnyk, House Steward, with the self-portrait of Rembrandt. Credit: Steven Haywood/National Trust/PA Wire

A painting, whose authenticity has been questioned for decades, had been verified as a Rembrandt following eight months of scientific analysis.

The 1635 self-portrait shows the Old Master wearing a black coat, feathered bonnet and a metal band around his neck from a suit of armour while looking out at the viewer.

Rembrandt specialist Horst Gerson had doubted the authenticity of the picture, saying in 1968 that areas of the painting were not accomplished enough to be the work of the Dutch master.

He claimed the portrait was likely to have been painted by one of Rembrandt's pupils.

Harry Dempster, 8, looking at the self-portrait of Rembrandt. Credit: Steven Haywood/National Trust/PA Wire

However, another specialist, Professor Ernst van de Wetering, said he believed the painting was genuine leading to The National Trust, which owns the picture, sending it away for scientific analysis.

Several layers of aged and yellowed varnish were removed by experts at the Hamilton Kerr Institute (HKI) in Cambridgeshire, so the artist's signature could be analysed.

What was revealed was a true depth of colour, much more detail and a three-dimensional appearance to the fabric in Rembrandt's cloak.

It was close investigation of the artist's signature that gave us one of the biggest clues as to its true authenticity.

The signature and date of 1635, inscribed both on the front and back of the panel, had been considered problematic in previous assessments as it was thought that the style and composition was much more akin to the artist's style slightly later in his career.

But the cross-section analysis left no reason to doubt that the inscription was added at the time of execution of the painting.

– Christine Slottvedd Kimbriel, Painting conservator

The inclusion of the artist's left hand in the original composition and alterations made to the shape of his hat were revealed through infra-red reflectography and X-ray photography.

Tina Sitwell, Paintings conservation advisor, looking at the self-portrait of Rembrandt. Credit: Steven Haywood/National Trust/PA Wire

Such alterations are present in many of Rembrandt's own works, suggesting a dynamic process of painting typical of Rembrandt.

– Christine Slottvedd Kimbriel, Painting conservator

The analysis also showed that the wood was from the poplar/willow family, which Rembrandt used for some of his paintings.

The varnish was so yellow that it was difficult to see how beautifully the portrait had been painted.

Now you can really see all the flesh tones and other colours, as well as the way in which the paint has been handled - it's now much easier to appreciate it as a Rembrandt.

– David Taylor, paintings and sculpture curator at the National Trust

Rembrandt, who is considered to be one of the greatest painters in European art history, was 29-years-old when he painted the portrait in 1635.

Harry Dempster, 8, looking at the self-portrait of Rembrandt. Credit: Steven Haywood/National Trust/PA Wire

He was living in Amsterdam at the time and his self-portraits were becoming increasingly popular as his fame and wealth grew.

Rembrandt is thought to have produced at least 40 self-portraits, with the National Trust painting thought to be worth around £30 million.