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Culture

"Saul and David" is a real Rembrandt after all

After years of doubt and debate, researchers have now announced the famous paining "Saul and David" in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague is indeed a real Rembrandt.

For more than 50 years, experts argued about "Saul and David" and whether it really was a painting by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn.

The painting shows young David kneeling before King Saul, plucking the strings of his harp. It was regarded as one of the painter's most beautiful works, and much admired by the musuems's visitors. Then, in the late 1960s, a noted Rembrandt expert cast doubt on the work's authenticity.

Horst Gerson was convinced that not the master himself but one of his students painted the biblical scene - understandably so as the canvas was covered by a dark layer and several parts had been repeatedly painted over.

Painstaking restoration

The years of uncertainty are over. A beaming Emilie Gordenker, the director of Mauritshuis, announced that the museum indeed has a real Rembrandt.

An international team of experts spent eight years examining the painting with the help of state of the art technology and finally came to the conclusion that it is authentic.

Mauritshuis in The Hague

The Rembrandt is back at the Mauritshuis Museum

"Saul and David" surfaced at an auction in Paris in 1830, and was on the market for years. It found its way to the Mauritshuis Museum in 1898 after director Abraham Bredius bought it with his own money. He said he had to sell his "carriage and horses" for the purchase.

Plenty of surprises

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) is said to have painted the scene between 1650 and 1655. In the 19th century, the painting was carved up, put back together again like a jigsaw puzzle, and partially painted over. X-rays show a virtual patchwork of 15 pieces. Apparently, strips of canvas were used for the restoration of other Rembrandt paintings. Two large bits from the original painting, with David and with Saul, remain.

The painstakingly restored painting is the centerpiece of the exhibition "Rembrandt? The Case of Saul and David" at Mauritshuis Museum from 11 June to 13 September 2015.

suc/db (dpa, ap, www.mauritshuis.nl/en/)

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