Jan Lievens - Self Portrait in a Mirror - image-1

Lot 1029 Dα

Jan Lievens - Self Portrait in a Mirror

Auction 1245 - overview Cologne
16.05.2024, 11:01 - Old Masters and 19th Century, Part I
Estimate: 120.000 € - 150.000 €
Result: 126.000 € (incl. premium)

Jan Lievens

Self Portrait in a Mirror

Oil on panel. 47 x 33.4 cm.

Jan Lievens and Rembrandt – of this Constantijn Huygens had no doubt – represented the glorious future of Dutch painting. In his memoirs, the eruditerepresented the glorious future of Dutch painting. In his memoirs, the erudite secretary to the stadtholder in The Hague praised the "two outstanding young men from Leiden" and saw them at a young age already competing with the great masters such as Rubens and Titian. Jan Lievens and Rembrandt, almost the same age, were talented, inquisitive and full of ambition. They shared a workshop, tried their hand at the same themes and inspired each other. This went so far that even their contemporaries confused their works (Rembrandt's "Rape of Proserpina" was listed in the inventory of the court in The Hague as a work by Jan Lievens). Art historical research would fare no better a few hundred years later, as the numerous corrections of attribution show. A testimony to this unique friendship as well as to the chequered history of many of the two artists' works is this painting, a self-portrait by Jan Lievens from 1628 (Schnackenburg, op. cit., passim). The artist looks at the viewer with an intense gaze, a dark hood covers his head. His mouth is slightly open, as if he is speaking to us, or as if he is astonished by something. A narrow moustache graces his countenance. His face is lit from the left, as is usual in self portraits by right-handed artists, while the right half of his face is correspondingly shadowed. The painterly execution in the face is "grainy, dense and naturalistic in the rendering of the skin texture" (Schnackenburg), while the part of the shoulder is only indicated with broad, dry brushstrokes. When the painting was rediscovered, it was initially attributed to Rembrandt (Bredius, op. cit.). A self portrait by Rembrandt from 1628 served as a reference, as it is comparable in terms of the position of the head and the slightly open mouth (fig. 1; Indianapolis Museum of Art, inv. no. 2023.4). However, doubts about the attribution soon arose. Rosenberg, Gerson and Bauch relegated the painting to the dubious works of Rembrandt in their catalogue raisonnés. Finally, the Rembrandt Research Project considered it to be merely the work of a later follower (which was to be refuted by dendrochronological analysis). When reviewing the literature, it is noticeable that art historians have only ever dealt with the question of whether or not this is a work by Rembrandt. The question of the actual creator of this self portrait was only addressed by Schnackenburg, who recognised the painting as a self portrait by the artist and included it in his monograph on Jan Lievens. Schnackenburg's attribution of the painting to Jan Lievens has subsequently been confirmed by a number of renowned experts after examining it in flesh. Schnackenburg emphasises the "portrait-like character" of the painting and sees the "typical facial features of Jan Lievens", "his slightly protruding eyes with accentuated lower eyelids, the pointed nose and chin in comparison with Rembrandt and, as a special distinguishing feature, the thin moustache" (Schnackenburg, op. cit., p. 251). Thereby he refers to another self portrait by Jan Lievens (Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, inv. no. KMSsp413) and the portrait of the artist in Anthony van Dyck's Iconography (fig. 2). His attribution is supported by a dendrochronological analysis: The wood of the panel comes from a tree felled around 1622 and used after 1626. And not only that: Wood from the same trunk was also used as a support for a number of other works by Rembrandt and Jan Lievens, including Rembrandt's famous Nuremberg Self Portrait (ill. 3; Germanisches Nationalmuseum), his "Andromeda" and "Samson and Delilah" (both Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) as well as Jan Lievens‘ Half-length Figure of an Old Woman with Hooded Cloak (Gemälde Alte Meister, Dresden), among others. (1) Portraits and self portraits form a central body of works in the oeuvre of the two young artists from their Leiden period. They portrayed themselves and each other grinning, laughing, and with astonished or sceptical expressions. They often wore armour, fanciful robes and exotic headgear. The paintings served as studies for the use of light and the depiction of emotions. Strictly speaking, the early portraits and self portraits by Rembrandt and Lievens belong to the genre of tronies, small- and medium-format head studies that originated in Flemish workshops and developed into an independent highly succesful genre in Holland. Schnackenburg assumes that Lievens realised during the execution of this self portrait that "Rembrandt's method of mimicing self portraits in front of the mirror was not his way," which explains the sketchy execution of the area of the shoulders. As was customary in the workshop, copies of the present self portrait were made, one of which is attributed to Dirck Lievens, the artist's brother (Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, inv. no. 1975.4.77; Schnackenburg, op. cit., p. 251). Schnackenburg describes the years around 1628 as a "period of intensive exchange" and "symbiotic co-operation" between the two artists. The "two outstanding young men from Leiden" shared a studio, materials and ideas for their paintings; this close artistic exchange can be seen in the present self portrait of Jan Lievens. Soon each would go his own way, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, Jan Lievens went to London and later to Antwerp – but both were to fulfil Constantijn Huygens' high expectations. Footnote 1: On the other paintings by Jan Lievens and Rembrandt using panels from the same tree cf. the various volumes of the Rembrandt Research Project and, for example, Christiaan Vogelaar: Ten Years of Struggle, Rembrandt in Leiden and Amsterdam, 1624-1634, in: Exhib. cat. Leiden 2019: The Young Rembrandt, Leiden 2019, p. 19-20; Schnackenburg, op. cit., p. 75.


Dendrochronological examination report: Prof. Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg, 16.11.2016.


With Asscher, Koetser and Welker, London, by 1926. - With Koninklijke Kunstzaal Kleykamp, The Hague, 1928. - With Kunsthandel Mettes, The Hague, c. 1929. - With Colin Agnew, London/New York, by 1930. - Collection Consul lvar Hellberg, Stockholm, Sweden, by 1938. - Anonymous auction, Bukowski's Stockholm, 08-11-1961, lot 218. - Anonymous auction, Koller West, Zurich, 18 September 2013, lot 6511 (as by a follower of Rembrandt). - German private collection.


W. R. Valentiner: The Thirteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters: Paintings by Rembrandt, Detroit, 1930, no. 4. - A. Bredius: Rembrandt: Schilderijen, Utrecht 1935, no. 14 (mentions several copies and states that some experts doubt whether it is painted by Rembrandt). - Max J. Friedlander and C.G. Laurin: Alte Gemälde aus der Sammlung lvar Hellberg Stockholm, Malmö, 1938, n. p., reproduced (as Rembrandt). - B. G. Wennberg and G. Engwall: Mitt basta konstverk: konst ur stockholmshem, Stockholm, 1941/42, no. 60. - J. Rosenberg: Rembrandt, Life & Work, Cambridge 1948, p. *, (as doubtful). - J. Rosenberg: Rembrandt: Life & Work, 2nd ed., London 1964, p. 371 (as not authentic). - Kurt Bauch: Rembrandt: Gemälde, Berlin 1966, p. 47 (two examples known, perhaps copies after a lost original by Rembrandt). – A. Bredius and H. Gerson: Rembrandt, The Complete Edition of the Paintings, London,1969, no. 14, reproduced, appendix p. 535 (as not by Rembrandt). - P. Lecaldano: The Complete Paintings of Rembrandt, London, 1973, p. 133 (under 'Other Rembrantesque works formerly considered authograph by some critics or in public collections'). - J. Bruyn et.al.: A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. I, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster 1982, p. 658-661, no. C 40 (as imitation, probably not 17th century). - B. Schnackenburg: Jan Lievens, Friend and Rival of the Young Rembrandt, Petersburg 2016, p. 75, 78, 79, 97, 137, p. 249-251, no. 69, reproduced p. 250 (as by Jan Lievens, a self-portrait).


Tentoonstelling van schilderijen door oud­ Hollandsche en Vlaamsche meesters, Koninklijke Kunstzaal Kleykamp, The Hague, 1928, no. 32 (as by Rembrandt). - The 13th Loan Exhibition of Old Masters; Paintings by Rembrandt, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1930, no. 4. - Exposition de cent tableaux des maîtres anciens de cinq siècles, Cvijeta Zuzoric Art Pavilion, Belgrade, 1932, catalogue by G. Glück, no. 98. - Kung! Akademien for de fria konsterna, Mitt basta konstverk: en konsthistorisk oversit Ji·an utstallningen, Stockholm, 1941/2, no. 60 (as Rembrandt).