Fine art - Sensational price for an early Rembrandt?

The Lempertz Old Masters and Decorative Arts auctions were highly satisfactory at the weekend. Two interesting collections complemented the regular offerings: the Hofstätter collection from Vienna and the Klein Collection from Cologne. The biggest surprise of both days came from lot 1174. The painting 'Let The Children Come To Me', from a private Berlin collection.

The piece was consigned with a certificate from 1954, in which the Director of the Staatliche Museen von Berlin (Berlin State Museum), Dr. Zimmermann, attributed the work to the artist Govaert Finck. It quickly became clear however that the painting could not be from this artist, and the question of to whom it should be attributed met with various opinions. Before the auction Lempertz had consulted experts worldwide on this matter, who all came to different conclusions. As a result the work was eventually catalogued as Dutch school from the circle of Rembrandt.

This approach proved worthwhile, as the strong international interest for the 15/18,000 Euro canvas indicated. The first bidder left when the bidding went over the 100,000 mark, and there were three bidders left when it reached 400,000. By 900,000 the bidding had become a duel, with a Londoner only winning out against a prominent American collector with a bid of 1,525,000 Euro – in the hope of having discovered an early Rembrandt.