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74

PROPERTY OF THE SHIPPY FOUNDATION IN THE AID OF EDUCATION, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND HUMAN SERVICE

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam
SAINT JAMES THE GREATER 
Estimate
18,000,00025,000,000
LOT SOLD. 25,800,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
74

PROPERTY OF THE SHIPPY FOUNDATION IN THE AID OF EDUCATION, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND HUMAN SERVICE

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam
SAINT JAMES THE GREATER 
Estimate
18,000,00025,000,000
LOT SOLD. 25,800,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Old Master Paintings and European Works of Art

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New York

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam
LEIDEN 1606 - 1669 AMSTERDAM
SAINT JAMES THE GREATER 
signed and dated lower right Rembrandt f. 1661
oil on canvas
36 1/4 by 29 1/2 in.; 92.1 by 74.9 cm.
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Provenance

Probably sale of the heirs of Caspar Netscher, A. Schouwman et al. (the catalogue does not distinguish between the consignors), The Hague, July 15, 1749, lot 122 (as A Pilgrim Praying);
Collections of the MacKenzies of Kintore;
Sir John Charles Robinson, London;
Consul Edmund Friedrich Weber, Hamburg, by 1872 until 1895, when given in exchange for Rembrandt’s Christ with the Woman taken in Adultery to Charles Sedelmeyer;
With Charles Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1895;
Maurice Kann, Paris, 1901;
With Duveen Brothers, Paris and New York;
With Henry Reinhardt, New York, 1913;
John North Willys, Toledo, Ohio (by 1916), and New York (1935);
Isabel van Wie Willys (formerly Mrs. John N. Willys), New York;
By whom sold, New York, Parke-Bernet, New York, 25 October 1945, lot 16, for $75,000 to
Billy Rose, New York, until 1950;
Oscar B. Cintas, Havana and New York;
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Carlton Clark by 1955,
Thence by descent in the family and given in January 2006 to the Shippy Foundation.

Exhibited

Toledo, Museum of Art, Paintings of the Early English and Dutch Schools, loaned by John North Willys, 1913, no. 84; 
Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Thirteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters, Paintings by Rembrandt, May 2-31 1930, no. 67;
New York, World’s Fair, Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, Masterpieces of Art, May–October 1939, no. 309;
New York, Wildenstein and Company, A Loan Exhibition of Rembrandt at Wildenstein, January 19 – February 25, 1950, no. 24;
New York, Knoedler & Co., A Collector's Taste, January 12 - January 30 1954, no. 4, pl. 4;
New York, The Parke-Bernet Galleries, Art Treasures Exhibition, 1955, no. 340;
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture Collected by Yale Alumni: An Exhibition, May 19 - June 26, 1960, no. 12;
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on loan 1958-1963;
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, October 23 – December 7, 1969, Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, December 22, 1969 – February 1, 1970, Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, February­ 24 – April 5, 1970, Rembrandt after three hundred years; an exhibition of Rembrandt and his followers, no. 20;
Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, on loan, 1986;
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, on extended loan 1991–2005;
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Prized Possessions: European Paintings from Private Collections of friends of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, no. 121;
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, October 1 – December 7, 1997, Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, December 17, 1997– February 15, 1998, Rembrandt: A Genius and His Impact, no. 21;
New York, Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, October 3 – November 18, 2000, Rembrandt and the Venetian Influence, no. 2;
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2003, Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, February 14 – May 9, 2004, Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter, Draftsman, Etcher, no. 216;
Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art, January 30 – May 1, 2005, Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, June 7 – August 28, 2005, Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits, no. 9;
Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, October 1, 2005 – January 15, 2006, Rembrandt's Apostles, no. ;
Amsterdam, Rembrandthuis, Rembrandt, Zoektocht van een Genie, 1 April – 2 July 2006, no. 113;
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 4 August – 5 November 2006, Rembrandt, ein Genie auf der Suche,  no. 76.

Literature

P. Terwesten, Supplement to G. Hoet, Catalogus of naamlijst van Schilderijen , et derselver Prijsen, vol. III, Amsterdam 1772, p. 13;
E. Michel, Rembrandt Harmensz Van Rijn, A Memorial of his Tercentenary, Paris 1886, p. 98-99; 
C. Woermann, `Meisterwerke Niederländischer Maler in der Galerie Weber zu Hamburg,’ in Die Graphischen Künste, 14, 1891, p. 32;
A.  Rosenberg, `Kleine Mitteilungen,’ in Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, 27, 1892, p. 168;
É. Michel, Rembrandt, sa vie, son oeuvre, et son temps, Paris, 1893, p. ;
É. Michel, Rembrandt, His Life, His Work and His Time, vol. II, London and New York 1894, pp. 161-162, 165, 242 where it is cited as no. 213 in Dr. K. Woermann's catalogue of 1887;
Sedelmeyer Gallery, Illustrated Catalogue of the Third Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, 1896, pp. 40–41, cat. no. 29;
W. von Bode (assisted by C. Hofstede de Groot), The Complete Work of Rembrandt: history, description and heliographic reproduction of all the master's pictures; with a study of his life and his art, Paris 1901, vol. 6, p. 29, no. 485;
É. Michel, Rembrandt, His Life, His Work and His Time, London and New York 1903, p. 374;
W.R. Valentiner (ed.), Rembrandt, des meisters Gemälde, Stuttgart & Leipzig 1904, p. 234;
W.R. Valentiner (ed.), Rembrandt, des meisters Gemälde, revised and expanded ed., Stuttgart & Berlin, 1908-9, p. 457;
C. Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII Jahrhunderts, vol. VI, Esslingen & Paris, 1916, no. 170;
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century Based on the Work of John Smith, vol. VI, London 1916, p. 121, no. 170;
W. Roberts, Catalogue Raisonné of the collection of pictures formed by John N. Willys, Esq., New York 1917;
W.R. Valentiner, "Die Vier Evangelisten Rembrandts," in Kunstchronik und Kunstmarket, Leipzig 1920, p. 221, no. 12;
R. Flint, `John N. Willys’ Collection,’ in International Studio, 80, February 1925, pp. 366, 368;
W.R. Valentiner, The Thirteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters, Paintings by Rembrandt, exhibition cat., Detroit 1930, p. 26, no. 67;
W.R. Valentiner, Rembrandt Paintings in America, New York 1931, no. 152;
A. Bredius (ed.), The Paintings of Rembrandt, Vienna 1935-1936, pp. 26-7, no. 617 and under no. 615, reproduced fig. 617;
G. H. McCall, W. R. Valentiner (ed.), Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800.  Masterpieces of Art, exhibition catalogue, New York 1939, p. 150, no. 309, reproduced plate 69;
J. Rosenberg, Rembrandt, Cambridge (Mass.) 1948, vol. I, p. 219, note 3;
A Loan Exhibition of Rembrandt, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1950, p. 19, no. 24, reproduced plate XXI;
O. Benesch, `Worldly and Religious Portraits in Rembrandt’s Late Art,’ in The Art Quarterly, 19, Winter 1956, p. 346;
O. Benesch, Rembrandt:  Biographical and Critical Study, Geneva, 1957, p. 118;
F. Neugass, `Kunstsommer USA,’ in Die Weltkunst, vol. 28, September 1, 1958, p. 3;
K. Bauch, Rembrandt: Gemälde, Berlin 1966, p. 13, no. 236;
H. Gerson, Rembrandt Gemälde, Berlin 1969, pp. 424-425;
H. Gerson, Rembrandt Paintings, (English ed. of the above), New York 1968, pp. 424–425;
A. Bredius, revised by H. Gerson, Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings,  London 1969, pp. 521, 613, no. 617;
Rembrandt after Three Hundred Years:  An Exhibition of Rembrandt and His Followers, exhibition catalogue, Chicago 1969;
G. Arpino, L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt, Milano 1969, no. 401, pp- 120-121;
O. Benesch, `Worldly and Religious Portraits in Rembrandt’s Late Art,’ (reprint of article in The Art Quarterly), in Otto Benesch Collected Writings, Volume I:  Rembrandt, London 1970, p. 198;
J. Bolten and H. Bolten-Rempt, The Hidden Rembrandt, Chicago 1977, p. 201, reproduced no. 522;
C. Brown, Rembrandt:  Every Painting, New York 1980, vol. II, p. 74, no. 359;
G. Schwartz, Rembrandt, zijn leven, zijn schilderijen, Maarssen, 1984, p. 313, no. 356, reproduced;
G. Schwartz, Rembrandt: His Life, His Paintings, (English ed. of the above), New York 1985, p. 313;
C. Tümpel, Rembrandt:  Mythos und Methode, Königstein-im-Taunus 1986, pp. 339, 342, 399, no. 82;
P. C. Sutton, Prized Possessions: European Paintings from Private Collections of Friends of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition catalogue, Boston 1992, pp. 60, 198–199, no. 121;
C. Tümpel, Rembrandt:  all paintings in colour, Antwerp 1993, pp. 342, 402, cat. no. 82;
A. Blankert, `The Apostle James Major,’ in Rembrandt:  A Genius and His Impact, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne 1997, pp. 158-160, cat. no. 21, reproduced;
S. Schama, Rembrandt’s Eyes, New York 1999, pp. 656–657;
Rembrandt and the Venetian Influence, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2000, cat. no. 2, pp. 46–47, 68–69;
R. Baer, The Poetry of Everyday Life:  Dutch Painting in Boston, exhibition catalogue, Boston 2002, p. 75;
C. Ackley & S. Welsh Reed, `The Apostle James,’ in Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter, Draftsman, Etcher, exhibition catalogue,  Boston 2003, pp. 309–310, 333, no. 216;
A.K. Wheelock, `Rembrandt's Apostles and Evangelists', in  Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits, exhibition catalogue, Washington 2005, pp. 29, 32;
P. C. Sutton, `The Apostle James the Major,’ in A.K. Wheelock, Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits, exhibition catalogue, Washington 2005, pp. 102–105, 135, no. 9, reproduced ;
P. C. Sutton, “The Apostle James the Major,” in Rembrandt’s Apostles, exhibition catalogue, San Diego 2005, pp. 21, 34–39;
E. van de Wetering, in Rembrandt, Quest of a Genius, (published in conjunction with the Amsterdam exhibition) Zwolle 2006, p. 119, reproduced p. 121, fig. 113;
E. van der Wetering, in Rembrandt, ein  Genie auf der Suche, exhibition catalogue, Berlin 2006, pp. 396-400, no. 76, reproduced.

Engraved:
A. Krüger, etching, 1892

 

Catalogue Note

Alongside his last self-portraits, Rembrandt’s late religious pictures, of which this is the only example left in private hands, are the artist's most significant body of work from the final decade of his life. They bear all the hallmarks of his late style – monumentality, thickly constructed layers of paint, use of colour to create tone, and above all a depth of psychological penetration that far exceeds his earlier work, and which remained unmatched in Western art for at least another two hundred years.

As the title of the recent Washington exhibition devoted to them suggests, these religious pictures are predominantly portraits of religious figures drawn from the New Testament, rather than narratives.  Arthur Wheelock, curator of the exhibition put it thus: “He depicted these biblical figures as real people, not as idealized heroes, but as men and women who walked the earth with passions and beliefs, with fears and anxieties similar to those felt by the rest of humanity”.1  In their subject and their type these pictures form a more-or-less cohesive group, but further definition of them – in particular the demarcation of them from the rest of Rembrandt’s work - and an understanding of their purpose, their iconography and conformity to an iconographic programme, or indeed of Rembrandt’s motives in creating them and any relationship that they might have to his own circumstances, remains elusive.  They represent an obvious shift from Rembrandt’s earlier preoccupation with Old Testament themes, and thus if any attempt to explain them in terms of Rembrandt’s own faith were to be convincing, it would need to be accompanied by evidence of a change in his beliefs or confession.  Thus, that Rembrandt may have been a Mennonite, as indeed many of his patrons, clients and friends were, and Mennonite beliefs centre on the close engagement of man in his spiritual life with biblical texts, and that the Mennonites felt a close association with the early Christian martyrs, is insufficient to permit any connection between the genesis of this late group of religious pictures with Rembrandt’s confessional practices.2

The group of late religious “portraits” to which this picture belongs and its definition has been the subject of much scholarly discussion and a considerable measure of disagreement since 1919, when Schmidt-Degener first proposed that Rembrandt made a group of Apostles and Evangelists in 1661.3  Schmidt-Degener did not include the present work, but did include Christ and the Virgin Mary, rendering the iconography disparate – as indeed it is.  Subsequent discussions of the group caused it to fluctuate in size and scope, and extended it over a number of years of execution, and as is inevitably the case with Rembrandt, the question of attribution has clouded the picture, so that works added to the group on thematic grounds by some scholars have been removed by others on grounds of attribution – and it remains to this day an open question whether or not Rembrandt painted these works in collaboration with his pupils, some of whom may have contributed completed paintings.

In his catalogue entry for the present work in the Rembrandt exhibition in Berlin, Ernst van de Wetering, reflecting recent scholarly consensus, refers to a group of more than a dozen half-length Apostles and several half length figures of Christ, all dating from circa 1661, including the Self-Portrait in the Rijksmuseum which displays the attributes of Saint Paul.4  While the pictures in this group display common characteristics in style and in the choice of and treatment of their subjects, it is generally agreed that these dozen works do not have enough in common to define them as a series. As Arthur Wheelock and others have noted, they do not display the formal and iconographic consistency that one would associate with a preconceived group, and display inconsistencies in style, artistic approach and mood.5  A further objection to the notion of any formally conceived series is that Saints Bartholomew and Paul are portrayed twice, while other Apostles, such as Saint Peter, are omitted entirely.  Perhaps Rembrandt’s unstructured approach to creating works in series may have resulted from a change of plan mid-stream. We may in this regard defer to a source who lived in Rembrandt’s own century, Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719), who wrote of Rembrandt: “But one thing is to be regretted and that is that he was so quick to change and move on to other things that many of his works were left only half-way finished."6  There is likely to be quite a lot of truth in this caricature, and in the light of this insight into Rembrandt’s character, it would not be surprising if he started a series of paintings but lacked the patience to finish them, as Arthur Wheelock has observed,7 or if he allowed a conceived series to metamorphose into something different including pictures more loosely associated with one another – encompassing for example, a self portrait, as in the Rijksmuseum St. Paul.   Alternatively, it might be closer to the truth to see this loosely linked series of pictures as part of a continuing struggle on the part of the artist in and around 1661 to grapple with a theme - the reconciliation of Christian values as embodied in those around Jesus Christ with the fragility and vulnerability of human beings. That said, as Ernst van de Wetering stresses, Rembrandt made or worked on more series of images - for example in etched form - than most artists, and their existence may have been triggered by others, or by Rembrandt himself on commercial grounds.8

Arthur Wheelock has listed what in his view might be seen as a core group of Apostles and Evangelists depicted as “portraits”, all of which date from 1661, and are of approximately the same size and shape.  These include alongside the present work The Evangelist Matthew and the Angel in the Louvre, The Apostle Bartholomew in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (see Fig. 1), The Apostle Simon in the Kunsthaus, Zurich, the Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and The Apostle James the Lesser(?) in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.9  Ernst van de Wetering, Head of the Rembrandt Research Project scrutinized, measured and studied the six paintings at the time of the Washington exhibition, and became convinced that they belonged together, albeit in a not altogether clear functional way: for example Apostles and Evangelists are not usually found together in a single series.10  Subsequently, in his 2006 exhibition catalogue entry, Ernst van de Wetering, endorsed Arthur Wheelock’s proposed core group, which he reproduced together.11 

Even defining this core group along thematic lines is a hazardous exercise, and that divining the precise intended purpose or purposes of the creation of the pictures that may comprise it is no easier in the absence of any other evidence.  Nonetheless, they have so much in common that treating them as unrelated works makes no sense.  A recent technical examination and cleaning of the present work undertaken by Martin Bijl however, together with some existing information about other paintings in the group has revealed a great deal of evidence to suggest that they were indeed conceived as a series, and that they were perhaps displayed together in a room.  That this has not been obvious hitherto may in part be due to Rembrandt’s somewhat unorthodox working method.

Evidence from technical examination and cleaning
Four of the pictures in the core group and the present work share the remnants of a black border around each image, while the Rijksmuseum picture has a border indicated with scratched lines.  This information further distinguishes this core group from other related works by Rembrandt from around this time.  These borders appear to have been intended by Rembrandt to define the pictorial area. Fig. 2 shows the pictorial areas as Rembrandt intended it, at any rate as defined by three of its four edges.  In the present work the evidence is confused by the addition of a later strip of canvas of about 1½ inched or 4 cm to the left.  This was probably added at a much later date, with the intention of expanding the composition to the left, to move the Saint closer to the centre of the composition.  If so, whoever did it misunderstood Rembrandt’s intention in composing the picture in the way that he did, with the Saint’s prominent hands in the centre of his composition.  Technical examination of the picture makes it clear that this strip was never intended to be there, and does not replace any part of the original painting that, for example, might have been cut off, although it does replace a probably narrower strip of the original canvas on which a black border at the left would have been painted by the artist to the define the left edge of the pictorial space.  Rembrandt would have painted onto a primed canvas stretched within a strainer - a rectangular frame to which the canvas was attached by tensioned lacing along its edges.  The diagonal pattern of craquelure caused by the paint drying while the canvas was still attached to the strainer can clearly be seen in raking light, and are indicated in fig. 6.  This shows that the canvas is close to its original dimensions.  The black painted borders have never been folded over a stretcher or used in any other way as a tacking edge, and there is no evidence of original scalloping to indicate that the canvas was attached to a conventional stretcher in Rembrandt's day.

While on its strainer, Rembrandt defined the image that he wanted using black borders on the top, bottom and right hand edges (see fig. 5).  The top border extends 3 cm. down from the current stretched edge; the bottom border is 2.5 cm. wide; the right hand border 2.2 cm. wide (there may have been a border on the left edge; if so it would have been 3 cm wide at the most).  Rembrandt seems to have done this before – probably just before – adding the signature and date, and the highlights.  This is also true of the Rijksmuseum picture, as Martin Bijl has observed.12

Examination of the painting with X-Rays (see fig. 3) reveals two holes in each of the four corners of the canvas.  These holes are visible to the naked eye, and were especially so once over-painting had been removed (see fig. 4).  Their position, marked in a scale diagram of the canvas, fig. 5, also shows clearly that the original canvas was close in size to its present dimensions, without the strip added to the left, since the holes at the left are still present, and several centimetres inside the left edge.   These holes appear to have been caused by - or made for - wooden pegs, and the most plausible explanation for them is that they were used to affix the unstretched canvas to flat profiles of panelling. 

Fig. G shows the right hand edge of the painting.  Three rectangular marks, each about 2.cm in from the right hand edge, and thus just within the black border are visible under X-Ray, and may also be seen with the naked eye in stripped condition (see figs 3 and 4).  These appear to have resulted from pressure on the unhardened paint, since the paint layers have been completely impacted by them.  The most likely explanation for them is that they result from a strip of wood applied to the right edge clamping the un-stretched canvas in position.  There may well have been equivalent marks along the left hand edge, now missing.  The evidence of these marks, the eight peg-holes and the black borders is indicating the pictorial space is consistent, and the most plausible interpretation of it is that  the un-stretched canvas was inset into the panelling of a room, attached to a supporting panel by pegs at the corners. If so, it seems likely that the present work would indeed have formed part of a cycle of Apostles and Evangelists, most likely the core group of six defined most recently by Arthur Wheelock.  Because of the positions of the peg-holes in the present work, some of which are within the area defined by the painted border, the panelling opening would have to have been smaller than the the pictorial space that they define.  This may have been to permit a standard size opening for the six paintings, since the pictorial space that Rembrandt defined by his borders is not the same in each case corresponding to the painted area within Rembrandt’s marked borders.  Until the other five paintings have been examined in the light of Martin Bijl’s discoveries about the present work, this must remain a working hypothesis only.  It is worth noting however, that the present canvas seems to have been cut from the same bolt of cloth as the Saint Bartholomew from the same group in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (see Fig. 1).

The recent cleaning, removing a grey synthetic varnish which muted the colours in the painting has revealed other characteristics of Rembrandt’s late style.  Throughout the Saint’s cape may be seen large clumps of solid yellow and orange pigment which Rembrandt left in situ as they flowed from his brush, without breaking them up.  His exact purpose in doing this is unclear.  It may merely have resulted from his speed of working, but it has the effect of leavening overall yellow-brown tone of the cape with points of stronger colour.  Rembrandt worked in a similar way when painting the hands, the point of the picture to which our attention is naturally drawn, and which anchors the composition in the centre.  Unlike the Saint’s face, they are fully lit, and Rembrandt has introduced brushstrokes of rich rusty orange paint to modify the pink flesh tones and make them richer.    

Rembrandt’s late Apostles and Evangelists
The technical evidence now points in favour of Rembrandt having conceived a formal series of at least six “portraits” of New Testament figures, of which this is one, probably painted in a short space of time in and around 1661, and possibly to be displayed in a room.  What then is their common pictorial character that unites them?  They are personal and humane in approach, contemplative and spiritual in character, brooding and thoughtful in mood, predominantly monochromatic and dark in tone, but luminous in lighting and painted with a surprisingly broad palette.  As Arthur Wheelock most eloquently put it: “As these religious figures, so vulnerable in their humanity, try to comprehend the mysteries of life and the Christian message, they also seem to struggle with an awareness of their own impending mortality.  In Rembrandt’s hands, their efforts to reconcile these conflicting forces are both heart-wrenching and profoundly human”.13  Simon Schama saw the subjects of these pictures as figures who inhabit both the scriptural and the modern world.  In this he is not setting them substantially apart from Rembrandt's earlier history pictures, predominantly of Old Testament subjects.  Schama goes further than this however, seeing in them the same characteristics of humanity, frailty  and vulnerability as Arthur Wheelock was to do, when he wrote: "It's hard to look at the intensely wrought and self-contained images, in which the history of their fervor is written less in their props than on their faces and bodies - in the profile of St. James's enormous hands, or in the deep creases of Bartholomew's brows - and not feel that Rembrandt is trying to establish their sanctity from their humanity, insisting not on the distance between the life of the holy man and that of the everyday sinner, but, on the contrary, on their close proximity".14

The subject and its importance
Early scholars considered the subject of this work to be an anonymous pilgrim, but Hofstede de Groot and virtually all subsequent scholars have regarded him as the Apostle Saint James the Greater (or James Major)15]  Saint James, a fisherman of Galilee, was one of the twelve apostles who was closest to Christ, and with Saints Peter and John was with Him at the Agony in the Garden and the Transfiguration.  He was tried in Jerusalem and executed in AD 44 by Agrippa.  Depictions of him in art, including this one, however, depend on legends that date from the Middle Ages that relate that he went on a mission to Spain, and is buried there.  His supposed tomb was discovered around the 9th Century in Compostela, which had become an important pilgrimage site.  From the 13th Century onward he was usually depicted, as here, in the habit of a pilgrim.  His scallop shell which fastens his cape, and  his staff and broad-brimmed hat are all associated with pilgrims.  The asceticism of the pilgrim is also accentuated by his pose – in almost full profile, kneeling in prayer, with his eyes closed and his fingers loosely linked.  For Rembrandt it was an unusual image to have painted: one of uncompromising piety.  He presents us with an ascetic and other-worldly figure removed from the domain of human emotion which most of Rembrandt’s subjects inhabit.  Many scholars have been struck by this.  Otto Benesch drew a comparison with the pre-Renaissance world from which the Saint James as a pilgrim myth arose, noting that he “reminds us … of a donor in a Gothic panel painting”.16  Von Bode praised “the pilgrim’s personality, his ascetic features and the fervid devotion that fascinated the master”.17  Naturally, Von Bode was making assumptions about Rembrandt’s intentions – his “fascinations”, but the assumptions are not implausible.  The most arresting large hands of the Apostle, linked but not clenched, without tension, dominate the centre of the composition.  They appear to be above life-size, as Rembrandt no doubt intended that they should.  They emblematize the ascetic devotion that we see in the Saint’s face.  Because the Saint is wholly engaged in prayer and his attention is wholly given to the spiritual, we do not see him as a human figure with human failings.  Nonetheless, his arduous earthly life is stressed as a counterpart to his spirituality.  Rembrandt has captured the steely grey-blue sheen of his greasy unwashed and uncombed hair where the light from the upper left catches it.  His dirty fingernails, his unkempt appearance and heavy, shabby pilgrim’s clothes shows that he is unconcerned about outward appearance.

Provenance
Saint James the Greater has had a long and illustrious provenance.  It can be traced back to an auction in The Hague in 1749, where it was probably consigned by the heirs of Casper Netscher, the seventeenth century Dutch painter and younger contemporary of Rembrandt.  In the nineteenth century it was part of the collections of two connoisseurs:  the first was Sir John Charles Robinson (1824-1913), the earliest curator of the South Kensington Museum, which later became the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures; and the second, the renowned Hamburg collector Consul Edmund Friedrich Weber (1830-1907).  In 1892 Weber exchanged the painting with the Paris dealer Charles Sedelmeyer, for another work by Rembrandt, Christ  with the woman taken in Adultery.

Joseph Duveen, the noted art dealer, brought Saint James the Greater to the United States, where it belonged to a succession of men whose interests were as varied as they were famous. The first was John North Willys (1873-1935) an automotive pioneer from Toledo, who later moved to New York City.  Then in 1945 the lyricist and producer "Broadway" Billy Rose (1899-1966) purchased the painting for $75,000 at an auction at the Parke-Bernet Galleries.  It was later acquired by Oscar B. Cintas (1887-1957), Cuban railroad magnate and ambassador to Washington.  His was a wide-ranging collection, and in addition to other old master and modern paintings, owned the fifth and final manuscript of the Gettysburg address, now in the Lincoln bedroom in the White House.  By 1955 Stephen Carlton Clark (1882-1960) acquired Saint James the Greater, and it has descended in his family until it was given to the Shippy Foundation, who has consigned it for sale here.

1  Wheelock, 2005, p. 14.
2  It has been sugested, by Wheelock (2005, p. 25) and others, that the subjects of this group of paintings may have had a specific Mennonite connection, since in 1660, successful intercession by leading Mennonites with the Burgomasters of Amsterdam lead to an influx of Mennonite and Swiss Anabaptists refugees into that city later in the year from the Cantons of Bern and Zurich, where they had suffered persecution.
3  F. Schmidt-Degener, `Rembrandt en Vondel’, in De Gids, 83, 1919, pp. 264-6.
4  Van de Wetering, 2006, p. 396. Van de Wetering notes that some may have been painted with the assistance of Rembrandt’s workshop.
5  Wheelock, 2005, p. 29
6  A. Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantse konstschilders en schilderessen, The Hague 1753, vol. I, p. 258, here cited in translation given in E. van de Wetering, op. cit, 2000, p. 44.
7  Wheelock, 2005, p. 30.
8  Written communication.
9  Wheelock 2005, p. 29, and cat. nos. 7, 8, 10, 12
10  Written communication.  The picture was examined in Washington with Melanie Gifford of the Scientific Department of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
11  Van de Wetering 2006, p. 396, and reproduced pp. 398-9, figs 1-4. Van de Wetering notes that the inconsistencies between them are found elsewhere in Rembrandt’s oeuvre, and do not make a convincing case for different authorship within the group.
12  Verbal communication. 
13  Wheelock, 2005, p. 34.
14  Schama, 1999, pp. 656-7.
15  Hofstede de Groot, 1916, p. 121.
16  Benesch, 1956, p. 346.
17  Von Bode 1901, p. 29.

 

 

 

Important Old Master Paintings and European Works of Art

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