Lot 60
  • 60

KAREL VAN DER PLUYM | A man, bust-length, holding a cane and his spectacles, by a wooden ledge

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • A man, bust-length, holding a cane and his spectacles, by a wooden ledge
  • oil on panel
  • 56.515 x 43.18 cm; 22 1/4 x 17 in.
bust-length, holding a cane and his spectacles, by a wooden ledge


Probably Charles Tottenham Loftus, 1st Marquess of Ely (1738-1806);
Thence probably by descent; 
Anonymous sale ("The genuine property of a Nobleman, in whose Family they have been for the greater part of a century..."), London, George Stanley, 13 May 1830, lot 60 (as Rembrandt, 'A pair of portraits: an Old Man holding spectacles and Woman holding a book,' where possibly unsold);
John Henry Loftus, 5th Marquess of Ely (1851-1925), Loftus Hall, County Wexford, Ireland; 
His sale, London, Christie's, 25 July 1891, lot 33 (as Rembrandt, 'An old man,' to Casella; sold consecutively with its pendant, lot 32, 'An old woman,' also to Casella);
With Martin H. Colnaghi, London;
Jules Porgès (1838-1921), Paris, by 1898;
Vicomte de Canson de la Lombardire, Paris;
Anonymous sale, Bern, Galerie Stuker, 22 November 1979, lot 2698 (as Rembrandt van Rijn, 'Portrait of Adriaen, Rembrandt's brother');
Anonymous sale ("Property from a European Private Collection"), London, Christie's, London, 3 July 2012, lot 7;
There acquired by the present owner. 


Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Rembrandt: Collection des oeuvres du maître réunies à l'occasion de l'inauguration de S.M. la Reine Wilhelmine au Musée de la Ville à Amsterdam, 3 September - 31 October 1898, no. 73 (as Rembrandt, lent by Jules Porgès);
Paris, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Exposition retrospective des grands et des petits maîtres hollandais du XVIIe siècle, 28 April - 10 July 1911, no. 113 (as Rembrandt).


W.A. von Bode and C. Hofstede de Groot, The complete works of Rembrandt: History, description and heliographic reproduction of all the master's pictures with a study of his life and his art, Paris 1897-1906, vol. V, p. 126, cat. no. 358, reproduced (as Rembrandt, Portrait of Rembrandt's Brother); 
W.R. Valentiner: Rembrandt: Des Meisters Gemälde in 643 Abbildungen, Stuttgart 1908, p. 332, reproduced (as Rembrandt, Portrait of Rembrandt's Brother, Adriaen);
A. Dayot, Grands et petits maîtres hollandais du XVIIe siècle, Paris 1912, p. 145, cat. no. 125, reproduced (as Rembrandt);
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, pp. 225-226, cat. no. 426 (as Rembrandt);
A. Bredius, "Wiedergefundene 'Rembrandts'," in  Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, 1921, vol. 56, p. 147 (as possibly by Van der Pluym);
W.R. Valentiner, "Nachträge zu den Erläuterungen" in Rembrandt: wiedergefundene Gemälde in 120 Abbildungen, Stuttgart 1921, p. 125, no. 332 (as not by Rembrandt, possibly by Maes, and attributed to Van der Pluym by Bredius);
A. Bredius, "Ein letztes Wort an Dr. Valentiner," in Kunstchronik 1922, pp. 391, 394;
A. Bredius, "Karel van der Pluym, neef en leerling van Rembrandt," in Oud Holland, XLVIII, 1931, pp. 251 and 256, reproduced fig. 10;
A. Bredius, "Pluym, Karel van der," in U. Thieme, F. Becker, and H. Vollmer (eds.), Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, vol. XXVII, Leipzig 1933, p. 164;
W. Sumowski, "Nachträge zum Rembrandtjahr 1956," in Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, II, 1957, p. 236;
R. Hamann and W. Sumowski, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Berlin 1969, p. 438, cat. no. S. 108, note 1;
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, vol. IV, Landau 1983, p. 2365, under no. 1593;
H. Adams, "If Not Rembrandt then his Cousin?," in The Art Bulletin, LXVI, September 1984, p. 438, n. 33.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: This painting is on a apparently stable panel, which has had a cradle added probably early in the last century, although there is no visible trace of past movement. It has neither caused nor resolved any problem with the seemingly perfectly stable panel. A certain amount of old varnish is evident throughout under ultra violet light, with some superficial retouching in the black drapery. The delicate glazing of the shadows in the face have been partly lost, probably long ago. Various pentimenti can be seen down the outer edge of the nose and outer edge of the moustache, as the silhouette is slightly adjusted. Other pentimenti or freely sketched ideas can be seen in the far side of the collar. Minor retouching is visible along the extreme Atop edge. However the portrait appears to have remained essentially true to itself despite such minor adjustments. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The hand responsible for this compelling and freely rendered portrait belongs to Karel van der Pluym, Rembrandt’s pupil and cousin.  Likely datable to the mid-1650s, it is among the finest works within this rare artist’s small yet accomplished oeuvre.  Characterized by a bold handling, thick impasto, as well as a keen sense of observation, it is of no surprise that this work was ascribed to Rembrandt for much of its early history.  A soft light illuminates this setting from left, highlighting the cheek of an elderly sitter, his wispy gray mustache and whiskers, the thin rim of the spectacles that he holds in his right hand which is resting on the ledge, and the wood of his cane that leans against his shoulder.  Wearing a black doublet and a large black hat, he looks to the viewer’s right, with small and pensive eyes, a furrowed brow, and pursed lips.  Although the identity of the sitter remains unknown today—having once been described as Rembrandt’s brother, Adriaen van Rijn—he is rendered with such a palpable degree of familiarity that the sitter was possibly  intimately known to the artist.

Formerly given to Rembrandt by Bode, Valentiner and Hofstede de Groot, Bredius was the first of the early Rembrandt scholars to identify this panel as by Karel van der Pluym. An artist from Leiden, Van der Pluym was born to a master craftsman and a woman named Cornelia van Suytbroek, Rembrandt’s first cousin.  Considering his familial connection and his Rembrandtesque style, it is probable that Van der Pluym trained as a young artist in Rembrandt’s studio in Amsterdam in the late 1640s.  By 1648, he was back in Leiden and joined the Guild of Saint Luke, later becoming a master in 1651 and its dean in 1654.  His life as an artist, however, was shared with his life as a public official within in Leiden, and this detail that may help explain his more limited, though incredibly refined, artistic output.  Rembrandt and van der Pluym seem to have maintained their relationship from afar, for Van der Pluym left Rembrandt’s son, Titus, a large sum of money in his will of 1662, and was also made Titus’ legal guardian in 1665.  Titus died in 1668, the year before Rembrandt passed away, while van der Pluym lived until 1672.

In composition, lighting, and application of paint, this work can be compared to other works by van der Pluym, including his signed Portrait of a man in a fur cap, also titled Geographer (fig. 1), today in the Art Institute of Chicago,1 as well as his Old Woman with a Book (present whereabouts unknown),2 the latter of which long served as a pendant to the present work.  The two were sold together in the 1891 sale of the property of the 5th Marquess of Ely and remained together until the early twentieth century.  They likely separated while in the collection of Jules Porgès, or very soon after.   

In 2011, Professor Werner Sumowski reconfirmed the attribution of the present lot on the basis of photographs. 


1.  Oil on panel, 71.3 by 54.8 cm, inv. no. 1988.265, formerly in the collection of Mr. Chester Tripp.  

2.  Oil on panel, 56 by 43 cm., See Sumowski, in Literature., p. 2375, cat. no. 1593