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Rembrandt en de Broederschap der Schilderkunst; een nieuwe hypothese voor de Pallas Athene in Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

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image of Oud Holland - Journal for Art of the Low Countries

The purchaser of a colour slide of the painting with the inventory number I488 in the Museu Gulbenkian in Lisbon will see that the work is entitled 'Palas Atcneia ou Alexandre'. This ambiguous designation is typical of the doubts surrounding this unsigned and undated painting, which is usually attributed to Rembrandt (fig. I). For some decades now, art-historical literature has put forward varying opinions about the painting, and it continues to give rise to questions. Its subject, date, backgrounds and attribution to Rembrandt are all controversial issues. The purpose of this article is to contribute to the forming of opinion regarding the Lisbon painting. The author presents a new hypothesis as to what prompted the work. On October 2I I654, painters, sculptors and their patrons gathered in the St. Joris Doelen in Amsterdam to celebrate the Feast of St. Luke. The occasion was marked by the publication of an anthology: 'Broederschap Der Schildcrkunst, INGEWYDT Door SCHILDERS, BEELDTHOUWERS En des Zelfs BEGUNSTIGERS; Op den zI van Wynmaent I654, op St. Joris Doelen, in ANISTER-DAM'. The book contains three texts, the third of which is by Asselijn. It seems to be a play that was performed during the festivities. Towards the end an election of a painter and a sculptor from among those present is described. Both must make a work of art. The painter has to paint a Minerva; the sculptor is asked to carve an Apollo from stone. Unfortunately Asselijn does not say who was the winner, although he does refer to the candidates as the foremost representatives of their profession. Jan Vos' well-known poem Strydt tusscben de Doodt en Natuur, of Zeege der Schilderkunst, also written in I654, may have been connected with the celebrations held that year. A passage in the text lists the names of a number of artists. The fact that Rembrandt comes first and the context in which this happens could suggest that Vos regarded Rembrandt as Amsterdam's leading painter at that time. Various indications support the author's assumption that this opinion was probably shared by members of Vos' circle such as Kretzer and Meures, both of whom participated in the I654 festivities, and Six and Soop, with whom Vos, Kretzer and Meures were well acquainted. All this suggests that Rembrandt was very likely a candidate for election and that he was invited to paint a Minerva at the time of the celebration. Assuming that the invitation really was issued, Rembrandt must have painted this subject in I654 or thereabouts. It could be the work which is now in Lisbon and whose subject might well be identified as Minerva.


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