At Frieze Master’s this week, Zurich-based Koetser Gallery will have something unusual on display at their booth: an early masterpiece by Rembrandt van Rijn.
The restored painting Blind Tobit with the Return of Tobias and the Archangel Raphael (ca. 1628–29) will be on offer for an asking price around €28 million ($30 million). The oil painting, which has been owned by the same US-based private collection since 1978, was recently restored this past summer and featured in the exhibition “Chasing Rembrandt: The Wadsworth’s Quest for a Rembrandt” at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.
“The picture is in a remarkable state of preservation, and cleaning this past summer, after many decades, removed discoloured varnish—thereby returning the painting to a pristine presentation,” dealer David H. Koetser told ARTnews in an emailed statement.
When asked about the gallery’s decision to bring the paintings to Frieze Masters, Koetser said, “Blind Tobit is an early masterpiece by the artist, a wonderfully-moving painting, and London is a great market for exhibiting exceptional works of art.”
Prior to the Wadsworth, Blind Tobit hung in the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, in the German city of Aachen from 2013 to 2019, and then had been exhibited at the Museum de Lakenhal in Leiden, the Netherlands, and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, from 2019 to 2020.
The painting portrays the Jewish story of the blind old man Tobit stumbling toward the doorway to greet his son Tobias. Tobit’s wife Anna is already outside, welcoming their son, where the Archangel Raphael can be seen riding on a donkey. Tobias’ dog is also shown happily jumping on Tobit, announcing his owner’s return from a long journey.
A press release from Koestser Gallery describes the painting as “amongst the most important Leiden-period Rembrandts left in private hands.” There has, however, been debate over the painting’s attribution to Rembrandt. In 1982, the Rembrandt Research Project “expressed reservations” about Blind Tobit in a catalogue entry despite having previously attributed to Rembrandt. Some scholars have attributed the painting work, dated to 1628 to 1629, is also attributed to Dutch Golden Age painter Gerrit Dou, who was a pupil of Rembrandt’s.
Citing Peter van den Brink (the director emeritus of Suermondt-Ludwig), Christopher Brown (the director emeritus of the Ashmolean), and 20th-century art historians J.G. van Gelder and A.B. de Vries, the gallery said that the Tobit painting “is a work by Rembrandt with either partial collaboration from his pupil, Gerrit Dou, in specific elements (such as the highly-finished plate at left), or its subsequent partial completion by Dou after Rembrandt left for Amsterdam (or both).”
The statement continued, “The Gallery, having weighed all the evidence in the entire attributional dossier in its consideration, adjudges Tobit as Rembrandt with Dou, upon its analysis of all relevant opinions—historic, modern, and contemporary.”
Authentic Rembrandt paintings in private collections rarely come up for sale, and often command at least eight-figure sums. Later this year, Sotheby’s will auction Rembrandt’s The Adoration of the Kings as part of its OId Master evening sale in London on December 6. The painting carries an estimate of £10 million to £15 million ($12.2 million to $18.4 million), as well as a third-party guarantee.
A Rembrandt last came to auction when the Dutch master’s 1632 self-portrait sold in 2020 for £14.5 million (with fees) against an estimate of £12 million to £16 million. In 2018, an oil sketch for a head of Christ sold for £9.5 million; it was purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Similarly, the panel painting Abraham and Angels (ca. 1646) was withdrawn from a Sotheby’s sale in 2021, but the house later said it was sold privately “within its original estimate of $20 million–$30 million.” The current auction record for Rembrandt was realized when Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo (1658) sold for €23.2 million with fees in 2009.