Mysterious Rembrandt etching found

Image courtesy of CUA

The fact that The Catholic University of America in Washington has opened a free art exhibit in a gallery in its campus library may not sound unusual. On display through May 24 are items from the university’s own collection: drawings, etchings, engravings and woodcut prints created by American and European artists.

None of them has been displayed before, but the newsworthy thing about the exhibit is one etching in particular:  an image of a tired old man “with a great beard seen about most of the face.” “His head a little perched gives him … the attitude of a  man who sleeps,” continues a description on the back of the work, translated from French by doctoral student Paul Wesley Bush.

About a year ago those in the know confirmed it’s an authentic Rembrandt — but the university didn’t know what it had at first. It was just lying around under some junk on a bottom shelf in a restroom in Nugent Hall, according to the university’s PR people .

A press release said that Vincentian Father David M. O’Connell, the university’s president, discovered it quite by accident in Nugent Hall, where his office is. He opened a cabinet in the restroom to find some paper towels and noticed on the bottom shelf something in a frame — “an etching that looked familiar to me.  Why it was there or how it got there, I’ll never know .”

The priest showed the etching to Leslie  Knoblauch, a university archvist, who contacted an appraiser. The appraiser confirmed it was a genuine Rembrandt. With Knoblauch, Bush put together the current exhibit: “Fine Lines: Discovering Rembrandt and Other Old Masters at Catholic University.”

2 Responses

  1. So that’s where we are keeping the Rembrandt’s now? In the toilet next to the paper towels? Too funny.

  2. Has there been any attempt to find out who actually owns the piece, and to return it to him or her.

    Or does the university claim that it is the rightful owner?

    Provenance?

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