Second Paper Assignment


Paper Topic

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) is arguably one of the most famous European painters of the seventeenth century, but his oeuvre (body of work) has been notoriously difficult to establish. In 1969, a committee of art historians, called the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP), was convened to examine the more than 600 paintings then attributed to Rembrandt and to determine which were painted by the artist and which were not. The project generated controversy over its methods and its determination that a number of celebrated paintings in major museums, including Man with the Golden Helmet in the State Museums of Berlin, Young Woman at an Open Half-Door in the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Polish Rider in the Frick Collection in New York, are not, in fact, by Rembrandt. Recently, several paintings deattributed to Rembrandt have been reattributed to him.

These deattributions and reattributions were reported in several national and international newspapers and in magazines like Time. Authenticity is important it seems, and not only to art historians. But why is it important? Basing your analysis on the following articles, write a 5–7 page paper assessing the issue of authenticity. What were some of the methods used by the RRP to attribute or deattribute paintings to Rembrandt, and why were/are they controversial? Why does it (or doesn’t it) matter whether the paintings under discussion are by Rembrandt? What is our investment as modern viewers in authenticity?

This is not a research paper. You should base your analysis on the following short articles:

  • Ernst van de Wetering, “Connoisseurship and Rembrandt’s Paintings: New Directions in the Rembrandt Research Project, part II.” Burlington Magazine 150 (February 2008): 83–90.
  • Sylvia Hochfield, “Rembrandt: Myth, Legend, Truth.” ARTnews 105 (Summer 2006): 156–67.
  • Sylvia Hochfield, “What is a Real Rembrandt?” ARTnews 103 (February 2004): 82–93.
  • J.S. Marcus, “An Expert Cites Dozens of Paintings as Rembrandt’s.” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2014.
  • Nelson Goodman, “Authenticity.” Oxford Art Online, 1996.

The following reading is not part of the assignment. It is the article to which van de Wetering responds in his text. You are, of course, welcome to discuss it in your paper if it helps you support your claims:

  • Christopher Brown, “The Rembrandt Year.” Burlington Magazine 149 (February 2007): 104–108.

Grading Policy

  • The paper will count for 15% of your course grade.
  • The paper is due by the end of the day on Tuesday of week 10. Late papers may be penalized one third of a letter grade per day.
  • Quality of Your Arguments. Your grade does not depend on whether you are right or wrong but on the quality of your observations and arguments. Make sure to support your arguments with evidence.
  • Errors in Grammar and Spelling. One third of a grade may be deducted for every five typographical or grammatical errors that appear in your paper. In cases where the same error is repeated over and over, each instance may be treated as a separate error. Thus, if your grade would have been a B+ but you have five grammatical or spelling mistakes (even if they are all instances of the same error) you may receive a paper grade of B. If your grade would have been a B+, but you have ten grammatical or spelling mistakes, you may receive a grade of B- and so on. Please proofread your paper.
  • Intellectual Honesty. Please be sure to properly footnote any direct quotes from the readings that you use and any ideas that are not your own that you paraphrase in your paper. If you are found to have plagiarized any part of your paper, you will receive an automatic grade of F for the course and will be reported to the appropriate Institution committees for disciplinary action.