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Rembrandt? The case of Saul and David, Mauritshuis, The Hague

The Mauritshuis will unveil the restored painting Saul and David. The artwork has been painstakingly researched and will be shown to the public for the first time since 2007. Rembrandt? The case of Saul and David leads visitors through the fascinating research that was conducted, which led to some surprising discoveries about the origin, the history, and the attribution of this masterpiece. This exhibition will take place between the 11th of June and the 13th of September 2015.

The painting Saul and David first emerged in 1830 at an auction in Paris. It then remained on the market for years until its purchase by Mauritshuis director Abraham Bredius in 1898. There was no doubt in his mind that this was one of Rembrandt's most important paintings. After his death in 1946, he left the painting to the museum.

In the nineteen-sixties and -seventies, Rembrandt's oeuvre was re-examined. Horst Gerson (a Rembrandt expert and authority in his time) de-attributed many of Rembrandt's paintings, including Saul and David. Opinions about the attribution of the work have varied widely ever since: is it really by Rembrandt? By a pupil? Or perhaps both? In order to solve the problem once and for all, the Mauritshuis decided to research and restore the painting again in 2007. By applying state of the art techniques developed by Delft University of Technology, and through collaboration with other specialists in the field of material research, the conservation team of the Mauritshuis reached new and sometimes surprising conclusions.

The latest equipment and research methods clearly showed that the current painting consists of no fewer than 14 different pieces of canvas: two large pieces from the original canvas (one with Saul and one with David), complemented by an old canvas (a copy of a portrait by Anthony van Dyck) and other strips on the edges of the painting. The research also demonstrated that the painting had larger dimensions. The exhibition presents the original format in a novel way, using a 3-D reproduction.

Despite changes in format and appearance, the painting remains impressive, and was clearly created with great bravura. The exhibition provides an insight into the history of the attribution, gives several experts the opportunity to voice their opinion about it, and explains the Mauritshuis’s conclusion. 

is an exhibition about scientific research and restoration techniques. It will present the various issues encountered by the conservators and experts who worked on Saul and David to the public and will display the restored canvas, which has been off view for so many years, along with six loans (three paintings and three drawings).

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