Rembrandt Research Project Completed: Berlin Paintings in the Rembrandt Database


Five years of close collaboration between the Gemäldegalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History have culminated in a milestone achievement. From 2011 to 2016 the museum undertook an extensive art-historical and technical examination of its entire collection of works by or formerly attributed to Rembrandt. The results of this study, which encompassed 26 artworks, can now be accessed online in the Rembrandt Database:

Current art-historical research now depends on technical testing and analysis of the materials used by artists. Thanks to the cooperation of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie is the only museum worldwide with the capacity to systematically apply the analytical method known as neutron autoradiography to its collections. Neutron autoradiography provides extensive information about the layers of paint used in a painting, thus offering insights into the various stages by which the work developed.

The close interdisciplinary cooperation of the Berlin research project allowed a detailed investigation of the Rembrandt collection leading to fundamental discoveries, some of which clearly correct the current state of research. These include new attributions and new dates for some works, as well as groundbreaking conclusions about the processes by which individual works were created. One of the museum’s most spectacular discoveries relates to the extensive reworking of two of the paintings examined in the course of the project by the English painter Joshua Reynolds.

The Rembrandt Database, which is in English, is intended to provide a central starting point for future research on Rembrandt. The database is developed with the goals of providing a new digital access point to Rembrandt’s paintings, collecting information and expertise, and making this information available to an interested public. The database now contains over 12,000 documents relating to 215 paintings from 25 institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Gemäldegalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The database is coordinated by the RKD in Den Haag, and the project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York. Further development of the database is ongoing, and by 2017 the website will present over 500 paintings.

The paintings in the Gemäldegalerie can be viewed directly in the Rembrandt Database here.