'Magnificent' £25m Rembrandt to sell in London

Today, one of the biggest sales - if not the biggest sale - of the 2009 art market will take place with the auctioning of Rembrandt's Portrait of Man at Christie's on Tuesday, December 8.

Painted while the Old Master was enduring a period of crisis, the portrait "stands as a magnificent statement of Rembrandt's genius as a portraitist," Richard Knight, joint head of the Old Masters department at Christie's, told UK newspaper The Telegraph.

The painting carries a high estimate of £25m. It stands to be the biggest Rembrandt sale since Portrait of a Lady sold in December 2000, also at Christie's, smashing its £4m-6m pre-sale estimate to bring £19.8m.

Portrait of a Man features an unknown sitter and marked a radical and increasingly expressive vein in Rembrandt's work.

Its depiction of light illuminating the subject and vigorous use of paint is reminiscent of Rembrandt's hero Titian, and was wholly out-of-step with the fashionably refined techniques of its era.

Rembrandt's Portrait of a Man (�18m-�25m)
Rembrandt's Portrait of a Man (�18m-�25m)

Just two years after painting Portrait of a Man, Rembrandt was declared bankrupt, having rapidly spent the majority of this wealth achieved during his fame in the 1630s-40s on art. He was eventually forced to sell his art collection and his home.

This is the first time the painting has auctioned since 1930, although it has changed hands since.

The portrait has chequered history, to say the least - including hanging of the wall of the president's office at Columbia University while it was occupied by protesting students in 1968.

After negotiations, the students allowed two police officers to remove the painting for its own safety.

It was later sold to a private seller, reputedly for over $1m.

Portrait of a Man will star at the Christie's Old Masters and 19th Century Art sale, which takes place on Tuesday, December 8 at King Street, London.

A Raphael sketch, estimated at �16m, will also feature in the sale.

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