Art and music in Boijmans
March 2012

Tobit and Anna

In 2010, following long and intensive research, Ernst van de Wetering attributed the work ‘Tobit and Anna’ to Rembrandt. Several years earlier, based on his own research, senior curator Jeroen Giltaij had excluded Rembrandt as the maker of the work. An interesting discussion followed…

Rembrandt van Rijn, Tobias and his wife (1659)
Rembrandt van Rijn, Tobias and his wife (1659)

The question began with an episode of the television programme ‘De Wereld Draait Door’ (The World Keeps Turning) in which Jeroen Giltaij expressed his doubts about the conclusiveness of the research. On the same evening Ernst van de Wetering responded in the television programme ‘Pauw & Witteman’ and the discussion had begun. To give visitors a chance to form their own opinion about the authorship of this painting, the museum is providing all the background information. Van de Wetering and Giltaij have both made a video giving a detailed defence of their position. The videos are being screen in the museum.

Corpus of Rembrandt
As head researcher of the Rembrandt Research Project, Ernst van de Wetering has seen and assessed numerous paintings. And so too ‘Tobit and Anna’. He published his findings on this work in the fifth volume of his Corpus of Rembrandt. One of the arguments that Van de Wetering gives in the video to justify his conclusion is the use of light in the painting. It is known that Van Rembrandt frequently wrestled with the light in his paintings. X-rays show that this painting originally had an extra window, which the painter removed later.

After conducting exhaustive research into ‘Tobit and Anna’ in 1994, Jeroen Giltaij had concluded that the painting was, at best, the work of one of Rembrandt’s pupils. That the X-ray shows that the painting was painted over a still life certainly contributes to this conclusion. Giltaij believes that Rembrandt would never have recycled a used panel. He also thinks the work is too coarsely painted to be attributed to Rembrandt and does not believe that the old master had ‘off days’. Giltaij says that he takes Van de Wetering’s arguments seriously, but cannot reconcile them with the painting itself.

The work ‘Tobit and Anna’, the videos, the X-rays and infrared photographs of the work and other supporting research material are on display in gallery 2 from 24 March.