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January 24, 2014

Rembrandt Authentications: National Gallery of Scotland reattributes 2012 donation from Rembrandt to Captain William Baillie

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In early 2012, Glasgow's Evening Times reported that a wealthy 101-year-old woman, Jessie Steen, had bequeathed a valuable Rembrandt etching to the National Gallery of Scotland. However, the attribution has been changed. In a response to an emailing inquiring about the donation, Dr. Tico Seifert, Senior Curator of Northern European Art, wrote from Edinburgh:
The print bequeathed by Miss Steen in 2012 is a copy after an etching by Rembrandt. It was made by Captain William Baillie (1723-1810), an art dealer and printmaker who made several copies after Rembrandt etchings and owned some of the original plates. The latter he reworked and printed new impressions from, most famously of the ‘Hundred Guilder Print’. As far as we know, Rembrandt’s ‘Landscape with a Hay Barn and a Flock of Sheep’ was copied four times, by different artists, Baillie’s being the second in sequence.

Rembrandt’s etchings were copied a lot, particularly in the eighteenth century, when collectors grew insatiable. Copies partly went for the ‘real things’ but more often they were (cheaper) substitutes for the increasingly rare and expensive originals by Rembrandt.

Unfortunately, we did not receive any information at the time on where or when Miss Steen had acquired this print.

Regarding the value, as an employee of the National Galleries of Scotland, I am not supposed to give valuations and I would kindly ask you to refer to an auction house or dealer in this field.
The work had not yet been photographed.

Thank you to Dr. Seifert and to the registrar at the gallery who promptly responded to this inquiry.