I recent trip to Buckland Abbey, the home of Sir Francis Drake, left me asking about the nature of experts and just how qualified they really are to offer their opinions. The National Trust, who own Buckland Abbey inherited the painting as one of a group of five from the estate of the late Lady Samuel of Wych Cross. The portrait is clearly that of Rembrandt, his features are instantly recognisable, but it was thought that it was by one of his pupils, such as Govaert Flinck, rather than
by the master himself. I assume that attribution was made by experts in the field. However further inspection by the Rembrandt expert and former chair of the Rembrandt Research project led to the NT allowing the painting to be subject by the Hamilton Kerr Institute. They used the latest scientific techniques to establish the painting was contemporary with the artist, and the panel was made of a wood available to him, as well as the paint comprising pigments he worked with. But does that point to anything more than the portrait coming from the studio of Rembrandt. Further work on the painting involved taking it out of its frame and careful cleaning allowed the expert, Professor Ernst van de Wetering to examine it closely. He now says and no one is disagreeing with him that he believes the painting is by the master. What has changed. Certainly cleaning has enhanced the painting. The use of light coming over the shoulder is skilful. Shadows concentrate the viewer’s gaze onto the eyes of the subject, and they look out at the observer with real intelligence. The velvet cloak looks as if it would be so soft to touch. But why didn’t previous examination of the painting see the quality of the work? Surely experts would know the effect the process of ageing would have on any painting, wouldn’t they? I don’t understand why the change of heart in less than four years. Still it is a wonderful portrait whoever painted it, and well worth the visit to Buckland Abbey.
I haven’t posted anything for over two weeks because I have been on a cruise around the Baltic and had very limited internet connection – far too expensive on the ship and too little time to find an internet cafe on shore. We visited Copenhagen for an afternoon in the pouring rain, Rostock and Warnemunde on the German Coast with a watery sunshine, Tallin, where it rained again. The furthest destination was St Petersburgh where the temperature dropped and there was a smattering of snow. We spent two days there before returning to Tilbury calling at Helsinki where the temperature dropped to minus 5 and then Klapedia in Lithuania – never heard of it, neither had I- but it was sunny and the band played in the town square.
St Petersburgh was the highlight of the trip. Two days in not enough to see the city, its churches and palaces but we did our best.
We liked these beach chairs we saw in Warnemunde and thought we might like one for our garden.
Tallin is like a film set from Walt Disney, but we found a great restaurant and sat watching other tourists scuttle around the Town Hall Square whilst we enjoyed beautifully cooked rabbit followed by a raspberry parfait.
In St Petersburgh, I was reminded of the novel ‘The Seige’ by Helen Dunmore – chillingly graphic description of the days the city was surrounded by the Nazi’s during the WW2. Catherine’s Summer Palace was trashed by the German Army but has been restored to it’s former glory.