My Rembrandt

 

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A close-up look at art collectors who love the works of Rembrandt.

 
My Rembrandt 

Jan Six (on the left)

 

When I eventually checked out the Dutch filmmaker Oeke Hoogendijk I discovered that she has specialised in films about art including two about the New Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. That came as no surprise, however, because My Rembrandt is a film so intimate in style, so keen to look in close up at facial details in Rembrandt's portraits, that it could only be the work of somebody who loves paintings. In fact, the sense of intimacy is present in other ways too in My Rembrandt and it is the quality which, despite some minor failings, marks out this documentary as a major achievement.

 

It appears that the notion of making My Rembrandt was first formulated in 2013 and the aim was to concentrate on Rembrandts in private ownership. One such, An Old Woman Reading, is seen at the outset: it sets the tone as its owner, the Duke of Buccleuch, filmed looking at the painting in his home refers to the woman in it as 'her' and tells us that he regards her as the most powerful presence in the house. Then he addresses us directly: "Do you see what I mean?". Just as it is the Duke and not some outside expert or familiar personality whose voice is heard here, so too the film will later turn for comments to the American billionaire and philanthropist Thomas S. Kaplan who owns eleven Rembrandts including Study of a Woman in a White Cap. Another speaker is Éric de Rothschild who explains how due to tax demands he came to put up for sale a pair of wedding portraits (a move which would lead to tensions as both France and Holland wanted to secure these expensive works).

 

However, the figure who is most central of all is Jan Six, an aristocratic Dutch dealer who is the eleventh to bear the name (the first of the line had been a friend of Rembrandt and had been painted by him). The present Jan Six is passionate about Rembrandt and has an eye for the artist which has led him to acquire works not officially recognised as being by Rembrandt himself which he will then seek to prove are indeed authentic. This is a central element in this film following his purchase of Portrait of a Young Gentleman attributed by Christie's catalogue to the circle of Rembrandt. The steps taken to prove its validity, during which the expert Ernst van de Wetering is consulted, may echo TV programmes in which the focus is on establishing the standing of a disputed painting but once again it is the personal passion that stems from putting Six screen centre which puts this in a different class. Indeed, it is safe to say that, while Rembrandt enthusiasts will be captivated by this film, its appeal will equally fascinate those without any specialised interest in this artist.

 

I mentioned earlier that the film has failings and there are two, both connected with having to cope with material that became relevant only after the project had commenced. One lies in the way that developing the separate threads becomes unwieldy at times (typical of that is when an abrupt cut away from the conflict over the Rothschild paintings takes us on to something else altogether only for that to be followed by a sudden return to the French/Dutch rivalry). The other concerns a sudden accusation against Six made by a fellow dealer who claims he was dishonestly treated and deceived. Because it happened Hoogendijk could hardly ignore it, but the detail of it is rather confusing and in a film that takes a positive view of collectors it fails to fit in naturally and seems out of place. But these blemishes can and should be ignored. My Rembrandt is truly memorable for involving us so closely with collectors who really love art fleshed out by the filmmaker's own love for Rembrandt. At its best this documentary is outstanding.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Jan Six, the Duke of Buccleuch, Thomas S. Kaplan, Baron Éric de Rothschild, Ernst van de Wetering, Taco Dibbits, Wim Pijdes, Jan Six van Hillegom, Sébastien Allard, Eijk De Mol Van Otterloo, Rose-Marie Van Otterloo.

 

Dir Oeke Hoogendijk, Pro Oeke Hoogendijk and Frank van den Engel, Screenplay Oeke Hoogendijk, Ph Gregor Meerman and Sander Snoep, Ed Boudewijn Koole and Gys Zevenbergen, Music Juho Nurmela and Alex Simu.

 

Discours Film-Dogwoof.
97 mins. Netherlands. 2019. Rel: 14 August 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. Cert. 12.