Almost all of Rembrandt’s painted self-portraits are now in major museum collections.
This example is one of the earliest: Sotheby’s said it can be dated to a narrow window towards the end of 1632, thanks to the fact that it is signed with a form of the artist’s signature that he only very briefly employed, and also because dendrochronological analysis shows that it is painted on a panel cut from the same Baltic oak tree as another picture from that precise period.
It is estimated at £12m-16m and will be offered at Sotheby’s London on July 28.
One of Rembrandt’s greatest masterpieces, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, now in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, was painted at exactly this time and is signed in the same way.
George Gordon, Sotheby's co-chairman of Old Master Paintings Worldwide said: “Rembrandt’s face is instantly recognizable to us at every stage of his adulthood – far more so than any other painter.
“We know that this painting was created in a remarkably short period of time, because he laid in the background first, but when he signed it upon completion, the background was still wet, so the signature is impressed into it by his brush.”
Sotheby's has not publicly commented on the consignor of the work. It has been reported the vendor is a collector who bought it more than a decade ago from a dealer.
It is thought the picture had not been catalogued as Rembrandt for much of the past century but it was reattributed to the artist during the mid-1990s.