In response to:
The Faker's Art from the October 23, 1986 issue
To the Editors:
Joseph Alsop’s interesting article The Faker’s Art ends with a paragraph “about the very special cases in which authenticity is of no consequence at all.” Unfortunately, one of these is described in terms that are regrettably far removed from the truth. I would be grateful if you would publish the following corrections.
The “so-called Rembrandt Commission” (recte Foundation Rembrandt Research Project), which is sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research, has not “sat in judgment” on the Polish Rider in the Frick Collection, nor “decided to remove it from the sacred list of authentic Rembrandts” (leave alone “by a vote of three to two”!).
What happened is that I have suggested (in a review in the periodical Oud Holland for 1984) that the Polish Rider may be by an interesting Rembrandt pupil called Willem Drost rather than from the master’s own hand. I don’t think that anybody—and certainly no member of the Rembrandt team—thinks of the painting as a fake and there should have been no place for it in an article on “the faker’s art.”
Foundation Rembrandt Research Project
Joseph Alsop replies:
Sherman Lee’s interesting and valuable letter needs only one comment. If he had given me all the data he has now communicated to The New York Review of Books, my talk with him long ago would have been even more helpful—but nothing serious would have been changed. As to Dr. Josua Bruyn, I am fascinated to learn of his attribution of the Polish Rider to Willem Drost. Yet his publication in Oud Holland, which I had regrettably missed, does not alter the underlying facts: that the Rembrandt Commission visited the Frick and studied the Polish Rider; and that three members then arrived at approximately the sort of opinion Dr. Bruyn has now put into print. Whether the full commission’s verdict-judgment has been changed since that visit, I cannot say. To this, only one point needs to be added. I did not use the word “fake” in connection with the Rembrandt commission’s verdict-judgment. I merely said that any dealer who had sold the Polish Rider as an undoubted Rembrandt with knowledge that such doubts had been voiced about it would have been open to grave charges. This is of course correct.
December 18, 1986