A handout picture released by Sothebys shows an assistant holding a self-portrait by Dutch artist Rembrandt in London. –AFP

One of only three self-portraits by Rembrandt still in private hands sold in London Tuesday for £14.5 million ($18.7 million, 16 million euros), setting an auction record for one of the Dutch master’s self-portraits. The work, “Self-portrait wearing a ruff and black hat”, went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London as part of a 71-lot auction—“Rembrandt to Richter”—featuring more than half a millennium of art history. Its sale price was within expectations after being listed with a guide price of £12-16 million and bidding getting underway at £10 million. Sotheby’s said the work was “chased by six determined bidders”, handily beating a £6.9 million record set for another self-portrait by the artist in 2003.

The third self-portrait is on a long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. The work sold Tuesday, one of 80 Rembrandt created during his career, is the earliest in date of that trio. It was painted towards the end of 1632, when the 26-year-old was establishing himself in Amsterdam and enjoying his first flush of commercial success. “Rembrandt’s face is instantly recognisable to us at every stage of his adulthood—far more so than any other painter,” said George Gordon, Sotheby’s co-chairman of Old Master Paintings Worldwide.

“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.” Tuesday’s auction, spanning the Italian Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age through to pop art and postmodern abstraction, kicked off with in-person attendance limited due to the coronavirus pandemic. The pieces being sold, including works by German artist Gerhard Richter, Spanish artist Joan Miro and British artist Francis Bacon, have been on display at Sotheby’s since July 3.—AFP