Rubens painting discarded by Metropolitan Museum of Art authenticated as real


A detail of Rubens Portrait of a Young Girl, currently in the Liechtenstein Museum. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

A new Peter Paul Rubens painting, previously discarded by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as a copy, has been authenticated.

Ben van Beneden, director of Antwerp’s Rubenshuis, has declared Portrait of a Young Girl, possibly Clara Serena Rubens, as authentic, and is to include the work at the institution’s upcoming exhibition “Rubens in Private: the Master Portrays his Family”, from 28 March 28 until 28 June. The setting of the show makes the display of the portrait of Rubens’ daughter all the more symbolic, as the Antwerp museum is the former house and studio of the Flemish Old Master.

The painting’s provenance prior to the 1930s is unknown, and the work was downgraded to copy status by Rubens expert Julius Held in 1959, attributed instead to “a follower of Peter Paul Rubens.” In 1960, the Met’s late Walter Liedtke subsequently catalogued it as a copy after Rubens, and the portrait was then sold to benefit the museum’s acquisition fund at the 2013 Old Masters sale at Sotheby’s, fetching an impressive $626,500.

Art historians remain divided on whether or not Portrait of Young Girl is an authentic Rubens. Katelijne Van der Stighelen, another Rubens expert, agrees with Van Beneden, but the Art Newspaper reports that David Jaffe, former senior curator at London’s National Gallery and a Rubens specialist, remains “doubtful.” According to the New York Times, the Met is currently looking into the matter.