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The world’s largest private collector of Rembrandt and 17th-century Dutch paintings presented digitized collection online.

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The Leiden Collection, one of the biggest private collection of Dutch Masters, presented its own online catalogue. Now you can not only view in detail but also free download high-quality digital copies of unique paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Mieris, Dou and their contemporaries, including three panels from the series "The Five Senses," which are the earliest works by Rembrandt known to us.
The Leiden Collection, named after Rembrandt’s place of birth, currently numbers more than 250 paintings and drawings, 175 of which are included in an online catalogue.

Gerrit Dou, detail of Herring Seller and Boy, ca. 1664.
The images are provided with scholarly essays by the leading specialists in the art of the Dutch Golden Agе, among others, by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and the late Walter Liedtke.
screenshot of the page theleidencollection.com/collection
For us it is the great opportunity to learn about the most valuable masterpieces of the Leiden Collection and the history of its owners, Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, an American billionaire entrepreneur and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell)




Perhaps the most valuable (and certainly the loudest) recent acquisition of the Leiden Collection was the painting Unconscious Patient (Allegory of Smell) by Rembrandt.

This panel is part of a series of the Five Senses that Rembrandt painted when he was just an 18-year teenager. It is one of his earliest works known to us. Up to 2015, it was considered as lost, until it came up at a small US auction catalogued as "Continental School, Nineteenth Century."



Left: Rembrandt van Rijn, Unconscious Patient (Allegory of Smell), 1625.

Experts battling at the auction brought the price of the painting from $500−800 on start to nearly a million at finish. Subsequently, Tom Kaplan has acquired it, adding it to Allegory of Hearing and Allegory of Touch in the Leiden Collection. The fifth panel, Allegory of Taste, is considered to be lost.
Jan Livens. The card players
The card players
1625, 99×106.7 cm


Thomas Kaplan was only eight years old when he asked his parents to visit Amsterdam "because that is where Rembrandt lived." He just wanted to see as many paintings by the Dutch Master as possible, not even assuming that someday he would begin to collect them. The young fellow thought that all valuable masterpieces of the Golden Age of Northern Baroque art were safely sequestered in museums. He was astonished when he learnt the quantity of paintings from that epoch still remaining in private hands.


Left: Thomas Kaplan. Photo via Forbes.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Man with the Moneybag and Flatterers and its detail (ca. 1592) from the Leiden Collection online catalogue.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Minerva
Gerrit (Gerard) Dow. The artist at the easel (possibly self-portrait)
  • Rembrandt van Rijn, Minerva in Her Study
    A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
    So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
    , 1635.
  • Attributed to Gerrit Dou, Self-Portrait (?) at an Easel, ca. 1628–29.
Supported by his wife, Daphne, Tom started collecting Dutch art in 2003, when he was 41. Their collection of history paintings, portraits, and genre scenes by the Old Masters is now among the largest private assemblages in the world. It surpasses all but a very few national museums.
At the core of the collection is a group of 11 paintings and 2 drawings by Rembrandt and another 10 paintings executed by his studio. In parallel focus is the representation of other artists from Leiden, in particular the fijnschilders ("fine manner painters"), including Frans van Mieris and Gabriel Metsu, who flourished under the influence of Rembrandt’s first pupil, Gerrit Dou. Among the 13 paintings by Van Mieris in the Leiden Collection are Young Woman Feeding a Parrot, one of the most iconic images of the era, and Death of Lucretia, the greatest masterpiece of the master’s final years.
The collection is proud of having works by Frans Hals, Gerard ter Borch, Hendrick ter Brugghen, and Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, (ca. 1670−72), which is the only remaining privately held example of the mature style of Johannes Vermeer.
Another unique masterpiece of the Leiden Collection is Carel Fabritius' Hagar and the Angel. It is the only work of the thirteen known paintings by this renowned pupil of Rembrandt, the founder of the Delft’s painting school, that remains in private hands.
Karel Fabricius. The angel Hagar
The angel Hagar
1645, 157.5×136 cm
Having gathered such a rich collection, the Kaplans found the way to make it useful to the world both for research and as a source of inspiration. Up until now it has served as an anonymous 'credit library' open to curators and directors of more than forty museums which organized special exhibitions and took the masterpieces on a long-term loan. The current online catalogue will furnish art lovers, students, collectors and professionals in the field with a new resource for understanding the unique creativity of artists from the Dutch Golden Age. The virtual copies are found in the individual entries on the works of art, each of them is enhanced by technical studies, provenance research, and bibliographical references.
Besides, after a decade of anonymous lending, a selection of the Leiden Collection’s highlights will be open to a broad public. This year, the core masterpieces will be shown at The Louvre, the most beloved museum of the marrieds and their three children. After that, the exhibition will travel to Beijing, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and other cities.
Written by Vlad Maslow on materials from the Leiden Collection official site.
Main illustration: detail of Judah and Tamar by Arent de Gelder, ca. 1680−85.
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