When Marie Curie was left a Rembrandt – or were we?
This is one in a series of blogs which explores some of the key and memorable moments of the charity’s past.
Back in winter 2003, Marie Curie benefited from the auction of one of the most intriguing items ever left in a supporter’s Will – a 17th century oil painting that appeared to be by Rembrandt.
The picture was left to four charities, including Marie Curie, which played a leading role in investigating its origins. The picture had been identified as a Rembrandt in 1948. However, Rembrandt ran a workshop in which students were encouraged to paint in his style, often using his signature. While the picture had been identified as a Rembrandt in 1948, subsequent Scholarship and scientific techniques reduced the number of verified original paintings in circulation over the second half of the 20th century. With hopes of a huge windfall, but knowing that the work was probably by another painter, Marie Curie ordered x-ray and audioradiography tests and expert opinion on the picture. Scholars concluded that the portrait was probably the work of Ferdinand Bol –a student of Rembrandt - or Govaert Flinck, who painted similar work. But the true identities of both the painter and the cavalier it portrays remain unknown. It sold for £60,000, bringing the charities £15,000 each. Had it been by Rembrandt, as its late owner had believed, it could have sold for £18 million. Following the sale, Legacies Administration Manager Patrick Darby said: “In the event it wasn’t as valuable as we had hoped, but it was still worth the effort and I am pleased to have played a part. And I love the picture.”
Other notable legacies received by Marie Curie over the years include a watercolour pen-and-ink painting by the celebrated 18th century British artist, Thomas Rowlandson;
a half-share in the rights to the poem The Green Eye of the Yellow God, by Milton Hayes; a Rolls-Royce; and antique furniture.
The charity is also regularly left money, property and shares. New Year is a good time to make a Will – and if you’re aged over 55 (or a regular Marie Curie volunteer of any age) you can benefit from our free Wills scheme. Read more about making a gift to Marie Curie.