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In memoriam: prof. dr. Ernst van de Wetering (1938-2021)

Recently we received the sad news that on Wednesday 11 August, Prof. Dr. Ernst van de Wetering died at the age of 83.

Prof. Dr. Ernst van de Wetering is well known as an authority on Rembrandt. Having completed an education in the visual arts and trained as an art teacher at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, he went on to study Art History at the University of Amsterdam. As art historian he was then employed by the Centraal Laboratorium voor Onderzoek van Voorwerpen van Kunst en Wetenschap (Central Research Laboratory for Objects of Art and Science, currently the RCE, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands) from 1969 until 1987. In 1987 he was appointed professor at the University of Amsterdam, a position he held until his retirement in 1999.

During his studies, Van de Wetering became an assistant with the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP), that was initiated that same year. Not much later, the assistant became a fully-fledged member of this project. When the original research team stepped down in 1993, Van de Wetering, who had in the meantime become professor, became chairman. The RRP was founded in 1968 to determine the size of Rembrandt’s body of paintings. For this purpose, all paintings that had up until that point been attributed to Rembrandt, were viewed and meticulously studied.

Mainly thanks to Van de Wetering, over the years, the material technical research, which enabled determining the materials and working method adopted by Rembrandt, has come to play a crucial role in the assessment of paintings by the RRP.

Van de Wetering published profusely: not merely on the oeuvre of Rembrandt and his painting techniques and studio practices, but also on the theory and ethics of restauration. Besides this, he was an unconventional teacher and a gifted lecturer, who was an inspiration to many students. Countless traces of his activities are to be found in the archive of the RRP, which was handed to the RKD after its completion, as well as his personal, professional archive, which too is preserved by the RKD.