The New York entrepreneur behind the biggest private Rembrandt collection

Highlights of Thomas Kaplan's Leiden Collection go on show at the Louvre this week

by Martin Bailey  |  22 February 2017
The New York entrepreneur behind the biggest private Rembrandt collection
Thomas Kaplan (Image: © Sue Raya Shaheen)
Thomas Kaplan, a New York entrepreneur, now owns nearly a third of the Rembrandt paintings in private hands. Since 2005, he has bought 11 Rembrandts out of the 35 or so that belong to collectors around the world—the precise number depends on attributional issues. Kaplan describes himself as the largest private collector of the artist “for a couple of hundred years”.

Kaplan’s Rembrandts include three of the panels of the five senses painted by the young artist (one was only recently discovered after being auctioned as a 19th century work, with an estimate of $500-$800). He also has a self-portrait that used to belong to Steve Wynn, a property investor and casino developer. Kaplan’s most expensive Rembrandt is of Minerva; although not disclosing the precise cost, he told The Art Newspaper that it was less than Andy Warhol’s 1963 painting Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), which sold for $72m.

Thomas Kaplan's collection of Rembrandts

  • Rembrandt, Portrait of an old Man (possibly a Rabbi) (around 1645): From a private collection, Scotland, 2005, previously attributed to Samuel van Hoogstraten
  • Rembrandt, Study of a Woman in a white Cap (around 1640): From Sotheby’s, New York, 26 January 2006 ($4.4m)
  • Rembrandt, Allegory of Touch (1624-25): From Edgar Swaab, the Netherlands, 2007
  • Rembrandt, Allegory of Hearing (1624-25): From Johnny van Haeften, London, 2007
  • Rembrandt, Head of a Girl (around 1645): From Michiel and Debbie Zwetsloot, Scotland, 2007, previously attributed to Nicholaes Maes or Samuel van Hoogstraten
  • Rembrandt and workshop, Portrait of Antonie Coopal (1635): From Otto Naumann, New York, 2007, previously attributed to Govert Flinck and Rembrandt
  • Rembrandt, Young Girl in a gold-trimmed Cloak (1632): From Sotheby’s, New York (private sale),2007
  • Rembrandt, Minerva in her Study (1635): From Alfred Bader Fine Arts, Milwaukee and Otto Naumann, New York, 2008
  • Rembrandt, Self-portrait with shaded Eyes (1634): From Steve Wynn, Las Vegas, 2008
  • Rembrandt, Portrait of a Man in a red Coat (1633): From Bellagio Gallery, Las Vegas; then Christie’s, New York, 26 January 2001 ($12.7m); and Noortman, Maastricht, 2008
  • Rembrandt, Allegory of Smell (1624-25): Sold At Nye & Co,  Bloomfield, New Jersey, 22 September 2015 as 19th century Continental School (estimate $500-$800) for $870,000 to Talabardon & Gautier, Paris; then bought in 2016

Kaplan, whose wealth comes from mineral investments (particularly gold), set up the Leiden Collection, named after the city where Rembrandt was born. Highlights of the collection, which includes works by Gerard Dou, Frans van Mieris, Jan Steen and Johannes Vermeer, will be unveiled today (22 February) at the Louvre, Paris.

After the Louvre exhibition, a much larger show will tour to Shanghai, Beijing and Abu Dhabi. Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Kaplan stresses the show’s symbolic significance: “Right now, we need to build bridges between cultures rather than burn them. To lower walls rather than erect them.”

Kaplan believes the Leiden Collection has a global role: “We, as collectors, are American. We can use Dutch art, with an exhibition starting at a French museum, to build bridges between the West and China. Then, at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the paintings will be down the road from Mosul and Palmyra.”

• Masterpieces from the Leiden Collection: The Age of Rembrandt, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 22 February-22 May

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