Hands Off the Polish Rider
68" x 64"
I was largely indifferent to the work of the Amsterdam-based Rembrandt Research
Committee, who have been storming around the museums of the world for the past
twenty years, driving museum directors up the wall as, one after another, they
question the authenticity of each museum's "Rembrandt" treasures. According to
the committee, the number of oil paintings actually by the master's hand, reputed
by one expert to be in the 700s in the early century, was closer to 250, and
falling. When they cast doubt on the genuineness of The Polish Rider in New York's
Frick Collection, they finally got me angry. It's far from the best Rembrandt,
and the horse is pathetically thin; but it's a fine romantic image, and many
of us have been fond of it since our student days. I decided to prove that it
was authentic by creating a painting showing the master in the process of painting
it. After all he's done for me, I owed him that much. Thinking The New Yorker
might be amused, I submitted a photo of it with a deadpan story that this painting
had recently been discovered in a basement in Pinsk. Art experts, I wrote, have
concluded that it is an eye-witness portrait by Rembrandt's greatest student,
Carel Fabritius, showing his teacher pausing on his work on The Polish Rider.
After turning the story into New Yorkerese, they printed it along with the painting
in their anniversary issue of 1993 under the title Back in the Saddle.