CLOSE
Original image

The Results Are In: This Mysterious Painting Is a Rembrandt

Original image
Image Credit: Het Mauritshuis, YouTube

For eight years, researchers at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands, have made it their mission to discover who really painted Saul and David. When the museum was given the work in 1946 after the death of its original owner, they were under the impression that it was painted by Rembrandt. But in 1969, Horst Gerson, a German-Dutch art historian and expert on the 17th century Dutch painter, questioned the painting's provenance in his book Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. Recapping his thesis for The New York Times, Nina Siegal wrote that his book suggests Saul and David "was the work of one of the master’s pupils, because 'the painterly execution is superficial and inconsistent' and he didn’t 'recognize Rembrandt’s touch in it.'"

After the book's publication, the museum replaced the original attribution plaque next to the painting with one that said "Rembrandt and/or Studio." 

But recently, through the combined efforts of the Mauritshuis museum, Delft University of Technology, and the University of Antwerp, the museum was finally able to re-attribute the painting to its legendary creator. The team employed a number of different technologies, including X-ray fluorescence analysis, in order to isolate elements in the paints' pigments. In this way, they were able to differentiate between the original paint and the layers added on top during restoration efforts. They were then able to remove these top paint and varnish layers, bringing the painting back to its intended—rather than a completely stripped—state. 

Next, the researchers matched the original primer's pigments with those known to be used by Rembrandt's studio. They also determined that the painting "is in fact made up of 15 different pieces of canvas; three main parts—the Saul, the David, and an insert of a copy of an old painting in the upper right corner plus strips all around the edges," explained Emilie Gordenker, the museum's director. According to Siegal, the slices down the middle and through the center were cut during the 19th century so the painting could "be sold as two Rembrandt portraits" and then within "the next 40 years, it was sutured back together with pieces of an entirely different canvas, and layered with paint to cover up its scars." 

Ultimately, a panel made up of restorers, curators, Rembrandt scholars, and Gordenker were able to declare that Rembrandt did indeed create Saul and David.

The story behind the eight-year long investigation will be featured in a new exhibit opening tomorrow, titled "Rembrandt? The Case of Saul and David." 

Original image
Courtesy of the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Archaeologists Discover Ancient Sunken City in the Mediterranean
Original image
Courtesy of the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari

Early on July 21, 365 CE, an 8.5 magnitude earthquake shook the eastern Mediterranean, triggering a powerful tsunami. The Egyptian city of Alexandria was damaged, towns crumbled on the island of Crete, and the Roman port city of Neapolis, located on the coast of North Africa, was largely swallowed by the wave, according to historical records. Now, after being hidden under water for more than 16 centuries, the remains of Neapolis have been discovered by archaeologists off the coast of northeast Tunisia. This, according to the AFP, confirms accounts that the city was a casualty of the ancient natural disaster.

Following several years of exploration, researchers from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari in Italy have discovered nearly 50 acres of watery ruins near the modern-day city of Nabeul. They include streets, monuments, homes, mosaics, and around 100 tanks used to make garum, a fish-based sauce that was so popular in ancient Rome and Greece that it's been likened to ketchup. 

These containers suggest that Neapolis was likely a major producer of garum, making the salty condiment an integral part of the city's economy. "Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum," expedition head Mounir Fantar told the AFP.

Neapolis ("new city" in Greek) was originally founded in the 5th century BCE. While it was an important Mediterranean hub, its name doesn't appear too often in ancient writings. According to The Independent, it may because the city sided with the ancient city-state of Carthage—founded in the 9th century BCE by a seafaring people known as the Phoenicians—in the last of a series of three wars, called the Punic Wars, against Rome.

The Third Punic War stretched from 149 to 146 BCE, and led to the burning of Carthage. (It was later rebuilt as a Roman city by Julius Caesar.) Neapolis may have been punished for its wayward allegiance, which may explain why it's rarely mentioned in historical accounts.

You can view a video of the city's ruins below.

[h/t AFP]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Archaeologists Find Italy's Earliest Wine—And It's Thousands of Years Older Than We Thought
Original image
iStock

Uncork a Barolo in honor of ancient traditions: Italians have been making wine for far longer than we thought. A new analysis of storage jars found in a cave in Sicily's Monte Kronio pushes back Italy’s wine-making history by thousands of years, as CNET alerts us.

Archaeologists from the University of South Florida and several Italian institutions report in Microchemical Journal that wine making in the region could date back as far as 3000 BCE. Previously, researchers studying ancient seeds hypothesized that Italy's wine production developed sometime between 1300 BCE and 1100 BCE.

Making grapes into wine has been a part of human history going back to the Stone Age. Georgians have been drinking wine for 8000 years. Grapevines spread through the Caucasus and the Middle East before making their way to Europe.

This new discovery was possible thanks to chemical analysis of unglazed clay pots found in a Monte Kronio cave. The Copper Age pottery still bore residue from the wine. The researchers were able to identify traces of tartaric acid and sodium salt left from the wine-making process. They're still working on figuring out whether it was red or white, though, as University of South Florida researchers explained in a press statement.

In 2013, archaeologists planted a vineyard and began making wine using ancient Roman techniques to see what wine actually tasted like in the Roman Empire. Foul as that wine may have been, it seems that Roman wine was the result of an even longer wine-making tradition than we knew.

[h/t CNET]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios