Rembrandt's painting of old rabbi given stamp of approval

A painting of a rabbi that was last on public display more than 60 years ago has been verified as the work of 17th century Dutch master Rembrandt.

The canvas, featuring an austere looking Jewish scholar, has been in the private collection at Woburn Abbey since the 1950s.

Known as "The Old Rabbi" it is in the artist's signature style, but until now it has not been officially accepted as his work. Rembrandt was known for depicting Jewish subjects in his work.

The discovery by Ernst van de Wetering, a Dutch art historian and Rembrandt expert, could add millions if the oil painting was ever put up for auction.

Mr van de Wetering, who visited Woburn Abbey to examine the painting last year, also stated his belief that it was one of a pair from 1643, the other being housed in Berlin.

The Berlin painting shows a young woman, and Mr van de Wetering has suggested they could be part of a sequence telling the biblical story of Ruth and her husband Boaz, as read by Jews on Shavuot.

"The Old Rabbi" will now go on public display at Woburn Abbey. Jonathan Irby, the site's general manager, described the painting as "an outstanding specimen of Rembrandt's art" that impressively depicted "dignity in old age".

"We are very excited about bringing this exquisite painting into the public eye," he said.

    Last updated: 5:09pm, March 28 2012