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Hidden Art Treasure Found at CUA

It was during a visit to Nugent Hall in January 2009 that Father O'Connell first told me about the discovery of a small etching in a bathroom cabinet. Not only was the etching nice to look at, but it appeared to have Rembrandt's name written on the front and back of the piece. I had originally gone over to Nugent Hall to pick up an item related to the papal visit, but instead I left with a mystery etching. I soon contacted Allan Stypeck at Second Story Books to appraise the piece, and within a few weeks Stypeck informed us that our piece was indeed a true Rembrandt. In addition to learning that it was an original Rembrandt, our student worker Paul Westley Bush, a CUA doctoral student, had translated a note that was written on the back of the piece which had been written in French. Through his translation, we learned that the inscription offered us a nice description of the piece, and noted that the picture was "the bust of an old man with a great beard seen about most of the face... His head a little perched gives him... the attitude of a man who sleeps." I brought the etching, along with our translation and Stypeck's appraisal back to Nugent Hall where Father had the etching nicely re-framed.

After a few months had passed Bush and I were still talking about how exciting it was that we had an original Rembrandt on campus, but how unfortunate it was that no one else knew about the wonderful find. He was very interested in showing the Rembrandt to the campus community and suggested that we develop an exhibition focused on the Rembrandt piece. Bush was also passionate about having students involved with the exhibition, and proposed having students create their own artwork in response to it. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to not only create a slightly different type of exhibit than the Archives had created in the past, but would also provide us a chance to directly engage students in an exhibition. But while Bush and I could create an exhibit, we needed expert advice and assistance in the development of a student art competition and show, so I contacted Nora Heimann, the Chair of the Art Department. Over the next few months Bush and I created a theme for our exhibit and located other pieces of art to highlight in the show, while we coordinated our efforts with the Art Department to plan a student art competition and a resulting student art show to be done in conjunction with the exhibit.

The Archives hopes that everyone who is part of the campus community, or anyone who has a passion for art, continues to enjoy our exhibit, "Fine Lines: Discovering Rembrandt and Other Old Masters at Catholic University" which was installed in January and will be on display in the May Gallery through the end of May. We look forward to viewing the artwork which is produced by students as part of the "Fine Lines: A Student Competition". All student artwork is due to Art Department by 5 p.m. on April 9, and will be displayed in Salve Regina from the middle of April through the end of May.

I'm left wondering, what will we find next?

~ Leslie Knoblauch, Records Management Archivist

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