A late-era Rembrandt painting with a troubled past is on the market again—this time for $47 million, and The Nation reports. This figure represents a big a step up from the painting’s last sale price in 2009, when Las Vegas casino owner Steven Wynn (of Picasso-puncturing notoriety) bought the work, Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, from Christie’s for a bargain $33 million with buyer’s premium, just above the work’s $29.5 million low estimate. (Though it was a steal given the estimate, which was $41.1 million on the top end, the sale still set a Rembrandt record.)
At the time, Barbara Piasecka Johnson, the widow of the Johnson & Johnson heir, owned the painting, which she inherited from her late husband. He, in turn, had bought it via Harold Diamond, Inc., from Columbia University, for roughly $1 million in 1975 (about $4 million in today’s currency)—a fairly scandalous sale that rankled university constituents who disapproved of the institution’s decision to pad its endowment at the expense of a historic work. The painting had hung in the campus administration building stormed by students during the May 1968 occupation, and was protected by the protestors, who returned it to the police in the midst of their demonstration in order to insure its safety.
Brandeis University drew similar criticism in 2009 for attempting to sell off the contents of its Rose Art Museum—including paintings by contemporary masters like de Kooning, Warhol, Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein—to cope with the depressed economy’s effect on its finances.
Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo reappeared on the market at the European Art Fair in the Netherlands last year, priced at $47 million. It didn’t sell, and went on to the “Rembrandt in America” summer exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. It is now listed for sale by Otto Naumann Ltd. Ownership of the painting must feel something like a belated coup for Mr. Naumann, who told The Daily Beast that he regretted letting Mr. Wynn make off with the painting for so little when it was last available at auction. “Steve got a great deal, no doubt about it, and the reason he did is largely due to me,” said Mr. Naumann at the time. “I made a mistake not bidding on that painting, plain and simple.”