Jun 052012

By definition an expert has a specialized knowledge in a limited area, normally  they share their expertise with colleagues. The danger is that should new evidence upset the assumptions of that area of expertise the team of colleagues will unite against it. How can a single outsider succeed in questioning a team as large as Rembrandt scholarship, many with honourable positions in academia and privileged access to learned magazines? He is a lamb to the slaughter.

I dreamt that my case was  so strong, so easy for the layman to understand, so much in everyone’s financial interest (only the experts would lose face), so well supported by the documents (note 1), and supported by many esteemed names within the field of Art History (note 2) that I could not fail. But in the 38 years since I made my discoveries (published Burlington Feb 1977) I have failed to make any positive  impact, save the recent return of Rembrandt’s Adoration of the Shepherds to it’s rightful position in the National Gallery. So far I have earned no more than £30 (from The Burlington) from my discoveries.

The watch-dog of the media seems to be a very sleepy watch-dog in the area of art. My book  “The New Key to Rembrandt” was first accepted by Phaidon Press (with the whole editorial board behind me) and then rejected after a truly heinous report (grossly unjustified) from an expert. Nearly 30 other publishers followed Phaidon.

I am lucky. I have spent my time in the most pleasant “wilderness” of Tuscany, pursuing my interests in sculpture, teaching and art history. My work has been honoured with a permanent museum here which includes 14 other noteworthy discoveries in art history. They also have been similarly neglected.

Can civilization survive such successful sabotage from within? It is dangerous to trust experts in art because there is too much money and prestige attached to their decisions and too little practical experience behind their supposed expertise.

1. there are few contemporary documents telling us about Rembrandt but all support my discoveries by statements such as “He would not attempt a single brush-stroke without a living model before his eyes.” “He had a wonderful talent for reproducing concrete subjects” The inventory taken of his possessions at the time of his bankruptcy also testifies to a man who created a visual feast for himself  and his students to work from. His house and furniture, are reproduced time and again in his and in his students’ works. All support my evidence.

2.Prof. Sir Ernst Gombrich was immediately active in my support. He invited a sub-editor of The Burlington Magazine round to visit my exhibition at Imperial College’s Consort Gallery, they agreed that I should resubmit my article, which had previously been rejected. It was submitted again and again rejected. Gombrich called a governors meeting in which it was agreed that he should help me rewrite the article. We did that with the further help of Dr. J Montagu, and on the third submission Benedict Nicholson wrote “ I find the evidence you have accumulated of the greatest possible interest, and so I am sure will Rembrandt scholars, who must now get down to revising the corpus of drawings.” (For the first article I had received the help of Andrew Wilton of The British Museum print-room. He reported to me that his colleague, the Rembrandt expert, Christopher White had said “ it would be very important if he could prove it”. That article was well beyond reasonable doubt. I have since added “The Adoration of the Shepherds” on YouTube, which puts the odds against it in astronomical proportions.)

Meanwhile as the result of the exhibition I got warm letters from the head of the department of prints and drawings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Dr. M.Kauffman “ you certainly make a pretty good case for the Rembrandts”. Prof. M.Podro from Essex wrote “I am a great admirer of your whole project…your evidence is of immense importance and critical finesse”.

Of my first exhibition  Max Wykes Joyce wrote “Certainly the exhibition is a seminal one that should not be lightly dismissed”(International Herald Tribune) and Prof.Bryan Cole in  “Icon” of Imperial College “Not only do these reconstructions (many of which compel assent) cast doubt on received wisdom as far as the dates are concerned: they also imply that a view of Rembrandt’s imagination in construction as depending only on the inner eye becomes very difficult to sustain. I find myself totally convinced by Mr. Konstam’s arguments here. His feeling for the materials of the artist’s work is very strong and it would be a pity for scholarship not to profit from his imaginative researches.”

After my lecture at the Slade, Prof. Sir Lawrence Gowing wrote “I find your division between imaginative and objective much more satisfactory and comprehensible than anything before.” Sir John Pope Henessy invited me to a most cordial conversation in his study at the British Museum. We discussed the relationship between Masaccio and Donatello. I think we were in complete agreement that Donatello must have made maquettes for Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel. (I had made a maquette to demonstrate a near perfect mirror image there. A mirror image is quite different to a print or cartoon reversal.)

When he opened my second exhibition at Imperial College Gombrich said “Konstam has prepared a great feast for art historians at which he invites them to eat their own words” That exhibition unwisely included a number of my new discoveries of artists use of mirrors: Velasquez, Vermeer and Poussin were among them. The iron curtain fell, no reviews, no letters, no sales.

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