My major project for the year has been the research and treatment of a mysterious landscape with a controversial attribution. The painting, known as Het bruggetje, or The Little Bridge, was purchased in 1892 by famed connoisseur and then director of the Mauritshuis, Abraham Bredius. At the time, it was believed to be the work of Salomon van Ruysdael. It bares a signature reading "S. Ruysda-" in the lower right corner, however this inscription has been questioned by leading experts over the past century. The painting is more likely by one of Ruysdael's contemporaries.
Early in my research, I found a drawing attributed to Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) in the collection of the Rijksmuseum. It matched the composition of Het bruggetje almost exactly. This connection seemed like a smoking gun - at first – but conservation has unearthed more questions. Before treatment, the painting was covered in at least seven layers of varnish and overpaint. One of these layers was completely irreversible with traditional cleaning methods. To reduce the coating, I used a combination of novel techniques I learned during my first two years in WUDPAC. Cleaning revealed a surface that was much brighter and colorful than what is often associated with Jan van Goyen's work. Many agree the painting looks more like the work of Pieter de Neyn (1597-1639), who studied with Van Goyen as a young artist in Leiden.
Scientific analysis at the Mauritshuis, Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam, and Winterthur Museum has yielded a wealth of information about the artist's materials and techniques. The authorship of Het bruggetje still remains suspect, although the attribution has been narrowed significantly. Nevertheless, the painting will soon be ready for exhibition for the first time in decades, suitable for visitors and researches to develop more accurate opinions on who painted this mysterious little scene.
With two months left before graduation, I'm very aware of how beneficial my time studying at the Mauritshuis has been. I've learned a massive amount in a great studio full of diverse and progressive ideas. My supervisors and mentors have made a deep impression on how I see and treat paintings. This newfound knowledge will remain with me throughout my career.
—Josh Summer, WUDPAC Class of 2017