Rembrandt Etching Discovered in a University Bathroom

WASHINGTON D.C. — A fun part of collecting artwork from Park West Gallery (from anywhere really) is deciding where the piece should hang to best fit in with your decor. Art is created to be seen, displayed and enjoyed each and every day; not to be tucked away, lost or forgotten. So how did an original Rembrandt etching find its way into a bathroom cabinet at The Catholic University of America (CUA) and then for years remain hidden there, obscured from public view?

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Catholic University of America

This etching by 17th century Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn was discovered in a bathroom in Nugent Hall at The Catholic University of America. [Credit: AP Photo/The Catholic University of America, Ed Pfuellera]

“I went into the restroom in Nugent Hall and opened a cabinet there,” explained CUA’s president Rev. David O’Connell, who found the Rembrandt print while searching for paper towels in a university bathroom. “I found the paper towels but as I was closing the cabinet door, I noticed on the bottom shelf under some junk, a picture frame jutting out. I bent down, pulled out the frame only to discover an etching that looked familiar to me. Why it was there or how it got there, I’ll never know.”

The small  4.5″x5″ etching of a bearded old man contains a handwritten inscription in French on the back of the work which reads: “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.”

CUA archivist Leslie Knoblauch says an appraiser has confirmed the authenticity of the Rembrandt, which is currently the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the university. “We saw his name twice on the piece, but we still couldn’t believe that’s what this was,” Knoblauch told The Washington Post. “Who finds a Rembrandt randomly in their home?”

Fine Lines: Discovering Rembrandt and Other Old Masters at Catholic University is on view through May 21, 2010 and features several other drawings, etchings, engravings and woodcut prints by American and European artists.

To learn more about the exhibit, please visit

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2 Responses to Rembrandt Etching Discovered in a University Bathroom

  1. […] says curator Lee Hendrix, “is putting your thoughts on paper. It was an end in itself. For Rembrandt, drawing was a way to work through subjects. I mean, he was one of the greatest dramatic artists […]

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