Owen Ziegler is a well-known art dealer in London who specializes in Dutch paintings, and especially Rembrandt. But an economic recession has been a drag on the art market; times are tough and getting tougher. Ziegler is forced to part with a beloved Rembrandt painting, entrusting its ale at auction to another dealer and friend. The friend claims that the Rembrandt is a fake, and Zeigler is facing ruin.
He also facing his own murder. His son, Marshall, finds his father’s body in the basement of the gallery. Owen has been tortured as well as killed. The scene is reminiscent of a Rembrandt painting. Marshall, a translator who lives mostly in Amsterdam, has had no interest in art, the art market, or the gallery. And then, some days after his father’s death, he receives a package from his dead father.
The package: a bundle of letters written in the 1600s by Geertje Dircx, Rembrandt’s housekeeper and supposed lover. What the letters say is that Rembrandt employed their son, Carel Fabritius, to paint many of the paintings he claimed as his own. And the letters include something else: a list of the fake Rembrandt paintings.
The art market, already suffering from the recession, faces almost certain annihilation if the letters become public. And it appears someone is killing people to make sure that doesn’t happen.
You have just stepped into the world of The Other Rembrandt by Alex Connors. And it is a world where nothing, and no one, is what they seem to be, where everyone involved carries with them a double story, almost a double identity. It is the world that Marshall Zeigler decides to crash, to bring his father’s killer to justice.
Connors, who’s written similar novels about painters William Hogarth, Titian, Bosch and Caravaggio, knows her art. The novel is not only a story of murder and suspense; it’s also an exploration of Rembrandt and his world, how he worked as a painter, and how paintings come to be valued (and valuated) in our own times. She uses the true story of the affair between Gertje Dircx and Rembrandt to create a fictional world that is engaging and credible.
No, the story of the letters isn’t true. At least, that’s what it appears. Or does it?
Painting: The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas (1642), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.