The Masterpiece

In 2003, I assured myself and my husband a comfortable retirement when I invested in Art.  And not just any old piece of art.  Nope.  I bought a Rembrandt.


You know Rembrandt, I’m sure.  He painted wonderful stuff:

The Night Watch (thanks Google)

And some seriously cool self portraits:

Google Again

OK, so now I am sure you know that I am discussing serious ART.

Well, I went to an auction in an affluent area here in NoVA the day before my husband, John’s, birthday.  They were selling all kinds of things.  Neat furniture.  Life size sculptures of animals. ( I considered buying myself a horse, and there were some available.  I like looking at horses; they are lovely animals.  But I don’t ride horses, and pooper scooping for a horse, well, that never really appealed to me.  Plus they bite.  I don’t like being bitten by animals I am feeding.)  But at this auction they were selling life-size horse sculptures.  Sculptures don’t poop, so I seriously considered buying one for the yard when the bidding started.  My niece, Jen, who was with me, held my arms down.  Thanks, Jen.  I was going for the pastoral look here at my house, but it was not to be.

The stuff that they were selling was pretty neat, actually.  An amazing assortment of furniture was on offer.  Sadly, none of it was furniture I was in the market for; and I couldn’t afford it anyway.  Nevertheless, I bought my husband John a lovely desk, one that he wouldn’t have picked out in a million years.  It was greeted with an unenthusiastic “oh, thanks.”  It was a bargain.  Unless you think of the fact that he didn’t really need a desk at the time.

But auctions are fun, and exciting.  It is easy to get caught up in the spirit of raising your hand to “win” something wonderful – to take it away from someone else.  Among the items that we could have previewed was a lot of art that I didn’t look at.  We have tons of pictures here in our house.  Way too many.

But the auctioneers were tricky.  They mixed up the art with the furniture.  And that, really, is how I came to own a Rembrandt.  Because they said the magic words:

“The next item (No. 214) is by one of the greatest Masters.  Rembrandt van Rijn!”

I looked around at the assembled crowd.  They were all ooh’ing and ahh’ing at the possibility that they might today purchase A Rembrandt.  Suddenly, I had to have it.  The fact that I had no idea what it looked like was completely and totally irrelevant.  It was a Rembrandt — a masterpiece.  How could it be anything but awe-inspiring?

The auctioneer called for an amount I could never afford, but nobody raised their hand.  The number went down.  And down again.  Still lower.  Way down to about the cost of a nicely framed poster of a Monet.

My hand went up.  For a picture I had never seen.  A Rembrandt!

After I started the bidding, several people joined me.  But by then, well, I had to have it; that Rembrandt was mine, dammit.  And I won.  For a ridiculously low price, I will add.  I think.  No, no, I’m sure it was dirt cheap.  Positive.

I took the picture home and proudly presented it to my husband for his birthday the next day.  Rembrandt is John’s favorite artist, and I knew he’d be thrilled to pieces to own a piece of his work.

John was truly delighted to know that he owned a Rembrandt.   So delighted, in fact, that he decided that we should put it up in the one room in our house where no one ever goes.

You see, the picture is an etching of Rembrandt’s father.  Who was seriously ugly.  And so, as day follows night, is the etching.

One ugly old dude. I mean, our masterpiece.

But the frame is beautiful.

And some day, when our house is robbed, the burglars will follow the signs we have put up all over the house:

“Don’t bother taking the electronics!  Upstairs is a Rembrandt.  Take the picture of the ugly old guy.  Please.”

Please don’t mention this post to our insurance company.

*     *     *

Many thanks to Eleanor of How the Hell Did I End Up Here whose recent post reminded me of my, um, Masterpiece.


Filed under Family, Humor, Stupidity

55 responses to “The Masterpiece

  1. Hilarious. I bought a Picasso once. Jim Picasso.


  2. This is an incredible ironic story. Thanx for sharing. I love it.

    Now wait a while, then declare it went up in value by millions, then donate to some nice charity so you do not have to go through the hassle of the selling, and you will never have to pay income taxes again for all the deductions you would get. First, see an attorney. That is how the US system works. I keep getting letters saying please donate some appreciated in value property because it is a win win situation.

    Who cares if the picture is good looking or not, you are now faced with the capitalist’s dilemna: sell for the money, or give to a charity, because by your purchase you just ruined whatever will estate paperwork you had.


    • If I claim that this etching is worth millions I will have a nose longer than Grandpa Rembrandt’s is bulbous. There are several hundred copies of Grandpa — although I’ll be damned if I know why! So the value is primarily in the bragging rights, which, given how ugly he is, aren’t terribly valuable!


  3. Great auction story. I don’t like auctions–too much stress and potential for disappointment. Then there is the frenzy of bidding way too much for something just because of the competition. I’m glad you have a Rembrandt. I’m also not surprised you put your masterpiece upstairs. 😉


    • I really won’t ever go to another auction unless I win the lottery. I bought a HORRIBLE couch once (hey it was cheap) and my husband’s desk. It doesn’t matter if it will fit, if I like it, or if in this case it is horribly ugly and needs to be hidden in the attic. I need to buy it. Oy…

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Ugly, but oh-so cool!


  5. I was on the edge of my seat reading this! I hope your investment pays off some day 🙂


  6. I don’t plan to go to another one until I win the lottery!


  7. Fun story, Elyse. I’ve never been to an auction, but I’m sure I’d get sucked into the excitement of bidding.


  8. Love the line about John’s excitement leading him to put it up where nobody ever goes! Now that’s funny!!!! … And a belated birthday greeting to him!


  9. I like it. But then again, I am looking at it from my little laptop. Probably tiny-ness helps.


    • Tiny-ness is a virtue in this etching. In real life, while the frame is about 12 x 18 the etching part is quite small, only about 4″ x 4″. But the framing is lovely — museum quality. That is probably worth more than the little bit I paid for him.


  10. Auctions definitely have a way of making us want the ‘win’. I’m delighted you got this piece of art. Someday when you sell it for $$$$$ you will think he is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.


  11. I decided this old dude is growing on me and he makes a wonderful story subject. Also, I agree with Cooper: a Rembrandt is a Rembrandt. I wouldn’t kick it off my wall. 🙂


    • He is a bit like an old, weird relative, I guess.
      You say you wouldn’t kick it off your wall — ah, but would you have bought it in the first place?????


  12. As someone said higher up than me, just having something from that time period and by Rembrandt! is uber-cool. I don’t think it’s ugly at all.


    • It is cool having something so old. But once I got over the excitement of “winning” this at the auction, I looked at it. And I look at it every day. He does not get better looking with time!


  13. cooper

    He looks like someone mis-placed from The Lord of The Rings…but I guess a Rembrandt is a Rembrandt.


  14. It might be more attractive. AND it wouldn’t watch me while I sleep as Speaker7 suggested (how does she know such things, anyway?)


  15. lftsr1

    I once had the ‘pleasure of working in a Gallery and we had numerous old masters on the walls that were for sale…..not the well known ones that belong in the big national galleries just ‘rough sketches’ but it amazed me how much they actually sold for…..for example one postcard size piece by Picasso was selling for £7000+


    • I am so glad to have stumbled onto your blog. Because I will now consider you my official art expert. I used to depend on my brother who has 2 masters in (fine art and art history) but he just said “yeah, Lease, that’s pretty cool.)

      I’m counting on you. This is my retirement savings, you see. I am counting on the fact that it’ll some day be worth millions (thousands even) and multiply my initial investment. Cause I have honestly spent more framing photographs than I spent on my Rembrandt! So it’s an investment, right? Right?


  16. I was waiting the whole time for you to reveal: “And here is my painting of a bowl of fruit by Fred Rembrandt of Little Rock, Arkansas.”


    • Fred is a little known Master. And I would definitely buy that painting. And then sell it at an auction. The fruit bowl would look great in my house. Grandpa; not so much. Oh well. It was incredibly cheap!


  17. At least it wasn’t his bad side. Though can’t you see the family resemblance? I am too scared to go to an auction for this very reason. I love old things and I am frightened at what I would get caught up in in the moment. Though now I’m thinking it may not be worse than this.


    • You are WAY smarter than I am. I’ve bought stupidly at two auctions now. So I will avoid them, at least until I put my masterpiece up for auction!


  18. Maybe he is less unattractive when he does.

    Nah. I bet he’s ugly from that vantage point, too. Not to mention the weapon he undoubtedly clutches when he turns.


  19. Not to freak you out, but I would worry that his head turns while you sleep.


  20. Grandpa would have looked better with a cover that uneven head. Good frames can make anything look good, so maybe it will grow on you. I was recently at a silent auction and you are correct about whatever that is that comes over you in the room. I can even explain my behavior over my bid…other than I was a maniac.


    • It is amazing how much better it looks with a frame. I can walk by it and say, why that ugly man is surrounded by a museum-quality.

      I’ll never go to another auction because apparently I cannot control myself. I’m glad to know that you had the same experience, Tops. Hope whatever you got stuck with is delightful!


  21. What a wonderful investment, I will tell you why. When you are really old you will be able to look at it and say to yourselves. Gad, at least we aren’t that ugly, isn’t it good we didn’t live in the 1600’s so we have access to good medicine, vitamins, food and water; we will never be that ugly.

    See, now don’t you feel better?


    • I feel and look way better. And you reminded me that I am smarter, too. I’d look in a mirror before agreeing to model. If I didn’t like what I saw, I would say no!


  22. Hi,
    I think you did the right thing buying this sketch, to have something that was done sometime in the 1600’s is very precious indeed, even more so being a Rembrandt. I think it is a very good investment and you are very lucky to have it.


  23. You know the Van Gogh painting The Potato Eaters? Based on the pictures of it I’d seen in books, I always thought it was ugly and dreary, until I saw it once in person and it turned out to be gorgeous. I’m going to pretend your etching is like that.


    • You put the nicest spin on this. But, sadly, no. Grandpa is not at all like something/someone that/who looks ugly on paper and in real life is gorgeous. Grandpa should be hiding in the attic.


  24. I’m relieved. I thought you liked Grandpa Rembrandt.


  25. Running from Hell with El

    This is great! Wow–truly is a spectacular painting LOL!


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