Postcode Lottery players are supporting the restoration of a lost Rembrandt with £100,000 of funding.

The world's leading Rembrandt expert has just confirmed the National Trust's first ever Rembrandt in its collection of 13,500 paintings. The Dutch Master's self portrait has been identified hanging on the walls of Buckland Abbey in Devon.

For the last forty years the painting's provenance has been shrouded in mystery after Rembrandt specialist Horst Gerson and the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) concluded that the portrait of Rembrandt was produced by one of Rembrandt's pupils.

But now, after years of studying the Dutch Master's style, and following a new investigation of the painting by the world's leading Rembrandt expert – Ernst van de Wetering – the painting has been reattributed as being a self-portrait by Rembrandt himself.

Later this year the painting will go for specialist cleaning and further examination that will shed more light on the painting's attribution thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery.

Given to the charity in 2010, the painting now has an estimated nominal value of £20 Million, though as the National Trust cares for items for public benefit forever, it could never be sold.

The work to verify the painting will include a painstaking clean as well as a full technical analysis to include x-rays, examination of paint pigments, infrared reflectography to examine any underdrawing and dendrochronology (tree ring dating) to establish the date of the beech panel on which it is painted. The £20,000 needed for these additional investigations has been provided thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Kate Pearson, Trusts Manager at People's Postcode Lottery said: “We are delighted that our players will be helping the National Trust in its investigations of this intriguing painting.

Everyone loves a mystery and we are very excited to be involved and as well as funding the investigations the painting will also be restored at the same time to ensure it can remain at its best for many more years to come.

The painting will remain on display for the next eight months at Buckland before going away for cleaning and further investigation. It will be returned to the property once cleaned, and once the mystery is solved for visitors to once again enjoy in 2014.

David Taylor, Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the National Trust, said: “These latest investigations are incredibly exciting and important. The conservation work and technical analysis being undertaken over the winter will give us further confirmation regarding the picture's authorship.”

Jez McDermott, the National Trust's Property Manager at Buckland Abbey, said: “It's amazing to think we might've had an actual Rembrandt hanging here on the walls at Buckland Abbey for the past couple of years. We never dared think that it might actually be an original and many of our visitors will have just passed by it, in what is sure to be a real contrast to the attention it is now going to receive. Buckland's Rembrandt is certain to become one of the many highlights of the property for visitors to enjoy.

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