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September 19, 2009

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Rembrandt portrait set to break price record

A REMBRANDT portrait that once hung in the president's office at Columbia University is expected to sell for up to 25 million pounds (US$41 million) when it is auctioned later this year.

Christie's auction house said yesterday it would offer "Portrait of a Man, Half-Length With His Arms Akimbo" in London on December 8 with an estimated price of 18 million pounds to 25 million pounds.

The painting has not been seen in public for almost 40 years, and has not been offered at auction since 1930.

Christie's Old Masters expert, Richard Knight, said the 1658 painting -- which depicts an unknown subject, hands on hips in a defiant pose -- was "a truly remarkable portrait" from one of Rembrandt's most artistically fertile periods.

The painting was donated to New York's Columbia University in 1958 by George Huntington Hartford II, the art-loving tycoon.

When students occupied the university president's office in 1968, authorities, terrified for the painting's safety, sent in security officials to remove it and put it into storage.

Christie's said the painting had not been on display to the public since it was part of an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1970.

The university sold it privately a few years later.

Christie's did not identify the seller, saying only that the painting was in "a distinguished private collection."

The auction house said the record price for a Rembrandt was 19.8 million pounds paid for "Portrait of a Lady Aged 62" at a sale in 2000.


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