Saint James the Great, the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother to St. John the Evangelist, was one of the disciples of Jesus. He is called Saint James the Great to distinguish him from the other apostles named James (St. James the Less & James the Just). Saint James is described as one of the first disciples to join Jesus. The Gospel of John relates the two brothers had been followers of John the Baptist, who first introduced them to Jesus (1:29-39). The Synoptic Gospels state they were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to begin traveling (Mt.4:21-22, Mk.1:19-20). According to Mark, James and John were called Boanerges, or the “Sons of Thunder” (3:17). Acts of the Apostles 12:1-2 records that King Herod had James executed by sword (Ac.12:1-2).

Source from Sotheby’s auction house revealed that a Rembrandt painting of an apostle in prayer could pass the record price of nearly US$29 million for a work by the Dutch painter when it is auctioned in New York on this coming 25 Jan.

Signed and dated 1661, “Saint James the Greater” is an extraordinary work by Rembrandt van Rijn. The painting is from a group of single figure, half-length “portraits” of religious figures executed by the artist in the late 1650s and early 1660s.

This emotive work, which depicts the disciple in profile, turned slightly to the right, was formerly in the renowned collection of benefactor Stephen Carlton Clark, grandson of the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and brother of Sterling Clark, founder of The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Having descended in Mr. Clark’s family, the work was recently gifted to a foundation that has consigned it for sale — The Shippy Foundation in the aid of Social Justice, Human Service and Education. Measuring 36 ј x 29 Ѕ in. (92.1 x 79.9 cm), this rare, large-scale George Wachter, Vice Chairman and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department Worldwide said, “This extraordinary painting is certainly one of the most important works by Rembrandt that Sotheby’s has ever handled. Over the past 20 years, the vast majority of pictures by the artist that have appeared on the market have dated to the 1630s and 40s – it is exceedingly rare to have one that dates to the 1660s. Works of this period, the last decade of Rembrandt’s life and a time of personal turmoil, are extremely intense, soulful and introspective.”

The painting depicts the Apostle James, the patron saint of pilgrims, with a drawn and weathered face, in a dimly lit interior. His cloak is tattered and his cape is fastened with shell, representing his voyage across the Mediterranean to Spain where he founded the pilgrimage church of Santiago de Compostela. His wooden staff, worn from use, rests against the wall beside him. The disciple’s large hands are clasped in prayer and his piety and spirituality are palpable. Mr. Wachter noted, “The hands of the Apostle are particularly moving, the gradations of color — browns and grays — are absolutely breathtaking.”

The illustrious provenance of this work is traceable back to the 18th century, possibly with the sale of the heirs of the Dutch artist Caspar Netscher. In the 19th century, the work was owned by Sir John Charles Robinson, the first curator of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, as well as the renowned German collector Edmund Friedrich Weber, before it came to the United States at the turn of the century through the great dealer Joseph Duveen. It was acquired by the automobile magnate John North Willys of Toledo, Ohio in 1913, and then entered the collection of the American showman and theater producer, “Broadway” Billy Rose, in 1945. Mr. Clark then purchased the painting in 1955, and it descended in his family before it was given to the foundation that has consigned it for sale.”

Although Sotheby’s has valued the 1661 painting, “Saint James the Greater,” at between US$18 million and US$25 million, George Wachter said there was a chance it could break the record for a Rembrandt, set in 2000.

“Portrait of a Lady, Aged 62,” which was sold at auction by Christie’s in London in December 2000 for US$28.7 million, “it’s incredibly rare,” he said.