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The Miracle of the Men’s Room

The Very Rev. David M. O’Connell went into the bathroom looking for paper towels. He came out with something a little better: an authentic Rembrandt etching.


Photo credit: Ed Pfueller/The Catholic University of America

Father O’Connell, president of the Catholic University of America, noticed a picture frame jutting out from underneath a pile of junk in one of his office building’s bathrooms last January, the university says. He pulled out an etching and thought it looked familiar.

An appraiser confirmed that the 4.5-inch-by-5-inch piece is an original by the 17th-century Dutch painter. The etching isn’t well known, but owning a Rembrandt is worth more than just its appraisal value, says Paul Westley Bush, a graduate student.

“It’s almost like winning the lottery,” says Mr. Bush, who translated a handwritten inscription in French on the back of the etching. It reads: “The bust of an old man with a great beard seen about most of the face. His head a little perched gives him the attitude of a man who sleeps.”

No one at Catholic University is sure how a Rembrandt piece ended up in the bathroom, but the university is taking advantage of its good fortune.

It is holding a free exhibit, “Fine Lines: Discovering Rembrandt and Other Old Masters at Catholic University,” which runs through May 24 in the May Gallery of the university’s John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library. It features the etching, as well as several other works by American and European artists. Jill Laster

 

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