Shae Avery was hired to restore the painting by a group of investors who bought it from the estate of a Virginia collector four years ago for less than $100,000.
Avery told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that upon close inspection, the portrait of a bearded fellow with a black hat probably was not a Rembrandt but a work by Peter Paul Rubens. And not just any Rubens -- a self-portrait of the 17th Century artist.
"I am very impressed with the beard. It really looks like Rubens' work," Avery said. "When we got it, it was so dark and dirty you couldn't tell what it was."
Avery said he could not officially authenticate the painting as a Rubens. The process can take years, the newspaper said Saturday.