'Rembrandt - the Late Works'
July 9 2014
Picture: National Gallery
The National Gallery have released details of their forthcoming Rembrandt show. It opens 15th October, and runs till 18th January 2015. there will be 40 paintings by the great man. More here and here.
It looks like their newly elevated 'Portrait of an Old Man in an Armchair' (at least, elevated by the Rembrandt Research Project) won't be in the show, however. Which is a little strange. Why not hang it in the show next to other late works (perhaps as 'attributed to'), and see how it fits in? I had a good look at it the other day, and couldn't find myself disagreeing with Ernst van der Wetering's new conclusion.
For sale - 'the earliest Vermeer' (ctd.)
July 9 2014
The 'earliest Vermeer' I reported on last month sold last night at Christie's for £6.2m (incl. premium). Congrats to them, and the new owner. A fuller update on the sales follows when the week is over.
The vicar's Van Dyck (ctd.)
July 8 2014
The Van Dyck found on the Antiques Roadshow will be up for sale tonight at Christie's. What will it make? Send me your best guess. The estimate is £300,000-£500,000. I reckon it'll make between £400k-£450k hammer. I have no inside information.
Update - a reader writes:
I think it will top £500,000 since this is a rare opportunity to buy a Van Dyck at what many will view as a great discount over the normal offerings. Besides it’s a wonderful piece of art with a great story.
Update II - another reader punts:
I think the head will sell for £350-385,000,beautifully painted,but due to it's state,it's appeal to buyers will be limited...
Update III - it didn't sell! I'm surprised. Maybe an after sale offer will be made.
Poussin rescue plan fails to fly
July 3 2014
Sad news that a last-minute attempt by 'a consortium of regional museums' (according to the Arts Council) has failed to raise the £14m required to keep Poussin's 'Moses trampling the Pharoah's Crown' in the UK. The picture had been sold by the Duke of Beford to an overseas buyer, and now the export will go ahead. The good news is that the UK is still flush when it comes to great Poussins. And with three more of the Duke of Rutland's remaining Sacraments potentially available (he's sold two in the last two years), there will still be plenty of opportunities for UK museums to acquire more Poussins.
June 4 2014
Picture: The Guardian/Fitzwilliam
Restorers at the Fitzwilliam museum have discovered a whale beneath 18th Century overpaint on Hendrick van Anthonissen's View of Scheveningen Sands. More here from Maeve Kennedy in The Guardian. Below is the 'before' picture.
Louvre basement Poussin find
June 4 2014
Didier Rykner of La Tribune de l'Art reports that the former director of the Louvre Pierre Rosenberg has decided that the above Venus & Mars, which belongs to the museum but has been thought to be a copy after Poussin since the 19th Century, is in fact by the master himself. More details here.
The vicar's Van Dyck
May 30 2014
A head study by Van Dyck discovered on The Antiques Roadshow, and which was originally bought by a priest in an antiques shop in Nantwich for £400, will be sold this summer by Christie's. The estimate will be £400,000-£500,000.
The picture was first spotted by Fiona Bruce on the show, who was up on all things Van Dyck after making an episode of Fake or Fortune? about Van Dyck's lost portrait of Henrietta Maria. She recognised the picture's Van Dyck-ian hallmarks, and then arranged for Philip Mould and I to see Father Jamie MacLeod's picture in London. The picture had been almost entirely overpainted by a later restorer, and over the next few months the later paint was gradually removed. The newly revealed, unfinished portrait was painted by Van Dyck as a study for his now lost group portrait, the Magistrates of Brussels.
Where are the women in art? (ctd.)
May 21 2014
Picture: Philip Mould
Following my post yesterday on the question of women artists, I wonder if (plug alert) you would allow me to mention a recent, home-grown discovery of the above work by Mary Beale. It turned up in some rural sale recently, as 'English School'. Beale can be said to be Britain's first commercially successful female artist, and secured a quite a wide circle of patronage. She was encouraged by Sir Peter Lely, among others.
The above picture, a Penitent Magdalene, was mentioned by Beale's husband, Charles Beale, in a list of her paintings 'done from the life', and was painted in the early 1670s. The art historian George Vertue (praised be him) noted that the sitter was 'Moll Trioche - a yong woman'. Moll was doubtless related to Kate Trioche, who was one of Beale's models and assistants, and who is thought to appear in this painting at Tate Britain.
The picture relates to two intriguing drawings at the British Museum, which are today attributed to Mary's son, Charles Jr. (also an artist), though previously the drawings were thought to be by Mary (personally, I think some of them still might be). One of the drawings seems to suggest that when sitting for this picture, Moll Trioche must have fallen asleep, for a little urchin is seen sticking something up her nose.
More details on the picture can be found here on the Philip Mould website.
PS - I see from the provenance of the Tate picture that was discovered by Philip in 1991.
Update - Richard Stephens, creator and editor of pioneering site The Art World in Britain 1660-1735, sends this interesting information:
In the 17th & 18th century Britain there were plenty of women in the art trade, just not always as painters. Jacob Simon wrote a blog entry about female frame makers and gilders, which is here:
And you could make much the same points about picture dealing. In the early modern period it was not at all uncommon to find widows carrying on their late husbands' trade as picture sellers - their families still needed money to eat, after all. Working was hardly ever a matter of personal fulfilment like it is so often nowadays. Indeed, so far as the evidence allows for such a generalisation, I'd say it was even normal for women to sell pictures after theri husbands died and doubtless they played their part in the business while their husbands were still living. Some women dealers whose names spring to mind are Elizabeth Turner (d.1732/3), wife of Captain Henry Turner who was based at the Palace of Westminster in the early 18th century; Elizabeth Davis (died 1714), wife of engraver and dealer Edward Davis; Margaret Hay, wife of painter/dealer Andrew Hay; and the widow of copyist and picture seller Henry Peart (died 1700), who ended up selling her stock to the 1st Earl of Bristol in return for an annual pension. The Pearts were neighbours of the Beales in Pall Mall as you know.
In the records of the Painter Stainers company at this time one finds women-only workshops too, although it's never clear what trade they were carrying on.
Exclusive - Sleeper alert!
May 18 2014
The above 'Nederlandischer Meister' picture, estimated at just EUR15,000-EUR18,000, sold yesterday in Germany for EUR1.3m. An explanation as to why probably lies in the fact that, as the catalogue noted, several faces in the background appear in the oeuvre of one Rembrandt. What the catalogue didn't point out is that one of these, top right, in fact shows Rembrandt himself. You can zoom in on the image here.
If it is by him (and I've no idea, as it's outside my rather limited field), it must be an early work. It used to be called Flinck. Needless to say, I didn't pay the picture any attention at all in the catalogue. Whoops...
Update - a reader writes:
What makes the Lempertz picture an odd candidate for being by RHL is that it is on canvas, while all history paintings by Rembrandt and Lievens from their Leiden period are on panel. The figure at the left derives from Rembrandt's painting in Lyon from 1625, which was discovered by Horst Gerson in 1962.
Update II - a reader corrects the above, and supplies us with further information:
Have to be pedanty with reader above - Lievens Raising of Lazarus is most def on canvas...
This Lempertz painting relates to some sketches in the British Museum attributed to Nicholas Maes which are also thought studies for the National Gallery's Christ blessing the Children by Maes (all of which were formerly attributed to Rembrandt).
There are some sketches attributed to Hoogstraten at the RKD and other sketches (read the British Museum curator notes) that relate more to the Lempertz picture.
Another sleuthing reader suggests an alternative attribution:
A very fine Claes Moeyaert, see comparison [below]... Moeyaert was also a partner of Uylenburgh, RHL's dealer and friend. Background figures show other familiar faces. A daring purchase...
The value of dirt
April 30 2014
Picture: Christie's (left), Sotheby's (right)
We've just had a round of rather uninspiring Old Master sales here in London. I haven't noticed any special prices to report, on the sleeper front. However, I was interested to see that the above portrait in oil on copper by Gonzales Coques sold at Sotheby's for £16,250. This was some seven years after it sold at Christie's in Paris for a whopping EUR78,000. So someone has presumably taken quite a hit...
Why the dramatic price difference? Well, first, as we say in the trade, 'cleaning is the friend of a good picture, and the enemy of a bad one'. The cleaned picture, as seen this week at Sotheby's, isn't an especially bad one. But it's fair to say that it's not as enticing as the pre-cleaning, Christie's image might have led one to believe.
Then there's the question of whether it's better to enter a picture into a sale cleaned or 'dirty'. I'm often asked by consignors whether they should restore a picture before sending it to auction, and the answer is - rarely. Despite the auction houses' best efforts to work against art dealers, it is still the case that dealers underpin most prices at auction, particularly for the middle market. So when the Coques was at Christie's in 2007 its dirty and alluring state would have appealed to the trade, who, in taking a risk on the painting in its unclear condition and then restoring it, could be seen to have added value to the sale price which, in this era of online prices, anyone could easily look up. The dirty picture, therefore, would have been a good piece of stock for dealers to buy, and consequntly the number of potential bidders went up, and the price was high. I know it was bought by a major European dealer, whom I shan't name.
This time round, alas, there would have been no trade buyers for such a shiny bright work, and so the price achieved was much less. It's still the same picture of course. Which value was more appropriate? I don't know. But the moral of the story is, keep your picture's dirty (most of the time).
Rare UK de-accession
April 23 2014
Picture: TAN/Compton Verney
Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper reports that Compton Verney, the new (opened in 2004) art gallery in Warwickshire founded by the philanthropist Sir Peter Moores, is to sell the above work by Bernardo Strozzi. Sir Peter bought the work in 1998 for £1.3m before the gallery's collection strategy became more focused. Now that it's the only Genoese Old Master in the collection, the picture, The Incredulity of St Thomas, is being sold for a figure of around £2.5m. The sale will go towards new acquisitions.
Wadsworth acquires Gentileschi self-portrait
March 28 2014
Picture: Wadsworth Atheneum
Regular readers may recall that I was surprised the above Self-Portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi failed to sell at Christie's most recent Old Master sale in New York. It's a fine picture, and I thought Christie's estimate of $3-$5m was very fair. So I'm pleased to see that the Wadsworth Atheneum bought the picture in an after-sale deal. Well done them and well done Christie's. More here.
Incidentally, did you know that the Atheneum was the first public art institution in the United States?
Was Veronese the Ai Wei Wei of his day?
March 28 2014
Yes, says Jonathan Jones in this interesting piece on Veronese's greatest commission, the Feast in the House of Levi (above).
Van Dyck update (ctd.)
March 26 2014
Picture: Philip Mould Ltd
So, with belated apologies for the rather sparse blogging recently, let me be the first to tell you about what I've been working on over the last week or so: a new deal to help the National Portrait Gallery's campaign to acquire Van Dyck's final Self-Portrait (above). The target price has now been reduced from £12.5m to £10m. Here's a statement from the NPG:
The Art Fund and the National Portrait Gallery are pleased to announce that the campaign to save Van Dyck’s self-portrait for the nation has received a significant boost. Following discussions between the owner of the painting, Alfred Bader, the art dealer Philip Mould, and the collector, James Stunt, the National Portrait Gallery now has the opportunity to purchase the work for £10 million.
This new offer gives the Save Van Dyck campaign, which has four months remaining and originally needed to raise £12.5 million, an improved chance of ensuring that the portrait remains on public display forever. The application process for an export licence has also now been halted.
To date the campaign has raised £3.6 million, with contributions already made by more than 8,000 members of the public. The campaign has until 20 July 2014 to raise the remaining funds.
Some explanatory quotes - here's one from Mr Stunt:
‘When I agreed to buy this great portrait I didn't expect the huge swell of public opinion and the strength of emotion its export would generate. In light of the people's passion to purchase the Van Dyck for the nation I have carefully reconsidered my position and have decided, with Dr Bader and Mr Mould's agreement, to withdraw from the process. I trust that my withdrawal, together with the reduced price at which the painting is now being offered, will see the appeal succeed and that Van Dyck's final self portrait will permanently hang in the National Portrait Gallery.’
Here's what my employer, Philip Mould, had to say:
‘Watching the public reaction to Van Dyck’s Self-portrait develop in this unprecedented way has been amazing, and, for this lover of British historical portraiture, reassuring. The picture has become an iconic focal point, and for many the thought of it going to the United States would be like losing a chunk of Stonehenge. I am delighted to be able to help the National Portrait Gallery’s campaign in this way.’
And here's what the Bader family had to say:
‘Alfred Bader CBE, an established philanthropist on both sides of the Atlantic, has been impressed by the public’s response to the painting, and the efforts that both the Art Fund and the National Portrait Gallery have made to keep the picture on public display. He very much hopes that the National Portrait Gallery is able to complete the rest of its fundraising challenge.’
And, for what it's worth, here's what I have to say. Regular readers will know that previously I've had to tread carefully (here and here, for example) when it came to the NPG's campaign. Van Dyck is my favourite artist, and I'd naturally like to see his final Self-Portrait stay in the UK and on public display. But my responsibilities towards our clients meant that I couldn't be as much of a cheerleader for the campaign as I'd liked. Now that Mr Stunt is no longer buying the picture, and Dr Baders and Philip Mould have agreed this new plan in favour of the NPG, however, all efforts can be focused on the Gallery's fundraising. I'm pleased with the outcome.
Update - here's The Guardian's take.
Update II - a reader writes:
Good luck!! I can understand why it might be less (or less widely) appealing than, say, the big Titians, but it really is a lovely painting, not to mention a jewel for the Portrait Gallery historically.
At the Ashmolean...
March 24 2014
Picture: Ashmolean Museum
...they're restoring the original Grinling Gibbons frame for John Riley's portrait of Elias Ashmole (1617-1692). The frame was carved in 1681-2, but the gilding now being removed was only added in 1729-30. I was lucky enough to see this work in progress some months ago. It's going to take an age, but will certainly be worth it.
Oxford College sells Ruisdael
March 10 2014
Picture: Kimbell Art Museum
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas has bought the above landscape of c.1656 by Jacob van Ruisdael from Oxford University's Worcester College. The price reported was up to £10m. The Kimbell has confirmed the acquisition, but the College's Provost has said the sale price was 'pure guesswork', and that the amount was confidential. In other words, he didn't deny it. The picture was donated to the college in the early 19th Century, and the money raised is going to build some new bedrooms.
Update - it has been pointed out to me that the picture seems not to have come up before the UK's reviewing committee for the export of works of art. At least, it doesn't feature in cases heard so far this year. The Dallas Morning News tells us that the picture goes on display in Texas in April, so an export licence was presumably granted some time ago. I find this most puzzling. Surely a picture of such importance and value should have been brought up before the main committee? It might have decided that it didn't meet any of the Waverley Criteria, and then let it go. But it seems not even to have been referred up for wider discussion.
Update II - a reader writes:
The export position does seem quite curious. The Kimbell Director is claiming it as one of the 5 or 6 best 17th century Dutch landscapes in the world. [...]
If there was a licence application, it makes one wonder what was said on it.
Van Dyck 'Selfie' update
February 17 2014
Picture: Philip Mould & Co.
The National Portrait Gallery has successfully argued for an extension to the export bar on Van Dyck's c.1640 Self-Portrait. This means they have another 5 months to try and raise £12.5m, which is the sum required to match the picture's sale price. The NPG has already raised a quarter of that amount, from bodies such as the Art Fund, the Monuments Trust, and also (impressively) nearly a million from smaller donations made by members of the public.*
I have to say that, although Van Dyck is my favourite artist, I never thought he would be this popular amongst the wider museum-going public. The picture itself has really caught on, and is regularly seen in the media - last week, it was on the front page of The Times, listed as the no. 5 top self-portrait of all time (Rembrandt was no. 1). In large part, this is due to the innovative campaign run by the NPG and the Art Fund, who have cleverly taken to social media to get their message across - you can now even get a Van Dyck 'Twibbon' for your Twitter profile. I'll still be surprised if the picture is 'saved', but it's really impressive to see the efforts being made to keep it.
Elsewhere in the press, the picture was the subject of one of Brian Sewell's (mercifully rare) forays into the outer edge of art history's realm. In the Evening Standard, the Great Brian suggested that the portrait was painted by... two people! The head, he said was by Van Dyck, but the body by someone else, perhaps even Sir Peter Lely:
I sense dissonance between the face and the costume, as though two quite opposing aesthetics are at work. Does the head sit easily on the bust, the shoulder more brilliantly lit than the face? What exactly is the form of the wide collar and how is it related to the neck? Has the hair been extended over the collar to disguise this awkwardness? It is of a darker tone and subdued definition.
One question leads to another. Is it possible that Van Dyck painted no more than his face and rather shorter hair, and left posterity an unfinished portrait, to be completed by another painter? Was the canvas originally rectangular, now reduced to an oval? Examination of the reverse might give us an answer, for we can tell a great deal from distortions in the warp and weft. And if not by Van Dyck, then by whom is the costume? Could it be by Peter Lely, in whose collection there was Van Dyck’s “Own picture in an Oval” of similar size (measurements vary when paintings are taken from their frames)?
To this end, Brian demanded that the NPG commission x-rays and infra-red images to see if his theory was right. regular readers will know what a fan of Brian's I am - but oh dear, where to begin? Has any art historian, to say nothing of any Van Dyck scholars, ever suggested this two-hand theory before? Nope. The picture was originally painted as an oval, as you can tell from the image above, where the paint in the drapery stops short of the edge of the canvas. In other words, it hasn't been cut down. Looking at the back of the painting wouldn't tell you much, as it has been re-lined. The picture Brian mentions in Lely's inventory is in the fact the picture the NPG is trying to buy - Lely even made his own copy of it (below), which we recently discovered here at Philip Mould & Co. Before that, it was almost certainly in Van Dyck's own collection. The Lely copy too shows that the painted surface stopped short of the canvas edge. And suffice to say, x-ray and infra-red reveal that the picture was painted all at the same time. Which is in fact what even a pretty cursory look with the naked eye tells you in any case. But then Brian does like to question attributions, as he did with Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, and quite a few of the exhibits in the National Gallery's recent Leonardo exhibition. He is what the connoisseur Max Friedlander used to call a 'Nein-sager'.
This is, of course, only the latest salvo in Brian's apparent campaign against the painting, which can only, I presume, benefit the overseas buyer. by contrast, more enthusiastic coverage of the self-portrait was found recently in the Telegraph and also the Wall Street Journal.
Incidentally, Lely's copy shows that the background to Van Dyck's self-portrait was originally a slightly later shade of dark brown, and that it has either been glazed over by a later hand (Brian must have missed this), or, more likely perhaps, been darkened by a combination of old-varnish and dirt. The two curious looking black round smudges to the right of Van Dyck's buttons seen in the Lely copy are in fact there in the original** (they must be pentimenti of sorts) but are obscured by the later over-paint.
You can read more about the Van Dyck self-portrait, and its history, in my 'Finding Van Dyck' exhibition catalogue.
Update - interesting to see the official note of the Export Reviewing Committee's decision on the self-porrait. It states that;
All ten members voted that it met all three of the Waverley criteria. The painting was therefore found to meet the first, second and third Waverley criteria on the grounds that it was so closely connected with our history and national life its departure would be a misfortune; that it was of outstanding aesthetic importance; and that it was of outstanding significance for the study of seventeenth century painting and in particular the portraiture of Sir Anthony Van Dyck.
I believe a clean sweep of votes like this hardly ever happens.
Update II - for perhaps the best selfie yet taken, albeit unintentionally, see here.
*Regular readers will know I'm in something of a quandry on this one, given that Philip Mould & Co., for which I work, sold the picture to an overseas buyer.
** If you can't see it, take my word for it. I've looked at the picture pretty much every work day for the last four and a bit years.
Looted picture returned to Poland
February 11 2014
Picture: Allen Xie
From the Epoch Times:
Polish officials accepted a painting at the Polish consulate in New York that had been stolen from the National Museum of the City of Warsaw in 1944 on Thursday.
“National heritage is a crucial element of every national identity and as such, stolen pieces of history should be returned to their rightful place,” said Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, Consul General of the Republic of Poland at the repatriation ceremony. The painting “St. Philip Baptizing a Servant of Queen Kandaki” by German painter Johann Conrad Seekatz, was looted during the Second World War.
Even before the war, the painting was misidentified as “St. Philip Baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch” by Dutch artist J.C. Saft, and in 2006 it was sold for $24,000 as “Manner of Theobald Michau St. Philip Baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch.” Doyle New York, an auction and appraisal company, sold it to Rafael Valls Ltd. gallery in London in October 2006.
The Poland government recognized the piece as one of its lost articles and worked with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to recover it. In 2012 it was verified as a stolen piece of Polish art and Rafael Valls, the current owner, agreed to forfeit it.
Such happenings are an all too familiar risk for dealers these days. But it's nice when there's a happy ending.
Another sleuthing vicar
February 4 2014
Hot on the heels of the English vicar who found a Van Dyck recently, Father Joaquin Caler in Spain believes he has found a Murillo (above). However, there's disagreement amongst Murillo scholars. More in The Art Newspaper here.