A sleeper awakes...?
February 2 2013
For me, the highlight of the New York Old Master sales was the above small oil on panel described as 'Follower of Rubens' at Sotheby's, with an estimate of $30,000-$50,000. The sitter was identified as 'Possibly Clara Serena Rubens', the artist's daughter, and was being deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum. After a protracted bidding battle between what seemed to be at least half a dozen bidders, the picture sold for $626,500.
The picture shone out from the wall at the viewing, and I'm not surprised that more than one person had the same idea as Philip Mould and I - that this was by no mere follower of Rubens. What could have appeared at first glance to be a poorly drawn face was in fact a wonderfully observed informal portrait of a seemingly self-conscious but relaxed young girl. The shadowing and reflected light on the right hand side of the face and neck, for example, were masterly. The key here was the informality of the picture, which, in its sketchy application (especially in the drapery) set it apart from Rubens' better known and more finished head studies. The fact that it was partly obscured by several layers of old varnish, particularly in the hair and background, also made the quality of the work hard to read at first. But enough people were convinced to take it to a higher level, and I'm not surprised it made a high price.
You might say, however, that if it was so apparently by Rubens, why did it not fetch more? The answer lies in the - how shall I put this? - unsettled nature of Rubens scholarship at the moment. The Rubenianum is a fine and glorious body, but it is known for its multi-headed approach to its cataloguing - that is, it is unlike the Rembrandt Research Project, where a single figure of tested connoisseurial ability, Ernst van der Wetering, is the ultimate arbiter of attributions. As a result, a number of surprising attributional calls are made on Rubens as scholars with varying thresholds of what is and isn't a Rubens publish works on seperate areas of the artist's work. Therefore, the picture at Sotheby's will be a difficult one to 'get through', as we say in the trade, and thus carries a greater commercial risk. Plus, there is the fact that this picture was deaccessioned by the Met - as big an institution as they come - as a copy of a lost original, presumably with the agreement of the current crop of Rubens scholars, and with the views of important names such as Julius Held, who in 1959 first questioned the previously accepted attribution to Rubens, behind it. So the buyer of the picture is necessarily going to put a lot of noses out of joint if he or she does prove that it is by Rubens - almost as many as me for writing this post, in fact.
Still, it's all good fun, and art history will be the ultimate winner for the picture getting greater attention. I don't think, by the way, that Sotheby's were wrong to put the picture in as by a follower of Rubens. First, I and the other bidders may well be wrong (though I don't mind saying here that I think it certainly is by Rubens, and the winning bidder will have to excuse me for not publishing here all our research on the picture). Second, if the Metropolitan Museum and five decades of Rubens scholarship have said it is not by Rubens, then it's hardly up to Sotheby's to tell the Met where it might be going wrong. The picture will be an interesting one to follow, and gives a timely reminder here in the UK on (as I have highlighted many times) the perils of deaccessioning.
National's new Titian - Waldemar not convinced
January 22 2013
Picture: National Gallery
In his Sunday Times column, art critic Waldemar Januszczak casts doubts on the National Gallery's new claims. It's worth reading his thoughts in full, but here's his main argument:
Rescued from its dark banishment in the basement, it now hangs in Room 10 of the National Gallery, surrounded by other Titians and further fine examples of Venetian painting, looking distinctly underwhelming and overpromoted. If this is a Titian, then it is not a very good one.
The first problem is the sitter’s presence, which seems small and standard when compared with the other Titian sitters in the National’s collection. There is none of the psychological force that glues you to the thoughts of the marvellous Man with a Glove on the opposite wall; and none of that fabulously brave picture-making that thrusts an elbow in your face in the nearby Man with a Quilted Sleeve.
The Burlington article admits the painting is in poor condition, which may explain a lot. Much is made of the skill shown by the artist in capturing the textures of the big fur coat, made of lynx, that the putative Fracastoro is wearing. It’s definitely the best bit of the picture. But in the next gallery, in Titian’s superb group portrait of the Vendramin family, the leading Vendramin also sports a coat lined with lynx, and in that instance the painting of the fur is beyond good — it is actually breathtaking. So swift and subtle and nuanced.
The single most un-Titiany thing about the new Titian is its background. The putative Fracastoro seems to be standing in front of a grey wall in which we see two peculiar openings: a circular one above his right shoulder and a kind of rectangular doorway above his left. This weird architectural arrangement appears nowhere else in Titian. The Burlington admits that it cannot be explained by recent overpainting. So why would Titian add such a strange background to what is otherwise an unambitious image?
Before it was hauled out of the basement, the painting was attributed to Francesco Tobido, known as Il Moro, who studied under Giorgione in Venice and worked in Fracastoro’s home town, Verona. Though he is largely forgotten today, we know that he, too, painted the syphilis doctor. Indeed, the only time I have seen a background like this before was in Il Moro’s portrait of a couple — one of whom is wearing thick fur — that hangs in the Doris Ulmann Galleries at Berea College, Kentucky.
I've been to see the picture twice now. Although I can still see the arguments for calling the picture 'Attributed to Titian', there is a nagging doubt in my mind. I think I'm going to stick to my initial response to the painting; that because of the condition we can never be entirely sure. Bit of a cop out I'm afraid...
Update - a reader writes:
On Waldemar Januszczak's doubts about the Fracastoro portrait attributed to Titian in the National Gallery, and in particular his point about the unusual architectural background: there is, or rather was, a circular window in "La Schiavona", also in the National Gallery, which was painted out by the artist.
Having seen the upgraded painting now myself I agree with your verdict that its condition means the attribution will continue to prove uncertain. Bits of it look good, but its not immediately likeable.
The National Gallery's next Titian upgrade?
January 22 2013
Picture: National Gallery
Hot on the heels of the National Gallery's elevation of their 'Attributed to Titian' Portrait of a man thought to be Girolamo Fracostoro from store-room obscurity to gallery wall, I read of another possible promotion. In the latest edition of Harper's Bazaar (article not available online), National Gallery trustee Hannah Rothschild has written a piece on the above painting, The Concert, which is currently described on the NG's website as by an 'Imitator of Titian'. It has not been on display for many years.
However, the picture is currently being cleaned by NG conservator Jill Dunkerton, who thinks that it might well be by Titian. So far, de-lining (taking a later canvas off the back of the original one) has revealed a 'CR' brand, which means that the painting was in the collection of Charles I, where it is indeed listed as a Titian. Prior to that it formed part of the celebrated Gonzaga collection, which contained many Titians. X-rays have reavealed the presence of pentimenti, and paint analysis has shown similarities to Titian's known technique.
Apparently the picture is much over-painted - as indeed it would have to be for it to become a Titian. While it's certainly Titian-esque in many aspects, there are quite a few areas of the picture which at first look too weak for the master himself, such as the drawing of the hands, and the rather vacant expression of the flute player on the right. It would need quite a dramatic transformation to improve to Titian's standards. But as I've said before, it's easy for the eye to be misled by condition issues. We know that other Titians bought from the Gonzaga collection arrived in London in bad condition, and had to be restored (by Van Dyck, no less).
The Concert certainly has both good and bad elements. The central figure in the red hat looks to be very well observed, but the flute player to the right carries a rather comical air, one untypical of Titian. The diaphanous scarf(?) on the woman on the left suggests underlying technical competence, but the structure of her arm does not. We shouldn't be too distracted by her wonky gaze - one would expect dark pigments like those in the eyes to have suffered over time. Anyway, I'll look forward to seeing how the picture looks after conservation.
Update - a reader writes:
One element you haven’t mentioned and is quite striking is the garment (cloak?) of the man in the immediate foreground. If it is any sort of accurate reflexion of the original composition it is the sheer amount of the picture space it takes up. Reminiscent of the Nationals man with a blue sleeve perhaps?
Another reader writes:
It's not just the vacant expression of the figure on the far right that seems to be a problem, it's the way that his head fits into the composition. If he was taken out (or even reduced in size) the composition would improve enormously! Anything to get rid of the heavy rectangular block across the tops of their heads. It will be interesting to see what the conservator discovers.
Update II - a reader adds:
It always is slightly lamentable that the workshop is brushed aside when these stories hit popular press. Many commissions required significant workshop input - such was the great demand on his studio.
As a related curiosity, the female figure seems to be a familiar/recurring face in many works attributed to Titian and his school - although a consistently utilised model has never been conclusively identified from documentary sources.
Update III - David Packwood on Art History Today concludes:
Possibly a member of Titian’s workshop, or more likely a minor Venetian painter familiar with the conventions of Venetian painting working later in the century- they’re dating it 1580- but clueless how to weave them all together into a coherent composition.
Points of interest, but not a great painting.
January 16 2013
Scientists have discovered that the bright-yellow pigment featured in several famous artworks becomes unstable under LED lights and, over time, turns a shade of brownish green. A sample of 14 works from the period between 1887 and 1890 were tested for the reaction which affects the oil paint colour known as chrome yellow. It was favoured by 19th-century artists and has been found in important works by Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.
Researchers have now warned galleries and museums to reconsider the use of some LED lighting to prevent the colours in such paintings deteriorating further.
Claus Habfast, from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France, where some of the artworks were studied, said: "LED lights appear to have many advantages but museums should carefully consider that paintings from the Van Gogh era could be affected by them.
"Paintings that have moderate darkening will find this accelerates in the coming years.
Picasso vandal arrested
January 10 2013
Seven months later, Uriel Landeros, 22, turned himself over to marshals at the international bridge near McAllen, Texas on the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I don't regret anything that I've done," Landeros told KPRC-TV of Houston in an interview.
Landeros was charged in June with felony graffiti and criminal mischief for vandalizing the 1929 artwork at the Menil Collection in Houston.
It'll be interesting to see how his punishment matches up to the two years in jail for the similar Rothko attack here in London.
Titian upgraded at the National Gallery, London
January 8 2013
Picture: National Gallery
The National Gallery's recently restored and upgraded portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro (?) by Titian is the subject of an article in the new edition of The Burlington Magazine, which is worth a read (if you're a subscriber). A post-restoration image has now been added to the National Gallery website, here, but not any of the research details (the NG website in general is very thin on details). It seems from The Burlington article that Nicholas Penny thought as far back as the 1990s that the picture was a candidate for conservation and potential upgrading, a conclusion more recently reached, independently, by Professor Paul Joannides - so congratulations to them for their connoisseurial hunches.
The story has been picked up in a big splash by The Guardian today, which you can read here, and which describes the picture as 'just rediscovered'. Readers of AHN, of course, have been aware of it since April last year...
In The Guardian piece, Jonathan Jones says that the discovery:
[...] must mean the National Gallery now has the finest collection of Titians in the world – it already owned (among others) the elegantly frenzied Bacchus and Ariadne, the heartbreaking Easter landscape Noli me Tangere, and his portrait of a man with a mesmerising blue sleeve. But Penny, who is not given to hype, points out that the Museo del Prado in Madrid also has a few Titians. I think he is being modest.
Though the NG does indeed have many fine and important Titians, I think Penny is right to be modest - the Prado's collection of Titians probably is the superior one, and, it seemed to me when I saw them recently, they're mostly in better condition too.
Update - the sharp-eyed reader who initially alerted me to the upgrade writes:
Nice to have one's opinions vindicated: even if it is after 30 years! Actually my view was that the work was simply better than the Gallery thought it was: Titian attributions being moot and a very murky area.
It does strike me as remarkable that, given the National Gallery has one of the smallest collections of its type in the world and that it has been comprehensively studied for decades - starting with Martin Davies' work on the detailed and brutally honest catalogues produced during the war, so many "discoveries" have been made in recent years. Indeed, at times it seems startling.
Aside from the Titian, here are a few works that have been recently been re-examined and declared originals:
- Bellotto - Venice: The Grand Canal facing Santa Croce
- Botticelli - Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy
- Bouts - Christ Crowned with Thorns
- Canaletto - Venice, Palazzo Grimani
- Cesare da Cesto - Salome
- Ghirlandaio - The Virgin and Child
- Gossaert - The Virgin and Child
- Master of Moulins - Charlemagne and the Meeting at the Golden Gate
- Perugino - Christ Crowned with Thorns (actually attributed)
- Poussin - Nymph and Satyrs
- Reni - Saint Jerome
- Reni - Saint Mary Magdalen
- Reni - Susannah and the Elders
- Rubens - A Wagon Fording a Stream
- Strozzi - The Annunciation
- Veronese - The Rape of Europa
- Verrocchio - The Virgin and Child with Two Angels
The have been a few "losses" over the years of course but in general I would say that the Gallery is "up". And there are, I believe, more discoveries in the basement.
Meanwhile, another reader demurs:
Shocking news! This picture sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the ext siting display of undisputed masterpieces. The quality of paint and general execution is poor and it very much looks like a studio work. It's nowhere near the level of quality of any other portrait by Titian I am aware of. Titian may well have been involved in the initial 'design' but the this picture was not painted by him. Another case of wishful thinking but generating great publicity.
Canada's only Titian goes on display
January 6 2013
Last summer, I reported on the restoration of the only Titian in public ownership in Canada. It had been called a copy of an original in the Prado, but conservation by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) has led them to reassess the attribution. Now the picture has gone on display, as well as online. CBC has the story:
When the NGC bought the painting in 1928, it was believed to be a Titian. Letters between the bishop and Barbaro confirmed its history.
But there is another painting of Daniele Barbaro in Spain’s Prado Museum and scholars were divided on whether both works were by Titian or if the NGC portrait was a copy by one of his acolytes. In 1991, the two paintings were compared side-by-side at a specially arranged meeting and experts decided the NGC was not by the Venetian master.
But a recent restoration revealed the sensitivity and skill used in painting the NGC portrait.
Stephen Gritt, NGC director of conservation and technical research, arranged to work with an expert at the Prado to compare the two paintings again. X-ray images showed the underlying images, including ways that the painter had adjusted the collar height and repainted the sitter’s prominent nose.
"I spent an afternoon in front of a light-box with the Prado's technical documentalist,” Gritt said in a statement.
“By painstakingly comparing subtle features of execution as revealed on the X-ray, we were able to demonstrate that while the paintings were painted more or less at the same time, the Ottawa canvas was the one with all the thinking in it, the one that leads the way," he said.
The conclusion was that the paintings were painted side by side, but that the NGC’s portrait was the one where Titian had worked out details such as colour and composition, and it was most likely finished with Barbaro present.
Hmmm. It's hard to be sure from the not particularly good photo on the NGC website, but I think I still prefer the version in the Prado, the attribution of which there can be no doubt at all. The one in Canada seems a bit hard and plastic in its handling, and less sure in its drawing. You can read more details here from the NGC's press release.
X-ray revelations at the NPG
January 6 2013
A new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, shows the interesting results of recent technical analysis of the Gallery's 16th Century portraits. As The Guardian explains, a portrait of Francis Walsingham was found to be painted on top of a religious painting:
He was the eyes and ears of Elizabeth I, the loyal spymaster and ruthless counterterror chief: Sir Francis Walsingham was the man who knew everything. Or not quite everything, it seems. Certainly not that his portrait was secretly painted over an overtly Roman Catholic image of the holy Virgin and Child.
“He would not have been delighted,” speculated Dr Tarnya Cooper, standing in front of the remarkable new discovery going on show at the National Portrait Gallery. “You do wonder if the artist might be enjoying a private joke."
The gallery on Thursday opened a display showing x-rays of devotional paintings it has discovered underneath its portraits of two key Tudor statesmen. As well as a Virgin and Child under Walsingham, researchers found A Flagellation of Christ under the Queen’s lord treasurer Thomas Sackville.
The Walsingham portrait dates from the 1580s when Protestant England was isolated and supporting the war in the Netherlands against the Spanish.
“The Catholics are the absolute enemy at this period so the idea that you’ve got this wonderful devotional image underneath your portrait would probably be rather horrifying to him,” Cooper, the NPG’s chief curator, said.
It was a surprise finding. “There is not very much that Walsingham does not know about of what’s going on in courts across Europe, he has a huge network of informers, is an incredibly wily man and is someone with a public reputation. For somebody who is not wonderfully keen on Walsingham this would be a clever way of getting at him."
The NPG believes it cannot be accidental that after x-raying more than 120 Tudor portraits and mostly finding nothing, it found an image so emblematic of Roman Catholicism under Walsingham. “It is intriguing that it is under the spymaster-general,” said Cooper.
I suspect the answer is a little less sensational - after the Reformation, England must have been awash with unwanted religious imagery, much of which was good quality and painted on expensive oak panels. It would seem logical to accept that some of these panels were re-used by artists, particularly when making replicas of original portraits, as is the case with the NPG's Walsingham. We recently had a similar case here at Philip Mould & Co., with our late 16th Century portrait of the young James VI of Scotland painted on top of a painting of a saint. There, even the original integral frame had been re-used.
Update - a reader writes:
Fascinating. Although I tend to think you are right to take the practical view of painters re-using panels no longer wanted in order to make their work easier and probably cheaper, it also seems to me -- contrary to the experts you quote -- that Walsingham would very much have approved of painting his portrait on top of a 'heretical' (in his view) Catholic artwork: how better to demonstrate the Elizabethan triumph over 'popery' and the Catholic dissidents whom Walsingham opposed and spied on!!??
Encouraging news at Tate Britain
December 31 2012
Tate Britain have re-hung their historical British collection and it looks much, much better.
Intrigued, I ambled along this morning, and the new layout [above] is indeed a great improvement. Whether it was long-planned, or done in response to The Burlington's attack, I don't know. But it's nearly as good as it used to be, which I suppose we must be grateful for, given Tate Britain's recent identity crisis. At least students wanting an overview of British art history won't now have to wait till the main renovations are complete in 2014 (when, incidentally, there will still be less space for the 'historical collection' than there used to be).
My reader also wrote with encouraging conservation news:
Some work has been done on their Tudor portraits:
A blank fillet has been added to the right of this Eworth to restore it to its original proportions.
This intriguing work [of William, 1st Lord De La Warr] has been cleaned.
And there are lots of other goodies. Bryce McMurdo [by Raeburn] comes up from storage amongst them – which reminds me that this was displayed as part of the National Gallery’s selection of British paintings until the 1960s.
I saw also that John Michael Wright's Portrait of Sir Neil O'Neill has also been restored, and looks marvellous. I was lucky enough to be shown the picture when it was in the conservation studio, where, in its stripped down state, it looked a little scary. Rica Jones, who restored the picture, has pulled it together brilliantly.
Another picture worth noting, which I don't think has been on display before, is the below Portrait of Jonathan Richardson the Younger by his father, Jonathan Richardson, which was purchased in 2010 from Philip Mould.
Update - a reader writes:
Regarding the Tate's rehanging of the British Collection, did you happen to notice whether poor Judith Dobson (William's missus) had found a better position than previously? I went especially to see her, and found her high up a wall (too high for my short 5'3" to see properly), obscured by the reflection of a badly-placed light, and next to a doorway through which you couldn't help but be blinded by some ghastly 'flashing chandalier' installation. I've not been back since - will stick to the NPG in future!!
It was indeed in a woeful place, utterly unseeable. I don't recall seeing it on my most recent visit though, so perhaps it has gone back into storage.
Spot the difference
December 14 2012
In The Art Newspaper, Emily Sharpe has news of the emergence of a putti in a picture at the Blanton Museum of Art in Texas:
The recent cleaning of what was believed to be a relatively straightforward composition of a 17th-century female nude in the collection of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, took a turn of mythic proportions when conservators discovered two additional figures: a putto and a recumbent Zeus. They elevate the painting’s main figure from a mere mortal to Danaë, the daughter of a mythical Greek king and the mother of Perseus, a son of Zeus. Scholars have attributed the work to a follower of the French painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649).
The newly discovered figures had been scraped away and painted over at some point after the artist’s death. “[The alterations were probably] done either to hide badly damaged figures or to make the work more marketable and in keeping with the tastes of the 19th and early 20th centuries,” says Colette Crossman, a curator at the museum, who suspected that the painting had been altered. “The composition did not make sense and the subject matter did not connect to the standard [17th-century] iconography,” she says. After discussions, the curators and conservators decided to remove the overpainting and restore the figures.
Fresco Jesus - the revenge
December 12 2012
Here's a weird one - a picture by the restorer of 'Fresco Jesus', Cecilia Gimenez, has reached EUR610,000 on ebay. Next bid is EUR620,000 if you fancy it. I somehow doubt the winning bidder will pay up. But you never know. Maybe Alberto Mugrabi thinks she's the next big thing.
Update - a reader writes:
I think you have misinterpreted the eBay price for this picture. The comma is the European equivalent of our decimal point, so the price is only 620 euros.
Oops. Sorry about that. Lucky I'm not a journalist.
Things you don't expect to see in the Courtauld
December 4 2012
Before 'n After (ctd.)
November 22 2012
Picture: BG/Philip Mould & Company
With apologies for my rubbish photos, allow me to share with you this nifty piece of restoration. When the above portrait of a boy in red came to us he was attributed to Zoffany, and in a rather muddy brown background. It was quite a surprise to find the original sky background beneath a layer of later over-paint. The over-paint was probably late 19th Century.
The picture is by Nathaniel Dance-Holland RA (1735-1811).
November 21 2012
Julia Nagle, a London-based independent paintings conservator, explained that repairing a painting such as Rothko's would be a lengthy process.
"Rothko is difficult in the sense that he painted using lots of different media, which narrows down the choice of solvents that can be safely used on his paintings," she told the BBC.
"Graffiti pens are made to work outdoors and survive rain and all kinds of things, so it's something that's quite noxious that has then gone right through the paint into the canvas below."
Meanwhile, the Polish pillock who did the damage is free on bail, having pleaded guilty to; 'criminal damage to property valued at over £5,000'.
The maximum penalty for this is ten years in jail. I don't mean to sound vindictive, but for the sake of unglazed art in galleries everywhere, this man needs to go down for a long time.
Behold - the young Van Dyck
November 16 2012
Picture: Prado/Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenen Künste, Vienna
Christmas has come early for this Van Dyck anorak, with the apparent news that Van Dyck's earliest Self-Portrait (above, c.1615) has been cleaned.
I say apparent, because I don't know quite when it happened - but the image on the Prado's website for their forthcoming 'Young Van Dyck' exhibition shows the picture looking very different to all previous illustrations of the picture. So I presume it has been cleaned for the exhibition. Before, the picture was hard to interpret thanks to what looked like ingrained dirt and old varnish remaining in the impasto (see below, and here), and, from the photos at least, was a trifle underwhelming. Now, however, the picture looks as wonderfully fresh and spontaneous as you'd expect a youthful Van Dyck self-portrait to look. It's completely fantastic.
The exhibition opens on 20th November, till 3rd March 2013.
Incidentally, please note how different this undoubted self-portrait is to the Portrait of Van Dyck by Rubens at the Rubenshuis (below) of about the same date, which has lately (and most curiously, in my view) been attributed to Van Dyck. I see for now that the Rubenshuis website still identifies the picture as by Rubens, which is a relief. You can see a high-res image of the Rubens here for comparison with the Prado picture.
Fresco Jesus - the restorer's story
November 15 2012
As told to Saturday Night Live.
More on the Prado's new Titian
November 13 2012
A reader has kindly alerted me to the above video, in which we can briefly see the Prado's St John the Baptist by Titian before it was restored. It looks very damaged, but much better.
I've asked the Prado for an image of the picture in its stripped down state, but answer comes there none...
November 12 2012
Picture: Philip Mould & Company
...is always one of our busiest months of the year. I'm not entirely sure why - it may be because people are thinking acquisitionally, ahead of the December Old Master auctions. Today, for example, my colleague Emma Rutherford sold three miniatures, all to new clients, and I sold the above Romney of Mrs Raikes and her Child.
The Romney had been most curiously over-painted by a duff restorer. The detail below shows Mrs Raikes' arm, which had been entirely re-touched in a gloopy brown glaze. This glaze obscured all the form and detail in the dress, and all trace of shadowing above and below the arm. (The right-hand side of the picture below shows our cleaning test). It was as if the previous restorer only had one dark colour on their palette, and decided to restore the whole dress in that one colour. And because it didn't match all the areas he or she needed to restore, they simply re-painted the whole dress in same shade of dark brown. Now that we've taken all this gunk off, the picture has blossomed into one of Romney's more engaging maternal portraits. It's a testament to my boss's x-ray vision - he thought he detected something more promising beneath the over-paint, even from the auction house's photographs.
The picture once belonged to the great collector Henry Clay Frick - did he perhaps employ the restorer from hell? Possibly. But actually we find this sort of thing quite often - restoration standards, even until relatively recently, were far below what we expect today. If you had an area of damaged background, for example, it was easier just to re-paint the whole background one colour, rather than attempt to fill any individual holes. Romney was hotly collected in the US in the early 20th Century, and it's often the case that Romney portraits which have at some time been in America have suffered from unneccessarily extensive restoration. Here's a previous example. Perhaps it was something to do with the American market wanting their pictures to look new and shiny bright.
Ouch - pictures damaged in UK museums
November 12 2012
A Freedom of Information request has revealed the number of pictures recently damaged in British museums. From The Telegraph:
In one of the more comical incidents, at the National Portrait Gallery, the ornament on a frame around a painting of John Dryden, the 17th century poet, by James Francis Mauber valued at £25,000 was detached after a visitor who was part of a large tour group was accidentally knocked off balance by a security officer and fell onto it.
At the British Museum, a 17th century Edward East night clock was broken when a visitor lost their footing and knocked it over, while a valuable Japanese clock was damaged after a cleaner accidentally stumbled into it during a power failure.
But Tate Modern is also a repeat offender.
Roy Lichtenstein’s painting Whaam!, one of the earliest works of pop art which depicts an exploding plane, was defaced when one visitor decided to dispose of what was thought to be chewing gum on the picture itself rather than in a nearby bin.
Most of the examples cited look to be the inevitable accidents. It would be a shame if stories like this led in any way to new rules that make it harder to move or look at paintings.