Category: Discoveries

Allan Ramsay's 'Bonnie Prince' acquired by SNPG (ctd.)

May 11 2016

Image of Allan Ramsay's 'Bonnie Prince' acquired by SNPG (ctd.)

Picture: SNPG

Just to say I've written more about the history of this picture in Country Life, which is available in all good newsagents now.

Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

May 8 2016

Image of Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

Picture: AHN

Remember the early Rembrandt that came up for sale in the US as a '19th Century' work by an unknown artist, with the bidding starting at $500? Its subsequent purchase by the renowned Rembrandt collector Tom Kaplan has been covered on AHN already, but in the LA Times is a fascinating account of how Kaplan bought it - before the picture was cleaned and the attribution confirmed, in part by the discovery of a signature. Brave.

The picture was bought at auction by the Paris-based Galerie Talabardon et Gautier, and:

The following day, they received word that New York financier Thomas Kaplan was interested in purchasing the painting. Kaplan heads the Electrum Group, a privately owned investment management company that invests primarily in natural resources and precious metals, including gold. 

Kaplan and his wife, Daphne, also own one of the world's largest private collections of art from the Dutch Golden Age. The Leiden Collection holds works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and other painters from around the 17th century.

Gautier traveled to New York to negotiate the deal aboard Kaplan's yacht, according to the gallery. The negotiations lasted about an hour. The gallery declined to say how much Kaplan paid for the work.

Kaplan wasn't available for comment but said in a statement that the discovery of the painting and its inclusion in his collection have been "a tremendous delight for me and my wife."[...]

After Kaplan purchased the Rembrandt, the painting was restored. During the process, which removed a layer of varnish, an artist's monogram was discovered in the upper left corner that reads "RF." 

The monogram has been taken to stand for "Rembrandt Fecit," or "Made by Rembrandt." It is believed to be the earliest signature by Rembrandt on a work of art.

"After that, there was little doubt," said Talabardon, the Paris dealer.

A great purchase by a great collector - something you can't often say these days. The painting is now going on loan to the Getty.

A new 'lost' portrait of Anne Boleyn?

April 13 2016

Image of A new 'lost' portrait of Anne Boleyn?

Picture: Mail

There was a story in the newspapers (The Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday) over the weekend about a 'newly discovered' portrait of Anne Boleyn. Actually, what has been discovered is an old reproduction (above) of an apparently lost painting - and the fact that it was found on eBay has given the story added legs (although just to be precise, what was being sold on eBay were modern reproductions - for £70 - of a print found in a print shop near Oxford by a former farmer and Tudor portrait enthusiast Howard Jones).

The identity of the sitter as Anne Boleyn has been endorsed by the Tudor historian Alison Weir, and also by Tracy Borman, who is joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. Borman says:

I'm very convinced by this. It is hugely exciting. This could well be a Coronation portrait.

The whereabouts of the original painting are reported as being unknown:

The original painting was sold in 1842 from Strawberry Hill, the Twickenham castle to a London art dealer. 

He in turn sold it to Ralph Bernal, a British politician and collector who died in 1854. 

Then the trail goes cold. Weir said: 'Someone might come forward and say they've got it. They don't realise it now because it's bound to be labelled Lady Bergavenny.' 

As far as I can make out, the only evidence here to suggest that the sitter is Anne Boleyn is the letter 'A' at the centre of the necklace, and the repeated 'A's in the headdress, and a 'B' and an 'R' at the left and right of the necklace. These apparently point us to 'Anne Boleyn' and 'Anne Regina', hence the portrait being a coronation portrait. The fashion is also right for a portrait of the 1530s.

But of course, Anne Boleyn was not the only Anne in Tudor Britain, and we might even have to allow the possibility that the sitter was called Alice, or Angela, or some such name. Monogrammed jewels were all the rage in the 1530s, as the many surviving designs by Holbein show. And I think probably we would expect Anne, in a coronation portrait, to have either 'AR' for Anne Regina (as we see in the 1534 coronation medal) or 'HA' for Henry & Anne, which again we know was used by the couple thanks to Holbein's designs, and also from some surviving architectural elements. The use of 'AB', or even just a 'B', in the jewels some Anne Boleyn portraits come from posthumous portraits which we cannot take as reliable indicators of either likeness or what jewels she wore. 

The image is not unknown, for it was engraved at least twice in the 19th Century (here and here). Then, the sitter was thought to be Joanna Fitzalan, Lady Bergavenny. This Lady Bergavenny, however, died some time before 1515, and the fashion would appear to rule her out as the sitter in this portrait (though one never knows in Tudor portraiture, and we cannot exclude the possibility that it shows another member of the family). The picture was once at Strawberry Hill, and we must tempted to assume that if there really was any historical chance this sitter might have been Anne Boleyn, then those old iconographical optimists of the 18th and 19th Centuries would have labelled it such.

Anyway, AHNers, I can tell you that the original portrait is not lost, for some years ago I saw a good colour photograph of it. I was shown the photo in strictest confidence by someone who had been asked to look into the possibility that the sitter might be Anne. That person, incidentally, certainly knew their Tudor portrait onions.

Our belief at the time was the sitter was most likely not Anne Boleyn, though the tedious thing is I can't now remember all of our conclusions. There was nothing in the way of provenance, or traditional identification, to lead us down that path. As far as I recall, there was no mathing necklace in any Royal Tudor jewel inventory. But I do remember paying attention to the other motifs in the headdress, and not being able to connect any of them to Anne Boleyn. It's much clearer in the photograph of the actual painting, but the other letter given equal prominence in the headdress alongside the 'A' is what is most likely an 'I' (to see a similar Tudor decorative 'I' see here). It is therefore likely that the sitter in the original portrait is someone called 'AI' or 'IA', with some other initials 'B' and 'R' elsewhere in her or her family's name.

If anyone has any better ideas as to who she is, let me know!

Of course, it's worth remembering that we do in fact have a life portrait of Anne Boleyn by Holbein...

Update - the print itself is now being offered for sale by Howard Jones on Ebay for £1,000. Which is a lot of money for a print of an unknown 16th Century sitter.

Update II - here's a long analysis of the claims (and a sceptical one) from Claire Ridgway, on her blog The Anne Boleyn Files, including a view that the costume is in fact from the 1520s.

Update III - and here's a blog post from Alison Weir (scroll down the page) on why she thinks it might be Anne. I'm afraid it displays some basic misunderstandings about Boleyn's iconography.

The Met's new David drawing

April 6 2016

Video: The Met

The Met has bought a drawing by Jacques Louis David, which according to the video above is one of the artist's first explorations of The Death of Socrates, a painting the Met owns. The drawing apparently surfaced on the art market last year. The new addition means that the Met has recently bought two preparatory drawings by David for The Death of Socrates, for in 2013 (regular readers may remember) they bought another, a 'sleeper' in a New York auction, for just $800. The video doesn't say how the two drawings are related.

Update - a reader points me to the latest drawing's sale at Christie's for $593,000. That's a quite a spread for David drawings of the same subject.

A new Caravaggio discovery?

April 4 2016

Image of A new Caravaggio discovery?

Picture: La Tribune de l'Art/Didier Rykner

Didier Rykner at La Tribune de l'Art reports that the French government has declared a 'national treasure' (and thus carrying certain export constraints) a possible new discovery of a work by Caravaggio. There is alas no photo available, but it is said to be Caravaggio's original version of Judith and Holofernes, which composition has been known until now through a copy by Louis Finson (above). Caravaggio's original is recorded as being in Finson's studio in 1607. The discovery has been hailed by Dr Mina Gregori. Let's hope some images are available soon.

New Rubens discovery in New York

April 1 2016

Image of New Rubens discovery in New York

Picture: Christie's

I was glad to see the above picture in Christie's forthcoming New York catalogue, correctly described as by Rubens. It had previously been in a Christie's South Kensington sale as 'Flemish School', and though I was disappointed to see it withdrawn shortly before the sale, the sleuther's loss is the consignor's gain. 

The estimate of $120,000-$180,000 seems quite reasonable. The sale is on 14th April. Other highlights include a fine, small El Greco of The Entombment at $4m-$6m, and an important newly discovered Virgin and Child by Joos van Cleve $600k-$800k. 

Sleeper Alert

December 2 2015

Image of Sleeper Alert

Picture: Liveauctioneers.com

The above small canvas (50 x 31.5 cm) came up in Austria the other day as 'Attributed to El Greco'. As such, a price of €54,000 wasn't too unusual. But the estimate of €400-€800, with a starting bid of just €200 certainly was cheap.

New research on Joseph Blackburn

November 20 2015

Image of New research on Joseph Blackburn

Picture: Portrait of Colonel Atkinson by Joseph Blackburn, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Resarchers at Worcestershire Archive service here in the UK have unearthed fascinating new details about the life of Joseph Blackburn, a British painter who was one of the most successful portraitists in Colonial America. 

Here is how the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography begins its entry on Blackburn:

Blackburn [is] of obscure origins: nothing is known of his birth, parents, geographical area of origin, or education. His career is documented primarily by about seventy signed portraits painted between 1752 and 1777 in Bermuda, New England, Ireland, and the west of England. An equal number of portraits, mainly of New England subjects, are attributed to him. [...] Nothing is known of Blackburn's death or burial.

But thanks to the new research we now know:

  • He died in 1787 in the parish of St Nicholas in Worcester, England, where his family is recorded as living from 1768.
  • He was an active member of the church there.
  • We now have his will (which reveals he was wealthy).
  • He had two daughters, Henrietta and Elizabeth.
  • He was buried in St Nicholas Church in Worcester on 11th July 1787.
  • The church is now a pub, called the Slug and Lettuce.

More details of this excellent work here. Many congratulations to Angela Downton, Julia Pincott and Teresa Jones, archivists at Worcestershire Archive Service.

New Michelangelo discovery!

September 29 2015

Image of New Michelangelo discovery!

Picture: PR Newswire

Or perhaps not. Here's a press release from a Swiss art authentication firm:

The hitherto unknown pair of sculptures by Michelangelo Buonarroti from 1494 was presented to the public at a media conference on September 8, along with an explanation of the detailed study of the sculptures by the «Art Research Foundation».

The study analyzes the plausibility of the object's time of origin using technical and scientific methods.

An analysis report on the pigments and bonding agents has been written by Professor Dr. Hermann Kühn of Munich. The examination of the surface and the sequence of layers in the cross sections and their appearance under the microscope clearly verify that the paints represent the first or original polychromy. In addition, the analyses of the pigments and bonding agents confirm the time of origin as circa 1494 and the country of origin as Italy. Prof. Dr. Kühn has also written a report on the state of preservation of the Atlantese consoles, in which the pair of sculptures is described as being in a very good state, bearing in mind that the wood sculptures are more than 500 years old and still in their unspoiled, original condition, including the painting.

The14C-dating was carried out by Dr. G. Bonani of the Institute for Particle Physics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The dating of the wood, which was performed using AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry), showed that the assumed age (1494) was in the calibrated time frame (dendrocorrected), with a 100% probability.

Only when the period of creation had been proven beyond any doubt could the analysis in the context of art history be embarked upon and stylistic comparisons drawn with confirmed works. In the study, the subject of Atlantes putti consoles is identified in 52 cases in the authenticated works of Michelangelo. For comparisons with the authenticated work in the context of art history, the overall design of the figures was identified in 71 cases, with 79 stylistic parallels from head to foot drawn in detail and documented in more than 100 photographic plates.

In addition, it was impossible to find a single stylistic element on the sculptures which could not have been matched with the authenticated work. This fact should dispel any remaining doubts that this pair of sculptures are in fact the work of Michelangelo.

Note to scientists: proving that these curious cherubs, which might happily grace the bow of a ship, were made in the late 15th Century is not the same as proving they were made by one of the greatest sculptors who ever lived. A bit of documentation or art history would be much appreciated next time.

Update - a reader writes:

The putti are attractive but if they are fifteenth century & very early Michelangelo and in excellent condition then 1) what is the provenance which enabled them to remain intact and together, 2) who cleaned them and when.  Anything half a millennium old accumulates a coating of smoke and pollution which has apparently been cleaned.  That coating contains information regarding where they were and when. If they were cleaned regularly during the centuries it is unlikely that the paint would be intact so the cleaning was probably recent.

“Possibly by Michelangelo” is much better than some candidates that appear which are only “allegedly by Michelangelo”. 

A Polish restitution

September 29 2015

Image of A Polish restitution

Picture: Washington Post

The above portrait by Krzysztof Lubieniecki was looted during WW2 by the Nazis from the National Museum in Warsaw. It was recovered by Allied forces, but as seems to have happened quite often was quietly taken back to America by a US soldier. Recently, the picture was traced to Ohio, and the current owners have agreed to send the picture back to Poland. More here

Sleeper Alert!

September 22 2015

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: AHN Reader

They're coming thick and fast at the moment. The above screenshot comes courtesy of a sleuthing reader, and shows the $870,000 closing bid on a '19th C Continental School, Portrait with Lady Fainting' sold today in the US. The estimate was $500-$800. Someone has taken quite a punt.

Still, $870,000 (or close to $1m with premium) is cheap for an early Rembrandt. It's a little expensive for an early Dou. 

Judging by the head of the figure in a red hat, I'd say the former is a better bet. If you bought it, good spot - and good luck!

Update - a reader writes:

Sleeper is definitely by Jan Lievens.

Update II - another reader writes:

Surely can't be any doubt [Rembrandt] - from his senses series. But not so cheap - I seem to recall that the last one sold from the series didn't make that much more than this. Given relationship to the other accepted works, it's hard to see much room for debate in the attribution. But Wetering can be unpredictable.

Update III - another sleuthing bidder writes:

Definitely an early Rembrandt, as part of the five senses: Smell

I was for 2 seconds the highest bidder at 1800 dollar...

Ach! Better luck next time.

It seems the world and its wife had spotted this one (except me, I missed this sale entirely). Is there such a thing as a cheap sleeper in this internet age?

Still, I did fare a little better the other day, and somewhat closer to home. Phew...

Update IV - Paul Jeromack in The Art Newspaper reports further on the Sense series, and tells us that the underbidder was 'a British dealer'.

Update V - here in Volume V of the Rembrandt Research Project is more information on the Senses series. This latest sleeper is beginning to look like a slam dunk. 

Update VI - a sleuthing friend writes:

Let us remember that we are only as good as the next one... we soon become Salieris to younger Mozarts unless we madly pursue what drives us...

Nice phrase that, I might have to steal it. In the meantime, I'm off to thesaleroom.com.

Update VII - Rembrandt scholar Gary Schwartz seems pretty convinced.

Sleeper Alert!

September 20 2015

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Hargesheimer Auktion

The above picture was catalogued in a German auction house as a 17th or 18th century work, with an estimate of EUR500. Twelve phone lines later, the bidding stopped at EUR150,000. I thought it was certainly 16th Century, but didn't get any further than that, and didn't bid at all. The name Bonifacio Veronese has been mentioned to me by an underbidder.

Update - I'm told that actually there were 40 telephone lines.

New Churchill portrait discovered

September 16 2015

Image of New Churchill portrait discovered

Picture: Telegraph

In The Telegraph, Colin Gleadell reports that a study of Churchill by Sickert has been discovered by the Court Gallery. It was on sale at the 20/21 art fair in London, and was apparently bought by the London sculpture dealer Danny Katz for about £50,000. The picture is a study for this famous portrait in the NPG.

A wee Scottish discovery

September 11 2015

Image of A wee Scottish discovery

Picture: Lyon and Turnbull

The main auction house up here in Edinburgh, Lyon and Turnbull, asked to me write an article about a re-discovered 17th Century portrait of King Malcolm III, best known as the slayer of Macbeth. The portrait is by George Jamesone, and was painted for the entry of Charles I into Edinburgh in 1633. 

The article is on page 54 here, and the picture comes up for sale in December with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

Sleeper alert!

July 10 2015

Image of Sleeper alert!

Picture: Kahn

The above sketch by Jordaens, an early work, made €260,000 in Paris today, against a €600-€800 estimate.

Sleeper alert!

July 10 2015

Image of Sleeper alert!

Picture: Bonhams

This picture, which was displayed unframed in two pieces on a table, soared above its £7,000-£10,000 estimate at Bonhams to make £230,500. The picture was catalogued as Follower of Francesco Furini, but the name of Jacques Blanchard has been whispered to AHN. I looked at it during the viewing, but couldn't make head nor tail of the likely artist. Way off piste for me...

New Gainsborough drawing discovery

June 30 2015

Image of New Gainsborough drawing discovery

Picture: Bainbridges Auctions

A newly discovered drawing by Thomas Gainsborough is to be sold at auction, with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000. More here

A Picasso in a suitcase?

June 29 2015

Image of A Picasso in a suitcase?

Picture: Scotsman

An artist here in Scotland claims to have found a painting by Picasso in an old suitcase of his mother's. The picture had lain undisturbed for decades, says Dominic Currie, above, but was opened after his mother's recent death. Apparently, Mr Currie's mother met and fell pregnant to a Russian soldier whilst on a holiday to Poland in 1955, and the picture was a gift from him. More here

Update - some doubts raised here in the Mail, by some who think it looks to be a pastiche based on another work by Picasso in Chicago, his portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (below right).

New Monet pastel discovery

June 24 2015

Image of New Monet pastel discovery

Picture: Guardian

When the London-based art dealer Jonathan Green came to remove some tape from the back of a Monet pastel he'd bought at auction, he was pleasantly surprised to find another, completely unknown pastel by Monet. More here in The Guardian.

Getty buys lost Bernini sculpture

June 22 2015

Image of Getty buys lost Bernini sculpture

Picture: NYT

The New York Times reports that the Getty has bought the above bust by Bernini of Pope Paul V. The 1621 bust was long thought lost. More here

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