February 24 2014
...for all your kind emails and Tweets following my BBC Culture Show programme on the weekend. It seems to have gone down quite well. In Scotland at least.
I will soon post a much more detailed note on the picture, as there was lots of information we sadly had to leave out of the film.
There may not be much more from me here today though, as I've got quite a lot to catch up on.
Update - still catching up on things today, Tuesday, apologies...
Update II - I give up. Have had so much to do, and so much kind feedback, that the blog will now have to wait till tomorrow I fear. Sorry!
Update III - a reader Tweets:
please upload a new blog post, I'm getting withdrawal symptoms, thanks
It seems to have become a week off. Oops...
Update IV - nice review of the programme in The Spectator here.
Two new Gainsboroughs!
February 11 2014
Pictures: BBC/ Your Paintings
Thanks to those of you who wrote in about the latest episode of 'Fake or Fortune?' If you want to see it (if you live in the UK), the episode is still on iPlayer here. It was a rewarding programme to work on, and to have ended up with two new works by Gainsborough was a nice way to end the series. For those who didn't see it, we looked into two paintings found on the BBC Your Paintings website which had no firm attribution.
The first was an 'imaginary landscape' (above) described as by an imitator of Gainsborough, and the second was a portrait of Joseph Gape (top), which was catalogued simply as 'English School'. The landscape is in the Courtauld collection, while the portrait was in storage at the St Albans museum, but turned out to be on loan from the sitters' descendants. Both pictures were subsequently accepted by the compiler of the forthcoming catalogue raisonne of Gainsborough's portraits, Hugh Belsey. The Courtauld picture turned out to be a drawing, partly worked up in colour by Gainsborough, but which had been finished off by another hand, most noticeably in areas such as the central part of the sky.
We didn't have time in the programme to fully explore the fascinating x-ray we took of the Gape portrait, so I've posted images of it below. The first one, as I mentioned in the show, demonstrates that originally the picture was a described oval, but had been cut down into an oval shape, and the arm extended by a later restorer. The second is a close up of the head, which reveals just how much overpaint remains on the face, especially around the eyes; they're much more expressive, to the extent that it's almost a different person. Also visible in x-ray is more of Gainsborough's signature technique, and it was gratifying to see this after my initial hunch that the much over-painted picture was indeed by Gainsborough. And interestingly, the x-ray revealed a different wig. The wig seen in the x-ray is of a slightly older fashion, and has been altered, probably just a few years after the portrait was painted, to show the latest type.
If you'll allow me to boast for a moment, 'Fake or Fortune?' has so far discovered (and had accepted by the relevant experts) works by Degas, Van Dyck, Turner (3), Vuillard, Constable (2), and now Gainsborough (2). We're now looking for stories for a fourth series, so if you have a secret Leonardo, please let me know. To read more about how we go about finding pictures like these, and how you can do it too, here's a new article on the BBC website.
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.
Nuclear testing for fakes
February 11 2014
Picture: Guggenheim Collection
Here's an interesting story; a questionable painting in the Guggenheim collection by Fernand Leger has been proved to be a fake by testing for faint signs of cold-war era nuclear bombs. These apparently proved that the painting must have been made after Leger's death. More here.
A new blog, and a new artist
February 6 2014
Picture: Private Collection
Here's a new(ish) blog from Caroline Pegum, of the NPG London, which focuses on British and Irish art of c.1700. Well worth checking in on. In her latest post, she discusses works by previously unrecord artists, including a Robert Threder, who painted the above portrait of Henry, 2nd Baron Coleraine, in 1694.
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.
Gwen John's grave found
February 4 2014
In Dieppe, apparently. More here.
Dadd watercolour discovered on Ebay
January 29 2014
The Art Newspaper reports that a watercolour by Richard Dadd, painted while he was imprisoned for murdering his father, has been found on eBay for just £200. More here.
Rembrandt etching discovery
January 23 2014
Picture: National Gallery of Scotland
Dr Tico Seifert, senior curator at the National Gallery of Scotland, has discovered a Rembrandt etching in the museum's collection. The portrait of Jan Cornelis Sylvius (above) is a second state impression, and the only known example in red ink. From The Scotsman:
The subject of the portrait – believed to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds – was a relative of Saskia van Uylenburgh, whom the artist wed in 1634. Dr Tico Seifert, senior curator for northern European art, said his curiosity was immediately piqued when he came across the etching in a box of prints because all known copies of the print are in reverse, unlike this one, which was nestled among dozens of copies of the artist’s work.
Further research, including authenticity checks with Rembrandt experts in Amsterdam, found the portrait of Sylvius was the only existing impression of the work in red ink.
Dr Seifert said: “These kind of plates were created through a chemical process which would see the artist polish the plate, cover it with a varnish and then take a very sharp, fine needle and scratch the varnish.
“The plate would then be put into an acid bath, so it was a chemical process rather than a mechanical process. You would take a wet piece of paper, put it on top of the plate and run it through a roller press. The big difference with this work is that it was printed in red ink. When I contacted colleagues in Amsterdam to find out about impressions in red ink, which are generally very rare, to my great surprise and delight they told me that this was a unique print.
Not Henry VIII's 'last portrait'
January 16 2014
Picture: The Times
A new dendrochronological analysis of the above portrait of Henry VIII at Longleat House has led to some incorrect news reporting. The Mail, for example, reported the following:
The painting was previously thought to be a portrait of the king painted after his death. Now, after thorough scientific examination of the oak, experts believe Henry VIII may have posed for an unknown artist in 1544, three years before his death. The wood is believed to date back to 1529.
The painting has an inscription on it stating that it was painted when the Monarch was aged 54, in the 36th year of his reign, but it was common for information to be placed on later copies.
But a closer look at the inscription showed it had been added at the same time the portrait was created.
Then we have this quote from a Tudor historian:
Elizabeth Norton, an author and historian of the Tudor monarchy, said: 'He died in January 1547 and suffered from ill-health for much of 1546. There aren’t any paintings of him depicted as as old man.
'It may well be the last painting that he posed for.'
Readers even half familiar with Tudor iconography will know, however, that the Longleat picture is merely a (very good, by the look of it) replica of Holbein's best surviving face-on portrait of Henry in Rome,* which can be dated to 1540 and is inscribed as showing the king at the age of 49. In the Rome picture, as in the Longleat replica, Henry is shown wearing the clothes he wore for his marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1539. So it isn't at all possible that the Longleat picture, which is inscribed as showing the king aged 54, is a life portrait.
In fact, Holbein's original portrait of the king in this full-frontal pose, for which Henry must presumably have sat, was the c.1536 mural at Whitehall palace, which was destroyed by fire in 1698, after a laundry maid left some washing too close to a fire. The mural was recorded in 1667 by Remigius van Leemput:
Some years ago I re-created (after many hours on Photoshop) a digital, life-size recreation of Holbein's mural for an exhibition in the Philip Mould gallery guest-curated by Dr David Starkey, called 'Lost Faces'. Contemporary accounts of the original mural reported people 'trembling' in front of it. And when I stood before the replica at full scale I could understand why. For a tudor spectator, Holbein's extraordinary realism, combined with the relatively confined and probably quite gloomy space the mural was in, must have convinced some that they were in the presence of some sort of royal witchcraft. Most people then, of course, would never have seen a work of art on such a scale before, and nor such a good one.
Finally, contrary to what Elizabeth Norton says, there are indeed portraits which show the king as an older man, as seen in the example below (from the National Portrait Gallery) in which he is shown with what must be one of the blingiest walking sticks in history:
As to the Longleat picture's value, which the newspapers inevitably speculated on, then I would say it comes in at around the level of the Studio of Holbein portrait sold recently at Christie's for £650k. This last picture was one of the first Tudor portraits I researched, and it was fun to find it in the inventories of the Dukes of Hamilton.
The Longleat story was also in the Times today.
Update - a reader writes:
I have the same reaction to all these portraits of Henry VIII: that was one very, very frightening man!!
Larry's TV debut!
January 6 2014
My colleague here at Philip Mould & Co., Lawrence Hendra (who regular readers will know from his helpful stints looking after AHN when I'm away) made his Antiques Roadshow debut last night. And very good he was too. Check out the ARS' youngest expert (at just 23) here on the BBC iPlayer here at about 30 minutes in.
New Fragonard discovery
January 6 2014
The New York Old Master sales* are now online, and there's a fascinating new Fragonard discovery at Sotheby's. The above nude, painted when Fragonard was evidently influenced by Boucher, has been unseen since the late 18th Century, and was known only by a contemporary drawing of it in a 1776 sale catalogue (below). The estimate is $200,000-$250,000. More details here.
*If you're going, I'll see you there!
Update - it made $395k
New Van Dyck discovery
January 5 2014
Slightly old news this now, but an interesting Van Dyck head study turned up on the Antiques Roadshow recently here in the UK. The picture was first spotted by Fiona Bruce, with whom Philip Mould and I work on 'Fake or Fortune?'. It was much over-painted by a later hand (as sketchy head studies often are), but conservation revealed the original beneath. Full story in the video above.
The picture is one of four head studies relating to Van Dyck's lost painting of 'The Magistrates of Brussels'. Two other studies are in the Ashmolean, here and here, and another was found by the London-based art dealer Fergus Hall.
'Fake or Fortune?' returns"!
December 18 2013
What better antidote could there be to cold, dark winter evenings than series 3 of 'Fake or Fortune?'. The first of four programmes goes out on Sunday 19th January, BBC1, 6pm. I should be able to tell you the artists involved soon.
New Constable discovered verso
November 28 2013
The V&A has discovered a sketch (above) by John Constable on the reverse of their Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead. The picture was found when a later re-lining canvas was removed. More here.
New Claude discovery at Christie's
November 7 2013
Christie's December Old Master sale catalogues are online, and the cover lot for their evening sale is a newly discovered £3m-£5m Claude landscape. The picture was nearly a bargain of the year, having been included (but withdrawn) in a Christie's South Kensington sale earlier this year as 'follower of Claude'. More details in Christie's press release here.
The enticing-sleeper-withdrawn-at-the-last-minute thing happens a lot these days. There's a reason for this, and I'll leave to you to figure it out.
Nazi loot extravaganza
November 4 2013
Up to 1500 artworks, from Durer to Picasso, stolen by the Nazis and lost since the war have been found in a flat in Munich. From The Guardian:
The works, which would originally have been confiscated as "degenerate art" by the Nazis or taken from Jewish collectors in the 1930s and 1940s, had made their way into the hands of a German art collector, Hildebrand Gurlitt. When Gurlitt died, the artworks were passed down to his son, Cornelius – all without the knowledge of the authorities.
Gurlitt, who had not previously been on the radar of the police, attracted the attention of the customs authorities only after a random cash check during a train journey from Switzerland to Munich in 2010, according to Focus. Further police investigations led to a raid on Gurlitt's flat in Schwabing in spring 2011. Police discovered a vast collection of masterpieces by some of the world's greatest artists.
The artworks are thought to have been stored amid juice cartons and tins of food on homemade shelves in a darkened room. Since their seizure, they have been stored in a safe customs building outside Munich, where the art historian Meike Hoffmann, from Berlin university, has been assessing their precise origin and value. When contacted by the Guardian, Hoffmann said she was under an obligation to maintain secrecy and would not be able to comment on the Focus report until Monday.
Very weird that the German police have know about this since 2011, but have not made a squeak since. You can see the original story in Focus, in German, here. You can see Godfrey Barker discuss the discovery here, and a shot of the unassuming flat where the pictures were found here. There's an ecellent interview with Anne Webber from the Commission for Looted Art in Europe on the Today programme here, at 1hr 22 mins in. Anne rightly says that the police's two and half year delay in publishing the list of looted pictures is almost as big a story as the discovery itself. She says that there is a 'culture of secrecy' in that part of Germany when it comes to Nazi loot. Munich, of course, was where the Nazi party began.
Update - a reader writes:
What one wonders of course is precisely what was going on with that trove of art.
The non owner who has held it is a recluse but realized about USD 1.2 million from one sale in recent years. More than he appears to spend in a decade. And there were other sales.
Was this being held to finance a nefarious purpose or is that just a plot for the next Michael Fassbender film.
Of course perhaps it is just further proof to the remaining deniers of what happened in Europe seventy years ago.
Update II - Catherine Hickley has more information at Bloomberg:
A stash of art uncovered in a Munich apartment in 2012 included top quality works that were previously unknown, among them a self-portrait by Otto Dix, said Meike Hoffmann, an art historian investigating the hoard.
The cache of almost 1,500 paintings, lithographs, drawings and prints included works by Max Beckmann, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Oskar Kokoschka, Franz Marc, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Max Liebermann, said Siegfried Kloeble of the Munich customs authorities. Some of the art dates back as far as the 16th century. It was stored correctly and in good condition, Hoffmann said.
Some works were seized by the Nazis from German museums -- others may have been sold by Jewish families under duress, Hoffmann said. Reinhard Nemetz, the chief prosecutor in Augsburg, said authorities won’t publish a list of the artworks online.
“The legal situation of the artworks is very complex,” Nemetz said at a news conference today in Augsburg. “We don’t want a situation where there are 10 claims for one painting.”
This last statement is completely bonkers. It just sounds as if Herr Nemetz can't be bothered to return these pictures to their rightful owners.
October 29 2013
The Antiques Trade Gazette reports that the above picture made £240,000 at a Lyon & Turnbull sale in Edinburgh sale last week, against a £8,000-£12,000 estimate. It was catalogued as by a 16th Century follower of Dieric Bouts, who painted this very similar composition in the Staatliche Museum in Berlin.
More of Leonardo's Sala delle Asse mural uncovered
October 24 2013
Removal of whitewash in Sforzesco Castle, Italy, has apparently revealed the remains of Leonardo's decoration in the Sala delle Asse. From the Gazzetta del Sud:
New sections of artwork by Leonardo da Vinci have been found in a room of the Sforzesco Castle, where he was the court artist for the duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, in the late 1400s. Restoration work on the Sala delle Asse (room of the planks), which da Vinci decorated from April to September of 1498 with a mural of trees soaring into a vaulted canopy, has revealed additional sections of the original work under several layers of whitewash - sometimes up to 17 - according to representatives of the Florentine restoration institute Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Restoration workers say they are uncovering a monochrome section of the mural depicting a huge tree root [below], stuck in rock at the base of the many trees that adorn the room - a giant, surprising 'trompe l'oeil'. Analyses done on the face of the mural to reconstruct the original composition give "quite interesting results", they say, and give hope of restoring large parts of the original decoration. So far the work of scraping away newer layers has been performed with mechanical means, like scalpels and hammers, but further work will likely require other methods, like ultrasound scaling, laser instruments and chemical products.
More photos of the work in action here.
Newly found Brueghel the Younger at Frieze
October 17 2013
It's good to see that one of the headline pictures from this week's Frieze fairs has come from the Masters (ie, 'old') part. Congratulations to famed Old Master dealer Johnny Van Haeften for finding a lost work by Pieter Breughel the Younger in East Africa. The FT reports:
“I can tell you, it nearly blew my socks off,” Johnny Van Haeften laughed. “In my – what is it? – almost 44 years in the art world I’ve never known an experience like this.”
Van Haeften, one of London’s most respected dealers in Old Masters, sounded almost breathless as he told his story. Speaking from his Mayfair gallery, he was describing his first sight of a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger that has for the 400 years since its creation been completely unknown to the world.
It has been continuously in the possession of the same English family since a distant ancestor bought it, direct from the artist’s studio, in Antwerp in 1611.
The owners had never publicised their precious possession, although they were well aware of its pedigree. Until the 1950s they even had among the family papers the original receipt, Van Haeften tells me, made out in Antwerp in 1611 for the purchase price of 200 florints. (If that mislaid piece of paper ever comes to light, it will in itself be a fascinating object for art historians.)