January 31 2013
Picture: Mail/Newsteam/Mullock's Auctioneers
There's been lots of excitement in the UK press about a 'newly discovered' portrait of Goering. From the Mail:
A never-before-seen portrait of Nazi leader Hermann Goering painted by a Jewish artist during the 1930s is set to go under the hammer.
The oil painting by Imre Goth enraged the tyrant after it was completed, as he was furious that it depicted him as the morphine-fuelled drug addict he was.
Goering was so outraged by the artwork that Goth feared for his life, and was forced to flee Germany and seek refuge in Britain. The portrait never left the possession of its creator, and on his death 30 years ago he asked a friend to destroy it. But the confidante kept the unique work, and it is expected to sell for thousands of pounds when it goes up for auction next month.
I'm no Imre Goth expert, but from what I've seen of his work he was a much better artist than this. There's something rather disingenuous about the picture on offer here - its surface, colouring, and drawing all look most odd. Caveat emptor, as they say...
And in any case, why would you want to sell, much less buy, a portrait of such an odious figure. Check out this peculiar argument for buying the portrait from the auctioneer:
The portrait forms part of a war memorabilia sale to be held by Mullock’s auctioneers in Ludlow, Shropshire on February 14. Its reserve price is £8,000, but it has previously been valued by experts as high as £50,000.
'The historical significance of this portrait cannot be denied,' said Richard Westwood-Brookes of Mullock's.
'As opposed to the official Nazi portraits of Goering, this shows him exactly what he was - a depraved drug addict - and for that reason I personally think it should be displayed publicly to show successive generations exactly what the Nazis really were, as opposed to their now more familiar propaganda images.'
Update - a reader writes:
I agree who would want it. The sad reality though is that there are lots of people out there who are Nazi sympathers/fans/memorabilia collectors and all it really takes is two of them!
..If you Google nazi memoribilia there are even dealers!
Update II - another reader writes:
I too was bemused by Mullock's angle on the portrait. There's a faint sense like a bad smell in the back alleys of the auction world that shiny boots and swastikas are considered rather impressive.
This is not Katherine Parr (ctd.)
January 25 2013
Excitement in the news that the National Portrait Gallery has restored and put on display an early portrait of Catherine of Aragon. For many years it was called 'Katherine Parr', but now the NPG says it isn't. Readers of AHN, naturally, have known this for some months.
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.
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.
Mozart discovered in miniature?
January 14 2013
Picture: Stiftung Mozarteum
There were few details available in the English press, but if you're German is good enough you can read here details of what seems to be an exciting new discovery of a portrait miniature of Mozart. In a nutshell, the miniature above, long uncertainly called Mozart, has been firmly identified as him by the Stiftung Mozarteum in Salzburg thanks to an engraving done in 1829 by Gottschick after a portrait by Joseph Grassi, whom Mozart is known to have met in Vienna.
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.
The V&A loses a Schiavone, but gains a Tintoretto
January 7 2013
In the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine, V&A curator Ana Debenedetti has a fascinating and impressive article showing that a painting in the collection of the V&A formerly attributed to Andrea Schiavone is in fact by Tintoretto. It was traditionally called The Embarkation of the Queen, but the subject is now shown to be St Helena embarking for the Holy Land. You can see the picture here (the V&A website still calls it a Schiavone). The Burlington article is available here to subscribers (though, incidentally, isn't it time The Burlington made its content freely available online? It is after all a charitable publication).
Update - a reader writes:
You ask, "Isn't it time The Burlington made its content freely available online? It is after all a charitable publication." But how would the magazine cover its considerable costs if it made content available free online immediately on publication? The result would be to lose paying subscribers. The magazine's finances are already extremely tight. There is a unwarranted sense that online content should be free. Great to have things free but actually they still have to be paid for, whether through subscriptions, donations, taxation or advertising.
AHN is free! And I'd wager that my readership is about the same as The Burlington's. Though I appreciate that the content is very tabloid by comparison...
The question is, however, to what extent should a publication's mission be about accessibility and, in The Burlington's case, education - spreading the gospel, so to speak - as opposed to being a financially sound production. The Burlington essentially signalled that it could never be the latter with the establishment of a charitable foundation to supplement its income in 1986. It went from being a commercial publication to a charitably funded means of disseminating high quality art historical research. That being the case, then it seems to me that the magazine must move with the times, not to mention the reading habits of its future readers and contributors, and establish a greater online presence - one that is searchable and accessible to a far wider audience than the current £16.60 cover price allows.
Of course, publications around the world are grappling with the transition from print to online, and whether to opt for paid content from subscriptions, or free access supported by advertising and other income. Most publications that choose the former seem to die out pretty quickly. My hunch is that most of The Burlington's subscribers would continue to pay for the print edition even if the content was free online - for those that can afford it, a printed art historical image and text is always nicer than a screen. The magazine might even find that it gained subscribers by opening itself up to an online market of many millions (mind you, if The Burlington did do this - and I'm sorry to go on - it really should try and make its articles more readable for the generalist. I find some of them baffling, beginning as they often do in media res, with no attention paid to paragraphs, to say nothing of introductions and conclusions.)
Update II - a reader writes:
I couldn't agree more about Burlington - not so much the free vs. subscription argument - but rather the lack of clarity of its articles. Talking of which you used to mention the British Art Journal which, on the hand, seems far better written than Burlington, but you don't seem to have referred to it for quite some time.
The BAJ is indeed a quality read, but alas isn't as frequently published as The Burlington.
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!!??
Here's one I missed earlier
December 21 2012
Picture: The Magazine Antiques
In The Magazine Antiques, Christopher Bryant has an excellent article on a long-lost portrait of Captain Gabriel Matruin by John Singleton Copley, recently found at an auction in the US (and alas not by me!).
El Greco soars above estimate (ctd.)
December 10 2012
Hot on the heels of an 'attributed to El Greco' which went way over estimate at Bonhams last week, the above 'Workshop of El Greco' made £163,250 at Sotheby's, against a £10-£15,000 estimate. The picture, a Saint Francis in Ecstasy was in reasonably good state, and signed. There was quite a lot of overpaint in the background. It had been called 'El Greco' until it was rejected in Harold Wethey's 1962 catalogue raisonne. Apparently it was also questioned by someone senior at the Prado recently.
Here at Philip Mould & Co., we thought the picture had presence, and potential to be the real thing. The signature looked damaged, but original. It seemed, on looking into the literature, that Wethey had slightly got his St Francis's in a muddle, and that the above picture could in fact be a lost original. We had a generous go at the auction, but were alas unsuccesful. El Greco is a little outside our usual area of expertise, so we weren't confident enough to go all the way, so to speak.
I look forward to seeing it again soon.
Update - a reader writes:
As an aficionado of Art History News, I enjoy the gossip but worry that you reveal too much of Philip Mould Ltd's methodology.
The clue with the Sotheby El Greco is its lack of provenance. His work wasn't of enormous monetary value at the end of the 19th century, which explains how Ignacio Zuloaga was able to acquire an El Greco painting in Paris when he was still an impoverished artist. Who the heck was María del Carmen Mendiéta? Methinks that someone has misidentified her.
El Greco soars above estimate
December 5 2012
The soaraway price of the week so far is the £790k (with premium) realised by the above Saint Peter catalogued as 'Attributed to El Greco' at Bonhams. The picture was estimated at £40-£60,000. I'm no El Greco expert, but even to me it looked to be so well painted that it surely must be 'right', as we say in the trade.
The picture had recently been surface-cleaned, but was consigned in a generally unrestored state. In other words, it was a perfect trade picture, which could be taken onto the next level if the attribution is firmed up, and the picture restores well. The price is a reminder to the auction houses, in this week of (so far) high unsold levels, of how much the trade underpins Old Master auctions.
Christie's Old Master evening sale
December 4 2012
Bit of a flat one this. Christie's most recent Old Master auctions in London totalled £95m, but tonight's sale limped home at just £11.5m. December sales usually play second fiddle to the July auctions, but there's no denying that this evening's was rather weak.
I'm not entirely sure why. The quality of the pictures on offer wasn't bad, the estimates weren't crazy, and the cataloguing was the usual high standard for a Christie's evening sale. There were no knockout lots though. The top lot by value was a £2m Jordaens (inc. premium).
However, by my counting some 25 of the 54 lots failed to sell, and nothing kills the atmosphere in an auction room quicker than a run of bought in pictures. At one point there were 8 consecutive failures. The buy-ins included what we thought was a rather fine Italian-period Van Dyck, which we had been tempted to bid on [below].
Happily, the British pictures on offer performed well. A not stellar Reynolds made £211k, three head studies by Lawrence made £121k, while a fine Gainsborough copy after Van Dyck made £265k. And the second highest price of the evening was for a rare night scene by Wright of Derby, which made £914,850 [above]. This delightful picture had recently been discovered in a US auction (I'm told) for peanuts. It was an epic find by probably the greatest sleeper-hunter of our time (who is very discrete, so I can't name him).
Tomorrow evening's Sotheby's sale will most likely beat the Christie's total, especially if they sell their £10m-£15m Raphael drawing, and the £5m-£7m Jan Steen.
Update - a reader writes:
I can tell you part of the reason the sale fell flat tonight - picture flipping. At least 16 paintings had been on the market in the last 15 years, and only 5 of them sold. The market is smart enough to figure out that the Flinck sold 7 months ago at Dobiaschofsky, even if it wasn't spelled out in the catalogue, and wasn't going to pay a premium to a sleeper hunter who overpaid for a work in mediocre condition. Almost without exception, the Dutch pictures were recycled, mediocre examples of the artists' work. As something of a sleeper hunter myself, my rules are a) if it can be found, properly attributed, on Artnet, it will make a fair price the first time around regardless of where the auction is or what the estimate is, and b) even if it's not on Artnet, if you can tell during the bidding that at least two dealers are involved as well, it will make a fair price, and it's best to sit back and let it go. That leads to a pretty low success rate in bidding, but a low failure rate in reselling as well.
Art discovery, Uzbek style
December 4 2012
What's the best way to announce an art discovery to the rest of the world? If you're in Uzbekistan, it involves candles, serving girls in period dress, live music, plenty of booze, endless speeches, a pair of nuns, and a bishop. As Uznews.net reports, a lost painting attributed to Veronese has been found in the stores of the Tashkent Museum of Arts:
Specialists of Tashkent's Museum of Arts yesterday presented the proof of authenticity of Paolo Veronese's The Lamentation of Christ which was discovered in its repositories.
On 27 November, Uzbek arts specialists told a news conference about their work to establish the authorship of the painting.
Initially, the painting was believed to have been of unknown origin. Later, specialists arrived at the conclusion and it was proven that the discovered painting was 16th century Italian painter Paolo Veronese's The Lamentation of Christ.
However, according to AFP:
[...] the Italian embassy in Tashkent has urged caution, saying while the show is a remarkable event, further work will be needed to confirm that the picture is a genuine Veronese.
The State Arts Museum unveiled the painting in an exhibition called the "Revival of a Masterpiece", presenting it to the public at a ceremony with Uzbek officials, the Italian ambassador and Russian Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church leaders.
The Arts Museum said the "Lamentation of Christ" was brought to Uzbekistan in the 19th century when the territory was part of the Russian Empire.
The picture was part of the collection which belonged to the Romanov dynasty of Russia's last emperor, Nicholas II.
You can read more about the picture's history here. Scroll through to about 10mins 30s to see the painting being unveiled. Western galleries have a lot to learn from this, don't you think? Especially the booze and period dress.
Getting up close and personal with art
December 3 2012
I'm afraid service might be a little slow at the moment, as we're in the thick of Old Master Week here in London. Things are pleasingly busy in the art world, and the salerooms are buzzing. I still can't work out why the art market seems to be defying the general economic gravity, but it is. This weekend we experimented with weekend opening times, and even sold a painting (a Kneller), on Saturday.
Above is a snap from Sotheby's, where they are showing Raphael's drawing of an apostle, consigned by Chatsworth at £10-£15m. If you have the time, and even if you have no intention of buying, I strongly recommend checking out the Sotheby's and Christie's Old Master viewings. It's one of the best ways to become intimate with great art, and allows an experience quite unlike that you get in any museum. Not only can you get up close and personal to the paint surface, you can also take photos, look at the backs, and generally do things (within reason) that would normally see you escorted from most art galleries by a pair of heavies. This week you can not only see the above Raphael drawing, but fine works by Batoni and Jan Steen at Sotheby's, while Christie's have a newly re-discovered Wright of Derby (below), and a good pair of Van Dycks.
New Murillo show at Dulwich
November 30 2012
Picture: Dulwich Picture Gallery
The Dulwich Picture Gallery has announced details of a new exhibition on Murillo, to open on 6th February. From The Guardian:
Britain's oldest purpose built art gallery is to be turned into something approaching a Sevillian church when it stages an exhibition of works by the 17th-century Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
Dulwich Picture Gallery in London has announced details of a show that will also include a work thought lost; and a re-attribution to Murillo of a work that has been rescued from the gallery's stores.
The show examines Murillo in his later years and specifically his relationship with his patron and friend Don Justino de Neve, the canon of Seville Cathedral – "the Saatchi and Damien Hirst of their time", said the gallery's chief curator, Xavier Bray.
Anyway, the show will have a few recent discoveries, including the above newly-restored sketch of The Adoration of Magi, which was previously languishing unloved in the Gallery's store.
Does this cabbage turn you on? (ctd.)
November 19 2012
Following our naughty cabbage story (below), a reader writes:
Couldn't agree more on being rather suspect of reading overly sexual meanings in pictures such as the Dou you posted this week. However, I think from time to time my fellow countrymen painters did like to include a dubious prop or two, such as Abraham van den Tempel in this picture sold at Christie's Amsterdam this week [above]. The calabash in question could hardly be over-interpreted, in my view...
More on that lost 'n found Renoir
November 16 2012
Picture: Washington Post. Susan Helen Adler, niece of Saidie Adler May, poses outside the Baltimore Museum of Art. On her T-shirt is a photo of the stolen Renoir.
That Renoir bought in a flea market for just $7, and which turned out to have been stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art, has renewed tensions between the museum and the family of the collector who donated the picture to the museum, Saidie Adler May. From The Washington Post:
The relatives said they believe that the museum has not always safeguarded their family’s donations. Until late October, the descendants didn’t know that art donated by May’s sister, Blanche Adler, a prominent BMA donor, also had been stolen from the museum. They also complained that the museum does not display enough of May’s art.
Museum officials said the thefts happened a long time ago, and security has been beefed up considerably since. They noted that the museum can show off only so much from one family’s collection, and that May’s mix of classical and Egyptian works, Renaissance textiles, 20th-century European paintings, and even a Jackson Pollock, was given with no strings attached.
National Trust picks up a bargain
November 16 2012
Good to see that the National Trust is not averse to a spot bargain hunting. Curators at Dunham Massey will soon be receiving the above portrait of George Booth, 1st Lord Delamer, bought at Christie's in New York for just $2,125. In their Arts Bulletin, the Trust reveals that it found some extra provenance linking the picture to the house. But despite their purchase, the Trust seem cautious about firmly identifying the sitter, although it's a dead ringer for their other portrait of Delamer, attributed to Lely.
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...