Exclusive - Sleeper alert!
May 18 2014
The above 'Nederlandischer Meister' picture, estimated at just EUR15,000-EUR18,000, sold yesterday in Germany for EUR1.3m. An explanation as to why probably lies in the fact that, as the catalogue noted, several faces in the background appear in the oeuvre of one Rembrandt. What the catalogue didn't point out is that one of these, top right, in fact shows Rembrandt himself. You can zoom in on the image here.
If it is by him (and I've no idea, as it's outside my rather limited field), it must be an early work. It used to be called Flinck. Needless to say, I didn't pay the picture any attention at all in the catalogue. Whoops...
Update - a reader writes:
What makes the Lempertz picture an odd candidate for being by RHL is that it is on canvas, while all history paintings by Rembrandt and Lievens from their Leiden period are on panel. The figure at the left derives from Rembrandt's painting in Lyon from 1625, which was discovered by Horst Gerson in 1962.
Update II - a reader corrects the above, and supplies us with further information:
Have to be pedanty with reader above - Lievens Raising of Lazarus is most def on canvas...
This Lempertz painting relates to some sketches in the British Museum attributed to Nicholas Maes which are also thought studies for the National Gallery's Christ blessing the Children by Maes (all of which were formerly attributed to Rembrandt).
There are some sketches attributed to Hoogstraten at the RKD and other sketches (read the British Museum curator notes) that relate more to the Lempertz picture.
Another sleuthing reader suggests an alternative attribution:
A very fine Claes Moeyaert, see comparison [below]... Moeyaert was also a partner of Uylenburgh, RHL's dealer and friend. Background figures show other familiar faces. A daring purchase...
Another discovery on 'Your Paintings'
May 8 2014
Picture: Your Paintings
French art historian Francois Marandet has identified the above Pool of Bethesda' belonging to the Wellcome Library, as a work by Louis Cheron. It's a study for a larger work, and had been called 'after Poussin'. More details here.
Royal baby discovered!
April 25 2014
Picture: Philip Mould and Co/Historic Royal Palaces
Forgive the plug, but here's an interesting discovery I'm rather pleased with. The above portrait shows Princess Augusta (1737-1813) when a baby. Augusta was the eldest daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta, Princess of Wales, and also the elder sister of King George III. The picture came up for auction in the United States as 'a portrait of an unknown baby' by an unknown artist. Following research and conservation by is, it is now on display at Hampton Court Palace, as part of their new 'Glorious George's' exhibition (which is well worth seeing).
Despite being an unknown (and one must say, not especially cute) baby, the picture piqued my interest when it came up for sale because of the blue velvet and ermine cushion. Blue velvet and ermine usually denotes royal status, and as the armoured figure resembled Britannia, I reckoned the baby must be a British royal baby.
From the pre-cleaning photo, I thought the child might be James III, being heralded as the new heir of James II. But there was no proof of this, and for a while I was stumped. Then, cleaning revealed a picture painted in a later style, and also (excitingly) the signature of Charles Philips (1708-1747), which pushed the timeframe forward into the 18th Century. Now Philips was quite an obscure figure, but he was patronised by Frederick, Prince of Wales, and so for a while my favoured candidate was a baby George III.
But it was only when I saw a full length portrait of the Princess of Wales holding the same baby, but inverted, (below) by Philips at Warwick Castle that I finally got the right kid. In the background of the large picture we see Britannia with her shield, confirming the shield-less figure in the smaller painting to be Britannia too (as opposed to, say, Minerva). The newly discovered painting is evidently unfinished, and a number of pentimenti visible in the background show that it was probably an abandoned composition in favour of the larger full-length. Interestingly, it turns out that our newly discovered picture was engraved, with the strapline that the young princess was 'painted from ye life' by Philips.
The presence of Britannia makes the picture an interesting piece of royal propoganda. Since the young Augusta was the first Hanoverian heiress to be born in Britain, she was proudly heralded by her parents as an emphatically 'British' royal baby. Frederick, Prince of Wales was estranged politically from his father, George II, and actively tried to present himself as a British prince, in opposition to his German-speaking dad. 'Rule Britannia', for example, was first sung in Frederick's presence. Indeed, such was the tension between Prince of Wales and his father that when his wife went into labour, Frederick insisted they flee Hampton Court, so that the baby could be born in London, as a Londoner, away from the King and Queen. Poor mother and baby were raced over rough roads, and just got to St James' Palace in time for a healthy birth.
Now, the newly discovered portrait of the Princess hangs just opposite the very stairs that her pregnant mother raced down, as she and Frederick prepared to leave Hampton Court. I'm dead chuffed, and, if you'll further indulge my boasting, I'm also pleased to have balanced my recent Jacobite portrait discovery (of Bonnie Prince Charlie) with this Hanoverian one.
A new Raphael discovery!?
April 22 2014
Picture: Cordoba University
Well, actually no... The Art Newspaper alerts us to claims by the University of Cordoba that it has discovered another version of Raphael's Madonna of Foligno [Vatican Museums]. The newly found work belongs to a private collector in Spain. Says TAN:
The Italian High Renaissance painter Raphael did not, it is generally believed, make copies of his own works. However, the University of Granada, in Southern Spain, says it has found an authentic copy of Raphael’s Madonna of Foligno (around 1511), which is displayed in the Vatican Museums (Room VIII). Luis Rodrigo Rodríguez Simón, a conservator and lecturer at the university, says that the rediscovered work has come to light in a private collection in Cordoba.
Known as The Madonna of Foligno, Small, the work was painted on a wooden panel and later transferred to canvas at the end of the 19th century: pages of a book printed in 1872 were pasted on to the reverse of the canvas. Simón says that the transfer was made in France.
So far so good. But here on the University's own website are more details, and some decent quality images.* And oh dear. Raphael it ain't. It looks like a later, not especially good copy. But no matter, we still have breathless 'scientific' evidence that it's not just another version of the Vatican picture, but the first version:
A researcher at the University of Granada has successfully attributed to the great Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, Raphael the famous Renaissance painter, a work belonging to a private collector in Cordoba, Spain. The painting, entitled the ‘Small Madonna of Foligno’, depicts a scene identical to that of the ‘Madonna of Foligno’ and was probably a preliminary version of Raphael’s painting, which is exhibited in the Vatican Pinacoteca.
Luis Rodrigo Rodríguez-Simón, lecturer in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Granada, has identified and reliably attributed the work, hitherto by an unknown artist, following a minutely detailed study lasting several years.
He has conducted a technical, scientific study applying a series of advanced instrumental techniques and analytical methods: X-ray, infrared photography, infrared reflectography, fluorescence under ultraviolet light, analysis of paint layers, scanning electronic microscope linked to an Energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis system, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and micro Raman spectroscopy.
I see this a lot nowadays - paintings presented with a long description detailing all the various tests a painting has been subjected to, as if the mere mention of these convoluted procedures is somehow evidence itself. But sadly it's usually just proof of the old saying, 'bullsh*t baffles brains'. We're clearly dealing here with over-enthusiastic interpretation of scientific 'tests', many of which have limited use. If only the boffins at Cordoba had asked a collection of Raphael experts to look at the picture first, they'd have saved themselves much time, and money.
*click 'save image' to download high-res versions.
New Veronese drawing discovered?
April 22 2014
I've come to this a bit late, but it's worth noting, given the current Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery in London, that there was a potential Veronese sleeper in the shires recently. The above drawing came up in a house clearance sale in Oxfordshire as attributed to Veronese, and made £15,500. In the same sale, and presumably from the same clearance, were some handsome pieces of jade, which made over half a million quid. Quite a house clearance!
Update - it may not be by Veronese... A sharp-eyed reader spotted the drawing when it came up for sale, and writes:
Just a thought, but I think the drawing that was sold as Attributed to Veronese in the regional sale in Oxford, was actually by Jan van der Straet [or Stradanus] (1523-1605). The British Museum hold a reverse engraving after the drawing [below], the print making up part of the series 'The Course of Human Life'.
I had a punt at buying it, but lack of funds meant I had to drop out...
The Met buys a sleeper
April 22 2014
Picture: Metropolitan Museum
Above is an interesting new acquisition for the Met in New York, a Salvator Mundi they say is by the Spanish painter Fernando Yanez de la Almedina, and painted in c.1505. In case you're thinking the picture looks a bit Leonardo-esque to be by a Spaniard, then the Met explains in its informative note:
Yáñez clearly spent time in Italy prior to his highly successful career in Spain and he rather than Llanos is usually identified with the "Ferrando Spagnuolo" who in April and August of 1505 collected money for work with Leonardo da Vinci on a mural depicting the battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence ("Ferrando Spagnolo, dipintore, per dipinguere con Lionardo da Vinci nella sala del consiglio florine 5 larghi e a Thomaso di Giovane Merini, su garzone per macinare e colori, florini 1 in oro"; see Benito et al., Los Hernandos, pintores hispanos del entorno de Leonardo, Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia, 1998, p. 18). Besides Florence, he must also have spent time in northern Italy, where perhaps not coincidentally Leonardo was active prior to his return in Florence in February 1503. This remains highly speculative, however, and is based purely on the stylistic features of Yáñez’s documented work in Spain. The most thorough as well as convincing reconstruction of his early activity in Italy is that of Ibáñez Martínez (1999, pp. 221–40), who rejects earlier conjectures and attributions and considers the Metropolitan’s picture one of two done in Italy by the artist under the influence of Leonardo da Vinci.
The picture was recently offered by Christie's in New York as a work by Jacopo Barbari (1450-1515), where it bought in against an estimate of $400,000-$600,000. I don't know enough about either painter to make even a guess on the attribution, but I remember thinking it was of exceptional quality when I saw it, and was surprised it failed to sell.
Hurrah for the Telegraph*
March 19 2014
Here's a lovely story - a scrap metal dealer who bought the above jewelled egg for just £8,000 discovered it was a highly important lost Faberge egg after finding a Telegraph article online. It is in fact worth $20m! More here.
* And Google, presumably.
Overpaint and boats
March 16 2014
The Daily Mail has picked up on a story first run by Classic Boat magazine, saying that a painting by Constable featured on 'Fake or Fortune?' was a fake because 'the boats were wrong'. Alas, these maritime experts don't know how to interpret either a Constable sketch or over-paint. Still, I'm sure it made for many long discussions down The Sailor's Arms.
Salvator Mundi 'sold' - official
March 4 2014
Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art/Tim Nighswander
The New York Times reveals that the newly discovered Salvator Mundi by Leonard has been sold for in excess of $75m:
A Leonardo da Vinci painting discovered by a dealer at an American estate sale was sold last year in a private transaction for more than $75 million.
The painting, Leonardo’s oil-on-panel “Salvator Mundi,” showing Christ half-length with a crystal orb in his left hand, had been owned by a consortium that included the New York art traders Alexander Parish and Robert Simon.
The heavily restored painting, dating from about 1500, was bought by an unidentified collector for between $75 million and $80 million in May 2013, in a private sale brokered by Sotheby’s. The details of the purchase have remained locked in confidentiality clauses until they were revealed this week by trade insiders, such as the London dealer Anthony Crichton-Stuart.
Regular AHN readers will of course have known this news since I revealed it exclusively in May last year.
Update - more reflection on the sale, and also that of the Van Dyck self-portrait, in the New York Times here.
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.
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.
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.
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!!