18th Century

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Uploads Collection Online

December 4 2023

Image of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Uploads Collection Online

Picture: collections.monticello.org

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Monticello, Virginia, the former home of Thomas Jefferson, that it has created a new online database for its historic collection of art, artefacts and documents.

According to the newly launched website:

Over the last 100 years, we have worked to locate and acquire approximately 5,000 objects in the collection, many of which are displayed in the house, wings, outbuildings, and museum galleries. The process is ongoing and involves a combination of documentary and provenance research and connoisseurship.

Tim Clayton's Gillray Book wins William MB Berger Prize 2023

December 1 2023

Image of Tim Clayton's Gillray Book wins William MB Berger Prize 2023

Picture: Yale University Press

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Robin Simon, the British Art Journal's outgoing editor, that Tim Clayton's biography James Gillray: A Revolution in Satire has won this year's William MB Berger Prize 2023

Here's the book's blurb from its publisher Yale University Press:

James Gillray (1756–1815) was late Georgian Britain’s funniest, most inventive and most celebrated graphic satirist and continues to influence cartoonists today. His exceptional drawing, matched by his flair for clever dialogue and amusing titles, won him unprecedented fame; his sophisticated designs often parodied artists such as William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds and Henry Fuseli, while he borrowed and wittily redeployed celebrated passages from William Shakespeare and John Milton to send up politicians in an age – as now – where society was fast changing, anxieties abounded, truth was sometimes scarce, and public opinion mattered.

Tim Clayton’s definitive biography explores Gillray’s life and work through his friends, publishers – the most important being women – and collaborators, aiming to identify those involved in inventing satirical prints and the people who bought them. Clayton thoughtfully explores the tensions between artistic independence, financial necessity and the conflicting demands of patrons and self-appointed censors in a time of political and social turmoil.

Stolen Still Life Returned to Georgian Museum of Fine Arts

November 30 2023

Image of Stolen Still Life Returned to Georgian Museum of Fine Arts

Picture: agenda.ge

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Interesting news from Tbilisi, Georgia, that a stolen still life purportedly by Jean Siméon Chardin has been returned to the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts in the city. The work had gone missing from the museum in 1994, and was rediscovered when someone alerted the relevant ministry to its reappearance.


With such a distracting yellowed varnish, one can imagine why it may well have been returned (!)

New Release: Hidden Patrons Women and Architectural Patronage in Georgian Britain

November 30 2023

Image of New Release: Hidden Patrons Women and Architectural Patronage in Georgian Britain

Picture: Bloomsbury

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those readers interested in architectural history, Bloomsbury have just today released a new book entitled Hidden Patrons: Women and Architectural Patronage in Georgian Britain. The publication by Amy Boyington appears to be a much needed architectural counterpart to the growth in publications on Georgian female artists over the past decade or so.

According to the blurb:

An enduring myth of Georgian architecture is that it was purely the pursuit of male architects and their wealthy male patrons. History states that it was men who owned grand estates and houses, who commissioned famous architects, and who embarked upon elaborate architectural schemes.

Hidden Patrons dismantles this myth - revealing instead that women were at the heart of the architectural patronage of the day, exerting far more influence and agency than has previously been recognised. Architectural drawing and design, discourse, and patronage were interests shared by many women in the eighteenth century. Far from being the preserve of elite men, architecture was a passion shared by both sexes, intellectually and practically, as long as they possessed sufficient wealth and autonomy.


The Secrets of Paintings Colloquium

November 29 2023

Image of The Secrets of Paintings Colloquium

Picture: dfk-paris.org

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Speakers of French, German and English might be interested in the following colloquium which is being organised in Paris in early December. Entitled (in translation) The Secrets of Painting. Practice and Theory of Painting, Manner, and Materiality in Eighteenth-Century French Art, the free event will examine the view of painting as a specific material legacy of the fine arts in eighteenth century France. With a broad range of international speakers, and streamed on Zoom for free it seems, the event will take place in Paris on 7th and 8th December 2023. 

Omai Acquisition of the Year

November 24 2023

Image of Omai Acquisition of the Year

Picture: Apollo

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

It is perhaps little surprise that the Apollo Magazine's annual Acquisition of the Year has been awarded to the NPG and Getty's joint purchase of Sir Joshua Reynolds' Portrait of Omai. This painting, which had sold for £10.3 (including fees) at Sotheby's in 2001, was acquired jointly by the museums for a staggering £50m.

According to the article linked above:

As the original press release accompanying the export stop in March 2022 made clear, ‘This magnificent British portrait has a global resonance.’ There is no reason why visitors to the Getty at the time of the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 should not be at least as interested in seeing a great painting of a Polynesian as visitors to the top floor of the newly redisplayed NPG in London. So, it feels appropriate that the joint purchase of Mai by the NPG and the Getty should mark a new era of international museum collaboration in acquisitions.


I've stood in front of the painting a few times in the past few weeks, and what an impressive picture it is within the NPG's new displays. One small point that has always fascinated me is the claim (according to signage and the NPG website) that 'it was the first British portrait to represent a person of colour with grandeur, dignity and authority.' Doesn't Sir Godfrey Kneller's portrait of Michael Alphonsus Shen Fu-Tsung, signed and dated 1687 in the Royal Collection, have a better claim to this, perhaps?

NGA acquires a Vallayer-Coster

November 23 2023

Image of NGA acquires a Vallayer-Coster

Picture: artnet

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Hardly a month passes without a major museum announcing its acquisition of a still life by a female artist, it seems. News via Artnet that the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC have acquired a monumental still life by Anne Vallayer-Coster. The work was sold at Christie's Paris earlier in June for a staggering €2.58m.

The article linked above provides the following quote (a memorable quote for our times, I think):

“One of our top priorities is to acquire significant works by important women artists across time, which includes BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women-identifying artists,” E. Carmen Ramos, the museum’s chief curatorial and conservation officer, wrote in an email.


On a separate note, I'm excited for more floral still lifes by Mary Moser (1744-1819) coming out of the woodwork at some point. I hope the art world is out there looking for these seemingly rare and beautiful works of art!

Vigée LeBrun Self Portrait Coming up at Sotheby's New York

November 22 2023

Video: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Exciting news that Sotheby's will be offering a Self Portrait by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée LeBrun in their upcoming January 2024 sales in New York. The so-called Self Portrait In Traveling Costume was completed in November 1816 when the artist had fled Paris and was travelling on the continent. The drawing, estimated at $700,000 - $1,000,000 is part of a single owner sale with works on paper amassed by the scholar Joseph Baillio. The drawing had been on loan to the MET in recent years, I wonder if they'll want to buy it back!

The drawing will be sold on 31st January 2024 in New York.

The Huntington acquire a Goya

November 21 2023

Image of The Huntington acquire a Goya

Picture: The Huntington

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens has announced its acquisition of Goya's Portrait of José Antonio Caballero, Second Marqués de Caballero, Secretary of Grace and Justice. This is the first oil painting by the artist in the museum's collection and was made possible through a gift from The Ahmanson Foundation.

According to the press release:

“Portrait of José Antonio Caballero is historically fascinating and a prime example of Goya’s genius as a portraitist,” said Christina Nielsen, the Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Museum at The Huntington. “Along with the exquisite French portrait by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun acquired with The Ahmanson Foundation last year, it will add an important international perspective to our outstanding collection of 17th- and early 18th-century British portraits.”


The sitter in the Goya painting, José Antonio Caballero (1754–1821), was from the minor nobility in Spain. He studied law and went on to a successful career in the royal court, holding four secretary positions. His accomplishments included convincing King Charles IV of Spain to conduct a vaccination campaign against smallpox that extended to the Spanish territories in North and South America and Asia. Goya painted the portrait when Caballero was the secretary of state and had just inherited the title of Marquis de Caballero from his uncle.

Compare Liotard's Pastel and Oils at the National Gallery

November 17 2023

Image of Compare Liotard's Pastel and Oils at the National Gallery

Picture: The National Gallery, London

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Gallery in London have just opened a small exhibition dedicated to reuniting two versions Liotard's The Lavergne Family Breakfast. Regular readers will remember that the gallery acquired the artist's pastel version back in 2020, and have borrowed his version in oil to allow visitors to compare the two.

According to the blurb from the website:

Long regarded as his masterpiece, The Lavergne Family Breakfast is one of Liotard’s largest and most ambitious works in pastel. Despite the medium’s notorious delicacy, he skilfully reproduces complex textures: the sheen on the metal coffee pot, the shiny ceramic jug, the silky fabrics and reflections, in the black lacquer tray. Liotard was extremely versatile, producing works in pastel, oil, enamel, chalk and even on glass. Highly unusually, he returned to ‘The Lavergne Family Breakfast’ 20 years after he had painted it and made an exact replica in oil.


Last exhibited in 1754, when Liotard brought the pastel from Lyon to London, and hardly been seen in public since, this exhibition seeks to put Liotard and ‘The Lavergne Family Breakfast’ back in the spotlight.

Documentary: The Story of the Foundling Hospital

November 10 2023

Image of Documentary: The Story of the Foundling Hospital

Picture: heritagecalling.com

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Foundling Hospital in London have produced a short documentary on their history entitled No Place Like Home: The Story of the Foundling Hospital. Considering the prominent role that artists played in its early years, the previous and continued efforts of this institution's survival is likely to be of great interest to the community of art lovers for a long time to come. The film was produced with generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Tiepolo Drawings at The Morgan Library & Museum

November 8 2023

Image of Tiepolo Drawings at The Morgan Library & Museum

Picture: The Morgan Library & Museum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Morgan Library & Museum in New York have just opened their latest Old Master Drawings exhibition. Spirit and Invention: Drawings by Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo will be an opportunity to open up one the world's largest collections of drawings by both masters, and their events schedule includes lectures, online talks and a concert.

According to the exhibition's blurb:

The Morgan is home to one of the world’s largest and most important collections of drawings by Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770) and his eldest son Domenico (1727–1804), with more than 300 representative examples of their lively invention and masterful techniques. Combining highlights from the Morgan’s collection with carefully selected loans, this exhibition will provide a comprehensive look at the Tiepolos’ work as draftsmen, focusing on the role of drawing in their creative process and the distinct physical and stylistic properties of their graphic work. At the core of the collection and exhibition are substantial groups of Giambattista’s drawings that relate to major ceiling fresco projects of the 1740s and 1750s. A fresh look at the style, function, and material properties of these working drawings has yielded new insights into their purposes.

The show will run until 28th January 2024.

Help the Louvre Acquire Chardin's Strawberries!

November 7 2023

Video: The Louvre

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Louvre in Paris is making a public appeal to raise the final €1,300,000 to acquire Jean-Siméon Chardin's The Basket of Wild Strawberries. Regular readers will remember that the work sold for a staggering €24,381,000 at Artcurial a few years ago, and its export was stopped so that a French institution could step in to save it.

The museum has until 28th February 2024 to raise the funds to keep the work in France.

Stowe's State Dining Room Restored

November 6 2023

Image of Stowe's State Dining Room Restored

Picture: Purcell Architects

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Some news I missed from the summer is that the magnificent State Dining Room at Stowe has recently been restored to its former glory (with added H&S paraphernalia too I see...). It seems that technology has been at the heart of the project, with original tapestries printed on 'wipeable' wallpaper, and original chimney pieces and door mantles being 3D scanned and printed for the room.* Over £26m has been spent since the year 2000 in restoring the principle state rooms of this important house. Click on the link above to read more.

* - Is it time to reprint Stowe's magnificent lost art collection? Or perhaps the organisation of a blockbuster exhibition perhaps? All comments / ideas / dreams welcome.

Canaletto in Hull

November 6 2023

Image of Canaletto in Hull

Picture: Ferens Art Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Ferens Art Gallery in Hull have recently opened a small show dedicated to two Canalettos, one from the gallery's collection and another on loan from the Royal Collection Trust. Canaletto: Two paintings, one perspective invites visitors to compare the works.

According to the gallery's blurb:

From the Royal Collection and the Ferens’ own collection, these works show Venice’s Grand Canal in all its splendour. Created 10 years apart, when seen together they show the development of an artist’s technique and reveal much about Venetian life in the 1700s.

A newly commissioned work by the Ferens’ latest artist in residence will be shown alongside the paintings, connecting the past to the present through the theme of climate change. Canaletto’s A Regatta on the Grand Canal marks the fifth and final loan of exceptional works of art from the Royal Collection to go on display at Ferens Art Gallery as part of the Masterpieces in Focus from the Royal Collection series.

The free show will run until 28th January 2023.

Marcus Richard Fitzroy Thomas Renamed

November 6 2023

Image of Marcus Richard Fitzroy Thomas Renamed

Picture: yale.edu

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a fascinating piece of research from last year that I believe was missed from this blog. It concerns to reidentification of a boy featured in the Yale Center for British Art Joshua Reynolds’s Portrait of Charles Stanhope. Due to some incredible sleuthing by Victoria Hepburn, the identity of this unknown sitter was tracked down via baptismal records and Reynolds' sitters book. An interesting read, giving hope to paintings researchers out there who are endlessly met with dead-ends!

Vallayer-Coster at the Galerie Coatalem

November 6 2023

Image of Vallayer-Coster at the Galerie Coatalem

Picture: La Tribune de l'art

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

La Tribune de l'art have reported on news that the Galerie Coatalem in Paris* have a temporary exhibition on at the moment dedicated to Anne Vallayer-Coster. This show, which contains twenty works by the artist, will run until 16th December 2023.

* - The dealers, who are very good at publishing their catalogues online, don't have any details about the show on their website yet alas.

Cleveland Acquires a Zoffany

November 3 2023

Image of Cleveland Acquires a Zoffany

Picture: cleveland.com

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

It appears that I was a little tardy at the end of last month to spot that the Cleveland Museum of Art has just acquired Johann Zoffany's brilliant The Dutton Family in the Drawing Room of Sherborne Park, Gloucestershire, c. 1772. The painting was last sold at Sotheby's in 2001 and later exhibited at the RA in 2012.

According to the article linked above:

Cory Korkow, the museum’s curator of European paintings and sculpture said the museum has sought for more than a decade to acquire a painting like the Zoffany, which is known as a “conversation piece,’’ an English genre scene in which a group of people are portrayed in their customary surroundings.

“Even though the environment of the picture may seem incredibly foreign and stuffy, it’s something every one of us can empathize with because of the drama’' involving the Dutton family, Korkow said.

Korkow was thrilled to learn unexpectedly several months ago from Christie’s, the global auction house, that the Zoffany was available for purchase in a private sale.

“It was surreal; it’s like someone was anticipating” what the museum wanted, Korkow said. “This is the holy grail moment we’ve been waiting for.”

Demon Uncovered in Petworth Reynolds

November 1 2023

Image of Demon Uncovered in Petworth Reynolds

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Trust shared a suitable Halloween story yesterday regarding a demon uncovered during a recent conservation project. The conservation of Joshua Reynolds' The Death of Cardinal Beaufort lead to the reappearance of a demon hiding in the shadows and beneath layers of dirty varnish.

To quote the article linked above:

John Chu, the National Trust's senior national curator for pictures and sculpture, explained: "It didn't fit in with some of the artistic rules of the times, to have a poetic figure of speech represented so literally in this monstrous figure.

"When it was first shown at the Shakespeare Gallery in 1789 it generated more controversy than any other work on show.

Critics argued that "while it was considered acceptable in literature to introduce the idea of a demon as something in the mind of a person, to include it visually in a painting gave it too physical a form", said Mr Chu.

Several friends and commentators tried to persuade Sir Joshua not to include it - or, on the painting's completion, to paint it out.

Upcoming Release: A Delicate Matter - Art, Fragility, and Consumption in Eighteenth-Century France

October 31 2023

Image of Upcoming Release: A Delicate Matter - Art, Fragility, and Consumption in Eighteenth-Century France

Picture: Penn State University Press

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Penn State University Press will be releasing a very intriguing book in January 2024. A Delicate Matter: Art, Fragility, and Consumption in Eighteenth-Century France is the latest publication to investigate the history of 'unstable' art.

According to the book's blurb:

Eighteenth-century France witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of materially unstable art, from oil paintings that cracked within years of their creation to enormous pastel portraits vulnerable to the slightest touch or vibration. In A Delicate Matter, Oliver Wunsch traces these artistic practices to the economic and social conditions that enabled them: an ascendant class of art collectors who embraced fragile objects as a means of showcasing their disposable wealth.

While studies of Rococo art have traditionally focused on style and subject matter, this book reveals how the physical construction of paintings and sculptures was central to the period’s reconceptualization of art. Drawing on sources ranging from eighteenth-century artists’ writings to twenty-first-century laboratory analyses, Wunsch demonstrates how the technical practices of eighteenth-century painters and sculptors provoked a broad transformation in the relationship between art, time, and money. Delicacy, which began the eighteenth century as a commodified extension of courtly sociability, was by century’s end reimagined as the irreducible essence of art’s autonomous value.

Innovative and original, A Delicate Matter is an important intervention in the growing body of scholarship on durability and conservation in eighteenth-century French art. It challenges the art historical tendency to see decay as little more than an impediment to research, instead showing how physical instability played a critical role in establishing art’s meaning and purpose.

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