Reporting arts discoveries

April 18 2012

Image of Reporting arts discoveries

Picture: JP Humbert

Regular readers will know we've had a few art history stories in the press lately that seem to question the thoroughness of art historical reporting. First, there was the recovered haul in Italy which apparently included a Van Dyck, a Rubens, and a Poussin, but which was in fact just a load of copies and pastiches. Then there was the bizarre story of the 'early Warhol'. Both stories enjoyed global media coverage.

Today we have an interesting case study in how discovery stories are picked up by the media. This morning I received a press release from local auctioneer J P Humbert about a newly discovered 'portrait of the three Bronte sisters', above, which has been attributed to Landseer (why?). You can find the text of the press release below, by clicking 'Read on'. Now see if you can spot the difference between the press release, and the story as it appeared on The Daily Telegraph website soon afterwards. 

You can see the same auctioneer's previous two 'Bronte discoveries' here

An auctioneer is hoping to score a hat-trick, selling a third item believed to be linked to the literary Bronte sisters. 

The painting, thought to be a hitherto unknown watercolour of all three sisters, is the latest in the series of unrelated items concerning the trio to go under the hammer with J P Humbert Auctioneers of Towcester.

Believed to be painted by 19th century English artist Sir Edwin Landseer, it will be included in a two-day fine art and antiques sale later this month.

It follows the auction house's recent sale of a small portrait believed to be of Emily Bronte recently for £4,600. In December, J.P.Humbert's sold another painting- ‘The Bonnet Picture’ of the reclusive writer for £23,836

Auctioneer Jonathan Humbert said there was no estimate on the latest discovery as it was impossible to say how much it would fetch, but he was hoping for a third sale of a Bronte-related artefact. 

Mr Humbert said the painting, which appears to depict all three sisters, has been attributed by a team from the National Portrait Gallery in London as well as four years of research by the vendor. 

He said there were 10 ‘sound evidential reason’s supporting the suggestion it is of the Bronte sisters, and said its quality suggested it could only be attributed to an artist of Landseer's distinction. 

The piece of art is believed to be signed by Landseer, and matches known features of the sisters including items they are wearing known to have belonged to them that are now in museums.

"This is an exciting and important painting of gallery quality and has a story to tell," he said. "I hope the art world will embrace it accordingly. 

"There really is every possibility this is by Landseer and of the three Bronte sisters."

 “I would strongly suggest any interested parties contact us for the stack of information and evidence we hold that supports our contention” said Mr Humbert. 

“This could be an important painting by one of the best 19th artists and of English literatures most perennial siblings. The very best of English art and literature in one painting.”

The sale of an unpublished manuscript by sibling Charlotte Bronte prompted a flurry of items relating to the literary sisters when it sold to a Paris museum for a record £690,850 at Sotheby's in December. 

The manuscript set new auction records for a manuscript by Charlotte Bronte and for a literary work by any of the Bronte sisters when it was bought by Paris museum La Musee des Lettres et Manuscrits. 

The latest painting relating to the sisters is set to go under the hammer on April 26 as part of a two-day fine art and antiques sale at J.P.Humbert's saleroom in Towcester, Northants.

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