El Greco soars above estimate (ctd.)

December 10 2012

Image of El Greco soars above estimate (ctd.)

Picture: Sotheby's

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.

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