Category: Discoveries

Mysterious Marble Skull turns out to be by Bernini

June 15 2021

Image of Mysterious Marble Skull turns out to be by Bernini


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's an important discovery that I missed the other week.

A marble skull on display at Schloss Pillnitz, south of Dresden, has been discovered to be the work of the seventeenth-century sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The mysterious object had raised the curiosity of curators for some time, especially since the unattributed piece was known to have Roman provenance.

As the article above explains:

“Everybody had the same reaction to it,” Kryza-Gersch told the Art Newspaper. “We were standing around a table, looking at it. The question of course was—who made it? And since it has Roman provenance, someone jokingly said ‘maybe it’s a Bernini?’” 

In fact, further research revealed that the skull was indeed made by the Italian master for Pope Alexander VII in the mid-17th century. “Our jokes were proven right,” the curator said.

Restoration reveals Silver Eyes of Cellini Bust

May 25 2021

Image of Restoration reveals Silver Eyes of Cellini Bust


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Museum of Bargello in Florence, Italy, have shared news that a recent campaign of restoration has revealed the original silver eyes of Benvenuto Cellini's bust of Cosimo I de' Medici. The silver foil, which was an original part of Cellini's work dating to 1545-48, had become obscured by centuries of grime and a dark coating which may have been applied to the sculpture in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The delicate process of removing the later layers was undertaken by conservator Ludovica Nicolai.

For those wanting to see the results of this interesting project, the newly restored bust will be heading to the MET's upcoming exhibition on Medici Portraits.

Murillo's Madonna del latte Conserved

May 15 2021

Image of Murillo's Madonna del latte Conserved


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Palazzo Barberini and Corsini Gallery in Rome will be opening a new exhibition next week dedicated to the restoration of Murillo's Madonna del latte. A recent campaign of x-ray analysis and conservation has revealed several interesting elements regarding the artist's process, all which will be revealed in this small show.

The exhibition will run until 11th July 2021.

It's a Poussin After All!

April 29 2021

Image of It's a Poussin After All!

Picture: The National Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have reported on news that the National Gallery in London has upgraded one of its Poussins. The Triumph of Silenus was purchased as a Poussin in full during the 1820s but was rejected as a copy by the likes of Anthony Blunt and Denis Mahon during the previous century. Recent conservation and technical analysis has revealed the quality of the work alongside previous damage which had possibly mislead earlier scholars.

The work will feature in the gallery's forthcoming exhibition titled Poussin and Dance which will open on 9th October 2021. On a separate note, one imagines that this exhibition will undoubtedly feature the loan of the Wallace Collection's A Dance to the Music of Time, a work that has been unavailable for exhibitions since 1897.

Update - A reader has alerted me to the fact that Francesca Whitlum-Cooper's article on the rediscovery in the Burlington Magazine is free and available to read online until 9th May. Do go and read it while you can!

Hans Holbein the Younger's Earliest Portrait?

April 27 2021

Image of Hans Holbein the Younger's Earliest Portrait?

Picture: The Telegraph

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Telegraph have published an article by Franny Moyle who might well have found the earliest portrait of Hans Holbein the Younger (c.1497-1543) hiding in plain sight. Her article describes a visit she made to the Staatsgallerie in Augsburg, where she noticed a prominent boy featured in Holbein the Elder's memorial to the Walther Family (pictured). Famously, the gallery features another work by Holbein the Elder showing two blonde haired boys who have long been identified as Hans (the Younger) and his brother Ambrosius (see below). Many readers will undoubtedly know of the drawing of the pair in Berlin. The Walther family memorial was created when Hans was five years old.

The comparison between these figures encouraged Moyle to get in touch with several scholars to see if anyone else had spotted him. It seems that no one else had. Indeed, her theory has since been endorsed by Dr Bodo Brinkman, curator of Old Masters at Basel's Kunstmuseum, which houses a major collection of Holbein's works.

Could this be by Caravaggio (?) (ctd.)

April 26 2021

Image of Could this be by Caravaggio (?) (ctd.)


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The story surrounding the potential Caravaggio that appeared in Spain the other week is gathering pace. Hardly a day has passed without some new article in the Spanish press regarding developments surrounding the picture. It seems the work is already being heralded in Spain as something of a national treasure.

The Guardian published an article a few days ago giving perhaps the most concise account of recent developments, including the accounts from various experts who have weighed in with their opinions.

The most amusing image to arise from the tale is a selfie made by the Italian art dealer Andrea Ciaroni (pictured). Ciaroni made the journey to Spain specifically to see the work on view before it was withdrawn from the auction house. He is quoted saying “It was a thrilling adventure. For a few hours, while on my way to Spain, I fantasised that it was already mine.”

What are the next steps for the painting? The article has supplied the following information:

On Friday, the Colnaghi gallery in London, one of the oldest commercial art galleries in the world, announced that it would be leading the restoration and sale of the painting and revealed that the owners were the three children of Antonio Pérez de Castro, founder of Madrid’s IADE design school, and the artist Mercedes Méndez Atard.

Update - Jorge Coll, the London-based Director of Colnaghi, has given an interview with El Pais about his involvement in the painting's research and restoration.

Love's Labour's Found at Philip Mould

April 21 2021

Image of Love's Labour's Found at Philip Mould

Picture: Philip Mould & Co

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Philip Mould & Co's new selling exhibition Love's Labour's Found - Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture opens in London today.

To quote the exhibition's website:

Love’s Labour’s Found sheds new light on the practices and the production of portraits in 16th and early 17th century Britain. Formerly misidentified sitters and previously misattributed artists govern this exhibition’s key themes of re-examination and discovery. 

As a continually evolving period of art history, art historians have recently benefited from improved access to unseen or overlooked documentary sources and transformative technological advances in the physical understanding of art, to produce fresh insights into the life and work of many of the artists of this era.

This exhibition brings together works by well-known artists such as Nicholas Hilliard, Jean Decourt, George Gower, Isaac Oliver and William Larkin whilst shining the spotlight on lesser-known names such as Benjamin Foulon, The Master of the Countess of Warwick and Rowland Lockey.

Fortunately, their website lists all the works included within the show complete with detailed catalogue notes. Amongst the most interesting portraits is a very splendid image of Elizabeth I, filled with carefully painted symbols on her clothing. Also included is a Sleeper featured on this blog last July, which has turned out to be a fully fledged work by William Larkin.

The show will run until 28th May 2021.

Could this be by Caravaggio (?)

April 7 2021

Image of Could this be by Caravaggio (?)

Picture: Casa Ansorena

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The above Ecce Homo was due to be sold at the Madrid auction house Casa Ansorena tomorrow with an estimate of €1,500. However, rumours of the painting's quality and whispers of the name 'Caravaggio' encouraged the auction house to withdraw the painting from sale in order to make further investigations. Furthermore, the Spanish State has already pre-empted the significance of the painting by placing an export ban on it, a highly unusual move indeed.

This article in the Spanish press has made a link to a lost painting that Caravaggio painted for Cardinal Massimi, a picture which had been seen in Spain during the later seventeenth century. The Ribera scholar Nicola Spinosa has already come out to express his opinion that the work is not by Caravaggio.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops.

Lost Gainsborough Purchased in France for £2,500

April 5 2021

Image of Lost Gainsborough Purchased in France for £2,500

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian published a story over the weekend about a recently remerged portrait by Thomas Gainsborough which was purchased at auction in France for £2,500. The portrait depicts the Czech born composer Antonín Kammel (1730–1784 or 1785), who was a friend of the artist.

The work has been authenticated by Hugh Belsey, compiler of the recent Gainsborough catalogue raisonné. He is quoted as saying:

This is a really exciting addition to his work. It is so rare to find a picture that’s totally unknown.

Gainsborough had a great deal of interest in musicians and likened a picture to a piece of music, once writing: ‘One part of a Picture ought to be like the first part of a Tune; that you can guess what follows, and that makes the second part of the Tune, and so I’ve done.’

The work has been conserved by Simon Gillespie. Curiously, the article does not seem to mention who the owner of the work is.

Here's an evocative example of Kammel's music (the only example on YouTube it seems), in case you're wondering what his work sounded like!

Update - The conservator Simon Gillespie has uploaded some images onto Instagram showing some more details of the restored work.

Fragonard Philosopher Reappears

March 25 2021

Image of Fragonard Philosopher Reappears

Picture: Gazette Drouot

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A long lost painting of a philosopher by Fragonard has been rediscovered in Champagne, France, by the auctioneers Petit et le cabinet Turquin. The painting was known only by written references before now. As is evident from the fabulous brushwork, the painting channels the energy of seventeenth century painters including the likes of Frans Hals and Rembrandt. However, it is perhaps the lighter palette that gives it away as a painting of the late eighteenth century. A corresponding work from the same series, dating to 1764, is found in the Kunsthalle Hamburg.

The painting will be offered for sale later this year with an estimate of €1.5m - €2m.

Here is the write-up from La Tribune de 'Art.

Eighteenth Century IPhone

March 19 2021

Image of Eighteenth Century IPhone

Picture: Schloss Ludwigslust

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

As many of you will know, AHN is a fan of time travelling in paintings.

The French Porcelain Society and Richard Hird of Sotheby's (@glazed_and_confused) seem to have made the most recent discovery of time travel in a portrait of Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1758-1794) by Georg David Mathieu. This fine painting obviously shows her with an early version of an IPhone, wouldn't you agree? It seems she has a custom case for it too.

Newly Discovered Augustus John Drawing Offered in Yorkshire

March 3 2021

Image of Newly Discovered Augustus John Drawing Offered in Yorkshire

Picture: Tennants

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The auction house Tennants in Yorkshire will be offering a newly discovered drawing by Augustus John in their upcoming March sale. The unrecorded drawing of John's mistress and muse Dorelia was uncovered in a private collection. It will be sold on 20th March 2021 with an estimate of £7,000 - £10,000.

Update - The drawing made £16,000 (hammer price).

An Undiscovered Titian (?) Found in Parish Church

March 2 2021

Image of An Undiscovered Titian (?) Found in Parish Church

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The BBC have published news that a undiscovered Last Supper by Titian (?) has been uncovered in a parish church in Ledbury, Herefordshire. The claims of this discovery have been made by the art historian Ronald Moore, who was approached by the church to undertake research into the work three years ago.

The painting was gifted to St Michael and All Angels in 1909 and has been undergoing conservation in recent months. Another article by the Daily Mail suggests that the painting was acquired by the collector John Skippe from a Venetian convent in the eighteenth century.

Amongst the most interesting pieces of evidence is a faded signature which has been compared to Titian's:

Crucially, the article doesn't contain any information whether Moore's attribution has been supported by any Titian scholar.

Bernini Drawing up for Sale in France

February 25 2021

Image of Bernini Drawing up for Sale in France

Picture: @ActeonSenlis

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The French auction house Acteon Senlis will be auctioning off a drawing by the Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini next month. The academic study of a man has been linked to several surviving examples in the Uffizi and other collections. In addition to this, the composition too has been compared with the allegorical beings representing the rivers of the world in his famous fountains on the Piazza Navona in Rome.

The drawing will be offered for sale on 20th March 2021 with an estimate of €30k - €50k.

Nineteenth Century Cockfight Painting Found in Castle Cellar

February 23 2021

Image of Nineteenth Century Cockfight Painting Found in Castle Cellar


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Belgium that a nineteenth century painting of a cockfight has been rediscovered in a basement of Portegem Castle in Waregem. The painting by Emile Claus had been presumed to have been lost during the war until researcher Hans Bourlon decided to look into the fate of this 1882 work. It transpires that the canvas was taken off of its stretcher, rolled up and hidden in the castle's cellars in an attempt to hide it from the Nazis. Fortunately, the painting has been restored and will be on display once more.

Uffizi Acquires a 'Lost' Passerotti

February 18 2021

Image of Uffizi Acquires a 'Lost' Passerotti


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence have acquired a painting of The Enigma of Homer (also known as Homer's Riddle or Homer and the Fishermen) by Bartolomeo Passerotti (1529-1592). The painting was previously thought to have been lost. During the sixteenth century it was recorded in the collection of scholar Giovanni Battista Deti, and was later owned by the seventeenth century Florentine senator Carlo Torrigiani. As it happens it was recently unearthed in the collection of his descendants.

The subject matter relates to a Homeric myth, where the ancient philosopher asks a group of fishermen whether they had brought in a good catch. They reply to him with the following riddle "What we caught, we threw away, what we didn't catch, we kept." Can you guess what they're talking about?

Sleeper Alert!

January 27 2021

Image of Sleeper Alert!


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Over the past few days social media has experienced a flurry of posts and pictures featuring the painting above. Catalogued as '18th century Italian School', the work finally made £100,000 (hammer price) over its £400 - £600 estimate today at Reeman Dansie in Colchester, Essex. Indeed, online bidding had already passed the £20,000 mark yesterday evening with 122 profiles watching the lot.

This beautiful work is surely a sketch by Mary Beale (1633-1699), whose brilliant and intimate portraits of her children have become rather desirable over the past decade. Two such comparable sketches are in the collection of Tate Britain. Another portrait of one of her sons sold for £93,750 (inc. commission) at Sotheby's in 2019.

Update - A reader has written with the following comment:

There was a very similar one, overlooked in Adam Partridge a couple of years ago which made about £15,800 plus fees. Of course, the new one is a charming image but how to account for such a price?

This is quite true, the aforementioned full-catalogued Sotheby's picture made a rather top-end price for similar work a mere two years ago. One wonders whether it was acquired by a dealer or collector. However as the old saying goes, nothing sells quite like a sleeper!

Update 2 - A reader has pointed out that the aforementioned Sotheby's picture is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.

Jean Decourt Miniature of Henri III Uncovered at Auction

January 26 2021

Image of Jean Decourt Miniature of Henri III Uncovered at Auction

Picture: The Independent

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Several news outlets have reported on news of a recently uncovered miniature of Henri III of France. This signed and dated miniature by Jean Decourt was discovered by the London art dealer Philip Mould at auction last year.

Most of the newspapers seem to gone with the headlines which draw attention to the King's more eccentric interest in women's fashion. Reports also explain that the art dealer is currently trying to sell the miniature to the Louvre Museum, as it is likely that the portrait was produced within this royal residence in 1578.

Update - A reader had been in touch to pose the following question regarding the miniature:

Just to say, as you will know, there is a Nicholas Hilliard miniature of Henri III in the Djangoly collection which was shown in the Elizabethan Treasures exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  Done  sometime 1576-78 when NH in France. Shows a younger, smarter Henri III. No-one seems to have mentioned the similarities and differences between these two. It is obvious that the Decourt shows him as older and more dissolute looking. His hairline is different, receding maybe and his ruff makes his head look abit stuck on.  Is it likely that Decourt knew the Hilliard miniature and adapted bits of it 20 years later?  


In the NH Henri III wears on his chain a pendant of St. Michel - just before he founded the Saint Esprit. Cant see any orders on the Decourt when he would have been wearing the Saint-Esprit.

I posed the query to miniatures expert Emma Rutherford who kindly supplied the following answer:

The Hilliard and Decourt portraits of Henri III were painted within 2 years of each other. Both artists were at the French court at the same time - Hilliard was in the service of the King's younger brother and Decourt employed by the King himself. The likely date for the Hilliard portrait is late 1576 - but Hilliard was still in France in 1578 when this portrait of Henri was painted by Decourt. The order of the Saint-Espirit was founded by Henri 31st December 1578 so that explains its absence in both of these portraits. In the portrait of the king by Hilliard the order of St Michael is just visible. The Decourt still has the original gold border and has not been trimmed.

Gerband van den Eeckhout Resurfaces in French Castle

January 22 2021

Image of Gerband van den Eeckhout Resurfaces in French Castle

Picture: La Gazette Drouot

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

La Gazette Drouot has drawn attention to a recently resurfaced painting by Rembrandt's pupil Gerbrand van den Eeckhout that is coming up for sale next week. Pharaoh Returns Sarah to Abraham was included in the Sumowski Rembrandt catalogue, but was catalogued as being in an unknown location. It recently resurfaced in a château in Poitou, France. The work will be sold on the 26th January 2021 carrying a tempting estimate of €60k - €80k. 

Attribution Controversies Cuts Short Exhibition (?)

January 14 2021

Image of Attribution Controversies Cuts Short Exhibition (?)


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Spanish digital media outlet Valencia Plaza has published an article regarding the attribution controversy surrounding the above Portrait of a Lady in Profile.

In 2017 Carmen Garrido Pérez, curator and former head of technical documentation at the Prado, unveiled this painting as an early Italian-period canvas by Diego Velázquez. The work was exhibited in the Museum of Fine Arts in València from the Delago Private Collection. Parts of the collection, including the above painting, were due to remain on loan to the museum for 5 years. However, this has been cut short.

The article suggests that controversial attributions of some of the paintings highlighted by experts has played a part in this decision. Carmen Garrido Pérez was also behind the recent controversy regarding a recently upgraded El Greco.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.