Category: Discoveries

Michelangelo's Thumb Print found on Wax Model in V&A (?)

July 13 2021

Image of Michelangelo's Thumb Print found on Wax Model in V&A (?)

Picture: The Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London have discovered a previously unknown thumb print on a wax preparatory model which they hope might belong to Michelangelo. The model of a Young Slave, linked to an incomplete statue carved for Pope Julius II, has been questioned in the past due to the difficulty in dating wax models. The appearance of this thumb print will, they hope, prove that it was modelled by Michelangelo himself. The fate of the wax model will appear in the new BBC2 series Secrets of the Museums which begins next Tuesday.

Van Eyck Plea found in Vatican Archives

July 9 2021

Image of Van Eyck Plea found in Vatican Archives

Picture: The National Gallery, London

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a curious story that appeared a few days ago. Historian Hendrik Callewier of the State Archives and KU Leuven has come across what he describes as a previously unknown application in the Vatican administration from painter Jan Van Eyck and his wife Margareta. The document, dated 26 March 1441, is a plea written to Pope Eugenius IV requesting a letter which would allow him to go to confession and absolve him from his sins.

According to the article linked above:

...according to Callewier “It is the first time that we see Van Eyck mentioned together with his wife Margareta in a document during his lifetime.” 

The find may also help determine Van Eyck’s birthplace. “There is no document from his time that says where he comes from,” Callewier said. “Ten different places have been named in the past hundred years, with Maaseik as the most likely contender. Our discovery shows that he comes from the diocese of Liège, so we can now exclude a number of places.” In this way, the search is traced back to Maaseik, Bergeijk, Maastricht and Arendonk.

Potential Dürer (?) to be featured in Aachen Exhibition

July 5 2021

Image of Potential Dürer (?) to be featured in Aachen Exhibition

Picture: The Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Times published an interesting article on Saturday relating to the above painting which will be featured in the current Dürer exhibition in Aachen. The picture was bought at auction in the 1980s by the late Sebastian Thewes who has spent decades trying to prove that this is an autograph work by the German master. Lots of interesting analysis has been put forward, including dendrochronology which places the panel at c.1521. The work will be included in the show catalogued as 'by an unknown painter', however, the article invites the possibility that Dürer experts might use this opportunity to reappraise the work.

A newly Rediscovered Saint Simon by Velázquez

June 30 2021

Image of A newly Rediscovered Saint Simon by Velázquez

Picture: @carolblumenfeld

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News is emerging from France that a rediscovered painting of Saint Simon by Diego Velázquez has been unveiled at the aforementioned exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Orléans. It seems that the painting was discovered in a private collection and had been placed in front of Guillaume Kientz, director of the Hispanic Society Museum in New York and former head of Spanish painting at the Louvre. The painting will be the subject of an upcoming article in a Spanish scientific journal.

Here are some quotes from curator Corentin Dury:

From infrared and an X-ray, the “examinations reveal a density of pigments and also of white lines of positioning of various contours, which may be consistent with what could be observed in the other apostles and various pictures of the young Velázquez." 

The apostle “has very close characteristics, a posture (…), other elements, such as the texture of the painting, the spelling of the letters, the dimensions”

Rediscovered Constable Poetry Watercolours Up for Sale

June 29 2021

Video: Gorringe's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Gorringe's auction house in East Sussex will be offering up an interesting book in their sale today. This particular edition of Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard happens to contain three watercolours by John Constable. Constable was asked to contribute illustrations for a printed edition, commissioned it seems by editor John Martin. 

As the catalogue note explains:

All three of Constable’s original completed watercolour designs are included in this specially bound quarto volume of the second ( 1836) edition of Martin’s Elegy, together with fourteen more by other contributors. He clearly went to a great deal of care and trouble over them, making preliminary sketches in watercolour for all three , now mainly held in public collections. 5 He may have produced these as sample designs for Martin to approve. Alternatively, he may have wished them to serve as guides when working up his finished designs, thus mirroring his practice of using same scale sketches for his oil paintings.

The edition will be offered for sale today with a rather punchy estimate of £100k - £150k.

Update - The lot didn't manage to find a buyer. Although of historical interest, one imagines the high estimate might have been rather unrealistic.

Fragonard Philosopher makes €6.3m

June 28 2021

Video: artcento

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The aforementioned rediscovered Philosopher by Fragonard realised an impressive €6,300,000 (hammer price) / €7,686,000 (with commission) over its €1.5m - €2m estimate on Saturday. It has been suggested that the picture has been purchased by a French private collection. This is a sure sign as any that high quality old masters, even of unassuming subjects, can still command very high prices. The excitement of a rediscovered painting must have also helped in this case, one imagines.

The Bonnie Prince Charlie by Domenico Dupra, featured in the same sale, smashed through its estimate of €6k - €8k to realise €155,000.

The Transformation of a Sleeper

June 24 2021

Image of The Transformation of a Sleeper

Picture: @auctionrada / Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Twitter's @auctionradar has pointed out the transformation of a sleeper that appeared on the continent last year. The painting on the left, catalogued by a provincial European auction house as 'Lombardy School 17th Century', eventually realised €148,000 over its €1,100 estimate last December. The same painting has since been cleaned and authenticated by Prof. Alberto Cottino as an autograph work by Fede Galizia (1578-1630). It will be offered for sale by Sotheby's next month with an estimate of £400k - £600k.

A Rembrandt (?) Revealed in Rome ?

June 22 2021

Image of A Rembrandt (?) Revealed in Rome ?


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Italian Press have reported on the unveiling of a newly attributed to Rembrandt at the Fondazione Patrimonio Italia (FPI) in Rome. The painting of the Adoration of the Magi was thought to be known only through copies, the best of those being preserved in St Petersburg (described as 'Studio of') and Gothenburg (described as 'Follower of'). The new attribution has been made possible by a restoration project began in 2016 by the restorer Antonella Di Francesco which removed vast amounts of darkened overpaint.

A list of Italian art historians has been provided, particular those who have supported the project. Crucially though, no mention is given as to whether any other Rembrandt scholars have given the the painting the thumbs up.

Update - Here's the write up from The Times. The article explains that the picture is in the collection of an undisclosed noble family in Italy.

The following quote is also provided by Alessandro Caucci Molara, president of the Abraham Teerlink Foundation and an adviser to Talarico:

We haven’t heard of anyone who opposes the attribution but it’s a work in progress and the art history community is welcome to view it.

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).

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.