Category: Discoveries

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.

Unrecorded Jan Massys at Christie's

January 9 2021

Image of Unrecorded Jan Massys at Christie's

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's are offering a previously unrecorded painting of Mary Magdalene by the Flemish mannerist Jan Massys (1509-1575) in their upcoming sale of the collection of Mr & Mrs John H Gutfreund. It will be offered for sale on 26th January 2021 and carries an estimate of $120k - $180k.

The painting doesn't seem to have been known to Max J. Friedländer, who compiled the most authoritative catalogues of early Netherlandish paintings during the 1970s. Christie's catalogue note explains that other versions are known, yet the quality of this particular work suggests that it is the primary autograph version on which the others were based.

The work also bears the artist's signature and date (albeit slightly scrubbed):

El Greco Attribution Controversy

January 5 2021

Image of El Greco Attribution Controversy

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has kindly drawn my attention to an article published by The Art Newspaper.

The piece revolves around the attribution of the above painting of Christ Carrying the Cross in a private collection which was recently announced as being by El Greco by the Centre d’Art d’Època Moderna (CAEM) at the University of Lleida, Catalonia. However, the El Greco scholar Fernando Marías Franco of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid disagrees.

Marías Franco is quoted as saying:

Although I have only seen the pictures in El País and on Twitter, the painting is doubtful [as an autograph work by El Greco]. It looks reworked and restored—the mouth is terrible, so are the cross, hands and signature.

As it happens, the painting was researched and reattributed with the help of Carmen Garrido Pérez, the former director of technical documentation at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. Pérez, who was employed by the Centre, died last month. Their work has pointed towards a possible mention in an 1614 inventory of El Greco's assets made by his son after his death, however this loose link has been criticised.

It seems that the picture hangs in the balance, as the Centre are addressing the many criticisms brought by Marías Franco. Watch this space.

Jordaens Uncovered in Brussels District Hall

December 9 2020

Video: Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A district hall in Brussels has discovered a genuine painting by Jacob Jordaens in their collections. The Holy Family, of which several autograph versions are known, was discovered after an inventory was commissioned by the Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage. The painting will be redisplayed in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels next year.

Note - The above video is available with English subtitles by clicking through the menu.

Stolen Vermeer Spotted (?)

December 8 2020

Image of Stolen Vermeer Spotted (?)

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has been in touch with exciting news about the potential whereabouts of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum's stolen Vermeer.

The Concert was nabbed from the Boston Museum in a notable heist in 1990. Despite several leads, the whereabouts of this picture has never been established. In a twist of fate, it seems to have reappeared in the home of Carlo Boreal, villain of the BBC's drama series His Dark Materials (pictured). Let's hope someone in the television company kept his contact details for the Art Crime Investigation Squad.

Sixteenth Century Flemish Miniature Soars

December 2 2020

Image of Sixteenth Century Flemish Miniature Soars

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a work of art that has received a lot of worthy attention over the past few weeks. This exceptional miniature on vellum, given to the Flemish artist Simon Bening, achieved £1,467,000 (inc. commission) over its £150k - £250k estimate yesterday at Sotheby's. Such quality and condition of a work this age is rarely ever matched. The catalogue note is a must read.

As a side note, it would have been interesting to know exactly how the decision was made to include the work within a Music, Books and Manuscript sale rather than a traditional Old Master Paintings auction. One might imagine that the appeal of such an impressive work would stretch beyond the usually boundaries of manuscript collectors. Alternatively, might a such a delicate work have been lost in a full blown Old Masters sale?

Constable Sketches Found in Forgotten Album

November 23 2020

Image of Constable Sketches Found in Forgotten Album

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have published a story regarding sketches by John Constable that were recently unearthed in a forgotten album. The album of drawings, watercolours, prints and poems had been compiled by the Mason family of Colchester. Created between the years 1794 - 1862, it contains several works by the young Constable including a sketch of his cousin Jane Anne Mason (pictured).

The album will be offered at auction by Sotheby's in December carrying an estimate of £24k - £28k.

The True Face of the Salvator Mundi (?)

November 19 2020

Image of The True Face of the Salvator Mundi (?)

Picture: The Telegraph

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A red chalk drawing that has emerged from a private collection in Lecco, Italy, has been claimed to show the 'true face of the Salvator Mundi'. This claim has been made by the Italian scholar Annalisa Di Maria who is associated with the UNESCO Center in Florence. Di Maria has been preparing an 80 page paper on the work ready to be released when lockdown ends.

Leonardo expert Martin Kemp has been quoted in The Telegraph as saying:

I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand, but I simply can’t tell without seeing the drawing and the scientific evidence... I would need to see if it is drawn left-handed. Leonardo drew everything with his left hand.

Downman's Portraits of Nelson and Emma Hamilton Re-emerge

October 31 2020

Image of Downman's Portraits of Nelson and Emma Hamilton Re-emerge

Picture: Charles Miller Ltd.

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A pair of recently rediscovered portraits of Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton are coming up for sale next month.

These two sketches were made by the artist John Downman (1750-1824) and are signed and dated with the year 1802. The drawings bear an inscription that indicates that their likenesses were captured at the couple's house in Merton. The catalogue note also suggests that the elaborate frames, which may have been carved by a sailor, were added when the drawings were in the collection of Admiral WH Symth (d.1865).

The pair are coming up for sale at Charles Miller Ltd. on 24th November 2020 and carry a tempting estimate of £8,000 - £12,000.

Hercules Bust VR Experience at TEFAF Online

October 30 2020

Image of Hercules Bust VR Experience at TEFAF Online

Picture: AncientArt

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This must rank amongst some of the most sensational rediscoveries of classical art in Britain.

The above bust made headlines in February after it achieved £320,000 over its £600 - £1,000 estimate at Adam Partridge Auctioneers in Cheshire. The antique marble of Hercules, catalogued as 'French 18th-19th century', was in fact a piece of Hellenistic sculpture dating to the 1st century BC. It also transpires that it was once in the collections of the Dukes of Sutherland. By some bizarre twist of fate the ancient sculpture ended up in the garden of Sutton Place, Surrey, before being discovered by a gardener there in 1984.

The bust is now being offered by dealers Ancient Art at TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair). As this year's New York edition of the fair will mostly be online, the art dealers have had the bust scanned in VR for all to access online at home (if you have a special headset). Whilst the original will be on display in New York, a gallery has been hired in London offering a full VR experience for any interested buyers.

Duncan Grant Drawings Donated to Charleston

October 8 2020

Video: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

422 drawings by the British artist Duncan Grant (1885-1978) have been donated to Charleston, the former home of several members of the Bloomsbury Group. The drawings were given by Grant to his friend the artist Edward Le Bas, many believe due to their highly erotic and private nature. It had been previously thought that they may have been destroyed. They eventually passed into the hands of the theatre designer Norman Cotes who kept them under his bed.

Huntington Acquires Copley Painting

September 28 2020

Image of Huntington Acquires Copley Painting

Picture: The Huntington Library

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Huntginton Library and Art Museum have acquired a newly discovered painting by John Singleton Copley. The picture of c.1780 depicts the Georgian actress Mrs Mary Robinson. Most famously, her likeness was captured by the likes of Gainsborough (Wallace Collection) and Reynolds (Waddesdon Manor). This painting, however, shows her in a very different guise.

In this portrait we see (as the article linked above explains):

Mrs. Mary Robinson in the Character of a Nun (ca. 1780) is a cabinet portrait, perhaps commissioned by an admirer, of one of Britain's most famous actresses of the late 18th century. Lost for generations until it was sold in 1999 at auction as a French painting of an unknown sitter, the newly identified work portrays Robinson in her role as Oriana in George Farquhar's comedy The Inconstant; or The Way to Win Him, which she performed on the London stage in the spring of 1780.

Courtauld Acquires Gaugin Manuscript

September 22 2020

Video: The Courtauld Institute

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Courtauld Institute of Art in London made a splash at the weekend by announcing that it has acquired an important manuscript by the artist Paul Gaugin (1848-1903). The manuscript contains 213 pages worth of drawings, writings and other ephemera. The document was accepted as part of the acceptance in lieu of tax scheme negotiated by Sotheby's.

Here is Waldemar Januszczack's take on the document in his weekly column for the Sunday Times.

Indian Queens Modelling Vaccine

September 22 2020

Image of Indian Queens Modelling Vaccine

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The BBC have published an interesting piece of research regarding the above portrait by Thomas Hickey. Dr Nigel Chancellor of Cambridge University has been researching the picture ever since it was offered for sale at Sotheby's in 2007. Through his research into the sitters and the curious pose of the lady on the right, he claims the painting to been an attempt to publicise and promote a smallpox vaccine that had been introduced at the Royal Mysore Court in 1805.

As the article explains:

He identified the woman on the right in the painting as Devajammani, the younger queen. He said her sari would have typically covered her left arm, but it was left exposed so she could point to where she had been vaccinated "with a minimum loss of dignity". 

The woman on the left, he believes, is the king's first wife, also named Devajammani. The marked discoloration under her nose and around her mouth is consistent with controlled exposure to the smallpox virus, Dr Chancellor said. Pustules from patients who had recovered would be extracted, ground to dust and blown up the nose of those who had not had the disease. It was a form of inoculation known as variolation, that was meant to induce a milder infection.

Mattia Preti back in Malta

August 3 2020

Image of Mattia Preti back in Malta

Picture: Times Malta

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Maltese Government has acquired a painting that came up for sale in January at Sotheby's. Mattia Preti's Boethius Consoled by Philosophy was once part of the collection held in the Grand Master's Palace in Valetta. The above watercolour by Charles de Brocktorff shows the painting hanging in the rooms of the palace.

Times of Malta has published an article which describes the circumstances how the picture became known to the authorities there. The article claims that the picture 'mysteriously disappeared' from the palace in Valetta a century ago. In 2007 the art historian Theresa Vella began to look into what happened to the work for it then to reappear earlier this year at auction. The Sotheby's catalogue notes indicate it ended up in the collection of a historical society in Ohio before being sold at auction in 1992.

The picture was bought by the Maltese authorities for $1.46m (inc. fees) at the January Old Masters Sale in New York.

Titian in Basel

July 21 2020

Image of Titian in Basel

Picture: Kunstmuseum Basel

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a story that AHN seems to have missed last September. Xavier F Salomon, Deputy Director of the Frick Collection, penned a interesting article regarding his involvement in the rediscovery of Titian's 1527 portrait of the poet Pietro Aretino (pictured). The attribution of this painting had been the subject of much conjecture during the twentieth century.

Last June Salomon had gone to the Kunstmuseum in Basel to inspect the painting alongside recently commissioned x-ray images. Detailed examination revealed that painting suffered from poor restoration in the past including having been cut down. It is the opinion of Salomon that this fragment may well have been the original painting that Titian had sent to Federico Gonzaga in the 1520s.

Here is a link to the museum's website where high-resolution images can be viewed online.

Frans Hals at Sotheby's

July 13 2020

Image of Frans Hals at Sotheby's

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a short blog Sotheby's have posted regarding the recently re-emerged portrait by Frans Hals that they will be offering for sale this month. The piece, penned by Old Master Paintings board director and co-Chairman George Gordon, gives a very interesting account and history of previous scholarly opinions. The Frans Hals scholar Seymour Slive (d.2014), whose catalogue raisonné remains the definitive text on the artist, had thought the portrait to be a studio piece rather than by Hals himself. Slive only had access to low-quality black and white photographs showing painting before recent restoration had removed the obscuring dirt and discoloured varnish. The painting's authorship to Hals has now been accepted by scholars Claus Grimm, Norbert Middelkoop and Pieter Biesboer.

The portrait will be offered for sale on 28th July 2020 with an estimate of £2m - £3m.

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