Category: Research

Elizabethan Miniatures

April 17 2019

Secrets and symbols part 1 from National Portrait Gallery on Vimeo.

Video: National Portrait Gallery

It's all go for Elizabethan portrait miniatures at the moment; an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London (till 19th May), and a new biography of Nicholas Hilliard by Elizabeth Goldring. In Apollo, Christina Faraday examines their purpose and appeal:

Above all else, it was limning’s ability to capture a likeness directly and vividly that made it ‘the perfection of art’ for so many Elizabethans. This derived partly from the way in which a miniature was made. Unlike large-scale oil paintings, which were often painted over the course of several months from preparatory sketches or face-patterns, limnings were made almost entirely in the presence of the sitter. In his Treatise, Hilliard suggests ways to make the sitting as enjoyable and comfortable as possible: ‘sweet odours comfort the brain and open the understanding, augmenting the delight in limning, discreet talk or reading, quiet mirth or music offend not, but shorten the time, and quicken the spirit both in the drawer, and he which is drawn’. Hilliard does not explicitly say how many sittings were needed, but the later miniaturist Edward Norgate, who knew Hilliard’s methods, recommends three sittings of several hours each, with jewels and costumes finished in between, in the artist’s own time. The presence of the sitter was vital to the finished miniature’s vividness, because it allowed the artist to ‘catch those lovely graces, witty smilings, and those stolen glances which suddenly like lightning pass and another Countenance takes place’, as Hilliard writes in the Treatise. He stresses the speed at which the artist had to work, to ‘catch’ an expression which passed ‘like lightning’, demonstrating the immediate transfer of the person’s appearance to vellum, carrying with it the power of their presence.

Not Malevich, but Maria Dzhagubova

April 8 2019

Image of Not Malevich, but Maria Dzhagubova

Picture: Guardian

Here's a fascinating story from The Guardian; a portrait recently exhibited at Tate in London as by Malevich is in fact by his pupil, Maria Dzhagubova. Research by Andrey Vasiliev in Russia has shown that the above portrait of Elizaveta Yakovleva (above) is recorded in Soviet archives as a work by Dzhagubova, but at some point in recent decades it has acquired a 'Malevich' signature. 

The picture was praised as an important work by Malevich when it was exhibited in London:

So, though the portrait was praised during the Tate show by Nicholas Cullinan, now director of the National Portrait Gallery, as a work in which Malevich used colour to rebel by “tacitly alluding to the innovations he had pioneered”, it seems it can no longer be regarded as an exciting addition to the figurative output of Malevich, an artist best known for his minimalist 1913 work, Black Square. Cullinan told the Observer he remembers his praise for the work, but had no comment on doubts about its attribution.

A lost Leonardo sculpture in London?

March 11 2019

Video: via You Tube

Research for a new exhibition on Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence has raised the fascinating possibility that a small terracotta sculpture in the V&A previously attributed to Antonio Rossellino is in fact by Leonardo da Vinci. If so, it would be the only known, surviving sculpture by him. The attribution has been proposed by Francesco Caglioti, and is supported by Carmen Bambach of the Met.

A video preview of the exhibition is above, with the terracotta appearing about halfway through. More on the attribution here. A link to the exhibition is here. The V&A's online catalogue still gives the attribution as Rossellino (readers of my Art Newspaper column may know that the V&A doesn't always leap enthusiastically on new attributions, if they are proposed by outsiders - though to be fair this is common in major museums, which can get very territorial). If you click on the download button and promise not to be naughty with the V&A's images, you can access a number of high resolution photos. Let's hope that the V&A are preparing to capitalise on the news by putting the sculpture on display as soon as it gets back from Florence in July. 

Online Bosch course

March 7 2019

Video: Prado

The Prado has launched an online course all about Hieronymous Bosch. You'll need to speak Spanish, but it looks like fun. More here

Gainsborough catalogue raisonné

February 17 2019

Image of Gainsborough catalogue raisonné

Picture: via Amazon

Tremendous news that Hugh Belsey's long-awaited two volume Thomas Gainsborough catalogue raisonné has been published, by the Paul Mellon Centre). It follows in august footsteps; to the famed names of Ellis Waterhouse and John Hayes (previous authors of Gainsborough catalogues) we can now add Hugh's name. As is customary for catalogue raisonné writers, AHN creates him a Hero of Art History. 

I've ordered my copy via the dreaded Amazon (for £121) here

Update - a reader writes:

I hate to do this to you, but Books Etc are selling the book for £90.33. British company, usually cheaper than Amazon (or anyone else), free postage on all books, usually send books more securely packed than Amazon do, I use them almost all the time. And Books Etc prices on Amazon Marketplace are usually higher than on the Books Etc website because of the fee paid to Amazon, so going direct is the best option. Of course, I understand that if you get a small payment for everyone who clicks through from AHN to Amazon and makes a purchase there is a reason for having the link (I don't know if this is the case, but I remember reading about this when I was thinking of having my own blog), but you might want to consider Books Etc for your own purchases. I have no connection with Books Etc apart from being a very satisfied customer.

For the record, I get no payment from Amazon, or indeed anyone else, for any links or content on this blog. 

JHNA online

September 22 2018

Image of JHNA online

Picture: JHNA

The latest Journal of the Historians of Netherlandish Art is online, and it's free and in high-res. How about that? There are articles on Metsys and the miniaturist Bernard Lens, amongst others.

Van Gogh's gardener identified

September 22 2018

Image of Van Gogh's gardener identified

Picture: Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome

I've been meaning to tell you about the new book by the Van Gogh scholar, Martin Bailey; 'Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum', which is available here. To help publicise it, Martin has started a weekly Van Gogh blog, which is here at The Art Newspaper. The latest revelation is that Martin has identified the sitter in Van Gogh's 'Portrait of a Gardener' (above) as Jean Barral (1861-1942). The portrait was painted while the artist was at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. 

'Art and Suffrage'

September 6 2018

Image of 'Art and Suffrage'

Picture: Francis Boutle

Leading the fight against relocating the Emmeline Pankhurst statue (see below) has been the writer Elizabeth Crawford. She has a new book out, Art and Suffrage, which:

[...] discusses the lives and work of over 100 artists, each of whom made a positive contribution to the women’s suffrage campaign. Most, but not all, the artists were women, many belonging to the two suffrage artists’ societies – the Artists’ Suffrage League and the Suffrage Atelier. Working in a variety of media – producing cartoons, posters, banners, postcards, china, and jewellery – the artists promoted the suffrage message in such a way as to make the campaign the most visual of all those conducted by contemporary pressure groups.

You can order a copy here

New provenance for the Salvator Mundi?

September 3 2018

Image of New provenance for the Salvator Mundi?

Picture: Christie's

There's an interesting story from Alison Cole in The Art Newspaper on some possible new, early provenance for Leonardo's Salvator Mundi; it may have been in the collection of the Duke of Hamilton before it was acquired by Charles I. It all sounds quite plausible. More here.

John Constable; not miserable

July 24 2018

Image of John Constable; not miserable

Picture: V&A

Here's a clever bit of research; the V&A's senior curator of paintings, Dr Mark Evans, has been able to prove that some of John Constable's most dramatic watercolour landscapes of Hampstead are faithful depictions of the weather at the time. It had been thought that the moody skies were perhaps a reflection of Constable's mood at the time. But Dr Evans was able to trace weather records by one of Constable's neighbours, and matched these to the exact time and date inscribed by the artist on the back of the paintings. More here

Prince Albert Papers to go online

April 24 2018

Image of Prince Albert Papers to go online

Picture: Royal Collection

Did you know that Prince Albert was a keen art historian, and was especially devoted to the study of Raphael? A new Royal Collection project will digitise and make available his papers, including his collection of over 5000 prints and photographs of works after Raphael. The project will take two years to complete. More here

Burlington archive donated to the National Gallery

April 8 2018

Image of Burlington archive donated to the National Gallery

Picture: National Gallery

The Burlington Magazine has donated its archive to the National Gallery. Bravo. More here

Francis Towne online catalogue raisonné

March 30 2018

Image of Francis Towne online catalogue raisonné

Picture: Paul Mellon Centre

Feast your eyes on this - an online catalogue raisonné of the work of the British 18th Century artist Francist Towne (1739-1816). There are over 1,000 works, of which some 800 are shown in high resolution. The catalogue was written by Dr Richard Stephens, who regular readers will know is the force behind another wonderful online resource, The Art World in Britain 1660-1735

Study this, win £10k!

January 8 2018

Image of Study this, win £10k!

Picture: Royal Collection

The Burlington Magazine have launched a new £10,000 prize for the study of French 18th Century fine and decorative art. From the January editorial:

Initiated and funded by Richard Mansell-Jones,  a trustee of The Burlington Magazine Foundation, the scholarship  offers £10,000 to a student based anywhere in the world  who has embarked or is about to embark on an M.A. or Ph.D. or is undertaking research in a post-doctoral or independent  capacity. The deadline for applications is 1st March 2018, and the successful candidate will be chosen in April by a selection panel chaired by Christoph Vogtherr, Director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle and former Director of the Wallace Collection, London.

New discoveries at the JVDPPP

November 5 2017

Image of New discoveries at the JVDPPP

Picture: JVDPPP

The new Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project unveiled some more exciting discoveries at a press conference last week, including a previously unknown Jordaens panel above left. The picture is called The Penitent Peter and John the Evangelist Approaching the Tomb of Christ. From the JVDPPP website:

We had found a reference to it and a small black and white photograph, taken in 1971, in the database of the Belgian Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (IRPA-KIK) as belonging to the Church of Our Lady of La Cambre and Saint Philippus Nerius in Brussels. We visited the church but to no avail. Eventually Joost tracked it down within the Church fabric. Our research discovered that it was gifted to the church by Hortense Hannet (1855 – 1940) in memory of her husband, François Hannet (1837 – 1918), a Professor of Design in Brussels, and in whose collection it had resided. It had been exhibited at the 1905 Jordaens exhibition in Antwerp and it was listed by the art historian Max Rooses in his 1908 monograph on the artist but trace of it had been lost for over a hundred years and no image of it had been published.

Peter is a portrait of Abraham Grapheus, the Steward of the artists’ Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp. He was well-known to both young artists, Jordaens and Van Dyck. They were inscribed as apprentices in the Guild in the years 1607-8 and 1610-11 and became masters in the Guild in 1615-6 and 1618-9 respectively. Both used Grapheus’ distinctive face for depictions as an Apostle in their early religious paintings. We showed the museum’s Bust of an Apostle by Jordaens as a comparative example (oil on canvas, 59 x 48 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, inv. no. 121 – when it was first listed in 1806, and for many years afterwards, it was believed to be by Van Dyck). Further information on Grapheus, Jordaens and Van Dyck can be found in the recent exhibition catalogue, Abraham Grapheus, model van Jacob Jordaens, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent, 2012, including an image of a similar painting in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg (inv. no. 82) but with major differences.

Dobson's mystery sitter?

October 16 2017

Video: ZCZ Films

Regular readers will know that Waldemar Januszczak is an expert on English 17thC portraitist William Dobson - and in the video above he proposes a new identification for a mystery sitter in one of Dobson's best group portraits, Sir William Russell.

Rubens' dodgy roof

October 3 2017

Image of Rubens' dodgy roof

Picture: inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be

New archival research by the Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project has revealed that in 1615 Rubens was left disatisfied with his roofers. As he said in a legal complaint, they had not bonded the roof in the right way:

And he [Rubens] declarant had noticed that the above-mentioned joiners had put the above-mentioned covering without nailing it properly, so that he declarant had this same covering nailed again afterwards by the claimant, his slater, saying that the above-mentioned roof was not nailed as it should be, which he had also noticed and said that he would suffer ill effects from this work. And for the job to be well done he declarant has had this same covering remedied by the above-mentioned, his slater, for which this slater demanded no more than only that he declarant paid for the nails. 

It sounds like Rubens fell for a bit of a trick here.

Charging for history

July 28 2017

Image of Charging for history

Picture: Northamptonshire Record Office

Grim news for historians and art historians in the UK; Northamptonshire record office is becoming the first to charge for regular access to its reading rooms. If you want to visit outside a very limited free period, which is just Tuesday-Thursday from 9am-1pm, then you'll have to pay £31.50 per hour.

£31.50 per hour! That is an absurd and insulting fee. Those who have spent time researching in local record offices, which house come of the UK's most important private and public archives, will know that it is practically impossible do all you need to do in a morning. Ordering and reading through documents just takes too much time. For Northamptonshire record office to limit free access to just a few mornings a week in effect means that serious researchers will not able to access their documents at all; the cost for most of staying in the area to wait till the next free morning would make it impossible. Perhaps the new charging structure is a cynical and deliberate ploy to force people to keep away, thus allowing the council to cut staff and hours even more in future.

Northamptonshire record office has made a statement on their Facebook page, blaming government cuts, though it's a Northamptonshire council decision. Of course, the main concern is that this will be the thin end of the wedge, with other record offices soon following suit.

Is there much anyone can do about it? Probably not; the National Archives in Kew doesn't show enough strong leadership on issues like this, and if it does ever act, it takes an age to do so. Nor can we expect anything from government ministers. All we can hope is that by making a fuss we'll discourage other record offices from following Northamptonshire's shoddy example.

Update - there's a petition against the charges here.

'Portraits of the Civil War'

July 8 2017

Image of 'Portraits of the Civil War'

Picture: Unicorn

The Old Master dealer Angus Haldane has written a new book on the the art of the English Civil War, and it looks excellent. It's available here at the publishers, Unicorn Press.

'Sir Anthonio Van Dyck'

April 15 2017

Image of 'Sir Anthonio Van Dyck'

Picture: JVDPPP

Research for the Jordaens/Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project has confirmed that Van Dyck was christened 'Anthonio'. I prefer to call him Antoon, though.

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