Category: Research

Black Presence at the Uffizi

August 5 2020

Ritratto di quattro servitori della corte medicea

Il dipinto di Anton Domenico Gabbiani, conservato alla Galleria Palatina a Palazzo Pitti, rappresenta "varj Ritratti di alcuni giovani di barbare nazioni, che stavano alla corte del Gran Duca Cosimo III., cioè Mori, Tartari, Cosacchi, ecc. vari Cortigiani di basso servizio, e tra gli altri vedesi un Nano, che tiene nelle mani un piatto con alcune foglie fresche di Spinaci, per così denotare l’inclinazione particolare in riferire gli altrui fatti, nel che fare spiccava sopra d’ogni altro”. Così veniva descritta l'opera dal biografo del pittore. Justin Randolph Thompson, Direttore del Black History Month Florence, ci spiega il ruolo di queste figure all'interno della corte medicea e sopratutto del personaggio africano presente nel dipinto. #BlackPresence In collaborazione con Black History Month Florence BHMF Sottotitoli in italiano disponibili attivando l'opzione dalle Impostazioni.

Posted by Gallerie degli Uffizi on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Video: Uffizi Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence has begun a weekly series entitled 'Black Presence' on its Facebook channel. Each week viewers will get the chance to watch a short video explaining more behind the black figures that appear in various paintings. It is very encouraging to see that the Uffizi is branching out into digital media platforms, especially as they are one of the last major museums in Europe without a good online collections database.

The Wall Street Journal has recently published an article on the mixed reactions the feature is receiving. Alas, I cannot read it due to the paywall!

Update - Due to a very kind reader, I've now had the opportunity to read the above article. It explains more behind the media initiative, and highlights that the videos have drawn a small protest from a local far-right group.

Richard Wilson Article on ArtUK

July 31 2020

Image of Richard Wilson Article on ArtUK

Picture: Lady Lever Art Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Dr Paul Spencer-Longhurst has contributed an interesting article on ArtUK entitled Richard Wilson: the father of British landscape painting. It is beautifully illustrated with images from the UK's public collection.

If like me you can't get enough of Wilson's landscapes, then I'd also recommend visiting the Richard Wilson Online Catalogue Raisonné project hosted by the Paul Mellon Centre. Dr Spencer-Longhurst was the compiler of this fantastic resource.

Caravaggio's Cardsharps on Trial

July 31 2020

Image of Caravaggio's Cardsharps on Trial

Picture: Burlington Press

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This looks like an interesting book for anyone interested in what happens when art experts disagree about the attributions of paintings.

The Burlington Press have recently published the above book Caravaggio's 'Cardsharps' on Trial: Thwaytes v. Sotheby's by Richard E Spear. Spear, an expert on Italian Baroque Painting, acted as the expert witness in the case concerning a painting that Sir Denis Mahon had bought at Sotheby's and had declared a Caravaggio in full.

Here's AHN's summary of the story back in 2013.

Cerruti Collection Pays Heirs for Stolen Painting

July 30 2020

Image of Cerruti Collection Pays Heirs for Stolen Painting

Picture: ArtNews

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Cerruti Collection in Turin has paid out an undisclosed sum to keep Jacopo di Arcangelo's, known as del Sellaio, Madonna and Child with the Young St John and Two Angels (pictured). The painting, which was owned the art dealer Gustav Arnes, was seized by the Nazis during the annexation of Austria in 1938. By this time it had descended with Arnes's heirs into the Unger collection. The painting had passed through several dealers hands during the twentieth century and had sold at Christie's in London as recently as 1985 before entering the collection of the Villa Cerruti.

Unger's daughter, who is 93 and remembers seeing the painting as a child, is quoted:

At almost 93, I had lost hope that this beloved Italian Renaissance painting belonging to my parents would ever resurface. I am pleased not only that the Cerruti Foundation has reached an equitable agreement with the Unger family heirs, including a full account of the painting’s troubled history, but also that I might yet see the work itself in the Castello di Rivoli Museum in my lifetime.

This quote contains an interesting detail of the story. One stipulation of the heirs, as part of the monetary agreement, is that the painting's murky history should be published in any future catalogue notes.

Michelangelo's 'The Dream'

July 30 2020


Video: CourtauldInstitute

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Courtauld Institute of Art in London have published this interesting video describing Michelangelo's drawing The Dream. The talk is given by Ketty Gottardo, the curator of drawings at the Institute.

Phallus Alert: The Courtauld have decided to put an age restriction on the video due to its content. 

Van Gogh's Roots (?)

July 28 2020

Image of Van Gogh's Roots (?)

Picture: The New York Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The New York Times have published news that a researcher has discovered the root system that Van Gogh painted during the last few days of his life. The exact location for his painting Tree Roots (above), now in the Van Gogh Museum, has never been established. Wouter van Veen, scientific director of the Van Gogh Institute, had been investigating the area in which the troubled artist spent his last days in Auvers-sur-Oise. A spot on the Rue Daubigny became of great interest, and an 100 year-old postcard of the location (below) added further evidence to support his theory.

Van Veen's research has been endorsed by the curators of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

While we're at it, can anyone identify where exactly Van Dyck made this beautiful watercolour that survives at the Barber Institute? Somewhere along the Kentish Thames Estuary has been suggested in the past, and I'm sure someone will tell me if it has already been pinpointed.

Astronomers Time & Date Vermeer's Delft

July 16 2020

Image of Astronomers Time & Date Vermeer's Delft

Picture: IFLScience

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Astronomers from Texas State University are claiming to have solved one of "the burning questions in the arts scene". Professor Donald Olson and his team have been studying the light and shadows in Vermeer's View of Delft in the Mauritshuis to try and work out exactly when it was painted. Art historians have failed to agree on these questions.

As the article explains:

"The students and I worked for about a year on this project,” Olson said in a statement. “We spent a lot of time studying the topography of the town, using maps from the 17th and 19th centuries and Google Earth.”

Central to the evidence was the light and shadow falling on the tower of Delft's Nieuwe Kerk. This narrowed down the time frame to two frames of time in either April or September.

But as they finally concluded:

As with all good detective stories, there was one last obscure piece to this puzzle – the leafy trees. In Delft’s northern climate, the trees lay bare until the end of April, ruling out the spring date. Ultimately this closed the case – Vermeer’s View of Delft was likely inspired by the scene observed on or near September 3, 1659 (or an earlier year) at 8am local mean time.

This is all interesting stuff. But, should and can paintings be interpreted as photographs are?

Burlington Magazine - Current Issue

July 15 2020

Image of Burlington Magazine - Current Issue

Picture: The Burlington Magazine

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A small reminder that the current July 2020 issue of the Burlington Magazine is free to read via. their website. Included within the issue is an interesting article on the reidentification of the 3rd Earl of Bute's Finding of Moses by Tiepolo (pictured). The picture, now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, had actually been acquired as a Veronese by the gallery in the 1950s. The composition relates to a late sixteenth century Benedetto Caliari of the same subject now in a private collection.

Master Drawings Journal - Free Access

July 14 2020

Image of Master Drawings Journal - Free Access

Picture: Master Drawings

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Master Drawings Journal, published by the Master Drawings Association, have made their recent issues free to read online. You'll be able to access interesting articles on the likes of the 'Drawings of Interiors by Thomas Wijck'; 'The Zuccaro Brothers and the Colorito vs. Disegno Debate'; 'Paolo Veronese's Portrait Drawing of Fra' Damiano Grana' and 'Paul Sandby Copying Gainsborough: Sharing, Sociability, and Self-fashioning' (pictured).

Provenance Research Controversy at the Leopold Museum

July 13 2020

Image of Provenance Research Controversy at the Leopold Museum

Picture: Der Standard

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Some controversy has been brewing in the Austrian Press concerning provenance research in Vienna's Leopold Museum. The museum, which contains significant works by the likes of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, has so far not been able to establish the provenance of just over 90% of its collection. The museum has been subject to protests in the past regarding artworks with murky WWII histories and controversies in restitution (the above picture dates to 2008).

The complicated legal position of the museum's collection, which was established as a semi-private foundation with 5,266 works and a fortune from Rudolf Leopold, means that it has straddled both the public and private spheres. The museum is due to tender a new contract for an inhouse provenance researcher who will now report directly to a Federal Commission and its advisory board.

CFP: Blackness, Immobility, and Visibility in Europe (1600-1800)

June 25 2020

Image of CFP: Blackness, Immobility, and Visibility in Europe (1600-1800)

Picture: Journal18

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Journal18, a journal of eighteenth-century art and culture, have published a call for papers in order to create a rather fascinating online resource 'chronicling the representation and regulation of black bodies in Europe, c.1600-1800'.

Interested participants are invited to submit artworks (submitted either as copyright-free digital images or as hyperlinks) that correspond to this theme. The submitted pieces will then be woven into a large digital timeline for researchers, educators and students.

The above painting, posted on the journal's Twitter page, is Hyacinthe Rigaud's Portrait of a Black Archer (c.1697) in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dunkerque.

Rijksmuseum Reidentify Isabella

June 18 2020

Image of Rijksmuseum Reidentify Isabella

Picture: Rijksmuseum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Rijksmuseum have shared some new research into a portrait by the Dutch Neo-Impressionist Simon Maris (1873-1935) in their collection. For many years the portrait, dated to 1906, was labelled by the museum as 'Young Woman with a Fan'. However, a photograph has been found in the painter's archive which records the young girl's name as Isabella. The museum are still trying to find more details about the family name and life of this young sitter.

CFP: Hidden Gems

June 15 2020

Image of CFP: Hidden Gems

Picture: ICOM

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

As this blog celebrates new research into overlooked works of art, it seems only right that I share this rather interesting call for papers advert.

ICOM, International Committee for Museums and Collections of Decorative Arts and Design, are putting on a conference on the theme 'Hidden Gems'. Accepted papers will be examining objects in decorative arts collections that speakers feel should receive more scholarly and public attention. The conference will be held digitally on 15-16 October 2020.

As their call for papers document explains:

Does your collection have objects that you wish scholars and visitors knew more about? What is the subject on which you have always wanted to present an exhibition or essay, or a small yet significant story that has not yet been highlighted at your institution? If you work with a private collection, what in your holdings would you most like to see made accessible to the wider design community?

The deadline for submissions, consisting of 250-300 word abstracts, is 1st July 2020.

The Curious Tale of Brown University's Philip IV

June 9 2020

Image of The Curious Tale of Brown University's Philip IV

Picture: MFA

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a curious post on the blog site Lost Art Project detailing the history of a portrait of King Philip IV of Spain by the Circle of John Singer Sargent (pictured).

The painting was the property of Brown University since 1957 but went missing at some point between the years 1983 and 1991. It then appeared in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston after being donated by a former Brown professor. The professor claimed that his mother had purchased the work at a yard sale in south-eastern Massachusetts. What are the chances?

The MFA website explains that the painting was deaccessioned in 2016 and has since been returned to Brown. The painting has been cleaned too by the looks of it.

Mystery of Portrait Donor Solved

May 7 2020

Image of Mystery of Portrait Donor Solved

Picture: The Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Godfrey Kneller's portrait of the poet and diplomat Matthew Prior (1664-1721) was one of the highlights of the recent Tate exhibition British Baroque: Power and Illusion. Few painters could capture the confidence and haughtiness of their sitters like Kneller could.

The painting's lender, Trinity College Cambridge, have published a blog about the recent discovery of the painting's donor. The work was presented to the college in 1908 under the strict conditions that the donor should remain anonymous and that the portrait should be hung "anywhere except in the hall".

It transpires that the canvas was a gift from artist and benefactor Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919). The identity of the donor was recently unearthed in a handwritten letter by M.R. James, the then Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum and famous writer of ghost stories.

A high-resolution image of the painting, superb painterly flourishes and all, can be found here.


The Royal Hospital 'Greate Peece'

April 7 2020


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

In December last year, during this blog's hiatus, the Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project (JVDPPP) uploaded a very interesting video detailing new research and visual analysis of a painting in the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

This picture was long believed to be 'an important copy' of Van Dyck's group portrait of Charles I and his family in the Royal Collection, more widely known as the 'Greate Peece'. However, questions have always remained, is it or is it not good enough to be by Van Dyck himself?

The lecture is delivered by the project's co-founder Justin Davies and researcher James Innes-Mulraine.

Burlington releases current issue online

April 2 2020

Image of Burlington releases current issue online

Picture: The Burlington Magazine

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz

Wonderful news that during the world’s current crisis The Burlington Magazine has made its current issue free to read online. You can click here to read the current issue.

This will come as welcome news, as the majority of the world is now confined to four walls. A good way to find future new subscribers, alongside the joy of reading the magazine’s contents for free during these troubling times. Furthermore, this month’s editorial is dedicated to the pertinent theme of Art and Illness. Spurred on from new research undertaken by the University of California at Berkley, leading psychologists have been able to verify the notion that ‘Art can make you feel better’. This, as the editorial points out, has been a long held view by readers of the Burlington and generations of Art Lovers across the globe.

A large number of online journal resources are following suit, with JSTOR having announced that open access content can now be read without having the faff of signing up for an account. 

'Bright Souls'

June 14 2019

Image of 'Bright Souls'

Picture: Lyon & Turnbull

Please accept my further apologies for the lack of news. I've been tied up finishing the latest series of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces', and writing the catalogue for a new exhibition I'm curating on the first female British artists. They are Joan Carlile, Mary Beale and Anne Killigrew.

The exhibition is called 'Bright Souls; the Forgotten Story of Britain's First Female Artists', and will be at Lyon & Turnbull's London gallery (on Connaught Street) from 24th June to 6th July. It would be great to see some of you there. It's the first time anyone has shown works by these three artists together, and the first exhibition to look more broadly at Joan Carlile and Anne Killigrew. We'll have a catalogue, and some newly discovered paintings. More details here.

The title comes from John Dryden's Ode to Anne Killigrew after her death in 1685 at the age of 25;

Thus nothing to her Genius was deny'd,

But like a Ball of Fire the further thrown,

Still with a greater Blaze she shone,

And her bright Soul broke out on ev'ry side.

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.

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