Previous Posts: May 2012

Durer exhibition opens

May 23 2012

Image of Durer exhibition opens

Picture: Playmobil

The new Durer exhibition in Nuremburg opens tomorrow. 120 of the master's works will be on display, so it's certainly worth a trip. In the meantime, there's a good exhibition site here (tho' sadly only in German), and an interesting article over at The Art Newspaper by Bernhard Schulz on Durer's legacy, and on the row over the loan request for the artist's Self-Portrait. Of course, don't forget the most important new Durer discovery, the Playmobil Durer, above.


May 23 2012

We're putting the finishing touches to our new stock catalogue here at Philip Mould (which is just one of the reasons AHN has been shamefully thin lately - apologies). The catalogue will have some of our finest new pictures, so if you want to have a copy, please let me know! 

I like writing stock catalogues. It's fun trying to pull together wider art historical threads from a necessarily random collection of stock. So in this case, we cover four centuries, from Titian to Augustus John, via Van Dyck, Gainsborough, and even the miniaturist John Hoskins. But it's still possible to weave a narrative from one end of the artistic spectrum to the other. For example, Augustus John at his best has a certain Van Dyckian quality to him, while Gainsborough was as obsessed with Van Dyck as Van Dyck was as obsessed with Titian. And since I'm obsessed with Van Dyck, we've managed to squeeze in no less than three Van Dycks, and one studio of Van Dyck.


May 23 2012

Image of Nuts

Picture: Wall Street Journal

In South Africa, a great kerfuffle has developed over a portrait of President Zuma that showed his genitalia. It was later defaced. One for the Tate's forthcoming 'Iconoclasm' exhibition? More details here

Update: Zuma has gone to court to try and ban the painting. 

$86882500 in 6 1/2 minutes

May 22 2012

Video: Christie's

Watch the frenetic bidding as the world's collectors compete for a fairly ordinary Rothko, followed by the inevitable applause. The price, $86m (with premium) is a record for a 'contemporary' work of art.

L'Empire Wildenstein - Le Fin?

May 22 2012

Image of L'Empire Wildenstein - Le Fin?

Picture: Liberation/Reuters

For them's that speaks French, Liberation has a good overview of the current difficulties facing the Wildenstein art dealing dynasty. Above is the late Daniel Wildenstein, who was also a keen racehorse owner. Difficulty No.1, a tax bill of EUR 600m. Zut...

Filming today...

May 21 2012

...back tomorrow. Hopefully.

Tate promises a better hang

May 18 2012

Tate Britain has responded to recent critics of their current displays by promising a better hang of the historic collection in 2013. FromThe Guardian:

Central to that is a rehang of the collection, which the gallery's director Penelope Curtis said would be displayed chronologically – from 1550 to the present day – rather themed or by artist group.

That will please vocal critics – among them the Guardian's Jonathan Jones and the respected Burlington Magazine – who have been aghast at the paucity of pre-1900 works being displayed over recent years.

That is down to the Millbank Project, explained Curtis. "What we didn't do well enough was communicate that we were in the middle of a building project. We were perhaps too successful in hiding it."

Nicholas Serota, overall director of Tate, admitted: "Obviously when you have something like a fifth of the galleries out of service you have to sympathise with the visitors.

"They are expecting to see a full panorama of art from 1550 to the present day and we haven't been able to show many of the great works in the collection."

That's a masteful piece of spin, and slightly missing the point. But never mind. As I said a while ago, the new Turner galleries are a triumph, which bodes well for all the rest. 

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Is this Titian in the corner of his masterpiece?

May 18 2012

Image of Is this Titian in the corner of his masterpiece?

Picture: Telegraph

Probably not, but it's a great story. Conservation of Titian's 1558 masterpiece, The Martyrdom of St Lawrence [Santa Maria Assunta, Venice] has revealed a head in the lower left hand corner that looks a little bit like Titian. Full details here.

Recent service

May 18 2012

Image of Recent service

Picture: BG

I'm sorry postings have been rather slight lately. We've been filming for the second series of 'Fake or Fortune?' with the BBC. Above you can see just some of the kit that's needed to make telly these days. 

Update - a reader writes:

The photo of your desk surrounded by TV stuff reminded me of something. No doubt you've seen that clip with Harold Macmillan about to do a broadcast. The camera pans over all the filming gear and he says

"So there you are – you can see what it is like. The camera's hot, probing eye, these monstrous machines and their attendants – a kind of twentieth century torture chamber, that's what it is. But I must try to forget about that, and imagine that you are sitting here in the room with me."

New miniature collection online

May 18 2012

Image of New miniature collection online

Picture: Cleveland Museum of Art

If you like your portraits small (or 'in little' as they used to say in the 17thC), then you'll like the new online catalogue of the Cleveland Museum of Art's miniature collection. It's splendidly comprehensive, and one of the best online catalogues I've yet seen.

New Director for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

May 17 2012

Image of New Director for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Picture: The Scotsman

Congratulations to Christopher Baker, who has been appointed the new Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. He was previously Deputy Director of the Scottish National Gallery. More here

Son of Guffwatch - The Academic's Revenge

May 17 2012

Following on from my occasional series, Guffwatch (highlighting ludicrous descriptions of contemporary art), a reader has suggested a similar series devoted to art historical guff. There's lots it around. He writes:

For example, I was recently told about a conference with the title "Translation: Transformative Shifts in Process and Exchange."

The organisers helpfully suggest that subject-matter for talks should; "include, but are not limited to: In what ways have motifs, artists, and objects crossed boundaries, found meaning, and re-entered their original contexts? What different forms do these relationships take - for example, are they reciprocal, hegemonic, or syncretic in nature? How have "mistranslations," acting not as mistakes but as retakes, affected art production and meaning, and in what ways do these acts disrupt or inform them? How might we explore the place of the diasporic artist? How are art and artists locationally indexed and how are we to approach the importance or rejection of this spatial orientation? In what ways might translation be thought of temporally?"

My main thought after reading this is: who actually cares? Conferences like this are just God's way of telling you your faculty's got too much money.

Brilliant. If you know of any similar examples, please send them in. By the way, in case you're interested in the above, a quick Google reveals that the conference is at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in October 2012. Full details here

Anne Boleyn's medal restored?

May 15 2012

Image of Anne Boleyn's medal restored?

Picture: Lucy Churchill / British Museum

This is interesting - a reworking of Anne Boleyn's 1534 portrait medal. There are few more debated iconographies in English history than Anne's, and it's long been thought that the one truly certain likeness of her* is the medal held by the British Museum. (The famous portrait type of her in black is a posthumous interpration, and not very reliable). The trouble is, the lead medal has been worn and flattened over time, so that it cannot be used a guide to Anne's true likeness. 

Now, however, the stonecarver Lucy Churchill has made a commendable effort to recreate the medal as it might have been. I think her effort looks most impressive. Curiosuly enough, the nose looks rather like that seen in the 'Anna Bollein Queene' Holbein drawing, which I and others (such as Dr David Starkey) have said for time really is Anne, and which the Royal Collection now accepts as her. That said, I still think we must be very careful when using the medal as any guide to Anne's portraiture.

* Before people write in mentioning the 'Anne Boleyn ring', I'm afraid I don't entirely believe it. The image is, in my view, more likely to be a representation of the young Elizabeth. 

A lost Bonnie Prince rediscovered

May 15 2012

Image of A lost Bonnie Prince rediscovered

Picture: Fife Council/Your Paintings

I've been meaning to do a round up of all your excellent 'Your Paintings' discoveries - but I'm afraid I've been a little busy lately. So apologies to all of you who sent in suggestions. I promise I'll put them up soon. Straight to the front of the queue though, since I'm slightly obsessed with the Jacobites, is this excellent spot from a noted sleuth (in fact, from a family of noted sleuths) of Bonnie Prince Charlie, after the original by Louis Tocque. It belongs to Fife Council, who have it down as 'Portrait of a Man in Armour'.

How not to move a statue

May 15 2012


From Brecht, in Belgium.

New Turner hang at Tate

May 14 2012

Image of New Turner hang at Tate

Picture: BG

I went recently to the Turner extension at Tate Britain to admire their new hang. If you haven't already been, go too. It's a triumph. For the first time in many years, the galleries have a cohesive narrative, and highlight not only the best of Turner's work in an engaging and fresh manner, but also reveal a number of new discoveries. An example is the above reclining nude, cleaned for the first time, and, wonderfully, hung unframed in all its unfinished glory (you can see a photo of it before cleaning here - if Francis Bacon had painted that, it would sell for £50m). Gone, thankfully, are the curious 19th C 'Romantic' works by lesser painters that the Tate had shoved into the Turner galleries during their renovations. And gone too is the mawkish shade of green that dominated the rooms, now replaced by cool blues and greys. It's reassuring to see Tate doing something so well. Now we just need to hope that the cohesiveness of the hang is not disturbed in future years, as happens too often. 

Stolen Lelio Orsini returned to Italy

May 14 2012

Image of Stolen Lelio Orsini returned to Italy

Picture: TM News

Last year, I reported on the seizure by a US court of the above Leda and the Swan by Lelio Orsi (above). The picture had been illegally exported out of Italy, but nevertheless was sold by Sotheby's in New York for $1.5m in 2008 [the online auction page has been removed]. Now, after the pictures were returned to the Italian government, it turns out that the picture had not only been smuggled into the US with false documentation, but looted too (tho' we are not told from where). Stealing pictures from one country and smuggling them into another is one thing. But then selling them at public auction - that's really dumb.

Cunning art thief finally caught

May 14 2012

Image of Cunning art thief finally caught

Picture: Venezia Today

If I was going to nick pictures for living, this is how I'd do it [from The Australian]:

In an elaborate scam that could have come straight from the plot of the film The Thomas Crown Affair, investigators believe that having identified a target, [Count Cristiano] Barozzi would take a digital photo of the painting, produce a copy and replace the original with the fake.

The thefts are alleged to have continued for a decade, during which time none of the owners realised they had been robbed. According to the police, Barozzi's keen eye was most attracted to artworks hanging in poorly lit areas, where the copies would not be detected.

The aristocrat's gang members are alleged to be two Sri Lankan butlers who worked for the victims, Claudio Mella, a consultant with the regional monuments and fine arts agency, who allegedly identified the paintings and then advised Barozzi on selling them, and Claudio Celadin, an expert in digital photography.

Over a few months last year, five thefts netted the thieves more than E1 million ($1.3m). The stolen artworks were predominantly painted by the schools of Old Masters rather than by the masters themselves, because these are easier to sell on the black market.

Van Dyck and Flinck's model?

May 14 2012

Image of Van Dyck and Flinck's model?

Picture: Whitfield Fine Art / Dobiaschofsky

I was intrigued by a portrait that came up for sale recently, by Govaert Flinck (above right). It was signed and dated 1650. The sitter looked, to me, like a dead-ringer for a model Van Dyck used in about 1630, in a newly discovered work found by dealer Clovis Whitfield. The Van Dyck was featured in a c.1660 painting by David Teniers, thought to show Archduke Leopold's collection, in which it is labelled 'A V Dyck'.

Who was this artist's model, presumably much in demand for his contemplative manner and characterful beard? Or am I simply imagining that they are the same person?

Is that Rocky in Raphael's Vatican Mural?!

May 14 2012

Image of Is that Rocky in Raphael's Vatican Mural?!

Picture: The Sun

No! But that didn't stop The Sun asking the question:

A visitor to the Vatican was shocked to discover that one of the artistic masterpieces contained a dead ringer for Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone.

The likeness of the screen hardman, best known for playing boxing underdog Rocky, appears in the background of a 1511 fresco by Old Master Raphael.

The artwork is displayed in one of the Raphael Rooms at the Catholic city-state inside the boundaries of Rome, Italy. Called The Cardinal and Theological Virtues, it shows Pope Gregory IX approving new Papal laws.

The hilarious likeness was spotted by Harvard student Anthony Zonfrell, 20, who was on holiday in Italy with his family.

Thrilled with their art historical scoop, The Sun then scoured the world's Old Masters to see what other celebrities could be spotted. My favourite is Mr Bean in Philippe de Champaigne's Last Supper

Meanwhile, The Irish Sun has another historical scoop: 'Cromwell was gay Metrosexual'.

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