Previous Posts: March 2013

Durer in Washington

March 25 2013

Image of Durer in Washington

Picture: Albertina

The Albertina's prized collection of watercolours and drawings by Albrecht Durer goes on display in Washington today in a new exhibition. More details here

Not Your Paintings

March 25 2013

Image of Not Your Paintings

Picture: Bournemouth and Poole College/Your Paintings

An ungrateful higher education college is to sell off an important collection of modern British art bequeathed to it by a former principal, the artist Arthur Andrews. The Bournemouth and Poole College collection includes works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Ivon Hitchens (above). The oil paintings in the collection feature on the BBC Your Paintings website, and include a work by the donor himself. They are being sold to raise £4m for a new building project. More details here.

I hope Poole College (which, incidentally, offers a number of art courses) will reimburse the Public Catalogue Foundation for the cost of photographing and uploading the collection onto Your Paintings.

Update - a reader writes:

Pretty sure some of those acquisitions were funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation. The Sven Berlin paintings were donated by his widow.


Lely the romantic novelist

March 25 2013

Image of Lely the romantic novelist


A reader sends me the above book cover, featuring Lely's portrait of Nell Gwyn. If you want one, the book is The Saturday Book 26, edited by John Hadfield, and published by Little Brown, Boston, in 1966.

Rescuing looted art

March 22 2013

Video: Pathe

A reader alerts me to the above video, showing part of Goering's collection of stolen art being sorted by the US army. Van Dyck's Family of Cornelis de Vos makes an appearance, whilst white gloves and bubble wrap are conspicuous by their absence. Warning - the film gets a bit grim at about 1m30 with the death of Himmler.

Update - a reader writes:

About your post "rescuing looted art", there is a good book from Hector Feliciano called "The Lost Museum", really worth reading. (Doing it now for the 3rd time)

It describes very well the French art market during WWII, as well how the Germans stole thousands of art works and entire collections of important families in Western Europe.

Steen mania continues

March 22 2013

Image of Steen mania continues

Picture: Arts Council/Christie's

Last December Sotheby's sold a Jan Steen, The Prayer Before the Meal, for a record £5.6m (incl. premium). This summer, however, Christie's will offer Steen's 1660 Interior with the Artist Eating Oysters for up to £10m.

That at least is the 'Guide Price' being quoted on the Arts Council's 'Notice of Intention of Sale' page, where works being sold which have previously been exempted from capital taxation have to be placed, in case a museum wants to make a pre-emptive bid. We don't yet know what the auction estimate will be, for, as the Arts Council says:

Please note that the price given is intended as a rough guide only, and does not constitute an offer to sell at this price. The practice of the auction houses is usually to pitch this at their high auction estimate or, sometimes, even higher.

Happy Birthday Ant

March 22 2013

Image of Happy Birthday Ant

Picture: Prado/Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenen Künste, Vienna

I don't normally go in for 'on this day' things, but today is Van Dyck's birthday. So Happy Birthday Sir Anthony (or as we call you in the BG household, 'Ant'). Thanks for being the best.

This is still not Shakespeare (ctd.)

March 22 2013

Image of This is still not Shakespeare (ctd.)

Picture: BG

Now it's appearing on pub signs. What next - the £5 note?

Met to open 7 days a week

March 21 2013

Image of Met to open 7 days a week

Picture: Metropolitan Museum

I have a tedious habit of ending up in foreign cities on a Monday, when most art galleries are shut. So it's good news that as of July 1st, the Metopolitan Museum in New York will be open 7 days a week. More details here.

Bowes Museum acquires Turner

March 21 2013

Image of Bowes Museum acquires Turner

Picture: Bowes Museum, via Art Daily

The Bowes Museum, fresh from gaining a Van Dyck, is now also up a Turner, after it successfully bid for the above Lowther Castle - Evening from the government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme. More details here

$14m Velazquez at TEFAF

March 20 2013

Video: Sotheby's

Here's a film from the opening day of TEFAF at Maastricht. Star of the show it seems is a cleaned and recently discovered Velasquez.

I haven't been this year. Bit of a schlep. More Sotheby's videos from TEFAF here.

No triple A, just triple dip (ctd.)

March 20 2013

Image of No triple A, just triple dip (ctd.)

Picture: National Portrait Gallery/Estate of Vanessa Bell

Here in the UK, it's Budget day. It seems our debt is still rising, due mainly to a complete lack of economic growth, and the threat of an unprecedented triple dip recession (predicted even by AHN as far back as September 2011) is still with us. Today's budget contained more of the same failed economic policies, and I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Cabinet really is brain dead. So, for the benefit of our readers in government, here's another reminder of what John Maynard Keynes (he of sound economic sense) looked like. This portrait of 'The Memoir Club' [NPG] is by Vanessa Bell. Keynes is at the centre, next to his wife, Lydia Lopokova. 

'That's a good nose'

March 20 2013


In this clip from the 1969 film, 'The Magic Christian', Peter Sellers is the art collector from hell, while John Cleese plays a (fairly typical?) dealer or auction house expert.

Rembrandt self-portrait proclaimed (ctd.)

March 19 2013

Image of Rembrandt self-portrait proclaimed (ctd.)

Picture: National Trust

You can see a high-res photo of the National Trust's newly attributed Rembrandt self-portrait here. The head looks very good. 

New leads in Gardner Museum theft? (ctd.)

March 19 2013

Video: FBI

Watching the above video, and reading more about yesterday's story, it seems pretty clear that there are in fact no new leads in the case. The press announcement was more to do with PR.

When is a painting not a painting?

March 19 2013

Image of When is a painting not a painting?

Picture: Telegraph

Answer; when it's a piece of 'machinery'. The trustees of Castle Howard, above, have won an important case on UK tax law, concerning the sale in 2001 of Sir Joshua Reynolds' Omai, which will have an impact on the disposal of pictures from stately homes. From The Telegraph:

The proceeds of the sale, part of the estate of the late Sir George Howard, have since been the focus of negotiations over whether capital gains tax should be paid.

Executors had argued is was one of the main attractions bringing visitors to Castle Howard, in North Yorkshire, and should be viewed as integral to running the house as a business.

On Monday, Mr Justice Morgan ruled the painting did fall into the category of "plant and machinery" as defined by the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992.

In a move likely to bring hope to other stately home owners, this classification makes it exempt from the tax levy.

The judge's ruling, at the Upper Tribunal, found the artwork should be viewed as a piece of "apparatus" and a "wasting asset" that, at least in theory, became worthless 50 years after it was placed on public display in the 1950s.

Personally, I'm always pleased to see the tax man lose. But on a wider scale this is also good news for the public too. From now on, there will be a clearer incentive, for those fortunate enough to own great paintings in great houses, to put important works of art on public display as much as possible. They might even be encouraged to loan them out more.

Update: top tip for anyone wanting to sell their art and avoid capital gains tax - turn your living room into a 'museum' for a few years before you sell.

New leads in Gardner Museum theft?

March 18 2013

Image of New leads in Gardner Museum theft?

Picture: NY Times/Gardner Museum

Good news, potentially - the New York Times reports:

The F.B.I. said Monday that it believes it knows the identity of the thieves who stole 13 paintings 23 years ago from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, one of the most infamous art heists in history.

Officials from the F.B.I. said they believed that the paintings were moved through Connecticut and the Philadelphia area perhaps a decade ago by a criminal organization. They declined to reveal any more about the identity of the thieves, saying the investigation is continuing.

The F.B.I. is establishing a Web site,, as part of a publicity campaign to alert the public. That campaign includes billboards to be placed in Connecticut and Philadelphia, with reproductions of the paintings in hopes of prompting anyone with information to step forward.

The museum is still offering a $5 million reward for information that leads to the recovery of the art work in good condition. It is valued at up to $500 million.

Why the National Gallery should allow photography (ctd.)

March 18 2013

Image of Why the National Gallery should allow photography (ctd.)

Picture: Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood recently held a fashion show at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Here, Kate Moss adds meaning to Caravaggio's David and Goliath.

More 17thC & 18thC documents online

March 18 2013

Image of More 17thC & 18thC documents online

Picture: Royal Collection

Richard Stephens, editor of York University's online project The Art World in Britain 1660-1735, has been in touch with news of the latest updates:

  • 125 bills, accounts and receipts, including:

- accounts of the Earls of Salisbury, 1663-1724;

- records of the 5th Earl of Bedford, 1660-1700;

- a group of late 17th century documents from the National Library of Scotland;

- art-related Secret Service payments, 1679-88;

- accounts of Sir Stephen Fox (1627-1716);

- brief notes of documents at Belvoir, Alnwick, Chatsworth and elsewhere.

  • 38 letters, including

- John Michael Wright's correspondence, 1676-7, that provides "the most vivid glimpse we have of the circumstances, ambitions and pretentions of an English 17th century painter." (David Howarth);

- letters of 1st Viscount Hatton, 3rd Marquess of Worcester and Thomas Walker of Newton, as buyers and sellers of pictures in late 17th century London.

  • Diaries

Charles Beale's notebooks (1671, 1672, 1674 and 1676) with a commentary by the late Richard Jeffree.

  • Court Papers

A very detailed lawsuit of 1670 concerning a dispute between Isaac Fuller and Thomas Killigrew, the theatre manager, over payments for scene painting at Drury Lane.

  • 9 sale catalogues, including

the drawing master John Smith of Christ's College,1702;

the dealer and collector Simon du Bois, 1709;

dealers Edward Gouge, 1715, and Peter Motteux, circa 1714-17;

a 1728 sale annotated with prices and buyers' names.

  • Inventories

An early 17th century inventory of paintings for sale from an Italian collection, annotated in the mid 1690s with current owners;

An inventory of the pictures at Narford Hall, 1738;

An inventory of the Duke of York's pictures, 1674;

An inventory of Vice-Chamberlain Coke's pictures, 1724.

  • 140 names added to the index of People, chiefly comprising

- picture salesmen and their clients mentioned in the financial papers published here

- buyers at the 1711 Streeter sale and the Philipp sale of 1728

- early 18th century collectors of prints and drawings recorded by Fritz Lugt and Pond and Knapton

Richard also kindly draws my attention to this fascinating document on Van Dyck, in which Charles Hatton discuss the artist's priming techniques:

Sep 23, [16]76

Your pictures will be all finished ye next week. The Queen's, Prince's [Rupert], and Ld Dorset's are ready. I dare not hazard them in my little house, least ye sea coale smoke this winter shou'd spoyle them. Had ye Queen's picture hung a little longer at Thanet House, it wou'd have been quite spoyled, for ye cloth wase primed wth tobacco pipe clay, and it wou'd have pilled all of. As soon as the durt wase wash'd of, ye cracks appeared. But Mr.Baptist engages he hath secured it for ever. He highly admires my Ld Dorset's picture, sath it is every stroake of Van Dyke and of his best painting; and ye priming of ye cloath is very good. Van Dyke was very neglectfull in ye priming of ye cloths he painted on. Some were primed wth water colours, as ye fine crucifix at Mr Lillyes, some wth tobacco pipe clay, as ye famous picture of ye late King and Queen [above], at Whitehall, wch is now allmost all pilled of, and yr Queen's picture; but yt is now secured. Vandyke wase much pleased wth that priming, for it wase smooth as glasse; and he did not live to see ye inconvenience of it by being soe little durable, unlesse care be taken by some skillfull artist to fix it afterwards, either by varnishing it on ye backe side with a varnish wch will passe quite through and fix ye colour, or else wth a strong size and clap on another cloth. Here is noe news.

Yr Lopps truly affect. Brother to serve you,


Rembrandt self-portrait proclaimed

March 18 2013

Image of Rembrandt self-portrait proclaimed

Picture: National Trust

The head of the Rembrandt Research Project, Ernst van der Wetering, has proclaimed that a 1635 portrait of Rembrandt belonging to the National Trust is in fact an autograph self-portrait. The depiction, which shows an unusually rotund Rembrandt, and with a rather awkward representation of his right shoulder, was only recently bequeathed to the Trust by Lady Samuel of Wych Cross, the wife of a property developer. More details in The Guardian here, and a slightly larger photo of the picture on the National Trust database here (where it remains catalogued as 'Studio of Rembrandt').

An expensive restoration

March 15 2013

Image of An expensive restoration

Picture: Worcester Art Museum/TAN

Emily Sharpe in The Art Newspaper reports that a pair of Hogarths belonging to The Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts is to be restored thanks to a grant from the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund. Good for TEFAF for making the donation, but I'm surprised at the figures involved - EUR 25,000, and for pictures described by the museum as being 'in pretty good condition'. A further $20,000 is required to restore the frames.

That's a lot of money. Way more, for example, than it cost to restore the Van Dyck recently unearthed at the Bowes Museum.

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