Previous Posts: April 2016

Dusting the Mona Lisa

April 4 2016

Image of Dusting the Mona Lisa

Picture: AHN reader

AHN has often wondered why they never dust pictures at the Louvre. Now, a sharp-eyed reader has sent in this screen grab of a cobweb on the Mona Lisa (seen in Waldemar's Renaissance Unchained series).

Release the art! (ctd.)

April 4 2016

Image of Release the art! (ctd.)

Picture: Tate

Regular readers will know that one of AHN's hobby horses is the question of art locked away in storage (see earlier AHN here and here, and also my piece in the FT here). In the UK, about 80% of our public collection of oil paintings is in storage at any one time. For some of our major museums, such as Tate in London, an extraordinary amount of great masterpieces lie languishing in storage, unseen for years. We're not just talking about lesser works, but pictures by major names such as Van Dyck, Constable and Gainsborough. 

So hurrah then for the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, who is determined to do something about it. Here's a snippet in the Mail on Sunday:

An unseen treasure trove of the nation’s most valuable paintings could soon be on display in local art galleries and community centres across the country if radical new plans proposed by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey get the green light from Downing Street and the Treasury.

Vaizey is said to have been stunned by the size of the collections languishing in the storage vaults of London’s major galleries – ‘like something from Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ he reportedly told friends – and is lobbying for funding to put them on display in the regions.

The problem of art in storage is a feature of the government's new 'White Paper' on culture, the first for 50 years, and which you can download here. It features many sensible things. 

Museum attendance - London leads the way

April 1 2016

Image of Museum attendance - London leads the way

Picture: TAN

Us Brits can be proud of the fact of three of the ten most visited museums in the world last year are in London. As ever, the Art Newspaper's annual visitor survey makes for interesting reading, and to navigate it best you need to get the paper edition. While the biggest draws were the likes of Ai Wei Wei (372k visitors in London) and Jeff Koons (650k in Paris), I'm happy to report, of course, that Old Master exhibitions are still popular: 'Late Rembrandt' had 520k visitors in Amsterdam, and 264k in London; Vleazquez had 478k in Paris and 336k in Vienna; Goya in Madrid had 535k (figures for London seem not be listed); 'Late Turner' had 267k visitors at Tate Britain.

All of the above pale in comparison to the exhibitions held at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, however: there 8 exhibitions drew in over 1m visitors last year, with 5.3m going to see 'The Enchanting Splendor of Vases & Planters'.  

This is not Shakespeare (ctd.)

April 1 2016

Image of This is not Shakespeare (ctd.)

Picture: BBC History Magazine

It's the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, so we're seeing him featured in all sorts of magazines, books and TV programmes. We're also seeing repeated use of the Cobbe portrait, which regular readers will know that AHN (and many others, including the National Portrait Gallery) do not think is actually Shakespeare.

The latest offender is BBC History Magazine (above), which really ought to know better. A version of the Cobbe portrait is also shown as Shakespeare on the front cover of the Museums Association magazine, but then we expect the MA to be wrong about most things. Meanwhile, the Chandos portrait, which really does show Shakespeare, is off on loan to Russia, to the Tretyakov Gallery (till July 24th).

The suprassing of the Chandos portrait by the Cobbe portrait tells us more about us than Shakespeare - whatever he looked like - for we are determined to imagine him as more handsome and flamboyant than he really was. He was a celebrity, we say, therefore he must look like our conception of one. Of course, this is not a new process, for in the 19th Century the Chandos portrait was retouched to make Shakespeare look more like a romantic playwright, with the addition of longer hair. It's one thing to alter an existing image of the Bard, but quite another to invent a wholly new one.

'Classic Art Week' at Christie's New York

April 1 2016

Video: Christie's

Here's a trailer for Christie's new 'Classic Art Week' in New York, 12th -15th April, which features all manner of things from clocks to Brueghels. The tag line at the end - 'Prices from $3,000' - suggests Christie's are aiming the sale at new buyers, which is good. I hope it does well. Happily, for old stick-in-the-muds like me, the Old Master paintings are still called 'Old Masters'.

Late Renaissance marble discovery

April 1 2016

Video: Christie's

Here's a nice video from Christie's, in which sculptor specialist William Russell describes discovering a long lost marble figure of Andromeda by Pietro Paolo Olivieri. It's coming up for sale on 13th April in New York at $500k-$800k. The catalogue note is here.

Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

April 1 2016

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

Picture: Loovre

A source at the Louvre has sent me the first results from their analysis of the Cranach seized by a French court. The picture, which was bought recently by the Prince of Liechtenstein for €7m, has been beset by allegations of forgery, and had been sent to the Louvre by a judge for scientific testing. My source says:

We took a new multi-spectral x-ray with our patented Lumiere-o-scope, and the results are quite remarkable. They prove for the first time that Cranach had a sense of humour.


New Rubens discovery in New York

April 1 2016

Image of New Rubens discovery in New York

Picture: Christie's

I was glad to see the above picture in Christie's forthcoming New York catalogue, correctly described as by Rubens. It had previously been in a Christie's South Kensington sale as 'Flemish School', and though I was disappointed to see it withdrawn shortly before the sale, the sleuther's loss is the consignor's gain. 

The estimate of $120,000-$180,000 seems quite reasonable. The sale is on 14th April. Other highlights include a fine, small El Greco of The Entombment at $4m-$6m, and an important newly discovered Virgin and Child by Joos van Cleve $600k-$800k. 

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