Previous Posts: April 2017

Still, sadly, not Jane Austen (ctd.)

April 2 2017

Image of Still, sadly, not Jane Austen (ctd.)

Picture: via

Regular readers will know the case of the 'Rice Portrait', which claims to show Jane Austen. The painting has its defenders, including the family who own it, and who have their own website putting the case for the identity of the sitter here. Many others are unconvinced, including the former Chief Curator of the NPG in London, Jacob Simon.

Jacob's view of the picture has always been especially important, since he has been compiling an extremely useful and exhaustive online database of artist's suppliers in Britain - and a key piece of evidence in the case of the Rice portrait is a canvas maker's stamp on the back. The stamp is that of William Legg, who sold canvasses in High Holborn in London between abou 1801 and 1806. This is important because for the Rice Portrait to show Jane Austen it would need to have been painted in about the late 1780s.

Until now, only one example of a William Legg canvas stamp has been known. But in an article in the FT, writer Anjana Ahuja writes about a portrait she recently bought of a 'Mrs Smith' by the artist James Northcote (above). This painting is signed and dated 1803 - and it too has a William Legg canvas stamp on the back (below).

In other words, it's clear evidence that the stamp on the back of the Rice portrait must date the painting to the early 1800s. Therefore, it cannot show Jane Austen (born in 1775), for the sitter is clearly too young.

There have always been significant gaps in the case for the Rice portrait being Jane - not least its early provenance - and this latest evidence can only set the case back further still.

A new cache of artist's suppliers information has lately been uploaded to Jacob Simon's database; all available for free at the click of a mouse. Amazing.

Restitution news (ctd.)

April 2 2017

Image of Restitution news (ctd.)

Picture: via Wikimedia Commons

A painting by the German expressionist painter, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, will remain on public display after the heirs of its pre-war owner were compensated. The Judgment of Paris (above) was seized from the Jewish collector Hans Hess by the Nazis. It went on display at the Wilhem-Hack museum in Ludwigshafen in 1976, but Hess' heirs have now been compensated €1.2m, negating any need for the painting to be sold. More here.

FBI recovers Rockwell painting stolen in 1976

April 2 2017


Video: NBC

More here

Brexit: UK museums to lose European pictures?

April 1 2017

Image of Brexit: UK museums to lose European pictures?

Picture: National Gallery

UK museums have been threatened with the loss of some of their best works under the government's Brexit negotiation strategy. Ministers have conceded that the EU's demands for a €60bn 'divorce bill' will somehow have to be met, but instead of a cash settlement they have suggested using some of the UK's most valuable works of art as collateral. This will mean the National Gallery losing iconic works such as Leonardo's 'Burlington House Cartoon' (above right). 

A source familiar with the plans told AHN:

This is not as bad as it sounds, because the pictures will only be permanently loaned; we won't be surrendering full title. And in return institutions like the Louvre have said they'll give us some of their best British pictures. So this is very much 'British pictures for British museums', and that in turn fits in with the government's 'Empire 2.0' strategy. If we end up with too many Constables, we'll send them to Africa.

It is understood the Prime Minister has personally pledged the Leonardo cartoon to Germany, after confessing that she never got the joke anyway.

Update - a reader has learnt of this similarly devastating bit of EU news:

After years of indecision, the European Commission decided today that all works of art within the European Union, irrespective of their value, are part of the common European heritage, and therefore inalienable, in other words, that they cannot be exported outside the European Union. In a complete reversal of previous policy, which delegated the definition of 'national heritage' and how to deal with it, to national governments, the Commission has promised to pledge 'as much as is necessary' to acquire any work of art that has been bought by a non-EU citizen or institution, to prevent its export beyond E.U. boundaries. Many protestors, mostly dealers, have complained that this move would effectively kill the art market in the E.U.; but the Commission is implacable, and refuses to countenance any change of policy.

Update II - bless you for putting up with my April Fools posts. I'm still quite pleased with this old favourite from 2014.

Update III - someone has actually taken the idea and run with it!

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