Previous Posts: January 2017

Selfies galore

January 6 2017

Image of Selfies galore

Picture: BG

I was in London yesterday, and visited the excellent mini exhibition on British 17th Century self-portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery. There, Van Dyck and Dobson's self-portraits have been re-united for the first time since the Tate's Van Dyck in Britain show in 2009. It closes after this weekend. 

Of course, I couldn't resist taking a selfie. If you go, send me yours.

Louvre's $10m loss

January 6 2017

Image of Louvre's $10m loss

Picture: Artnet news

Torrid times for the Louvre; the museum has announced a fall of 15% in visitors and a consequent $10m loss, after the terrible terrorist attacks last year dissuaded many people from visiting. More here

When my wife and I were in Paris in September on business, we made sure to sign up as annual patrons. You can do so here if you like. 

Brexit and the Art Market (ctd.)

January 6 2017

Image of Brexit and the Art Market (ctd.)

Picture: Bloomberg

As predicted by AHN in the immediate aftermath of the UK's Brexit vote, the London art market has benefited from the sustained fall in the pound. According to this article in Bloomberg, the weak pound helped London buck the trend of contracting overall global auction sales. 

Art History toys (ctd.)

January 6 2017

Image of Art History toys (ctd.)

Picture: Sarah Vowles on Twitter

The British Museum's curator of French and Italian drawings, Sarah Vowles, alers me to perhaps the best art history toy I've yet seen; a poseable model of Leonardo's Vitruvian Man. In the photo below, she has artfully posed him beside a classical bust.

On this site, someone has made Vitruvian Man perform some rather athletic poses. 

Has the Czartoryski Raphael been found?

January 5 2017

Image of Has the Czartoryski Raphael been found?

Picture: Wikipedia

Probably not. But further to the news (below) that the Polish government has acquired the Czartoryski Collection, the director of the National Museum in Krakow, Andrzej Betlej, has said that he believes the famous missing Raphael portrait can be traced to a specific private collection. The portrait, once thought to be a self-portrait, was looted from the Czartoryski collection by the Nazis, and not seen after 1945, when it was taken to Germany by Hans Frank. Betlej has not said which collection it is in, or indeed even in which country. But it seems he has some evidence to suggest that painting is still alive and well, somewhere.

The timing of the disclosure is interesting in that under the terms of the Polish state's acquisition of the Czartoryski collection, it now assumes ownership of any missing works, should they be recovered. So the €100m purchase could yet turn out to be even more of a bargain than thought. The Raphael, were it to ever be sold, must surely be worth in excess of €100m, perhaps even twice that. Assuming, of course, that it's in good condition.

More here (in Polish).

How much is Leonardo's 'Lady with an Ermine' worth? (ctd.)

January 5 2017

Image of How much is Leonardo's 'Lady with an Ermine' worth? (ctd.)

Picture: Czartoryski Foundation

Well, we'll never know, because the Czartoryski collection - of which Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine forms a part - has been signed over to the Polish state in its entirety for €100m. Prince Adam Czartoryski declared that he 'felt like making a donation', and agreed to sell his family collection - which includes works by Rembrandt and many others - to the Polish government. The Czartoryski Foundation's board has resigned in protest. More here.

The €100m figure is of course a fraction of what the collection is worth on the international market. But arguably Prince Adam Czartoryski was unlikely to ever realise anything like the collection's full value, if indeed a sale had ever been contemplated. The Polish government could have made the question of exporting works such as the Leonardo almost impossible, thus confining any sale to within Poland itself. Although theoretically there is an interesting test case waiting to be taken to the EU courts on whether individual member states can stop someone exporting a work of art under the European Convention on Human Rights (the main one being the freedom to enjoy one's possessions). 

Happy New Year!

January 4 2017

Image of Happy New Year!

Picture: BG

AHN wishes you all a happy new year. I hope you've all had a good break. Thanks for your patience while we've been away. The Deputy Editor's connoisseurial training proceeded apace over the holidays. We have now graduated to spotting animals in paintings, with great excitement. Here we are in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Current reading

January 4 2017

Image of Current reading

Picture: BG

I've been asked to review this for Apollo Magazine. Does the title suggest that it follows the old trope of art dealers all being cads and bounders? 

'Treasures from Chatsworth' Episode 8

January 4 2017

Video: Sotheby's

This episode of Sotheby's excellent Chatsworth series tells the story of their portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Gainsborough. I didn't know the picture had at one point been stolen.

'Treasures from Chatsworth' Episode 6

January 4 2017

Video: Sotheby's

This episode features one of the most extraordinary Trompe l’oeil pictures ever painted, Jan Van Der Vaardt’s Trompe l’oeil Violin.

Auction estimate changes in UK

January 4 2017

Image of Auction estimate changes in UK

Picture: Art Observed

The Antiques Trade Gazette reports on a new ruling by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority on auction estimates. At the moment, an auction catalogue gives an estimate of just the hammer price. Only at the end of the catalogue (usually) does the small print tell you that there will be a buyer's premium on top (ranging from about 10% to 30%).

The dispute has a long history in the battle between dealers and auctioneers. The former have felt that auctioneers mis-represent 'the price' of goods - which, to a punter, invariably appear cheaper than a gallery's full retail price - by not including all the extras. It appears that in this case the person who made the official complaint to the ASA was a dealer. Auctioneers have always tended to resist making it easier to see the total price including commissions, even though these days with online bidding platforms and the like it would be the work of a moment. At the main London and New York auction houses, for example, large screens behind the auctioneer convert the hammer price instantly into foreign currencies. But the total price with premium is never shown, until the post-sale press releases want to stress how much everything sold for. But that said, I think really most people bidding at auction are pretty aware of what the total price wil be, even if it sometimes comes as a nasty shock on the invoice (with VAt and everything on top).

The ASA's suggested solution is for auction estimates in catalogues to be presented thus:

Guide price £70,000-80,000 + 10% buyer’s premium and other fees


Guide price £1000–2000 + 20% buyer’s premium and other fees (minimum £150)

£4m Government Indemnity payout for Zoffany

January 4 2017

Image of £4m Government Indemnity payout for Zoffany

Picture: TAN

Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper reports that the UK government will have to pay out £4m to the owners of a painting by Zoffany (above) that was destroyed in the tragic fire at Clandon Park. The payout will be made directly by the Treasury, as the picture (on loan from a private collection) was covered by the Government Indemnity scheme. This allows museums to cover the risk of damage or loss to a painting, without paying an insurance premium. The government - ie, taxpayers - assumes all the risk. The scheme is vital for exhibitions and loans in the UK. The fact that the payout is, as TAN reports, the highest ever made, tells us a great deal about the success of the scheme. For £4m is not really a significant sum, in relation to all the works of art that have been covered over the years. 

Van Gogh's lost sketchbook? (ctd.)

January 4 2017

Image of Van Gogh's lost sketchbook? (ctd.)

Picture: via Artnet News

The publishers of the so-called 'Lost Arles Sketchbook' by Van Gogh - which I think it's fair to say that most Van Gogh experts have said does not represent the work of Van Gogh - have said that they may take legal action if anyone says the drawings are fake. The threat specifically is that the publisher:

“reserved the right to undertake any appropriate action to repair the damage caused by these claims that describe her [the book's owner] as a forger.”

Which is an interesting formulation, because as far as I know, nobody has actually said; 'these drawings are fakes made by the book's alleged owner', But if the publisher of the 'Lost Sketchbook' wants to bring that question into the debate, then so be it.

Certainly, there's something very modern about the portrait drawings in the sketchbook. My guess is that if the drawings are fakes, then they have been made relatively recently.

Waldemar in Conversation (ctd.)

January 4 2017

Video: National Gallery

Here's the Great Waldemar on fine form discussing the National Gallery's 'Beyond Caravaggio' exhibition. Well worth a click. 

During the talk we learn that Waldemar is making a film on the Mary Magdelene myth in art, to be on the BBC early this year. 

John Berger 1926-1917

January 3 2017

Video: BBC

John Berger, the great art historian, critic and communicator, has died. He was 90. Here is an obituary in The Guardian, here is a 'life in quotes' (a good one: "Hope is not a form of guarantee; it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.”), and here is the New York Times take on his life. Above is the first episode of his lauded BBC series 'Ways of Seeing'. Here is his interview with Jeremy Isaacs in Face to Face, from the days when such programmes were more about the subject than the interviewer.

I'll be back on regular blogging duties tomorrow. Happy New Year to you all.

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