Previous Posts: July 2020

Poetry in Lockdown - Wright of Derby

July 15 2020

Image of Poetry in Lockdown - Wright of Derby

Picture: Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Derby Museum and Art Gallery reopened to the public last week. To mark this occasion, they have recently posted a new poem by the poet John Birtwhistle (b.1946) inspired by Joseph Wright of Derby's portrait of his friend the clockmaker and scientist John Whitehurst (pictured).

I am by no means any knowledgeable critic of poetry, but Birtwhistle's lines make some genuinely lovely observations. It reminds me a little of what the likes of William Lisle Bowles (d.1850) wrote about the paintings he saw in the 1807 RA exhibition by the likes of Turner, West, Hoppner, Wilkie etc.

One stanza reads:

It is a painting about the moment

of thought, about art, about science,

and it paints about friendship.

It is a painting about the stubborn

intensity of loving attention

that may elicit concept from dark.

Follow this link to listen to Birtwhistle reading the poem himself.

Royal Collection Conserves Ostade

July 15 2020

When preparing works of art for an exhibition, conservators painstakingly clean and repair paintings, and sometimes they...

Posted by Royal Collection Trust on Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Video: The Royal Collection Trust

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal Collection have uploaded this video regarding the recent conservation of a painting by Isaac van Ostade (1621-1649). The cleaning revealed that a figure of a boy, loosening his bowels, was painted out of the scene at some point during the nineteenth century. As the video points out, the lost figure has now been reinstated into the scene.

Burlington Magazine - Current Issue

July 15 2020

Image of Burlington Magazine - Current Issue

Picture: The Burlington Magazine

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A small reminder that the current July 2020 issue of the Burlington Magazine is free to read via. their website. Included within the issue is an interesting article on the reidentification of the 3rd Earl of Bute's Finding of Moses by Tiepolo (pictured). The picture, now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, had actually been acquired as a Veronese by the gallery in the 1950s. The composition relates to a late sixteenth century Benedetto Caliari of the same subject now in a private collection.

Amorous Couple back in Ukraine

July 15 2020

Image of Amorous Couple back in Ukraine

Picture: Wikipedia Commons

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A painting of An Amorous Couple by the French artist Pierre Louis Goudreaux (1694-1731) has been returned to the Ukraine. The picture, which had once been in the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts, was looted by the Nazis in 1943. The painting resurfaced in the USA during the 1990s, and had been put up for sale at Doyle's Auction House in 2013 where the picture was withdrawn on request from the Ukrainian authorities.

Here is a photograph of the painting hanging in the museum before the war.

The restitution was given the go-ahead at the beginning of this year, but has only now been completed.

Master Drawings Journal - Free Access

July 14 2020

Image of Master Drawings Journal - Free Access

Picture: Master Drawings

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Master Drawings Journal, published by the Master Drawings Association, have made their recent issues free to read online. You'll be able to access interesting articles on the likes of the 'Drawings of Interiors by Thomas Wijck'; 'The Zuccaro Brothers and the Colorito vs. Disegno Debate'; 'Paolo Veronese's Portrait Drawing of Fra' Damiano Grana' and 'Paul Sandby Copying Gainsborough: Sharing, Sociability, and Self-fashioning' (pictured).

Sotheby's Old Masters Sale

July 14 2020

Image of Sotheby's Old Masters Sale

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Sotheby's Old Master Paintings sale has been published. Bidding will take place online between 20th - 29th July 2020.

Top lots include a Pieta by Luis Morales estimated at £150k - £250k; a Saint Christopher by Cranach and workshop estimated at £60k - £80k; a Saint Philip by Van Dyck estimated at £120k - £180k; a curious French 1640s interior with artists estimated at £40k - £60k; a fine Reynolds of Lady Anne Dawson at £60k - £80k; a view of Vienna by Bellotto from the Emden collection estimated at £150k - £250k; and a Zuccarelli of the Thames from Richmond at £80k - £120k.

This Judgement of Paris by the Workshop of Rubens caused a stir last year when it made $45,000 over $2,000 - $5,000 last year in New York (where described as 'After Rubens'). Despite the work's extensive provenance having now come to light, the painting will be offered for £15k - £20k.

The high estimate lots will appear in the special 'Evening Sale' on 28th July.

Provenance Research Controversy at the Leopold Museum

July 13 2020

Image of Provenance Research Controversy at the Leopold Museum

Picture: Der Standard

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Some controversy has been brewing in the Austrian Press concerning provenance research in Vienna's Leopold Museum. The museum, which contains significant works by the likes of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, has so far not been able to establish the provenance of just over 90% of its collection. The museum has been subject to protests in the past regarding artworks with murky WWII histories and controversies in restitution (the above picture dates to 2008).

The complicated legal position of the museum's collection, which was established as a semi-private foundation with 5,266 works and a fortune from Rudolf Leopold, means that it has straddled both the public and private spheres. The museum is due to tender a new contract for an inhouse provenance researcher who will now report directly to a Federal Commission and its advisory board.

Frans Hals at Sotheby's

July 13 2020

Image of Frans Hals at Sotheby's

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a short blog Sotheby's have posted regarding the recently re-emerged portrait by Frans Hals that they will be offering for sale this month. The piece, penned by Old Master Paintings board director and co-Chairman George Gordon, gives a very interesting account and history of previous scholarly opinions. The Frans Hals scholar Seymour Slive (d.2014), whose catalogue raisonné remains the definitive text on the artist, had thought the portrait to be a studio piece rather than by Hals himself. Slive only had access to low-quality black and white photographs showing painting before recent restoration had removed the obscuring dirt and discoloured varnish. The painting's authorship to Hals has now been accepted by scholars Claus Grimm, Norbert Middelkoop and Pieter Biesboer.

The portrait will be offered for sale on 28th July 2020 with an estimate of £2m - £3m.

The Rijksmuseum Loves Vermeer

July 10 2020


Video: Rijksmuseum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has produced this short video explaining why they love Vermeer. It features the museums Head of Paintings and Sculpture, Pieter Roelofs, and some questionable music.

National Gallery Acquires Pissarro

July 10 2020

Image of National Gallery Acquires Pissarro

Picture: The National Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Gallery in London has acquired a painting by Camille Pissarro as part of the acceptance in lieu scheme.

Dated 1887, the bucolic Late afternoon in our meadow was owned by Bronwen Astor (d. 2017) who inherited it from her husband William Waldorf 3rd Viscount Astor. 'Bill' Astor was most famously known for being tangled up in the Profumo affair of the 1960s. The painting settles £1.1m of tax.

Restitution Cases in the Press

July 10 2020

Image of Restitution Cases in the Press

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

There have been a few stories in the press recently about paintings with murky WWII histories.

Firstly, the above La Palais Ducale by Monet valued at $30m was prevented from going into auction at Christie's last November due to legal wrangling in the courts.

The painting's current owners, heirs of sewing machine business owners Herbert and Adele Klapper, have been prevented from selling the work due to doubts cast over its Nazi-era sales history by the grandsons of the German-Jewish department store magnate and art collector Max Emden (1874-1940). The Klapper heirs are currently suing the Emden estate in an attempt to clear its title to the painting so that it can be sold. The case has been adjourned until September due to the coronavirus.

Secondly, Sotheby's is to offer a Bernardo Bellotto landscape of Dresden which was recently restituted to the estate of the same Max Emden above. The painting was sold by Emden in 1937 in an attempt stave off insolvency after his businesses were seized by the Nazis in the previous years. This painting entered the German federal collection in the 1960s and had been hanging in the residence of the German Presidency until 2005.

The painting will feature in the Sotheby's July Old Master Paintings sale and carries an estimate of £150,000 - £200,000.

'Lost' Emma Hamilton Portrait Uncovered by Antique Dealer

July 9 2020

Image of 'Lost' Emma Hamilton Portrait Uncovered by Antique Dealer

Picture: The Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Times has reported on news that a lost portrait of Emma Hamilton as Ariadne by Richard Westall (1765-1836) has been discovered by a Lymington Antique Dealer. The picture was brought to dealer Charles Wallrock* by 'an elderly lady who had owned it for years' who had no idea of the painting's significance or value. Wallrock managed through research to piece together the painting's history and authorship. It is one of four studies Westall made of Emma Hamilton in various guises.

The painting is up for sale via. Masterpiece Online for £85,500.

* - The above photo shows Wallrock in the customary 'white glove' pose which is so often preferred by the media.

BMAG Needs Help

July 9 2020

Image of BMAG Needs Help

Picture: TimeOut

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Trust (BMAG) is the latest cultural institution in the UK to make a public appeal for their survival.

This comes as the museum shared news that they were unsuccessful in their application to the Arts Council England (ACE) Emergency Response Fund. Here is an online report by the ACE explaining where £64.8m worth of recent grants were awarded to.

As the museum explains in their post above:

There is no doubt that this is a very challenging time for Birmingham Museums Trust, as it is for many cultural organisations. The impact of closing our doors and the decreased footfall expected over the coming months ahead leaves us in a very difficult position. Our priority must be to secure the long-term financial sustainability of the Trust so we can be there for our audiences for many years to come, but we will need support to do this.

AHN posted news a few months ago that the trust is also looking for a new CEO whose job it will be to secure the future of this institution. One hopes that the principle gallery in Britain's second largest city, with such a rich collection of art, will be able to turn their fortunes around.

In the meantime, here is a link to BMAG's Just Giving Page where donations are welcomed.

London Museums Suspend Free Exhibition Entry to MA and ICOM Members

July 9 2020

Image of London Museums Suspend Free Exhibition Entry to MA and ICOM Members

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here is a story that is being aired on Social Media over the past few days. Several London Museums have suspended discounted or free entry to their Temporary Exhibitions for members of the Museums Association and the International Council of Museums (ICOM). So far, this includes Tate, British Museum, National Gallery, Science Museum Group, Victoria & Albert Museum & the Natural History Museum.

The suspension is temporary and is due to reduced capacity because of social distancing restrictions. Naturally, museums and galleries are also doing their best to help claw back funds lost over the three months of lockdown. Equally, if museums can no longer rely on sheer volume (pictured) to make ends meet, then we should probably expect some further changes to how entry to popular temporary exhibitions is managed.

The suspension will affect museum professionals the most, who make up the majority of members of these two bodies. As this blog often highlights, the pay in the museums sector isn't what you might often expect it to be.

ICOM UK made the following statement on their Twitter account earlier today:

Whilst we understand the simple financial basis for this decision, we feel it is somewhat reactionary & doesn't take into account the wider benefits of reciprocal entry, like secondary spend, building & exchanging professional knowledge & encouraging broader & more diverse access.

The Museums Association also made this statement on their Twitter account a few days ago:

They informed us of this decision last week, and are committed to reviewing again in early September. We understand the difficulties of reopening with limited numbers, and we look forward to them sharing their work with their many sector colleagues as soon as possible.

Many museums are still offering our members free entry and all updates to MA free entry are listed on our website.

The Symbiosis of Private and Public Sales

July 9 2020

Image of The Symbiosis of Private and Public Sales

Picture: The Dealer's Eye via. Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those interested in the recent developments in the crossover between the auction houses and dealers, then this is a must-watch panel discussion. Tonight (9th July) Melanie Gerlis of the Financial Times and the Art Newspaper will be chairing a panel discussion on the theme The Artworld's Latest Merger: The Symbiosis of Private and Public Sales. This talk is part of the calendar of events arranged by London Art Week.

The panel includes Otto Naumann (Sotheby's), Stephen Ongpin (dealer) and Toby Campbell (Rafael Valls).

The panel discussion will go live today (9th July) at 5pm (BST) via. Zoom. Registration is required.

Christie's Old Masters Sales

July 9 2020

Image of Christie's Old Masters Sales

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Catalogues have been published online for the upcoming Classic Week at Christie's.

The Old Master Paintings & Sculpture sale will be conducted online from 9th July - 30th July.

Amongst the most interesting works on offer are:

A few of my highlights: A fine 'Follower of Van Dyck' of Charles I with an orb, descended from the Dukes of Manchester estimated £50k-£80k; a curious Ecce Homo by a 'Follower of Caravaggio' estimated at £30k-£50k; an early portrait of Henry VIII estimated at £25k-£35k; a horrific Apollo and Marsyas by Lorenzo Vaiani at £50k-£80k; a very powerful Cain smiting Abel by Sebastiano Ricci estimated at £50k-£80k.

The top-end works will be sold in the Classic Art Evening Sale: Antiquity to 20th century held on 29th July. This is an interesting example of the breaking down of categories that both auction houses are currently pursuing.

Top lots include: a fine portrait of a Young Lady by Rubens estimated at £4m - £6m; a late fifteenth century Burgundian portrait of a man, once owned by Horace Walpole, estimated at £400k - £600k; a watercolour of Ludlow Castle by Turner estimated at £300k - £500k. I also rather liked this fresh-onto-the-market Carlo Saraceni (pictured) estimated at £150k-£250k.

A few other top-end works will appear in the Remastered:Dialogues across the Centuries which runs from 16th July - 30th July. Works announced thus far in this sale include paintings by Bassano, Circle of Leonardo da Vinci, and Brueghel the Younger.

Government Urged to Protect Collections

July 8 2020

Image of Government Urged to Protect Collections

Picture: The Museums Association

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The recent Museum's Association newsletter reports on calls for the British government to use temporary powers to save the collections of independent museums that go into administration.

As the article explains:

Although this week's funding announcement offered a lifeline to the museum sector, many institutions remain at risk of insolvency. There is concern that if a number go into administration at the same time, the cultural heritage sector will have limited capacity to intervene and save collections from being broken up and sold off.   

The Museums Association (MA), Collections Trust (CT) and Association of Independent Museums (AIM) are asking the government to use new powers created in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, which became law on 25 June and is applicable UK-wide, to delay the sale of assets from insolvent museums in order to give sector bodies time to intervene to protect those collections, as they would in normal times.

AHN reported about this phenomena back in April. Let's hope that something can be done to help councils resist selling off the family silver.

Microbes that can Authenticate Old Masters (?)

July 8 2020

Image of Microbes that can Authenticate Old Masters (?)


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

I missed this rather bizarre news story a few weeks ago, do forgive me. A team of scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute in California are developing a system to test the microbes found on artworks in order to help prove their authenticity. 

As the Institute's own press release states:

Genetics scientists with the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), collaborating with the Leonardo da Vinci DNA Project and supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, say identifying and managing communities of microbes on art may offer museums and collectors a new way to stem the deterioration of priceless possessions, and to unmask counterfeits in the $60 billion a year art market.

In the art world context, studying microbes clinging to the surface of a work of art may help confirm its geographic origin and authenticity or identify counterfeits.

It seems that this project is still in its early days and there would be enormous hurdles to overcome before a system has proven itself to be worthy enough to be relied upon. Scientific testing on pigments has been a part of dating artworks for a long period of time, of course. There are several existing ways to test whether an artwork contains materials that are later than the work purports to be.

More interesting is the claim that:

"Many Renaissance artists used their own biological material in their artwork," [Microbiologist Manolito Torralba] told AFP. "Leonardo and others were very known for using their own saliva and some used their own blood"

It is interesting to imagine a day when authorship debates would be settled by microbial tests, but, I think we are probably a long long way away from that. It is obvious though that the ultimate goal of this scientific route is to pin down a process which will allow a computer to decide who painted what.

Sure, such a test might provide some interesting results for works that came out of Rubens's Studio, for example. However, for this to be reliable one would have to have an enormous sample size. In other words it would only be useful if samples were obtained by the hundreds (if not thousands) of paintings by Rubens's hand and the many studio, workshop, period and non-period copies. Organising such an enterprise would also require a truly Herculean effort.

Until then, training the human eye through repeated experience, supplemented by thorough scholarship, is still essential.

Underneath de Miranda's Charles II

July 8 2020

Image of Underneath de Miranda's Charles II

Picture: Museo del Prado

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Prado in Madrid posted these two very interesting images on their Twitter Account earlier today. One is an x-ray that shows what is underneath Carreño de Miranda's 1681 portrait of King Charles II of Spain. It seems that the artist reused a canvas of an earlier portrait of the King when he was much younger. This earlier image, showing him in fine clothing rather than armour, is quite haunting. The background appears to be different too, an attempt perhaps to update the King's image as a brave military leader (?).

Click on the link above to see very high quality images supplied by the museum.

Artemisia Interview

July 8 2020

Image of Artemisia Interview

Picture: The National Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

As the National Gallery in London reopens today, here is an interesting interview conducted earlier in April with curator Letizia Treves on the significance of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1654). The National Gallery's exhibition on Artemisia will still be going ahead with exact dates yet to be announced. 

In fact, it is now possible to buy the exhibition catalogue through the gallery's website. A good chance to clue-up on the works of art before you get there!

Update - The exhibition will open on 3rd October 2020.

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