Previous Posts: April 2021

Separated Balthasar van Ast Stitched Back Together

April 30 2021

Image of Separated Balthasar van Ast Stitched Back Together


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Cynthia Osiecki, Curator of Old Masters, Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design in Oslo, Norway, has penned an article for CODART.NL giving an introduction to the collection of paintings at the museum.

Amongst the most interesting sections discusses research undertaken on the museum's Balthasar van Ast's (1593/1594-1657) Still Life with Fruit and Shells created between 1620 and 1632 (left). Conservation of the work had revealed "traces of flowers and cherries at the edge of the painting, indicating that this basket of fruit must once have been larger."

According to Osiecki's article:

The examination made it clear that the work had once been one of Van der Ast’s larger horizontal paintings that display fruit and flowers on a table. An initial search into its provenance revealed that the painting’s previous owner, Frederick Conrad Bugge, bought it in its current state as ‘anonymous’ at some point between 1824 and 1829. But that other paintings by Van der Ast had fallen victim to being split up in this way only became clear to me when I studied the Aachen exhibition catalogue Die Stillleben des Balthasar van der Ast (1593/94–1657) from 2016. It was there that I found a painting marked as a fragment which matched the traces on our panel.

With the help of the director of the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum and CODART member Peter van den Brink I managed to track down the private owner and confirm with our conservator that the paintings had most likely once belonged together. In the near future, we hope to confirm this by non-invasive research and display the works side by side after they have spent more than 200 years apart.

New Release: Copley and West in England 1775-1815

April 30 2021

Image of New Release: Copley and West in England 1775-1815

Picture: The Burlington Press

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Burlington Press will be publishing Allen Staley's new book Copley and West in England 1775-1815 next month.

According to the book's blurb:

West and Copley have always and properly been viewed as the two pre-eminent eighteenth-century American artists, despite the fact that, at the age of twenty-one, West left his native shores in 1760, never to return. He went on to become immensely successful in England, becoming, among other things, the second president of the Royal Academy of Arts. Copley spent half his working life also in England. However, before making the move across the Atlantic, he made his mark as an exceptionally talented artist, who, without any real training, painted likenesses of fellow Bostonians, including ones of figures such as John Hancock and Paul Revere, that have become icons of American history. While those portraits remain his most widely admired works, after 1775 and his resettling in England, he started painting distinctly different types of pictures, initially showing modern historical subjects in emulation of the model provided him by West, following, for example, West's celebrated Death of General Wolfe, exhibited in 1771, with his own Death of the Earl of Chatham, begun in 1779. For a brief span of time, the two expatriate Americans had a close working relationship, that we can see substantially reflected in both the formal language and the subject matter of many of their best works, but it eventually and inevitably turned into rivalry. 

The book begins with a brief prologue discussing the earliest of West's depictions of recent historical events and of subjects set in America, painted prior to Copley's arrival in England. It then follows the year-by-year evolution of Copley's painting from 1775 to his death in 1815, with an underlying focus upon his ongoing give-and-take with West, and it ends with examination of hitherto little-known and unstudied major late paintings, from after 1800, by both artists.

Possible Isaac Oliver Miniatures for Sale (?)

April 30 2021

Image of Possible Isaac Oliver Miniatures for Sale (?)


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

@Drouot on Twitter have drawn attention to these two miniatures that are coming up for sale at La maison Coutau-Bégarie & Associés next week. Both bear traditional attributions to Isaac Oliver (c.1565-1617). The gentleman on the right depicts an unknown sitter in armour, painted onto ivory, and is estimated at €10k - €12k. The miniature on the right bears an inscription identifying the sitter as Queen Elizabeth I (?) and Isaac Oliver as the painter, also estimated at €10k - €12k. We'll wait till the sale on 7th May to see exactly what the market makes of them!

Update - The armoured gentleman realised €12,000 and the Elizabeth (?) went unsold.

NPG Sends Shakespeare & Friends to Korea

April 30 2021

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Portrait Gallery in London has sent a selection of its significant paintings to Korea for a special exhibition entitled Icons and Identities. 78 works in total have been sent to the National Museum of Korea in Seoul including the Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare and Van Dyck's Self Portrait.

The press release images from Korea (pictured) show conservator Alexandra Gent supervising the installation of paintings via a video call. I wonder what the plan was in case something went wrong?

Sotheby's Results

April 30 2021

Image of Sotheby's Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The April online Old Master Paintings and Miniatures sale at Sotheby's London realised a total of £2,101,176 with roughly 68.5% of lots sold.

After a quick scan through the results, it seems that the works that did sell realised some rather strong prices. Amongst the most impressive results were Benedetto Caliari's The Finding of Moses which realised £189,000 (all results include fees) over its £30k - £50k estimate; A portrait of a boy by the 'Circle of Stephen Slaughter' (pictured) which realised £69,300 over its £7k - £10k estimate; A South-German School portrait of a Lady which realised £47,880 over its £6k - £8k estimate; a pair of Venetian views by the Master of the Langmatt Foundation Views realised £100,800 over their £30k - £40k estimate; a curiously catalogued 'Manner of Canaletto c.1900' view of Venice made £47,880 over its £6k - £8k estimate; an Oak Tree in Richmond Park by James Ward which made £40,320 over its £5k - £7k estimate; and three Dutch landscapes by Joseph van BredaelJoost Cornelisz. Droochsloot and Dutch School 17th Century which more than doubled their high estimates.


The high price achieved for the 'Circle of Stephen Slaughter' portrait is rather curious, especially as it's the sort of picture that often appears in regional auction houses. Overall, it looks like the picture is in good condition and probably has a beautiful clean in it.

Nicola Grassi Exhibition in Pordenone

April 29 2021

Image of Nicola Grassi Exhibition in Pordenone


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For fans of eighteenth-century Venetian painting, the Galleria Harry Bertoia in Pordenone, north-eastern Italy, will be opening an exhibition dedicated to Nicola Grassi (1682-1748) on 30th April 2021. The show will feature 80 paintings from both public and private collections, including works by his contemporaries such as Giambattista Tiepolo, Giambattista Piazzetta, Sebastiano Ricci and Gianantonio Guardi. The exhibition is curated by Enrico Lucchese, Professor of Art History at the University of Ljubljana.

Samsung Chairman Leaves $2.2bn Collection to Korean Museums

April 29 2021

Image of Samsung Chairman Leaves $2.2bn Collection to Korean Museums

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper has reported on news that the late former chairman of Samsung Lee Kun-hee has left $2.2bn worth of art to Korean Museums. Amongst the most celebrated works in his collection are Le Bassin aux Nympheas by Claude Monet (pictured), Les Amoureux aux Bouquets Rouges by Marc Chagall, and Family of Marsupial Centaurs by Salvador Dalí, which will be donated to Korea's National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. The deal was part of a plan to settle his inheritance tax bill which was “equivalent to three to four times the [South Korean] government’s total estate tax revenue last year.”

Large Robert Scott Lauder Conserved in Empty Gallery

April 29 2021

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A large painting of Christ Teacheth Humanity by Robert Scott Lauder (1803-1869) has been conserved in an empty room of the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in Edinburgh. The BBC have run a short article claiming that the RSA has "only one painting in it and one person at work" at the present. This enormous picture is owned by the National Gallery of Scotland and was one of the first paintings purchased by the galleries.

As conservator Lesley Stevenson explained:

I needed a space and by chance the galleries at RSA were empty so we were able to negotiate a space to work in peace and relative isolation.

These galleries are usually busy with people visiting exhibitions, the noise from Princes Street and security staff coming in and out so it has been very strange.

I'll be really delighted when the new galleries open and the painting will be reunited with its restored frame. That will be the best moment, really.

It's a Poussin After All!

April 29 2021

Image of It's a Poussin After All!

Picture: The National Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have reported on news that the National Gallery in London has upgraded one of its Poussins. The Triumph of Silenus was purchased as a Poussin in full during the 1820s but was rejected as a copy by the likes of Anthony Blunt and Denis Mahon during the previous century. Recent conservation and technical analysis has revealed the quality of the work alongside previous damage which had possibly mislead earlier scholars.

The work will feature in the gallery's forthcoming exhibition titled Poussin and Dance which will open on 9th October 2021. On a separate note, one imagines that this exhibition will undoubtedly feature the loan of the Wallace Collection's A Dance to the Music of Time, a work that has been unavailable for exhibitions since 1897.

Update - A reader has alerted me to the fact that Francesca Whitlum-Cooper's article on the rediscovery in the Burlington Magazine is free and available to read online until 9th May. Do go and read it while you can!

Bellotto of Verona coming up at Christie's

April 29 2021

Image of Bellotto of Verona coming up at Christie's

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Financial Times has reported that Christie's will be offering Bernardo Bellotto's View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi in their London Old Master Paintings evening sale on 8th July 2021. The picture, which had previously been on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, will carry an estimate of £12m - £18m. The painting was last sold at Christie's in November 1971 where it made £300,000. Its companion piece, purchased by 'Clive of India' in the 1770s, hangs in Powis Castle. 

An Alonso Cano (?) from the same collection as the potential Caravaggio (?)

April 28 2021

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Spanish Newspaper El País have published an article speculating whether an unattributed painting by Alonso Cano (1601-1667) was an additional 'missed' work sold from the Pérez de Castro collection this month. Notably, the work was sold by the same family who consigned the potential Caravaggio up for auction earlier in April. Unlike the potential Caravaggio, this painting of Saint Francis of Assisi (catalogued as 'Spanish School') was not pulled from the sale and eventually made €12,000 over its estimate of €1,100. The article claims that both works appear in inventory of goods of the diplomat and politician Pérez de Castro (1769-1849). The painting is currently awaiting restoration.


An interesting story and result but it all feels like a rather premature piece of media speculation to me. It would have been better if they had waited for the results of conservation and the support of a credible Alonso Cano expert before going to print. Sheer optimism isn't always enough, as many a dabbler in sleepers has discovered.

Recent Release: Enlightened Animals in Eighteenth-Century Art

April 28 2021

Image of Recent Release: Enlightened Animals in Eighteenth-Century Art

Picture: Bloomsbury

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

You know a book is going to be a good read when it contains a chapter entitled 'Monkey Artists'.

Earlier this year Bloomsbury published Prof. Sarah Cohen of the University at Albany's new book entitled Enlightened Animals in Eighteenth-Century Art.

According to the publication's blurb:

How do our senses help us to understand the world? This question, which preoccupied Enlightenment thinkers, also emerged as a key theme in depictions of animals in eighteenth-century art. This book examines the ways in which painters such as Chardin, as well as sculptors, porcelain modelers, and other decorative designers portrayed animals as sensing subjects who physically confirmed the value of material experience. 

The sensual style known today as the Rococo encouraged the proliferation of animals as exemplars of empirical inquiry, ranging from the popular subject of the monkey artist to the alchemical wonders of the life-sized porcelain animals created for the Saxon court. Examining writings on sensory knowledge by La Mettrie, Condillac, Diderot and other philosophers side by side with depictions of the animal in art, Cohen argues that artists promoted the animal as a sensory subject while also validating the material basis of their own professional practice.

Before and After - The Hermitage School of Raphael Frescos

April 28 2021

Video: State Hermitage Museum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has kindly pointed out the following video released by The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The presentation provides some rather amazing 'before' and 'after' images of the restoration of the museum's fresco cycle given to 'the School of Raphael'. It seems that later over-zealous re-painting had obscured some lovely original work preserved underneath. Considering that these frescos were removed from the plaster work of a building during the nineteenth century, it is quite amazing that they survived at all!

National Gallery Strategic Plan 2021 - 2026

April 28 2021

Image of National Gallery Strategic Plan 2021 - 2026

Picture: The National Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Gallery in London have released their 2021 - 2026 Strategic Plan online. It seems that digitisation and building a broad profile nationally and globally is at the heart of the gallery's aims. A new Research Centre, alongside the NG200 Project to remodel the Sainsbury Wing Entrance, has also been put forward.

The plan contains four priorities:

- The Gallery at 200

The Bicentenary in May 2024 will be the moment when we show what the National Gallery can be for our audiences in the future. 

- The Gallery across the Nation

We will raise the profile of our national work - demonstrating that we are a national institution at the heart of national life.

- The Gallery across the World

We will refine the Gallery as a global digital institution.

- Research for Public Benefit 

Research underpins our entire programme of public engagement, both digital and physical, from exhibitions and display, to publications, talks and films.

Update - Here's The Art Newspaper's take on the plans.

Palladio and the Bridge

April 27 2021

Image of Palladio and the Bridge


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those who enjoy paintings of elaborate architecture, the Civic Museums of Bassano del Grappa are opening their latest exhibition on 29th May 2021 entitled Palladio and the Bridge: Explaining the Myth. The show will explore the many curious designs the architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) made of bridges and the architectural imaginations of artists who responded to them. This includes the likes of Canaletto who featured them in several works (pictured). It was inspired by the recent restoration of the Ponte Vecchio in Bassano del Grappa, an ancient wooden bridge reconstructed many times after the architect's sixteenth-century designs.

The exhibition will run until 10th October 2021.

Hans Holbein the Younger's Earliest Portrait?

April 27 2021

Image of Hans Holbein the Younger's Earliest Portrait?

Picture: The Telegraph

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Telegraph have published an article by Franny Moyle who might well have found the earliest portrait of Hans Holbein the Younger (c.1497-1543) hiding in plain sight. Her article describes a visit she made to the Staatsgallerie in Augsburg, where she noticed a prominent boy featured in Holbein the Elder's memorial to the Walther Family (pictured). Famously, the gallery features another work by Holbein the Elder showing two blonde haired boys who have long been identified as Hans (the Younger) and his brother Ambrosius (see below). Many readers will undoubtedly know of the drawing of the pair in Berlin. The Walther family memorial was created when Hans was five years old.

The comparison between these figures encouraged Moyle to get in touch with several scholars to see if anyone else had spotted him. It seems that no one else had. Indeed, her theory has since been endorsed by Dr Bodo Brinkman, curator of Old Masters at Basel's Kunstmuseum, which houses a major collection of Holbein's works.

Rembrandt in Amsterdam: Creativity and Competition

April 27 2021

Image of Rembrandt in Amsterdam: Creativity and Competition

Picture: National Gallery of Canada

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa will be opening their latest exhibition Rembrandt in Amsterdam: Creativity and Competition in May. 

As the exhibition's website explains:

Curated by Stephanie Dickey, Rembrandt in Amsterdam is the first ever exhibition to chart the transformative central decades of the artist’s career within the context of the Amsterdam art market. It is also is the first major Rembrandt exhibition in Canada since 1969, and the first ever to be presented at the National Gallery of Canada. 

The Dutch Republic of Rembrandt’s time had a very clear connection with the history of Turtle Island via contact between Indigenous peoples and Dutch settlers and through the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. A selection of works of contemporary and Indigenous art trace these connections and explore a wider perspective beyond a European focus, while contributions from Joana Joachim, Gerald McMaster and Rick Hill examine the impact of the Dutch colonial project on Black and Indigenous peoples.

Visitors will be able to visit the show from 14th May 2021 - 6th September 2021, depending on local lockdown restrictions. It will then travel to the Städel Museum, Frankfurt, with an opening scheduled for 6th October 2021.

New Release: A Cultural History of Color

April 27 2021

Image of New Release: A Cultural History of Color


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Bloomsbury have recently published what seems to be a rather epic six-volume edition entitled A Cultural History of Colour. The whole series was edited by Carole P. Biggam and Kirsten Wolf. Furthermore, it contains contributions from multiple scholars each focusing on different time periods.

As the publisher's blurb explains:

A Cultural History of Color presents a history of 5000 years of color in western culture. The first systematic and comprehensive history, the work examines how color has been perceived, developed, produced and traded, and how it has been used in all aspects of performance - from the political to the religious to the artistic - and how it shapes all we see, from food and nature to interiors and architecture, to objects and art, to fashion and adornment, to the color of the naked human body, and to the way our minds work and our languages are created. 

Chapter titles are identical across each of the volumes. This gives the choice of reading about a specific period in one of the volumes, or following a theme across history by reading the relevant chapter in each of the six.

The themes (and chapter titles) are: Color Philosophy and Science; Color Technology and Trade; Power and Identity; Religion and Ritual; Body and Clothing; Language and Psychology; Literature and the Performing Arts; Art; Architecture and Interiors; Artefacts.  The six volumes cover: 1 – Antiquity (3,000 BCE to 500 CE); 2 – Medieval Age (500 to 1400); 3 – Renaissance (1400 to 1650); 4 – Age of Enlightenment (1650 to 1800); 5 – Age of Industry (1800 to 1920); 6 – Modern Age (1920 to the present).

The whole set will cost £395, which seems rather reasonable compared to the prices of some second-hand catalogue raisonnés I've had my eyes on recently.

Juan del Castillo Conserved

April 27 2021

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Spain that the Andaluz Institute of Historical Heritage have put on display a recently conserved painting by the Seville baroque painter Juan del Castillo (1590-1657). The work was originally commissioned by the Jesuits in 1611-12 and later became state property when the order was expelled from Spain in 1767.

The work will feature within a small exhibition in the Museum of the University of Seville showcasing the painting's conservation. 

Ruffini Affair Revelations

April 26 2021

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Simon Hewitt has penned a lengthy article for on new revelations that have appeared in the Ruffini forgeries scandal. Although it is nearly impossible to provide a concise summary of the long winding narrative of the article, the piece provides new details about the technical analysis undertaken on the alleged Frans Hals, Cranach and Orazio Gentileschi forgeries which shocked the art market a few years ago. The piece also provides information on the background of Ruffini, including some of his own versions of events.

Update - These events are all featured within Vincent Noce's recently published book entitled L’affaire Ruffini: Enquête sur le plus grand mystère du monde de l'art.

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