Previous Posts: April 2021

Borghese Gallery's Titian X-rayed

April 26 2021

Image of Borghese Gallery's Titian X-rayed


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Galleria Borghese's Venus Blindfolding Cupid by Titian has undergone an interesting conservation project in recent months.

Indeed, recent x-rays of the painting have revealed more details concerning the additional figure that Titian decided to paint out of the scene. The pentimento suggests that the painter had initially included Euphrosyne (good cheer and joy) within the composition. Therefore, it is likely that the other two figures would have originally represented Aglaea (splendour) and Thalia (prosperity) to complete the set of 'Three Graces'. The painting received its current title in 1870, when it was suggested by the art historian Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle.

The work will be exhibited in Mantua later this year for their set of exhibitions on Venus.

Could this be by Caravaggio (?) (ctd.)

April 26 2021

Image of Could this be by Caravaggio (?) (ctd.)


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The story surrounding the potential Caravaggio that appeared in Spain the other week is gathering pace. Hardly a day has passed without some new article in the Spanish press regarding developments surrounding the picture. It seems the work is already being heralded in Spain as something of a national treasure.

The Guardian published an article a few days ago giving perhaps the most concise account of recent developments, including the accounts from various experts who have weighed in with their opinions.

The most amusing image to arise from the tale is a selfie made by the Italian art dealer Andrea Ciaroni (pictured). Ciaroni made the journey to Spain specifically to see the work on view before it was withdrawn from the auction house. He is quoted saying “It was a thrilling adventure. For a few hours, while on my way to Spain, I fantasised that it was already mine.”

What are the next steps for the painting? The article has supplied the following information:

On Friday, the Colnaghi gallery in London, one of the oldest commercial art galleries in the world, announced that it would be leading the restoration and sale of the painting and revealed that the owners were the three children of Antonio Pérez de Castro, founder of Madrid’s IADE design school, and the artist Mercedes Méndez Atard.

Update - Jorge Coll, the London-based Director of Colnaghi, has given an interview with El Pais about his involvement in the painting's research and restoration.

Body and Soul at the Louvre

April 26 2021

Video: Louvre

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Louvre's ongoing exhibition Body and Soul: Italian Renaissance Sculpture from Donatello to Michelangelo is due to close on 3rd May 2021. Due to museum closures in France, it's likely that hardly anyone has had the opportunity to see it. Thankfully, the Louvre have posted this YouTube lecture on the exhibition with English subtitles, in case you'd like to learn more!


Ps. Regarding the title of the exhibition, I hope I'm not the only one whose ears are instantly transported to this jazz standard?

Christie's Results

April 23 2021

Image of Christie's Results

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's New York's Old Master Paintings sale brought in a total of $17,966,250 yesterday evening.*

Most of the top lots managed to hit their estimates, with the Sebastiano del Piombo coming in top at $3,150,000 (all results inc. fees) over its $3m - $5m estimate. Lots that did particularly well include the Cranach Resurrection which made $2,190,000 over its $800k - $1.2m estimate; the Veronese Evangelists which made $1,350,000 over its $600k - $800k estimate; Joseph Wright of Derby's portrait of Miss Carver which made $212,500 over its $80k - $120k estimate; the Attributed to Botticelli Madonna and Child which made $1,350,000 over its $600k - $800k estimate; and finally a Bruges Tapestry featuring a Unicorn which made $400k over its $100k - $150k estimate.

* -  Unfortunately, as Christie's tend to delete unsold and withdrawn lots from their website it is rather difficult to work out the exact rate of how many lots sold. A simple count shows that 26 numbers out of the 63 lots are missing.

Restoring Ancient Mosaics in St. Mark's Basilica

April 23 2021

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

La Repubblica have released images of the ongoing process of restoring 12th - 13th century mosaics in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. The ancient floors of this iconic church are constantly under threat of flooding and were badly damaged by water in November 2019. In the picture above conservators can be seen restoring a peacock featured in the decorative schemes, a process which looks rather messy and complicated indeed!

Portland Collection Miniatures Lecture

April 23 2021

Video: The Harley Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those who weren't able to attend February's lecture on miniatures in The Portland Collection, the Harley Gallery have uploaded the lecture online! The lecture was given by early modern art specialist Dr Karen Hearn and includes a Q&A session at the end.

Why are there so many Smoking Dogs in Old Masters?

April 22 2021

Image of Why are there so many Smoking Dogs in Old Masters?


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Ben Davis of has answered the question we've all been asking ourselves for many years - exactly why are there so many smoking dogs found in old master paintings?

Well, as Ben explains in his article, it turns out that it has a lot to do with the iconography of Saint Jane (or Santa Juana) of Aza:

The woman often depicted with the dog is Saint Jane (or Santa Juana) of Aza, and it is a reference to a vision she had (hence the daydreaming posture). Blessed Jane is said to have dreamed that she was carrying a small black-and-white dog with a blazing torch in its mouth in her womb. When she gave birth to it, the dog ran out and set everything on fire. This vision was interpreted to mean that Jane’s son was going to have an influence that would spread over the whole world.


In any case: long story short, the Smoking Dog is not a smoking dog.

I'm glad we've cleared that up.

Why do Picassos from 1917 Crack?

April 22 2021

Image of Why do Picassos from 1917 Crack?

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper have published an interesting article exploring why Picasso's works from 1917 have deteriorated much quicker than other works from this period. The article uses data collected from a study by ProMeSa, a three-year research project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. In particular, the project has been interested in a selection of works inspired by dancers and made while Picasso was working at a friend's studio in Barcelona during the year 1917.

According to the article:

Picasso used a canvas with a tighter weave for Hombre sentado (pictured), coating it with a thicker ground layer of animal glue, researchers found. Both factors meant larger internal stresses formed when the paintings were exposed to fluctuating humidity, while chemical reactions between certain pigments and binding media sparked chemical reactions that caused paints to degrade. As a result, the paints gradually cracked when stresses built...

Uffizi Entrance Restoration Reveals Frescos

April 22 2021

Image of Uffizi Entrance Restoration Reveals Frescos


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence have shared images of newly restored frescos that have emerged after the restoration of the gallery's entrance and shops.

The two main images that have emerged are a roundel portrait Grand Duke Ferdinand I and a large full-length portrait of the young Cosimo II de' Medici. Allegories of Florence and Siena have also been revealed. These paintings are believed to be the work of artist Bernardino Poccetti (1548-1612) and were covered up during a remodelling project made during the eighteenth century.

The museum has been able to restore 2000 square metres of space thus far for their new Uffizi project.

BBC's The Repair Shop Restores an Old Master

April 22 2021

Image of BBC's The Repair Shop Restores an Old Master

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Of course, Fake or Fortune? and Britain's Lost Masterpieces are not the only programmes on the BBC that feature painting conservation.

The popular tv show and 'fix & mend it' phenomenon The Repair Shop has broadcast the restoration of a portrait of King Charles II. The painting was brought in by Liz Vella whose seven-year-old son Dylan is a history enthusiast and encouraged her to have it fixed up to hang in their home. The painting was given to the show's paintings conservator Lucia Scalisi who seems to have done a rather good job in bringing the damaged work back to life. It seems that the image is linked to a miniature of Charles by Robert Peake, and might be a copy after a contemporary engraving made after the miniature.

You can catch up on the episode here on the BBC IPlayer.

How to turn yourself into a Nattier

April 22 2021

Image of How to turn yourself into a Nattier

Picture: meteuropeanpaintings

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Ever wanted the complexion of sitters found in paintings by Jean-Marc Nattier? Well! The Metropolitan Museum of Art's European Paintings Department have posted a rather fun video on their Instagram Account giving a Nattier Makeup Tutorial. The presentation was devised by Harvard Art History student and tour guide Cecilia Zhou.

New Release: Giovanni Bellini - an Introduction

April 21 2021

Image of New Release: Giovanni Bellini - an Introduction


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Marsilio Editori in Italy have announced their upcoming publication Giovanni Bellini - An Introduction by Prof. emeritus Peter Humfrey of the University of Saint Andrews.

According to the book's blurb:

The art of Giovanni Bellini has been a passion for half a century…” Peter Humfrey accompanies us through the work of Italian Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini, considered the most important practitioner of Venetian painting in the latter half of the fifteenth century.

Born into a family of painters, Bellini began studying art at a young age, painting primarily in the then dominant Gothic style of the early Renaissance. As time passed and he evolved as an artist, Bellini’s wide-reaching influence came to inform the maniera moderna, or modern manner, inherited by Giorgione and Titian. His unparalleled ability to both harness the expressive power of light and recreate the poetry of natural landscapes became the foundational tenets of the Venetian school of painting for centuries to come.

This volume provides an accessible guide to Bellini’s work and the lasting influence of his career on Western European painting. Organized chronologically, the book maps the development of Bellini’s own craft alongside the greater technical experimentation of the Quattrocento, detailing the artist’s rejection of traditional egg tempera technique for oil on canvas and taking into account the influence of contemporaries Andrea Mantegna and Antonello da Messina.

Concise and up to date, this book effectively conveys the scale of Bellini’s contributions to Western European painting in the wider context of the era. 

There's no exact release date to be found on the website, but other sources suggest that shipping will be available from June.

Update - A reader has been in touch to share the details that the book will be available in the UK on 28th April, but buyers in the US will have to wait until 8th June.

The Duke of Bedford sends his Canalettos to Bath

April 21 2021

Image of The Duke of Bedford sends his Canalettos to Bath

Picture: Woburn Abbey

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Duke of Bedford is loaning out Woburn Abbey's important set of Canalettos to the Holburne Musuem in Bath for a special exhibition which opens on 17th May. This loan has been made possible due to a large scale renovation project at the Duke's ancestral home. This is the first time in 70 years that the significant set of paintings, created during the 1730s, have left Woburn Abbey.

The works usually hang in the so-called Canaletto Dining Room. This magnificent display is impressive, but, does not allow for particularly close viewing. I'll be excited to see exactly how the loaned works will be displayed in the museum.

Visitors will have the opporunity to see this magnificent set of paintings until 5th September 2021.

Women in Art Sale at Christie's

April 21 2021

Image of Women in Art Sale at Christie's

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

I've just spotted that Christie's Paris will be hosting a Women in Art sale on 16th June 2021. Last week I posted news that Sotheby's would be holding a similar single-sex sale in May. I'm not sure which auction house was the first with this idea.

According to their website:

Women artists will showcase a curated selection of paintings, works on paper, books, manuscripts, prints, sculptures, jewelry, photos, and design by women artists spanning 500 years of art. 

Christie’s specialists are currently welcoming consignments ranging from Old Masters to Post-War and Contemporary Art, Impressionists and Modern art. The sale will also comprise 20th-century design, along with 19th century paintings and Contemporary works of art. Our selection already includes works by Niki de Saint Phalle, George Sand, Dorothea Tanning, Ayako Rokkaku, Claude Cahun, and Berthe Morisot, among others.

Love's Labour's Found at Philip Mould

April 21 2021

Image of Love's Labour's Found at Philip Mould

Picture: Philip Mould & Co

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Philip Mould & Co's new selling exhibition Love's Labour's Found - Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture opens in London today.

To quote the exhibition's website:

Love’s Labour’s Found sheds new light on the practices and the production of portraits in 16th and early 17th century Britain. Formerly misidentified sitters and previously misattributed artists govern this exhibition’s key themes of re-examination and discovery. 

As a continually evolving period of art history, art historians have recently benefited from improved access to unseen or overlooked documentary sources and transformative technological advances in the physical understanding of art, to produce fresh insights into the life and work of many of the artists of this era.

This exhibition brings together works by well-known artists such as Nicholas Hilliard, Jean Decourt, George Gower, Isaac Oliver and William Larkin whilst shining the spotlight on lesser-known names such as Benjamin Foulon, The Master of the Countess of Warwick and Rowland Lockey.

Fortunately, their website lists all the works included within the show complete with detailed catalogue notes. Amongst the most interesting portraits is a very splendid image of Elizabeth I, filled with carefully painted symbols on her clothing. Also included is a Sleeper featured on this blog last July, which has turned out to be a fully fledged work by William Larkin.

The show will run until 28th May 2021.

Christie's Withdraws Murillo from Sale

April 20 2021

Image of Christie's Withdraws Murillo from Sale

Picture: Left - The Museum of Fine Arts of Seville / Right - Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Interesting news today on social media that Christie's has withdrawn a Murillo from their upcoming Old Master Paintings sale in New York. The painting was catalogued as a newly discovered 'ricordo' of St Francis Embracing Christ on the Cross (right), of which the primary version survives in The Museum of Fine Arts of Seville (left). The Christie's version had been estimated at $1.2m - $1.8m. Notably, the lot and accompanying press release has been removed from the auction house's website.

Christie's are yet to make any public statement as to why the painting was withdrawn, so any suggestion of exactly why remains mere speculation.

On what might be a completely unrelated note, the Spanish art historian Pablo Hereza, writer of an alternative catalogue raisonné on the artist, has been making several posts on Twitter this month explaining why he thinks that the work is a later copy. Alongside his various pieces of evidence is the fact that the work was sold as 'Andalusian School 18th Century' in 2009 estimated at €6,000 - €7,000, a description which he claims is more representative of the painting's quality as a copy.

Update - Christie's have kindly replied to a message I sent yesterday confirming that the work has been withdrawn from the sale. They have also indicated that they will not be making a statement.

Michelangelo's Teacher: The Belvedere Torso

April 20 2021

Video: Vatican News

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Vatican Museums are the latest organisation to start releasing videos on YouTube focusing on various aspects relating to its rich collections of art. Their first video examines the Belvedere Torso, and in particular the effect it had on Michelangelo.


A nice video, but I think they could definitely make some improvements on the audio and music choices (!)

Recently Conserved Fra Angelico sent to Forlì

April 20 2021

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Italy that a recently conserved painting by Fra Angelico has been loaned from the Museum of San Marco to the Musei di San Domenico in Forlì, Northern Italy. The Final Judgement, and another Nativity by the artist already in the city, will form part of an exhibition on Dante that will run till 11th July 2021. This significant loan was brokered by the Uffizi Gallery's director Eike Schmidt.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Family Collection to be Exhibited

April 20 2021

Image of Thyssen-Bornemisza Family Collection to be Exhibited


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza are organising a special exhibition this year to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. The museum has been loaned a selection of twenty works from his heir's private collection, many of which have not been exhibited since 1992. Alongside several paintings will be a large selection of sculpture and pieces of decorative art spanning from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.

The exhibition opened on 12th April 2021 and will run till 23rd January 2022.

The Duke of Grafton's Van Dyck Coming up For Sale

April 20 2021

Image of The Duke of Grafton's Van Dyck Coming up For Sale


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has alerted me to news that the Duke of Grafton's portrait of Thomas Wentworth by Sir Anthony Van Dyck has been posted on the UK Arts Council Website. It explains that the work is due to be sold at Christie's London on 8th July 2021 carrying a guide price of £5m. The painting has been in the Grafton collection since the late seventeenth century and has been kept at the family's ancestral seat at Euston Hall.

A notice of intention to sell the painting had appeared in 2019 but was pulled before the catalogue was published for reasons unknown.

The painting is an outstanding example of Van Dyck's armoured portraits, showing a great debt to Titian in the painterly execution. The composition recalls Dosso Dossi's Portrait of St William in the Royal Collection, a picture which Van Dyck must have known as it was in King Charles I's collection at the time. Curiously, the Dossi portrait must have been rather special as the Duke of Buckingham was also painted in this guise by Balthasar Gerbier (notice the same fluted armour and helmet).

Update - Amusingly, here's Cromwell in exactly the same composition.

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