Previous Posts: July 2022

New Nathaniel Bacon discovery

July 7 2022

Image of New Nathaniel Bacon discovery

Picture: Burlington Magazine

The latest Burlington Magazine has an article on a very important new discovery by Karen Hearn, of a portrait by the 17th Century artist Sir Nathaniel Bacon. The portrait is of his wife Jane, Lady Bacon, and is currently in Government House, Sydney. Bacon was an amateur painter and enthusiastic gardener, as you can see in the background of the portrait, showing the garden at his house, Brome Hall. More here.

Graffiti in Saenredam

July 7 2022

Video: National Gallery

Here's National Gallery curator Justine Rinnooy Kan discussing why someone vandalising the interior of a church in Saenredam's painting Interior of the Buurkerk at Utrecht.

London Old Master sales

July 7 2022

Image of London Old Master sales

Picture: Christie's

I was hoping to see the Old Master sales in London, but couldn't get there, thanks to the 'rona. But I watched them online, alongside rolling news coverage of Boris Johnson's pleasingly agonising demise. Sotheby's evening sale made only £7m, which isn't far off some day sale totals. The top lot was a £1.18m Brueghel the Younger. But we should remember they hived off several strong pictures for their Jubilee sale, including; a £730k Constable cloud study, a £2.3m Bonington, and a £1.9m Millais. So we can bump Sotheby's overall OMP total up to about £13m. They also sold a fine Canaletto drawing for £400k. Their total suffered a bit from the large Van de Velde not selling at £4m-£6m. In 2012, it made £5.3m. In Sotheby's Day sale, the lovely David Martin self-portrait I highlighted a few weeks ago made £113k, against an estimate of £20k-£30k.

Before anyone says, 'ha - Old Masters are sinking!', Christie's sold their fine Van Dyck Portrait of a Monk (above) for £3.38m. In 2011 it made £713k. Christie's total was £28m. Other top lots included a £9.4m Cranach the Elder Nymph, and a Rembrandt print made £1.4m. A copy of a Caravaggio's Cardsharps made £264k - this is the picture which was subject of a £6m lawsuit over claims it was by Caravaggio himself. A £3m-£4m Turner of Heidelberg, with a Rainbow bought in. A picture which soared away, and which looks like one of those pictures which might reset the market, was a Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger Portrait of a Lady, at £567k.


July 5 2022

...for the poor service lately, Covid has visited us again. Not me, my wife. This new variant is quite unpleasant, I'd recommend keeping clear of it. More tomorrow.

Some talks

July 2 2022

Image of Some talks

Picture: Society of Antiquaries, Mary Tudor by Hans Eworth

Here are some art history talks over the next few days you might be interested in, either in person or online.

July 5th, 1-2pm, art historian Hope Walker will be speaking on Hans Eworth, Mary Tudor's court artist. At the Society of Antiquaries, and online, details here.

July 6th, 6.30-7.30pm, the director of the new Eric Ravilious documentary, Margy Kinmouth, will be talking about how the film was made. Details here.

July 7th, 12.45-1.30pm, art historian Carla van de Puttelaar will speak on Scottish portraiture from 1644-1714, in particular David and John Scougall. At the National Gallery of Scotland or online. Details here.

Brexit and the art market (ctd.)

July 2 2022

Image of Brexit and the art market (ctd.)

Picture: Apollo

In 2008 the UK art market was almost as large as America's - the UK had 34% of the global market, the US 35%. Now, however, the UK's share has fallen to 17%. What's happened? Many things, but predictably Brexit has been a major impact since 2016. What can be done? In Apollo, Jane Morris looks at the continuing impact of Brexit on the shrinking UK market, and concludes that some urgent action is required:

Experts say the UK could reduce the rate of import VAT on art to zero, in line with Hong Kong and New York: it is administratively simple and would flag a determination to smooth trade. Flawed European legislation, such as the artist’s resale right and importation of cultural goods rules, could be revisited and improved. Art businesses could be included in government plans for freeports, from which they are currently and inexplicably excluded. It could even be made easier for major collectors to bring the artworks they already own into their UK homes, or exempt certain art transactions from capital gains tax using tax breaks similar to the ‘like-kind’ schemes in the United States.

All of which would certainly help. But as regular readers of AHN will know, they were all on the wish list of art market Brexiters back in 2016, who looked at many of the things which frustrated them about the UK art market, and thought Europe was to blame. But the government took no action on things like the artist's resale right, because it would have implemented it anyway, seeing more votes (or rather, headlines) by appealing to artists rather than art dealers. And if an import Vat cut hasn't happened yet, I'm afraid it is  unlikely to happen now. In a cost of living crisis, which government is going to cut the price of paintings, over the price of food?

The simple fact is, the art market doesn't register high enough on the government's radar. We know it wasn't even on the radar when the government began negotiating the Brexit deal back in 2017. And more recently, the decision to exclude art from those new freeports ministers are so keen to shout about was deliberate - because they didn't want to be accused of benefiting rich collectors storing art in tax shelters.

So I'm afraid we'll see the UK art market continue to suffer from Brexit, in a slow, death-by-a-thousand-cuts way, just like the rest of the UK economy. Meanwhile, we will see France take a greater share of the European market, while the big modern and contemporary sales will increasingly coalesce around Asia and the US. I'm sorry to be so gloomy about it, but I see no other outcome.

No one wants the Villa Aurora? (ctd.)

July 1 2022

Image of No one wants the Villa Aurora? (ctd.)


The "€470m" villa in Rome with a fresco by Caravaggio, Villa Aurora, has failed to find a buyer for the third time of asking, this time with a reserve of €226m. More here in The Times.

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