Being Norman Rockwell's Model

February 4 2011

Image of Being Norman Rockwell's Model

Scott Ingram recalls his role in some of Rockwell most famous paintings; 

'He never paid us much, but it didn't really matter,' Ingram said.

Picture Loans - the Way Ahead?

February 4 2011

Image of Picture Loans - the Way Ahead?

Left: Renoir, Right: Caillebotte.

The Carnegie Museum and the Milwaukee Museum of Art are betting on the outcome of the Superbowl to decide the loan of two Impressionist paintings.

The stakes are as follows: if the Green Bay Packers win, the Carnegie Art Museum in Pittsburgh will loan Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Bathers With Crab" to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

But if the Pittsburgh Steelers steal victory, the Milwaukee Art Museum stands to temporarily lose to the Carnegie its prized "Boating on the Yerres" by Gustave Caillebotte.

"Our art director is from Green Bay, so this is personal," said Kristin Settle, head of Public Relations for the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Should we do the same in the UK with the FA Cup Final? Why not?

Like, totally amazing.

February 3 2011

Image of Like, totally amazing.

Picture: Gemaldegalerie,Berlin

Google have a new website,, where you can virtually explore some of the world's leading art galleries; Tate, Uffizi, Met, the National in London, etc. etc. 

The most amazing thing of all, however, is the ability to zoom in in ultra-high resolution on some of the paintings. I've never seen digital art images as good as this online, and all for free too. Usually, galleries are so terrified of protecting their image rights, that you all you get is a blurry thumbnail.

It's brilliant. Congratulations to everyone involved. 

I hope more UK art galleries can participate with Google in this project. The goal should be a comprehensive online database of the UK's national art collection. With Google's help, we could do this far more cheaply and effectively than if we tried to do it as, say, a government project.  

The best exhibition advert you'll ever see?

February 3 2011


Check out the Hollywood-style trailer for a new exhibition at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, 'Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art'. (I dare someone at the National Gallery to do a similar video for 'Leonardo'...)

There's an interesting ticketing system too;

'The Parish Advantage' offers discounts and premiums to Parishioners and members of the Church.'

Hans Eworth Lecture

February 3 2011


Hope Walker, who is doing a PhD on Hans Eworth, has YouTube-d her recent illustrated lecture on the artist.

New Acquisition at the Mauritshuis

February 1 2011

Image of New Acquisition at the Mauritshuis

Picture: The Mauritshuis (detail).

The Mauritshuis have unveiled their latest acquisition, Moses and Pharaoh's Crown by Jan Steen. Bought from a private owner for an undisclosed sum, the picture fills a gap in their collection. Although they have fourteen Steens, none of them are historical pictures. More here

The Spirit of Romney...

February 1 2011

Image of The Spirit of Romney...

How weird is this? Two related works by George Romney are discovered independently by dealers, and end up in galleries next to each other. [more below]

We (Philip Mould Ltd) recently discovered an early portrait by George Romney (above left). Research identified the sitter as the Rev. William Atkinson. At about the same time Andrew Wyld came across a rare early portrait drawing by Romney (above right). The sitter, however, was unknown. 

Now, Andrew Wyld's gallery is immediately next to ours in Dover Street, London. We hung our portrait in the window about two weeks ago, and as Andrew walked past one night, he was able to identify the sitter in his drawing. 

More on the painting here, and the drawing here.

Museums at risk in Cairo

January 31 2011

Image of Museums at risk in Cairo

Picture: CNN. Troops guard the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

There are reports of mass lootings and tomb openings during the revolution. 

Friday night, a group of 'criminals' entered the Cairo Museum using a fire department staircase, Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told CNN early Sunday.

Once inside the museum, they went to the Late Period gallery, Hawass wrote. 'When they found no gold, they broke 13 vitrines (glass showcases) and threw the antiquities on the floor'.

One to keep an eye on...

January 29 2011

Image of One to keep an eye on...

Picture: Sotheby's

Sotheby's minor Old Master sale in New York was full of hidden treats. One of the pictures I liked was this Mengs self-portrait, a replica of that in the Uffizi. It was catalogued (with a rather blurry photo) as 'Circle of Mengs', but was well painted, and could certainly stand being 'Studio'. Indeed, the author of the Mengs catalogue raisonne thought it might have been painted by Mengs himself, in parts.

It made $25,000. I hope to see it again, cleaned.

Impressionist discovery in US 'yard sale'

January 28 2011

Image of Impressionist discovery in US 'yard sale'

Picture: Skinner Inc.

A work by the American Impressionist painter Frederick Carl Frieseke has been bought in a 'yard sale' for less than $100. It will be auctioned on Friday 28th with an estimate of $50-70,000. More here.

Update 29.1.11; it didn't sell.

Just One Bidder

January 27 2011

Image of Just One Bidder

Picture: Sotheby's

The New York Times reports that there was just one bidder for the epic Titian sold by Sotheby's in New York on Thursday. Still, they managed to set an auction record for a work by Titian. 

More interesting, perhaps, was the fierce struggle to secure Perino del Vaga's Holy Family with the Infant John the Baptist. At the beginning of the bidding someone in the room shouted out increments of $100,000, to the delight of auctioneer Henry Wyndham. The picture was bought by the Met in New York. The museum's Chairman of European Paintings, Keith Christiansen, said, "the minute I saw this painting, I nearly keeled over."

When is a Holbein not a Holbein?

January 27 2011

Image of When is a Holbein not a Holbein?


When the museum label next to it says 'Netherlandish Painter, 1569'. 

One of the joys of viewing the Old Master sales in New York over a weekend is being able to go to the Met early on Sunday morning - it opens at 9.30am, perfect for the jet-lagged. I was amused to see one of my favourite Holbein's demoted, and tried to tell the museum staff. They must get hundreds of people trying to tell them 'your label is wrong', so I don't blame them for not taking me seriously. 

You can see a better photo of the portrait, properly catalogued, here

Judging the Last Judgement

January 27 2011

Image of Judging the Last Judgement

Picture: Doyles

One of the pictures that caught my eye in New York was a grisaille of a Last Judgement 'attributed to Frans Francken' at Doyles. Beautifully painted, but with some losses, it was estimated at just $2-4,000. 

Not mentioned in the catalogue was the apparent Salander O'Reilly Gallery provenance, according to a sticker on the back. It was perhaps this unfortunate recent market history (Mr Salander is currently in jail) which led the picture to make just $3,750.

Which is puzzling, because when it came up at auction some years earlier, at Sotheby's, it made £35,000. 

Lot 403: An English 'bubonic' country scene.

January 26 2011

Image of Lot 403: An English 'bubonic' country scene.

...or should that be 'bucolic'?

See for yourself at May Auctioneers, 28th January

From Sleeper to Museum Wall

January 24 2011

Image of From Sleeper to Museum Wall

I was interested to see this fine portrait of a gentleman by Quentin Metsys in the Metropolitan Museum in New York on Sunday. Not so long ago it had appeared in an auction in Switzerland with a very low estimate and called something like 'Flemish School' (I can't remember exactly). 

I had it eagerly flagged up, but the picture was withdrawn from the sale. It then reappeared at Christie's in London correctly described and with an estimate of £700,000 - £1m. Now, it hangs happily reunited (on loan) with its pendant, which has belonged to the Met since 1931.  

The New York viewings

January 23 2011

Here are some of the pictures I liked and didn’t like in the Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales. Generally a good offering, with Sotheby’s having the better pick of the two. If you have queries about anything else, please get in touch.

In catalogue order, pictures I liked were;


Lot 8 – Portrait of the Duke of Suffolk. This is a first-rate Tudor portrait, in good condition, by the ‘Master of the Brandon Portrait’ and painted in c.1530. I’ll be delighted if it sells, but at $300,000-$500,000, the estimate is a little high. 

Lot 9 – Studio of Cranach the Elder, portrait of Frederick III. One of many replicas, but well painted, nice condition, and a low estimate.

Lot 18 – A newly discovered Van Dyck portrait. Rather ‘topped’ in parts, but at an estimate of $20,000-$30,000 you can’t go wrong, even with that sitter.

Lot 34 – John Constable, copy of a Ruisdael. Rare thing. Interesting that he signed it ‘Ruisdael’. High estimate. 

Lot 35 – Wright of Derby, portrait of Charles Heathcote. Wright at his impasto best. Incredible condition. Not that dissimilar to the portrait of Robert Shore Miles, which went way above estimate at Sotheby’s NY in 2008, selling for $7,208,000.

Lot 24 – Pompeo Batoni, Venus Caressing Cupid. A rare mythological painting by Batoni. Good condition. Reasonable estimate. 

Lot 118 – Portrait Attributed to Michael Sittow. Great image, beautifully drawn head, probably a low estimate. 

Lot 161 – A gem of an early Romney. Good condition, cheap estimate.

Pictures I wasn’t so keen on;

Lot 4 – Jacob van Ruisdael; condition appeared to be a little problematic.

Lot 44 – Canaletto; great picture, but at $2,500,000-$3,500,000 on the steep side.

Lot 121 – ‘Attributed to Van Dyck’; strange picture, far from Van Dyck, I’d say, and probably not even 17th Century.

Lots 163-167 – the set of Romney portraits. There is something not quite right about these. Have they all been badly restored some time ago?



Keen on;

Lot 109 – Girolamo da Carpi Madonna and Child. This is a strange looking da Carpi, and the catalogue entry says as much. Personally, I think it looks more like a knackered Parmigianino. 

Lot 113 – Perino del Vaga, Holy Family. Fine image, nice enough condition. There’s a bit of a buzz about this one, so expect it to go over estimate. 

Lot 120 – Jacob Jordaens, St Andrew. Beautifully painted, Jordaens at his early best. 

Lot 135 – Greuze portrait. Greuze at his best. Worth the $400,000 - $600,000 estimate. 

Lot 137 – Giampietrino, Madonna and child. Fine image. As close as you get to a late Leonardo for under a $1million. 

Lot 225 – “Attributed to Corneille de Lyon”. Surely right. 

Lot 302 – Venetian School, portrait of an Old Woman. No idea who painted this, but it’s stunning. 

Lot 309 – Perronneau portrait. Unusual to get these in good state. Cheap at $40,000 - £60,000

Not so keen on;

Lot 131 – Attributed to Parmigianino and Workshop portrait of Charles V. Curious picture. I think it tends more towards the Workshop end of the attribution. 

Lot 156 – Titian, Sacra Conversazione. Amazing history, glorious overall image. And yet… strangely underwhelming. Is it the cursory drapery? Is it the misunderstood features of the restored St Catherine, which makes her profile seem incongruous? I’m not sure what it is, but I struggle to like it as much as the estimate tells me I should. 

Lot 193 – Kauffmann portrait. I’m a great Kauffmann fan, but at $250,000 - $350,000 this is too expensive. 

Lot 269 – “Studio of Van Dyck”. Probably a later copy instead. 

New Director for the Wallace Collection

January 22 2011

Congratulations to Dr Christoph Vogtherr, who has been appointed the new Director of the Wallace Collection. He takes over from Dame Rosalind Savill later this year. More here.

Off to New York...

January 22 2011

Image of Off to New York...

6.30 am. BA aren't on strike. My excellent colleague Sara has swung me an upgrade. All is well. 

I'll post some thoughts on the sales tomorrow.

'Lot 31 - The Stolen Degas'

January 21 2011

Image of 'Lot 31 - The Stolen Degas'

A c.1870 painting by Edgar Degas stolen in 1973 has been returned to the French Government by US authorities after it was spotted in an auction catalogue. The picture, estimated by Sotheby's at $350,000 to $450,000, had slipped through a check on the Art Loss Register. 

U.S. customs officials, working with authorities from Interpol, said the painting was consigned to French art collector Ronald Grelsamer. 

Grelsamer said his father gave him the painting as a gift, but was unaware it was stolen, the statement said.

'Lost Rubens' faces Export Ban

January 18 2011

Image of 'Lost Rubens' faces Export Ban

Picture: Sotheby's.

A portrait believed to be by Rubens has been stopped for export by the government's Reviewing Committee. The picture was offered at Sotheby's in December 2009 with an estimate of £4-6m, but failed to sell and is now priced at £1m.

The 'striking portrait of a very real, although unidentified, woman', according to the Committee's Chairman Lord Inglewood, must have presented the panel with a tricky dilemma. The so-called Waverley Criteria, by which a picture is judged to be of national importance, are;

  1. Is it so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune?
  2. Is it of outstanding aesthetic importance?
  3. Is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history?

Now, the picture failed to sell at Sotheby's because some experts doubted it as a work by Rubens. The current price of £1 million must reflect continuing uncertainty over the attribution, for with a certain Rubens endorsement the picture would comfortably make the Sotheby's estimate. 

So, if it is not a Rubens, could the Reviewing Committee really decide that it met any of the Waverley Criteria? This was a picture which had been almost entirely unknown, thus ruling out Waverley 1. As a non-Rubens of a not particularly compelling unidentified sitter it does not meet Waverley 2 either. And it certainly would not meet Waverley 3.

When it was offered at Sotheby's as a Rubens the picture suffered from an enthusiasm amongst some experts to be overly exclusionist, which often happens when a new picture emerges from leftfield with no pedigree.

Personally, I thought the portrait (which is unfinished) was by Rubens when I saw it in 2009, and that Sotheby's had done an excellent job to discover it and catalogue it. In any case, the new overseas owner has, at £1million, surely got a bargain, for it will doubtless be accepted once the initial doubts have died down. These things usually are. 

Update 23.2.11: The painting was submitted for export by the current owners - it has not been sold. See here for more details. 

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