A new Velasquez for sale in Spain?
April 23 2017
Belen Palanco in The Art Newspaper reports that a portrait of a young 'immaculate' up for auction this week in Spain may be a previously unknown work by Velasquez. The picture has been adjudged by the auction house to be an early work, but no Velasquez scholars have been cited in the catalogue. An x-ray of the painting has revealed the subject originally had a halo of stars, and this has been compared to another early Velasquez in the National Gallery in London. From the photos, well, I can see where they're coming from. But Velasquez scholarship is not straightforward. It's a gamble for someone. You can zoom in on the picture here.
Update - it made €8m. I'm told this was the reserve too.
Van Dyck's fingerprint?
March 22 2017
The Jordaens/Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project has discovered what may well be one of Van Dyck's fingerprints on a painting of St Thomas. If anyone has any other examples, let them know. I've seen two in my time, on a Henrietta Maria and a Flemish clerical painting. Whether they are Van Dyck's himself, or an assistant picking up a wet painting is hard to prove. It's Van Dyck's birthday today by the way - many happy returns Antoon.
New Van Dyck oil sketch discovered
March 6 2017
A newly discovered study by Van Dyck of the infant Christ will soon come up for auction in Paris on 23rd March. It's an early work, and wonderfully painted. The estimate is €50k-€70k, which strikes me as quite reasonable. Until recently, it had been added to on all four sides in an attempt to make the picture seem more 'finished'. This is a common fate of studies by the likes of Van Dyck. Now the additions have been removed, to good effect I think. I had the chance to see some high-resolution photos from before and after conservation, and had no doubt that it's by Van Dyck. Congratulations to the finder (whom I do not know) - I hope it does well. You can zoom in on the image here.
Update - it made EUR100k hammer.
Have you seen this picture?
January 31 2017
The above self-portrait by Ferdinand Bol, last seen at auction in Zurich in 1984, is being sought after by the organisers of an exhibition on Bol and Govert Flinck. More here.
Sotheby's NY Old Master sales
December 20 2016
Sotheby's January New York sale catalogues are online; Evening sale here; Day sale here; drawings here. There are many fine things as ever; Turner, Zurburan, an equestrian study by Rubens, and an Orazio Gentileschi that used to belong to Charles I. Shown above is a picture that caught my eye when it was previewed in London, a wonderfully zany El Greco, which is catalogued cautiously as 'attributed to El Greco' with an estimate of $400k-$600k.
I'll be in New York for the sales, part of a US jaunt I'm making to visit a few museums. There's an intriguing picture called 'attributed to Rembrandt' which I'm looking forward to seeing. The estimate is $300k-$500k, which is not much for a Rembrandt - if it is one. It seems from the text and exhibition history that the attribution is or was supported by Seymour Slive, Christopher Brown and Horst Gerson. We can doubtless deduce by the absence of his name from the catalogue that Ernst van de Wetering of the Rembrandt Research Project does not endorse the attribution. Looking at the literature, it seems it has been published and exhibited as a work by Rembrandt in full - until now. Such are the vagaries of Rembrandt scholarship.
December 13 2016
This 'Roman School, 17th Century' picture soared above its £1k-£15k estimate at Sotheby's last week to make £380,750 (inc. premium). There was even a round of applause in the room when the hammer came down. I've no idea what it was, but the provenance shows that it was once thought to be by Bernini.
Update - Colin Gleadell reports that it was bought by Nando Peretti of the Walpole Gallery.
October 13 2016
Well, nearly. The above picture has been withdrawn. But zoom in on the picture here, and to the right of the ruff you can just make out a signature. It begins with 'R...'
Too early to say much from the photos. But possibly quite exciting.
'The mysterious landscapes of Hercules Segers'
September 19 2016
Picture: Rijksmuseum/New York Times
The Rijksmuseum has spent two years re-examining the oeuvre of the 17th Century Dutch landscape artist Hercules Segers, and has added a number of newly attributed works, reports the New York Times. The research has been done ahead of a new exhibition on Segers' life, which opens at the Rijksmuseum on October 7th till January 8th, when it will then travel to the Met in New York, where it opens on February 13th.
More on the Rijksmuseum's research and exhibition here.
June 16 2016
The above painting made €1.56m (hammer) against an estimate of €6k-€8k in Paris last week. The 'Judgement of Paris' was catalogued as 'Workshop of Rubens', but a number of trade buyers thought it was the real deal. It's painted in oil on panel. Having seen some high-res photos (as far as one can judge these things from photos) I agree - it is probably 'right', and must be Rubens' study for the painting in the National Gallery in London. It was underbid by a London dealer. I don't know who bought it. At close to €2m with commissions I suppose the picture more or less made its money. All will depend on condition.
The National Gallery picture follows the sketch very clossely, but Rubens has altered the angle of Paris' leg. Look closely at the NG painting, however, and you can see that underneath the green background paint, the original position of Paris' leg is still visible - which matches the newly discovered sketch. Until now, the only evidence of Rubens' sketch for the NG painting has been a copy in the Gemaldegalerie in Dresden. You can read more about the genesis of the NG painting here in the 'National Gallery Technical Bulletin' (although I don't personally agree with all their conclusions).
I missed the auction in Paris entirely. My eye has been completely off the ball of late - too tied up with telly, which can be all consuming.
In fact, I haven't done very well with my Judgements of Paris this year. Some months ago I underbid a good, previously unknown studio version of the NG painting, which came up for sale in Antwerp. I thought that probably there were a number of areas that Rubens might have touched up himself. The painting was later flipped into a sale in Dorotheum in Vienna, and made a smooth profit of about €700k. That picture must have been made working from the newly discovered study, for it follows the original position of Paris' leg.
Anyway, thanks to these new discoveries we have a much more complete view of how Rubens tackled this subject. It's an example of how the marketplace can help advance art historical understanding.
Update - the Antiques Trade Gazette reports that the French auction house sent a photo of the painting to the Rubenianum in Antwerp before the sale. Their response was apparently that it was neither an autograph nor a studio work:
Cabinet Turquin’s Eric Turquin told ATG that they had studied and researched the work for three months before the auction and felt it was “a real workshop painting, that is of the period and something done under the direction of the master with or without his participation”.
The expert also said they made an enquiry and sent a photograph of the painting to the research centre in Antwerp, The Rubenianum, but the centre did not think it was either by Rubens or from his studio.
Flemish drawings at the Scottish National Gallery
June 2 2016
Picture: NGS, Jacob Jordaens, 'Head of an Old Woman'
It's a bumper time for lovers of Flemish drawing at the moment - as I mentioned earlier, there's a show at the V&A on until November, and opening soon here in Edinburgh is 'Rubens & Company - Flemish drawings from the Scottish National Gallery'. Says the Gallery's website:
The Scottish National Gallery has a fine collection of Flemish paintings, including famous works by Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. The Print Room houses some 35,000 works on paper which, due to their fragility and sensitivity to light, can only be displayed for short periods of time and are therefore little-known.*
Rubens & Company highlights an outstanding selection of the Gallery’s Flemish drawings of the seventeenth century. Masterpieces by Rubens, the towering figure of the Flemish Baroque, are shown alongside famous works by Jordaens and Van Dyck and accompanied by works by less prominent artists such as Jan Cossiers, Abraham van Diepenbeeck and Cornelis Schut, which have rarely, in some cases never, been displayed before. Many of them are preparatory drawings or studies which offer a fascinating insight into the function of drawings as well as studio practice. Rubens & Company celebrates these artists and invites our visitors to discover and enjoy their skill in the art of drawing.
The exhibition is accompanied by a beautifully illustrated catalogue, providing a lively panorama of Flemish draughtsmanship in the seventeenth century, its subjects and techniques.
The show opens 18th June, until 28th August. Come to Edinburgh!
*Note to the Scottish National Gallery - none of your drawings by Rubens and Van Dyck are illustrated on your website.
Dutch and Flemish drawings at the V&A
May 11 2016
Picture: V&A, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, 'Christ Crowned with Thorns'
Here's a good exhibition coming soon at the V&A: 'Master Strokes: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Golden Age'. The show opens on 14th May and runs till 13th November. Says the V&A press release:
This summer the V&A will for the first time display some of the most important works from the Museum’s outstanding collection of Dutch and Flemish drawings: one of the principle holdings in Britain. Master Strokes: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Golden Age will present over 70 works from the 16th to the 19th century, including masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Sir Anthony van Dyck and Rembrandt van Rijn, and a recently re-attributed drawing by Carel Fabritius. These will be supported by rich collections of works from many lesser-known Golden Age artists who were hugely relevant in their day yet are no longer considered household names, such as Hans Bol and Jacob Jordaens. Designs for architecture and the applied arts will also be on display, demonstrating the diversity and enduring artistic and technical excellence of Netherlandish artists of the 17th century – a period of extraordinary prosperity and artistic output.
But what's this 'Jordaens no longer considered a household name'? We'll have to see what we can do about that...
Sleeper alert! (ctd.)
May 8 2016
Remember the early Rembrandt that came up for sale in the US as a '19th Century' work by an unknown artist, with the bidding starting at $500? Its subsequent purchase by the renowned Rembrandt collector Tom Kaplan has been covered on AHN already, but in the LA Times is a fascinating account of how Kaplan bought it - before the picture was cleaned and the attribution confirmed, in part by the discovery of a signature. Brave.
The picture was bought at auction by the Paris-based Galerie Talabardon et Gautier, and:
The following day, they received word that New York financier Thomas Kaplan was interested in purchasing the painting. Kaplan heads the Electrum Group, a privately owned investment management company that invests primarily in natural resources and precious metals, including gold.
Kaplan and his wife, Daphne, also own one of the world's largest private collections of art from the Dutch Golden Age. The Leiden Collection holds works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and other painters from around the 17th century.
Gautier traveled to New York to negotiate the deal aboard Kaplan's yacht, according to the gallery. The negotiations lasted about an hour. The gallery declined to say how much Kaplan paid for the work.
Kaplan wasn't available for comment but said in a statement that the discovery of the painting and its inclusion in his collection have been "a tremendous delight for me and my wife."[...]
After Kaplan purchased the Rembrandt, the painting was restored. During the process, which removed a layer of varnish, an artist's monogram was discovered in the upper left corner that reads "RF."
The monogram has been taken to stand for "Rembrandt Fecit," or "Made by Rembrandt." It is believed to be the earliest signature by Rembrandt on a work of art.
"After that, there was little doubt," said Talabardon, the Paris dealer.
A great purchase by a great collector - something you can't often say these days. The painting is now going on loan to the Getty.
London mid-season OMP sales
May 5 2016
I've been meaning to mention the mid-season Old Master sales in London - they did really quite well, with some strong prices and good selling rates. So bah to all those writing off the 'middle market'.
I noticed that portraiture did quite well. For example, the above Cornelius Johnson, which was in fine condition and extravagantly signed, soared to £158,500 against an estimate of just £15,000-£25,000.
Highlighting the vagaries of the auction world was this portrait by Gainsborough, which made £60,000 from an estimate of £15,000-£25,000, even though it had failed to sell earlier at a higher estimate.
Old Master fans are fortunate that the major auction houses are sticking with the OMP middle market, and not only that but still trying hard with it.
Irish Guercino cleaned in LA
April 29 2016
Picture: Getty/National Gallery of Ireland
The National Gallery of Ireland has sent its Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph by Guercino to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for conservation. The work will be funded by a group of private donors called The Getty Museum Paintings Council, which is, says the Getty website:
[...] a group of generous individual donors, helps support the study and conservation of major art works from international museums and cultural institutions at the Getty; in exchange, the Getty enjoys the opportunity to display the paintings at the Getty Center for a few months after the completion of treatment.
I didn't know of this body of splendid people before - whoever you are, AHN salutes you.
Dobson self-portrait for sale
April 27 2016
Bonhams are offering William Dobson's earliest known self-portrait in their forthcoming July Old Master sale in London. The estimate is £200,000-£300,000, which strikes me as quite reasonable. A very similar painting of the artist's wife is in the Tate gallery. Tate should be really buy this one too.
Bonhams kindly showed me the picture the other day; it is compelling, and in good condition. Although painted around 1635-40, the most noticeable thing about it to me was how un Van Dyck-ian the technique is. Instead it seems more Dutch if anything. Although Dobson's tecnnique does become a little more Van Dyck-ian later on, in its smoother application of paint, early works such as the self-portrait at Bonhams only raise further questions about where Dobson emerges from, in an artistic sense. Was Dobson really a pupil of Van Dyck, as some sources suggest? Not on this evidence, at least. Sadly, we know few certain details about his life.
The above film was made by ZCZ Films, the Great Waldemar's production company. Waldemar is probably the world's no.1 Dobson fan, and made an excellent film on the artist some years ago.
"Van Dyck" at the Frick (ctd.)
March 12 2016
The curators of the Frick's wondrous new Van Dyck exhibition, Adam Eaker (above left) and Stijn Alsteens (right, who here looks as if he could well be in a Van Dyck) can be heard discussing their new show in some depth in this interview on New York's WNYC radion station.
"Georges de La Tour" at the Prado
March 12 2016
There's a new exhibition on at the Prado on the French 17th Century artist Georges de La Tour, of whom I've always been a fan. The show is on until 12th June this year. More here.
Breughel's 'Birdtrap' at Dorotheum in April
March 7 2016
I like to keep an eye on auction house's social media efforts, so it's good to see that Dorotheum (Austria's pre-eminent auctioneers) are making videos now. The above looks at a Pieter Brueghel the Younger 'Birdtrap' on offer in their April Old Master sale. We learn the astonishing fact that there are apparently 46 versoins of this scene by the artist.
No estimate is given in the video, alas. (Dorotheum folks, estimates are essential in videos like this!).
Update - a reader writes:
Brueghel estimate in the video on the label on the wall, bottom right €700-900k estimate. Not clear I grant you!
"Van Dyck" at the Frick
March 6 2016
Video: The Frick Collection
I greatly enjoyed the new Van Dyck exhibition athe Frick Collection in New York, 'Van Dyck, the Anatomy of Portraiture'. I will write in more depth about the show and the exhibits, but in the meantime, here is my review in The Financial Times.
The show is open now, till 5th June. There is a superb catalogue available here.
Louvre acquisition in New York
February 7 2016
A picture that sold well above estimate in the recent Sotheby's New York sale was the above Pandora by the 'School of Fontainebleau'. It sold for $754,000 (inc. premium) against an estimate of $300,000-$500,000, and was bought by the Louvre. Didier Rykner's Tribune de L'Art has the story here.