Plug! New Lely exhibition
June 14 2013
Picture: Philip Mould & Company
Please indulge me while I plug a forthcoming selling exhibition at Philip Mould & Co. of works by Sir Peter Lely and his circle. The exhibition will coincide with Master Paintings Week (28th June-5th July) here in London, which is when London's best Old Master dealers show off their wares with exhibitions and extended opening times.
We'll be announcing more details nearer the time, including an exciting royal discovery. Here for now though is a newly discovered portrait by Lely from very early in his career. In fact, given the Dutch fashion and handling of the drapery, it was probably painted before he came to England (where he was by 1643). The sitter is unknown, but the picture's unfinished state and overall intimacy make me think that it might show a member of his family. The picture isn't, you might say, the most commercial picture, but sometimes Philip and I can't bear to let a miscatalogued picture by a favourite artist slip by, and feel that we have to rescue them.
We will also display newly found works by Lely's contemporaries, including John Michael Wright and Mary Beale.
June 13 2013
Dr Luuk Pijl writes from Holland:
The small copper enclosed is by Johan König (1586-1642). It was knocked down for 120.000 euro an hour ago at a sale in Toulouse against an estimate of 700/1000 euro, catalogued as Flemish school.
Mary Beale discoveries at Tate Britain (ctd.)
June 12 2013
I mentioned earlier the exciting discovery of two oil sketches by Mary Beale, which have gone on display at Tate Britain. The sleuth who found them (in a Paris antiques shop) is art historian and connoisseur extraordinaire James Mulraine, and he has sent AHN some further insights on the pictures:
Bendor has very kindly invited me, as the guy who discovered them, to say something about Mary Beale’s two sketches of the painter’s son Bartholomew c.1660, unveiled in Tate Britain’s BP Walk Through British Art. I am honoured, tho Tabitha Barber’s brilliant online catalogue entry could not be bettered.
They hang with Tate Britain’s other Beale, Young woman in profile, perhaps the studio assistant Keaty Trioche c.1681. These pieces that Beale painted for herself and her family have in Bendor’s words a ‘casual familiarity not often seen in seventeenth century English portraiture.’ Tate Britain visitors described them to me as ‘everyday,’ ‘real’ and ‘modern’.
How influential were they though? They were largely unknown outside the Beales’ circle and dispersed after their deaths. In the next gallery William Hogarth’s Heads of Six of the Artist’s Servants c.1750 – 55 has the same unpretentious humanity. Hogarth would have seen a set of Beale’s private work. His friend and patron Bishop Benjamin Hoadly married Mary Beale’s star pupil, Hogarth’s friend, the portraitist Sarah Curtis. Sarah brought nine Beales with her including a self-portrait, a portrait of Charles Beale Sr and ‘Two Children in a Landscape’, perhaps Bartholomew and Charles Jr.
Did Beale make an impression on Hogarth? If more of his work c.1740 was like the Stuart-retro Portrait of the Actor James Quin 1739 (Tate Britain) you’d say yes, quite probably. It’s not that simple. But there is an affinity of mood. The ‘sobriety, energy, directness and sincerity’ that Mark Hallet sees in Hogarth’s mature portraits describes Mary Beale’s as well. Perhaps his visits to the Hoadlys nourished him when he was trying to create a distinctly ‘English’ portraiture. Their godly good cheer must have had a flavour of Charles and Mary Beale’s household, and Sarah Hoadly would have preserved Beale’s memory as well as her painting.
June 10 2013
We were sad to underbid, at CHF125,000 (hammer price), this interesting portrait by Sir Peter Lely at the weekend, which came up in Switzerland as 'English School'. The sitter is currently unknown. The pose is repeated by Lely a number of times with different heads, so one must watch for the dread hand of studio.
Honthorst's 'Duet' sold in New York
June 10 2013
Christie's did well with the above Honthorst in their New York Old Master sale last week, selling 'The Duet' for $3.37m (inc. premium). The estimate was $2-3m. The picture had an interesting provenance; having once been in the collection a Russian aristocratic family, the Stroganovs, it was seized by the Soviets and displayed in the Hermitage in St Petersburg. It was then sold by the Soviets in Berlin in 1931, where it was bought by Bruno and Ellen Spiro. Their possessions were seized by the Nazis in 1938, and it was re-sold, again in Berlin, only to end up in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1969. Happily, the picture was restituted to the Spiro heirs earlier this year.
Update - a reader Tweets:
Happy for the Spiros, but will they be dividing the proceeds with the Stroganovs?
Interesting point - how far back should we take restitution cases?
How not to hang a painting
May 29 2013
Picture: NY Times
Reader Adam Busiakiewicz from Warwick Castle sends this clipping from The New York Times in 1890. Happily, the picture, which is a studio piece, is now hung much more securely, and in a frame.
Rubens drawing discovery
May 28 2013
The Reading Post reports:
A 17th century drawing by artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens has been discovered at the University of Reading.
Just 10.8cm x 8.9cm in size, the drawing is valued at £75,000 and shows a profile view of the head of Marie de Médicis, Queen of France as the second wife of King Henry IV of France.
The sketch was probably made in preparation for some life size paintings in the collection of the Louvre.
The drawing was acquired by an Oxford collector Henry Wellesly, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Wellington, who bought drawings for the Ashmolean. The university acquired the sketch for teaching purposes in the 1950s for no more than £50.
Update - a reader asks:
Was it acquired in the 1950’s as an anonymous drawing and has now been correctly attributed ?
£50.00 for a drawing in the 1950’s would have not been insignificant.
Have they now just worked out where it’s been all this time (like stuck to the back of a David Shepherd watercolour of an elephant) ?
Mary Beale discoveries at Tate Britain
May 16 2013
I was pleased to see in The Independent that Tate Britain is emphasising the work of women artists in the new Walk Through British Art. As Chris Stephens, Tate's head of displays, says, 'it's an area where we have underachieved in recent years'. One could say the same of most UK museums, alas.
Two newly discovered works by Mary Beale (one shown above) have now gone on show at Tate. They were bought in 2010, having been found in a Paris antiques shop. Tate Curator Tabitha Barber says of Beale:
“I think she’s remarkably important and very underrated. People don’t tend to know her now. She was commercially very popular at the time.”
Anne Killigrew is another female artist of the period who has recently come back into the public arena. You can see her striking classical scene Venus Attired by the Graces by Anne Killigrew (discovered, ahem, by Philip Mould & Co.), at Falmouth Art Gallery, while another fine work by her can now be seen at the Queen's Gallery, where her Portrait of James II is part of the In Fine Style exhibition.
Update - apparently the frames are modern, but reconstruct the type described by Mary's husband, Charles, in his diary.
Update II - a reader writes:
We might talk of Kneller or Lely being "commercially very popular", but the Beales? They were constantly in debt, relying on handouts from well-wishers and that was even after Charles Beale's income from colourmaking was added to Mary's from portrait painting. They were economically vulnerable their whole lives, that was simply the reality of painters' lives back then. In 1671 Mary Beale's rate for a half length portrait was £10, whereas in the same year, Lely's was £20 for a head. In 1674 she painted fewer than 30 portraits: that is not the record of someone who was "very popular", commercially or otherwise.
Secondly, what does it say about our museums and art world now, that in order to "celebrate" a 17th century painter we must highlight their (spurious) commercial popularity? The truth - that she struggled to make ends meet her entire life but, even so, persevered as a painter in a society that little understood women artists - is surely more interesting?
A new Van Dyck discovery at the Royal Collection
May 15 2013
Pictures: Royal Collection, top, and below, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris
An exciting amendment to the Royal Collection's online catalogue - the above picture used to be called a copy of a Van Dyck, but has now been upgraded to Van Dyck in full. The text states:
This was until recently believed to be a contemporary copy after a lost Van Dyck portrait. It has however been convincingly suggested that this is the Van Dyck original: the handling certainly has the freshness and vigour of an original rather than a copy and the quality is sufficient to suggest Van Dyck's hand.
The sitter cannot be identified but the portrait belongs to the artist's second Flemish period (c.1630), when he painted a number of sitters in this particular format. Additions appear to have been made to the top and bottom of the canvas and it is possible that the fictive stone window was added alter.
I'm pleased to say that the first 'convincing suggestions' came from us here at Philip Mould & Company. The picture, which is probably first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1747, had been listed as a copy in the 2004 Van Dyck catalogue raisonne (entry no. III.A31), with the late Sir Oliver Millar regarding it as 'probably a contemporary copy of a portrait painted c.1630'. However, I always thought it had a chance of being right from the illustrations available, and so asked the Royal Collection about two years ago if I could see it. They kindly showed it to Philip Mould and I in their store room at Hampton Court, where, under bright lights it was apparent that the face was of very high quality, and that the dress had in fact been finished off by a later hand. A different collar can be seen underneath part of the present one. Philip and I had no doubts at all that the head was by Van Dyck, with the described oval and parts of the costume being later additions. This seems to have been the common fate of a series of head studies Van Dyck painted in Antwerp in the early 1630s, some of which are thought to have been studies for his large group portrait The Magistrates of Brussels. Sadly, the original picture was destroyed in 1695 when the French army bombarded Brussels, but the composition is known in a grisaille sketch by Van Dyck now in the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
It is conceivable that the Royal Collection's newly accepted study relates to the figure on the far left of the grisaille. A similar (and fully accepted) head study, probably also with a later oval, is in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Possibly, the picture in the Muzeum Naradowe in Poznan which was also rejected as a copy of a lost original in the 2004 Van Dyck catalogue, is also an original Van Dyck head with later additions.
Van Dyck in Canada
May 7 2013
Picture: National Gallery of Canada
A new exhibition on the working practices of Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens looks to be worth visiting, if you're in Canada - the National Gallery of Canada is looking in depth into a number of the works it owns, including Van Dyck's Suffer Little Children Come unto Me. Displayed alongside this work will be no less than two studies for the children (the boy with clasped hands and the child bottom right), which were discovered by Philip Mould in sale rooms some years ago.
Two conferences in London
May 2 2013
Two conferences in June in London look to be worth going to. The first, at the V&A on 14th & 15th June, is all about England and Muscovy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. The second, at the National Gallery on 21st and 22nd June, is on London and the Emergence of a European Art Market c.1780-1820.
The Raising of the Van Dyck?
April 25 2013
Video: De Standaard
The above video is in Dutch, but the jist of it is that a recently restored Raising of the Cross (in a church in Tienen, Belgium), has been suggested to be a work from the studio of Van Dyck. It was previously thought to be a later copy. It's impossible to say much from the video, but it does look like it has a chance of being a studio replica of the undoubted original in the Church of our Lady, Kortrijk. The original is exceptionally well documeted. The Canon who commissioned the Kortrijk picture was so pleased with it that he sent Van Dyck 12 waffles in gratitude. Yum.
Met buys Ritz Le Brun
April 19 2013
The Metropolitan Museum in New York has emerged as the buyer of Charles Le Brun's Sacrifice of Polyxena, which was sold at Christie's this week for EUR1.4m. It will be the Met's first work by Le Brun. The picture had been discovered in the Coco Chanel suite at the Ritz in Paris.
One might have expected the French authorities to pre-empt the picture, though I suppose there's no shortage of Le Brun's in France.
Update - more details here on Joseph Friedman's website. Joseph first discovered the picture.
Cleaning test fun (ctd.)
April 16 2013
Picture: Philip Mould & Co.
Here's the cleaned early Lely portrait I showed you a cleaning test of recently. I've never handled a Lely portrait in such good condition. The sitter's identity eludes us for now, but at least not the attribution - Erik 'Larceny' Larsen once included it in his deeply flawed catalogue raisonne on Van Dyck!
A collection disperses
April 15 2013
Picture: National Gallery
A sharp-eyed reader writes:
It seems as if the Lonsdale/Lowther collection is giving up its secrets. The Turner painting of Lowther castle, accepted in lieu, has been allocated to the Bowes [Museum]. As you have already posted, their Steen is on the block this Summer. And now this charming work [above] from the same source is on loan to the National Gallery.
Our reader also has this excellent idea on the old problem of increasing public access for pictures that are exempted from tax, but which are for practical purposes difficult to see:
All are listed by HMRC on their site detailing objects which have been conditionally exempted from tax. As one of the “conditions” is a degree of public access, I have wondered whether, for example, the PCF shouldn’t include works from this source in their database – they do, after all, include collections generally on view to, but not actually owned by, the public. And what a great, additional resource it would be.
Update - a reader adds:
Surely paintings in the Royal collection could be included in the PCF catalogue, as they are state holdings, their inclusion would be natural.
Adam de Colone and Adam de Colonia (ctd.)
April 2 2013
Picture: Burlington Magazine
Last year I mentioned an article in The Burlington Magazine by Rudi Ekkart, which seemed to show that the Scottish artist Adam de Colone and the Netherlandish painter Adam de Colonia were one and the same person. Well, it turns out that they weren't. In the latest issue of The Burlington (above, which focuses on British Art), former Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Duncan Thomson has shown that Ekkart missed out, or misunderstood, a crucial piece of evidence in relation to Adam de Colone's upbringing in Scotland, that is, a document that Colone signed for the Privy Council proving that he was born and raised in Scotland. This means that he cannot have been Adam de Colonia, who was brought up in Dordrecht and Rotterdam. I can't link to the letter here, but it's an important one to note for anyone interested in Scottish art history.
Newly found Reni makes CHF 1.2m
March 27 2013
Picture: Gallerie Koller
A re-discovered Assumption by Guido Reni has been sold in Switzerland for CHF1.22m, against a CHF 120,000 reserve. More details here.
Vermeer and Music at the NG
March 26 2013
Picture: National Gallery
The National Gallery has released details of their summer exhibition, Vermeer and Music. Details here.
Hot, in a 17th Century way
March 26 2013
Picture: Royal Collection, Frances Stuart by Sir Peter Lely
Buzzfeed has posted an art historically essential guide to the 13 hottest portraits of Restoration England. Nell Gwynn is number one.
The selection misses out my favourite, and the undoubted beauty of her age, Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond. She also did it for Pepys, who wrote, on 13th July 1663:
into the Queen’s presence, where all the ladies walked, talking and fiddling with their hats and feathers, and changing and trying one another’s by one another’s heads, and laughing. But it was the finest sight to me, considering their great beautys and dress, that ever I did see in all my life. But, above all, Mrs. Stewart in this dress, with her hat cocked and a red plume, with her sweet eye, little Roman nose, and excellent taille, is now the greatest beauty I ever saw, I think, in my life; and, if ever woman can, do exceed my Lady Castlemaine, at least in this dress nor do I wonder if the King changes, which I verily believe is the reason of his coldness to my Lady Castlemaine.
Lely the romantic novelist
March 25 2013
A reader sends me the above book cover, featuring Lely's portrait of Nell Gwyn. If you want one, the book is The Saturday Book 26, edited by John Hadfield, and published by Little Brown, Boston, in 1966.