Thornhill's Greenwich painted hall restored
May 2 2013
Picture: Country Life
Read all about it here.
New acquisition at the Met
April 10 2013
Picture: Philip Mould & Company
We sold a portrait to the Met! This very fine self-portrait drawing by John Vanderbank can be dated to c.1720.
For pastel fans...
April 2 2013
Picture: Alte Pinakothek, Munich
...allow me to direct you to a fine piece of research by Neil Jeffares, King of all things pastel, on a previously obscure sitter painted by La Tour, Elisabeth Ferrand.
Bowes Museum acquires Turner
March 21 2013
Picture: Bowes Museum, via Art Daily
The Bowes Museum, fresh from gaining a Van Dyck, is now also up a Turner, after it successfully bid for the above Lowther Castle - Evening from the government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme. More details here.
When is a painting not a painting?
March 19 2013
Answer; when it's a piece of 'machinery'. The trustees of Castle Howard, above, have won an important case on UK tax law, concerning the sale in 2001 of Sir Joshua Reynolds' Omai, which will have an impact on the disposal of pictures from stately homes. From The Telegraph:
The proceeds of the sale, part of the estate of the late Sir George Howard, have since been the focus of negotiations over whether capital gains tax should be paid.
Executors had argued is was one of the main attractions bringing visitors to Castle Howard, in North Yorkshire, and should be viewed as integral to running the house as a business.
On Monday, Mr Justice Morgan ruled the painting did fall into the category of "plant and machinery" as defined by the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992.
In a move likely to bring hope to other stately home owners, this classification makes it exempt from the tax levy.
The judge's ruling, at the Upper Tribunal, found the artwork should be viewed as a piece of "apparatus" and a "wasting asset" that, at least in theory, became worthless 50 years after it was placed on public display in the 1950s.
Personally, I'm always pleased to see the tax man lose. But on a wider scale this is also good news for the public too. From now on, there will be a clearer incentive, for those fortunate enough to own great paintings in great houses, to put important works of art on public display as much as possible. They might even be encouraged to loan them out more.
Update: top tip for anyone wanting to sell their art and avoid capital gains tax - turn your living room into a 'museum' for a few years before you sell.
The Met buys a sleeper
March 5 2013
Paul Jeromack in The Art Newspaper reports that the Metropolitan Museum has pulled off a bit of a coup, with the purchase of the above drawing by Jacques Louis David for just $840. It came up for sale in a minor auction in New York, called 'French School, early 19th Century'. It relates to David's painting The Death of Scorates, which belongs to the Met.
The auction, at Swann Galleries, took place on 29th January during New York's Old Master week. In other words, the Met bought a sleeper in the same week that they might well have sold one.
Plug - new Kneller discovery
February 27 2013
Picture: Philip Mould & Company
I thought I'd mention an unfinished picture by Sir Godfrey Kneller we've just discovered here at the gallery. It came up on the Continent as German School, and was much over-painted. Happily, the over-paint was easily removed, and we also found Kneller's signature on the back of the original canvas when we re-lined it (always nice to have your connoisseurial hunch confirmed like that). It's a rare religious picture by Kneller, and probably shows his daughter, Catherine Voss, modelling as Mary Magdalene. Although the picture is unfinished, as shown in the very sketchy handling of the fabric and background, Kneller himself must have viewed it as somehow complete, hence the signature. More details at Philip Mould & Company here.
February 26 2013Pic: PCF
When a member of the Talbot family had to sell an octagonal portrait of Henry VIII to fund repairs they were struck with a problem - they had no octagonal potrait to fill the plaster frame attached to the wall. They did however have a three-quarter length and a knife...
Stubbs' Dingo and Kangaroo blocked for export
February 6 2013
The government has temporarily blocked the export of two important paintings by Stubbs. From The Guardian:
The work is called The Kongouro from New Holland, or The Kangaroo, and the arts minister Ed Vaizey on Tuesday announced an export bar on it and a painting of a dingo by Stubbs.
Vaizey was acting on the recommendation of a committee which monitors the export of important works of art. He deferred a decision on an export licence until at least August.
The two paintings would have offered Britons the first look at the strange creatures from the new world that were being talked about as a result of Captain Cook's expeditions to the Pacific in the late 18th century.
They are likely to be sold to a foreign buyer unless a UK buyer can raise a matching offer of £5.5m. Lord Inglewood, chairman of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, said: "It would be a terrible shame if the UK were to lose these extraordinary paintings to an overseas buyer. They were the British public's first introduction to these exotic animals from the Australasian new world which was opening up at that time."
New restitution claim - from the French Revolution?
February 4 2013
Picture: Musee des Beaux-Arts, Nantes
ArtInfo has news of another impossible long-sighted restitution claim:
During the French Revolution, the French army took a Rubens painting from the cathedral in Tournai. The work, titled “The Triumph of Judas Maccabeus,” [above] ended up in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes. Now the Belgian town is demanding the work’s return.
Rudy Demotte, president of the French Community of Belgium, has written to French president François Hollande and culture minister Aurélie Filippetti to ask that the painting be returned, Le Journal des Arts reports. He made the same request to the French government last year but received no reply.
Ludicrous though the claim is, it's a bit rich of the French to ignore this one, after they recently seized a painting they said was stolen in the French Revolution. That said, I still think that we need to think about a time limit for restitution cases. Otherwise minor politicians like Rudy Demotte will continue to seek media coverage by making silly claims like this.
Update - a reader writes:
I agree that some sort of time limit should be in force but, frankly, the seizure of the Tournier by the French state last year was - to say the least - a bit rich.
Anyone visting the Louvre will notice that many major works in its collections were accessioned during the Revolutionary Wars: ie they were brought there from all over Europe by Napoleon's forces. Altarpieces by Cimabue, Giotto, Fra Angelico - all the way to Carracci and Barrocci - were "acquired" from Italian churches: indeed all sorts of objects, like the Rubens, found their way into French museums never to be returned.
While I think it is too late for restitution in most cases there are one or two instances where this should happen, for reasons of artistic inegrity as it were - though this might in itself provide a dangerous precedent.
If one visits the Doges Palace yawning gaps will be seen in the coffered ceilings in two rooms - these were filled by paintings by Veronese removed by Napoleonic forces and still in the Louvre. And then there's also the blank wall the end of the refectory in S Giorgio Maggiore which contained Veronese's Marriage at Cana in the Louvre. I seem to remember that the Treaty of Vienna specified the return of the latter but the French did a deal with Austria - who were given control of the Veneto - and exchanged it for a LeBrun for Vienna instead.
Perhaps the most heinous example of not returning an object concerns Mantegna's altarpiece from S Zeno in Verona. Again, the restitution was specified in the Treaty of Vienna and the French complied, in part. The main panels sent back to the church but the French kept the three predella panels: the Crucifixion is in the Louvre and the two others are in Tours.
It's worth pointing out that French institutions, as well as individuals, were also targetted during this time: the Louvre's van Eyck of the Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin came from Autun Cathedral.
Mozart discovered in miniature?
January 14 2013
Picture: Stiftung Mozarteum
There were few details available in the English press, but if you're German is good enough you can read here details of what seems to be an exciting new discovery of a portrait miniature of Mozart. In a nutshell, the miniature above, long uncertainly called Mozart, has been firmly identified as him by the Stiftung Mozarteum in Salzburg thanks to an engraving done in 1829 by Gottschick after a portrait by Joseph Grassi, whom Mozart is known to have met in Vienna.
Here's one I missed earlier
December 21 2012
Picture: The Magazine Antiques
In The Magazine Antiques, Christopher Bryant has an excellent article on a long-lost portrait of Captain Gabriel Matruin by John Singleton Copley, recently found at an auction in the US (and alas not by me!).
'Constable, Gainsborough, Turner' at the RA
December 10 2012
Picture: RA, Thomas Gainsborough, 'Romantic Landscape' c.1783.
I'm looking forward to seeing 'Gainsborough, Constable, Turner and the Making of Landscape', which is open till the 17th February. I thought of going this weekend, but these days I'm trying a new exhibition-visiting practice of reading the catalogue before seeing a show.
In The Guardian, Michael Prodger makes an interesting point about how ubiquitous 'Turner and...' exhibitions seem to be these days:
There is nothing particularly new about either the theme or the participants. The birth of the Georgian landscape in art, literature and gardening has been minutely examined down the years. This exhibition's three big names are all familiar; indeed, after Turner and Claude at the National Gallery and Turner, Monet and Twombly at Tate Liverpool, this is the third show this year to present Turner in company with other artists – it's as if he is no longer safe to be let out on his own. Nor was the Royal Academy always so keen on its headline acts. While Turner, from child prodigy until his death, was an academician through and through, both Gainsborough and Constable had fractious relationships with the institution. The latter once had to sit silently as a member of the RA rejected one of his paintings because it was "a nasty green thing". He was elected a full academician only aged 53 and even then by just one vote.
I see that the exhibition is being sponsored by (gasp) - a dealer! Large round of applause please for Lowell Libson.
Porn alert! (ctd.)
November 23 2012
Picture: Royal Collection
I wonder what they will dare display!
Not much, would be my guess. Imagine the official opening...
November 12 2012
Picture: Philip Mould & Company
...is always one of our busiest months of the year. I'm not entirely sure why - it may be because people are thinking acquisitionally, ahead of the December Old Master auctions. Today, for example, my colleague Emma Rutherford sold three miniatures, all to new clients, and I sold the above Romney of Mrs Raikes and her Child.
The Romney had been most curiously over-painted by a duff restorer. The detail below shows Mrs Raikes' arm, which had been entirely re-touched in a gloopy brown glaze. This glaze obscured all the form and detail in the dress, and all trace of shadowing above and below the arm. (The right-hand side of the picture below shows our cleaning test). It was as if the previous restorer only had one dark colour on their palette, and decided to restore the whole dress in that one colour. And because it didn't match all the areas he or she needed to restore, they simply re-painted the whole dress in same shade of dark brown. Now that we've taken all this gunk off, the picture has blossomed into one of Romney's more engaging maternal portraits. It's a testament to my boss's x-ray vision - he thought he detected something more promising beneath the over-paint, even from the auction house's photographs.
The picture once belonged to the great collector Henry Clay Frick - did he perhaps employ the restorer from hell? Possibly. But actually we find this sort of thing quite often - restoration standards, even until relatively recently, were far below what we expect today. If you had an area of damaged background, for example, it was easier just to re-paint the whole background one colour, rather than attempt to fill any individual holes. Romney was hotly collected in the US in the early 20th Century, and it's often the case that Romney portraits which have at some time been in America have suffered from unneccessarily extensive restoration. Here's a previous example. Perhaps it was something to do with the American market wanting their pictures to look new and shiny bright.
Treat of the week
November 9 2012
There are plenty of nice things on offer. A particular treat is the above copy of a Van Dyck by Gainsborough (lot 44) - for an 18th Century picture, what better confluence of artists could there be?
November 6 2012
If you like European 18th Century portrait miniatures, then the best place in the world to see some at the moment is at our gallery. Today we are installing an exhibition of miniatures from the renowned Tansey collection. The show, called Miniatures from the Age of Marie Antoinette, opens tomorrow, until 13th November.
View from the Artist no.12 - answer
November 2 2012
Picture: National Trust
Thanks for all your guesses. Most of you were pretty close, as the subject matter was a bit of a giveaway:
Can't think where a pastoral scene can lie outwith a city in a semi ruinous state. So I am going to guess that it is Jerusalem and there is something of a saintly nature going on in the section that is concealed. I would go Flemish but would want to research this if my baked potato were not sitting on the table in the distance.
Another reader wrote:
Could you possibly expand the detail (not to blind your readers) and to see if someone spot something in the ruins that helps to establish which one it is?
This was amongst the early correct answers:
Artist's view no. 12 is the Jakob Ph. Hackert [Excavations at Pompeii] from Attingham Park [in Shropshire], 1799.
Do I win a cruise now?
Alas, AHN's prize fund is in negative equity. At least one reader was thrilled to be right:
I'm elated to say that I came [up] with the answer: it's from Hackert's Ruins of Pompeii, Attingham Park, The Berwick Collection.
The picture is currently on display at the Getty Centre in Malibu. Not sure why.
Update - a reader alerts me to the current Pompeii exhibition at the Getty.
Appreciating Wright of Derby, ctd.
October 25 2012
Picture: Derby Museum
I recently wrote about the apparent lack of appreciation for Joseph Wright of Derby's paintings in Derby, where the local paper foolishly asked if the town should sell its collection of Wrights. Now, a reader alerts me to a PhD grant available for research into how Derby embraced Wright's work in the 19th Century:
The aim of the research project is to examine the meanings and reputation of Wright's art in the century following his death in his home town of Derby, in relation to wider currents of culture and society, including programmes of civic improvement. The project will primarily involve study of the collection, curation and exhibition of Wright's work, and the development of new cultural institutions, notably Derby Museum and Art Gallery which now has the world's largest and finest collection of Wright's paintings and drawings.
Probably, the conclusion will be that Wright was more appreciated in the 19th Century. Sigh. If you want to apply, more details here.