Category: Discoveries

That 'Bronte discovery' (ctd.)

July 25 2017

Image of That 'Bronte discovery' (ctd.)

Picture: JP Humbert Auctioneers

Back in 2012 AHN reported on a claimed portrait drawing of the Bronte sisters, which was said to be by Landseer. It was being offered for sale in a regional English auction house, but was then withdrawn, and no more was heard of it. Now it has been offered again at auction, and sold for £50,000. You can see for yourself the evidence that the three sitters are the Bronte sisters here. I can't say I find it immediately convincing. And I think it's tellint that neither 'Landseer' nor 'Bronte' appeared in the artist and title description. It was sold just as a;

Feminist Masterpiece - A delightful and charming watercolour portrait study on 'rag' paper of three young ladies C1838 with superlative facial detail.

Update - a reader writes:

I agree that  the evidence for the picture being by Landseer or of the Bronte sisters is not perhaps  conclusive.

However, it is an example of exemplary marketing by Humberts which other auctioneers might learn from. Auctioneers are the agents of the vendor. It is their duty to do their best by their principal. Auctioneers are not museums (tho viewings are more interesting than some museum visits), nor are they art historians publishing academic works on the lots they try to sell (tho some catalogues are just that).

One can be amused by an estate agent’s description of an average Victorian box as ‘historic’  and by some catalogue descriptions, whist in awe at the effectiveness of the professional service provided.

Bowie's Tintoretto at the Rubenshuis Museum

July 6 2017

Video: Antwerp Museums

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the unveiling of a new loan at the Rubenshuis museum in Antwerp (one of AHN's favourite museums, as regular readers will know). There was a wonderful concert of period music, played on 'instrumenti originale'.

The painting, of St Catherine, was one of the first artworks bought by David Bowie, and was sold with his collection last year in London by Sotheby's. It didn't fetch a great deal, to be honest (£191k), as its status was somewhat misunderstood - some suggested it was merely a studio piece. But new research has revealed that in fact it was a major commission for Tintoretto, in competition with Veronese, for a church in St Mark's square in Venice. And new analysis such as infra-red drawing has revealed numerous pentimenti, and astonishing underdrawing, which confirms it as an autograph work by Tintoretto. Eventually, it is hoped that a new campaign of conservation will remove any old overpaint. It has been sympathetically re-framed. 

For now, though, the painting looks fantastic at the Rubenshuis - Rubens of course being a great admirer of Tintoretto. A new book on the painting will further explore Rubens' interest in Tintoretto, and how he borrowed many of Tintoretto's poses. Also, it turns out that David Bowie was a frequent visitor of the Rubenshuis - so this all has a serendipitous feel to it, especially when you consider that the private collector who bought the painting in London only found out about it three hours before it was due to sell. And did you know that Bowie's music label was called 'Tintoretto Music'?

I'll post more details on this painting soon, with photos of the infra-red etc, showing the under-drawing. 

Identifying Anne of Hungary's Fool

July 5 2017

Video: Sotheby's

When the above portrait was first looked at by specialists it was thought to be of an unknown sitter. But clever decoding of the costume allowed identity of the subject as a court fool to Anne of Hungary, Elizabet.

Is there a €120m Caravaggio in your roof? (ctd.)

June 16 2017

Image of Is there a €120m Caravaggio in your roof? (ctd.)

Picture: Studio Sebert

Didier Rykner at Tribune de l'Art has some new information on the potential Caravaggio discovered in the roof of a house in Toulouse (above) last year. It was apparently the subject of a study session at the Louvre. But the Louvre, according to Rykner, is not minded to buy the work. More here

Newly found Parmigianino at Bonhams

June 6 2017

Image of Newly found Parmigianino at Bonhams

Picture: via ATG

Laura Chesters in the ATG reports that a newly discovered drawing by Parmigianino will be sold at Bonhams in London on 5th July, estimate £15k-£20k. More here

Two for the price of one (ctd.)

May 16 2017

Image of Two for the price of one (ctd.)

Picture: Washington Post

Conservators at the National Gallery of Art in Washington have discovered that a lost portrait (of a woman playing a piano) lies beneath the above 'Ruth and a Boaz' by Frederic Bazille. Since Bazille died at the age of 28, leaving only about 60 paintings, identifying another is quite a coup - even if we can never really see it. More here

A new Velasquez for sale in Spain?

April 23 2017

Image of A new Velasquez for sale in Spain?

Picture: Abalarte

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. 

Lost and found (ctd.)

April 19 2017

Image of Lost and found (ctd.)

Picture: ABC

From Australia comes news of another rare re-discovery:

A painting by renowned Australian landscape artist Eugene von Guérard, which has not been seen by art scholars for almost 150 years, has been rediscovered.

The work, titled View of the Granite Rocks at Cape Woolamai, depicts wild waves crashing over Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island along Victoria's coast and was last seen in public in 1873 at the Vienna World Exposition before it "disappeared".

Sotheby's Australia chairman Geoffrey Smith said the painting had been held by an international collector for the last 40 years, who was not aware of the work's significance.

More here.

Sleeper Alert!

April 11 2017

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Adam's Auctioneers

The above copper panel of Christ made €120,000 at Adam's auctioneers yesterday in Dublin, against an estimate of €800. Such is the fascination with all things sleeper-y these days that the auction house were keenly spreading the news themselves (here on Twitter, and here in the Irish Times). 

Van Dyck's fingerprint?

March 22 2017

Image of Van Dyck's fingerprint?

Picture: JVDPPP

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

Image of New Van Dyck oil sketch discovered

Picture: Artcurial

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.

Rare French royal lions discovered by Christie's

February 23 2017

Image of Rare French royal lions discovered by Christie's

Picture: Christie's

Sharp-eyed experts at Christie's sculpture department have identified two highly important lions commissioned for the tomb of Charles V of France. The two lions are by André Beauneveu (circa 1335–1402), and date from from 1364–66. Says the Christie's press release:

Originally executed to form part of the tomb of King Charles V of France at the Abbey of St. Denis, they were brought from France in 1802 by the English aristocrat Sir Thomas Neave (1761–1848), and have remained in the same collection ever since. Known to scholars only from an engraving of the 18th century, the emergence of these lions represents a remarkable re-discovery. Celebrating the art of medieval Europe, while simultaneously representing technical brilliance, the lions’ superlative quality means that they are worthy of any major museum or private collection.

Donald Johnston, Christie’s UK, International Head of Sculpture: ‘It is extraordinarily rare to offer any medieval work of art with such a fully documented provenance. The fact that this marble group was executed by one of the most important sculptors of the period and is part of an important royal commission makes it even more remarkable. The discovery of these lions in a private English collection is wonderful news for collectors and scholars who previously thought they had been lost during the French Revolution.’

Documents show that Beauneveu was commissioned by the young King Charles V shortly after coming to the throne to execute four family tombs, including the King’s own. One of the most important sculptors of late medieval Europe, Beauneveu took two years to complete the task after which he left the employ of the French crown, spending time in Flanders and – possibly – England, before ending his career at the court of Charles’s brother, Jean, duc de Berry. The tombs in Paris were dismantled by the revolutionary government in 1793 and today only the three male effigies survive. The effigy of Charles V, lacking the lions which had rested at his feet, was restored to the Abbey of St. Denis, Paris, where it remains today.

There's no estimate yet, but the lions will be in Christie's 'exceptional sale' in July.

Update - the price on the Arts Council notification of intention to sell page is £5m.

€15m Leonardo drawing discovery (ctd.)

January 6 2017

Image of €15m Leonardo drawing discovery (ctd.)

Picture: Tajan

The newly discovered Leonardo drawing of St Sebastian has been declared 'un trésor national' by the French state, after the auction house Tajan (who discovered the work) applied for an export licence. The official value, which must be raised by any French museum wanting to buy the work, is €15m. The clock has three years to run. (During which time I predict that no museum will attempt to buy it.) More here.

Newly discovered Velasquez donated to the Prado

December 14 2016

Image of Newly discovered Velasquez donated to the Prado

Picture: Museo Prado

A new body called the American Friends of the Prado has acquired a recently discovered portrait of Philip III of Spain by Velasquez. The picture was found by the celebrated Velasquez scholar William B. Jordan, who has donated it to the AFP. Here's the full story from the Prado's press release:

The first donation received by American Friends of the Prado Museum, on this occasion made by the art historian William B. Jordan, has entered the Museo del Prado as a long-term deposit. This is a previously unpublished Portrait of Philip III, which exhaustive research and technical analysis have confirmed to be an autograph painting by Velázquez. It will be exhibited at the Prado as a temporary, renewable deposit.

The work is a preparatory painting for the face of Philip III executed by Velázquez in relation to his composition The Expulsion of the Moriscos, executed in 1627 but destroyed by the fire in the Real Alcázar in Madrid in 1734 and only known from written descriptions as no copy of it has survived. 

The addition of this work to the Museum’s collections as a long-term deposit will contribute to completing its representation of Velázquez as a royal portraitist, given that it is a work of outstanding quality and previously unpublished in the scholarly literature. As such, it will help to cast light on one of the key works of the artist’s early period at court.

The painting was acquired by William B. Jordan on the London art market, where it was catalogued as a Portrait of don Rodrigo Calderón due to a false inscription at the top. Following its restoration, Dr Jordan studied the painting, leading him to consider the idea that it is a work by Velázquez, specifically a preparatory painting for the face of Philip III in The Expulsion of the Moriscos. 

Among the reasons that have led Dr Jordan to defend this attribution are: 
Philip III appears to be aged around 40 in the painting, his age in 1609 when the moriscos were expelled from Spain. 

Stylistically, the work necessarily dates from later than 1609. It must have been produced between 1623, when Velázquez arrived at court and introduced a new style of royal portrait that corresponds to that of this work, and 1631, when he returned from Italy and adopted a notably different portrait style.

The fact that Philip III is in profile and looking up indicates that this is not a portrait (in which the sitter normally looks straight ahead) but an image to be included in a narrative scene.

The fact that the work’s characteristics are not comparable to the styles of the other portraitists working at the court in the 1620s, such as Van der Hamen, Maíno, Diricksen, etc. 

A study of written descriptions of The Expulsion of the Moriscos suggest that the portrait of Philip III in that scene had a similar expression to this one and was looking in the same direction. 

Again, a study of those descriptions led Dr Jordan to consider the idea that The Expulsion of the Moriscos was conceived as a pendant to Titian’s painting of Philip II offering the Infante don Fernando to Victory (Museo del Prado), which hung in the same room (the Salón Nuevo in the Alcázar) for which Velázquez’s work was painted. This idea led him to compare the portrait of Philip II in Titian’s work with that of Philip III in the present painting; a comparison that revealed numerous points of comparison with regard to the size and pose of the portraits.

Sleeper Alert!

December 13 2016

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Sotheby's

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. 

New Rubens drawing after Raphael on display

December 10 2016

Image of New Rubens drawing after Raphael on display

Picture: Pheobus Foundation

A previously unknown drawing by Rubens after Raphael has gone on display for the first time in Belgium. The drawing (above) surfaced in a small auction house in Belgium earlier this year, and sold for €670,000 to the Phoebus foundation. I'm told the underbidder was the Metropolitan Museum in New York. 

Here's the Phoebus press release:

The pen-and-ink drawing with horsemen is a double-sided drawing. It is a study of Arab horsemen, which came under the management of The Phoebus Foundation in May of this year. Katharina Van Cauteren, curator of the exhibition and Chief of Staff of The Phoebus Foundation, explains why the work is so important. “This sketch is based on a scene by the Italian painter Raphael (1483-1520). However, Rubens isn’t making a copy. He breathes life into Raphael’s composition. Horses snort. Muscles are taut. A clever perspective draws the viewer into the story. This makes the drawing the first example of a brand new style: it is a forerunner of northern Baroque. With his entrepreneurial mind, Peter Paul Rubens was playing a new market here. His refreshing aesthetic was particularly to the taste of the public of his day. Rubens created an innovative visual language that conquered the world in no time”.

The drawing is on display in an exhibition organised by the Phoebus foundation in Ghent, called 'For God and Money: the Birth of Capitalism'. I went to see the show recently, and can highly recommend both it and Ghent. As regular readers will know, Belgium is my new favourite country. More on the show, which runs until 22nd January, here.

Judith Leyster self-portrait at Christie's

December 6 2016

Image of Judith Leyster self-portrait at Christie's

Picture: Christie's

There's a wonderful self-portrait by Judith Leyster at Christie's in London, which I hadn't really paid much attention to until I came face to face with it on Sunday. I also hadn't realised that it's a new discovery (Christie's press office, where were you?) which has only been known to art historians through a reference to the painting through the inventory of Leyster's husband, Jan Miense Molenaer. The picture is quite different from Leyster's earlier and more famous self-portrait, which is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The estimate is a very enticing £400,000-£600,000. It's from a UK collection - and I hope this picture can be acquired by a UK museum.

Update - some last minute digging in the attic of the vendor has uncovered the below family catalogue from 1957.

Interestingly, the picture was then known as a Leyster, but half a century later the identification had been lost, providing an interesting puzzle for Christie's specialists.

This happens quite a lot - indeed I've seen pictures appear at auction as 'sleepers' which had been sold as the real thing only a decade earlier. It's amazing how much information can be lost when one generation passes on. The analogy I often use is this; how many of us know the names of our great grandparents? Not many, I suspect, without looking it up. And yet we know so much about about our grandparents. 

The moral of the story is - always put a label your paintings!

Sleeper Alert!

November 14 2016

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Karl und Faber

The above small 'Florentine School' painting at Karl und Faber auction house in Germany, estimated at €3k-€4k, made €375k last week. The name Filippino Lippi has been suggested, and indeed the cataloguing of the picture on the auction house website has subsequently been amended to say that. Here's a comparable picture in the North Carolina Museum of Art.

New Breughel the Younger discovered in Bath

November 7 2016

Image of New Breughel the Younger discovered in Bath

Picture: Guardian/Holburne Museum

A newly discovered work by Peter Breughel the Younger will go on display next year at the Holburne Museum in Bath. The Wedding Dance was found by the new director there, Jennifer Scott, whilst having a rummage around the museum's stores. It was thought to be a later copy. The Guardian reports:

A rollicking painting of peasants dancing in the open air at a boozy wedding immediately caught the eye of the new director of the Holburne Museum in Bath when she first toured the stores of her new kingdom. Her eye was keen: from under layers of grime and discoloured varnish, a previously unrecognised work by the 17th-century Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger has emerged.

Wedding Dance in the Open Air had previously been catalogued not even as a studio work but as a lowly later copy. It has now been accepted by experts as a genuine work by the master, and will form the centrepiece of an exhibition next year at the museum on the Brueghel dynasty of artists, the first in the UK.

“The more I looked at the panel, the better it seemed,” said Jennifer Scott, who was curator of the Royal Collection before taking over in Bath two years ago. “Even under the grime the detail and the colour seemed fantastic, far too good for a mere copy.

“It helped that I had so recently been working on the Dutch and Flemish paintings in the Royal Collection. He is a wonderful painter, whose reputation has steadily been on the rise – even a few years ago people would have said: ‘Oh, bad luck, the Younger not the Elder,’ but now everyone is genuinely excited to hear of a new discovery of his work.”

The attribution means the museum now has three paintings by the artist, more than in any other UK collection.

The picture will be featured in an exhibition on the Brueghel dynasty, which opens February 11th, until June 4th. I'll be giving a talk at some point during the exhibition, date to be confirmed.

Sleeper alert?!

October 13 2016

Image of Sleeper alert?!

Picture: Christie's

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.

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