Category: Discoveries

Lost Murillo found in Wales

November 23 2017

Image of Lost Murillo found in Wales

Picture: Sotheby's

A previously lost portrait by Murillo, of Don Diego Ortiz de Zúñiga, has been found at Penrhyn Castle in Wales. The painting is now in the Frick's Murillo exhibition - but as a last minute addition. It is published in the catalogue as a copy, because, as The Guardian reports:

One of the US exhibition’s curators, Xavier F Salomon, said [...] that he regretted relying on previous judgments by other art historians. “Most scholars have written that there are two versions [of the portrait], both copies after a lost original. One copy was in Seville, which I’ve seen and is clearly a copy,” he said.

Painted around 1751, the copy is thought to have been commissioned by the sitter’s family when the original Murillo was sold. Now attributed to the 18th-century Sevillian painter Domingo Martínez, it hangs in Seville town hall.

When it came to the Welsh example, Salomon said the literature featured “terrible old black and white photos”. He requested a colour image for his exhibition catalogue and featured it as a “copy”, even though he recalled his first impression was that “this looks really good”.

“I thought ‘people have always said it’s a copy, it’s got to be a copy’. Which is, of course, a mistake art historians should never make. Go with your gut feeling and you should follow up. I didn’t.

Don't be too hard on yourself Xavier - at least your initial reaction was right!

Off with his head!

November 21 2017

Image of Off with his head!

Picture: James Mulraine

When the art historian James Mulraine was visiting Hampton Court recently, he noticed that the in the famous painting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, someone had once cut off Henry VIII's head. It turns out (James is one of the best at finding out these things) that some bored Spanish courtiers had done it in the early 17th Century, as one contemporary recorded:

’The last weeke the Sp Ambr had long audience in the Gallerie at Whitehall with [The King] … that tyme his followers were in the next roome, where are many good pieces as your Lordship knoweth amongst others the siege of Kinsale and K:H8 his going into Bolloigne (wch is one of the best there) out of theise were many peeces cutt where the Spaniards received any disgrace in the first where a Spaniard is hanged at Kinsale and in the other the kings head cutt off… this is much spoken off.’

More here

Rubens' Clara Serena comes to Scotland

November 21 2017

Image of Rubens' Clara Serena comes to Scotland

Picture: Rubenshuis

Regular readers may remember the story of the discovery of Rubens' portrait of his daughter Clara Serena, mistakenly deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum as a copy. The picture has now gone on display at the National Gallery of Scotland up here in Edinburgh, until 28th January. More here

'Salvator Mundi' - the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction

November 16 2017

Image of 'Salvator Mundi' - the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction

Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art

It's 1am here in the UK and I've just witnessed the most extraordinary moment of auction drama at Christie's New York (via Facebook live). Leonardo's Salvator Mundi has sold for £400m hammer, or $450m with fees.

The lot was first announced as 'selling' at $80m, which I presume represents the level of the guarantee. Bidding was then brisk to the high $100ms, before, to audible gasps in the room, the picture broke through the $200m mark. Thereafter it was a battle between two phone bidders. The winning bidder kept making unilateral bids way above the usual bidding increments. Their final gambit was to announce, with the bidding at $370m, that their next bid was $400m. This finally knocked the competition out, and - after 19 minutes - the hammer came down. Whoever it was evidently has some serious cash to burn.

And so an Old Master painting has become the most expensive artwork ever sold. It will have completely overshadowed everything else in the sale. The next lot, a Basquiat (usually a high point for contemporary sales) bought in as the room buzzed with Leonardo chatter. Will the sale prompt people to now look anew at Old Masters? Maybe. It will surely end for good now the tired clicheé that the Old Master market is dead. 

Some immediate thoughts. First, the guarantor has made a few quid, and deserves it - guaranteeing that picture at this stage in its history (post rediscovery, and in the midst of an ugly legal battle between the vendor and his agent) was quite a risk. Second, the vendor - Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev - has made about $180m. He's in the midst of a legal battle with the person he bought the picture from, an art agent called Yves Bouvier, alleging that he was over-charged (it has been reported that Bouvier bought it from Sotheby's for about $80m, and sold it to Rybolovlev for about $125m - allegedly). I'm not sure how that over-charging allegation plays out now.

Third, Christie's just did something that re-writes the history of auctioneering. They took a big gamble with their brand, their strategy to sell the picture, and not to mention the reputations of their leadership team, and they pulled it off. They marketed the picture brilliantly - the best piece of art marketing I've ever seen. Above all, they had absolute faith in the picture. AHN congratulates them all. 

Finally, despite the fact that this picture enjoyed near universal endorsement from Leonardo scholars, and had a weight of other technical and historical evidence behind it, there was a tendency in many quarters to be sniffy about it. I found this puzzling - not just because (for what it's worth) I believed in the picture myself - since the determination amongst some to criticise the picture was in inverse proportion to their art historical expertise. It sometimes seems that the more famous the artist, the more people assume they are an expert in them. And with Leonardo being the most famous of them all, the armchair connoisseurs have been having a field day these last few weeks.

Anyway, I'm going to bed. What a ride. I was sure the picture would sell, but never imagined it would make this much. We must all now wonder where the picture is going to end up next. 

Re-discovered Lawrence portrait in Edinburgh

November 15 2017

Video: Lyon & Turnbull

The Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull have an unfinished portrait of a young girl by Sir Thomas Lawrence in their next sale. It's an early work, and can be dated to c.1790. The estimate is £30k-£50k, and the catalogue entry is here. [Disclaimer, I'm on the board of L&T!]

New discoveries at the JVDPPP

November 5 2017

Image of New discoveries at the JVDPPP

Picture: JVDPPP

The new Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project unveiled some more exciting discoveries at a press conference last week, including a previously unknown Jordaens panel above left. The picture is called The Penitent Peter and John the Evangelist Approaching the Tomb of Christ. From the JVDPPP website:

We had found a reference to it and a small black and white photograph, taken in 1971, in the database of the Belgian Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (IRPA-KIK) as belonging to the Church of Our Lady of La Cambre and Saint Philippus Nerius in Brussels. We visited the church but to no avail. Eventually Joost tracked it down within the Church fabric. Our research discovered that it was gifted to the church by Hortense Hannet (1855 – 1940) in memory of her husband, François Hannet (1837 – 1918), a Professor of Design in Brussels, and in whose collection it had resided. It had been exhibited at the 1905 Jordaens exhibition in Antwerp and it was listed by the art historian Max Rooses in his 1908 monograph on the artist but trace of it had been lost for over a hundred years and no image of it had been published.

Peter is a portrait of Abraham Grapheus, the Steward of the artists’ Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp. He was well-known to both young artists, Jordaens and Van Dyck. They were inscribed as apprentices in the Guild in the years 1607-8 and 1610-11 and became masters in the Guild in 1615-6 and 1618-9 respectively. Both used Grapheus’ distinctive face for depictions as an Apostle in their early religious paintings. We showed the museum’s Bust of an Apostle by Jordaens as a comparative example (oil on canvas, 59 x 48 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, inv. no. 121 – when it was first listed in 1806, and for many years afterwards, it was believed to be by Van Dyck). Further information on Grapheus, Jordaens and Van Dyck can be found in the recent exhibition catalogue, Abraham Grapheus, model van Jacob Jordaens, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent, 2012, including an image of a similar painting in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg (inv. no. 82) but with major differences.

New Zoffany discovery

October 30 2017

Image of New Zoffany discovery

Picture: Lowell Libson

The London-based dealer Lowell Libson has discovered a sketch by Zoffany for one of his most famous pictures, Colonal Mordaunt's Cock Match (c.1784-6). The original is in the Tate, and the newly found sketch (above) was painted in preparation for an engraving. Lowell's new catalogue, available online here, has an essay about the discovery by the art historian Martin Postle. Another newly discovered work is this exquisite Macbeth and the Three Witches by John Martin. Bravo!

Newly discovered £2m-£3m Constable at Sotheby's

October 29 2017

Image of Newly discovered £2m-£3m Constable at Sotheby's

Picture: Sotheby's

Sotheby's will sell in their London Old Master sale this December a newly discovered painting by John Constable, with an estimate of £2m-£3m. The picture, Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood, was painting between 1814-17. Says Sotheby's specialist Julian Gascoigne:

Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood was long mistakenly thought to be by Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1775–1862), a friend and contemporary of Constable’s, but recent scientific analysis and up-to-date connoisseurship has unanimously returned the work to its rightful place among the canon of the great master’s work and established beyond doubt its true authorship. It is without question one of the most exciting and important additions to Constable’s oeuvre to have emerged in the last 50 years.”

More here

Queueing for Leonardo (Ctd.)

October 26 2017

Image of Queueing for Leonardo (Ctd.)

Picture: TAN 

Back in 2011 I often reported on the queues to get into the National Gallery's Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. Now there are Leonardo queues in London again (reports The Art Newspaper) to see Salvator Mundi at Christie's. 

A Guido Reni upgrade

October 20 2017

Image of A Guido Reni upgrade

Picture: National Gallery

The National Gallery in London has recently cleaned a painting thought to be from the studio of Guido Reni, and has found that it is in fact by the man himself. The Toilet of Venus has now gone on display, and the NG's website says:

Several versions of this composition are known and this painting was long thought to be a copy made in Reni’s studio. However, recent conservation treatment has revealed far more of Reni’s hand at work than had previously been visible. The feathery brushstrokes on the central Grace’s arm, for example, are typical of Reni’s style. Visible changes to the picture’s design, such as the traces of pink drapery on Venus’s belly, show the artist working out his design. Infrared reflectography revealed more substantial changes, such as the addition of the putto at top left over a previously painted architectural scheme. These substantial changes, made during the painting process, not only strengthen the argument that this is the original composition on which other versions are based, but also tally with contemporary accounts that Reni delayed delivery of the painting in order to add in an entirely new figure.

An astute Twitter user has noticed that the painting was given to the National Gallery by King William IV along with another painting, Perseus and Andromeda. This painting, now very dirty and hard to make out, is also regarded as 'after Reni'. Might a clean reveal something new?

'Britain's Lost... Galleries'?

October 12 2017

Image of 'Britain's Lost... Galleries'?

Picture: TAN 

Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper reports that in Leeds Art Gallery, they've discovered a whole new gallery they didn't know about! More here

Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi' to be sold at Christie's

October 10 2017

Image of Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi' to be sold at Christie's

Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art.

Big news (via Eileen Kinsella at ArtNet) - the recently discovered 'Salvator Mundi' by Leonardo da Vinci is to be sold by Christie's in New York. The painting had been acquired by the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2013 for a reported $127.5m. The painting became a matter of some controversy, however, when the Russian discovered that the price he paid included a mark up of between $40m and $50m. Rybolovlev is currently suing his former art adviser, Yves Bouvier.

Rybolovlev appears to have fallen out of love with much of his art collection. He has begun to sell a number of 20th Century works through Christie's, some of which have earned him hefty losses. Earlier this year I had speculated on whether he would also soon sell his Leonardo.

Christie's are evidently pushing the boat out for the Leonardo sale - they're including it not in an Old Master sale, but a modern and contemporary sale. The painting will carry an estimate of $100m. Evidently, buy eschewing the Old Master auction, Christie's are signalling that it's not likely to be bought by any of the usual Old Master collectors, or even museums. The money is in the contemporary end of the market, so that's where they'll pitch the picture. If they sell the painting for something close to that amount, it will be a tremendous coup - one of the auctioneering feats of the century so far. This is, after all, a recent discovery, which has been the subject of some unjustly deserved but unwelcome publicity, and was last on the market only five years ago. In usual Old Master terms, that's not a good start. 

For more on the picture's history, put 'Salvator Mundi' into AHN's search box. I first saw it in 2011, and was impressed. It's now going on a worldwide tour.

Anne of Cleves panel discovered

October 5 2017

Image of Anne of Cleves panel discovered

Picture: Hever Castle

Slightly old news this, which I missed, but in March this year Hever Castle announced the acquisition of a new panel made for Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth queen. It was discovered by the historian Jonathan Foyle, and was an auction 'sleeper'. He wrote more about finding the piece here in the FT. 

In Russia, a new Titian discovery

August 28 2017

Image of In Russia, a new Titian discovery

Picture: Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

The Art Newspaper has news of a newly discovered Titian unveiled in Moscow. The painting, a version of Venus and Adonis, was thought previously to have been a copy when it was bought by a French dealer in 2005. But then a Russian collector, Vladimir Logvinenko bought the painting and had it restored, when it was apparently discovered to be a version by Titian himself.

Says TAN:

The collector would not reveal how much he paid for the painting but said that it was “much more” than the €50,000-€70,000 the previous buyer forked out. Logvinenko contacted the Pushkin's chief researcher and custodian of Italian paintings, Victoria Markova, to help restore the painting, but he was in for surprise. After a quick look, Markova judged the work to be by Titian. 

“When a painting has three layers [of paint] it’s difficult to determine if it’s an original. Marina had a look at it, made certain technological and radiographic research, and concluded it was an original”, Logvinenko says. “However, Marina and I realised we couldn’t restore the artwork in Russia as there aren’t enough Venetian art restorers here”.

They sent the Venus and Adonis to Italy where the country’s Ministry of Culture, Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, and Madrid’s Prado Museum backed up Markova’s research. The painting was restored in a Venetian art gallery and eventually sold by Logvinenko to “a group of collectors who are not Russian”.

For a long time it was believed that Titian’s Venus and Adonis on show at the Prado Museum was the earliest edition still in existence, painted in 1554 for King Philip II, but this may no longer be the case. “The Prado decided to study [the Moscow painting] and found a preliminary drawing under the colourful layer of the canvas, thus it should be considered the first version of the famous composition, which served as both the model for the Madrid canvas and numerous repetitions,” Loshak says. 

The version in the Prado is dated 1554, but Titian is first thought have made a Venus and Adonis in the 1520s, which was long presumed lost. Is the Moscow painting it? The Pushkin museum is now trying to raise the money to buy the painting, for a figure reported to be between $10m and $20m.

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

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