'The one that got away' - a newly discovered Rothko at Christie's
April 13 2011
Christie's will offer a previously unknown painting by Mark Rothko on May 11th, proving that you can even make discoveries with modern art. 'Untitled No.17', painted in 1961, was bought directly from the artist, and had never been heard of or seen since:
“It’s one of the very few that got away,” said David Anfam, London-based art historian and the author of “Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas.” “It went to a private collection soon after it was made and those collectors just kept a very low profile.”
The estimate is $18-22m. More here. Earlier this year, another newly discovered work by Andy Warhol made $17.4m. Sod finding lost Old Masters - I need to make find me one of these lost modern things.
Eisenhower speech on saving art in WW2 found
April 1 2011
'Ike' was no orator, but this newly discovered speech is well worth a listen. It relates Eisenhower's rationale behind his decision to help save the thousands of works of art looted by the Nazis.
We've been researching the work of Ike's 'Monuments Men' (those who helped find the stolen art) for our new BBC1 series, Fake or Fortune. We all have a lot to thank them, and Eisenhower, for.
The real lost Picasso?
March 27 2011
Police in Turkey have seized a painting being touted as a 'lost Picasso' stolen from the Kuwait National Museum in 1990 by Iraqi forces.
However, this tale seems strikingly familiar to an attempted con in 2009, when Iraqi police seized a similarly described painting (illustrated above) being offered for $10million. There are in fact no records of the Kuwait National Museum losing such a picture, and nothing like it is listed with the Art Loss Register.
Is this the artworld equivalent to those 'you've won the Nigerian lottery' emails?
March 24 2011
The Daily Mail reports:
A man who bought a painting because he 'liked the frame' and then stored it in his attic ever since has been stunned to discover it could be a £40m masterpiece.
Auctioneers have examined the painting thought to bare the signature of renowned French post-impressionist master, Paul Cezanne.
If it is proved to be authentic, it will be the earliest known work to have been created by the painter and could be worth a fortune, experts claim.
'It wasn't until I was reading an art book [the owner said] that I started to compare it to Cezanne and then I carefully unravelled it so I could see the markings. I realised that I could be looking at the first-ever Paul Cezanne painting.'
'I'll be keeping it very safe until an expert can confirm what I believe.'
I fear he may be keeping it safe for a long time...
Better photo of that new Van Dyck
March 22 2011
Picture: RASF, Madrid
A slightly better image of the newly discovered Van Dyck I mentioned earlier.
Van Dyck discovered in Spain
March 18 2011
This is exciting - a lost painting by Van Dyck appears to have been found in the stores of a Spanish Museum. The Virgin and Child Adored by Penitent Sinners is in the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid.
The news reports are sketchy and describe the painting as 'previously unknown'. I see from the 2004 catalogue raisonne, however, that there was a reference to a similarly titled work in the Spanish Royal Collection in 1681, so perhaps this is it. There is another version in the Louvre (below), in which the central penitent figure holds a different position. In 2004, Horst Vey described the Louvre version as being in bad condition. Perhaps the newly discovered version is in better shape - certainly, the hands and face of the central figure are more compelling than in the Louvre version.
I've asked the Academy of San Fernando for a better photo - I'll put it up here if I get it.
Some gems amongst the crowds at Maastricht
March 18 2011
It was a mistake to go to the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht on the opening day - too many people. If you happened upon a swarm of freeloaders around a canape tray, it actually became impossible to move.
Still, there were some fine pictures on display. Jack Kilgore had what I thought was the discovery of the fair, a work by the young Rubens. [More below]
March 7 2011
Greetings from Berlin, where I've come for the day to see a painting. Sadly, all the major galleries are geschlossen on Mondays, so there's not much art historical to report. I'm now at the airport, wondering if the implausibly cheap little chunks of 'Berlin Wall' on offer are real. Probably not.
In other news, the world's most expensive painting has gone on display at Tate. Naturally, it's a Picasso. I'm glad they've organised some half plausible art handlers for the photo-op - but I wouldn't recommend trying to hang your own $100m painting whilst standing on a ladder...
A new Mabuse?
March 2 2011
A reader has kindly sent me this image, which is an old photo of a painting stolen from a Croatian monastery in 1972. The Madonna and Child was believed by the Franciscan monks of Dubrovnik to be by Mabuse, or Jan Gossart, the star of the National Gallery's new show.
Of course, it is impossible to tell at this distance, but the painting is certainly Mabuse/Gossart/Gossaert-like. The composition is similar to that seen in the c.1520 Mauritshuis/Rijksmuseum Virgin and Child with the Veil, which is no.10 in Maryan Ainsworth's splendid new monograph.
The features and drapery in the Dubrovnik picture seem rather hard, and the pattern was quite widely copied. Nonetheless, it is worth a closer look - so if you know where it is, pray tell... [More Below]
'Now, for the Rubens estimated at Â£4-6m... do I hear Â£1m?'
February 23 2011
Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper has flagged up some astonishing developments in the case of the Rubens/notRubens portrait that was stopped for export in January.
I discussed earlier the difficulties the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art must have had when deciding whether to stop the painting being exported, given the uncertainty over the attribution. Now, however, the story has taken a bizarre twist. It reveals the immense power of the single acknowledged expert, and the potential pitfalls of submitting a painting to the Reviewing Committee.
The basic facts are; [more below]
Lost Sickert to be Sold
February 21 2011
A previously unknown work by Walter Sickert will be auctioned in London on 9th March. Blind Beggar was found in Scotland. Bonham's estimate is £40-60,000.
Van Gogh's Dying Sunflowers
February 15 2011
An international team of scientists has analysed the fading pigments used by Van Gogh, most notably his yellow. The findings confirm that over time his yellows have become brown, and will continue to get browner.
Van Gogh's original use of ultra-bright colours was dependent on the limited type of pigments available at the time. Inevitably, they will not last as well as pigments available later on, when paint companies had to cater for the very style that Van Gogh and his like had created.
Of course, Van Gogh was not the only artist who had trouble with his 'fugitive pigments'. Joshua Reynolds mixed his own experimental pigments, usually not very well. He had a particular problem with his reds and pinks. As a result, many of his portraits look like ghosts today.
Will future generations wonder why Van Gogh was so interested in dead flowers?
A New Raphael self-portrait?
February 11 2011
Picture: Alessandro Vezzosi & Scripta Maneant
A new book claims that a little known copy of Raphael's self-portrait is in fact by Raphael himself. The picture, which follows the Uffizi image, has been in a bank vault for many years.
You can flip through a section of the new book, and zoom in on the pictures, here.
It's hard to tell from the photos, but the 'new' picture is clearly much better than the ubiquitous copies one sees of the Uffizi image. Judging by the faded blue pigments of the background it appears to have some age to it. Elements of the face, such as the nose and lips, are well observed.
The Spirit of Romney...
February 1 2011
How weird is this? Two related works by George Romney are discovered independently by dealers, and end up in galleries next to each other. [more below]
One to keep an eye on...
January 29 2011
Sotheby's minor Old Master sale in New York was full of hidden treats. One of the pictures I liked was this Mengs self-portrait, a replica of that in the Uffizi. It was catalogued (with a rather blurry photo) as 'Circle of Mengs', but was well painted, and could certainly stand being 'Studio'. Indeed, the author of the Mengs catalogue raisonne thought it might have been painted by Mengs himself, in parts.
It made $25,000. I hope to see it again, cleaned.
Impressionist discovery in US 'yard sale'
January 28 2011
Picture: Skinner Inc.
A work by the American Impressionist painter Frederick Carl Frieseke has been bought in a 'yard sale' for less than $100. It will be auctioned on Friday 28th with an estimate of $50-70,000. More here.
Update 29.1.11; it didn't sell.
From Sleeper to Museum Wall
January 24 2011
I was interested to see this fine portrait of a gentleman by Quentin Metsys in the Metropolitan Museum in New York on Sunday. Not so long ago it had appeared in an auction in Switzerland with a very low estimate and called something like 'Flemish School' (I can't remember exactly).
I had it eagerly flagged up, but the picture was withdrawn from the sale. It then reappeared at Christie's in London correctly described and with an estimate of £700,000 - £1m. Now, it hangs happily reunited (on loan) with its pendant, which has belonged to the Met since 1931.
'Lost Rubens' faces Export Ban
January 18 2011
A portrait believed to be by Rubens has been stopped for export by the government's Reviewing Committee. The picture was offered at Sotheby's in December 2009 with an estimate of £4-6m, but failed to sell and is now priced at £1m.
The 'striking portrait of a very real, although unidentified, woman', according to the Committee's Chairman Lord Inglewood, must have presented the panel with a tricky dilemma. The so-called Waverley Criteria, by which a picture is judged to be of national importance, are;
How much will it make?
January 11 2011
A previously unknown self-portrait by Andy Warhol will be auctioned by Christie's London on 16th February with an estimate of £3-5m. It is the eleventh version on a 6ft large canvas, and newly authenticated. Previously there were thought to be only ten.
There are more than forty on the smaller 22 inch scale.
Update 20.1.11; full Christie's catalogue entry here.
December 22 2010
Picture: New York Times/Metropolitan Museum
After a long campaign of conservation, curators at the Met in New York believe that their ‘workshop’ portrait of Philip IV is in fact an autograph work by Velasquez. It had been downgraded in 1973. The New York Times has a fascinating article, where you can see the picture before and after conservation.
Philip’s left eye had been totally obliterated, and has had to be recreated (very well I think) from other versions of the portrait. Despite appearances, the picture is actually in a relatively good state. The story is yet another example of how a picture’s condition can throw people off the scent – ‘dirty’ paintings, obscured by old varnish and over-paint, are often hard to read.
The Met’s attribution of Philip IV follows on from their earlier upgrading of Portrait of a Man from workshop to autograph.