Previous Posts: December 2010
The world's most coveted painting?
December 29 2010
A new book makes the case for van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece.
More baffling Contemporaryartspeak
December 28 2010
From artdaily.com, describing a new exhibition (featuring Turner Prize Winner Simon Starling) at the Camden Arts Centre:
"It aims to create a temporal cacaphony by orchestrating a series of collissions between spatially and historically remote works, that themselves push and pull at an understanding of linear time."
December 27 2010
The number one art event of the last decade, according to Robert Ayres.
December 26 2010
Rolf Harris wants to paint Wills n' Kate.
The Future of Art History?
December 23 2010
Picture: David Hockney
David Hockney paints on his iPad.
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.
Courtauld defeats Jewish heirs to keep Rubens
December 20 2010
In a strange ruling, the UK’s Spoliation Advisory Panel has concluded that the heirs of a Jewish banker cannot claim ownership of a Rubens sketch sold under the Nazis. Herbert Gutmann sold the picture at Graupe auction house in 1934, a year after Hitler assumed full control of Germany. Austrian authorities, on the other hand, have previously decided that Gutmann’s paintings sold at Graupe should be returned to his heirs.
The case revolved around whether Gutmann sold the Rubens at its market value because of debts he was obliged to repay legitimately, or whether he was forced to sell the picture because of anti-semitism.
The basic facts of the case are these:
Louvre secures Cranach
December 17 2010
The Louvre has raised a million euros towards the EUR4M it needs to buy Cranach’s Three Graces. Amazingly, in these straitened times, the million boost came from 5,000 individual donors via the Louvre’s appeal website. "It's a magnificent Christmas present," the museum's director Loyrette said.
Looks like a bargain too. The picture was listed as a French National Treasure, meaning it could never be sold outside France. I fancy that if the picture was to appear in a Christie’s catalogue in London or New York, it would have a far higher estimate.
New Napoleon Exhibition
December 17 2010
In Bonn till 25th April 2011, then at Les Invalides in Paris.
Recreating a Raphael
December 16 2010
With real people, and togas.
Those Leonardo Stories
December 14 2010
Jonathan Jones has a good take on the recent crop of Leonardo tales.
Mona Lisa theory no. 672
December 13 2010
Picture: Nick Pisa
It’s been a busy few days for Leonardo da Vinci stories. Now an Italian researcher has found clues hidden in the Mona Lisa, which may reveal her identity. They are tiny brushstrokes only visible under magnification, and are ‘LV’ in her right pupil, and ‘B or S’ in her left (or perhaps even ‘BS’?).
Silvano Vincenti, President of Italy's Committee for National Heritage, who spotted the letters, says;
"Moving the Lady with an Ermine is absolutely crazy."
December 13 2010
So says Michael Daley of ArtWatchUK, ahead of the picture’s loan to the National Gallery’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibition in London, scheduled for November 2011 – February 2012. A group of Polish art historians is also anxious about moving the picture.
There's been a growing neurosis about moving, or occasionally even looking at, old paintings over the last decade. But the Lady will be fine. As long as the National Gallery doesn’t drop any more pictures, that is…
Lucknow at LACMA
December 12 2010
Picture: Philip Mould Ltd
A new exhibition on the court art of 18th and 19th Century Lucknow in India (then known as Oudh) has opened at LACMA. It runs until February 27th, when it departs for the Musee Guimet in Paris.
I'm pleased to say that our newly discovered portrait of Ghazi-ud-din Haidar, King of Oudh, by Robert Home will be joining the exhibition in Paris.
The Tudor Giant
December 9 2010
A full-length portrait of 'The Giant Porter' (7 1/2 feet), who worked for Elizabeth I, has gone on display at Hampton Court Palace. The Royal Collection picture, attributed to Cornelis Kettel, has been recently restored.
The Emperor's New Voice
December 8 2010
A song wins the Turner Prize.
74 Times the Estimate
December 8 2010
An interior of a church catalogued as 'Studio of Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597-1665)' has sold for £1,476,000 at Bonhams today. The estimate was £20,000 to £30,000.
It might appear at first as if a 'sleeper' has slipped through the net. But reading the text of the catalogue, it seems the auctioneers knew exactly what they were doing - it effectively says, 'we think this is really by Saenredam'. And by leaving open the element of discovery, the (rather dirty) 'studio' picture was the perfect cheese in the trap for the world's Old Master dealers.
The price beat the existing auction record for a Saenredam by some margin.
Poussin fails to fly
December 7 2010
Christie’s star lot at the Old Master sales this week, one of Nicolas Poussin’s Sacrament series – Ordination - has failed to sell. The estimate was £15-20 million. I hear that at least one US museum was interested, but in the end could not commit.
The picture was being offered from the collection of the Duke of Rutland, who has five Sacrament scenes in all. One of the seven, Penance, was destroyed by fire in 1816, and number six, Baptism, was sold by the 9th Duke in 1939. It is now in The National Gallery, Washington.
Ordination is a an exquisite work, but I feared before the sale that the estimate was a touch high. Realistically, any serious collector or museum who has that kind of money to spend is going to want to try and collect the series, or at least as much of it as they can. That means earmarking perhaps £100 million to get all five from the Rutland collection, with no guarantee that you ever could get all five, and knowing for certain that the one in Washington will always elude you. Meanwhile, a second (more dramatic) series sits enticingly in National Gallery of Scotland, on loan from the Duke of Sutherland, who has been known to sell the odd picture recently...
The Rutland trustees might perhaps have tried to put together a long term deal for all five, with say the Getty or Washington. I'd have taken anything over £50 million, and run...
Try reading it backwards
December 6 2010
Experts have been baffled by a scrawled 15th Century manuscript recently found in a French library. But holding it up to a mirror reveals it to have been written by Leonardo.