Previous Posts: December 2014

UK government's £44.3m buying spree

December 5 2014

Image of UK government's £44.3m buying spree

Picture: Arts Council

We're lucky in the UK to have something called the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme. This allows those with a bill for inheritance tax to offset some of that tax by allowing the government to acquire a work of art, or an item of cultural importance. This year's AIL report has just been published, and it's well worth a read, with interesting entries for each item, from portraits by Lawrence to Lucian Freud's collection of Auerbachs.

The figure for works acquired this year is £44.3m, which is a little down on the previous year's total of £49.4m, but still significantly higher than previous years, thanks to the Chancellor's decision raise the financial cap on acquisitions. The total includes works given to the government under the new Cultural Giving scheme, which works in the same way to AIL, but doesn't afford the donor a 100% tax write off - it's partly philanthropic.

Now, I don't like to make a habit of lauding the government, but in this respect they deserve considerable praise. You often read in the press of works acquired under AIL being 'given' or 'bequeathed' to the nation by their previous owners, but it is in fact no such thing. It's a straightforward purchase by the government, with an amount of tax foregone. This year, therefore, the government spent £44.3m funding acquisitions for our national and regional museums. So next time you hear of savage cuts in the arts and heritage sector, remember that, along with the changes to allow National Lottery good cause money to be spent on objects (rather than projects), this is one of the most generous times for acquisitions ever known.

The system works very efficiently. I've recently been asked to help assess a picture offered under the AIL scheme, and not only is each case rigorously judged to see if it is of 'pre-eminence' - that is, suitable for display in a museum - but there is then a thorough investigation of the object's value. Often, and perhaps understandably, those submitting a work under the AIL scheme hope to write off more tax than the government thinks the work might be worth. 

Incidentally, I see from the report that Freud's Auerbachs have not yet been formally allocated. There was some debate here on AHN earlier about whether these should go to the Tate en masse, or be split up and given to more than one gallery. Given Tate's tendency to display on a fraction of their works, it seems to me a no brainer that the works should be more evenly distributed around the country.

Update - a reader writes:

I mentioned a while back that I thought certain collections seem to be favoured in the allocation of AIL items.  A crunching of the numbers from the reports covering the last five years now provides some interesting results.

It should be borne in mind that the figures below only include entire cases where an allocation has been confirmed: it does not include cases which consist of groups of objects split between institutions, as individual valuations are not available.

Since 2009, tax written off in AIL cases amounts to £97.74 million.  Of this total the following are the main beneficiaries:

1. The Ashmolean, Oxford  £14.97 million (15.6%)

If one considers the University of Oxford as a whole, a further £1.17 million needs to be added to this total to cover The Bodlian.

2. The National Trust  £13.63 million (14.2%)

Allocations include land. The amount is not surprising given the Trust previously accepted property without chattels and these are surrendered on a regular basis.

3. The Fitzwilliam, Cambridge   £11.51 million (12%)

4. The National Gallery, London   £5.60 million (5.9%)

5. The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh  £3.4 million (3.7%)

Probably these figures show that, as with anything concerning acquisitions, success mostly comes down to the enthusiasm and effort put in by the museum staff themselves. Whether it's buying outright or acquiring through a scheme like AIL, acquisitions take up a lot of time and paperwork, and sometimes (to be frank) this can be offputting for some museums. So, congrats to the Ashmolean for coming out top.

Art world bureaucracy

December 5 2014

A word of warning for any picture buyers out there; did you know that if you buy an 'old' painting in Spain, and want to export it, you need an export licence, even if it's worth just 1 Euro? It also doesn't matter if the picture has been in Spain for less than a week. If it's there, and 'old', you need an export licence.

I bought a picture at auction there in October, and am still waiting for the licence to come through. The picture in question can hardly be considered Spanish cultural heritage, since it only ended up there in the last decade or so, having been bought by the previous owner in London. But it's a nice job creation scheme for someone in the Spanish civil service. As a dealer also waiting for a licence said to me, you might as well pay someone to paint the grass green.

The varying export licences around the world make for interesting comparisons. In the US, there is no export licence system at all. In Italy, you're lucky to get anything out of the country, the effect of which, in practice, means that if you own a nice painting in Italy, it isn't worth much, unless you can smuggle it out, which happens. It seems to me that the UK's system - of only stopping works where a museum can make a case for its acquisition - is the fairest way to go. That said, it's always dependent on the resources available at that particular moment. 

Update - a Spanish reader writes:

As a keen follower of your blog, I could not resist to write you about your experience with the Spanish export license. It is true you need such a license for everything older than 100 years (not 50 years as the in the EU rule) and that the evaluating committee meets only once every month. The system is slow, and the criteria are not entirely clear, but in general it works. Besides, it is free of taxes when you are exporting the work to another EU country.

Otherwise, there is an interesting, yet relatively unknown exception to this rule. As a way to encourage the import of art works, if you quickly report such an import to Spain, then the imported work gets an automatic 10 years exemption of the export license, meaning you do not need it to export it outside Spain. I think it is a good thing to do if you are a foreign dealer trying to sell something in Spain.

Bargain of the week?

December 4 2014

Image of Bargain of the week?

Picture: Sotheby's

So the Old Master sales are over, and I didn't buy a sausage. To be honest, there wasn't much in the sleeper line, at least nothing in my little niche of what some have been kind enough to call expertise.

I did have a go at the above picture, however, which was a bit off piste for me, in that it was Spanish. It was catalogued as 'After Goya'. Regular readers may know that I'm not exactly a Goya fan, at least not when it comes to his skills as a portraitist.

However, the picture seemed to me to be in with a very strong chance of being by Goya. It's a copy of Velasquez's celebrated portrait of Innocent X, the prime version of which is in the Doria collection in Rome. There was, though, a replica of the head by Velasquez in the Spanish Royal Collection, which Goya would have known, not least when he made his many engraved copies of Velasquezs in the Spanish Royal Collection. That picture is now in the Wellington Collection at Apsley House, below, it having been given to the 1st Duke of Wellington. 

The picture on sale at Sotheby's had previously carried a (probably 19th Century) inscription attributing the work as a copy by Goya after Velasquez (below). It had been published in almost every Goya catalogue raisonné going as a work by Goya, including by the late José Gudiol, one of the more renowned Goya scholars. It was exhibited as recently as 1989 as a Goya. But the current crop of Goya specialists evidently doubted it,as did Sotheby's.

Now I'm not saying that just because a painting used to be attributed to one artist that it must still be. Of course, scholarship moves on. But in art history, or at least the art market's view of art history, there is a curious tendency to disregard the work and attributions of an art historian as soon as they're dead. So in this case, the opinion of Gudiol and all those others who'd accepted the attribution didn't matter, but the opinion of the current, living Goya scholars did, whether they've written as much as a catalogue raisonné or not. I don't think you'd get the same in other disciplines; Einstein has been dead for decades, but E still equals MC squared.

The picture at Sotheby's was in almost pristine condition, and at first sight looked in parts as if it wasn't 'period', that is, that it was painted later than the 18th Century. But I came to the conclusion that it was period, and that it was most likely by Goya on the basis not only of some of the handling, but of the very idiosyncratic characterisation. In other words, whoever painted the portrait made the sitter look not like Velasquez's Innocent X, but Goya's Innocent X. It wasn't a copy of the Velasquez in the conventional sense - there must be hundreds of those around - but more a portrait of a portrait, if that makes sense.

Often, portrait artists develop a way of 'drawing' faces which they use repeatedly for the basic construction of their sitte's heads, and it is sometimes very easy to identify; at one extreme, it's the reason why some say all of Lely's sitters look the same. For an idea of what I mean in relation to Goya, see Goya's early self portrait from the 1770s, the same period the Sotheby's picture used to be dated to, which seems to me to have a similar characterisation to the portrait at Sotheby's:

Anyway, I can't easily understand how any other artist would set out to make a copy of a Velazquez, but intentionally make it look like a Goya, and very convincingly, unless the picture at Sotheby's was a modern fake, which it wasn't. The Sotheby's catalogue implied that the picture was a copy after Goya's own, lost copy of the Velasquez. But in my view it was too spirited and animated to be the work of an imitator of Goya copying Goya's own copy after Velasquez.

Goya is known to have made a number of copies in oil after Velasquez, but the others are lost, so we don't have anything directly comparable to look at. All I could deduce in my research was that they appeared to be the same size as the Sotheby's picture. Maybe in time they'll be found, and maybe in time opinion on the Sotheby's picture will swing back to Goya again. 

The picture sold for £37,500 against an estimate of £10,000-£15,000. You might ask why I didn't go further, if I was so sure it was by Goya, for a genuine Goya copy of a Velasquez should be very valuable indeed. Two Spanish greats for the price of one! But the picture represented a long term 'hold', and wasn't much of a commercial prospect in the short term. My expertise, such as it is, doesn't cover Goya at all, and I doubt anything I said could sway the opinion of Goya scholars any time soon. It's the sort of picture that will probably remain 'after Goya' for some time, no matter how unjustified that attribution is.

If you bought it, kudos, and good luck...

Update - a reader writes:

If Goya painted this copy of Velasquez's Pope Innocent X - quite a reasonable idea I think- Why did he first paint in the greyish beard and then apparently paint it out again with reddish flesh coloured paint?  Did he, or whoever the copyist was want to imagine what the Pope would have looked like without a beard? If so why?

Not sure I noticed it quite like that myself.

Duke's Titian declared genuine

December 4 2014

Image of Duke's Titian declared genuine

Pictures: Museo Prado

The Times alerts me to the conservation and re-attribution of a picture by Titian, which belongs to the Duke of Wellington. The picture, a Danaë, was cleaned by the Prado, and proved to be the original painting that once belonged to Philip II of Spain. Painted in about 1551-3, it entered the Wellington collection when it was given to the 1st Duke, following his victories over the French in Spain. It was recently thought to be a copy, but it is in fact an autograph repetition of Titian's first Danaë, which was painted in 1544/5, but with the addition of the old woman on the right. The photo below shows the picture in its stripped down state.

More here on the Prado's website, including videos.  

Sleeper alert?

December 4 2014

Image of Sleeper alert?

Picture: Sotheby's

This curious picture, of Icarus and Daedalus, made £332,500 at Sotheby's day sale, against an estimate of just £8,000-£12,000. Catalogued as '18th Century follower of Van Dyck' the picture was in fact a 17th Century work, and also the original of that composition, which is known in a number of copies. The subject was a very popular one in the 17th Century. The picture was engraved in the late 18th Century as by Van Dyck. The condition was disarmingly good, which may have led some to think it was a later copy. I had a good look at the picture on Monday. But I didn't bid on it. I'm not sure who it's by, but I don't think it's Van Dyck. It's someone good though, like a Willeboirts Bosschaert type figure, or one of the many talented figures just downstream of Van Dyck. Of course, I am always prepared to be wrong...

Why Penny will be missed

December 4 2014

Image of Why Penny will be missed

Picture: Timothy Foster/Apollo

There's a good interview by Thomas Marks in The Apollo with National Gallery director Nicholas Penny, who has been named the magazine's 'Personality of the Year'. The article neatly distills his directorial philosophy, which I hope will in some way live on after his departure.

Do read the whole thing, but here are two key points. First, on the importance of thinking in a scholarly, even connoisseurial way, for the long term:

For Penny, the mandate of a public museum has meant working to a far longer time frame than a more impresario-minded director might allow for: ‘Museums and art galleries’, he says, ‘weren’t really established for “the public”, in the sense of today’s living people, they were always intended to be regarded from a far higher altitude in terms of time – they were for posterity.’ He continues: ‘People talk all the time about how it’s really important to get more young people in, which is perfectly good, but I really think it’s more important that people in my position should be thinking about what’s going to happen in 30 years’ time. If you do that, you’re keener to look after – and I don’t just mean protect, but actually research and think about – all the most unpopular art that happens to be in the National Gallery today.’

That means heeding less fashionable Old Masters, as well as the ‘tickety-boo’ paintings that bring so many tourists to the gallery each year. Penny points out the correlation between a moribund market for Old Masters and an alarming diminution in experts in the field: ‘When you look at old auction catalogues from 20 or 30 years ago, it’s quite dramatic. There were 10 times more museum-quality works. If museums aren’t buying in these areas, they won’t value having curators in them, and the auction houses will have fewer experts. You can actually see that some areas of connoisseurship are shrinking.’ It is a disquieting situation, but one that might be said to have spurred Penny on at the National Gallery: ‘A place like this has to make itself a centre for expert knowledge about the pictures we have. We can’t rely on university art history departments producing people who’ll help us decide whether a Gaudenzio Ferrari really is by Gaudenzio Ferrari. We have to be a centre for study and scholarship – I think I’ve done quite a lot for that at the National Gallery.

[...]

’Penny has not pushed building projects at the National Gallery; his interventions in this respect have been more delicate than grand. ‘The most important thing about the permanent collection in my time as director,’ he says, ‘is that by the time I leave, every single Victorian or Edwardian ceiling – with the original day-lit arrangements and plasterwork – will have been exposed and restored.’ Here, as elsewhere, Penny has looked to the past for examples. But this year has also seen a cluster of developments that will modernise visitor experience, including the introduction of Wi-Fi in the galleries; reversing the ban on photography; and the launch of the museum’s first membership scheme. ‘The gallery’s got to respond to what you might call the common expectation of a visitor. It will always change in that way.’ Even here, however, in thinking about what these policies might entail, the importance of precedent is palpable: ‘New forms of antisocial activity arise at different times. In the Ashmolean Museum in the 1920s, all the undergraduates started whistling and the curatorial staff were driven absolutely crazy. They thought there was nothing more important in the world than stopping whistling.’

Art History sexism (ctd.)

December 4 2014

Image of Art History sexism (ctd.)

Pictures: Getty

Further to my post below, a reader has discovered a treasure trove of images from Sotheby's recent Turner press call. They're all here, the Useless White Glove shots, the Girl Looking Admiringly shots, and even my favourite, the Girl Walking Blurrily Past shots. 

Turner hits £30m

December 4 2014

Image of Turner hits £30m

Picture: Art Daily

Congratulations to Sotheby's for achieving a record price for Turner last night; £30.3m for 'Rome, from Mount Aventine'. 

Regular readers will know why I've used the above photo.

Sotheby's sale total last night was £53.9m. So even without the Turner they'd have comfortably beaten Christie's total of £13.9m, by some £10m. Other strong results included: a Canaletto of St Mark's square, at £5.48m; a Pieter Brueghel the Younger village scene at £2.6m; and a still life by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder at £1.02m. This last picture has a relatively new attribution, having been previously attributed to Ludger tom Ring II. A large and interesting English landscape of c.1665 failed to sell at £400,000-£600,000.

Update - in The New York Times, Scott Reyburn has a good piece on the Turner price and the rest of the week's sales. 

Mona Lisa theory no. 742

December 3 2014

Image of Mona Lisa theory no. 742

Picture: BG

She was a chinese slave who was Leonardo's mother. Or something like that. More here

Update - a reader writes:

Ah, but the individual numerals of 742 add to 13, which is the unlucky number of Christ and the apostles, including Judas, at the last Supper, and Leonardo's is the most famous painting of the Last Supper, so Mona Lisa theory number 742 must be true!!

O.

M.

G!

New Raeburns & Van Dyck for the Scottish Portrait Gallery

December 3 2014

Image of New Raeburns & Van Dyck for the Scottish Portrait Gallery

Picture: AIL/SNPG

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has acquired the above handsome portraits by Raeburn, of Lady Helen Montgomery (d.1828) and her father-in-law, Sir James Montgomery. The acquisition came through the UK government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme, and settled £210,000 worth of death duties. We are not told where the portraits came from; ie, what a nice irony it would be if, after the referendum, they were allocated to a Scottish gallery from an estate in England...

More details here, and a report on the frame here.  

The Raeburns are not the SNPG's only AIL acquisition of late - the below portrait by Van Dyck, of the 2nd Earl of Haddington, was acquired in place of £400,000 of tax (cheap, in my view). This picture, however, remains 'in situ' at Mellerstain House in Berwickshire. Sometimes this 'in situ' arrangement works well, if, for example, a work of art hangs in an interior that was built around it. But in the present case I'm not so sure it does. The picture currently hangs in the small, side wing public entrance to Mellerstain, just opposite the cash till. There seems to me to be no compelling reason for the picture not to be on display in a more publicly accessible place, such as the SNPG itself. But it's not even on their website (hence the rubbish photo). 

6,000 new 'Late Rembrandt' tickets

December 3 2014

Image of 6,000 new 'Late Rembrandt' tickets

Pictures: National Gallery / BG

6,000 new tickets have been released for Late Rembrandt at the National Gallery, and you can even go to the exhibition till 9pm on Sundays. More here.

I was amused to see how heavily they're pushing Rembrandt-esque gifts at the National Gallery's shop. There's a Rembrant plate (with his self-portrait on) for £40, a faux gold painted handbag, various furry things like cushions and scarves, a not very enticing small framed reproduction of a self-portrait, and...

... a Rembrandt brolly!

National Gallery buys newly discovered Wilkie (ctd.)

December 3 2014

Image of National Gallery buys newly discovered Wilkie (ctd.)

Picture: BG

I dashed into the National Gallery on Monday to take a look at their new Wilkie acquisition, which was debated with some passion amongst AHN readers last week

As you can see above, it's a little overwhelmed in its current place. The room it's in is dripping with sizeable masterpieces by Turner, Stubbs, Gainsborough and Hogarth. And then there's the Wilkie, which I can see is a fine picture, and an interesting acquisition in itself. But I must confess to being a little disappointed. 

And yesterday I recieved the below comment from a reader who I shan't name, but whose opinion I respect utterly, and who speaks from a position of great authority in the UK's museum sector:

The concern of many commentators about the quality of the National Gallery's acquisitions in recent years is entirely justified. Many of us vividly remember, just over ten years ago, that Brian Sewell was outraged that they should spend half a million pounds on a remarkably ugly sketch by Polidoro da Caravaggio from the collection of Philip Pouncey, at one time a curator in the Gallery. Since then, a succession of generally small paintings has arrived in Trafalgar Square, by gift, bequest, and purchase, which have served no purpose but to dilute the quality of the Gallery's supremely rich holdings and hardly deserve display space. The Lawrence of Lady Emily Lamb is charming, but not important; nor is the new Wilkie, happy though it may be as a rediscovery. The responsibility must lie with curators, directors, and above all the trustees, who, in contrast to many museums, make decisions over every single acquisition. It comes as no surprise to find that, among current trustees, tha great majority have a financial background, that only one is an artist, and that not there is not a single art historian among them! One Trustee (currently Hannah Rothschild) acts as a Trustee for both the Tate and the National Gallery. Such a position, which some might consider unenviable, suggests that far greater co-operation between these two institutions is not only highly desirable, but possible. If the National Gallery wishes for greater representation of the British School, in particular, it would surely be sensible to arrange a long-term deposit of some of the pictures currently in the Tate's vast store in South London. Of course, there have also been triumphs in recent years, in particular in [...] the acquisition of the Duke of Sutherland's Titians; but far too many mistakes, the most expensive being the ridiculous Bellows, 'de-accessioned' by a U.S. museum (contrary to all N.G. principles) and snapped up at an enormous (some would say unjustifiable) price.

In order to restore faith in the Trustees and staff of the National Gallery, the Government must immediately appoint Trustees who are both distinguished art historians and connoisseurs. Without them, this great institution will continue to blunder into mistake after mistake.

On Monday, I congratulated the dealer who discovered and bought the Wilkie, and commiserated with the dealer who discovered and underbid it. You win some, you lose some...

I also bumped into a strong contender for director of the National Gallery. I wonder if a wee re-hang might be amongst the first things they do...

Update - a US based reader wrties:

I know the Wilkie well and think it is a brilliant acquisition of an artist who is very much unfashionable.  I wish an American museum had been prescient enough to buy it instead of the 19th century Scandinavian & German oil-sketch daubs they are all wild about these days.

The problem with its current hang is that out belongs amongst early 19th century French pictures -Like Bonington and Delacroix’s  ‘historical ‘ genre subjects  it is very much a ‘troubadour’ picture.

While another disagrees about the trustees:

I think the answer is not to appoint art historians and connoisseurs as NG trustees, but to devolve decisions on acquisitions to a separate committee, comprised of them.

Years ago the NACF suffered from the opposite problem. The trustees were retired museum people, experts in their fields but unworldly. Their meetings were dominated by consideration of grant applications - museums that wanted the NACF's help to buy something would bring the object to the trustee meeting, where it would be debated. That was all well and good, for producing robust grant decisions. But they had no interest in the operation of the organisation itself - and why would they? For them, the glory was all in their power over major museum acquisitions, not in dull stuff like strategy, budgets, headcount, marketing, contracts, and so on.

Personally, I would like to see more art historian-like figures as trustees of the National. And that's not just because I want to be one. Honest.

All change for the CEOs...

December 3 2014

Image of All change for the CEOs...

Picture: TAN

Christie's CEO, Steven Murphy, is leaving, the company has announced. This just days after Sotheby's CEO also announced his departure. Melanie Girlis in The Art Newspaper says it's 'extraordinary'. 

Update - a well connected reader tells me all sorts of interesting things about the departure, most of which are alas unprintable. The main question to ask is, why, if everything is so rosy at Christie's after their most successful sale ever (the recent $852m 'mega sale' of contemporary art), is the CEO is suddenly going? Did Christie's actually make much in the way of profit from the sale? And did the deployment of so much in the way of guarantees represent an acceptable level of risk? Of course, as a private company, the figures will never be known. But as Shakespeare said, 'all that glisters is not gold'.

Update II - The new CEO has been announced, Patricia Barbizet, who is CEO of Artemis SA, the holding company owned by Christie's owner, Francois Pinault. More here

Bargain of the week?

December 3 2014

Image of Bargain of the week?

Picture: Christie's

Here's a picture I loved at Christie's this week - a portrait of Rodin by Eugène Carrière. The two were good friends. It was estimated at £6,000-£8,000, which I thought was cheap. It was also not in the main Old Master sales, but in a seperate French decorative sale. I sensed a possible bargain... but it sold today for £68,500. 

2.5%

December 3 2014

Image of 2.5%

Picture: Christie's

The total for last night's Old Master sale at Christie's was £13.9m, which is about 2.5% of the total for their most recent evening Modern & Contemporary sale. For the small change found down the back of a Koons sofa, you could have bought, amongst other things, a portrait by Van Dyck which formerly belonged to King Charles I (above, £2.8m, all prices inc. premium), a Willem van de Velde seascape (£2.2m), and a Venetian view by Canaletto (£1.3m). All good musum level stuff. But who am I kidding in even making such a comparison...

The above mentioned Van Dyck was a portrait of the musician, Hendrick Liberti. One of two known versions (the other is in Munich), I suspect it must be the first. The condition was a little problematic in parts, especially the background and some of the dark glazes in areas such as the hair and hands. Much of the drapery was covered by layers of uncleaned, older varnish. In conservation lingo, this is known as a 'porthole clean', when someone just cleans the obvious bits like the head and hands. In this case, we must be thankful that whoever did that didn't go further.

The newly discovered Van Dyck head study (which I mentioned here last month) made £494,500, which figure puts into perspective the £300,000-£500,000 estimate at which a similar Van Dyck head study (from the same series of Brussels Magistrates portraits of the early 1630s) failed to sell earlier this year (the one that was discovered on the Antiques Roadshow, illustrated here).

Personally, I preferred the modeling of the head and the characterisation of the 'Roadshow' picture. But the picture sold yesterday had the advantage of being in much better condition, and consequently appeared much better painted, full of virtuoso strokes. It was also 'fresh' to the market - in the sense that it hadn't been turned into too much of a news story. Sometimes this can damage a picture's prospects at auction, at least in the Old Master world.

Why? Because the Old Master market is, like many markets, underpinned by dealers (despite, some might say, the best efforts of the auction houses to kill off independent dealers). If a picture is presented at auction with great fanfare, and freshly cleaned, then there's little prospect of a dealer bidding on it for stock and prepared to hold it for a number of years, because there's no way they can add value. So at the time of the auction, the only people who might have bid on the 'Roadshow' picture were private collectors who were looking for a Van Dyck head study at that particular moment, and with the ready cash to pay for it within 30 days. And you can take it from me that there's not many people like that around.

Therefore - and slightly paradoxically perhaps - the picture that sold yesterday benefited from having a great deal of later over-paint still on it (such as in the background and the clothing, which was added at a later date, the concept of the 'unfinished' being a relatively new aesthetic trend). As a commercial prospect it's much more enticing to the trade, because they can buy it, take off the over-paint, and restore it to how Van Dyck left it (which will be something like the similar study in the Ashmolean museum). Obviously, there's a risk in doing this, as the picture might in fact be knackered beneath (though I doubt it). They might even have this done in time for the great art fair at Maastricht. Now, I don't know for sure that it was bought by the trade, but I can guarantee you some in the trade would have bid on it. And at auction, maximising the price is (usually) all about maximising the number of bidders.

Finally, you might ask, why was the 'Roadshow' discovery not put into the auction with all its overpaint left on? And the answer to that is quite simple; in that case, the overpaint - and dirt and old varnish - were so completely disfiguring that it wasn't actually possible to see (at least not to non-Van Dyck nerds like me) that the picture was by Van Dyck at all. So it had to be cleaned. You can see what it used to look like here. It'll sell, one day...

Anyway, this review of yesterday's sale prices has turned into an impromptu guide to how the market in newly discovered Van Dyck paintings works. Other notable sales last night included a fine portrait by Batoni which made £344k, and a portrait of a young boy by Joos van Cleve. Sotheby's has the weightier sale this time round - their Turner notwithstanding - and I expect well see a higher overall total at their sale tonight. It might even reach a full five percent of that Christie's contemporary sale.

Today...

December 1 2014

...I'm off to London to see the Old Master sales. Back tomorrow...

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