Previous Posts: October 2016

Is this Van Dyck's portrait of Jordaens?

October 10 2016

Image of Is this Van Dyck's portrait of Jordaens?

Picture: Warwick Castle

Here's an interesting blogpost by Adam Busiakiewicz, an art historian who used to work at Warwick Castle. It's about the above portrait by Van Dyck (detail) which hangs at Warwick Castle. The attribution to Van Dyck is not in doubt, but the sitter is 'unknown'. Adam cleverly thought reminded him of Jacob Jordaens, Van Dyck's fellow artist in Antwerp. The likeness is a good one, and the date of the painting would fit with Van Dyck painting Jordaens, whom of course he knew, and whom he portrayed for his famous 'Iconography' series of engravings.

Last year, Adam wrote a well argued piece for the British Art Journal - but unluckily for him he found a crucial piece of evidence after the BAJ article came out. It was a photograph in the Witt Library, which shows a copy of Van Dyck's original. The insription says 'Jacob Jordaens' - which would appear to be evidence that Adam's not the only person to have connected Jordaens to the sitter.

Personally I think Adam is right - it must be Jordaens. All we need to do now is find Van Dyck's missing portrait of Rubens...

Turner's 'ghost ship' sails again

October 10 2016

Image of Turner's 'ghost ship' sails again

Picture: Whitworth Art Gallery/Sunday Times

There's a new exhibition on at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate, called 'Adventures in Colour'. One of the exhibits is a very rarely seen sketch by Turner (above) which has been called 'the phantom ship', on account of the ghostly set of sails in the distance. The picture is actually a view of Margate beach.

Despite being found in the house of Turner's Margate 'companion', Mrs Booth, the status of the picture has been doubted, leading to the picture remaining in storage at Whitworth art gallery, which owns the picture. But the leading Turner expert Ian Warrell is a longstanding champion of the painting, and has included it in the new Turner Contemporary show. Warrell links the pictures to the three Margate scenes we investigated in an early episode of 'Fake or Fortune?' More details here and here

Brexit and the Art Market (ctd.)

October 10 2016

Image of Brexit and the Art Market (ctd.)

Picture: TAN

Gareth Harris has a sanguine and open-eyed piece in The Art Newspaper on the uncertainties in the UK art market caused by Brexit. While many are relaxed about London's short to medium term place as a thriving cultural centre, there's rightly concern about details like import Vat. The London dealer Guy Stair Sainty warns:

“If the government does not abolish import VAT, I would have to reconsider remaining in the UK because 95% of my inventory comes from the EU, which means it would have to be bonded or on temporary import,” he says.

The London-based art lawyer Pierre Valentin says, meanwhile, that moving art from the UK to the EU could trigger import VAT when it enters Europe. “If it did, this would discourage EU citizens from buying art in the UK,” he says. 

The latter point is what Sotheby's and Christie's will be watching like a hawk. 

Clean bill of health for US museum's Murillos

October 10 2016

Image of Clean bill of health for US museum's Murillos

Picture: Meadows Museum

The Meadows museum in Dallas has unravelled a provenance mystery of two paintings by Murillo (including the St. Rufina, above), which have long been dogged by accusations they were Nazi loot. It turns out they were, but the pictures were properly restituted and the sold. More details here on Art Daily

Extension for Gainsborough's House

October 10 2016

Image of Extension for Gainsborough's House

Picture: Museum Association

Gainsborough's House museum in Sudbury in Suffolk (where the artist was born) is one of my favourite museums. I'm glad to report that this morning they have announced the allocation of a grant of £4.73m from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a £7.5m restoration and extension project. This will involve buying a neighbouring building and uilding a three level exhibition space, which will include:

A Major Gainsborough Display Gallery to show more of the museum’s collection and some of his greatest paintings from museum stores around the UK, not often seen.

An Exhibition Gallery that can deliver large-scale exhibitions and be a major draw for repeat visitors and new visitors from further afield. Exciting partnerships are already being developed with the national and leading regional galleries in the UK and Europe.

A Landscape Studio connecting the building with countryside that Gainsborough painted through panoramic viewing points and a camera obscura. Situated on a third level, this multi-functional learning space will give stunning views over the rooftops and allow for an imaginative programme of learning activities.

A Community Gallery to complement the printmaking workshop on site, this is a space where visitors can view and purchase a vibrant, contemporary response to Gainsborough and Suffolk. Gainsborough himself was an innovative printmaker.

As a champion of getting pictures from the store rooms of major museums out to the regions, I am very pleased to see that this is a key platform of Gainsborough House's agenda. You can read more about the plans here

'Beyond Caravaggio' (ctd.)

October 10 2016

Image of 'Beyond Caravaggio' (ctd.)

Picture: National Gallery

Good but perhaps mixed reviews so far for the National Gallery's 'Beyond Caravaggio' show: five stars in The Guardian; four in the Evening Standard; and three each in The Telegraph and Times

Next week on 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces'

October 7 2016

Video: BBC

Spoiler alert! Here's one of the pictures we're investigating in next week's episode.

Swansea museum visitor numbers 'soar'

October 7 2016

Image of Swansea museum visitor numbers 'soar'

Picture: South Wales Evening Post

When we set out to make Britain's Lost Masterpieces, a key aim was to spark new interest in regional museums and their collections. Regular readers will know that Britain's local art galleries are facing unprecedented financial pressure. So we have been very pleased to hear of increased visitor numbers at Swansea Museum, where we featured the work of Jacob Jordaens and Jozef Hermann. And there's also been suggestions that the local council may not now be able to wield their axe quite as much as may had been feared, thanks to the spotlight shone on the museum

Caravaggio's first public commission

October 7 2016

Video: National Gallery

I love this video from the National Gallery, ahead of their new 'Beyond Caravaggio' exhibition (opens 12th October). It begins with the rector of the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, Francois Bousquet. I always like it when we hear about religious art from a cleric (is that the right term?), someone for whom the subject is deeply meaningful, and for want of a better term, 'real'. I once had a tutorial about all the great paintings (Titian, Bellini) in the Frari in Venice from the priest there - unforgettable.

Royal Collection 'selfie' discovery

October 7 2016

Image of Royal Collection 'selfie' discovery

Picture: Telegraph/Royal Collection

Here's a great story; a conservator at the Royal Collection has noticed and successfully revealed an obscured self-portrait by Pieter Gerrtisz van Roestraten from one of the artist's still lifes. The self-portrait shows the artist in his studio, reflected in a glass orb (above). The painting, a Vanitas, had been hanging at Highgrove, the country house of the Prince of Wales. It will now be featuring in a new Royal Collection exhibition, 'Portrait of the Artist', which opens in London at the Queen's Gallery on 4th November.

More on the Roestraten story in the Telegraph here. You can zoom in ont he picture here.

Rare Flaxman drawings given to the BM

October 7 2016

Image of Rare Flaxman drawings given to the BM

Picture: ACE

The legendary London art dealer Daniel Katz has donated a folio of 37 pen an ink drawings by John Flaxman to the British Museum. It's the first donation of its kind under the government's new Cultural Gifts Scheme. Danny has also donated a gilt-bronze writing casket to the Ashmolean. Bravo! More details here.

Pound falls (ctd.)

October 7 2016

Video: Via You Tube

The pound continues its precipitous fall on the world markets. It's a sign of how topsy turvy UK politics has become that the most recent drop (to a new low of $1.22) has come as a direct result of speeches by the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer - but few seem to think this a problem. The pound has now devalued more than when, back in the 1970s, Harold Wilson was obliged to go on national television and make his famous 'pound in your pocket speech' (above).

Anyway, this all has an effect on the art market here in the UK. At the moment the low pound looks to be helping sales at the London sale rooms - recent auctions, on varied material, have all been unusually strong. But it's not good for Brits buying, as James Tarmy reports in Bloomberg:

As the pound dropped to levels unseen since the mid-1980s, a line of several hundred people snaked out of London’s Frieze Art Fair minutes before the VIP opening on Wednesday. Overheard were French, German, and American speakers, but British accents were few and far between. “We’ve had interest from quite a few Americans and a few Europeans,” said Angela Westwater, whose gallery, Sperone Westwater, had a booth in the main fair. “No British so far.”

Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

October 7 2016

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

Picture: FT

The revelation that Sotheby's had declared the above 'Hals' a fake made the front page of the Financial Times yesterday. The story was was then on BBC Radio 4's World at One, in an interview with yours truly. Here's the BBC News take on the story, with astute comments by Will Gompertz on the need for decent provenance.

The news has obviously become a major story, and there will be more press in days to come. I'll have a piece in the FT about it on Saturday. I'll also be writing more about it here on AHN in some depth. In the meantime, here is the latest from Vincent Noce, the French journalist who has done more than anyone to break the story, and has been doggedly pursuing all the leads for months.

There is alas more to come. Much more. The headlines have so far been along the lines of 'Old Master market reels'. But how do we know this clever faker, who has a genius-like ability to mimic a wide range of artistic styles, was not also involved in other areas. Why would he or she not have had a go at, say, Impressionists, where the ageing problems are less of a challenge.

Update - a reader writes:

It seems there is a need for an open and transparent passport system, post sale, so that one can honestly and genuinely track provenance. It is clear that "provable" provenance is going to be increasingly important in the future. 

Apologies...

October 5 2016

Image of Apologies...

Picture: Sotheby's/ATG/Weiss Gallery

Sorry for the lack of action yesterday. I was in London. Big news broke last night, which will keep me tied up for some time today - Sotheby's confirmed to the Antiques Trade Gazette that the Hals linked to the fakes scandal (above, and see AHN passim) is definitely a forgery. This is the first proof we've had that there's a master faker on the loose. In my opinion, the best ever. I'll be writing more about this soon in the Financial Times. It's hard to over-estimate the repercussions of this news.

In the meantime, tonight sees the second episode of Britain's Lost Masterpieces at 9pm on BBC4. Do join us if you can.

Where should you keep a stolen Van Gogh?

October 3 2016

Video: Reuters

If you're a mafia boss, then behind a giant mirror in your gym, naturalmente.

'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' (ctd.)

October 2 2016

Image of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' (ctd.)

Picture: Tern/BBC

More on this soon, but in today's Guardian you can read news of what we're up to in the next episode of Britain's Lost Masterpieces. Could the above painting of a Madonna, in Haddo House in Aberdeenshire, be by Raphael?

Update - enjoying the comments section in the Guardian today:

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