Charging for history

July 28 2017

Image of Charging for history

Picture: Northamptonshire Record Office

Grim news for historians and art historians in the UK; Northamptonshire record office is becoming the first to charge for regular access to its reading rooms. If you want to visit outside a very limited free period, which is just Tuesday-Thursday from 9am-1pm, then you'll have to pay £31.50 per hour.

£31.50 per hour! That is an absurd and insulting fee. Those who have spent time researching in local record offices, which house come of the UK's most important private and public archives, will know that it is practically impossible do all you need to do in a morning. Ordering and reading through documents just takes too much time. For Northamptonshire record office to limit free access to just a few mornings a week in effect means that serious researchers will not able to access their documents at all; the cost for most of staying in the area to wait till the next free morning would make it impossible. Perhaps the new charging structure is a cynical and deliberate ploy to force people to keep away, thus allowing the council to cut staff and hours even more in future.

Northamptonshire record office has made a statement on their Facebook page, blaming government cuts, though it's a Northamptonshire council decision. Of course, the main concern is that this will be the thin end of the wedge, with other record offices soon following suit.

Is there much anyone can do about it? Probably not; the National Archives in Kew doesn't show enough strong leadership on issues like this, and if it does ever act, it takes an age to do so. Nor can we expect anything from government ministers. All we can hope is that by making a fuss we'll discourage other record offices from following Northamptonshire's shoddy example.

Update - there's a petition against the charges here.

The 'whiteness' of ancient sculpture

July 28 2017

Video: Vice News

The Art Newspaper alers me to this video from Vice News about the 'whiteness' of classical sculpture. Apparently, last year a US classicist, Sarah Bond, created a stir when:

[...] she published an article on the “whitewashing” of ancient Greek and Roman art. White marble statues have been naturally stripped of their polychromy over time—or were purposefully discoloured in the 18th and 19th centuries due to a romanticised notion of the “purity of white”, she says, which suggests that the ancient Greeks and Romans were a homogenous white people. [...]

In this video, the Vice News Tonight correspondent Jay Caspian Kang heads to the Art Institute of Chicago to unpack this thesis with Bond and other scholars, looking at new technologies to uncover the lost polychromy of ancient sculptures that reveals a racially diverse ancient world. 

I don't think I've ever met anyone who thought the ancient Greeks and Romans were exclusively white because that's how they look in marble sculptures. Have you? Hollywood movies, cited in the video above, may indeed portray Romans as entirely white, but that has to do with many other factors. Still, it's always fascinating to see recreations of how these painted, or poy-chromed, marbles originally appeared.

'Britain's favourite work of art!'

July 26 2017

Image of 'Britain's favourite work of art!'

Picture: via Guardian

A story doing the rounds in the UK media today (e.g. here in The Guardian, and here in The Mirror) has declared that Banksy's 'Girl With a Balloon' (above) is 'Britain's favourite work of art'. The news has been widely covered because having a Banksy at number one has been judged a great surprise, not least because it has, as The Guardian's headline states, 'soared past' other more established works like Constable's Haywain, which came in second place, and Turner's Fighting Temeraire, which was fourth. In third was Jack Vettrian's 'Singing Butler'. Antony Gormley's 'Angel of the North' was the highest placed sculpture in fifth place.

But - not so fast AHNers, for this 'news' is in fact a well-crafted PR story by Samsung, and doesn't really tell us what Britain's favourite painting is. The 'survey' was compiled by Samsung to promote the launch of a new television called 'The Frame', which, the Mirror says:

[...] becomes a piece of art when not in use.

Well, if you say so.

The survey was not an open vote, but put to two thousand people (we are not told how they were selected) from a shortlist 'drawn up by 'arts writers'. The two thousand respondents were only allowed to select their top five from this shortlist, which included things like album covers too. In other words, the survey was crafted to engineer as 'surprising' (and thus newsworthy) result as possible. 

For a more representative idea of what Britain's 'favourite painting' is, see a survery carried out by the BBC, which had votes from over one hundred thousand people. That poll (which did not include sculptures) was topped by Turner's 'Fighting Temeraire'.

Restitution news (ctd.)

July 26 2017

Image of Restitution news (ctd.)

Picture: New York Times

Catherine Hickley in the New York Times reports on a 'Raising of Lazarus' by an unknown 16th Century artist has been returned to the heirs of James von Bleichröder, a German Jew, eighty years after it was forcibly acquired by Herman Goering. More here.  

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.

Job Opportunity!

July 25 2017

Image of Job Opportunity!

Picture: Burlington Magazine

The Burlington Magazine is looking for a new reviews editor. This is a key position at the magazine, organising reviews of all books and exhibitions, and comes with a salary of up to £40,000. Here's what you need to be good at:

The successful applicant will have a higher degree in art history with academic expertise in some aspect of European fine or decorative art before 1800, and will be competent in one or more European languages. You should be highly organised with a proven ability to manage multiple tasks to strict deadlines.

Good written, interpersonal and team-working skills are a must, and experience of working in a magazine, book or digital publishing environment, while not essential, is also desirable.

More details here

'Picturing the Tudor Monarchy'

July 25 2017

Image of 'Picturing the Tudor Monarchy'

Picture: SoA

There's a new exhibition of Tudor portraiture at the Society of Antiquaries in London, which is free and open till 25th August. Here's the blurb:

Explore our free summer exhibition, showcasing one of the most important collections of Tudor portraiture in the UK alongside materials from the Library and Accredited Museum collections. The exhibition has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Inspiration for the exhibition was drawn from our collection of paintings, which includes the largest collection of English medieval and Tudor royal portraiture outside of the National Portrait Gallery and Royal Collection. Exploring the struggle for legitimacy and power during the Wars of the Roses, the advent of the Tudor dynasty, and ways in which each of the Tudor monarchs strove to demonstrate their authority and ability to rule the kingdom. Visitors will have a unique opportunity to see rarely displayed objects from our collections, including official royal documents from the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I as well as archaeological finds relating to battles of the Wars of the Roses.

Antoon in Scotland!

July 25 2017

Video: AHN

The National Portrait Gallery's Van Dyck self-portrait has finally made it up here to Scotland, on the last leg of its three year UK-wide tour. And poor Antoon, for he has been slotted into a very curious little show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, called 'Looking Good - the Male Gaze from Van Dyck to Lucian Freud'. The blurb tells us that the exhibition:

[...] considers the theme of male image, identity and appearance from the 16th century to the present day. The selection of portraits, from the National Galleries of Scotland and National Portrait Gallery, London collections will explore the elaborate hairstyles and fashions of the courtiers and cavaliers of the 16th and 17th centuries; the emergence of the dandy in the early 18th century; the rise of celebrity and the interest in male beauty and personal grooming; and representations of gender and sexuality.

But alas it doesn't really work. The aim, and the wordy exhibition texts,  try to tick every right-on box under the sun, but the finished result doesn't deliver. For a start the exhibition is too small, with only 28 objects of multiple media spread over five centuries, and cannot begin to 'explore' all the themes that have been wedged into its remit. It's hung in one of the SNPG's smaller rooms, used for minor displays, and everything feels too scattergun; Grayson Perry is predictably wheeled out as a transvestite, and there's David Beckham with great hair. Worst of all, there's an oppressively terrible 'soundscape' blaring out, whether you want to hear it or not. In the video above you can hear the blessed moment of silence when the room warden came to switch the music off (we visited just before closing time).

This exhibition feels like the result of museum group-think - but nobody has thought of the poor visitor. If you're in Scotland, and wanted to come and see the Van Dyck self-portrait, learn more about the artist, the time in which he lived and worked, and how he painted and why, then you would leave this show none the wiser. Finally, the lighting is dreadful, as you can see with the darkened full-length Mytens in the above video. The National Portrait Gallery's £10m Van Dyck deserves better. 

The show is open till 1st October. More here.

Update - there's a more enthusiastic review of the show in Apollo, here

The Old Master market is not dead (ctd.)

July 24 2017

Image of The Old Master market is not dead (ctd.)

Picture: BAMF

The British Art Market Federation has a new report on the state of the British art market in 2017. It makes fascinating reading, and particularly in the context of Brexit, which I will return to. But for now here's a useful thought on the state of the Old Master market in general, from page 20:

European Old Masters dominate the Old Master sector in the UK, accounting for 94% of the value of Old Master sales in 2016, with only 6% of sales accounted for by non-European artists.

The UK was the largest sales centre for European Old Master works at auction in 2016 with a share of 43% (up 4% year-on-year). Sales of European Old Masters increased in the UK by 16% in value in 2016, by far the best performing of the fine art sectors.

The UK also has the highest share of sales in Europe in the sector, accounting for 71% of the value of EU sales of European Old Master works and 40% of number of lots sold.

" far the best performing of the fine art sectors."

With the recent round of sales in both London and New York performing strongly, and with bullish statistics from both this BAMF report as well as the annual Tefaf report, I hope we can now end this myth of a dying Old Master market. 

UK government to strengthen restitution laws

July 24 2017

Image of UK government to strengthen restitution laws

Picture: Tate

The UK government has announced that will extend the legislation allowing UK museums to return Nazi-looted goods to beyond the the current 2019 end, to an indefinite period. Laura Chesters in the ATG has more:

The announcement comes ahead of a conference planned for London in September called 70 Years and Counting: The final opportunity?

The event is expected to attract hundreds of experts from Europe and further afield and aims to examine how the process of returning stolen artworks can be accelerated.

In 2000, the UK government established the Spoliation Advisory Panel to examine claims of Nazi-looted art in British collections. Since then, the panel has advised on 20 such claims and 23 cultural objects [such as the Constable formerly at Tate, above] have either been returned to families or they have received compensation.

Whilst I've always been in favour of the most rigorous attempts to return Nazi-looted goods, I have written before about setting some kind of time limit on restitution in general. This was prompted some years ago by the ridiculous case of the UK dealer Mark Weiss being forced to hand over a painting the French government said had been stolen in the early 1800s. 

Update - a areader writes:

Presumably the Weiss case sets a precedent for restitution of a sizeable portion of the Louvre collection stolen by Napoleon during this same period.

Update II - another reader writes:

In your interesting piece re: UK restitution laws to be strengthened, you mentioned the "ridiculous" Weiss/Tournier case. Even though I consider, like you, that reasonable time limits should be set in any country, I also believe that a dealer as experienced as Mark Weiss should have taken the time to read the 2001 Tournier exhibition catalogue (page 177, "Portement de croix", gone missing from the musée des Augustins after 1818) prior to purchasing the painting from the group of dealers who bought it at auction in Florence in 2009.

Who was Federico Cerruti?

July 24 2017

Image of Who was Federico Cerruti?

Picture: TAN

One of Italy's most important contemporary art museums, the Castello di Rivoli near Turin, has announced an important new partnership with the collection of Federico Cerruti, allowing it to show works by Pontormo, Renoir, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Klee, Boccioni, Balla, Magritte, Bacon, Burri, Warhol, and many others.

You may not have heard of Cerruti, for he was a recluse, and made his money from binding telephone directories. But in The Art Newspaper, Anna Somers Cocks has written a fascinating piece on his life and collection:

Every Sunday, Federico Cerruti would drive his unremarkable car to his unremarkable villa near the Castello di Rivoli and sit down to lunch, served by his faithful housekeeper Marcellina, in a porticoed room full of orchids. He might have chosen to sit in his dining room with its ten Metaphysical De Chiricos, but he liked to be with the flowers. He loved beauty, and every room was rich in masterpieces that he had bought from auction catalogues and by just waiting for the art world to come to him. They were his family, his friends, his only raison d’être apart from his work. 

More here in TAN, and more here on the collection and visiting times.

CSK to shut (ctd.)

July 24 2017

Image of CSK to shut (ctd.)

Picture: via ATG on Twitter

The last auction has been held at Christie's South Kensington saleroom in London (which Christie's suddenly announced would be closing earlier this year). The Antiques Trade Gazette took this screengrab of the online camera for the last lot. I suspect not all the CSK staff were that happy.

Update - Scott Reyburn was there at the sale for the New York Times, and intriguingly reports that Chiswick Auctions will soon open a space just a few minutes walk from the old CSK venue:

“More and more people want funky postwar design, pictures and decorative objects — and maybe one signature antique,” said William Rouse, managing director of Chiswick Auctions, a suburban London salesroom that is aiming to capitalize on Christie’s departure from South Kensington, one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. “They don’t want big lumps of brown furniture.”

Chiswick Auctions holds live weekly sales covering about 16 collecting areas, with most of the lots estimated at £100 to £1,000. Trying to move more upmarket, the company has leased a space five minutes’ walk from Christie’s former salesroom. The venue, as yet undisclosed, is set to open on Sept. 1 and will be used to display higher-quality items, with 10 former Christie’s employees recruited to run the expanded operation.

Surprise! Getty makes single most valuable acquisition

July 24 2017

Image of Surprise! Getty makes single most valuable acquisition

Picture: via New York Times

Amazing news that the Getty Museum has bought a collection of drawings and one painting from a single unnamed collector for sum believed to be in excess of $100m. The painting is Watteau's 'La Surprise' (above). The full list of drawings (here via the Getty's press release) is:

  • Study of a Mourning Woman, about 1500-05, by Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564)
  • The Head of a Young Boy Crowned with Laurel, about 1500-05, by Lorenzo di Credi (Italian, c. 1457-1537)
  • Heads of Two Dominican Friars, about 1511, by Fra Bartolommeo (Italian, 1472-1517)
  • Study for the Head of Saint Joseph, about 1526-27, Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486-1530)
  • Study for the Figure of Christ Carrying the Cross, about 1513-14, by Sebastiano del Piombo (c. 1485-1547)
  • The Head of a Young Man, about 1539-40, by Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, 1503-1540)
  • Head of a Youth, about 1530, by Domenico Beccafumi (Italian, 1484-1551)
  • Study for Saint Peter, about 1533, by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (Italian, c. 1480-1540)
  • Head of Saint Joseph, about 1586, by Federico Barocci (Italian, c. 1535-1612)
  • The Head of an African Man Wearing a Turban, about 1609-13, by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640)
  • Panoramic View of Dordrecht and the River Maas, about 1645-52, by Aelbert Cuyp (Dutch, 1620-1692)
  • Punchinello Riding a Camel at the Head of a Caravan, late 1790s, by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Italian, 1727-1804)
  • The Eagle Hunter, about 1812-20, by Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828)
  • The Destruction of Pharaoh’s Host, 1836, by John Martin (British, 1789-1854)
  • Two Studies of Dancers, about 1873, by Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
  • After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself), about 1886, by Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)

The full price has not been made public, but since most of the works have been bought publicly by the same collector at auction within the last fifteen years or so, the Getty's director, Timothy Potts was able to tell reporters such as the New York Times' Jori Finkel that the deal was:

“the Getty’s biggest in terms of financial value.”

I think this story tells us three things. First, the Getty endowment is huge; it must the only institution in the world with this sort of financial fire-power, and able to buy on this scale without government help. Second, the old cliché that museum quality Old Masters never come onto the market anymore is just not true. Finally, whoever put this collection together bought some fantastic works - and apparently there may be more to come, reports the New York Times:

Mr. Potts said he knew the British seller from his previous job leading the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, and began discussions two years ago. His curators ultimately had the chance, he said, “to choose from well over 100 works, predominantly drawings,” with future acquisitions still possible.

Who is the mystery collector? I have no idea - but (and please forgive the speculation) we know the Watteau was bought at Christie's in 2008 by the dealer Luca Baroni, on behalf of a collector. Lately, a number of other works bought by Baroni, also on behalf of a collector, have been reappearing at auction, including a Tiepolo 'Flora' sold at Sotheby's earlier this month, and Flinck sold at Christie's in New York. I don't know why this collector (if it is the same person) might be selling their collection, but it's an interesting test of the market that all these works are coming back up for sale so soon (in Old Master terms) after they were first bought. So far, it all seems to be going reasonably well for the collector; remember that art is usually a bad short-term investment, as you need to be sure that works increase in value by at least the combined buying and selling commissions (usually about a quarter to a third of the overall cost) before you get your money back. 

Update - Paul Jeromack in The Art Newspaper names the collector as Luca Padulli. More here


July 24 2017

Image of Apologies...

Picture: BG

Sorry for the long break - I've been away in the US. Didn't look at an Old Master painting for two weeks! But the Deputy Editor greatly enjoyed the sunshine.

I'll be posting more news shortly.

London Old Master sales (ctd.)

July 8 2017

Image of London Old Master sales (ctd.)

Picture: BG

Before the Old Master auctions this week, I wrote in The Art Newspaper that:

The fracturing of the New York Old Master auction market with Christie’s moving away from the traditional major sales in January has given London a chance to become once again the world’s Old Master capital. This year, both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have produced formidable catalogues for their July sales. 

Did the final sale tallies suggest that London was about to power ahead as the world's Old Master capital? For this year, at least, yes; if we compare the major annual sales of both houses in both cities, then this year London comes out on top. Last year, however, the picture is more mixed. So there's no clear trend. Here are the numbers for the last two years:


  • Sotheby's NY Jan '17 $27.2m
  • Sotheby's NY Jan '16 $53m (plus Taubman OMPs, $24m)
  • Sotheby's Lon July '17 £52.5m
  • Sotheby's Lon July '16 £16.4m
  • Christie's NY April '17 $32m
  • Christie's NY April '16  $30m
  • Christie's Lon July '17 £43.8m
  • Christie's Lon July '16 £65.3m


As ever the overall sale totals depend heavily on single lots, so trying to prove my hypothesis is largely pointless. At Sotheby's this year an £18.5m Turner helped their sale total to £52m, while at Christie's it was a £26.2m Guardi which brought their total to £43.8m. Take out those two lots, and you can see that Sotheby's had the stronger sale overall, as well as the higher total.

That said, when the Turner (a View of Ehrenbreitstein) sold in the room at Sotheby's, hammering at £17m, there was a great deal of murmering. Had people expected it to sell for more? Perhaps, given the previous two large-scale and important Turners sold by Sotheby's; Rome from Mount Aventine had made £30.3m against an estimate of £15m-£20m, while Modern Rome—Campo Vaccino made £29.7m from an estimate of £12m to £18m. That said, it would be uncontroversial to say that a German subject, is less attractive to the market than one of Turner's Venetian or Roman scenes. In the end, the buyer was a guarantor, who had been announced at the last minute. They were evidently prepared to pay more than the £15m reserve, for before the lot it was announced that the estimate (and thus I presume the reserve) was being raised to £17m. It appears that the guarantor bought the painting, being the only bidder.

It was odd to see how the sale of the Turner effected the auction. It was not the last lot of the sale, as is often the case with star lots, but lot 21 (of 70), and news of the changed estimate seemed to upset the room somewhat, causing a stir and much talking. What had until then been a strong and focused sale suddenly seemed to suffer from wandering attentions. 

Auctioneer Harry Dalmeny battled gamely on, however, and in the end the auction achieved Sotheby's highest ever sell-through rate, with 85.3% sold by lot. That said, the sale total of £52.5m (with premium) means that the pre-sale estimate (without premium) of the Evening Sale of £48.4m - £73.5m (which at made it potentially Sotheby's most valuable Old Master sale ever) was not exceeded.

The Christie's evening sale was 75% sold by lot, but the Guardi ('The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi') saw much stiffer competition than the Turner, with bidding starting at £12m before hammering at £23.25m (£26.2m with premium). This price compares favourably to the value of the picture's 'pendant', View of the Rialto Bridge, from the Fondamenta del Carbon, which had sold at Sotheby's in 2011 for £26.7m (inc premium). The Guardi was the most expensive Old Master sold at auction so far this year, and comes on top of Christie's also taking that honour last year, with the Rubens of Lot and his Daughters, which sold for £44m.

Whoever we think might be coming on top at the moment between Christie's and Sotheby's, or London and New York, I think the main point is that the Old Master market is still showing strong signs of health. It is not only plodding on as it always has done, but with strong prices for unusual pictures and rare masterpieces, is even now showing signs of competing well with other more usually dominant sectors.

For example, Sotheby's recently decided to put a still-life into a sale of 20th and 21st Century works. The exquisite still life by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder made £2.9m (est. £2m-£3m) and was the top lot of the sale, beating the likes of Lucian Freud and Joan Miro. It was a brave call by Sotheby's, and it paid off. And I'm not the only one who thinks that Old Masters might be at something of a turning point.

Consider, for example, another strong performer at Sotheby's evening sale, the portrait of Anne of Hungary's court 'fool', by Jan Sanders van Hemessen. This was on one level a rather average portrait, of an old woman in a curious costume by a 16th Century artist not many people have heard of. Not so long ago it might have done well to reach £50k in a day sale. But now the market really responds to quirky and fascinating objects, which this was, and the picture made £2.16m (and was underbid by an online bidder, merilly clicking away from the hundreds of thousands).

Another interesting sign of the market's health was the recent reappearance (or at least, recent in Old Master market terms) of two pictures that had formed part of a collection put together by a client of the Old Master dealer Luca Baroni. These were a Murillo Ecce Homo, and a Tiepolo portrait of a lady as Flora. The Murillo, a really lovely picture in good condition, sold for £2.7m (inc. premium) having made £2.47m at Christie's in 2005. The Tiepolo sold this time for £2.4m, having made £2.8m at Christie's in 2008. In other words, the collector will have lost money on these pictures, but not a great deal, and that's actually not as bad as it sounds. Normally, the market responds badly to pictures that reappear at auction even over a decade, and the fact that these pictures performed as they did is, I think, a good sign. we must also consider than when the Tiepolo sold at Christie's in 2008 it was a 'fresh' discovery estimated more enticingly at £700k-£900k, and was covered in old varnish and dirt. In other words, it was perfect for the trade to bid on, whereas this time, with the picture cleaned and more strongly estimated only private buyers were likely to bid. By the way, we mustn't worry to much for the vendor losing some money on these paintings, for the same collector (I am told) is doing handsomely enough on the sale of their Flinck portrait, which sold in New York in April for $10m, having been bough in London in 2011 for £2.3m. 

We should feel far more concerned for the owner of a portrait by Allan Ramsay of Anne, Lady North, which failed to sell at Christie's Evening Sale. This was estimated at £150,000-£250,000, having sold for £421,250 in 2008 at a Christie's day sale, where its estimate was just £15k-£20k. Although it's a decent enough portrait, it doesn't I think have the wow factor that would make it a picture able to sustain a £421k value at auction. I think we must view the 2008 sale as something of a fluke. But again we must remember that in 2008 the picture was enticingly dirty, and attractive enough for the trade to bid on, who, having cleaned the painting could then re-present it and justify a profit. I think the main thing that this Ramsay shows is that valuing old paintings is very difficult, and that selling at auction is always something of a lottery.

I was glad to a see two newly discovered Van Dycks sell well at Christie's, a head study and a large St Sebastian (£1.92m). I couldn't get my head round a portrait of an old man, catalogued as 'attributed to Rembrandt', which sold for £2.1m. If it's by Rembrandt, then it's worth far more. If not, far less (that lottery again). What puzzled me as well was the absence of more than one big name supporters of the attribution. From the catalogue note you'd think Prof Ernst van der Wetering of the Rembrandt Research Project had never considered the painting, when in fact he had, and without it seems much enthusiasm. The painting was being sold by a private collector.

I had meant this post to look at many more pictures, as well as the drawings and Old Master paintings 'day sales', but it's 1am and tomorrow we go on holiday! The drawings sales were strong at both Sotheby's and Christie's, but the day sales were very patchy. More on this when I get back. Bon vacances!

'Portraits of the Civil War'

July 8 2017

Image of 'Portraits of the Civil War'

Picture: Unicorn

The Old Master dealer Angus Haldane has written a new book on the the art of the English Civil War, and it looks excellent. It's available here at the publishers, Unicorn Press.

Rare French royal lions discovered by Christie's (ctd.)

July 8 2017

Video: Christie's

The pair of marble lions by Andre Beauneveu from the tomb of Charles V of France made a healthy £9.3m at Christie's this week. More on the sculpture here.

New Raphael discovery at the Vatican

July 8 2017

Video: Vatican

Conservators cleaning frescoes in the Room of Constantine at the Vatican have discovered that two of the figures were painted by Raphael himself, not his students as was previously believed. The breakthrough came when it was found that two of the figures in the fresco were painted in oil, not the usual paint in wet plaster technique. More in English here

Channelling Jean-Luc Goddard

July 8 2017

Video: BG

The Deputy Editor greatly enjoyed her time at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. In fact, we all did; the new display there, called 'Time is out of joint', is the best curation of modern art that I've yet seen. The works were cleverly placed in context with older art and the gallery space itself, with compelling themes that actually worked. Best of all, there was absolutely no pretentiousness. Every wannabe curator should go and visit this excellent museum. AHN applauds director Cristiana Collu - bravo!

AHN has also started a Vimeo page, where I will post the occasional video taken from my phone. 

Achtung - Spitfire! (ctd.)

July 8 2017

Image of Achtung - Spitfire! (ctd.)

Picture: ITV News

Here's a story to stir AHN's passions, including as it does paintings and Spitfires; at Cheffins last week a former Spitfire pilot bid on, and bought, a painting of the Spitfire that he actually had flown in the war. Kurt Taussig, a Jewish refugee who joined the RAF, bought the painting for just £360 hammer. What a bargain, and what a story! More, including a video, here.

Incidentally, AHN will be flying a Sptifire next month... expect more Spitfire news soon!

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