Previous Posts: April 2013

Sleeper Alert!

April 30 2013

Image of Sleeper Alert!


Here's an interesting picture that came up for auction last week in Switzerland, catalogued as 'Follower of Titian - Portrait of Gabriel Solitus', with an old inscription 'Titianus' at top right. The estimate was CHF 4-6,000, but it sold for CHF 460,000 hammer - gently helped on its way by us here at Philip Mould & Co. With premium it would have been well over the CHF 500,000 mark, or not far off £400,000, all of which is clearly not a Follower of Titian price. So what was it?

I wouldn't be surprised if we see it surface again one day as a Titian, probably of the late 1540s/early 1550s. Titian portraits don't often come on the market, and Titian 'sleepers' are even rarer, so this picture represented quite an opportunity for picture hunters like us. We went out to see it, buoyed by some pre-sale research which made the attribution to Titian very plausible. In the flesh, however, the picture was so covered in dirt, overpaint and thick varnish that it was very hard to get a grip on the overall quality, while large areas of abrasion made one wonder what original paint was left. There were flashes of brilliance, such as the book. But much of the picture was impenetrable, hence it looking like a copy at first glance, and from the photographs. The picture therefore represented a significant risk, and as a result (and despite our very encouraging research) we didn't feel confident to take the bid any further. I'm sad we missed out on it though. My hunch is it's right.

Re-opening the Rijksmuseum (ctd.)

April 30 2013

Image of Re-opening the Rijksmuseum (ctd.)

Pictures: Anon

A reader has kindly sent in this response to the new Rijksmuseum, following my earlier post:

I went round the Rijksmuseum today.  First things first, it's excellent.  The rich collection is shown off well; not too cluttered and fully (read also, sensibly) labelled in English and Dutch. As other commentators have written, the placing of paintings with furniture and decorative arts makes great sense.

The queue was manageable at around 45 minutes - around half that if you book online - but unsurprisingly it was very busy inside.  It's perhaps not quite as bad as the attached photos suggest, but there were certainly a lot of people when I went.

I'm not totally convinced the grey blue wall colour works with the paintings, but that may just be personal preference.  The layout of the floors is also slightly confusing.  I appreciate that this was dictated by the constraints of the building but it is a little annoying that the chronology of the floors jumps around: ground floor 1100-1600, first floor: 1700-1900, second floor: 1600-1700, third floor: 1900-to date.  But these are minor quibbles in what is a superb museum.

Go, go go!

Our reader also adds:

One other thing I forgot to mention was that the main sponsors of the Rijksmuseum have had their company names and logos boldly commemorated in new stained glass windows at the end of the main gallery.  Although it is a little incongruous, I rather liked it and if they've helped financially in what is such an obvious, not to mention expensive success then why not.

Re-hanging Tate Britain

April 30 2013

Image of Re-hanging Tate Britain

Picture: Mark Bramley/Mail

They're putting the finishing touches to the Tate Britain renovation, which opens next month. The Daily Mail was invited along to watch the re-hanging.

Analysing Van Gogh

April 30 2013

Image of Analysing Van Gogh

Picture: Van Gogh Museum

It's all go in Amsterdam at the moment - following the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum, tomorrow sees the re-opening of the Van Gogh museum. The museum will open with a new exhibition devoted to Van Gogh's techniques. Nina Siegal in the New York Times reports:

By using an electron microscope and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, which reveals the parts of pigments without taking invasive samples, researchers found that early on van Gogh used perspective frames as a guide and drew on the canvas to correctly render proportions and depth of field in his landscapes. Later, as he gained mastery, he abandoned these grids. Like many artists, he reworked certain paintings repeatedly to perfect his desired effect. The most important insight was into his palette, said Nienke Bakker, curator of the show.

“We now know much more about the pigments van Gogh used and how they might’ve changed color over time,” Ms. Bakker said. “That’s crucial to our understanding of his works, and to know better how to treat them. The colors are still very vibrant, but they would have been even brighter — especially the reds. Some of the reds were much brighter or have completely disappeared since he painted them.”

Apparently The Bedroom, above, was originally painted with brighter, violet walls. 

Auctioning in Dubai

April 30 2013

Video: Christie's

They applaud after every lot!


April 29 2013

...I'm filming for 'Fake or Fortune?', so I'm afraid won't be posting till later on. Got a treat of a story for you though...

If you're in Tuscany...

April 25 2013

Image of If you're in Tuscany...

Picture: Palazzo Strozzi

...then Andrew Johnson of Renaissance in Tuscany says a new exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi on 'sculpture and the arts in Florence 1400-1460' is well worth a visit.

One that got away?

April 25 2013

Image of One that got away?

Picture: Art Institute of Chicago

A reader alerts me to the Art Institute of Chicago's acquisition of Ludwig Richter's 1832 The Fountain at Grottaferrata, and notes that the National Gallery tried to buy it in 1989. It was eventually sold at Christie's in 2010 for £181,250 with premium, placing it affordably (for the National) at the lower end of the estimate of £150,000-250,000. It's an interesting case of how an institution's taste can evolve over time.

Andy Warhol does Van Dyck

April 25 2013

A series of photos of Andy Warhol have been published - in one of which he poses a-la Van Dyck with a sunflower. Suddenly, he's gone up in my estimation. More here

Update - a reader writes:

Fascinating to contrast your interpretation of Warhol posing with a sunflower as homage to Van Dyck and J. Jones' interpretation of Warhol posing as homage to Van Gogh!!  Does one versus the other change how one interprets the photo, and hence how one reads Warhol?   Or is it both at once, as a kind of triple pun on three artists together?  And was it perhaps the photographer who created the photo, with or even without Warhol realizing that Van Dyck portrayed himself with a sunflower?  Would that make it a quadruple visual pun, about four artists being brought together?

Want to work in the art world?

April 25 2013

Then blimey the competition is stiff. We recently advertised in The Guardian for a front-of-house position here at the gallery - and promptly got over 400 responses. Many of the candidates were exceptional, and we had a tough time making our choice. 

The Raising of the Van Dyck?

April 25 2013

Video: De Standaard

The above video is in Dutch, but the jist of it is that a recently restored Raising of the Cross (in a church in Tienen, Belgium), has been suggested to be a work from the studio of Van Dyck. It was previously thought to be a later copy. It's impossible to say much from the video, but it does look like it has a chance of being a studio replica of the undoubted original in the Church of our Lady, Kortrijk. The original is exceptionally well documeted. The Canon who commissioned the Kortrijk picture was so pleased with it that he sent Van Dyck 12 waffles in gratitude. Yum.

Re-opening the Rijksmuseum (ctd.)

April 24 2013

Video: The Economist

Fiammetta Rocco, the arts editor of the Economist, discusses the new renovation.

ps - is that furry thing a microphone, or an accessory?

Re-opening the Rijksmuseum

April 24 2013

Video: BBC

Cool fireworks.

If you're going soon, let us know what it's like.

Turner on the telly

April 24 2013

Image of Turner on the telly

Picture: BBC

'Orff with their frames'

April 23 2013

Image of 'Orff with their frames'

Picture: NPG

The Grumpy Art Historian reviews a new book on the history of London's main galleries in the early 20th Century, 'Stewards of the Nation's Art' by Andrea Geddes Poole, and relates this interesting tale:

The future King Edward VIII was briefly a trustee of the National Gallery, and I'd heard that he was somewhat disengaged.  But I had no idea that the NG acceded to his request to borrow a few pictures for his own house - which he proceeded to re-frame!  It seems only by good fortune that the original frames were found in a bedroom.  It's a great story that she tells well, highlighting the dereliction of duty by the board.

BP Portrait Award shortlist

April 22 2013

Image of BP Portrait Award shortlist

Pictures: (left to right): 'The Uncertain Time' by John Devane © John Devane; 'Pieter' by Susanne du Toit © Susanne du Toit

Two pictures have been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award. From the National Portrait Gallery press release:

The two artists shortlisted for the 2013 BP Portrait Award 2013 are John Devane for The Uncertain Time and Susanne du Toit for Pieter.

John Devane (17.08.1954) for The Uncertain Time (1720 x 2490mm, oil on canvas). 

A painter who also teaches at Coventry University, John Devane, has an MA from the Royal College of Art. He has been shortlisted for his large group portrait of his three children: Lucy, 25, Laura, 20, and Louis, 15. Painted over three years, the picture sets out to show how children emerge from childhood and begin to assert their independence revealing something of their adult selves. He says: ‘The composition suggests an almost stage-like shallow space constructed in two zones with the three figures presented as if they are awaiting some kind of event’. The artist’s key points of reference are the works of Courbet, Chardin, Degas, Balthus and Samuel Beckett. This will be the second time John Devane’s work has been exhibited at the BP Portrait Award, his In the House of The Cellist was seen in the 1995 exhibition. 

Susanne du Toit (05.03.1955) for Pieter (1080 x 830mm, oil on canvas). 

Educated at the University of Pretoria and the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Susanne du Toit is an artist now based in Crowthorne, Berkshire. She has been shortlisted for her portrait of her eldest son Pieter, aged 35. The sitting took place in the artist’s studio, as part of a series of portraits of her family. Susanne du Toit says she allowed Pieter to find his own pose, with the condition that his hands would appear prominently in the composition – she says she has always found hands essential to communicating personality. ‘I look to the body to provide as much expression as the face’, she says. ‘Having said that, the averted gaze of this portrait, which was his choice, struck me as characteristic of his reflective character, and became intensely engaging’. 

This year the competition received 1,969 entries from 77 different countries. 55 portraits have been selected for the exhibition (National Portrait Gallery, London, 20 June - 15 September 2013). 

Hard to say much about the pictures from the photos so far, but they both look pretty good to me. The main thing is, they're not photo-realist works. Encouraging... 

More details here.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

April 22 2013

Video: AFP

Here's a preview of pictures the Louvre will be lending to the new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, due to open in 2015. More details here.

What's on at Tate next year...

April 22 2013

...Turner, Matisse, Mondrian. The usual stuff. More details here

Update - a reader writes:

Did you miss the British Folk Art show that Tate are planning? I think it was in the Guardian report - and I know that they have already enquired about two pieces at Bangor: a tavern sign, The Four Alls (Seen, I think on the BBC Your Paintings sites, and one of our carved slates - so that show might be something out of the ordinary, for Tate at least.

Charles I's Garter sash?

April 22 2013

Image of Charles I's Garter sash?

Pictures: Royal Collection

An interesting little story in the Mail on Sunday for Van Dyck-obsessed Stuart fans (i.e., me):

The blue silk garter ribbon worn by Charles I in his famous van Dyck portrait may have been discovered - attached to a book.

Researchers believe four pieces of cloth could be the sash owned by the monarch after one was radiocarbon dated to the mid 17th century - the period when the King ruled.

The discovery was made after [Sir] Anthony van Dyck's portrait, which features three images of Charles, was selected for a new exhibition and Royal Collection Trust curators decided to examine the silk pieces which were attached to a book about the King.

The news comes ahead of the Royal Collection's new Tudor and Stuart fashion exhibition, which I'm looking forward to. More images of the sash here.

Update - a reader adds:

It may interest readers of AHN to know that another reliquary of King Charles I is at large, but this one is somewhat more latently gruesome than the blue sash. It may be seen (sitting silently in a small glass display-case) by any member of the public visiting the small and somewhat obscure mueum of 'Fort Paull', which lies on the noth Bank of the River Humber some miles east of Kingston-Upon-Hull.. It was on the site of this museum that the King  made camp in order to lay seige to the town at the commencement of the English Civil-War, This singular object is no less than a small section of neck vertebrae, reputedly removed at the time of the tragic King's execution, and then, after passing from hand to hand, latterly finding new employment as.. guess what..?  A salt-cellar.

Penny on Master Paintings Week

April 19 2013

Video: Master Paintings Week

This year sees the fifth anniversary of London's Master Paintings Week (28th June - 5th July), of which we here at Philip Mould & Company are enthusiastic participants. For the first time, the event now has a sponsor, the Crown Estate, and it also continues to enjoy the blessing of National Gallery director Nicholas Penny, who can be seen in the above video. The London art trade is very fortunate to have support from such an influential figure.  

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