Previous Posts: July 2020

Caravaggio's Cardsharps on Trial

July 31 2020

Image of Caravaggio's Cardsharps on Trial

Picture: Burlington Press

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This looks like an interesting book for anyone interested in what happens when art experts disagree about the attributions of paintings.

The Burlington Press have recently published the above book Caravaggio's 'Cardsharps' on Trial: Thwaytes v. Sotheby's by Richard E Spear. Spear, an expert on Italian Baroque Painting, acted as the expert witness in the case concerning a painting that Sir Denis Mahon had bought at Sotheby's and had declared a Caravaggio in full.

Here's AHN's summary of the story back in 2013.

Richard Wilson Article on ArtUK

July 31 2020

Image of Richard Wilson Article on ArtUK

Picture: Lady Lever Art Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Dr Paul Spencer-Longhurst has contributed an interesting article on ArtUK entitled Richard Wilson: the father of British landscape painting. It is beautifully illustrated with images from the UK's public collection.

If like me you can't get enough of Wilson's landscapes, then I'd also recommend visiting the Richard Wilson Online Catalogue Raisonné project hosted by the Paul Mellon Centre. Dr Spencer-Longhurst was the compiler of this fantastic resource.

Seacole Bust Battle

July 31 2020

Image of Seacole Bust Battle

Picture: Dominic Winter Auctions

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The above terracotta bust of Crimean War nurse and heroine Mary Seacole sold for £101,000 at auction yesterday. The piece, sculpted by Count Gleichen in 1871, smashed through its estimate of £700 - £1,000.

The sale attracted several comments on Twitter. This included dealer Philip Mould who explained that he was one of the underbidders for the artwork. It turns out that the bust was purchased by Billy Peterson, owner of the production company Racing Green Pictures who are currently making a film on Seacole's life. The company has said that it is hoping to include the artwork in the film.

Christie's Results

July 31 2020

Image of Christie's Results

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The results are in for the recent Old Master Paintings sales, which also include sculpture and some decorative works of art it should be noted.

The 'Classic Art Evening Sale' realised £21,157,250 (inc. fees). The Old Master pictures contributed £9,849,000 to this figure which is roughly 46.55%.*

Their online Old Master Paintings & Sculpture sale realised £3,135,000 (inc. fees) with approximately 64.33% of lots sold.**

The 'Remastered: Contemporary Art and Old Masters' sale realised £2,549,500 (inc. fees). Old Master pictures contributed £1,255,000 which represents roughly 49.22% of the total.

The top lot old master, a portrait of a Lady by Rubens, came in just below the low estimate and made £3,965,250 (inc. fees). The real star of the sale was a fifteenth century Burgundian portrait of a man that made £1,631,250 (inc. fees) over an estimate of £400k - £600k. Considering the universal admiration it received on various commentaries I've read, it seemed obvious that it would smash past its temptingly low estimate. Although I didn't include it within the above tally, this very fine marble Death of Lucretia Attrb. to Antonio Lombardo smashed through its estimate to realise £3,724,750 over its £500k - £800k estimate.

The online 'day sale' also saw some rather impressive prices. The first lot, another Burgundian portrait, made £137,500 over its £5k - £8k estimate; the former Kimbolton Castle Charles I made a respectable £112,500 over its £50k - £80k estimate; A portrait of Henry Nassau-Breda made £81,250 over its £5k - £8k estimate; An early portrait of Henry VIII made £75,000 over its £25k - £35k estimate; and finally a curious Tuscan School oil on alabaster made £187,500 over its £7k - £10k estimate.


It seems fair to suggest that Sotheby's managed to get ahead of Christie's in this season's Old Master Paintings duel. Obviously, it comes down to the fact that they seemingly managed to secure the most attractive paintings with estimates that proved attracted to bidders. Securing the Rembrandt Self Portrait, arguably the greatest marketing 'splash' of the season even if it didn't soar as people expected it to, must have helped.

These prices are still remarkable, especially considering the times in which we live. I am not by any means an economist, so I'll leave it to others to make comments on whether increasing numbers of investors are flocking to art for safety during these turbulent times.

I will watch with great anticipation to see what other masterpieces resurface in the coming months. Strong currents and tides usually deposit all sorts of curious treasures onto the shores. We'll wait and see if it has the same effect on the art market.

* Note - this sale contained no modern art, hence a like for like comparison with the 'Rembrandt to Richter' sale isn't entirely appropriate.

** - This is an approximate number as Christie's remove unsold lots from their online platform.

Cerruti Collection Pays Heirs for Stolen Painting

July 30 2020

Image of Cerruti Collection Pays Heirs for Stolen Painting

Picture: ArtNews

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Cerruti Collection in Turin has paid out an undisclosed sum to keep Jacopo di Arcangelo's, known as del Sellaio, Madonna and Child with the Young St John and Two Angels (pictured). The painting, which was owned the art dealer Gustav Arnes, was seized by the Nazis during the annexation of Austria in 1938. By this time it had descended with Arnes's heirs into the Unger collection. The painting had passed through several dealers hands during the twentieth century and had sold at Christie's in London as recently as 1985 before entering the collection of the Villa Cerruti.

Unger's daughter, who is 93 and remembers seeing the painting as a child, is quoted:

At almost 93, I had lost hope that this beloved Italian Renaissance painting belonging to my parents would ever resurface. I am pleased not only that the Cerruti Foundation has reached an equitable agreement with the Unger family heirs, including a full account of the painting’s troubled history, but also that I might yet see the work itself in the Castello di Rivoli Museum in my lifetime.

This quote contains an interesting detail of the story. One stipulation of the heirs, as part of the monetary agreement, is that the painting's murky history should be published in any future catalogue notes.

Salvator Mundi - The Musical

July 30 2020

Image of Salvator Mundi - The Musical

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper have published news that the tale of Leonardo's Salvator Mundi is going to be transformed into a musical.

According to the Caiola Productions Company:

It will follow the story of how a shredded, scratched wooden panel painting of Jesus purchased for $1,100 in 2005, evolved to become the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece—lost for over 500 years—titled Salvator Mundi that in 2017 was auctioned at Christie’s auction house for over $450m...

The Musical will mix the “historical reportage of Hamilton with the fantasy and delight of Willy Wonka's golden ticket”, the company says.

Will dealer Robin Simon, conservator Dianne Modestini, Leonardo scholar Martin Kemp and various Christie's experts be written into the script and given singing roles, I wonder?

Michelangelo's 'The Dream'

July 30 2020


Video: CourtauldInstitute

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Courtauld Institute of Art in London have published this interesting video describing Michelangelo's drawing The Dream. The talk is given by Ketty Gottardo, the curator of drawings at the Institute.

Phallus Alert: The Courtauld have decided to put an age restriction on the video due to its content. 

Sotheby's Results

July 30 2020

Image of Sotheby's Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The results from the recent Sotheby's Old Master Painting sales are in.

The Evening 'Rembrandt to Richter' sale realised £149,730,290 (inc. fees). The Old Master pictures in the sale contributed £28,411,800 to this figure which is roughly 18.97%.

Their online Old Master Sale, which included drawings and watercolours, brought in a very respectable £4,669,000 (inc. fees) with 73.26% of lots sold.

The top lot old master of the evening, Rembrandt's self portrait, made £12,600,000 (hammer) which totalled £14,549,400 when fees are included. It was sold to a phone bidder with an expert from the company's New York office, prompting speculation that it was bought by an American collector.

The old master that created the greatest 'buz' in the sale was the incredible rare Paolo Uccello battle scene which made £2,415,000 over an estimate of £600k - £800k. Judging from the commentary on social media and elsewhere, its obvious that this beautiful picture was going to smash through its temptingly low estimate.

Equally dramatic was the news an hour before the sale started that several lots had been withdrawn. This included the Verrocchio drapery study and the Frans Hals portrait. A valuable Bacon was also withdrawn. We may only speculate as to why, but it's possible that there simply wasn't enough interest in the pictures.

Coming back to the online 'day-sale', some very impressive results were achieved. A Van Dyck of Saint Philip made £675,000 over an estimate of £120k - £180k; A still life by Balthasar van der Ast made £150,000 over an estimate of £20k - £30k; A Francois Boucher study doubled its high estimate to make £43,750; an a portrait of a servant of the Lawrence Family by John Taylor made a staggering £137,500 over a £1k - £1.5k estimate.

Several old master drawings too smashed through their estimates, which must have contributed greatly to the sale's success. This included a very lovely 'Attributed to Carel Fabritius' which made £150k over an estimate of £7k - £9k.


So, did the 'boundary breaking' evening sale have the desired effect? Only the experts at Sotheby's will know for sure. It would be interesting to get an insiders perspective if any contemporary collectors decided to take a flutter on the Van Goyen or Bellotto.

During the sale auctioneer Oliver Barker, senior director of the Contemporary Art department, was keen to point the cross departmental phone bids. As many of you will know, top collectors are assigned dedicated experts and directors from departments to be their main point of contact for phone bidding. It seems that there was some overlap, but only the auction house will be able to see whether it made a difference.

Did the sale contribute to promoting Old Master Paintings on a wider scale? Perhaps so. Yet, I found it highly amusing to read several spectator comments lauding the fact that a Joan Miró had 'beaten' a Rembrandt by making c.£22m over £14m etc.

In this case yes, the market had judged this specific Rembrandt to be worth £8m or so less than a blue canvas with some white, red and yellow splodges on it. More widely speaking, are auctions the best way to judge the true value of artworks? I am certain that the readers of AHN will relish in Wilde's famous dig at cynics who 'know the price of everything but the value of nothing'.

1,200 Jobs at Risk at The National Trust

July 30 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Trust, an organisation that cares for a substantial collection of historic properties and art collections in the UK, has announced that 1,200 jobs are at risk due to the covid crisis. This is roughly 13% of their salaried workforce. The Trust has said that it expects to lose £200m worth of revenue this year and is looking to make £100m worth of savings.

In a statement the charity said:

Nearly 40% of the proposed savings (£40m) will be non-pay spending cuts, including reducing travel and office costs, reducing marketing and print spend in favour of digital, renegotiating contracts, reducing IT spend and introducing more efficient processes to manage key areas of the charity.

Update - Here is the full press release from the National Trust.

Spanish Tax Authority Murillo (ctd.)

July 29 2020

Image of Spanish Tax Authority Murillo (ctd.)

Picture: El Pais

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Spanish newspaper El Pais has reported on controversy that has arisen over a Murillo which is due to be sold by the Spanish Tax Authorities. It seems that a row has erupted over both the quality and estimated price of the work. Enrique Valdivieso, the scholar who authenticated the work, described the painting as being over-valued. Other scholars have pitched in to describe the work as a second rate copy.

More details concerning the work's provenance have also been published.

Sleeper Alert!

July 29 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Skinner Inc

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The portrait above, catalogued as 'Dutch School, 17th century' made $40,625 over an estimate of $300 - $500 at Skinner Auction in Marlborough yesterday. The unknown gentleman reminded me a lot of John Donne, or even the 2nd Earl of Essex perhaps, with its glassy smoothness evoking the works of William Larkin (?).

There were several interesting paintings in the sale that smashed their estimates. What seems to have been a corridor portrait of Mary Tudor made $21,250 over an estimate of $200 - $400; and a rather pleasing copy of Henrietta Maria after Van Dyck made $15,000 over an estimate of $1,000 - $1,500.

Update - Art dealer Philip Mould has Tweeted this photograph of the painting mid-clean.

Van Gogh's Roots (?)

July 28 2020

Image of Van Gogh's Roots (?)

Picture: The New York Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The New York Times have published news that a researcher has discovered the root system that Van Gogh painted during the last few days of his life. The exact location for his painting Tree Roots (above), now in the Van Gogh Museum, has never been established. Wouter van Veen, scientific director of the Van Gogh Institute, had been investigating the area in which the troubled artist spent his last days in Auvers-sur-Oise. A spot on the Rue Daubigny became of great interest, and an 100 year-old postcard of the location (below) added further evidence to support his theory.

Van Veen's research has been endorsed by the curators of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

While we're at it, can anyone identify where exactly Van Dyck made this beautiful watercolour that survives at the Barber Institute? Somewhere along the Kentish Thames Estuary has been suggested in the past, and I'm sure someone will tell me if it has already been pinpointed.

Half-Dozen Dealer Fair at the Hilton, Amsterdam

July 28 2020

Image of Half-Dozen Dealer Fair at the Hilton, Amsterdam

Picture: Bijl-van Urk

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Six Dutch art dealers are teaming up to put on their own fair at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam from 3 - 6 September 2020. This venture was inspired due the many cancelled fairs due to the continuing virus crisis. Social distancing will be enforced and capacity capped at 40 visitors at any one time.

Dealers involved include A. Aardewerk from the Hague, Kunstgalerij Albricht from Oosterbeek, Bijl-Van Urk from Alkmaar, Jaski Gallery from Amsterdam, and Kollenburg Antiquairs from Oirschot.

This rather fun study of a Vervet Monkey by Pieter Boel was shared by dealers Bijl-van Urk on their Instagram account a few days ago. It has already found a new owner, in case you were wondering.

How to Attract a New Generation to Old Masters

July 28 2020

Image of How to Attract a New Generation to Old Masters


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The online platform Artsy have published this interesting article on how auction houses and dealers are trying to capture a new generation of collectors to old master paintings.

There are some encouraging observations contained within. This includes the suggestion that the spread of buyers is slowly increasing around the globe and that there are more collectors aged between 35-50 than there were a decade ago. The increasing use of social media is also highlighted, allowing sellers and buyers to connect in many more immediate ways than before. The breakdown of 'categories' also features, alongside the movement away from 'scholarly' collection building.

Picasso Old Master Portrait

July 28 2020

Image of Picasso Old Master Portrait

Picture: Artmarketmonitor

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Art Market Monitor has published a brief article bringing attention to this artwork by Picasso that made $728,000 (inc. fees) at Phillips this month. This linoleum cut print (yes a print) was inspired from a portrait by the sixteenth century German painter Lucas Cranach the younger (d.1586). The work, dating to 1958, is entitled Portrait de jeune fille, d’après Cranach le Jeune.

I wonder how many original portraits one could acquire at the upcoming old masters sales for $728,000? Let's hope interest in such pictures might spark investment in more ancient artworks too.

Andrew Graham Dixon at Sotheby's

July 28 2020

Video: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Tonight's the night that Rembrandt's Self Portrait will be offered for sale at Sotheby's in London. Carrying an estimate of £12m - £16m, the eyes of the old master paintings world will surely be fixed on this event.

In the meantime, here is a guided tour of the upcoming sale with art historian Andrew Graham Dixon. Just goes to show that museums aren't the only arts venues where you can make a good video documentary.

Update - The Rembrandt made £12,600,000 (hammer price). More commentary to come after the sales...

Update 2 - Other curious news that several paintings have been withdrawn from the sale, including the Hals portrait and Verrocchio study on the old masters front.

OldMasterArtists.Org (?)

July 27 2020

Image of OldMasterArtists.Org (?)

Picture: AnthonyVanDyck.Org

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

My attention has been drawn to some curious websites, domain names and addresses that have taken by some unknown organisation or individuals. This includes the .org addresses for many artist names, including the likes of Durer, Van Dyck, Rubens, Rembrandt etc. It seems like it would have taken quite an effort to acquire this substantial online real estate, but for what purpose exactly?

Currently, most of these websites are just filled with meaningless marketing bumph for selling prints.

The sites also contain the following curious disclaimers:

Disclaimer: is a personal website covering the career of famous Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, but is in no way an official website for Anthony van Dyck and does not claim to be that in any way. The Estate of Anthony van Dyck and their presence hold all necessary copyrights and licences for all of his paintings and other works. All prints, paintings and photos included in are provided as an affiliate to who hold necessary permissions. pay us small commissions based on any prints or paintings that you buy as a result of using this website.

Alternatively, might the acquisition of these sites be part of a long term plan to hold any future academic online projects to ransom? Let's hope not.

Update - A reader has got in touch regarding his own difficulties in securing a domain name for his academic project relating to Giorgione. This problem might not be consigned to the distant future...perhaps?

Roman Busts Transformed

July 27 2020

Image of Roman Busts Transformed


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Ever wanted to visualise the face behind a roman bust? Some clever computer experts have been busy making photorealistic portraits of Roman Emperors using ancient busts as guides. Magically, using a program that is given the rather sinister name ArtBreeder, we are now able to stare at the faces of Emperor Augustus and Maximinus Thrax.

The notion of transforming sculpture into real life is a very ancient one. Anyone who knows the story of Pygmalion will understand this narrative well. For me, at least, I relish the ability of art to defy human life and time, rather than to capitulate to it. Isn't the magic of seeing a piece of sculpture, or any work of art for that matter, is that you're given an opportunity to see something that you will never get to see in real life. 

Job Cuts in Museums

July 27 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

There have been a few stories in the press over the past few days highlighting the increasing number of job losses in UK Museums sector.

First off is news of a protest by employees of the Tate Museums (pictured above) against impending job cuts. 300 jobs are said to be at risk across all sites. The Tate is due to receive £7m of emergency funding, much of which doesn't seem to be earmarked to help preserve jobs.

The already strained Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Trust has also announced that it has entered a period of redundancies. Their blog above states that around half of their staff are at risk.

The organisation that runs the Glasgow Museums, including the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, have announced that they are facing a £38m black hole. Job losses haven't been mentioned, but it seems a very likely consequence of efforts to get a hold of their finances.

A few weeks ago the commercial arm of the National Gallery announced that 24 jobs were at risk.

The Historical Royal Palaces (HRP) are also in the process of organising voluntary redundancies across their sites as part of a major restructuring project.

Considering the all consuming nature of the COVID crisis, it is no surprise that the economic fall-out would be catastrophic across all sectors. We can be sure that the examples above won't be the last we hear of museum job losses. This suggests a few things. Firstly, that the UK government's £1.57bn bail-out wasn't substantial enough to protect the sector entirely. Secondly, that the end of the furlough scheme was, like many other industries have experienced, a temporary plaster on a fatal wound. Would an extension of the scheme help museums find their feet again, one wonders?

Bail-outs and grants will only go so far. It seems that the only way to truly save museums is eliminate the fears that individuals have in resuming their lives. Partial re-openings with social distancing seems to be a suitable stop-gap, but it won't suit every organisation's operational and economic realities. A vaccine may be the only way to get the genie back into the bottle.

Comments are welcomed as always.

Update - The York Museums Trust has also announced that it will be looking at redundancies after experiencing a £1.5m loss due to the virus crisis.

Hans von Aachen Drawing Smashes Estimate

July 27 2020

Image of Hans von Aachen Drawing Smashes Estimate

Picture: Zisska & Lacher

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News via Twitter (@auctionradar) last week that the above drawing by Hans von Aachen made €150,000 over an estimate of €2,000 at Zisska & Lacher earlier this month. Obviously, the estimate was far too low.

Some have already spotted that the work relates to a finished painting entitled Self Portrait with Donna Venusta that was with Galerie Canesso at TEFAF this year.

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