Previous Posts: November 2020

Old Masters New Generation

November 27 2020

Image of Old Masters New Generation

Picture: OMNG

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A relatively new organisation called Old Masters New Generation (OMNG) are organising a set of very interesting online discussion panels between 1-3 December 2020. The talks are in collaboration with Fine Arts Paris, London Art Week, Master Drawings New York and IESA Arts Culture.

The talks are as follows:

1st December - Introduction to Old Masters and the Art Market

2nd December - Collectors Interchange: Sharing Ideas and Insight between Generations

3rd December - Impact of Covid-19 on the Old Masters Market

The panels of experts, auctioneers, journalists and fine art specialists will surely make for interesting discussion. It also looks as if the talks are free to attend, although registration is required.

Klimt Study Donated to Leopold Museum

November 27 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Vienna that an early study by Gustav Klimt has been donated to the city's Leopold Museum. The work had appeared last week at the Dorotheum auction house where it achieved €475,064 (inc. commission) over its €190k - €300k estimate. It was purchased by a private family who donated the work to the museum. The study relates to a fresco of The Altar of Dionysus which the artist completed in Vienna's Burgtheater.

Sixteenth Century Animal Drawings Acquired by Fondation Custodia

November 27 2020

Image of Sixteenth Century Animal Drawings Acquired by Fondation Custodia

Picture: Fondation Custodia

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

La Tribune De l'Art has published an in-depth article on five works recently acquired by the Fondation Custodia in Paris. The rare sixteenth century drawings seem to have come from an album that was commissioned from artist Lambert Lombard by Emperor Charles V. The museum acquired the works in 2019 from the Berlin dealer Nicolaas Teeuwisse.

DNA Found on Leonardo Drawings

November 27 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The brave world of art science marches ever onwards. has reported on findings made by Guadalupe Piñar a microbiologist at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences of Vienna. Piñar has been leading a study on harvesting genetic material from old master drawings including works by Leonardo.

The scientist is quoted as saying:

Until now, it had always been thought that fungi were dominant in microbial communities that colonized cultural heritage objects made on paper or with paper support... results showed a relatively high contamination with human DNA and a surprising dominance of bacteria over fungi.

A curious thought that contested attributions may be settled one day by DNA samples. But, I can't believe we're quite there yet!

Christie's December Online Sale

November 26 2020

Image of Christie's December Online Sale

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's have uploaded their December old master paintings & sculpture sale, the equivalent to the 'day sale' format. This London based auction will take place online between 26th November - 17th December 2020.

There are lots of fascinating pictures included. However, I don't want to spoil the fun by pointing out any in particular.

It is interesting to see that some of Sir Roy Strong's collection of Elizabethan and Stuart portraits are up for sale. The Daily Mail have been publishing some extracts of his upcoming published diaries covering the years 2006-2015. As ever, there are some very amusing art and museum related anecdotes within.

One thing I have noticed in this sale is that Christie's have started to include more pictures within their frames within the browse section. I personally think this is an excellent idea. It really does enhance the often bland experience of scrolling through endless thumbnails. Showing pictures in their elaborate frames can also have the beneficial side-effect of making slightly less obvious pictures look far more exciting.

Barber Institute Acquisition

November 26 2020

Image of Barber Institute Acquisition

Picture: Barber Institute

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz: has reported on news that the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham has acquired a painting by the French artist Marguerite Gérard (1761 – 1837). Gérard has been more widely known as the sister-in-law of Fragonard, yet, her own work and biography has received much more attention from scholars in recent times. The picture, known as The Reader, was acquired from Galerie Perrin who exhibited the work at TEFAF in Maastricht.

The institute's director Nicola Kalinsky is quoted as saying:

This little painting is a huge delight. Exquisitely painted, it is so evocative of its place and era. It’s really wonderful to have such an interesting work by a highly significant woman artist join the Barber collection, particularly as Gérard deserves to be much known in the United Kingdom. It will hang perfectly on the walls of the galleries, creating new juxtapositions as well as being fascinating in its own right I know Gérard is going to be a great discovery for our audiences.

Petition to Rethink Preventions to Extend Research Time and Funding

November 25 2020

Image of Petition to Rethink Preventions to Extend Research Time and Funding

Picture: BL

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A petition has been signed by over one thousand academics to encourage UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) not to prevent extending time or funding for research students. The ongoing virus crisis has affected many researchers, including art historians, who haven't been able to visit libraries or research materials during lockdown. Many universities had given extensions over the summer, but continued lockdown measures have now increased the pressure on researchers in all fields.

As it happens, my doctoral research too has been affected by the closures of archives and libraries. There is nothing more frustrating than being disconnected from ones materials during the final year! I recognise that I'm incredibly fortunate to have received nothing but support from my university and supervisor. However, not everyone is so lucky.

Collector Sues Gallery for Misrepresenting Value of Painting

November 25 2020

Image of Collector Sues Gallery for Misrepresenting Value of Painting


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz: have published a curious story relating to an upcoming lawsuit surrounding the sale of a full-length portrait of George Washington.

Collector and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt is taking Hirschl & Adler Galleries to court over a contract signed with the dealers. In 2017 Steinhardt had commissioned the art dealers to help sell the portrait in his collection, on which a $10m 'net to you' contract was settled upon. The painting was eventually sold to another private collector for $12m, and the terms of the gallery's contract meant that the gallery could claim any profits over the $10m. Steinhardt claims that the gallery purposefully mislead him into earning what turned out to be a 17% commission.

This sort of arrangement is rather common in the art market, so we'll wait and see how this legal case ends.

Irish Watercolour Sketch Found on Back of Sheet

November 25 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Ireland that an unfinished sketch has been found on the back of a watercolour by artist Samuel Brocas (1792-1843).

The small discovery was made by the National Library of Ireland when the work was being removed from its old mount. Experience has taught me that this tends to happen a lot. The photo above shows a conservator using a scalpel to remove the sheet. Works on paper conservators need nerves of steel, I'm convinced!

Society of Antiquaries to Lose Home?

November 25 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper has reported on worrying news that the Society of Antiquaries is considering moving from their historic home in Burlington House, London. This is due to astronomical rises in rent which have been reported as an increase of 3,100% since 2012. It seems that these rises have been due to new initiatives to ensure government owned buildings are let at the market rate.

The article also suggests that parts of their collection might be sold to plug the gap.

In response to this news, the article also contains the following update giving a quotation from a government ministry:

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says: “The Society of Antiquaries currently pays around 30% of market rent for its premises in New Burlington House, and won’t start paying full market rent until 2085. The current lease was agreed in 2005 by the then government and the Learned Societies following an unsuccessful High Court challenge by the societies for ownership of the building. Despite this we’re sympathetic to the societies’ position and are exploring whether there is a solution that can deliver value for taxpayers and help the societies to remain at New Burlington House.”

Wright of Derby: Art & Science

November 24 2020

Image of Wright of Derby: Art & Science

Picture: The National Gallery via. Uffizi Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has been in touch to point out that the Uffizi Gallery in Florence are preparing to reopen with this brilliant sounding exhibition Wright of Derby: Art & Science. This includes an important loan from the National Gallery in London of An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump (pictured). Other works by the likes of Dou, Cavarozzi and Crespi are included in the show.

The exhibition opened on 6th October 2020 is due to run until 24th January 2021. In case you can't visit Florence in person to see it, the museum have uploaded a 'virtual online visit' with slides via. the link above.

The Queen's Paintings are On The Move

November 24 2020

Video: The Royal Collection Trust

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal Collection Trust have posted this rather fun time-lapse video of paintings being removed from the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace. Works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Van Dyck will be appearing in a special exhibition in the Queen's Gallery which opens next week.

Art Gallery of Ontario Restitutes Jan van Kessell

November 23 2020

Image of Art Gallery of Ontario Restitutes Jan van Kessell

Picture: AGO

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada, has announced that it has returned a still life by Jan van Kessel the Elder (pictured).

Earlier this year the gallery was contacted by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, who had traced the pre-war provenance to Dagobert and Martha David of Dusseldorf. After having escaped from Germany, the had later sold the work under duress during the German occupation of Belgium. The painting had eventually ended up with dealers Wildenstein & Co in London before being purchased by the ancestors of Mr & Mrs Henry F Davis who gifted the work in 1995.

Painting Found Underneath Australian Masterpiece

November 23 2020

Video: Sky News

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Australia that another painting has been found underneath a work in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

The painting in question is The Pioneers (1904) by Frederick McCubbin, one of Australian art's most famous pictures. Head of Conservation Michael Varcoe-Cocks had spotted some inconsistent brush work whilst walking around the galleries during lockdown and decided to investigate further. He then consulted some x-rays and discovered that the present work had been painted on top of another painting. As it transpires, this hidden scene was actually a previous work which the artist had failed to sell after it was exhibited in 1893.

Update - A reader has kindly written in to suggest this alternative video which provides more details than the one above. Alas, it's only available for viewers in Australia, unless you're using a proxy.

Bonhams December Sale

November 23 2020

Image of Bonhams December Sale

Picture: Bonhams

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Bonhams have publisher their upcoming December old master paintings sale. The auction will be held on 17th December 2020 in London.

Amongst the many interesting lots are these portraits of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria after the famous double portrait in the Pitti Palace, Florence. They carry a rather tempting estimate of £8k - £12k.

The Pitti Palace painting has a curious history in its own right. Although traditionally given to Van Dyck, it has been suggested that they are mostly the work of Medici court painter Justus Sustermans (1597-1681).* It's rather hard to tell from the photos how old the Bonhams copies are, but the spectacular Florentine carved frames really do make them look very special indeed.

* - Reference needed, but I'm away from my books!

Constable Sketches Found in Forgotten Album

November 23 2020

Image of Constable Sketches Found in Forgotten Album

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have published a story regarding sketches by John Constable that were recently unearthed in a forgotten album. The album of drawings, watercolours, prints and poems had been compiled by the Mason family of Colchester. Created between the years 1794 - 1862, it contains several works by the young Constable including a sketch of his cousin Jane Anne Mason (pictured).

The album will be offered at auction by Sotheby's in December carrying an estimate of £24k - £28k.

Art & the Country House

November 21 2020

Image of Art & the Country House

Picture: @PaulMellonCentr

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art have launched an outstanding new online platform called Art & The Country House. The site offers films, essays, documents and catalogues relating to the themes of British country house art collections. This includes several important private collections, which is always very exciting to delve into.

The volume and scope of the material offered is staggering and I really can't wait to get entirely lost in the various articles and catalogues of paintings.

Just imagine if the majority of the big collections signed up to a platform like this? A rather utopian dream perhaps, but a beautiful one nonetheless.

Sell the Hockney (ctd.)

November 20 2020

Image of Sell the Hockney (ctd.)

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Nicholas Cullinan has announced on his Instagram page that David Hockney's portrait of Sir David Webster will be going on display in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London once it reopens in 2023. The portrait, which was sold by the Royal Opera House (ROH) in London at Christie's last month for £12.8m (inc. commission), will stay in the ROH for now. It has been reported by some newspapers that the painting was purchased by David Ross, the mobile phone billionaire and chairman of the ROH. Ross is also a trustee of the NPG.


Let's hope all institutions that are faced with similar dilemmas also have a wealthy chairman in the wings to save the day!

Pre-war Provenance of Christie's Ghirlandaio

November 19 2020

Image of Pre-war Provenance of Christie's Ghirlandaio

Picture: Christie's & Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III w Wilanowie

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader from Poland has sent through some interesting articles that shed light on the Pre-war provenance of the Salvator Mundi by Domenico Ghirlandaio that is coming up in Christie's Evening Sale in December.

It turns out that the painting had been in a Polish collection before the war. A website published by the Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III in Wilanowie, Poland, shows that the work was included in an 1940 exhibition of old masters from Polish collections held at European Art Galleries Inc. NYC where it was photographed (right).

Another article shows a photograph featuring Count Jerzy Potocki, the Polish Ambassador in Washington and S. Maurice Solomon, owner of European Art Galleries Inc. standing in front of the very same painting.

Although the lender of the work was not published, it has been suggested that the owner had been the Counts Potocki of Łańcut. The most valuable pictures in the Potocki collection were seemingly transferred to Austria and Switzerland in 1944. There is no further information yet on what happened to the work in the intervening period. The painting was presumed lost until now.

The provenance Christie's has supplied mentions that the work had been purchased in Paris during 1955 by the present owners family, and had previously been with an A L Nicholson. No wartime provenance is supplied.

Christie's have been informed and are conducting a full review before making a comment.

Update - Christie's have updated the work's provenance in their online catalogue note. It includes the following addition:

Schachna Maurice Solomon, London, by 1931, with his International Art Galleries Ltd., by whom taken to New York by circa 1937, with his European Art Galleries Inc., until at least 1940.

Update 2 - I've cast my eyes over a letter from the Polish Ministry for Culture and National Heritage regarding their thoughts on the picture's provenance. Their verdict is that the paintings were brought to New York in 1940 in order to be sold to benefit the Polish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World Exhibition. The ownership of the works rested with the Standing Committee and not the Polish State. Thus, the Salvator Mundi is not considered a war time loss.

Christie's December Evening Sale

November 19 2020

Image of Christie's December Evening Sale

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's have uploaded their December old master paintings evening sale online. The sale will be held on 15th December 2020, presumably to allow for a lifting of lockdown to facilitate viewings in person.

Highlights include the above Nativity by Bernardino Luini estimated at £3m - £5m; A Landscape with Cattle by Paulus Potter estimated at £2m - £3m; a gleaming Drummer Boy by Frans van Mieris estimated at £800k - £1.2m; a bozzetto by Van Dyck estimated at £300k - £500k; and a very yellowed Salvator Mundi by Domenico Ghirlandaio estimated at £300k - £500k.

Fans of British painting will also notice a rare William Hogarth painting of a player, from the collection of the Earls of Lonsdale, estimated at £200k - £300k; a Turner watercolour of Genoa estimated at £120k - £180k; and my favourite an outstanding sketch of Leighton Hall by John Constable estimated at £80k - £120k.

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