Previous Posts: September 2020

Sell the Michelangelo, say some Academicians

September 20 2020

Image of Sell the Michelangelo, say some Academicians

Picture: RA

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have published an article regarding a group of Royal Academicians who want to force a debate on the sale of the Royal Academy's Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo (pictured).

The tondo is of course the only example of Micheangelo's sculptures in Britain. This lovely fact, the article makes clear, has been inverted by some to suggest that the work is an 'anomaly' and thus is worth cashing in. This proposal has been supported by a group of academicians as a necessary measure to protect 150 jobs at risk and plug an £8m gap left by the covid crisis.

The article quotes a 'well-known' by unnamed academician:

The sale of the tondo has already been discussed... It is worth so much, it could save jobs and get the RA out of the financial mess they have got themselves into.

A spokesperson for the RA has strongly rebutted the claims that the organisation is considering to sell the tondo.


I was wondering when this day would come, but it finally has.

On one hand, it is unsurprising that some contemporary artists and academicians no longer find masterpieces like the Taddei Tondo worth keeping. So much contemporary art focuses on laying scorn on, subverting and demonising the art of the past. Afterall, the RA is at its heart an educational institution for the training of artists. It's historic collection, therefore, is probably viewed by some contemporarists as a needless albatross rather than objects and masterpieces worthy of study and inspiration.

This is a debate that is unlikely to go away any time soon. But must we sacrifice everything for the living? If the UK government is wilfully removing the ability of organisations such as the RA to fend for itself financially, then it seems only reasonable that it foots the bill in the short term. These bail-outs, or selling of the family silver for that matter, can't go on forever either. Thus, removing the threat of covid is an imperative.

Update - It's not the first time that the sale of this important treasure has been discussed. The Art Newspaper had published an article three years ago giving an account of the debates which surrounding the sale of the sculpture in the late 1970s. It was then valued at £6,000,000. A loan to the MET in New York was suggested to try and raise funds, but never happened partly due to conservation concerns.

The article quotes advice and a warning that was given to the Queen at the time:

We could sell possessions, but this is a slipery slope. The only one which might solve the problem [the tondo] is looked upon by many as a national treasure.

The RA at the time took 'internal measures' to save funds and the idea to sell the tondo was dropped.

Holkham Hall Blog

September 20 2020

Image of Holkham Hall Blog

Picture: Holkham Hall

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Maria de Peverelli, Curator and Collections Manager at Holkham Hall, has penned a blog giving a curator's perspective on the covid crisis and what it has meant for loans and exhibitions.

Holkham, which is the ancestral home of the Earls of Leicester, is one of the great treasure houses of the fine and decorative arts that remains privately owned. Amongst the tales included within the piece, De Peverelli describes the story about a Claude that got stuck in Japan due to the crisis. It has since returned to the famous Landscape Room, thankfully!

Sleeper Alert!

September 20 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Briscadieu Bordeaux

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News on Twitter (via. @auctionradar) that eleven paintings of 'Inca Emperors' catalogued as 'South American School, 19th Century' made a staggering €1,050,000 over their €4k - €6k estimate on Saturday. The paintings were auctioned off at Briscadieu Bordeaux in France. It looks quite possible that they are much earlier than they might appear to be.

Nicholas Penny on the National Trust Proposals

September 20 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sir Nicholas Penny, former director of the National Gallery in London, has weighed in on the National Trust's 'Ten-year vision' proposals. He has penned a short article for the London Review of Books which is free to access and read online. It is one of the most eloquent dismantling of the document that you are likely to find anywhere.

Questions Asked of Odescalchi Collection in Italian Parliament

September 17 2020

Image of Questions Asked of Odescalchi Collection in Italian Parliament


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

An Italian MP has asked the Italian Parliament to get involved in what he claims to be the dispersion of a important private historic collection of art.

Living members of the Odescalchi family, who held the Papacy under Innocent XI and were great patrons and collectors, are being accused to selling off important works of Renaissance and Baroque art which are leaving the country. Works cited include drawings by Pietro de Cortona, a landscape by Gaspar van Wittel and a further 29 other works said to be missing. Some of the claims seem to go back several decades it seems. MP Bruno Bossio has even gone as far to suggest that the Italian Parliament should seize the remaining collection in the family's Palazzo to prevent any more from leaving.

Giulia Odescalchi has refuted the accusations and has claimed that the Italian authorities have always been made aware of items that have left the collection.

Göring's Prints up for Sale

September 17 2020

Image of Göring's Prints up for Sale


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has alerted me to the macabre provenance of a collection of old master prints coming up for sale in Northern France.

The bound volume of 193 prints by the likes of Van Dyck, Poussin, Guide Reni and Maroni bears stamps and inscriptions showing that it once belonged to Hermann Görring. After being sent to Berlin, presumably during the war, it was later taken by Russian soldiers after the capture of Eagle's Nest on 4th May 1945. It bears stamps purporting to show that it was then sent to Tsarskoe Selo before being distributed to soldiers of the second armoured division. Each of the prints bears an inventory mark.

Restoration of a Carpaccio

September 17 2020

Image of Restoration of a Carpaccio

Picture: @RestauraThyssen

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid has been sharing some interesting pictures recently of various conservation projects they are undertaking. Recently, they've been restoring their Young Knight in a Landscape by Carpaccio. It seems that they have followed the lead of the Rijksmuseum in allowing visitors to peer into the process by undertaking the work behind perspex walls in the galleries. 

On a related note, it is great to see that so many museums and galleries are setting up specific social media accounts for their conservation departments. General museum accounts can often be commandeered by marketing bumph that most learn to ignore rather than engage with. Accounts like these allow us to bypass the noise and provide these rare insights that many art lovers enjoy so much.

Fitzwilliam Acquires 3 Paintings

September 17 2020

Image of Fitzwilliam Acquires 3 Paintings

Picture: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has announced that it has acquired three paintings as part of the acceptance in lieu scheme. This includes two very charming portraits of boys by Adriaen van Ostade (1610-85) and an Italianate costal scene by Francesco Guardi (1712-1793). These were received from the estate of the late merchant banker and collector George Pinto (d.2018). Pinto, who was educated at Cambridge University, had also been a patron of the National Gallery and a trustee at the Wallace Collection. The National Gallery in London had acquired three eighteenth century paintings from his collection back in May.

All three paintings will be on display in the galleries of the museum as from today.

Open License for National Lottery Heritage Funded Projects

September 16 2020

Image of Open License for National Lottery Heritage Funded Projects

Picture: National Lottery Heritage Fund

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Some very good news to report on the campaign for the free reproduction of images from UK public collections. The National Lottery Heritage Fund, who will dish out no less than £1.2bn worth of lottery money in the next five years to heritage projects, have announced that future projects must sign up to open licenses for digital content.

As their website explains:

We require all of the projects we fund to share the digital resources they create under an open licence. This includes images, research, educational materials, project reports, software, web and app content, databases, 3D models, sound and video recordings.

This will presumably cover any future digitizing projects of works for art, for example. It is very heartening to see that increasing access to heritage is at the heart of this change in policy, a sentiment which this blog has promoted for a long time.

145 Jobs at Risk at HRP

September 16 2020

Image of 145 Jobs at Risk at HRP

Picture: HRP

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Grim news that the Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) are putting 145 roles at risk of redundancy. This is in light of a projected loss of £100m of income for 2020, which equates to around a 89% loss due to the closure of sites. No details have been given yet outlining how much they hope to save with these redundancies and restructuring.

AHN had reported in July on the very public appeal the charity had made for help. It is interesting to note some of the continued threads in public reaction to this news. Despite the HRP asserting itself as an independent charity detached from the Crown, it is clear that there are large swathes who do not readily accept this differentiation.

Brooklyn Museum to Sell 12 Works

September 16 2020

Image of Brooklyn Museum to Sell 12 Works

Picture: Brooklyn Museum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The NY Times have published an article regarding the Brooklyn Museum's intention to sell 12 works of art to raise funds for the care of its collection. This includes works by Cranach, Courbet, Corot and Donato de' Bardi (pictured).

The article suggests that the sale has been made easier due to an announcement in April this year from the Association of Museum Directors that it would not penalize museums that "use the proceeds from deaccessioned art to pay for expenses associated with the direct care of collections.” The article claims this change has been attributed to the COVID19 pandemic. The association has previously only condoned deaccessioning as a route to raise funds for new acquisitions. It seems that the Brooklyn Museum, who have seemingly long faced financial difficulties, are using this change in rules as an opportunity to find some stability.

The museum hopes to eventually raise $40m to establish a fund allowing them to spend $2m a year for the collection's care. The works will be sold through the auction house Christie's later this year.


Selling the family silver to keep the house is not a new phenomenon. Let's hope this isn't the start of a more widespread trend.

The Harris Museum & Art Gallery is Hiring!

September 16 2020

Image of The Harris Museum & Art Gallery is Hiring!

Picture: The Harris

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston is looking to hire a Programme and Collections Manager.

Alongside managing the gallery's collections, which includes many works of art & sculpture, the position will also be involved in a large National Lottery Heritage Fund Project.

The salary on offer is between £42,683 - £43,662 for this 37 hour per week position.

Applications close on 9 October 2020. Good luck if you're applying!

The gallery's collection of paintings and sculpture can be found here on

Sandby Landscapes Acquired by National Museum Wales

September 16 2020

Image of Sandby Landscapes Acquired by National Museum Wales

Picture: @Sothebys

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz

The National Museum in Wales has acquired 21 Welsh landscapes by Paul Sandby (1731-1809). The group features iconic views in Snowdonia, Caernaforn, Harlech Castle, Bala and Llangollen. In total, the set were acquired for £240,000 from the Douglas and Angus Estates with Sotheby's acting as agents. The works were acquired with support from Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a private donor.

Andrew Renton Keeper of Art at the Museum has said:

These views played a ground-breaking role in popularising Wales as a tourist destination, presenting it as an economically active, ‘picturesque’ and ‘sublime’ country rather than the impoverished and barbarous region of earlier prejudicial stereotypes.

It would be very exciting if these paintings could return to the area they depict, and we’re hoping to be able to display them in venues in north Wales as soon as we can. has a fantastic selection of Sandby's works that are free to browse at leisure.

450 Works Donated to Uffizi

September 16 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a story that broke earlier this summer. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence has been bequeathed 450 paintings and drawings collected by the late art historian Carlo Del Bravo (d.2017). Del Bravo's career was connected with many of Italy's most well known painters and institutions. With works spanning five centuries, the highlight from the Old Masters point of view is Rosso Fiorentino's The Infant St John the Baptist (on the left in the image above).

Uffizi director Eike Schmidt has hailed the gift as: of the most important and substantial donations to the museums of Florence since the Second World War.

Christie's Paris Results

September 15 2020

Image of Christie's Paris Results

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's recent Old Master Paintings & Sculpture sale in Paris realised a respectable €5,739,000 (all prices quoted inc. premium) today with roughly 79.6% of lots sold.

The two pictures that flew past their estimates were the ones that were appearing absolutely everywhere on social media. This fine 'Follower of Sofonisba Anguissola' realised 110,000 over its 25k - 35k estimate; and this attractive headstudy of a boy given to the 'Workshop of Rubens' made 137,500 over its 60k - 80k estimate; and this Lucretia by the 'Master of the Female Half Lengths' made 430,000 over its 80 - 120k estimate.

Equally interesting was this 'School of Antwerp - Follower of Rubens' which soared to 274,000 over an estimate of 12k - 18k. Did optimistic bidders spot something that the cataloguers had neglected?

Update - I forgot to mention that this very fine hatted lady by Nicholas Largillière made €1,570,000 over its €600k - €1m estimate in the Christie's Paris sale of Paul-Louis Weiller.

Art Zoom: Google Arts & Culture

September 15 2020

Video: Google Arts & Culture

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Google Arts & Culture have begun a very intriguing series entitled Art Zoom on their YouTube channel. Essential, it contains annotated videos featuring relatively successful contemporary musicians giving their views on works of art. As ever with the Google platform, the detailed images they supply with the videos are unmatched.

The video above features the English Singer Songwriter FKA Twigs* giving her own impressions of Artemisia Gentileschi's The Magdalene in Ecstasy. If such videos attract new and younger audiences into galleries and museums then it's played its part!

Here is another video where the Canadian musician 'Grimes' gives her impression of Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Fall of the Rebel Angels.

I'm particularly fond of Grimes's description of Bruegel's picture:

This painting is such a nightmare, like, God, it's like so horrific. Wow.


This is like a deeply emotional piece. He must have been having a really bad day.

* - Unless they played the lute, I'm completely clueless when it comes to contemporary music I must admit.

Lecture: Women Dealers and Collectors of Japanese Art

September 15 2020

Image of Lecture: Women Dealers and Collectors of Japanese Art

Picture: Society of the History of Collecting

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's a fascinating sounding lecture. The Society for the History of Collecting are broadcasting a lecture by Professor Elizabeth Emery on the subject of Women Dealers and Collectors of Japanese Art in Nineteenth-Century Paris.

As their blurb explains:

Museums, libraries, and web sites celebrate the names of Philippe Sichel, Siegfried Bing, and Hayashi Tadamasa as “great dealers of Japanese art” and present them as the pioneers of the nascent Japan trade in France. In contrast, the names of Louise Chopin Desoye, Marie Antoinette Schlotterer Malinet, and Florine Ebstein Langweil have been largely lost to history, even when they informed and complemented the work of these better-known men. This lecture uses newly discovered archival material to emphasize the participation of women in the nineteenth-century Paris market for Japanese antiquities. It will raise questions about the socio-economic structures and stereotypes that have led to their disappearance and strategies for recovering their histories.

The lecture will be broadcast on Monday 21st September 2020 at 5.30pm (BST).

The society's website explains that 'all are welcome' to the lecture (registration required), but non-members will not be able to participate in the AGM afterwards.

BMAG Appoints Two CEOs

September 15 2020

Image of BMAG Appoints Two CEOs

Picture: BMAG

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Trust  (BMAG) has announced that it has appointed two CEOs to share the responsibility over the city's galleries and museums. Sara Wajid (left) arrives from Head of Engagement at the Museum of London, whilst Zak Mensah (right) arrives from his role as Head of Transformation: Culture & Creative Industries at Bristol Museum.

As Niels de Vos, Chair of the BMAG Trust, explains:

This appointment is a transformational moment for Birmingham Museums Trust and allows us to plan confidently for the future after what has been a very turbulent few months. Sara and Zak’s experience, proven past results and their openness to experiment and push boundaries is what made them standout candidates.

The sector needs to diversify from the top if there is to be a real shift in how museums operate and how their collections are presented. Sara and Zak are trailblazers and they reflect the character of this city, young, futuristic and diverse. Their dynamic partnership will mark a very exciting new chapter for Birmingham Museums Trust and for the city.

AHN wishes both CEOs the best of luck to navigate these uncertain times for Museums and Galleries around the globe. As BMAG contains one of the nation's most enviable collections of Old Masters and Pre Raphaelites, we look forward to any developments in these areas.

Palazzo Grimani Acquires Ancestor

September 14 2020

Image of Palazzo Grimani Acquires Ancestor

Picture: Palazzo Grimani

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Museo di Palazzo Grimani in Venice has acquired a portrait of one of its most important ancestors. The painting of Giovanni Grimani, Patriarch of Aquileia, is attributed to Tintoretto. The Palazzo has been involved in a very interesting conservation project over the past few years, which has culminated in an exhibition celebrating the return of the Grimani family's classical statutes. The purchase was made by the Venetian Heritage Foundation with support from private donors.

Van Meegeren's Blues

September 14 2020

Image of Van Meegeren's Blues

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper have posted this interesting article regarding recently released police documents relating to the notorious forger Han Van Meegeren (1889-1947). The Metropolitan Police's Special Branch made several enquiries into exactly where the forger sourced his pigments from. It appears that the artist purchased large quantities of the precious lapis lazuli from the British paint suppliers Windsor & Newton. In 1931 he is recorded having purchased 13 ounces of lapis from the company, a shocking amount considering the suppliers would usually only sell 1 or 2 ounces of ultramarine a year.

We might presume that modern forgers still use historic pigment merchants to help create their fakes...

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