National Gallery of Art Acquires Multi-million dollar Portrait featured in Christie’s Old Masters June 2014 New York Sale
ANOTHER POST SALE UPDATE: The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has acquired the Casper Netscher featured in this sale, according to the Washington Post.
POST SALE UPDATE: Today’s sale brought in $17,932,000 (this total includes the buyer’s fees), with 83 of 111 lots selling. A decent opening for the group of paintings restituted to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen with eight of the eleven selling – bidding in the room, the buyer of lot 6 (below) the van Goyen skating scene also picked up lot 3, a Wouvermann landscape, and lot 4, a Berchem landscape. The star lot, the Caspar Netscher, opened at $1 million, moved steadily to $3 million, then progressed at a slightly slower pace selling to an “Anonymous” bidder, as the sale results noted, for a hammer price of $4.4 million ($5,093,000), a world record for the artist. One telephone bidder (listed on the sale results as a “European Institution”) picked up lot 1, a Teniers peasant scene, lot 5, the small Brueghel (below), lot 8, the van Orley (below), lot 9, the Master of the Antwerp Adoration (below), lot 12, a Teniers Adam and Eve that soared past its $300,000 high estimate to hammer at $700,000 ($845,000 with the buyer’s premium), lot 13, another Teniers, lot 15, a Pieter Brueghel the Younger Payment of Tithes, that easily surpassed its $800,000 high estimate to hammer at $1.4 million ($1,685,000 with the buyer’s premium), and lot 22, a Studio of Rubens portrait.
Other notable sales include lot 38, a Ruisdael Dunes by the Sea, which sold for 2-1/2 times its $600,000 high estimate to hammer at $1.5 million ($1,805,000 with fees), and lot 69, a Frans Francken II Temptation of Saint Anthony that went for five times its $30,000 high estimate to hammer at $150,000 ($185,000 with fees).
ORIGINAL POST: This elegant “Woman feeding a parrot was, until recently, among the most celebrated treasures of the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal, recognized for decades as one of Caspar Netscher’s greatest paintings and one of the undisputed icons of Dutch genre painting of the Golden Age,” according to the catalogue notes for this lot in Christie’s June 4, 2014, sale of Old Master Paintings in NewYork. Restitution of works looted by the Nazis during World War II is an ongoing process and has brought to sale many works previously thought permanently off the market. No doubt there will be more. This work was restituted to the heirs of Hugo and Elisabeth Andriesse.
Of this lot, Christie’s notes:
Best-known today as a painter of exquisite, highly finished domestic interiors, Caspar Netscher in fact produced surprisingly few before abandoning the genre altogether around 1670 for the more lucrative field of portraiture. A Dutch painter of German origin, Netscher was probably born in Heidelberg in 1639. He trained first in Arnhem under Hendrik Coster, a little known still-life and portrait painter, before moving in 1654 to Deventer, where he entered the workshop of the greatest genre painter of the day, Gerard ter Borch. Netscher quickly learned Ter Borch’s technique of rendering the texture of costly materials, and he is known to have made very successful copies of his master’s most recent works: a signed copy of Ter Borch’s Parental Admonition (1654; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), dated 1655, is in Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha, for example. That such works were allowed to be fully signed by Netscher suggests the special place he held in his master’s studio.
As [Marjorie] Wieseman [author of the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings] observes, the birds were often associated with luxury and sensuality, and “their central role in scenes of women holding or feeding parrots hints at amorous or erotic elements.” Moreover, she adds, “a bird freed from its cage – in Netscher’s painting, lured away with a bit of sweet – was often a symbol of lost virginity, and was associated with an invitation to amorous dalliance,” a reading that seems hard to dispute in light of our young lady’s coquettish but bold and inviting gaze. Interestingly, Wayne Franits has cited instances in which “the presence of parrots…signifies the proper training of their mistresses.”
A superb preparatory drawing for the painting, in pen and bistre wash over black chalk underdrawing, is in the British Museum … The drawing, which was in the collection of Gabriel Huquier in Paris in the 18th century, is fully signed and dated 1666. Like his teacher Ter Borch, Netscher was an active draftsman and about 45 sheets from his hand survive. As with the study for Woman feeding a parrot, most of his drawings are modelli or compositional designs.
This delightful rendering of a raucous carriage ride was also recently restituted, in this case to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen, having been in the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, since January 15, 1946. From the lot notes:
This charming scene, showing a group of rowdy peasants en route to a wedding celebration, exemplifies the lighthearted and often humorous observations of everyday life for which Pieter Brueghel II was – and remains – renowned. Even in its small size, this vignette reveals a wealth of anecdotal detail: seven peasants have crowded into the rickety carriage, pressed together so that one at the front has to wrap his arms around his knees to fit inside, while the two nearest the viewer seem poised to fall backwards over the edge. At center, a particularly boisterous woman raises a wine jug high in the air, perhaps to keep it away from her obviously eager companion, who may have already had too much. Stumbling around the back of the cart, a man in a red cap with his back to the viewer rearranges the bridal gifts, aided by another fellow who moves a three-legged stool – a common motif in Brueghel’s paintings – out of the way. The cart, which might more usually have been drawn by a driver in an enclosed cab, is pulled by two sturdy horses that seem just to have felt the sting of their rider’s whip.
As with the previous lot, this work too was recently restituted to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen, having also been in the collection of the the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, since July 8, 1946. From the catalogue:
Beginning in the mid-14th century and lasting through the mid-19th century, Northern Europe experienced extraordinarily cold and long winters, and relatively cool summers, a period of climatic change known as the “Little Ice Age”. The resulting snows and frozen waterways had a significant effect on everyday life. The Dutch quickly adapted, inventing a variety of winter activities which could provide outdoor amusement despite the bitter cold. By the 17th century, winter landscapes filled with frolicking figures such as the present panel had become a beloved staple of Dutch Golden Age painting.
Here, Van Goyen represents villagers skating on a frozen river beside a group of thatched houses. The town church is visible in the background, and charming vignettes abound. At far left, two children chase one another behind an elegantly dressed couple who may be their parents. Just to their right, four passengers huddle together for warmth inside a sleigh while the driver sits on the edge, watching his horse delicately negotiate its way across the ice. At right, another man bends over to adjust the straps on his skates, while at center, four men skate toward the viewer with varying levels of grace and skill. One of them rests a long, thin poll on his shoulder, which he could use both to keep his balance and to help himself out of the water if he should fall through the ice, a relatively common occurrence.
This, too, was restituted to the Larsen heirs, having been in the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, since January 15, 1946; it was confiscated by the German authorities following the occupation of The Netherlands, after May 1940.
The painting’s authorship is in dispute, Max Friedländer considers it autograph, as did Ludwig Baldass in 1930. However, JD Farmer:
considered this painting to be the work of a clearly identifiable hand distinct from Van Orley, yet very close to him. This artist, whom he christened “The Brussels Master of 1520,” tends to paint his figures with idiosyncratic, at times awkward poses and may have led a small, independent workshop that produced paintings most reminiscent of Van Orley’s style of the late teens, while demonstrating a familiarity with the master’s work through the thirties. Farmer hypothesized that The Brussels Master of 1520 may have even been related to Van Orley, suggesting the artist’s brother, Evrard, as a plausible candidate.
Raphael’s Spasimo di Sicilia (Prado, Madrid) serves as the chief form of inspiration:
Indeed, there are strong parallels between this painting and Raphael’s design, which Van Orley would have encountered when its cartoon was sent to Brussels to be woven as a tapestry for Cardinal Bibbiana between 1516 and 1520. The most immediate source for the present painting, however, was surely Van Orley’s own interpretation of Raphael’s design as it appears in the Northern artist’s Christ Carrying the Cross cartoon, which he created for Margaret of Austria’s “square” Passion tapestries of c. 1520-1522 (Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid), and which was later rewoven for the Alba Passion tapestries of c. 1525-1528 (Museé Jacquemart-André, Paris). Van Orley also took inspiration from the work of Albrecht Dürer, with whom he was personally acquainted: in 1520, Van Orley hosted a dinner party with Dürer as his guest. As in Dürer’s Christ Carrying the Cross from the Large Passion prints of c. 1497-1500, in the present panel the main focus is not Christ’s interaction with the swooning Virgin, but rather the miracle of the Sudarium, the holy cloth held by St. Veronica.
Yet another work restituted to the Larsen heirs, having entered the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, on the same day as the previous lot, this painting was originally part of an altarpiece that was divided, with this panel cut down from it original rectangular format.
When conceiving this composition, The Master of the Antwerp Adoration was likely inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s print of The Sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt … from the Life of the Virgin series, begun in 1500. As in Dürer’s woodcut, the Virgin sits in the foreground attended by angels and embroidering a garment on her lap. Also similar is the bearded Saint Joseph at her left, carving out a long piece of wood. In Dürer’s print, Joseph is surrounded by jovial putti who frolic about, picking up the shavings and placing them into a basket. In the Larsen painting, it is the Christ Child himself who assumes this role.
The Master of the Antwerp Adoration has incorporated symbolic imagery in the painting in a manner typical of Netherlandish art of this period. The fanciful architecture in the background, together with the dense wood and columned structure on the right, suggest that the Holy Family resides within a hortus conclusus, that is, an enclosed, sacred precinct dedicated to the Virgin. Two angels fill silver pitchers with water from an elegant fountain in the courtyard, which together with the garden itself symbolize the immaculate purity of the Virgin. This imagery derives from the Song of Solomon as interpreted by Saint Bernard, who read the biblical love poem as an ode to the Virgin as the Bride of Christ. By the time panel was painted, the juxtaposition of the fountain, or “well of living waters”, the enclosed garden, and the Virgin was well-established in Netherlandish art. Indeed, it appears in Jan van Eyck’s famousMadonna at the Fountain of 1439 (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp). In the present Holy Family in a garden, a peacock appears in front of the fountain. An exotic bird of paradise, it would have been understood in the artist’s time as a symbol of Christ’s immortality and the Resurrection. The cross formed by Saint Joseph’s plank and the wooden board beneath it is in no way accidental, but rather deliberately refers to Christ’s Passion. Likewise, the pincer in the foreground alludes to the tool that was used to remove the nails from the Cross after Christ’s death. Thus, within this everyday scene of familial tranquility and harmony, The Master of the Antwerp Adoration subtly alludes to Christ’s future sacrifice, creating a beautiful composition that rewards prolonged contemplation.
From the lot notes:
The anonymous artist known as the Master of the Dominican Effigies is named for a panel showing Christ and the Virgin with seventeen Dominican saints and beati, or “blessed ones”, now in the Archivio di Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Recent scholarship has improved our understanding of this previously understudied painter, who appears to have been one of the most important figures in Florentine manuscript illumination in the second quarter of the 14th century. The Master’s style, which blends the influences of artists from the prior generation – such as Lippo di Benivieni and the Master of San Martino alla Palma – also looks to the work of some of his slightly older contemporaries, such as Bernardo Daddi and Jacopo del Casentino, resulting in what Professor Laurence Kanter describes as “an animated and highly personal expression of his own” (see L. Kanter et al., Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, New York, 1994, pp. 56-57).
The Master’s eponymous work can be dated to just after 1336 based on its inclusion of Maurice of Hungary, who had died that year, though the artist was certainly active well before then, probably from c. 1310. His last securely dated work is inscribed 1345, but a double-sided altarpiece in the Accademia, Florence (inv. 4633/4) may date to somewhat later. The present intimately-sized, portable triptych is a marvelous example of the miniaturist precision and narrative expression that characterizes the Master’s style. Datable to c. 1330, the triptych is a remarkable survival from an important phase of the artist’s career, showcasing his understanding of the achievements of Giotto and the founders of Tuscan painting.
This is a very entertaining genre picture is by the talented Gerard ter Borch. From the catalogue:
Likely originating in the work of Jacob Duck, the theme of a soldier being tickled awake was treated once more by Ter Borch in a composition dated to around 1656-1657 and now in the Taft Museum, Cincinnati … although in that instance the culprit takes the form of an attractive young woman. While such amusing scenes were intended to delight viewers, they were probably also meant as cautionary reminders of the importance of maintaining military vigilance. Indeed, despite the peace with Spain, the Netherlands remained vulnerable in the 1650s, especially along the German border, where forces spreading Counter-Reformation doctrine needed to be kept in check.
A painting relegated to a museum storeroom has recently been authenticated as a study by the famed 17th-century Flemish artist Jacob Jordaens for Meleager and Atalanta, a large work about a mythological subject in the Prado – and it’s worth an estimated £3 million (approximately $4 million). According to the Times of London, the study, owned by the Swansea Museum in Wales for about 150 years and thought to be an 18th-century copy, caught the attention of “art historian Bendor Grosvenor, a presenter on BBC1’s Fake or Fortune,” who suspected it might be important. He brought in “Ben van Beneden, the director of Antwerp’s Rubenshuis museum, who authenticated the work.” The discovery will be featured on BBC4’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 9PM (then on their website).
According to the Times article:
After the Swansea work was cleaned by restorer Simon Gillespie, it was sent to the Courtauld Institute [in London], where experts analysed the frame maker’s marks and dated it to between 1619 and 1622.
“This really narrowed it down, but we also knew that the Prado thought its painting . . . was done in two parts on two canvasses — one from the early 1620s and the other from the 1640s,” said Grosvenor, who established that the Prado work was almost certainly painted in a single year during the late 1620s and that Jordaens had joined two pieces of canvas.
He and van Beneden agree that the painting in Swansea is a preliminary work for the Prado version. “It is Jordaens trying out his ideas before he did the one which is now in Madrid,” said Grosvenor.
From the Prado’s website comes this description of the iconography:
This mythological scene is drawn from the Metamorphoses of Roman poet Publio Ovidio Nason [known as Ovid], one of the texts on ancient mythology that had the greatest intellectual impact on 17th-century Flemish artists. According to Ovid, Diana had sent an enormous wild bore to ravage the region of Calydon as punishment after the king failed to make the promised sacrifices to her. The king’s son, Meleager, was an experienced hunter and he gathered his most skilled colleagues to kill the beast. One of them was Atalanta, a brave huntress who was the first to wound it, making it easier for Meleager to kill it. As thanks, he gave her the bore’s head, which provoked grumbling and envy among the other hunters. Meleager’s uncles were offended and, considering themselves more deserving of the trophy, they took it away from Atalanta. This infuriated Meleager who fought and killed his uncles, thus angering his mother. Her intervention led to his sudden death, fulfilling an ancient prophecy.
Jordaens chose to depict the fable’s culminating moment. On the right, Meleager’s uncles snatch the trophy from Atalanta. Angered, the hero brandishes his sword to kill them. In a tender gesture of fear, Atalanta attempts to halt Meleager’s vengeful fury. The scene is completed by the group of hunters on the left. The position of their weapons and arms, and the movement of their dogs, mark the composition’s rhythm and lead the viewer’s gaze to the main event.
Pontormo’s 1530 Portrait of a Young Man in Red Cap depicts a self-assured 18-year-old Florentine aristocrat named Carlo Neroni – less confident is the National Gallery’s hope to raise £30.7 million to keep the painting, which had been on view at the estimable London institution, from being exported. The painting was sold to a non-UK buyer in 2015, despite a loan agreement, according to the Guardian, in which the present owner pledged to the National Gallery that it would not be sold while hanging at the museum.
According to a December 23, 2015 statement from on the British government’s website:
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap by Pontormo to provide an opportunity to save it for the nation.
It is one of only 15 portraits by the old master to survive – the majority of which reside in Italy. Academics believed the painting was lost forever when it disappeared in the 18th century, only to be rediscovered in a private art collection in 2008. The portrait was then re-attributed as a genuine Pontormo and published by Christie’s old master specialist Francis Russell.
The initial deadline April 22, 2016 deadline for raising the funds has been extended until October 22. Significantly, works acquired following an export license referral are usually done so at much less than market value, but this different according to The Art Newspaper:
Normally when works are export-deferred, public collections can often make a private treaty purchase, buying them at a greatly reduced price because of tax concessions. But in this case, the tax has already been paid, raising concerns that this could make it harder for British institutions to raise the necessary funds.
The National Gallery is in discussions with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Treasury to determine whether the tax paid could be refunded to the gallery. The tax was very high, and The Art Newspaper understands that if this was refunded, the gallery would need to raise less than £12m to buy the work. It might also be able to draw on its own Getty Endowment and secure grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (or its associated National Heritage Memorial Fund) and the Art Fund.
The Art Fund is keen for the tax issue to be resolved. Stephen Deuchar, its director, argues that when tax has been paid on an export-deferred work such as the Pontormo, “this should be refunded to any UK museum that is able to raise a matching sum”. Deuchar says that this would be “completely consistent with the Treasury’s existing system of tax concessions to encourage the acquisition of nationally important works by public museums”.
About the seller and the buyer, The Art Newspaper adds:
The portrait was rediscovered by Francis Russell, an Old Master specialist at Christie’s, who published it in the Burlington Magazine in 2008. Although Russell has never identified its owner, the portrait has been in the family of the Earls of Caledon since 1825. In 2008, Nicholas Alexander, the seventh earl, who owns Caledon Castle in Northern Ireland, lent the rediscovered work to the National Gallery in London …
The unidentified buyer is foreign, and Russell has suggested that it may well be a New York-based collector with close links to the city’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Russell says that the painting was bought in such a way “that it couldn’t be bought in a tax-efficient way by an institution” in the UK. An export licence was deferred by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at a valuation of £30.7m.
We’ll likely know the painting’s fate in the next couple of months; meanwhile, don’t look for it at the National Gallery – it was pulled off view in May 2015.
Sweden’s National Museum has just acquired a large still life by the 17th century Dutch painter Jan Weenix who, along with his cousin Melchior d’Hondecoeter, was one of the most significant painters of the genre during the Golden Age of the Netherlands.
According to the museum’s announcement:
Nationalmuseum has acquired a large, masterfully executed game still life dating from 1684 by the Dutch Baroque painter Jan Weenix (1640-1719). The painting represents dead game placed next to a sculpted fountain in the shape of a putto. Weenix’s elegant style of painting corresponds to a general shift in taste in Dutch art after the middle of the 17th century, when many artists adopted a similarly refined style accompanied by an interest in aristocratic figures and settings.
Weenix was a highly successful painter in his day, celebrated for his game still lifes and hunting scenes. His father, Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1660/61), and cousin, Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695), were both acclaimed artists, and it was from them that he learned his trade. Weenix was born in Amsterdam in 1640, but by 1649, his family had settled in Utrecht, where he eventually became a member of the painters’ guild of Saint Luke. By 1677, he had moved to Amsterdam, where he continued to reside until his death in 1719. His first works, from the 1660s, are genre scenes set in Italianate landscapes or exotic ports modelled after his father’s compositions. After 1680, he gradually abandoned these popular themes in favour of the game still lifes and flower pieces for which he is best known.
Already in his early game pieces such as this large and ambitious painting, signed and dated 1684, Weenix shows the full command of a master. Exquisitely painted and observed, the picture evokes the image of an idyllic park landscape with a strolling amorous couple and an exotic harbour scene in the distance. The central motif combines meticulously rendered animal trophies (a swan, a peacock, small birds, a hare) and hunting gear (a gun, a pouch, a hunting horn), decoratively arranged at the base of a sculpted fountain. A longhaired black-and-white hunting dog seated on the fountain-base is shown suddenly distracted by a dove beating its wings, which adds a lively note to the composition. Like his cousin Melchior d’Hondecoeter, Weenix became famous for rendering the textural and colouristic beauty of his subjects. A characteristic of his work is his inimitable application of paint in rendering different textures such as an animal’s pelt or plumage. Here the various textures of the birds’ rich plumage are skilfully reproduced in nuances ranging from a soft and shimmering silky white to a hard metallic blue. The predominantly subdued colours of the surrounding landscape and the soft evening light impart warmth and luminosity to the still life’s more saturated colours.
Elegant hunting or trophy still lifes were much in demand in Holland in the 17th century. Hunting was a royal sport and a favourite aristocratic pastime, strictly regulated and illegal even for the rising bourgeoisie. It has therefore been suggested that game still lifes were often acquired by wealthy burghers in order to lend themselves a degree of social prestige.
At the beginning of the 18th century, hunting still lifes became increasingly popular for wall decorations, and many of Weenix’s works were painted to order as wall-panels. Justly famous is his series of large game pieces painted between 1702 and 1712 for the hunting lodge of Johan Wilhelm, Elector of the Palatine, at Bensberg near Düsseldorf. These have been interpreted as allegories of abundance placed at the feet of the Elector. Goethe saw these impressive canvases in situ in 1774, and observed that Weenix had surpassed nature in visually rendering every tactile value of his subject.
The painting comes from the art collection of the Swedish businessman and Consul General Karl Bergsten (1869-1953), housed in the Villa Dagmar in Stockholm. Its acquisition by the museum was made possible by generous donations from the Axel and Nora Lundgren Fund and the Wiros Fund. Nationalmuseum has no budget of its own for new acquisitions, but relies on gifting and financial support from private funds and foundations to enhance its collections of fine art and craft.
Inventory number: NM 7310
Currently hanging on a wall at the National Gallery in London is a 16th century painting – Virgin With Child, St. John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene, by Francesco Mazzuola, called Parmigianino (1503-1540) – from a stately English country home that the Getty hopes to secure. But they will first need an export license; and that, as they say, is the tricky part. According to the Los Angeles Times: “The museum said the painting has been in private hands for more than 400 years and that a private sale is being arranged through Sotheby’s.”
Until an export license is applied for, we won’t know the price; suffice it to say, it’s in the millions.
The Getty’s director has had his eyes on the painting since his days at Britain’s Fitzwilliam Museum. But the export license hurdle can sometimes be a problem. As the Times notes:
The Getty faced a similar situation when it sought to acquire an early Rembrandt self-portrait from a dealer. The museum ultimately prevailed in 2013 and received an export license.
But the Getty’s 2002 bid of $46.6 million for Raphael’s “Madonna of the Pinks” failed to go through when the British government stepped in to help with a rival bid.
The painting, executed between 1530 and 1540, is considered to be one of the finest late Renaissance works in private hands and said to be in excellent condition.
Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle in County Durham in North East England has acquired Dieric Bouts’ St. Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, thanks to funding from Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and a number of private donors. The painting, a superb work rich in detail, came from Penrhyn Castle where Edward, Lord Penrhyn originally bought it for about £100. In November 2015, the Government placed a temporary export bar on the painting, and the work was finally secured for £2,290,650.
According to the museum’s press release, the painting is “an outstanding 15th century painting deemed an important British cultural asset” and its acquisition initiates “a partnership with York Art Gallery and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.”
Bouts was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands. According to the National Gallery of Art’s biography:
The date of birth is not known, though circumstantial evidence points to the time between 1415 and 1420. Bouts moved from Haarlem to Louvain and there married a well-to-do citizen, Katharina van der Brugghen; the marriage probably took place by 1447 or 1448, but the first document mentioning Dirck Bouts in Louvain is dated 1457. It has been suggested that Bouts emigrated to Louvain sometime between 1444 and 1448 and, further, that he might have visited Bruges or Antwerp after leaving Haarlem. Wolfgang Schöne and Georges Hulin de Loo, however, believe that Bouts returned to Haarlem after his marriage and remained there until 1456/1457. After the death of his first wife, Bouts remarried in 1472 or 1473. He made his last will and testament on 17 April, and apparently died on 6 May 1475. His two sons, Dirck the Younger and Aelbrecht, were artists. Aelbrecht painted more or less in the style of his father. Dirck the Younger’s style is not known to us.
The Bowes Museum release includes the following about the painting, its acquisition, the participants who made the purchase possible, and when it will be publicly accessible:
The patterned tiles lead the viewer’s eye through the composition, to the colonnade and landscape beyond. The face of St. Luke, which portrays both age and character, displays the key characteristics associated with Bouts’ portraiture. The expensive damask cloth of honour is exquisitely rendered, as are the tiled floor and marble columns. The detailed landscape beyond the colonnade, showing a walled town receding into a mountainous horizon, demonstrates why Bouts is viewed as one of the most important early Netherlandish landscape painters.
The majority of the funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, awarded The Bowes Museum £1.99million.
The Museum will lead on the project and acquire the painting before embarking on an innovative partnership with York Art Gallery and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery to deliver a diverse and exciting activity programme surrounding the painting, across the three venues, with each partner focusing on different aspects of the programme and sharing learning. All three galleries have excellent Old Master collections and the acquisition of this major painting allows each to highlight their holding of early Netherlandish painting while reaching different audiences across the country.
Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, said: “During the 15th century, Netherlandish paintings were admired all over Europe for their visual sophistication, imagination and invention, and those by Bouts and his workshop were no exception. This work exhibits all of those characteristics and we are extremely pleased to have secured its long term future in the UK with the help of the Art Fund and HLF.”
The painting will also become the focus of a scientific investigation and conservation project, led by staff at the National Gallery, after which it will be displayed at The Bowes Museum before travelling back to the National Gallery for display. It will then spend a longer period at each of the partner galleries and form the basis of exciting activity programmes.
Culture and Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: “It’s fantastic news that this stunning painting will remain in the UK for the public to see. I’m delighted that the export deferral has allowed this outstanding work of art to find a new home at The Bowes Museum.”
Laura Pye, Head of Culture at Bristol City Council, said: “We are thrilled to be welcoming Bouts’ St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child to Bristol in 2018. High profile loans of this nature help us to reinvigorate our galleries and provide our visitors with magnificent new art to enjoy. I’m looking forward to seeing the masterpiece alongside our own excellent Old Masters collection and developing new ways for communities in Bristol to participate in our events programme.”
Laura Turner, Senior Curator of Art and Science at York Museums Trust, said: “We are thrilled that Bouts’ St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Childwill remain in the UK. With such a strong collection of Old Masters at York Art Gallery, we have an affinity with the work and consider it to be of great national importance.
“We look forward to receiving the loan in 2018 and introducing a programme of events at York Art Gallery that will celebrate the acquisition and share more information about the painting with the public.”
The exhibiting of the painting, together with the outcomes of research and the programme of activities, will aim to keep the public fully informed about the artist, the artwork and the context, to engage interest and encourage participation.
At the end of the long-term project the painting will be housed at The Bowes Museum, where it will become part of the permanent collection.
As well as making a significant financial contribution to the acquisition, the Art Fund was able to further support through acting as the purchaser, and then making a gift of the work to The Bowes Museum. This ensured that the work could be purchased without additional tax, meaning that the museum could acquire the work for a significantly reduced price.
“The assistance of the Art Fund in supporting the Bowes in this practical way demonstrates how their support for UK Galleries and Museums goes beyond straightforward financial support,” added Mr Jenkins.
Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director, said: “The art historical significance of this unusual subject is considerable; indeed there is nothing like it in any other UK collection. It’s a great coup for The Bowes Museum, and we were happy to help. We are particularly supportive of their plan to show the work at other UK museums, as well as at the Bowes, in the years to come.”
Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “We’re delighted to support this project which will not only save an important cultural asset for the nation, but also enable people across County Durham, York, Bristol, and further afield to explore the story behind the painting and enjoy it for generations to come.”
Nearly 50 London galleries that focus of pre-contemporary art, and are within walking distance of each other, are part of London Art Week, which runs July 1-8, and has a preview on June 30. This gallery-focused event coincides with Christie’s and Sotheby’s old masters sales and includes what a press announcement calls, “many of the world’s most renowned galleries … including, among many others, Agnew’s, Sam Fogg, Richard Green, Johnny van Haeften Ltd., Daniel Katz, Lowell Libson Ltd., Moretti Fine Art, Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art and Trinity Fine Art.” [An online catalogue of exhibitors is available].
The works on offer include paintings, drawings, works on paper, stained glass, arms and armor, coins, and sculpture, ranging from antiquity to the early 20th-century. There will be superb works by world famous artists, and others by lesser known figures with delightful appellations such as the “Master of the Unruly Children” (an early 16th-century Florentine/Tuscan artist represented by a terra cotta figure of a recumbent Bacchus at Trinity Fine Art).
Browsing through the list of participating galleries I pulled out three Italian paintings that caught my eye. The first, a late gothic-style gold ground painting with Moretti is a portable triptych by the obscure Neapolitan artist Giovanni da Gaeta. According to the gallery’s description: “The majority of paintings, polyptychs and frescoes created by the artist are localised in Gaeta and in the surrounding area, but it seems evident that he had been trained in a more considerable centre, probably in Naples around 1440.”
The artist’s identity was first established by Federico Zeri and his eponymous foundation lists 23 known works, inclusive of this Madonna Lactans (the description of the breastfeeding Madonna typology). The Madonna is flanked by St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony of Padua, who holds a lily. The two folding panels feature St. George, with a vanquished dragon at his feet, and St. Peter Martyr, who has a deep had wound (depictions of this saint often feature a large life or sword buried in his head – in this iteration the hilt of a knife can be seen sticking up from a wound on the upper lefthand side of the saint’s chest). The other panel includes St. Jerome, with a lion at his feet, and St. Sebastian, his body pierced with arrows. At the pinnacles are the Archangel (left with a scroll) and the Annunciate Virgin (right).
The punch work is not substantial, but sufficient to articulate the haloes, the upper portion of St. John’s staff, the announcement to the Annunciate Virgin, and the upper portion of the niches in the side panels. Overall, it’s a handsome painting and prompts my curiosity about the artist and his oeuvre.
This crucifixion from Agnew’s was identified a few years ago as an early work by Paolo Uccello. It measures nearly two feet tall and slightly more than one foot wide. It’s unclear if was part of a larger composition, but appears to have been cut down in places.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
Paolo Uccello, original name Paolo di Dono (born 1397, Pratovecchio, near Florence—died December 10, 1475, Florence) Florentine painter whose work attempted uniquely to reconcile two distinct artistic styles—the essentially decorative late Gothic and the new heroic style of the early Renaissance. Probably his most famous paintings are three panels representing the Battle of San Romano (c. 1456). His careful and sophisticated perspective studies are clearly evident in The Flood(1447–48).
Uccello’s career began by the age of ten when was apprenticed to Lorenzo Ghiberti, the artist who created the great Baptistry Doors of Florence’s Duomo – one of the great artistic achievements of the Renaissance. As the encyclopedia notes: “Uccello was long thought to be significant primarily for his role in establishing new means of rendering perspective that became a major component of the Renaissance style. The 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vasari said that Uccello was “intoxicated” by perspective. Later historians found the unique charm and decorative genius evinced by his compositions to be an even more important contribution.”
The details of this painting include the anguished faces of the Virgin and St. John and the treatment of drapery. Note the doted edging along Christ’s tunic, a small but intriguing addition that accentuates the lines of the fabric. The punch work along the edges complements the gold ground in establishing the scene as otherworldly and divine.
The final item is a recent addition to the catalogue of the 17th-century Caravaggesque Sienese painter Rutilio Manetti offered Maurizio Nobile.
According to the gallery’s write-up:
An interesting figure in the complex panorama of early 17th-century Tuscan painting, Manetti has been the subject of a reassessment by scholars in the last decade. With an individual style of great strength and originality, he succeeded in grafting the new artistic language developed in Rome by Caravaggio onto the local late-Mannerist tradition influenced by Federico Barocci, among others.
His preference for chiaroscuro effects and deep shadows, as well as lighting contrasts and the sculptural accentuation of forms, declares a steadfast commitment to Caravaggio’s naturalism, which Manetti would certainly have had the opportunity to study during his repeated stays in Rome. This first-hand knowledge, if not directly from Caravaggio himself then through his work, is clearly demonstrated in this painting of the Magdalene. The pose and expression are evidently derived from Caravaggio’s famous original depicting Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy, known today through countless derivations painted by his closest followers and only recently identified in a private collection in Switzerland.
The version displayed here is now believed to be the third by Manetti and bears witness to the popularity of the successful composition devised by the Sienese painter, undoubtedly a high point in his career in terms of the balance between realistic lighting and the classical elegance of the figures. The second version is currently kept at the Galleria Palatina in Florence, while the first, perhaps the prototype for the series as a whole, was originally exhibited in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome before making its way by roundabout means to Paris (church of Saint-Eustache).
Datable on the basis of style to circa 1626, the work is an autograph variant of the painting in the church of Saint Eustache in Paris (oil canvas, 133×160 cm) which originally hung in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. Another variant is in the Pitti Palace in Florence. The Paris prototype was engraved by Bernardino Capitelli in 1627 and was dedicated to Cassiano del Pozzo (1588-1657), Nicolas Poussin’s foremost patron.
UPDATE: This painting failed to sell.
ORIGINAL POST: The June 16, 2016, Sotheby’s Old Masters sale in Paris includes this substantial and intriguing work by Pietro Novelli, called Il Monrealese. Stylistically, the painting recalls the Neapolitan Caravaggism of Bastistello Caracciolo and Bernardo Cavallino, and the work of Giuseppi Ribera. But who is Novelli? The Getty has this short biography:
Sicily’s most important painter of the 1600s, Pietro Novelli trained with his father, a painter and mosaicist, then studied painting and perspective in Palermo. Anthony van Dyck’s visit to Sicily in 1624 influenced him for life. Van Dyck’s altarpiece,still in the oratory of a Palermo church, encouraged Novelli to lighten his palette, a decision that added a sweetness and elegance to his art.
Novelli’s travels also made a lasting impact on his work. Visiting Rome between 1622 and 1625, he studied paintings by the famous Italian Renaissance artists. His draftsmanship in particular, with its economical line, graceful curves, and abbreviated forms, shows his exposure to the art of Giovanni Lanfranco. During a trip to Naples in 1630, Novelli saw works by Jusepe de Ribera and Neapolitan naturalist painters, who encouraged him to develop a more realistic and popular art. In return, Novelli’s style brought to Ribera and Bernardo Cavallino an awareness of Van Dyck’s elegance and rich color.
Returning to Sicily in 1637, Novelli painted primarily religious subjects, including canvases and fresco cycles for ecclesiastical institutions and also served as the royal architect.
In the revolution in Palermo of 1647, he sustained mortal injuries.
The passage in this painting I find most captivating is the central section (below), with the Christ figure falling to the side, his wrists tied to the column. There is a languid singularity to the movement that contrasts with the concentrated activity/energy of the hands of Christ and his tormentor, the rope and the knife. Christ’s body is not resisting this confinement, it is surrendering in exhaustion. The line created by the tormentor’s right arm, through the rope and along Christ’s left arm adds a sense of momentum – we know when the rope is cut, Christ will collapse to the ground.
The painting, which has been in a southern French collection since the 19th century, has substantial condition issues that are visible in the online catalogue. There are cracks and tears in the canvas and paint surface, paint losses and it’s filthy. I suspect there are overpainted sections such as the Christ figure’s left leg, particularly the psoriatic looking lower half (below). There are additional details that are barely legible, especially in the lower righthand corner (below).
Sotheby’s provides the following condition report:
To the naked eye: The painting appears in a moderately satisfactory condition. It has not been touched since certainly about a century. It is under a very dirty varnish. We notice many losses (visible on the catalogue’s picture) among which a vertical line of losses all along the seam of the canvas. We also notice several little retouching areas in the sky and on the flesh. Besides, we notice a horizontal 30 cm. long tear of the canvas, on the Christ’s chest, on the centre. Under U.V. light: The painting appears under a green uniform varnish. We notice some scattered retouching on the sky, the angels’ arms and bodies as well as on the middle angel’s hair. We also notice several little spots of restoration on the Christ’s body, as well as a restoration on his cheek and hair. We also notice a restoration on the tear in the Christ’s chest (already mentioned). We notice a restoration on the Christ’s abdomen and leg. Finally, we notice several spots of retouching on the upper right corner.
Here are additional examples of his work held by the Prado, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Getty.