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To Coincide with World Pride 2017 Museo Thyssen Unveils Newly Restored Tiepolo

July 9, 2017

Giambattista Tiepolo
The Death of Hyacinthus, ca. 1752-53
Oil on canvas. 287 x 232 cm
© Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

On view through December 17 at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain, is the recently restored Giambattista Tiepolo painting The Death of Hyacinthus. According to the museum:

In conjunction with the celebration of the Museum’s 25th anniversary and to coincide with World Pride 2017 in Madrid, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is now presenting the results of the restoration and technical study of one of the most important and fascinating works in its collection and probably its greatest gay icon: The Death of Hyacinthus by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Following its restoration in the Museum’s studios, the painting has now returned to its habitual location in Room 17, accompanied by a special display organised by the departments of Restoration and Old Master painting. This installation includes X-radiographs and infra-red reflectographs which show the most interesting aspects of the work undertaken, explain the methodology applied and reveal the outstanding quality of the painting. These images are accompanied by two preparatory drawings loaned by the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and a video of the entire restoration process which also explains the most important discoveries made during this restoration and study project and features interesting details from the painting.

Given the widespread interest in restoration projects of this type, with this new display the Museum is aiming to introduce visitors to the working methods used by restorers, which are essential for determining the appropriate treatments to be applied in each case and which also provide art historians with important information. Knowledge of the techniques and materials employed by artists is fundamental for deciding on the procedures to be adopted when halting the deterioration of a work of art. Furthermore, focusing on the most detailed aspects of the creation of a work also allows us to enter into the artist’s mind to some extent and that of his/her period and to understand the creative act and its context on the basis of more solid arguments.

Detail of cleaning performed to The Death of Hyacinthus, by Tiepolo

The painting’s history
The Death of Hyacinthus (ca.1752-53) was commissioned by Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Schaumburg-Lippe, who lived in a town near Würzburg (Germany) where Tiepolo was employed with his sons Giovanni Domenico and Lorenzo from 1750 onwards on the decoration of the residence of the new Prince-Bishop, Carl Philipp von Greiffenclau. The painting seems to have an elegiac nature as a homage to the Baron’s lover, a young Spanish musician with whom he had lived in Venice and who had died in 1751.

The painting is inspired by an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book X, 162-219): Apollo and his lover, the young and beautiful Hyacinthus, Prince of Sparta, were competing at throwing the discus when the latter was mortally wounded when struck on the head by the discus. In the classical account Hyacinthus was killed by his own clumsiness as he threw the discus during the competition but another version recounts that as it was thrown by Apollo, it was blown off course by Zephyrus, god of the west wind, who had been spurned by Hyacinthus in favour of Apollo. Unable to return him to life, Apollo immortalised the youth by making the hyacinth flower sprout from his blood on the ground.

Tiepolo depicts the scene on the basis of the Italian translation of Ovid’s text by Giovanni Andrea dell’Anguillara (Venice, 1561), in which the discus throwing is replaced by a tennis match, a fashionable sport among the nobility of the time. In the foreground we see the racquet and some balls cast on the ground and in the background a net that indicates the tennis court. Hyacinthus lies dying in front of the despairing Apollo, who feels responsible for the accident and whose gestures indicate the fateful outcome. Apollo had neglected his duties as a god to devote his time to his lover and Tiepolo reminds us of this by including two of his attributes: the lyre and the quiver with arrows, abandoned on the ground on the left while he shows Apollo himself as a youthful athlete with blonde hair and a laurel wreath. Behind them Hyacinthus’s father King Amyclas and his retinue watch the scene with sombre expressions. Numerous iconographical details emphasise the painting’s symbolic language, from the figure of the macaw, a symbol of courtship, to the mocking expression of the statue of Pan, protector of male sexuality, with Apollo’s hand covering his genitals and his thumb imitating the shape of an erection.

The composition of the central group was tried out in numerous preparatory sketches by both the artist and his son and assistant Giovanni Domenico. These studies play with the different positions adopted by the two principal figures, bringing them closer together or changing the poses. Other studies feature specific details that were subsequently carefully reproduced in the final version, like the figure of Hyacinthus and the depiction of the small putto in the drawings from the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart on display in the exhibition.

X- Ray Study of The Death of Hyacinthus, by Tiepolo

Technical study and restoration
The restoration of The Death of Hyacinthus has essentially focused on the complex elimination of the superimposed layers of oxidised and yellowed varnishes which had accumulated over time. Cleaning the painting has recovered its visual unity and the richness of the original palette with its vibrant, subtly nuanced colours. The architectural features and figures are now also easier to read and the original pictorial depth can once again be properly appreciated. Taking micro-samples of the pigments has provided new information on them and allowed for the materials used by the artist and their state of conservation to be analysed, while gigapixel images and macrophotographs have revealed the tiniest alterations and details of the painting. Ultraviolet and infra-red images have similarly provided valuable information on the creation of the work and the artist’s methods.

X-radiograph:
An X-radiograph of a painting shows the modifications introduced by the artist during the process of its creation. In The Death of Hyacinthus it can be seen that Tiepolo changed the position of the king, turning him to face the principal scene directly, which resulted in a modification of the folds of his clothing and the position of his arm. Behind this figure Tiepolo added a soldier and also changed the size and shape of both figures’ headwear. In the lower part of the composition it is evident that the straps of the quiver were originally longer. Unlike the other figures, the putto is not visible in the X-radiograph as it was painted with a type of pigment that can be easily penetrated by X-rays.

Tiepolo worked more confidently on the right part of the painting, locating the principal figures in a more emphatic manner and with hardly any changes. There are small modifications to the position of Hyacinthus’s arm and Apollo’s thumb, the position of which has been interpreted as an erotic reference. His knee, on which Cupid is leaning, was slightly moved, with the result that the latter’s left hand is suspended in the air. Tiepolo also changed the background motifs as the X-radiograph reveals what might be the sketch of a mountain as well as different architectural structures which he ultimately covered over with clouds or vegetation in order to create a greater sense of space.

Final varnishing of The Death of Hyacinthus, by Tiepolo

Infra-red reflectograph
This image reveals the preparatory drawing or study concealed by the paint layers and thus the changes introduced into the composition by the artist, some of them also visible on the Xradiograph. In this case it can be seen that the figure of Amyclas originally had a cloth headdress which was then replaced with a hat, while his right hand also reveals some corrections or changes with regard to the final position. The god Apollo appears in the preparatory drawing with some ornamental accessories such as an earring and a belt decorated with a pearl, which were subsequently covered over with brushstrokes of pigment. In addition, his left thumb was not originally superimposed over the figure of Pan as we see in the final painting and some lines of under-drawing are visible that locate Apollo’s knee in a more elevated position and in contact with Cupid’s left hand. Finally, Tiepolo made a slight change to the position of the drapery over Hyacinthus’s leg.

An intriguing 14th century Italian painting at Hampel in Munich

July 4, 2017

14th century Italian School, possibly Francesco di Antonio da Ancona,
active ca. 1383 – 1393
NOLI ME TANGERE
Oil, tempera and gold ground on softwood: 31 x 21 cm.
In gilt 19th century aedicule frame.
Estimate: €15,000-30,000.

Munich’s Hampel auction house opens its July 5, 2017 Old Masters sale with a late 14th century panel painting, possibly by the Italian artist Francesco di Antonio da Ancona.  The subject and iconography – Noli Me Tangere – is familiar in medieval Western European art dating to late antiquity, and appear in illuminated manuscripts from France and Germany (below).

Noli Me Tangere
from a Gospel Book
German, c. 1015
Hildesheim, Hildesheim Cathedral Museum
MS DS 18, fol. 75v

Master Henri, Noli Me Tangere
from Livre d’Images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainault), 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquistion francaise 16251, fol. 45v

Noli Me Tangere
Nine Leaves from a Psalter
German (Augsburg), 1225-1250
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M275, fol. 7v

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image comes from John 20:17, when Mary Magdelene sees the resurrected Christ, and the Latin “noli me tangere” translates approximately to “do not touch me.”

Direct 14th century predecessors to the Hampel painting include works by Duccio and Giotto, and the Hampel painting seems an iconographic hybrid of the two.

Duccio, Noli me tangere, 1308-11
Tempera on wood: 51 x 57 cm
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena

Giotto, Noli me tangere, 1304-1306
fresco
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

The best know work by Francesco di Antonio da Ancona can be found in the Pushkin Museum.  It is the only known signed work by the artist.

Francesco di Antonio da Ancona, Madonna and Child with Saints
Height: 1,990 mm (78.35 in). Width: 2,380 mm (93.7 in).
Click on image to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An 18th century view of Venice, taken by the Nazis, heads to auction

June 7, 2017

Michele Marieschi (1710 – 1743)
La Punta della Dogana e san Giorgio Maggiore 1739-40.
Oil on canvas.
Estimate: £500,000–700,000.

A view of Venice by the 18th century Venetian painter Michele Marieschi, which had been confiscated by the Nazis and the subject of a 70-year recovery effort, will be featured in Sotheby’s London Old Master Evening Sale on July 5, 2017. It’s a reminder that restitution of artwork and other property looted, confiscated or otherwise appropriated by the Nazis is an ongoing issue.

While the painting is not a masterpiece within Marieschi’s cannon, it’s history in the 20th century is extraordinary according to an announcement from Sotheby’s:

Originally acquired by Heinrich (Heinz) and Anna Maria (Anny) Graf in 1937, the painting hung in the family’s Vienna apartment – a highlight of their small but refined collection. In March 1938, the family’s lives were upended with the German annexation of Austria. Ousted from his job and under threat from the growing tensions under a dictatorial regime, Heinz and his young family were forced to flee their home. In anticipation of the forced emigration, which by then had become so commonplace in Vienna, all of the Graf’s possessions were put into storage, to be forwarded once the family settled into a new home. Having paid the substantial ‘exit tax’ demanded by the Germans, the Grafs made their way first to Italy, and then several months later to France, where they were joined by their two grandmothers in Quillan, a small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Following the outbreak of war in 1939, Heinz was confined to the notorious Camp Gurs in Southwest France – where Jews of non-French nationality were interned. Anny worked desperately to secure her husband’s release (she too was interned for a brief period), finally managing to obtain visas for the United States for all but one member of the family. Required by the terms of his Gurs camp release to leave the country immediately, Heinz was forced to leave his family behind and travel to the safety of Portugal alone. The family eventually reunited in Lisbon months later, sailing together to the United States and reaching New York on 26 May 1941.

Settling in Queens, the family rebuilt their lives, with Heinz, now ‘Henry’, finding employment again as an investment banker. Attempting to recover the belongings that they had placed in storage, Henry and Anny undertook extensive correspondence with the United States occupation forces in Germany, but to no avail. It later came to light that their possessions, including this Marieschi painting and portraits of Anny’s parents by Umberto Veruda, had been seized by the Nazi regime in 1940 and subsequently sold at auction. Despite years of searching, all efforts to locate their possessions failed, with both Henry and Anny passing away without having ever seen their paintings again.

The current Possessor
The exact whereabouts of the painting from 1940 to 1952 is not known. However, in 1952 it was acquired by Edward Speelman who purchased the painting from Henry James Alfred Spiller (1890 – 1966), a frequent purchaser at auction during WWII.

The current possessor bought the painting in 1953, unaware of the painting’s history and has had unbroken enjoyment of the work for more than 60 years. In 2015, the decision was made to reach out to the Graf family to resolve all title issues before moving forward with a sale.

Following the discovery of this painting nearly 15 years ago, and nearly 80 years after Henry and Anny Graf last saw the painting, a settlement between the heirs of the Graf family and the current possessors was successfully negotiated by Art Recovery International last December, leading to the subsequent sale of this remarkable work this summer.

 

£1.98 M needed to save 1,000-year-old Viking artifacts found in Scotland

June 3, 2017

Detail of an artifact from the Galloway Hoard.
Click on image to enlarge.

A campaign is underway to raise £1.98 million by November 2017 to acquire the Galloway Hoard, a collection of 1,000-year-old Viking artifacts discovered two years ago by metal-detectorists in Humphrey and Galloway.

According to the Observer:

Many of the items in the Galloway Hoard have never been found in Scotland before, let alone all together in one find. The Hoard’s contents raise new questions about the vast expanse of Viking trade routes and the connections they formed along the way. But while there is still much to be learned about the objects in the trove, the materials almost certainly travelled great distances before they made it to Scotland, according to NMS Viking expert Dr. Martin Goldberg. Of particular interest are a series of five Anglo-Saxon disc brooches crafted in a style never before found throughout Scotland, and four clover-shaped brooches that Mr. Goldberg says are completely new to Britain.

The National Museums of Scotland, which is hoping to acquire the works, notes on its website that this is, “the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland.”

 

Artifacts from the Galloway Hoard.

The website continues:

Of international significance, it includes silver, gold and jewelled treasure from across Ireland, the Anglo-Saxon world, the Holy Roman Empire, Byzantium and beyond. Other finds from around Britain and Ireland have been exceptional for a single class of object, for example, silver brooches or a gold ingot. The Galloway Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects in one discovery, hinting at hitherto unknown connections between people across Europe and perhaps much further afield.

Four-lobbed brooch from the Galloway Hoard.
Click on image to enlarge.

The Observer quotes Viking expert Dr. Martin Goldberg on the collection’s significance:

“These objects are telling us [the Vikings’] travels during this period of history goes way beyond what we expected,” he explained. “We can understand the mechanism for how these things got here—new areas of expansion and connections with the continent—but the range of material is quite unexpected. The distance we already suspect some of these objects have travelled, and the types of objects they are, we’re going to have to look far afield to identify them.”

The National Museum of Scotland is currently seeking permission to display select items from the Hoard, and its longterm goal includes ensuring that a large portion of the treasure go on longterm display at the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery in Dumfries and Galloway.

Rare Trio of Japanese Paintings Re-United after nearly 140 Years

April 7, 2017

 

Detail, Moon at Shinagawa (also known as Moonlight Revelry at Dozō Sagami); Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806); Japan, Edo period, ca. 1788; painting mounted on panel; color on paper; Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1903.54.
Click on image to enlarge.

From April 8 to July 9, 2017, the Freer Sackler Museum in Washington, DC, will host Inventing Utamaro: A Japanese Masterpiece Rediscoveredan exhibition reuniting three extensive paintings by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806).

According to a press announcement:

In 2014, the Okada Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan, made an announcement that startled the art world. The new arts center revealed it had discovered a long-lost painting by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806), a legendary but mysterious Japanese artist.

Titled Snow at Fukagawa, the immense work is one of three paintings by Utamaro that idealize famous pleasure districts in Edo (now Tokyo). This trio reached the Paris art market in the late 1880s and was quickly dispersed. Museum founder Charles Lang Freer acquired Moon at Shinagawa in 1903. Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara passed through several hands in France until the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, purchased it in the late 1950s. And Snow at Fukagawa had been missing for nearly seventy years before it resurfaced in Hakone.

For the first time in nearly 140 years, these paintings reunite in Inventing Utamaro at the Freer|Sackler, the only location to show all three original pieces. Contextualizing them within collecting and connoisseurship at the turn of the twentieth century, the exhibition explores the many questions surrounding the paintings and Utamaro himself.

Guercino painting stolen in Italy is found in Morocco

February 18, 2017
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, dit Le Guerchin (1591-1666) the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist and St. Gregory Wonderworker, 1639 Oil on canvas: 293 x 184,5 cm Stolen August 2014 form the Church of San Vincenzo in Modena, Italy.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino (1591-1666)
The Virgin and St. John the Evangelist and St. Gregory Wonderworker, 1639
Oil on canvas: 293 x 184,5 cm
Stolen August 2014 form the Church of San Vincenzo in Modena, Italy.

A Guercino painting that we reported was stolen in August 2014 from the Church of San Vincenzo in Modena, Italy, was recovered this week in Casablanca, Morocco, according AFP.  At the time of the theft Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi said the work was worth €5-6 million, although the Art Newspaper reported the painting was “neither insured nor protected by alarm.”

According to Modena Today three people have been arrested; AFP offers these details about the painting’s recovery:

It was recovered thanks to a wealthy Moroccan businessman and art collector, who was offered it for some 940,000 euros ($1 million) by three dealers in Casablanca, according to the local Gazzetta di Modena.

The connoisseur recognized the painting immediately as a Guercino and tipped off the police.

“The Moroccan authorities contacted us through Interpol to say that a large canvas that could be linked to a theft in Italy had been recovered during an investigation,” the police said in a statement.

The police sent an urgent message back asking the Moroccans to “secure the canvas” so it could be returned “as soon as possible”.

None of the reporting indicates the painting’s condition nor an exact timeline for its repatriation to Italy.

Oprah offloads Klimt portrait for $150 million

February 8, 2017
Gustav Klimt Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912 Oil on canvas: 75 in. x 47 in.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912
Oil on canvas: 75 in. x 47 in.

Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina reports that last year billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey sold Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II to a Chinese buyer for $150 million in a sale brokered by mega-dealer Larry Gagosian.  Winfrey purchased the painting for $87.9 million in 2006 at Christie’s in New York.

According to the article:

In 2014, Winfrey lent the painting anonymously to the Museum of Modern Art for five years, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential. The loan was arranged by entertainment mogul David Geffen, who is Winfrey’s friend and a benefactor of the museum, the person said.

Gagosian contacted Winfrey through Geffen.

The article also notes:

The work is the second major Klimt that changed hands since the art market started contracting. Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev sold “Water Serpents II” (1904-1907) privately for $170 million in November 2015, according to Sandy Heller, Rybolovlev’s art consultant. Both Klimts went to Asia, where booming wealth has built a growing network of collectors eager to anchor their art holdings with Western masterpieces.

“Klimt is on the list of some people,” said Grace Rong Li, who advises Asian collectors on Western modern and contemporary art. The appeal of the artist, known for his golden-hued “The Kiss,” is both aesthetic and financial, she added.

“Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II,” from 1912, depicts a woman in a long, narrow robe and halo-like black hat, standing against an ornate background of mauve and green. The subject, Bloch-Bauer, was the wife of a Jewish industrialist and art patron in Vienna.

 

For Sweden, three oil sketches of the Roman countryside by Simon Denis and Pierre Henri de Valenciennes

February 5, 2017
Simon Denis (Antwerp 1755-1812 Naples) The Waterfall in Neptune’s Grotto at Tivoli, c 1790 Oil on paper: 9 ¾ x 7 7/8 in. Click on image to enlarge

Simon Denis (Antwerp 1755-1813 Naples)
The Waterfall in Neptune’s Grotto at Tivoli, c 1790
Oil on paper: 9 ¾ x 7 7/8 in.
Click on image to enlarge

Sweden’s Nationalmuseum has acquired three oil sketches by pioneers of en plein air painting Simon Denis and Pierre Henri de Valenciennes.  Denis’ The Waterfall in Neptune’s Grotto at Tivoli and Valenciennes’ View of the Roman Campagna near Subiaco were purchased at Christie’s September 14, 2016 sale in Paris of Old Masters.  The Denis, estimated at €12,000-18,000, sold for a total of €15,000 (including fees, or $16,865), while the Valenciennes, estimated at €25,000-35,000, soared to a hefty €163,500 (including fees, or $183,833). Both were sold off by from the Minorca Collection. Another work by Denis, Study of the Roman Campagna, was purchased from the Aaron Gallery in New York.

Pierre Henri de Valenciennes (Toulouse 1750-Paris 1819) View of the Roman Campagna near Subiaco, c. 1782 Oil on paper: 12 7/8 x 19 in. Click on image to enlarge

Pierre Henri de Valenciennes (Toulouse 1750-1819 Paris)
View of the Roman Campagna near Subiaco, c. 1782
Oil on paper: 12 7/8 x 19 in.
Click on image to enlarge

The museum published the following on its website announcing the acquisition:

Views of Rome and the surrounding countryside have a distinguished pedigree. For a long time, they remained true to the 17th-century landscape ideal and were painted in the studio. Valenciennes and Denis broke new ground by making sketches in oil, often on paper, on location. The light and weather conditions were as important as the subject, so the works were produced quickly. Despite being preparatory studies, these oil sketches laid the foundations for much of the 19th century’s plein air painting.

Pierre Henri de Valenciennes (1750–1819) is considered a pioneer who had a major influence on French art as both a theorist and a teacher. He was elected to the academy of fine arts in Paris in 1787, and served as professor of perspective theory from 1812 onward. Élémens de perspective pratique à l’usage des artistes (1800), his treatise on practical landscape painting with a focus on perspective, was particularly significant. Eventually his efforts led the academy to establish a dedicated prize for historical landscape painting.

The recently acquired view of Subiaco near Rome shows Valenciennes’ skill in capturing the lighting conditions and cloud shadows through brushwork that is both sensitive and vivid. The painting depicts the movement of the wind and its effects rather more than the landscape itself. Oil sketches of this kind, painted on location, differ radically from the works Valenciennes created in his studio. The latter portray an idealised version of nature, with scenes from classical mythology, but thanks to the introduction of oil sketches to the process, the lighting and colouring are markedly different from those seen in 17th-century landscape painting.

Simon Denis (Antwerp 1755-Naples 1812) Study of the Roman Campagna, c 1800. Oil on paper. Click on image to enlarge

Simon Denis (Antwerp 1755-1813 Naples)
Study of the Roman Campagna, c 1800.
Oil on paper.
Click on image to enlarge

Simon Denis (1755–1813), a native of Antwerp, travelled via Paris to Italy, where he stayed for the rest of his life. Long overlooked, Denis was rediscovered in 1992 when a large number of his oil sketches were put up for sale. These had been passed down through generations of the artist’s descendants, so had stayed out of the public eye. His technique is reminiscent of Valenciennes, with similarly economical brushwork and a focus on the lighting and weather conditions. Unlike the idealised landscapes, the oil sketches portray nature as changeable, which the recently acquired pieces exemplify superbly. The view of the Roman Campagna in particular shows Denis’ skill in capturing atmospheric phenomena with great simplicity. The results are magnificent and the effect almost illusory.

The smaller oil sketch depicts Neptune’s Grotto at Tivoli. With masterful simplicity, Denis captures the play of light in the waterfall and the foliage in the foreground contrasted with the dark cliff. The work appears to have been painted in haste, with thinly applied colours that dried rapidly, allowing the artist to move on to the next layer. A crouching figure at lower right serves to illustrate the scale of the subject.

When Nationalmuseum reopens after renovations, these three new acquisitions will enable the museum to better chart the beginnings of plein air painting. This would not have been possible without the generous support of the Wiros Fund, the Sophia Giesecke Fund, and the Hedda and N D Qvist Memorial 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.

An important Salomon van Ruysdael for the Stedelijk Museum, Alkmaar

February 5, 2017
Ruysdael. Click on image to enlarge.

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, Naarden, born ca. 1600–1603, died 1670 Haarlem)
A View of Alkmaar with the Sint Laurenskerk from the North
Signed and dated on the boat lower right: S. VRUYSDAEL. 1644 (VR in ligature)
Oil on panel, 241⁄4 x 363⁄4 ins. (61.6 x 93.4 cm)
Alkmaar, Stedelijk Museum
Click on image to enlarge.

The Stedelijk Museum, Alkmaar in The Netherlands, has acquired Salomon van Ruysdael’s A View of Alkmaar with the Sint Laurenskerk from the North of 1644, the earliest of several scenes the artist painted of the town. The oil on panel was acquired from an American private collection, and is the first of the Van Ruysdael Alkmaar paintings in a Dutch public collection.

According to the museum’s website, the artist had a special relationship with Alkmaar. His brother Pieter de Gooyer lived there with his family. Van Ruysdael frequently stayed in the city, especially after Peter was deceased and Salomon became guardian of  his children.

The acquisition was made possible by contributions from the King Baudouin Foundation United States, the Rembrandt Association, BankGiro Lottery Acquisition Fund, Mondriaan Foundation, the VSB, Victory Fund Alkmaar, Alkmaar and the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar Friends.

The painting had been with London-based art Old Master painting dealer Johnny van Haeften, whose website has the following description of the painting:

Between the years 1644 and 1664, Ruysdael painted seven landscapes with the city of Alkmaar, six of which are recorded in Stechow in his 1975 monograph on the artist-i. The present work, which appears to be the earliest and one of the most accurate views of the city, was not known to him. It appeared on the art market in 1987 and has since been universally accepted as an autograph work. However, the two figures and the basket in the foreground lower left, visible in the 1987 catalogue illustration, proved to be nineteenth-century additions and have since been removed.

The city of Alkmaar is only about 35 kilometres from Haarlem, and Ruysdael is known to have been there in 1644, as his brother, Pieter de Goyer, was buried in the Grote Kerk (Sint Laurenskerk) on 28 January 1644. Ruysdael shows the city from the north, the church dominating all other buildings-ii. Its choir is to the left and the nave to the right, while the long transept stretches out towards the viewer. Immediately to the right of the transept is an odd bulbous shape, which reveals itself as a family of storks nesting in the bell tower of a now- destroyed monastery. The orientation here is the same as the Dublin painting of Alkmaar with the Grote Kerk, Winter (Stechow 21), dated 1647-iii. The Dublin picture at first looks quite different from A View of Alkmaar with the Sint Laurenskerk from the North because of the change in season. The presence of the frozen river, with its crowds of skaters and the large sledges in the foreground, masks the fact that the basic geography is the same – even the imaginary course of the river in the foreground. However, the View of the Town of Alkmaar, in the Metropolitan Museum (Stechow 401) is far closer in feeling. There Ruysdael shows the church from the west, so that we see the nave of the church coming towards us. In the foreground is a similar lazy river landscape, though with a ferryboat replacing the fishermen.

A View of Alkmaar with the Sint Laurenskerk from the North is characteristic of Ruysdael’s paintings of the mid-1640s. Here he has left behind his tonal phase, when he was strongly under the influence of Jan van Goyen, and has moved to a more majestic depiction of the Dutch landscape. His palette is richer and more varied, with deeper blues in the sky and touches of local colour in the foreground figures and the sails. Ruysdael uses a traditional compositional device to create a sense of spatial recession: the long thin triangle of shore that moves from middle ground to the distant right. This is energised by the more dramatic falling line of the treetops, anchored at the centre by the large mass of the church, which dwarfs the surrounding buildings. He peoples the foreground with fishermen and their baskets and nets and scatters the the smaller silhouettes of waterfowl among them. The present work is a combination of historical accuracy and imagination that vividly evokes the landscape and mood of seventeenth-century Holland.

Salomon Jacobsz. van Ruysdael was born in Naarden around 1600, the son of a cabinet maker from Gooiland, Jacob Jansz. de Goyer. Early in his life, Salomon used his father’s name but later he and his brother Isaack adopted the name Ruysdael, probably derived from the country manor, Ruisschendael near Blaricum, their father’s home town. Despite the difference in spelling, it is the same family as the artist’s famous nephew, Jacob van Ruisdael. Shortly after their father’s death in 1616, Salomon and Isaack, who was also a painter, frame maker and art dealer, moved to Haarlem. Salomon entered the city’s St. Luke’s Guild in 1623 and lived there for the rest of his life. His earliest known landscape is dated 1626 and he was praised as a landscape painter as early as 1628 by Samuel van Ampzing-iv. In 1647 and 1669 he served as an officer of the St. Luke’s Guild and, in 1648, was made dean. In 1651, Ruysdael was recorded as a merchant dealing in blue dye for Haarlem’s bleacheries. Although he lived most of his life in Haarlem, he appears to have travelled widely in The Netherlands and his paintings include views of Dordrecht, Utrecht, Arnhem, Alkmaar and Rhenen. He was buried in St. Bavo’s Church in Haarlem in 1670.

i W. Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael, eine Einfuhrung in seine Kunst, 2nd (revised) edition, Berlin 1975, cat. no. 9, 1656, London art market 1957; cat. no. 21, 1647, Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland; cat. no. 401, datable to mid-1650s, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; cat. no. 523B, 1651, Longleat, The Marquis of Bath; cat. no. 535, 1664, New York, Private Collection; cat. no. 545, Rheden, F. H. Fentener van Vlissingen.

ii See. W. Liedtke, Dutch Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New Haven and London, 2007, vol. 2, pp. 812-814, under cat. no. 187, for a discussion of the orientation of the church and the geography of the city.

iii The signature and date are not recorded by Stechow but were revealed in cleaning. See: H. Potterton, Dutch Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Painting in the National Gallery of Ireland. A Complete Catalogue, Dublin 1986, p. 138, cat. no. 27.
iv Samuel Ampzing, Beschrijving ende lof der stad Haerlem in Holland, Haarlem, 1628.

Other Alkmaar paintings can be found at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it is part of the founding collection of 1871 (below).

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, Naarden, born ca. 1600–1603, died 1670 Haarlem) View of the Town of Alkmaar Oil on panel: 20 1/4 x 33 in. (51.4 x 83.8 cm) Click on image to enlarge.

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, Naarden, born ca. 1600–1603, died 1670 Haarlem)
View of the Town of Alkmaar
Oil on panel: 20 1/4 x 33 in. (51.4 x 83.8 cm)
Click on image to enlarge.

And, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain (below).

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, Naarden, born ca. 1600–1603, died 1670 Haarlem) View of Alkmaar, ca. 1650 Oil on panel: 36.2 x 32.5 cm Click on image to enlarge

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, Naarden, born ca. 1600–1603, died 1670 Haarlem)
View of Alkmaar, ca. 1650
Oil on panel: 36.2 x 32.5 cm
Click on image to enlarge

 

Rediscovered Andrea del Sarto (self) portrait drawing makes €3.2million

December 23, 2016
Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man, Andrea d’Angiolo, called Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) Red and black chalk on paper: 9 x 7 inches Click on image to enlarge

Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man, Andrea d’Angiolo, called Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530)
Red and black chalk on paper: 9 x 7 inches
Click on image to enlarge

A red and black chalk drawing by the Italian artist known as Andrea del Sarto and last seen publicly at a sale on July 1, 1833, was sold for a €3.2million on December 17, 2016 at Gestas & Carrère in Pau, a record price for an Old Master drawing at auction in France.  According to the Antiques Trade Gazettethe drawing, recently rediscovered in a private collection and which carried a €500,000-600,000 pre-sale estimate, is going to an American collection. The report did not specify if it was a public institution or a private buyer.

What makes this story even more interesting is that the drawing may actually be a self portrait.  According to the Gazette:

The bearded man depicted in the drawing also appears three major works completed by del Sarto in the 1520s: the Panciatichi Assumption c.1523 and the Passerini Assumption c.1526 (both now housed in the Pitti Palace, Florence) and the Borgherini Holy Family c.1529 in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

In his two-volume biography of 1965, the British art historian John Shearman suggested the character assuming this distinctive posture and expression may well be a self-portrait of Andrea del Sarto himself.

Although disputed, the theory gains weight with a passage from Giorgio Vasari’s Lives regarding the Panciatichi altarpiece. It reads: “Among the apostles Andrea made his self-portrait, it seems so natural, living”.

The discovery in Pau represents a significant addition to the artist’s oeuvre. Less than 200 drawings by del Sarto survive with most in major museums (80 are in the Uffizi while the Louvre has 40).

Less than 10 autograph drawings are known to reside in private collections. The last on the market was the red and black chalk head of Saint Joseph, a preparatory drawing for the Bracci altarpiece with subsidiary studies c.1526-27, that sold for a premium-inclusive £6.5m at Christie’s London in 2005.

While the €3.2m sum represents the highest price for an Old Master drawing at a French auction, the record could well be surpassed in June next year when Paris saleroom Tajan offer a study of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian which has been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

New discoveries in the Ghent Altarpiece – one of the world’s greatest paintings

December 22, 2016
These interior wooden panels, featuring Adam and Eve (holding a citrus fruit), and the iconic “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” have yet to be restored. For many years, the inside panels were only displayed on feast days. Click on image to enlarge.

These interior wooden panels, featuring Adam and Eve (holding a citrus fruit), and the iconic “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” have yet to be restored. For many years, the inside panels were only displayed on feast days.
Click on image to enlarge.

The Ghent Altarpiece, the 15th century polyptych by the Flemish brothers Jan and Hubert Van Eyck, is one of the most impressive, influential, and enigmatic paintings produced in the West, and one with a colorful history.  A multi-year restoration project has revealed new secrets about the nearly six hundred year old masterpiece, according to a fascinating article in the New York Times.

Of the painting’s iconography, the article notes:

[T]he altarpiece is widely recognized as one of history’s most influential art works, because of the intimate attention it gives to both earthly and divine beauty. The polyptych altarpiece, consisting of 12 panels, has at its center its most iconic panel, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.’’ It depicts a liturgy attended by different groups of people in a landscape rich in religious symbolism. In the middle is a white lamb on an altar, with a breast wound gushing blood.

On the lower outer panels, people look on — some more interested than others. The upper register portrays three enthroned figures: In the middle might be God or Christ — experts are not sure — flanked by the Virgin Mary on the left and John the Baptist on the right.

On the upper outer panels, angels sing and play music. Adam and Eve, in one of the earliest renderings of them naked with fig leaves, stand on the outermost wings. The upper outside register represents scenes from the Annunciation of Mary and the lower register has sculptures of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

Visitors to Ghent today see parts of the altarpiece in a special room at St. Bavo Cathedral, for which it was commissioned, and the Museum of Fine Arts, where the restoration efforts can be observed through a glass wall.  Read the Times story about the new scanning technologies that have allowed restorers to go below centuries of old overpainting and layers of varnish to see the original paint layers, and other developments. But, by all means, go to Ghent and see this incomparable painting – one of the great art experiences to be had.

 

A Ribera for San Diego

November 30, 2016
Saint James the Lesser (ca. 1632) by Jusepe de Ribera.

Saint James the Lesser (ca. 1632) by Jusepe de Ribera.

The San Diego Museum of Art is proud to announce the acquisition of Saint James the Lesser (ca. 1632) by Jusepe de Ribera. This 17th-century work by the renowned Spanish Baroque master builds on the Museum’s prestigious collection of Spanish art. The painting is currently on display in the European galleries alongside other masterpieces in the collection by Francisco de Zurbarán, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and El Greco.

Considered the first great Old Master of the Spanish Baroque, Jusepe de Ribera is known for his detailed, unflinchingly hyperrealistic depictions of the human body.

Born in Spain, Ribera moved to Italy seeking prominence as a young artist. Known for signing his paintings “Jusepe de Ribera, español,” Ribera used his nationality as a marketing tool to connect to wealthy Spanish patrons in Naples; this is also what led to his nickname “Lo Spagnoletto” or “little Spaniard.” It was in Italy where Ribera secured his fame and produced his most legendary works, including Saint James the Lesser. Several large religious institutions commissioned works from him, including the Certosa di San Martino.

“Since the inception of this institution, The San Diego Museum of Art has had a deep connection to Spanish art and we’re delighted to welcome Jusepe De Ribera’s Saint James the Lesser into the permanent collection,” said Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director of The San Diego Museum of Art. “The work is a significant addition to the Museum’s collection, and further contributes to the recognition of our collection of Spanish holdings as among the finest in the world.”

Michael Brown, Ph.D., the associate curator of European Art at The San Diego Museum of Art, said “Ribera was one of the most innovative artists of his day, a true pioneer of a new realistic approach to painting. His scenes connect so powerfully because he depicted a recognizable world – his saints look as though they’ve been plucked from the gritty streets of Naples.”

This life-sized representation of Saint James shows him gazing upward and holding an excerpt of the Apostles’ Creed. The piece features dramatic lighting and intense highlights, characteristics of Ribera’s best works. This saint was a particular favorite of Ribera’s, as was the recognizable model, who appears in other works by Ribera, which are on display across the globe including at the Thyssen-Bornemisza and The Prado, both in Madrid, Spain.

The work’s quality is on par with those found at the world’s finest museums, including the Louvre, the National Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and will be the singular painting by Ribera in the Museum’s permanent collection.

Spanning the centuries from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism, the Museum is acclaimed for its collection of Spanish masterpieces. The façade of the Museum itself includes life-sized sculptures of Murillo, Zurbarán, and Diego Velázquez as well as reliefs in tondo of Ribera and El Greco. The Museum now has paintings within its collection from each of the artists on the façade, except for Velázquez.

Purchased by the Museum from Rafael Valls, LTD and Helena Mola, Ribera’s Saint James the Lesser joins the collection following the recent acquisitions of Sorolla’s By the Seashore, Valencia, Zurbarán’s Saint Francis in Prayer in a Grotto, and Pedro de Mena’s San Diego de Alcalá, a Spanish baroque sculpture. These works now complement an impressive collection of art by Francisco de Goya, El Greco, Sánchez Cotán, Valdés Leal and more.

Is this a real Caravaggio worth more than $130 million?

November 26, 2016
French painting expert Eric Turquin speaks on April 12, 2016 in Paris in front of the painting entitled "Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes", presented as being painted by Italian artist Caravaggio (1571-1610), while experts are still to determine its authenticity. The painting was found out in an attic of a house near Toulouse, southwestern France. PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP. Click on image to enlarge.

French painting expert Eric Turquin speaks on April 12, 2016 in Paris in front of the painting entitled “Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes”, presented as being painted by Italian artist Caravaggio (1571-1610), while experts are still to determine its authenticity. The painting was found out in an attic of a house near Toulouse, southwestern France. PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP.
Click on image to enlarge.

The discovery of a “new” Caravaggio painting is bound to be both newsworthy and controversial, and the unveiling of a Judith cutting of the head of Holofernes at Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera is both.  The painting, dated to 1606-07, was discovered in the attic of a house near Toulouse, France, in 2014.  Not only is the attribution contested, but the painting’s exhibition at the museum has resulted in one of its advisory board members to resign in protest over the commercialization of the enterprise.

Caravaggio discoveries are rare but not unusual.  The last major discovery was in 1991 with The Taking of Christ now at the National Gallery of Ireland.  Another version of Judith Beheading Holofernes was discovered in the 1950s and is now at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome.

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598-99, Palazzo Barberini.

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598-99, Palazzo Barberini.

According to the Art Newspaper, the new discovery now on view at the Brera:

[W]ill be displayed alongside the institution’s Caravaggio masterpiece, the Supper at Emmaus (1605-06), a copy of Caravaggio’s Magdalen in Ecstasy (after 1610) and three works by the painter’s Flemish follower Louis Finson. The exhibition Caravaggio: a Question of Attribution (10 November-5 February), part of the museum’s “dialogues” series pairing works from its collection with key loans, will offer both art historians and the general public a unique opportunity to assess the controversial attribution for themselves, says the director James Bradburne.

The initiative, organised by the Caravaggio specialist and former director of the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, Nicola Spinosa, has already divided experts. On 25 October, the art historian Giovanni Agosti resigned from Brera’s advisory committee in protest against the “uncritical” presentation of a painting that is “not only private property but for sale”. The work, which was discovered in 2014 by a French family who wanted to fix their leaky roof, was entrusted to Eric Turquin, a Parisian Old Master dealer who claims it could be worth €120m. “Brera is a museum of the Italian state, not a commercial gallery or a banking foundation. Presenting a painting in its rooms automatically confers authority on it,” Agosti wrote in a letter to Bradburne.

At the heart of the debate is the labelling of the work as a Caravaggio in the wall texts and exhibition catalogue. A museum “should not accept the conditions of a lender, especially if the lender is appointed to sell the painting”, Agosti says. The French Judith will be shown with a “clear disclaimer” that the attribution comes from the owner and not the museum, Bradburne tells The Art Newspaper. “There is no ambiguity about the uncertainties surrounding the painting.”

Technical research has so far proved inconclusive. The French culture ministry declared the work a national treasure in March, placing it under an export ban for 30 months while the Musée du Louvre conducts further study and the government considers whether to make an offer to buy it. Spinosa was among the Caravaggio scholars invited by Turquin to examine the painting, identifying it in his written evaluation as a lost original last documented in the early 1600s “even if we do not have any tangible or irrefutable proof”. Another expert, Mina Gregori, believes the work to be a copy by Finson, who is recorded as owning the lost Judith between 1607 and his death in 1617.

 Louis Finson’s copy of Caravaggio’s lost original, Judith Beheading Holofernes (around 1607), from the Intesa Sanpaolo bank collection (Image: Luciano Pedicini / courtesy of the Pinacoteca di Brera) The disputed Caravaggio: Judith Beheading Holofernes (1606-07), currently in the guardianship of the French ministry of culture (Image: courtesy of the Pinacoteca di Brera)

Louis Finson’s copy of Caravaggio’s lost original, Judith Beheading Holofernes (around 1607), from the Intesa Sanpaolo bank collection (Image: Luciano Pedicini / courtesy of the Pinacoteca di Brera) The disputed Caravaggio: Judith Beheading Holofernes (1606-07), currently in the guardianship of the French ministry of culture (Image: courtesy of the Pinacoteca di Brera)

The exhibition will include an almost identical composition dated to 1607 and attributed to Finson, on loan from the Intesa Sanpaolo bank in Naples. However, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica at Palazzo Barberini in Rome refused to lend the accepted, earlier version of Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (around 1598-99), La Repubblica reports. “I do not believe that it would have made sense to exhibit the Barberini Judith alongside the one found in France… From photographs it looks like a beautiful picture, but it is a Neapolitan prototype,” the director Flaminia Gennari Santori told the Italian newspaper.

Bradburne maintains that: “it is not the job of a museum to confirm the attribution of the paintings it borrows, only to decide firstly if the painting is necessary for the thesis of its exhibition, in this case ‘A question of attribution’ and secondly if it is of a quality that warrants being shown in a museum, which in this case—whether it is a Caravaggio or not—it certainly is.” While he concedes that museums can influence the market, Bradburne says the “only risk” in showing the French Judith is for the owner “if it does not garner the consensus of the experts”. The museum is due to host a day-long seminar with leading Caravaggio scholars before the end of January 2017.

German museum acquires study for masterpiece destroyed in WWII

November 25, 2016
Francesco Trevisani, Massacre of the Innocents (study), around 1714, oil on canvas, 75 x 136 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, DLN Nr. 2016/2; copyright: SKD, photograph: Estel/Klut. 2016 gift from Karen S. W. Friedman, Edward A. Friedman, Kristin Friedman, Theodore N. Mirvis, Ruth Mirvis, Gary D. Friedman, Darcy Bradbury and Eric Seiler through the "Friends of Dresden" in New York City

Francesco Trevisani, Massacre of the Innocents (study), around 1714, oil on canvas: 75 x 136 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, DLN Nr. 2016/2; 2016 gift from Karen S. W. Friedman, Edward A. Friedman, Kristin Friedman, Theodore N. Mirvis, Ruth Mirvis, Gary D. Friedman, Darcy Bradbury and Eric Seiler through the “Friends of Dresden” in New York City.

A study for an early 18th century painting destroyed in 1945 during World War II has been acquired by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) at Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.  The final version of Francesco Trevisani’s (1656-1746) Massacre of the Innocents had been at the museum in Dresden for more than 200 years before it was incinerated.   The new acquisition is the only known study.

Francesco Trevisani, Massacre of the Innocents, around 1714, oil on canvas, 250 x 464 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, gallery no. 445, destroyed by fire in 1945 in Dresden.

Francesco Trevisani, Massacre of the Innocents, around 1714, oil on canvas: 250 x 464 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, gallery no. 445, destroyed by fire in 1945 in Dresden.

According to the museum’s announcement:

Francesco Trevisani is considered one of the central Roman Baroque painters of the first half of the 18th century. He created the “Massacre of the Innocents” in around 1714 for Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667–1740), one of the most influential and innovative art patrons of the time.

Before the artist painted the subject onto the huge canvas, more than four and a half metres wide, he painted the oil study (“bozzetto” in Italian) in preparation. The impressive dimensions of this study (75 x 136 cm) indicate that the draft was also presented to the client to give him an initial idea of its composition and colour scheme.

Trevisani’s “Massacre of the Innocents” was part of a cycle on Jesus’ childhood which Ottoboni probably commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of his appointment as a cardinal and vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman church. Four artists worked on the cycle, which originally comprised eight paintings. Of the five works from the cycle still known today, four were purchased in 1743 by Augustus III, Prince Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, for his collection of paintings in Dresden. As well as the “Massacre of the Innocents”, the other paintings are “The Three Magi in front of Herod” by Sebastiano Conca, “The Adoration of the Magi” by Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari and “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Francesco Trevisani, all three of which are still in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.

The emotion-laden rhetoric of the imagery is typical of Late Baroque painting. Trevisani places the figures as if they are on a stage, giving them passionate gestures and facial expressions. He uses this rhetorical repertoire to portray the scene described in the Gospel according to St. Matthew when baby sons were massacred on the orders of King Herod immediately after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:16). Herod wanted to do away with the new-born king of the Jews, Jesus of Nazareth, his putative rival.

Darcy Bradbury, representing the donators, commented, “We are very pleased to bring this important work to the City of Dresden. The subject matter of our painting is tragic, and the destruction of the original masterpiece in the last, terrible weeks of World War II was also tragic, a reminder of the terrible human consequences of war. Dr. Blobel, a Nobel prize winning scientist and founder of “Friends of Dresden”, who contributed his entire Nobel prize award to the restoration of Dresden, was protected as a young child by some kind and courageous citizens of Saxony from the worst consequences of war. As American Jews, that story spoke to us so deeply. By giving this painting to the people of Dresden, we hope that it can remind all of us of the both the terrible and beautiful things that humankind can do. “.

Marion Ackermann, Director General of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, announced, “We are very grateful to the donators in the USA for this generous gift. This study will give our visitors a specific impression, for the first time, of the appearance of this large-scale painting by the Roman artist before it was destroyed in 1945. I would like to thank the donators Karen S. W. Friedman, Edward A. Friedman, Kristin Friedman, Gary D. Friedman, Theodore N. Mirvis, Ruth Mirvis, Darcy Bradbury and Eric Seiler on behalf of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. The “Friends of Dresden” association (New York City) made the organisational aspects of this donation possible, for which we would also like to thank Günter Blobel.”

National Gallery of Art Acquires Multi-million dollar Portrait featured in Christie’s Old Masters June 2014 New York Sale

May 27, 2014
Lot 16. Caspar Netscher (?Heidelberg 1639-1684 The Hague) Woman feeding a parrot signed and dated 'CNetscher. Ao. 16.66.' (CN linked) (lower left) oil on panel 18 1/8 x 14 5/8 in. (46 x 37 cm.) Estimate: $2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 16. Caspar Netscher (?Heidelberg 1639-1684 The Hague) Woman feeding a parrot
signed and dated ‘CNetscher. Ao. 16.66.’ (CN linked) (lower left)
oil on panel: 18 1/8 x 14 5/8 in. (46 x 37 cm.)
Estimate: $2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $4.4 million ($5,093,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

Lot 5. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) Peasants in an open wagon oil on panel 4½ x 9½ in. (11.5 x 24 cm.) Estimate: $300,000-500,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 5. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) Peasants in an open wagon
oil on panel: 4½ x 9½ in. (11.5 x 24 cm.)
Estimate: $300,000-500,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $550,000 ($665,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

Lot 6. Jan Josefsz. van Goyen (Leiden 1596-1656 The Hague) A winter scene with skaters and a village beyond signed and dated 'I V GOIEN 1626' (lower right) oil on panel 12 5/8 x 19 7/8 in. (32 x 50.5 cm.) Estimate: $400,000-600,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 6. Jan Josefsz. van Goyen (Leiden 1596-1656 The Hague) A winter scene with skaters and a village beyond
signed and dated ‘I V GOIEN 1626’ (lower right), oil on panel: 12 5/8 x 19 7/8 in. (32 x 50.5 cm.)
Estimate: $400,000-600,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $320,000 ($389,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

Llot 8. Studio of Bernard van Orley (Brussels c. 1488-1541) Christ on the Road to Calvary oil on panel 25¾ x 22 7/8 in. (65.5 x 58 cm.) Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Llot 8. Studio of Bernard van Orley (Brussels c. 1488-1541) Christ on the Road to Calvary
oil on panel: 25¾ x 22 7/8 in. (65.5 x 58 cm.)
Estimate: $100,000-150,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $260,000 ($317,00 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

Lot 9. The Master of the Antwerp Adoration (active Antwerp c. 1505-1530) The Holy Family in a garden oil on panel, circular 23 5/8 in. (60 cm.) diameter, an approximately 1/8 in. (0.4 cm.) addition to the upper edge Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 9. The Master of the Antwerp Adoration (active Antwerp c. 1505-1530), The Holy Family in a garden
oil on panel, circular: 23 5/8 in. (60 cm.) diameter, an approximately 1/8 in. (0.4 cm.) addition to the upper edge
Estimate: $250,000-350,000. The estimate for this lot was revised down to $200,000-300,000.  This lot sold for a hammer price of $140,000 ($173,000 with the buyer’s premium)
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

Lot 17. The Master of the Dominican Effigies (Florence, c. 1310-1350) A triptych: central panel: The Madonna and Child Enthroned, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria and another Saint; the wings: The Flagellation of Christ; and The Crucifixion, with The Annunciation tempera and gold on panel, in an integral tabernacle frame open: 23 x 18 7/8 in. (59 x 47.9 cm.); closed: 23 x 10 7/8 in. (59 x 27.7 cm.) Estimate: $200,000-300,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 17. The Master of the Dominican Effigies (Florence, c. 1310-1350)
A triptych: central panel: The Madonna and Child Enthroned, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria and another Saint; the wings: The Flagellation of Christ; and The Crucifixion, with The Annunciation
tempera and gold on panel, in an integral tabernacle frame
open: 23 x 18 7/8 in. (59 x 47.9 cm.); closed: 23 x 10 7/8 in. (59 x 27.7 cm.)
Estimate: $200,000-300,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $200,000 ($245,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

Lot 29. Gerard ter Borch (Zwolle 1617-1681 Deventer) A guardroom interior with a soldier blowing smoke in the face of his sleeping companion, a third looking on oil on panel 18½ x 14½ in. (47 x 36.8 cm.) Estimate: $60,000-80,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 29. Gerard ter Borch (Zwolle 1617-1681 Deventer)
A guardroom interior with a soldier blowing smoke in the face of his sleeping companion, a third looking on
oil on panel: 18½ x 14½ in. (47 x 36.8 cm.)
Estimate: $60,000-80,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $170,000 ($209,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

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