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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.

A major discovery in small museum storeroom – a painting worth millions

September 26, 2016
Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), Study for Meleager and Atalanta. Swansea Museum.

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), Study for Meleager and Atalanta.
Swansea Museum.

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 Londonthe 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.

Jacob Jordans, Meleager and Atalanta. Oil on canvas: 152.3 x 240.5 cm. Prado Click on image to enlarge.

Jacob Jordans, Meleager and Atalanta. Oil on canvas: 152.3 x 240.5 cm.
Prado
Click on image to enlarge.

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.

London’s National Gallery needs £30.7 million to keep a rare Pontormo

September 18, 2016
Pontormo Portrait of a Young Man in Red Cap (1530) Photo: UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Pontormo Portrait of a Young Man in Red Cap (1530)
Photo: UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport

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 Guardianin 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 National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London

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.

A Weenix Still Life for Sweden’s National Museum

September 17, 2016
Jan Weenix, A Hunting Still Life.

Jan Weenix, A Hunting Still Life, 1684.

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

A Parmigianino for the Getty?

September 3, 2016
Francesco Mazzuola, called Parmigianino (1503-1540), Virgin With Child, St. John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene Oil on paper mounted on panel: 75.5 x 59.7 cm Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle Photo : Getty Museum

Francesco Mazzuola, called Parmigianino (1503-1540), Virgin With Child, St. John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene
Oil on paper mounted on panel: 75.5 x 59.7 cm
Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle
Photo : Getty Museum

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.

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