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£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.

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