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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.”

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.

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