Saturday, 31 January 2015

Copy of Memling, Nativity, left wing of Prado triptych

It's properly labeled by the auction house, so not really a hidden treasure, but rather uncommon nevertheless: Setdart auctions a 17th century(?) copy of Hans Memling's "Nativity", the left wing of a triptych in the Prado. Estimated at 12,000 to 15,000 Euro, the current highest bid is only at 2,400 Euro, with some two weeks to go still (until 11 February).

I don't know whether the date is right, the 17th and 18th centuries were not the most common to find copies of Memling (so oldfashioned!), but that's not that important here. It is nicely painted though lacking in details (the architecture and background on the left).

Friday, 30 January 2015

Unrecognized copies

One of the things I find amusing is to find copies after more or less famous paintings, which haven't been recognised (or at least haven't been mentioned) by the auction house. Because they don't know? Because they think an "original" painting will fetch more than a copy? Because they don't have the time? Who knows...

This painting is being auctioned at Babuino as "Flemish painter, 19th century". Both may be correct, certainly the age, but it actually is a reversed and Classicism-ified copy of "The Child Christ Sleeping on the Cross", for whom the original painter is hard to find. I have seen it attributed to Guido Reni (at a Dorotheum sale), Francesco Albani (Bonham's), and Cristofano Allori. The painting has been copied quite regularly, but rarely in reverse. No estimate at the auction house, and I would be surprised if it went for more than a couple of hundred Euro.

The source for the reversal may be this engraving.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Dutch seventeenth century, fishermen

Presumably a Dutch seventeenth century painting of fishermen and the harbour. For sale at Casa d'Aste Babuino in an auction with a rather nice assortment of pictures, but an online catalogue which could benefit of larger pictures. This one is estimated at 800 to 1,200 Euro only, which isn't a lot for a large (93 by 146 cm) oil like this. It has some elements of the work of Jan Harmensz. Vijnck, but is too precise for it. It may be that a more close-up picture would reveal the relative weakness of the work (it is amazing and a bit depressing how many pictures look good on a small view, but turn out to be very deficient when seen on a larger scale or more close-up; not just the state they are in, but the artistic quality of the work, which shows that the painter has looked at examples by known masters but just doesn't have the talent (and patience probably) to come even close in details, only in the general outline). But as it stands, it seems well worth a gamble, as it looks like a really nice, good quality Dutch painting which should be worth closer to 5,000 Euro. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

From follower of Teniers to Cornelis de Wael back to follower of Teniers the Younger?

So, a nice, typical "after Teniers" painting is for sale in France now. Better than the countless mediocre "after Teniers" that litter every auction apparently, I tried to see if I could find more info on this one.

Turns out that it was sold (rather dirty) in April for 1,900 Euro (as follower of Teniers) at Lasseron, only to reappear cleaned (as above) at Aguttes in September as a painting by Cornelis De Wael, estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 Euro. Nice ROI, but no one bought it...

So, now it's once again for sale (third thime in less than a year!), back to the old attribution of Follower of Teniers, an with an estimate of 2,500 to 3,500 Euro (original price, costs, and cleaning costs probably), at Doullens, 1 February. Shows that not every sleeper and fast profit works out so well in the end...


A "continental school", 17th / 18th century, at Blomqvist, estimated at 25,000 Norsk Krone (close to 3,000 Euro). (UPDATE: NOT SOLD) Not too big at 77 by 108 cm, it looked tantalisingly familiar as a copy of a better known work, but as usual I can't put my finger on it (let's hope that improves when this blog is a little bit older!).

Searching for it didn't reveal an original, but I did found another (slightly better) copy of it, which remained unsold in 2010 at Artcurial. It is listed at the RKD as Southern Netherlands, ca. 1600. There has to be some (lost?) original by a good artist for this composition, but who or where? 3,000 Euro for the one for sale now seems to be on the high side, but the painting is interesting. Anyone with a guess or more knowledge, feel free to comment (on all my posts, not just here).

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Rogier Van der Weyden: "While nursing your child, regularly switch sides!"

In the current batch of Christie's Old Masters sales, two paintings caught my eye. The topmost picture is of a "Follower of van der Weyden, ca. 1500" and estimated at $40,000 to $60,000. The bottom one is from the "Brussels School, ca. 1500" and estimated at $70,000 to $100,000. It is slightly larger than the first one (36 by 27 compared to 29 by 20).

Looking at them in detail, it is clear that Van der Weyden has been a bit lazy here. The pictures have simply been switched, but the Virgin is identical, with the same hair, falling down exactly the same but on the other side(!), same clothes (though a slightly more decorative border in the Brussels School copy), same lace around the neck, and so on. The background as well is executed with the exact same system. The Child holds a different attribute (a lily vs. a bird), but essentially these are two copies of the same picture. The different estimate may be caused by the different format, there isn't otherwise much to chose between the two. But it is interesting to see how these old masters re-used ideas and motives.  

Monday, 26 January 2015

Intriguing sleeper

The auction is finished by now, but I noticed it while it was ongoing. With an estimate of $370, it was at a bid of $3,400 with 16 different bidders after two weeks of online bidding and with still some 5 hours to go. At the Swedish auction house Metropol, it was described as "Unknown artist, portrait, damaged, 16th or 17th century, 26 by 19 cm". Even as such, it was interesting (and a low estimate), but I guess some people recognised either the artist or the sitter.

She reminds me a bit of the portrait of Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of France, by François Clouet. Obviously clearly inferior in execution, otherwise it wouldn't have been estimated so low, but the attitude, the clothing, and the face have a lot in common. Considering that that painting is from ca. 1571, and assuming that the one for sale is depicting a contemporary (which seems logical), it would narrow down the age of the painting to ca. 1570-1600.

Looking more in detail to the head of the portrait, the jewellery makes it clear that this was a rich and important person. I tried to compare her with some of the most important woman in Sweden in that period, but she looks better than e.g. Gunilla Bielke, Katarina Jagellonica or Kristina of Holstein. The one that comes closest is probably Anna of Austria, Queen Consort of Sweden.
But the similarities in make-up and position make them look more similar than they are, and assuming that both pictures are somewhat life-like, I don't think they are the same person (e.g. the forehead and the nose are different). I haven't found any other pictures of people with the same headdress, so I guess it will remain a mystery to me...

UPDATE 27 January 2015: The auction ended a few hours later, with two extra bidders, at 96,000 SEK or some 10,300 Euro! This was nothing less than 32 times the highest estimate.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Aert Mytens

Aert Mytens is a bit of a mystery. Not that many paintings by him are known, most of them apparently still in their original Italian churches. He lived from about 1541 to about 1602, the period between the last Early Netherlandish painters like Brueghel and the final great period of Flemish painting with Rubens, Van Dyck c.s. Following Jan Gossaert, the first great Flemish painter who focused mainly on Italy, Mytens studied and worked mostly in Italy. He was the first of a whole series of Mytenses who became famous painters.

But Aert Mytens rarely appears in auction, and when he does, he doesn't fetch a lot of money, despite the clear qualities of his work. I could find one work, a putto playing the lyre, that was attributed to him which sold in Vienna in 2007 for 12,000 Euro. And that's it...

And then the current painting. Now for sale at Bonham's (17 February) for only 2,000 to 2,700 Euro, and attributed to a "Follower of Aert Mytens", it (or a very, very similar one) was for sale in Venice in 2008, and in Genova in late 2013. Both were sold as "Aert Mytens", not Follower of or anything else, but I haven't been able to find the result these made. Looking closely at the Wannenes sale in Genova, I can see the exact same damage to the painting (small things, e.g. in the rocks to the left of her shoulder), so it clearly is the very same painting that is now, a year later, again for sale. No longer considered an original Mytens, the estimate is lowered. But looking at it closely, it is a very, very good picture, which looks original to me (based solely on what I can see online). Things like the rocks on the left, and the hand to the right of her head (with the beshadowed fingers) are very nicely done, and if not by Mytens then at least done by a very skilled painter. I don't think I have seen any 16th century Flemish painting of this quality and size for an estimate below $10,000, so this one, even if not by Mytens, is very cheap. Perhaps because Mytens isn't well-known enough, but then he probably needs a revival. For a museum like the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, which doesn't have an Aert Mytens yet (only a Jan Mytens), this may be their best chance to fill that gap for a bargain price.

ADDENDUM 26 January 2015.

I just noticed that the figure of the Magdalena in this painting, is a copy / reinterpretation of an Aert Mytens in the British Royal Collection, a "Death of Cleopatra". No idea where the picture is kept or can be seen, but it at least explains why the link with Mytens is so easily made for the painting now up for sale. Due to the condition of the Royal Collection copy, it is hard to compare the two. The Cleopatra seems more pictural, while the Magdalena is a bit more a drawing, but I don't see either as fundamentally better.

The same sale also has a  Lady Godiva (top picture). Described as "Continental School, 19th century" and estimated at Euro 2,700 to 4,000, the auctioneers at Bonham's seem to be unaware that it is a very nice copy after Lerius (bottom picture). Obviously, the original (kept in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp) is vastly superior, but of the few copies I have seen at older auctions, this is by far the best. No idea if it is worth more than the estimate, but it was worth a better description at least.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Christie's Old Master sales: predictions

Just like with the Sotheby's sales, I have tried to list some pictures from the Christie's sales of end January which I feel are over- or underestimated. This time, 5 overestimated and only 3 underestimated ones. To make up for it, I'll probably add a post on monday about the lots 146 and 226, which would make a nice comparison which seems to have been overlooked by Christie's. And perhaps on Tuesday a few things about the items for sale at Bonham's, to end with these Janaury sales.


Lot 12, Georg Flegel and Martin van Valckenborgh, "Tulips etc.", estimated at $500,000 to $700,000. An awkward, relatively clumsy still life with background figures which aren't much better. An A for effort, but you get the feeling that these were painters who moved out of the art centers because they couldn't compete with the masters of the time. So why should we now pay the same money for them as for these masters? It's charming, but not overwhelming, which it should be at that price. NOT SOLD

Lot 28; Roelandt Savery, "Irises, Lilies, ...", estimated at $300,000 to $500,000. I just don't get the fascination with Savery, and the prices he fetches. His still lifes are flat, lifeless, bland; when he paints fruit it looks fake, when he paints flowers like here they lack all beauty. They may have "miniaturist precision", as the lot description says, but they aren't miniatures, they are paintings, meant to hang on a wall. Not on mine though. NOT SOLD

Lot 121, Lo Spagna, "Three pilasters", estimate $300,000 to $500,000. All right, you get three paintings, but at what price? Not especially well painted (the head of the right one is especially poor), not a really popular or seducing subject, just all rather boring stuff. NOT SOLD

Lot 145, Circle of Gerard David, "Lamentatio", estimated at $100,000 to $150,000. I normally quite like David, but this is not that good, and should only be worth half as much in my opinion. Still, the Christie's sale have a lot better selection of Early Netherlandish paintings than the Sotheby's ones. Sold for $125,000.

Lot 240, Ambrosius Benson, "Virgin and Child", estimated $60,000 to $80,000. I have to admit that I don't like Benson at the best of times, but even for him this is a very "dead" picture, and worked out rather schematically. A relatively poor picture by an already overrated artist, so I hope that this will fail to sell. In vain, probably... Sold for $75,000


Lot 27, Melchior d'Hondecoeter, "Ducks and Ducklings", estimated at $300,000 to $500,000. A beautiful, beautiful painting, charming subject, perfectly executed. I can't see this going for less money than the Flegel Lot 12 (discussed above), but the auctioneers (and thus probably the market) disagrees. NOT SOLD

Lot 206, Dordrecht School, 1634, "Portrait of a girl", estimated $10,000 to $15,000. What a charming portrait. Beautifully painted, it obviously isn't up to par with the masters like Frans Hals, but the quality and talent, and the alluring subject, way surpass the very low estimate. I wouldn't be surprised if this fetched $30,000 or more. Sold for $41,250!

Lot 237, Workshop of Dirk Bouts, "Mater Dolorosa". Estimated at $40,000 to $60,000. Probably the most interesting of the Early Netherlandish paintings on offer on a price vs. quality basis. Not a pure Bouts, the details aren't good enough (the eyes especially), but still a relatively affordable way (for some!) to have a painting close to Bouts without paying the price for a real Bouts, should one be available. Sold for $75,000.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Sotheby's Old Master sales: predictions

Sotheby's and Christie's line up their end-of-January Old Master sales. No real "hidden" treasures, obviously, but lots of nice things. For fun, I'll list some I think are overestimated (and hence will or should fail to sell), and some which are seriously undervalued and should go for a lot more than the estimate, if there is any justice in the art world ;-) Today, from the Sotheby's sales, 5 works I think will fail to sell, and 5 which should exceed their highest estimate (but probably won't, of course).


Lot 6,  Quinten Massys, "The Madonna of the Cherries". For some reason, it doesn't work for me. The Madonna and the child just aren't up to par for what should be a masterpiece (well, at $1,500,000 to $2,000,000, one shouldn't expect an average Massys), even though it is a wonderful composition. It sold in 2006 for nearly $750,000, and that's closer to what I would expect it to be worth now. NOT SOLD

Lot 165, a double-sided drawing by Géricault, estimated at a hefty $200,000 to $300,000. Interesting, obviously, but why would anyone spend more than $30,000 on this? When you can buy something like lot 173, also by Géricault, for $40,000, or many other interesting and good drawings for similar figures in the same auction? SOLD FOR $185,000.

Lot 201, a "Saint Anthony" from the Florentine School, fourth quarter of the 15th century. That's the period and place that gave us Botticelli, Donatello, Ghirlandaio, ... This is basically a second- or third-rate painting, in a poor condition, and with not the most attractive subject. So I have no idea why it is estimated at a hefty $40,000 to $60,000 Euro. Obviously you can't buy anything from these masters for that price, but even in these auctions, there is a lot more value for money to be found if you have 50 thousand dollars to spare. Sold for $31,250.

Lot 231, Flemish School, ca. 1500. While that seems correct, what an utterly boring picture. "Head of a saint", estimated at $18,000 to $25,000. Compared to the only slightly later Nativity I discussed in this post, estimated at only $3,000, or plenty of other Early Netherlandish pictures, I see no redeeming features in this one and no reason for such an inflated estimate. Probably, like with most of these I consider overrated, I'm just missing something... NOT SOLD

Lot 407, Circle of Hugo Van der Goes, "Virgin and Child", estimated at $15,000 to $20,000. Normally, anything resembling a Van der Goes for this money would go in the "underrated" category, even though he is one of the least attractive major Early Netherlandish painters. But I don't see anything that would put this in the "circle of", more in the "very weak imitation of" region. The face of the Virgin has some charm, but not enough to make this worth the estimate. NOT SOLD


 Lot 77 , Gerard Seghers, ''Annunciation''. A wonderful picture, oil on copper (large for an on-copper painting, though smaller than the usual majestic panel paintings),  this is valued at only $80,000 to $120,000. One of the best pictures in the auction, but not by one of the canonic names, it should exceed its upper estimate. But considering the prices Seghers usually fetches, the estimate may be well considered and my opinion merely wishful thinking...NOT SOLD


Lot 191, Circle of Rubens,"Head of a young woman", estimated at only $5,000 to $7,000. A very attractive drawing, with a not so nice scratch or mark diagonally across the face but otherwise in good condition and very nicely executed. No idea who made it, but it obviously was a very talented draughtsman. Compared to many other drawings in this auction, this is one of the few I'ld really like to own. Sold for $13,750 or nearly twice the highest estimate!

Lot 237, "Virgin and Child enthroned with musical angels", Bruges School, ca. 1500. Estimated at $50,000 to $70,000, this is a lot for an anonymous (not even a notname) work, but you get about the best Early Netherlandish painting you can buy for this money. The only (major) worrying thing is that this was for sale two years ago at the same auction at Sotheby's, then estimated at $80,000 to $120,000, which is what I would consider it worth as well, but the market clearly doesn't agreed then... Sold for $62,500.

Lot 426, Circle of Rubens, "A monk", Estimated as $8,000 to $12,000. Not a sleeper Rubens, but a very nice picture nevertheless, with real character in the portrait. The background is depressing, but the smile of the man makes more than up for this. Compared to the "circle" of Van der Goes above, this one really is worth the label, and is clearly made by a skilled painter. Sold for $11,250.

Lot 455, Workshop of Velazquez, "The buffoon Diego de Acedo, El Prime", estimated at $6,000 to $8,000. If the above Circle of Rubens is underestimated, then what about this Workshop picture? A powerful portrait, with style and vigour, for $6,000? It's a steal, usually for that price you get either rather mediocre paintings, or 19th century or later works, but  rarely such a good work. Yes, it is a partial copy of a famous Velazquez original, but it works as a stand-alone portrait and is painted beautifully. The market clearly agreed, as it sold for $25,000!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

After Federico Barocci, Rest on the flight to Egypt

A nice later copy of the "Rest on the Flight to Egypt" by Federico Barocci from about 1570, now in the Vatican Museum. For sale at Rops Auctions on 1 February as simply an "18th Century Tableau", without attribution, country or even the subject. At 60 by 50 cm, it's a nice size as well. Estimated at 1,300 to 1,500 Euro, I don't know if it will vastly exceed its estimation, but it certainly would have more of a chance with a correct (or more thorough) description. UPDATE: sold for 1,600 Euro, as expected.

It's a fairly common and popular painting, as can be seen in this smaller but better copy, sold in Sweden in 2007 for 6,600 Euro. Other versions listed at are one in Amsterdam for more than 5,000 Euro in 2004, one in Milan in 2006 for 4,800 Euro, and a rather dark and poor one in London in 2009 for £4,500.

A more expensive version was sold at Christie's as 17th Century Roman School (£40,000!), while less interesting versions made £1,375 at Christie's, and £2,160 at Bonhams (a reverse copy, so probably after a print). The latter two seem to indicate that the copy for sale here is certainly not overpriced, unless it is a much more recent one than those two.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Old attributions: Bruegel, Vranckx, ...

Apart from the countless "Teniers" of very varying quality, one often encounters paintings with old but now rejected attributions. If only they all were true... I already posted such a "Gerard David" in an older blog post, but nowadays, one can also buy a Bruegel, a Vrancx, ... for little to no money. Whether these were genuine old mistakes or ancient sellers knowingly trying to dupe buyers is hard to know of course. But it's fun to see what was labeled as some well-known painter in the past, and while some are 19th century copies, imitations or fakes, some are interesting second-rate paintings in their own right.

The above work, badly cracked in three, was a Breughel. Presumably Pieter Breughel the Elder, why settle for less? It is labeled at the back as "Ecole de Breugel" and now correctly sold as a Breugelian work. Date, origin, ...? Unknown, looks to me more 18th or early 19th century, but very hard to know from some pictures only. For sale at Carlo Bonte for 300 to 500 Euro  and described as late 16th century. If it truly dates from that period, I think it is a fairly conservative estimation. I couldn't find any prototypes for this painting, so it may be some invention by a late Breugelian painter, probably from Mechelen then as that city had the most of those apparently.

The topic of the Devil sowing while the people are sleeping has later been used in other paintings as well, e.g. the above one by Abraham Bloemaert (who has painted the same idea multiple times). It illustrates the parable of the Pares, from the Bible (Matthew chapter 13).

 Another former attribution in the same auction is a village scene by Sebastian Vrancx. Well, the auction house lists it as "attributed to Vrancx", but that seems a bit optimistic. Circle of Vranckx may be closer to the truth. Especially the figures aren't of the quality one would expect of Vrancx. Estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 Euro seems quite correct though, an interesting painting but with quite a lot of damage, with the paint wrinkled all over the work.

And as an extra special final one, here is a painting currently listed as attributed to Sebastian Vrancx, which was formerly attributed to Breughel, Wouwerman, Callot and Carel Breydel. For sale at Jordaens on 9 February, it is estimated at 11,000 to 12,000 Euro. It seems to me to have more chance of really being a Vrancx than the other one, and it is in better condition. Interesting cityscape, with the cupola in the right background.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


One of the best ways to find bargains are of course misattributed or unrecognised paintings. Many of the posts in this blog are about such things. For example, at Hotel de Ventes Mosan, they sell on 21 January a watercolour by "Herman Veraecke". I can't find any evidence of any painter with that name, but the watercolour is clearly by Herman Verbaere, both in style and lisible on the signature. Now, Verbaere was a very prolific artist, so it's not as if the price will explode by this (it's estimated at 40 to 60 Euro, and a random Verbaere like this makes a few hundred Euros at most), but it's indicative of how one shouldn't trust the attributions of minor auction houses for more minor artists, or how one shouldn't rely simply on auction alerts to be sure to find what you are looking for. Oh, and if you fancy that Verbaere / Veraecke, they have another one as well.

The same auction house also sells an ancient map by "Jean Oman". Nothing can be found on a mapmaker named "Jean Oman", but if you are interested in "Jean-Baptiste Homann", you may find a bargain here. Estimated at only 50 to 100 Euro, this very nicely coloured map of Saxony-Hildburghausen can be found elsewhere for 280 Euro in less impressive colours.

A different kind of misattribution happens at Carlo Bonte, an auction of early February. This painting is described as a copy by C. Juarez of a portrait of Philips II of Spain. It actually is a copy of a famous portrait of John of Austria, half-brother of Philips II and illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V. No idea if the different sitter will change the estimated value of 200 to 300 Euro; it will also depend on the age of this copy probably.

Monday, 19 January 2015

After Rubens, Epitaph of Jan Michielsen ("Christ in the Straw") left panel

At Rops, 1 February 2015: an 18th century "Virgin and Child". Estimated at just 200 to 300 Euro, it doesn't seem to have been recognised as a really nice copy after the left panel of the Rubens triptych "Epitaph of Jan Michielsen and his wife Maria Maes", also known as the "Christ on the Cross", which is kept in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. The copy has one major problem, the serious damage right in the middle, in the faces, otherwise it would have been worth a lot more. As it stands, it still is a very nice copy and not the most common of Rubens-copies. UPDATE: it sold for 460 Euro in the end, so at least it clearly exceeded its highest estimate...

Seen in detail, it lacks of course the genius of Rubens, the free brush strokes, comparable in e.g. the collar of the Virgin; the Rubens is more vigorous, vibrant, life-like, compared to the later, more soft and sweet copy. But compared to the dozens of copies after Rubens that come on the market each month, it is one of the better, and certainly for that estimated price.

Another copy (or a study?) of the same panel and of nearly the same dimensions was sold at Christie's as "Studio of Rubens" for £79,000. The different position of the right hands of the Child and the Virgin suggests indeed that this was a study, while the version for sale is a closer copy, although wider than the original version. The lot comment at Christie's suggests that this is a copy or variation on a work in Washington, which has the same hand position now, but had the "triptych" hand position originally. Intriguingly, the version for sale also is wider version than the triptych version, but follows the dimensions of these copies quite closely; but the position of the hands is much closer to the original version. Is it a copy of some unknown intermediate version, or a copy of the Washington version before it got changed, or was the triptych version originally wider as well and has it only been later (Napoleonic times?) been reduced to its current size? Other copies for sale at Christie's include this one (again the variant, circle of Rubens, nearly 40,000 Euro) and this one (variant, Follower of Rubens, 6,500 Euro) or one of the full triptych (18,000 Euro). But none of this particular version...

The Corpus Rubenianum lists some further copies, but this was not available to me and I don't know whether the current painting for sale is included therein. It clearly isn't a Rubens, but it seems a rather important painting anyway and worth more than a few hundred Euros, if you can see the art historical value through the damage.

And if you really want, you can buy a copy of the central panel as well, 5 February at Carlo Bonte. Estimated at 800 to 1200 Euro, and also dated at the 18th century and with a similar height, you'ld only need to find a copy of the right panel to get your very own triptych... It's a decent copy, but I prefer the first one which is less sketched and more painted.

UPDATE: I received a nice reply from a scientist at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp; the copy for sale has most likely simply been widened relatively clusmily by the copiist to make it more attractive (a "complete" figure instead of a cut-off one). The triptych has never been altered in size, and there is no reason to believe that another Rubens version closer to the one for sale here exists. That's the difference between speculating at a blog and actual science, of course. The first may be entertaining, but eventually reality kicks in :-)