Thursday, 27 September 2018

Lost and found: could this be the long-lost original Quentin Massys known through many copies?

Duran, from Madrid, sold on 27 September 2018 a "Flemish School, 19th century" Lamentation, 98 by 68 cm, oil on canvas, estimated at 1,500 Euro.

It immediately caught my eye as it has all the characteristics of a good Early Netherlandish painting from the early 16th century, and looks way too good to be a 19th century copy / fake / pastiche.

I contacted another lover of these paintings, and together we went searching for more information and clues. They soon found other versions of the same composition, attributed to followers of Quentin Massys. These ranged from much reduved ones, e.g. a "Circle of Massys" at Christie's, (sold for an excessive £26,000) to much more similar ones like this "follower of" at Koller (sold for 12,000 Swiss Francs).

Comparing the work for sale with other Massys works, and the copies we found, I got convinced that this was an original ca. 1500 work, either the actual (lost) original by Massys, or a very good workshop copy. My contact pointed out one major problem though; all known Massys works are on panel, and this one was on canvas.












This probably was the reason the auction house thought it to be a 19th century copy, but close analysis of the work (not live, but through detailed images) made it much more likely that this beautiful painting had suffered the dreadful fate many similar works had suffered in the 19th century, and was transferred from panel to canvas. This damages the painted surface and destroys things like the underpainting, and of course removes many aids in actually dating the work, e.g. through dendrochronology.

The closest version we found was through the RKD,  a copy for sale at Charlton Hall Galleries in 1950: it had nearly the exact same composition right down to the details, but the execution was less precise, less convincing, especially in the face of the virgin (work for sale added below it for easy comparison).

I loved the painting, but didn't dare to believe that it was the actual original. Perhaps the hands of the virgin weren't executed with enough skill? But it seems that at least a few buyers went all the way as it sold for 110,000 Euro. Which would be escessive for a relined good copy, but for an actual original, even with these problems, would be a good buy, whether it is for a collector, a museum, or someone hoping to make a profit by bringing it to a major auction house with a better description.


We weren't the only ones to spot this good Francken...

La Suite, from Spain, sold on 27 September 2018 a "16th century Flemish school" Moses striking the rock, a nice-sized (51 by 39) oil on copper estimated at 2,000 to 2,500 Euro.

It was a very good version, in reasonably good condition as well (could do with a cleaning), of a work by Francken (either Frans Francken II or Hieronymus Francken III), and as such worth a lot more than the low estimate (and dating to the first half of the 17th century instead of to the 16th century).

The RKD showed a worse version, attributed to the Circle of Frans Francken II, from the Museum of Quimper. The landsdcape aspect turned it into a much less impressive composition

A much more comparable version is in the Liechtenstein Museums (part of the Hohenbuchau collection, a very nice private collection containing works by Rubens, Mandyn, Jan Brueghel, ...). The main difference is on the left side, where the addition of a woman getting water out of the brand-new stream explains the look of the other two (here three) women to the left: in the version for sale, they seem to stare at nothing instead of caring for the swooned maiden on the right. The Liechtenstein version also has an additional group of three persons in the middle.

But the quality of painting is very close, with the version for sale perhaps a tad less brilliant. This is far removed from the many, many Franckens from the school of, circle of, followers of, and so on which appear in every old master sale for, depending on the quality, 2,000 to 10,000 Euro. This is a work of 20,000 Euro or more, the best undiscovered Francken I noticed since the one at Horta in 2016.

Great find, but not too hard: the auction house had 10 (ten!) telephone bidders for this one...

UPDATE: sold for 18,000 Euro, close to what I thought it would be worth!

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Dutch still life is copy after Pieter Jansz.

Hampel, from Germany, sells on 26 September 2018 a "Dutch still life in the style of Willem Heda" estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 Euro.

It is actually a copy (with alterations) after Pieter Jansz., the main competitor of Heda. The bread, fish and salt container all are identical. It doesn't look to be good enough to be by Jansz. though, but should fetch the estimate anyway. The one above is in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum.

The version in the Rijksmuseum even has the same tilted porcelain dish, and the same lemon...

Friday, 21 September 2018

Another Susteren portrait, this time perhaps by Gerard ter Borch

DVC, from Belgium, sells on 29 September 2018 an "attributed to Gerard ter Borch" miniature (8 by 7 cm) portrait of Abraham van Susteren, estimated at 1,500 to 3,000 Euro.

Nothing remarkable (well, a miniature by Ter Borch is remarkable enough, but nothing I would normally spend blog space on), but this caught my attention as I have posted about a portrait of the same sitter (and one of his wife) in May of this year already. I guess some descendant is slowly cleaning out the old stuff from their house... I have described what we know about Van Susteren at length in that post, so I'll not repeat it here.

This portrait clearly shows the same man, but at a younger age, which fits with my lengthy analysis of the date of that other work. This one was painted when he was still in the Netherlands, i.e. before 1665. Abraham van Susteren was born in 1628, so the painting is probably from the 1650s.

Whether it is by Ter Borch is hard to determine, he certainly has made better miniature portraits but some others are of comparable quality, and the artist who created this one clearly had considerable talent. And on the other hand Van Susteren clearly had the wealth to pay for a good artist. The estimate for this miniature seems a bit conservative.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

"16th c." painting is copy after Gillis van Coninxloo

Carlo Bonte, from Belgium, sells on 26 September 2018 a "16th c." Moses found by the daughter of the pharaoh, a rather large work (89 by 138 cm) estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 Euro.

The work is a rather early depiction of this story, and in the landscape and colouring has elements of 16th century Flemish works. But the execution is not up to par with the composition, a sure-tell sign of a copy.

The original (which seems to be lost?) was made by Gillis van Coninxloo (1544-1607), a painter from Antwerp (though his family lived close to Brussels), active in the circle of Pieter Coecke and the Brueghels; he is especially important as a landscape painter, the leader of the generation after Patinir and Herri met de Bles.

This work was widely known through the large engraving made by Nicolaes de Bruyn in 1601 (copy from the Rijksmuseum).

A much better painted version was sold at Christie's in 2013 for £11,875. It was attributed to Gillis Van Coninxloo III, son of the original creator (who is usually indicated without the "II" after his name), and may well have been made directly after the original painting instead of after the engraving.

The work for sale is probably not worth more than the estimate, certainly when one considers that it is likely early 17th century, and not a 16th century work. But for 1,000 Euro you get a nice enough version of a work by a lesser known but important painter who I hadn't tackled yet.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Problems at Hampel

Hampel, from Germany, has an interesting Old Master sale on 26 September 2018. Plenty of good paintings and interesting research material, but even the most fleeting browsing reveals many dubious attributions and estimates, things which are too obvious or problematic to happen at a large auction hous and with the prices they claiml the paintings are worth.

I already tweeted about some of these, here's a recap and some other ones I have doubts about.

Lot 639 is an "attributed to Frans Francken The Younger" adoration of the shepherds, estimated at 45,000 to 50,000 Euro. For that money, I can buy better Francken's every month...

Lisaert, from the Maidstone Museum


Another Lisaert, from a Dorotheum auction, with a comparable Virgin


The painting resembles much closer the work of Pieter Lisaert, a second-rate Francken follower, especially in the way e.g. the faces are painted. Calling it a "follower of Francken" would be acceptable, but the estimate is about 10 times too high.

Lot 627 is "Attributed to Hermann tom Ring" and estimated at 100,000 to 150,000 Euro. Which is quite hefty for an interesting painting which has no resemblance at all to the works of tom Ring (Hermann or another member of the family).



Three typical works by Hermann tom Ring

A portrait and a self portrait by Ludger


The tom Rings are a very interesting family of painters who I didn't know yet. They hailed from M√ľnster, and the two most famous are the brothers Hermann (1521-1596) and Ludger the Younger (1522-1584). They were both inspired by the Flemish masters of the 15th century, but also by people like Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), bringing with them a great deal of realism and renaissance classicism. The opposite, one could say, of the anecdotical, somewhat Brueghelian (or Van Reymerswaele-style) work for sale.

And sure enough, the work was sold as a "Circle of Reymerswaele" at Dorotheum in 2017, fetching 17,500 Euro. Which seems both a fair price and a reasonably fair description, certainly better in both regards than what we have now.

Lot 630 is a "Flemish School, 16th or 17th century, or youth work from the circle of Rubens)" Saint Francis and the Angels, estimated at 18,000 to 25,000 Euro.

Well, you may forget the 16th century or any link with the youth works by Rubens, and best forget the 18,000 Euro as well, as it is a reasonably competent copy after an engraving by Lucas Vorsterman, based on a painting by Gerard Seghers from about 1620-1624 now in the Louvre. So date is 1625 or (much) later, value is 2,000 to 3,000 Euro probably.


Lot 632, "Circle of Georges De la Tour", Mary Magdalene, estimated at 50,000 to 60,000 Euro. No provenance given, and my gut feeling is "painted in the last 20 years". It just feels like a modern fake, though I don't have the means to prove it. The painting doesn't have the simplicity and purity of a De la Tour, but looks more like someone awkwardly aiming for it.

I realise that the work isn't sold as by De la Tour but as by someone close to him, but still... Compare it to the Magdalene from the Prado, and the differences are striking. The one for sale looks more like a Tamara de Lempicka in some ways!

Lot 636 is a "Gilles Coignet the Elder" Allegory of Ire, estimated at 15,000 to 20,000 Euro.

While I haven't found the original yet, I think it is another copy after an engraving. A rather good one though, so this might be the original and worth the estimate. I doubt it though, considering the below.

The RKD lists one other version of this work. It used to be attributed to Jacob de Backer, but is now downgraded to "anonymous, Netherlands, 2nd half 16th century". It is kept in the Museum of Capodimonte, in Naples. The Coignet one was sold at Kinsky in 2016 for 15,000 Euro, the same as the current estimate.

UPDATE: lot 627, the Tom Ring that isn't, was (of course) unsold and again for sale on 27 March 2019 with a lowered estimate of 70,000 to 90,000 Euro, and the same erroneous attribution.



Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Interesting moralistic work: 16th century instead of 17th?

Vanderkindere, from Belgium, sells on 12 September 2018 a "Flemish School, 17th century" Card players, estimated at 600 to 800 Euro.

It is an interesting moralistic work. The text at the top, "Jan Jan peist om den ouden man", is in Dutch and means "John, John, think about the old man", i.e. think about your old age, don't spend everything now on gambling and games. The work isn't the most subtle, but I like these works which combine art and cultural history more than is usually the case.

 Man in comparable clothing, ca. 1545-1560, Tate Britain
I presume the painting is based on an engraving, but I haven't been able to find it. The clothing of the rich man seems to suggest the middle of the 16th century more than the 17th century though, in which case this work really should be worth more (even though it has some damage), probably closer to 2,000 Euro instead.

UPDATE: sold for 6,200 Euro, ten times the estimate and still way above my estimate as well!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Coryn Boel is copy after Saenredam

Hargesheimer, from Germany, sells on 22 September 2018 a "Circle of Coryn Boel" Corpora (vanitas) estimated at 2,000 Euro.

It is a copy after Jan Saenredam (after Goltzius), "An allegory on Vision (a couple of lovers)", as can be seen on this work at the RKD. As such, any attribution to the circle of a specific artist is dubious, and the estimate perhaps a bit high. I guess it is worth around 1,000 Euro instead, as it is charming from a distance but has serious problems when seen up close. No idea why Hargesheimer calls it a "corpora".

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Death and the poor: copy after engraving

Hargesheimer, from Germany, sells on 22 September 2018 a  "Dutch Master, 17th century" Death visits the poor, estimated at 600 Euro.

It is a copy after an engraving by Johannes Sadeler after a drawing by Johannes Stradanus, from ca. 1600 (info from the Rijksmuseum). Even the Latin text beneath the work is identical. As is so often the case, the existence of the engraving explains why we have a good composition but a rather poor execution. But it's a rare depiction anyway, and paintings with texts are always popular, so it shouldn't have any problem fetching the estimate.


Monday, 3 September 2018

"German or Flemish, ca. 1700 Virgin and Child" is copy after one of the most influential works ever

Hargesheimer, from Germany, sells on  22 September 2018 a "German / Flemish School, about 1700" Virgin and Child, estimated at 3,000 Euro.

It is a late copy of the so-called "Cambrai Madonna", an early 14th century Italian Virgin and Child which in 1450 arrived in Cambrai, in the north of France. While it is a rather typical example of the Italian (Sienese) painting of the period, it was completely new for Northern Europe, and was soon venerated as an original painting by Saint Luke (i.e. a true portrait of Mary and Jesus, not a later artistic interpretation). The cathedral where it was on display became a center of pilgrimage, and many copies of the painting were made as well. It also influenced many of the Early Netherlandish Virgin and Childs by the major masters, and as such played an important role in the development and spread of this style.

It is hard to judge when or where the version for sale was made, since this work has been copied again and again over the centuries. The estimate seems about right though, as it is a good piece of evidence of the impact of one of the most important works in art history when one considers its influence on a whole style.