Scale shock!

Scale shock! by Michael Tinkler
Scale shock!, a photo by Michael Tinkler on Flickr.

When someone who knows art through pictures (digital images, nowadays) encounters the real thing he sometimes suffers scale shock – finding out that something is much bigger or much smaller than he always thought.
That’s certainly me and this fresco from the Coptic Monastery of St Apollo – Christ in Majest with the Four Beasts of the Apocalypse from the 6th Century.
I always thought it was an apse fresco over an altar, not the conch of a NICHE I can stand inside!

You mean that’s a Van Dyck over there in the corner?

A British effort to put pictures of all the oil paintings in the UK online pays off – an art historian spotted a previously unknown Van Dyck portrait.

The painting, which was not thought to be important and in a bad condition, was covered in layers of dirt and varnish and was not on display at the Bowes Museum.

 

But it was photographed as part of the Public Catalogue Foundation’s mission to document every oil painting in public ownership and added to the BBC’s Your Paintings website, where it was spotted by art historian and dealer Dr Bendor Grosvenor.

 

“Although as part of our national heritage values are irrelevant, for insurance purposes it should now be valued at anything up to £1m,” Dr Grosvenor said.

 

“Had it appeared at auction as a copy, and in its dirty state, it would probably only have been estimated at about £3,000-5,000.”

Grosvenor runs Art History News – here’s an example of what he’s doing with this picture.

The general initiative is called Your Paintings.

Sharp eye – good deal

The Met owns Jacques Louis David’s Death of Socrates. One of their curators managed to buy a David preparatory drawing for $700 at auction because it was misattributed!

Catalogued and illustrated . . . as “French school, early 19th century”, the 24.5cm by 38.2cm sheet (est $500-$700) depicting The Death of Socrates in brush, black ink and grey wash was described as “lightly squared for transfer in pencil. After the painting by Jacques-Louis David in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.” [my emphasis]

Instead of “after the painting” it was “for the painting.” Good call!

What do rocks have to do with Renaissance art?

Good question! That’s the title of a story in a new online magazine from the Getty. Go read it and see — great photos, as you might expect!

What Do Rocks Have to Do With Renaissance Art?

The intro reminds me of my sister’s reaction to the Grand Canyon. Our mother woke us up very early and drove to get there as soon after dawn as she could (my mother’s not a natural early riser herself). My sister took one look into the Canyon and said something like “OK, it’s a big hole in the ground.” In her defense, she was 12.

What do you do if you own a million things?

The Met owns so much it has no where to hang it all!

The Met owns so much it has no where to hang it all! Sorry this is rotated. WordPress isn’t playing fair.

What do you do if you own a miilion things? by Michael Tinkler
What do you do if you own a miilion things?, a photo by Michael Tinkler on Flickr.

Professor Cowen was asking about the deadweight loss of stuff in storage in museums. Look at one way the Met tries to get around that. Suboptimal viewing experience – but they’re still up. This is the The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, which they claim is everything that’s not up in the main galleries.

A Patient Optimist

A Matisse stolen from a Swedish museum was recently recovered in the UK. I can’t decide if the standard line is meaningless optimism or just a negotiating tactic:

At the time of the theft, a spokesman for the museum said the painting was too “well-known” to “sell on the open market”.

Mr Marinello agreed with the sentiment, adding: “I commend the museum for not giving in to ransom demands a quarter century ago.

“Stolen artwork has no real value in the legitimate marketplace and will eventually resurface… it’s just a matter of waiting it out.”

Well, they had to wait 25 years. Is that optimism?

The Dallas Museum contacts Turkey – not the other way around

This is encouraging. The Dallas Museum of Art is returning looted art to Turkey even before the Turkish government asked for it (click and see – there’s an ok photograph of the mosaic in question). Compare that to the Met, which is still stonewalling. In exchange, Dallas hopes to get some good loan materials. I hadn’t noticed that Max Anderson is now the director at Dallas – his first director position was at Emory’s Carlos Museum.

Hard times in Bosnia

The National Museum of Bosnia in Sarajevo, home to the Sarajevo Haggadah, is set to close.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is an important 14th Century manuscript of the Seder service produced in Spain (testimony to the Sefardic tradition), brought to Italy sometime in the Renaissance. It was sold to the National Museum in the 1890s – so though it is an important object documenting Jewish history, it doesn’t have much to do with Bosnia. I hadn’t read the provenance until just now – I, silly early medievalist, had always imagined it got to Bosnia (an example of the Spain-to-Islamic-Ottoman-Empire) in the wake of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain rather than an example of the Spain-to-just-as-Christian-Italy population movement. I’ve never read enough to know what the relative sizes of emigration to the Ottoman Empire versus other Christian territories.