From Barcelona to Bilbao.

1. Back to work.

I am reviewing these notes, which I wrote some days ago for this week’s post, after six days of extraordinary events in my city and my country. One of the attacks’ objectives was to break up our way of life, and it would be too easy to pretend nothing has changed.  But, even if they have hit hard, some good is coming out of it, thanks to the stubborn and generous efforts of so many. We are healing the wound, and perhaps these notes, which are business as usual, are not out of place.

2. MNAC’s list.

I just realized an interesting fact. In 2009 the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya celebrated its 75th anniversary with an exhibition called Guests of Honour, bringing into the museum a group of fine works the museum wished were in its collection. For most of them this was just impossible, since they were already in other museums. For others, still in private hands, there was still hope, and in fact, today two of them are hanging in its walls: The Darcawi Holy Man of Marrakesh, a watercolour by Josep Tapiró acquired in 2013, and Pere Serra’s Crucifixion of Sant Peter (c. 1400, tempera on wood), which was part of the Gallardo donation of 2015.

 3. Fidel Aguilar (1894-1917).

Fidel Aguilar, Head, 1916

One of the works in the MNAC’s exhibition was this Head by Fidel Aguilar of 1916, now in a private collection. It has been exhibited again, until two weeks ago, in the retrospective, short (Aguilar died with only 22 years) but very comprehensive, in the Casa Pastor of Girona (A Shooting Star: Fidel Aguilar (1894-1917). Its fine catalogue is by Eva Vàzquez and Jordi Falgàs. In both the central essay of the book and the central room of the exhibition they draw parallels between the works of Aguilar and his friend Enric Casanova, on the basis of their common influence by Archaic Greece’s sculpture – they were following the trend set by Aristides Maillol some years (as seen in the Maillol and Greece exhibition in the Museu Marés in Barcelona last year).

4. Enric Casanovas (1882-1948).

Enric Casanovas, Eros (1911)

After Aguilar’s, perhaps it is time for a Casanovas’s retrospective – the last one was in 1984 in Barcelona, with Teresa Camps as its curator and writer of its catalogue. In 2008, Susanna Portell presented Enric Casanovas: escultor i amic, (“Enric Casanovas, and sculptor and a friend”) in the Fontana d’Or in Girona, which focused in his relationships with other artists. More recently, both Camps and Portell edited Les cartes de l’escultor Enric Casanovas (“The Letters of Enric  Casanovas, Sculptor”, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2015).

5. Pere Jou (1891-1964).

Photo: Viena Editors

A member of Aguilar’s and Casanova’s generation, Pere Jou has also received his share of research recently. Last year, Ignasi Domènech published his PhD dissertation, which is a biography and catalogue raisonné of his work:  L’escultor Pere Jou, 1981-1964. Forma i matèria,  (“The Sculptor Pere Jou, 1891-1964. Form and matter”, 2016, 334 pàgs; the original of the dissertation here.

6. Freedom works.

Photo: Galleria Borghese

The reform of the Italian museums introduced two years ago, which gave them more autonomy and new directors (some of them foreigners), continues to deliver. Minister Franceschini proudly announced a global increase of 7% in visitors for the first half of 2017, reaching a record 50 million – Il Giornale de l’Arte features the case of the Galleria Borghese, which introduced a new ticketing system. Furthermore, Franceschini’s policy of allowing hiring non Italian directors has been recently uphold by the State Council, the highest administrative court in Italy, in the case over the Colosseum’s administration brought by the Major of Rome (more at Il Fatto Quotidiano).

7.The Zugaza’s factor. 

Photo: Deia

Miguel Zugaza is performing as his best in his second round as director of the Museo de Bellas Artes in Bilbao. Their current exhibition, of the excellent collection of Alicia Koplowitz (until October 23th) is an enlarged version of the one showed in the Jacquemart-André in Paris. His is also talking about an expansion of the museum (article at El País).

From Los Angeles to Vic

1. Getty’s grand catch.

Photo: Sotheby’s

The Getty has announced its biggest acquistion of drawings ever, a group of 16 works by Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, Parmigianino, Beccafumi, Rubens, Barocci, G. D. Tiepolo, Degas and others. They include Goya’s The Eagle Hunter, sold at Sotheby’s in 2010 for GBP 881,250. All of them come from the same Britisch colletion, from which the Getty can still make further pruchases. Articles in The New York TimesLos Angeles Times; a press release with the complete list of the works at Getty’s website; and images and name-gessing in The Art Newspaper.

2. The Delgado Collection.

Las Provincias first and Ars Magazine after, report on the 5 years loan of 32 works from the Delgado Collection to the Museu de Belles Arts, Valencia. The artists represetned include Velázquez, Cajés, Meléndez, Murillo, but also Ramsay. They are showing them until October 29th, with a catalogue by the art historian José Gómez Frechina,  who was key in managing the loan, and David Gimillo Sanz, a curator in the museum.

3. Restoring the Valencian Van Dyck.

Photo: MBA Valencia

At the web of the same Museu de Belles Arts de València you will find the videos documenting, step by step, the ongoing restoration of their Van Dyck’s Portrait of Francesc de Montcada.

4. Face to face at the National Portrait Gallery.

Photo: NPG

The NPG London ins hosting an attractive exhibition of Renaissance and Baroque portrait drawings from British collections, with fine sheets by Holbein, Rembrandt, Leonardo, and others. Reviews are enthusiastic, like this one by Alastair Sooke in The Telegraph. The Encounter, NPG London, until October 22nd.

5. And in 2020, Morosov.

If, despite some faults in its installation, you enjoyed the grand exhibition of the Collection Schukin in the Fondation Louis Vuitton, here is your next appointment. They announced that in autumn 2020 they will show the Collection Morosov, two brothers from his same circle. This entertaining biography of Shukin gives some insights on their social and professional relationships: Natalia Semenova and André Delocque: Chtchoukine. Le patron de l’art modern, ed. La Collection Chtchoukine, Paris, 2016; 400 p. The Art Newspaper remembers us of Pierre Konowaloff, an active descendant of the Morosovs.

6. Béton box.

Photo: Musée de Cluny

This is how the entry to the Musée de Cluny, Paris, will look like, once the building work is finished – by the end of this year, if it goes as planned. For the full renovation project, named Cluny 4, see the feature at museum’s website.

7. See you in 125 years from now?

Photo: MEV

The blog Mev125 (in Catalan) is closing. It has been open for a year at the excellent website of the Museu Episcopal de Vic, to celebrate its 125th anniversary. Its 40 posts have set an example on how to give relevant information in a clear, reliable, enjoyable way. We have learnt about the museum’s history, the works it houses, and the people behind it – among them, Dr. Eudald Junyent (1901-1978), who gave up a promising career in Rome for it. They will keep all the content uploaded.

From Paris to Petrella Tifernina.

1. Beyond one’s own walls.

Photo: Musée Picasso, Paris

The July newsletter from the Musee Picasso, Paris, shows the first fruits of the Picasso-Mediterranée project  (programme here) and makes the unusual move to inform not only about the activities of the Musee, but also of the many others museums in France and Spain related with involved in the project. The grand project, led by the Parisian museum, will run from now until December 2019 and will include some 45 exhibtiions – at the three Picasso museums in Paris, Barcelona and Malaga, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Scuderia in Rome, Capodimonte in Naples, Musée Rigaud in Perpignan (already showing Picasso Perpignan. Le cercle de l’ntime 1953-1955, until November 5th), Musée Fabre in Montpellier and many others.

2. Michel Hilaire.

Photo: Wikipedia

At La Tribune de l’Art you will find an interview with Michel Hilaire, director of the Musée Fabre of Montpellier. He explains how he turned it in to one of the most interesting and active in France.

3. A couple of centuries old, and fit.

The celebration’s programme for Museo del Prado 200th anniversary, planned for 2019, adds some specific proposals (like two exhibitions on the museum’s history) to an already ambitious Masterplan for 2017-2020. This includes three new catalogues on the museum’s holdings of Velázquez, Giordano and Teniers; exhibitions of star artists (Velázquez again, plus Rembrandt, Goya, Fra Angelico, Brueghel); among many other activities.

4. Hear the lawyer.

Lawyer Leila Amineddoleh explains in artnet news why the US government was right in pursuing the Hooby Lobby’s looted art case not as a criminal one, but as a civil one. Anyway, we learn from npr that there has been arrests in the Isarel’s side of the story .

5. Too cheap?

Photo: Wikimedia

In this note by Reuters and this one by Art Law and More, I finally found the raisoning behind which an appeal judge, in California, agreed to reopen a case that seemed closed for good. The fact that Baron Thyseen first and the Spanish State from him, bought the Pissarro (Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Effet de Pluie, 1897) at a price below the market price, undermines now his good faith. But perhaps we should treat differently the first purchase, of a single painting, from the second, of an entire collection for a wholesale price? Will see.

6. Autumn’s reading.

Photo: Wikipedia

Harvey Miller is about to publish Cut in Alabaster: a Material of Sculpture (320 ps, €125), in which Kim Woods discusses, among other European examples, the Doncel of Sigüenza (above) and some Iberian retables.

7. Not always an Ecce Homo.


Foto: AnsaThis year’s summer popular restauration story differs greatly from 2012 Ecce Homo of Borgia’s disaster. The Giornale dell’Arte reports about the nice restauration, paid by the inhabitants of the small Italian village of Petrella Tifernina (Campobasso, Molise), of their local Christ: what looked as a popular pastiche was in fact hiding a fine 15th-16th century wooden figure. More information at ANSA.

From Bilbao to where your luck will take you.

1. Paret, at a discount.

Photo: MBA Bilbao

The Museo de Bellas de Bilbao is exhibiting the first acquisition of Miguel Zuzaga as his new director: an exquisite copper by Luis Paret y Alcázar (Madrid 1746-1799), The Harbour of Bermeo (60 x 83,5 cm). It was bought in at the sale of its former collection at Christie’s, on December 7h, 2016. The estimate then was GBP 1,200,000 – 1,800,000; the selling price now has been €900,000, according to EFE’s note. The museum has posted a commentary on the work.

2. Torino wins.

Photo: Il Giornale dell’ Arte

Already home of one of the best Egyptian museums of Europe, and also of the fine Galleria Sabauda, Torino, Italy, has announced it has won the long term loan of extraordinary and very private collection of the late Francesco Cerrutti. It plans to open to the public in January 2019 in its Castello di Rivolo, according to Il Giornale dell’Arte and artnet news. The renowed collection is a careful selection of 300 paintings and sculptures from Medieval to Contemporary, plus 200 rare books and 300 items of fine furniture, which, according to its director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, will make the Castello “the first contemporary art museum in the world to incorporate an encyclopedic historic art collection”. At The Art Newspaper you will find a portrait of Cerrutti and the announcement of a conference about him for 2018.

3. Sacharoff heads north.

Photo: Museu d’Art de Girona

Georgia-born refugee Olga Sacharoff (1889-1967) will have her 50th death anniversary celebrated with a retrospective (“Olga Sacharoff. Pintura, poesia, emancipació”) at the Museu d’Art de Girona, opening on November 25th (Elina Norandi is its curator). A good occasion to rediscover her, after her previous retrospective in la Pedrera, Barcelona, in 1994 (catalogue here). Other activities of this Year Sacharoff will be held in Barcelona, where she lived with his husband, the photographer and painter Otto Lloyd, from 1940 until her death.

4. Rosa Maria Malet, segona part?

Photo: El Punt Avui

Rosa Maria Malet is retiring as Director of the Fundació Miró, Barcelona, after 37 years of distinguished service. She gave a long interviewsto Avui,  El País and Ara (in Catalan). But perhaps these are not the last words we hear from her in public: “I would perhaps have an opinion and think about different options”, she answered when asked whether she would like to be further involved in culture public matters. The deadline for candidates to her post is July 21st (requirements here).

5. Fortuny revisited.

Photo: Museo del Prado

The Prado will host a generous retrospective of the works of Marià Fortuny (1838-1874), from November 21st 2017 to March 18st,  2018. “This will be an exceptional and unrepeatable exhibition as in addition to examples of his paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints it will include items from Fortuny’s exquisite collection of antiquities and works of art which he housed in his studio”, reads the announcement. It will include his copy of Ribera’s Saint Andrew sold to the museum by truly yours.

6. The French director inside you.

Photo: Connaissance des Arts

For sure you have always dreamed about directing a big French museum: : Connaisance des Arts offers you a test to finally discover which one.

7. In the meantime.

If you have more modest dreams, however, you can still aply for directorships at Palais Galliera- Musée de la Mode, Paris (until September 15th), Musées de la Ville de Béziers (until August, 31st) or Musée de la Ville de Challon (until September, 15th). All the details in


From Sijena to Washington.

1. Italy, capital Sijena.

Photo: Stuker

Among this season’s sleepers, this powerful Adoration of the Magi (155,5 x 130,5 cm) stands out. It came as “Italian School, 16th century” at Stuker Bern last June, 20th. It rocketed from a modest CHF 5,000 estimate to a CHF 130,000 result and can safely be assigned to the Aragonese Master of Sijena, probably for the main retable in the monastery of the same town – his Nativity from the same retable now at the Prado measures 171,5 x 130,5 cm, a difference of 16 cm that may be explained by some trimming on the bottom of the piece.

2. Sunnier days for Venusti?

Photo: Christie’s

At Christie’s last Old Masters Day Sale (July 7th), this fine Deposition attributed to Marcello Venusti (?1512/1515 – 1579) rose from an estimate of GBP 20,000 to a final price of GBP 115,000 (including buyer’s premium). It is a record for an artist who, as the title of the forthcoming catalogue by Dr Francesca Parrilla points out, has yet to come out from his friend Michelangelo’s long shadow (Marcello Venusti, un pittore all’ombra di Michelangelo, ed. Campisano, Rome). For a good report on the best results of the rest of the Old Masters sales, see this article at The Telegraph.

3. Already here.

Photo: Yale

Quite ahead from the opening day, the catalog for the upcoming exhibition “Murillo. The Self-portraits” in the Frick Collection, NY (30.10.2017-10.02.2018) and then in the National Gallery, London (28.02.2018 – 21.05.2018) is already on sale – edited by Xavier F. Salomon, Chief Curator at the Frick, and Letizia Treves, curator of later Italian, Spanish, and French 17th-century paintings at the National Gallery.

4. Rigaud reopens.

Photo: L’Indépendant

After a 9M€ refurbishment, the Musée Rigaud reopened last May. Didier Rikner dislikes the result.  Anyway, you will still find there the great Retable of the Trinity, by the anonymous Master of the Llotja de Mar de Perpinyà, and also some new loans of works by Aristides Maillol from the Foundation Dina Vierny.

5. Challenging Nonell.

Photo: NCWAW

In this interesting article in Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide, Illinois University PhD student Maria A. Dorofeeva explores the reasons behind the negative contemporary reaction to Isidre Nonell’s exhibition in 1903, at the all-conservative Sala Pares, Barcelona: the gipsy, destitute women portrayed in his  paintings challenged stablished and reassuring conventions about them.

6. It’s a hospital… are the new NATO’s headquarters …. no, it’s a museum!

The new but not opened Museo de Colecciones Reales (Madrid) has been bestowed with the FAD Architecture Award 2017. Not my taste.

7. Alternatives.

Photo: Artsy

Artsy has a nice piece about fine new buildings for art – among them, David Adjaye’s strong and elegant National Museum of African American Art, Wahington.

From Torroella to the Courtauld Institute

1. After beach time.

The Fundació Mascort in Torroella de Montgrí (in North Catalonia, close to the coast) is showing the Selected Pieces of its founder’s collection, until October 15th. They are displaying them as they were the normal furnishings of their lovely house, the Casa Galibern, and the effect is refreshing. You will find, among other interesting items, a splendid cross from 15th century Barcelona, attributed to Pere Barnès. For good ice cream, try the local Gelats Angelo (at Bohème or El Cruixent shops).

2. A Catalan in Texas.

Appollo Magazine  informs us the Meadows Museum bought this panel with Saints Benedict and Onophrius attributed to Pere Vall. Dated c. 1410, it is only the third work before 1450 in the collection. The happy seller was Sam Fogg.

3. Now it is public.

José Ángel Montañes reviews in El País the Generalitat of Catalonia’s 2016 acquisitions list (“Más patrimonio para todos”, May 1st, 2017). It includes this Saint James Apostle by Ramon Solà II, a painter from Girona. It was found by yours truly, and it will join the Museu d’Art de Girona’s fine Medieval collection.

4. Great job in a great work.

Bartolomé Bermejo’s masterpiece The Pietat Desplà  looks spectacular after its restoration (paid by Fundació Banc Sabadell). It has now returned to the small museum in the Barcelona’s Cathedral cloister. Otherwise, between in October 2018 and February 2019 the Prado in Madrid will host a comprehensive retrospective of Bermejo’s works, curated by Joan Molina from the Universitat de Girona.

5. They found gold.

The Centre de Restauració de Béns Mobles de la Generalitat has published this tape of its excellent cleaning of the Romanesque Portal in Santa Maria of Ripoll – in collaboration with Arcovaleno. Perhaps you can spot a golden beard. Here you can download an executive summary (in Catalan). In Arcovaleno’s website there is some extra material.

6. Leonardo shines again.

After a year of research and discussion, followed by five and a half years of actual cleaning and restauration work, Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi is hanging again in the Uffizi (“Firenze, l’Adorazione dei Magi restaurata debutta ai Uffizzi”, La Reppublica, 27.03.2017). Specialist Frank Zöllner hails it as a brilliant answer to the restorer’s permanent dilemma: to erase or not to erase the work’s physical past. (“Ist Mückenschiss keine wahrhafte Geschichtsspur?”, F.A.Z., 26.04.2017).

7. Medieval ivories, now less rare.

When looking for 14th and 15th century ivory caskets, I came across the impressive Gothic Ivories Project mantained by the Courtauld Institute, which includes the medieval ivory collections of more han 400 than institutions and archives, for a total of over 5100 objects.


20.06.2015. From Barcelona to Basel

1. The road to heaven.


This Spanish School – Circle of José de Ribera rocketed from an estimate of €4,000 to a hammer price of €350,000. It might be by the master himself, although I won’t rule out the name of Juan Do (Saint Jerome, oil on canvas, 135 x 102 cm, La Suite Subastas, Barcelona June 18th, 2015, lot 32).


 2. The naturalized Pietà.


What came to auction in Germany as the work of an Italinienischer Meister, turned out to be a fine panel by the Spanish Maestro de la Piedad, who was working around 1400 in the Toledo area under a strong Neapolitan or Southern Italian influence. It now belongs to a private collector.


3. A journey with Mr Wiseman.


Wiseman’s extraordinary National Gallery is a filmed play that opens with a rather topical argument about museums and its public (which Director Neil McGregor wins over, thanks to the old lawyer’s trick of asking the other part to produce the actual proof of her quite foggy claim), and takes you all the way up to two professional dances performing before Titian’s Diana and Acteon and its sequel Death of Acteon, as a way to celebrate its reunion. From talking about art to just contemplating it, as Richard Brody puts in The New Yorker, Wiseman’s way is a fascinating journey.


4. The Greek route.



While the magnificient Defining Beauty in the British Museum shows the multiple ways the Greeks explored the human figure; the tiny, carefully selected Maillol and Greece in the Museu Marés, Barcelona, explains which lessons took and retook the creator of the Mediterranée (1905) from the kouros and other archaic examples, during his trip in mainland Greece between April and May 1908. Curator Alex Susanna claims this was a key moment for modern sculpture, since Maillol’s quiet, self-contained forms opened the door to cold, modern, abstract works.


5.And then, Picasso.


No survey would be complete without the Master, so MOMA’s Picasso Sculpture (opening on September, 14th) comes particularly at hand for exploring further the birth of contemporary sculpture. According to David Ebony in Art in America, it will include the 1909 Head of Fernande – and perhaps the 1912 Cardboard Guitar?


6. A word from the lawyer. 


Rebecca Foden, the lawyer from Boodle Hatfield LLP that represented Mr Thwaytes in his lost case against Sotheby’s, gives here some valuable pieces of advice about consigning works to auction.


7. The return of the prodigal son.


The most commented piece news from the ground floor of this year’s Art Basel was the return of Helly Nahmad with a spectacular stand (see reports at Artnet and Artnews). But it was not all about big works by big names. I was attracted by the reunion of these little Miró: no less than three, all of the same year (1944), all from the same series. I didn’t dare ask their price.

09.02.2013: From Florence to Frankfurt

1. Florentine Spring

Pedro Fernández (doc. 1519 – 1521), Saint Blaise, c. 1517, oil on panel, 142.5 x 67 cm; lent by the MNAC to the exhibition.

Thanks to Joan Yeguas, Conservator for Renaissance and Baroque Art in the MNAC, I came across an interesting exhibition opening in the Uffizi on March, 5: “Norma e capriccio. Spagnoli in Italia agli esordi della ‘maniera moderna’” (“Norma e Capriccio. Spanish artists in Italy in the early Mannierist period”, until May 26, tickets and catalogue here). It will explore the close connections established by an extraordinary group of Spanish sculptors and painters who, following the routes opened by political influence, travelled to Florence, Naples and Rome to adsorb the art of Michelangelo and his followers. The show, curated by Antonio Natali and Tomasso Mozzati, could have the same impact that “The Sacred Made Real in the National Gallery, London (October 2009 – January 2010) made for Spanish Baroque art. The names of Alonso Berruguete, Pedro Machuca, Bartolomé Ordóñez, and Diego de Siloé will surely become more familiar to the international public after it. But the exhibition it also shows how partial the use of “Spanish” as a label can be. All the artists mentioned come from and worked mainly in Castile, Andalusia and Italy  – and Catalonia to a lesser extend. However Valencia, the other great focus for early Renaissance in Spain, seems to be altogether forgotten.

2. Annus Mirabilis for Coll & Cortés


Coll & Cortés also took advantage of the 2009 National Gallery exhibition, since at the same time, they were presenting “The Mystery of Faith. Spanish Sculpture 1550 – 1750” in collaboration with the Matthiesen Gallery, London. This was a bold step on its way to international pre-eminence, which they have been reaching in full during 2012.  In March, they landed for the first time in TEFAF Maastricht with a generous ground floor stand; followed by a large booth in the inaugural Frieze Masters, London, the opening of an elegant Mayfair branch (27 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HZ) during London’s Old Masters Week in June and selling José de Ribera’s “The Penitent Saint Peter” (1612-1613) to the Metropolitan Museum in the autumn season– the first Spanish Old Master’s painting bought by the mighty NY institution since the seventies. 2013 also looks rosy for them: as recently announced, they sold a wonderful  “San Diego de Alcalá” (painted wood, 65 cm) by the Spanish baroque sculptor Pedro de Mena (1628-1688) to the San Diego Museum.

3. Várez-Fisa, a name to remember


The year has begun with the extraordinary news of the donation by financier Varez-Fisa of a selected group of 12 Medieval artworks to the Prado (see the feature at the Prado’s website). They will hang by the end of the year in a purposed named room, in which another gift by Várez- Fisa, the large ”artesonado (a carved wooded ceiling) from the Santa Maria de Valencia of San Juan (s. XIV, 11 x 6 m) is already installed. Helping the donation, last year the Prado purchased a work by Lluis Borrassà from Várez-Fisa, “Saint Andrew refusing the Idols” – a very fine work, but just as interesting as some of those he has now donated, like the “Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet” (mural painting transferred to canvas, 241.5 x 201.5 x 8.7 cm, 1216-1220) by the Master of Sant Esteve in Andorra, pictured above. The collection of Mr Várez- Fisa is however still richer, and it includes works by Zurbarán, Velázquez, Goya (and El Greco), as the journalist Karina Sainz Borgo reports here. On the other hand, since Várez-Fisa is a native form Barcelona and the MNAC holds one of the best Romanesque and Gothic collections in the world, people has been asking themselves why the museum in Montjuic was not the first choice for Várez-Fisa. The answer is the simplest and saddest: they had approached the MNAC some years ago, but they didn’t receive the welcome they expected.

4. What will Andorra say?


 It will be interesting to see the reaction of the Government of Andorra to the Prado’s new acquisition of the Sant Esteve mural paintings. The MNAC houses the fragments from the apse of same church (pictured above), alongside some further examples taken from other Romanesque churches in Andorra.  In 2008 the Principality authorities entered the board of the MNAC, as an act of goodwill. But they quit as early as 2011, saying they wanted to be in a clear position in order to claim the paintings back – the move has never materialised, thank God. Now, should we expect an official note from Andorra La Vella?


5. All’s well that ends well


As in other countries, Catalan heritage authorities enjoy the right to match the winning offer when a significant work of art is sold in auction. But when Our Lady and Child from the Monastery of Santa Maria de Bellpuig de les Avellanes (painted limestone, 108 x 43 x 26 cm) by Bartomeu Robió (doc. 1360-1379) came to auction in May 2010, they tried to advance a bafflingly abusive interpretation of its right, pretending that the starting price of €120,000 printed in the catalogue was in fact a closed and definitive offer, and that they were therefore entitled to buy it for this rather modest sum. They didn’t succeeded, obviously. But they managed to stop the auction on other grounds  – the auction house had not given them sufficient notice of the sale, and was forced to repeat it in March 2011. The aggressive stand taken by the public servants pushed away competing bidders, so in the end, they got it for a mere €130,000 – leaving some scars behind. These were somewhat healed on December 12, when the wonderful sculpture entered the collections of the Museu de Lleida, after being restored by the Centre de Restauració de Béns Mobles de Catalunya, a public body. There is an official note about the process here – its results looks in flesh far more sensitive than the picture above seems to reveal. The happiest person in the party was curator Albert Velasco, although he stills prefers Our Lady from Saidí, lent by the Parrish of Sant Llorenç of Lleida for the occasion. Making the end of this story even happier, the Parrish has recently agreed to allow it to be cleaned and restored by the same CRBMC – see here a video with Velasco, Àngels Solé (Director of the CRBMC) and Montserrat Macià (Director of the Museu de Lleida), and the travelling sculpture.

6. Books: A nice choice for bedtime

Perhaps a bit too heavy with its 304 pages, but irresistible as it promises to introduce you to artists whose “works tell of passion and death; their themes deal with the mysterious, the uncanny, the irrational, the fantastic, the grotesque, and evil – they feature social outcasts: madmen, criminals, beggars”. This is how publishers Gerd Hatje Cantz are marketing “Dark Romanticism. From Goya to Max Ernst”, the catalogue that curator Felix Krämer, Head of the Department of Modern Art of the Städel Museum, edited for “No Day Without Night”. The highly  acclaimed exhibition closed in Frankfurt  on January 20 and will open as “The Angel of the Odd” in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, on March 5 (until June 9)– you can buy the book for €45 here.

7. The other side of things

The topic goes by saying Germans just love to discuss every single issue from all possible angles, down to ridiculously deep depths. The Städel is certainly not in denial of that. Its upcoming special exhibition, curated by Dr. Eva Mongi-Vollmer (Curator of Special Projects, Städel Museum) and Dr. Maraike Bückling (Head of the Renaissance to Neoclassicism Department, Liebieghaus Skulpture Sammlung), will deal with artists like Mengs, Canova or David, who strove to find an aesthetic and moral ideal in Antiquity at the very moment when Romanticism, portrayed in the previous show, began to challenge it (“Beauty and Revolution”, from February 20 to May 26, Städel Museum Frankfurt, admissions €12, catalogue to come, for sure).