Seven for seven: From Paris to Cluny.

1. The always surprising Louvre.

Photo: Musée du Louvre

If you travel to Paris, don’t miss François Ier et l’Art des Pays-Bas at the Louvre. Conservator Cécile Scailliérez has put together this surprisingly generous, rich exhibition of Flemish and Dutch artists in Renaissance France, whose achievments had been overshadowed by those of their Italian counterparts for too long. The catalogue is a reference work in the field.

2. Picasso, day-to-day.

Photo: Musée Picasso

Picasso 1937. L’anée érotique at the Musée Picasso in Paris gives you more than what its catchy title promises. You can trace Picasso’s amazing work capacity, and his ability to jump from one style to another, in a matter of days, all as part of coherent, brilliant journey on the many languages at his disposal.

3. The quality is old, the money is new.

Photo: Christie’s

You will find a good account of the extraordinary sale of the Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi in artnet, plus a video recording the bidding at Christie’s. The auction house’s strategy of offering the Old Master’s masterpiece in a Contemporary Art sale has proved brilliant, since the last two bidders were represented by Francois de Poortere, International Director and Head of the Old Master’s Department, making small advances, and Alex Rotter, Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art for the Americas, who placed great increments, until his winning bid at $450.3 million (including fees).

4. Buy cheap, give generously.

In ARCA’s blog, you will find an interesting article explaining a “clever” fiscal optimization scheme: buy some important ancient artwork at a good price; have it appreciated for much, much more than your purchase price by some “expert” appraiser (duly provided by the seller); make a gift of the artwork to a museum; collect the tax-benefits attached to the donation – worth up to three times than your purchase price.

5. Promising.

Anonymous (Antwerp), Carved retable of the Passion of Christ, c. 1510. Burgos, San Photo: Lesmes, Capilla de Salamanca (Hans Nieuwdorp Archive, Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art | KU Leuven).

Brepols will publish in January next year “Netherlandish Art and Luxury Goods in Renaissance Spain”, (edited by D. van HeeschR. JanssenJ. Van der Stock), which will “explore the diverse ways in which Netherlandish art and luxury goods permeated the artistic landscape of Renaissance Spain”, and therefore “providing a fascinating and multifaceted view of the reciprocal relationships between the Low Countries and Spain in the fifteenth, sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. It will follow a symposium of the same title hold at the University of Leuven, in February 2016.

6. The Tàpies case: a German contribution.

Regarding artist Antoni Tàpies private collection’s sale, I took the side in favor of it, since I had read no article or study relating it to the late artist’s oeuvre. Well, it could be very well I was wrong: Barbara Catoir at the FAZ make a good case presenting it as a “typische Künstlersammlung”, short of any really important work, but with many ties to Tàpies’ creative process.

7. The monk’s treasure.

Photo: Université Lumière Lyon 2

The heroes of the Révolution missed it, and it remained unearthed until last September: at the CNRS online blog, you can read the report of the fascinating finding of a treasure trove (“2,200 silver coins, 21 gold dinars, a gold signet ring with a Roman intaglio, a folded piece of gold leaf, and a small gold object”) found in the Abbey of Cluny, by a MA student working on the site.

Seven for seven: From Monaco to Iraq.

1. Morgan the judge.

In the case brought in Monaco against him by his former client Dimitry Rybolovlev, over commissions as his advisor, Swiss “King of the Freeports” Yves Bouvier has been feeling the benefits of a having judge, Morgan  Raymond, asking the Russian magnate the right questions (article at Bilan, via artnet). Morgan came in some months ago, after the previously assigned judge asked for a low-key transfer to the Réunion Island (see Le Temps).

2. Fred the art historian.


We read at CODART’s news service Dr. Fred G. Meijer, an specialist in Dutch Golden Age painting, has left the RKD, where he was the point of reference in his role as Senior Curator, and has set up shop by himself (at He offers attribution services, excluding any valuation, on a set hourly fee, plus lectures, essays and collection cataloguing.

3. Manuel the director.

Photo: Il Giornale dell’Arte.

The opening of the magical “Louvre of the Sands” in Abu Dabhi is scheduled for November 11th. Il Giornale dell’Arte offers you an exclusive interview with his director, Manuel Rabaté.

4. See you in Berlin…

Photo: Gemäldegalerie.

…to see Jean Fouquet’s Von Melun’s Diptych surviving panels reunited, along others works of the master and his contemporaries, at the exhibition in the Gemäldegalerie, until January, 7th, 2018.

5. And in Florence afterwards…

Photo: Biennale de l’Antiquariato

… at the 30th Biennale de l’Antiquariato (from September 29th to October 7th), the first one after the changes in Italian rules for the export of cultural goods. This changes were partly based on the conclusions of a symposium hold by the Biennale’s organization in March this year.

6. Or even in New York …

Photo: Cover of the Lindau Gospels, The Morgan Library.

… to see Magnificient Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings at The Morgan Library,  a small exhibition of their extraordinary holdings on jeweled Medieval bindings (plus their Beatus from San Salvador de Tábara, Castille). But if you cannot visit it, you don’t need to worry, because the Morgan has a put online generous selection of its collection, with thousands of images and fine commentaries.

7. ARCA’s blog.

For me, one of the best blogs in heritage and heritage protection is the one published by ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes Against Art). Their last post is about an Iraqi Jewish Archive to be returned by the US authorities to the Iraqi ones next year. It teaches you about what to do when papers and books have been hit by water: freeze them.

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).