347 How a patrician made good for slighting a prince, maybe

In the splendid Antwerp specialty of kunstkamer painting, one painting and one alone migrated from one environment to another, from the patrician collection of Cornelis van der Geest to the fabled one of the archdukes of the southern Netherlands. Schwartz has an idea why. Continue reading “347 How a patrician made good for slighting a prince, maybe”

346 Bosch’s dry Haywain and his sopping wet Garden of Delights

The opposition between the parched land in Bosch’s Haywain and the unquenchable thirst of its inhabitants for dry hay is contrasted to the mouthwatering abundance of the aqueous Garden of Delights. Schwartz suggests that this supports his interpretation of the Garden as a fulfillment of God’s command to the first man and woman. Continue reading “346 Bosch’s dry Haywain and his sopping wet Garden of Delights”

345 The transparent connoisseur 4: a Berenson scorecard

A magnificent new catalogue has been published on the Bernard and Mary Berenson collection at I Tatti. Schwartz uses it to test the sustainability of the Berensons’ attributions of paintings for which they put down cash on the barrelhead. The results are disenchanting. Only one of eighty-seven relevant entries is an original Berenson attribution that is still accepted. Continue reading “345 The transparent connoisseur 4: a Berenson scorecard”

344 Some Rothschild Rembrandts, seen and unseen

The deal is done. The Louvre and Rijksmuseum have come into shared ownership of Rembrandt’s earliest full-length, life-size portraits. Buyers and sellers proclaim piously that they were driven by angst that these cultural treasures might disappear to Arabia or China. Schwartz tests that proposition and finds it wanting. Continue reading “344 Some Rothschild Rembrandts, seen and unseen”

343 A medical opinion from Jheronimus Bosch

Jheronimus Bosch painted a man having a flower removed from his head, with an inscription speaking of a stone being cut out. Schwartz cannot explain why, but he nonetheless proposes a new theory of what is going on in the painting. He sees more empathy in it than scorn. Continue reading “343 A medical opinion from Jheronimus Bosch”

342 Rembrandt’s fourth sense: a quick reaction

At a local auction in a small town in New Jersey, two days ago, a small painting of a fainting woman was sold for $870,000, a thousand times more than its high estimate. The buyer and underbuyer were betting on the chance that it is one of the earliest paintings by Rembrandt. Schwartz thinks they were making a good bet. Continue reading “342 Rembrandt’s fourth sense: a quick reaction”

341 The transparent connoisseur 3: the 30 million pound question

A wrong call by the Rembrandt Research Project (“the authority on Rembrandt and has final say in whether a painting is genuine”- Wikipedia) cost the heirs of the generous art collector Harold Samuel a not so small fortune. Schwartz tells the tale and discusses the issues involved. Continue reading “341 The transparent connoisseur 3: the 30 million pound question”

337 Here’s to Vincent and Theo, Anna, Eugène and Octave

The legendary single sale of a painting by Vincent van Gogh in his lifetime is not the art market discovery it is usually taken to be. It has a rich and moving background involving a cast of admirable characters, not least of them Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who in Brussels challenged a vilifier of van Gogh to a duel. Continue reading “337 Here’s to Vincent and Theo, Anna, Eugène and Octave”

336: The Camus complex at The New Yorker

In the 1950s death lost its sting in The New Yorker. As in the opening line of Albert Camus’s novel L’Etranger, mothers – and others – keep dying without anyone shedding a tear over them.


Continue reading “336: The Camus complex at The New Yorker”

335 A Hebrew Bible page for Paul Huvenne

On the retirement of Paul Huvenne as director of the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, the museum offered him a surprise friendship album with contributions by 76 colleagues and friends, mainly art historians and artists. The theme, as I reported in the postscript to Schwartzlist 334, was Beelddenken – thinking in images. The book opens with Paul’s own definition of the word: “Beelddenken is the ability to form and develop thoughts in wordless images and to picture, express and communicate them directly. In Western culture, thinking in images is the repudiated opponent of thinking in words. This bypasses the fact that most words are image thoughts and that the most abstract concepts are easier imagined than articulated.” The engaging and dedicated young woman who thought up and edited the volume, Katharina van Cauteren, to whom the authors as well as the dedicatee are deeply indebted, asked the contributors to write brief reflections on any visual object of their choice, not necessarily a work of art. Continue reading “335 A Hebrew Bible page for Paul Huvenne”