On Monday, 8 May, in Berlin, Schwartz heard a top connoisseur account for differences in finish between two paintings by Hugo van der Goes as acceptable variations within a single artistic personality, and on 12 May, in Den Bosch, heard another top connoisseur denying the very possibility of such a thing concerning two paintings by Jheronimus Bosch. What a week!
Working in 2021 on a book about a disputed Rembrandt self-portrait, I wished to refer to the article below, from July 1992, for its comments on the Rembrandt Research Project. The English text had not been published before. If I am not mistaken, this article has never been referred to in subsequent literature on the painting.
There are nearly one-and-a-half times as many recorded Dutch painters of the seventeenth century by whom not a single work is known than masters with an identified oeuvre. And then there are those by whom we know only one really good painting. Where did their lost paintings go? Lots were thrown away, but others, Schwartz argues, are catalogued under well-known names. This subverts one of the basic assumptions of the connoisseur’s attribution.
Continue reading “393 The transparent connoisseur 6: Johnny One Work”
The contributions of the Rembrandt Research Project to the study of Rembrandt paintings are countless and invaluable. In particular, the insistence of Ernst van de Wetering that the physical study of paintings be integrated into the practice of connoisseurship has changed the face of the field. However, inconsistencies in the six volumes of its Corpus of Rembrandt paintings leave us in uncertainty concerning its reconstruction of Rembrandt’s oeuvre. Schwartz puts his finger on a possible re-attribution that should be forthcoming, but isn’t.
Continue reading “364 The transparent connoisseur 5: Keeping the Rembrandt Research Project to its word”
The sale of a painting by Govert Flinck for a higher price than some Rembrandts have fetched in recent years prompts a reflection on the ongoing (and never-ending) revision of our scale of values. Continue reading “352 Up the Rembrandt school!”
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”
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”
Christie’s is about to auction as a Vermeer a painting of the early Christian St. Praxedis, who distinguished herself by conserving the body parts of martyrs. In doing so, the auction house braves the dismissal of the Vermeer attribution by nearly all experts in the field. Schwartz is convinced that Christie’s is right and they’re wrong. Continue reading “332 Vermeer’s blood-sopping saint”
Connoisseurship: l’oeil, la raison et l’instrument, ed. Patrick Michel, Paris (Ecole du Louvre) 2014, pp. 229-37.
Open pdf (663 kB) at Connoisseurship Schwartz
The Rembrandt Research Project had everything going for it when it set out in 1968 to examine the authorship of all the paintings seriously attributed to the master. However, by 1991, after publishing three massive volumes covering half of Rembrandt’s career, it ran out of steam and four of the five members quit the project. The remaining member, Ernst van de Wetering, took it over, admitting that vols. 1-3 were a failure. Schwartz asks why and suggests that the fault lay less with the members of the project than with the impossible pretensions of connoisseurship itself.
Gary Schwartz, “Gerard Pietersz. van Zijl the portraitist: a ghost story,” in Facebook: studies on Dutch and Flemish portraiture of the 16th-18th centuries, Liber amicorum presented to Rudolf E.O. Ekkart on the occasion of his 65th birthday, Leiden (Primavera Pers) and The Hague (Netherlands Institute for Art History [RKD]) 2012, pp. 301-10