auction

An Oil Sketch Found Covered With Bird Droppings in a Farm Shed Is Actually an Early Van Dyck, Now Heading to Auction for $3 Million


An oil sketch by Anthony van Dyck, executed early in the Flemish artist’s career and rediscovered in a farm shed some four centuries later, will star in Sotheby’s Master Week series, where it is estimated to pull in up to $3 million. 

A Sketch for Saint Jerome is one of only two known live model-based studies by Van Dyck, likely created between 1615 and 1618, when the young painter was working as an assistant in Peter Paul Rubens’s Antwerp studio. The work captures a slouching elderly man, his face in shadow and his lean musculature finely rendered—a depiction that served as a study for Van Dyck’s Saint Jerome (1618–20), currently held by the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. 

The oil sketch was discovered in a barn in Kinderhook, New York, in 2002, and acquired at auction by local collector Albert B. Roberts. Though the back of the canvas was reportedly dotted with bird droppings, Roberts believed the artwork to be a Dutch Golden Age painting and bought it for $600. 

He had his find authenticated in 2019, when art historian Susan Barnes recognized it as a “surprisingly well-preserved” work by Van Dyck. “The oil sketch,” she wrote, “is an impressive and important find that helps us understand more about the artist’s method as a young man.”

The Van Dyck sketch, offered to Sotheby’s by the estate of Roberts, who died in 2021, joins a number of other freshly resurfaced European masterworks in the auction house’s Old Master series.

Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino, Portrait of A Man, Facing Left, With A Quill and a Sheet of Paper (ca. 1527). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Portrait of a Man with a Quill and Sheet of Paper (ca. 1527), a rare piece by Agnolo Bronzino, will hit the block following a storied line of ownership and misattribution. Munich collector Ilse Hesselberger acquired the canvas in 1927, believing the portrait to be the work of another Florentine artist. During World War II, the painting was seized by the Nazis, reattributed, and installed in various governmental offices in Germany. 

Last year, the work was restituted to Hesselberger’s heirs, who consigned it to Sotheby’s. There, it was restored and its radiant surfaces recognized as emerging from the assured hand of a young Bronzino (and likely even his self-portrait), echoing his other early oils such as Portrait of the Woman in Red (ca. 1533) at the Städel Museum.

The painting leads the Master Paintings auction with a high estimate of $5 million, proceeds of which will benefit the Selfhelp Community Services and the Lighthouse Guild.

Also included in the same sale is an expressive portrait newly attributed to Titian. Titled Ecce Homo—not to be confused with the artist’s massive 1543 composition of the same name that hangs in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum—the unfinished oil is painted with the proto-Impressionist flair that marked Titian’s late period, depicting Christ, crowned with thorns, being presented to Pontius Pilate. It is expected to fetch between $1.5 to $2 million.

Giandomenico Tiepolo, Head of a bearded man in a blue and yellow collared robe (ca. 1757). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Rounding out the sale is a group of Old Master paintings that will enter the market for the first time. Three previously unknown works by Giandomenico Tiepolo, executed around 1757, and forming a set of imagined portraits of Greek philosophers Demosthenes, Socrates, and Aristotle, carry estimates between $80,000 to $2 million each. 

Yet another newly attributed painting, Sebastiano del Piombo’s Portrait of a Woman Holding a Crown of Laurels (ca. 1540s), is making its debut as well. While three other versions of this same portrait exist—most notably, one that was sold at Christie’s London in 2015 from the collection of Lord and Lady Kennet—this particular panel, the largest and with a provenance that goes back to the Russian Dolgorukov dynasty, has been deemed the original. Its estimate starts at $1.5 million.

Sotheby’s Master Week series in New York runs from January 18–30. A public exhibition opens January 21.

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An Oil Sketch Found Covered With Bird Droppings in a Farm Shed Is Actually an Early Van Dyck, Now Heading to Auction for $3 Million


An oil sketch by Anthony van Dyck, executed early in the Flemish artist’s career and rediscovered in a farm shed some four centuries later, will star in Sotheby’s Master Week series, where it is estimated to pull in up to $3 million. 

A Sketch for Saint Jerome is one of only two known live model-based studies by Van Dyck, likely created between 1615 and 1618, when the young painter was working as an assistant in Peter Paul Rubens’s Antwerp studio. The work captures a slouching elderly man, his face in shadow and his lean musculature finely rendered—a depiction that served as a study for Van Dyck’s Saint Jerome (1618–20), currently held by the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. 

The oil sketch was discovered in a barn in Kinderhook, New York, in 2002, and acquired at auction by local collector Albert B. Roberts. Though the back of the canvas was reportedly dotted with bird droppings, Roberts believed the artwork to be a Dutch Golden Age painting and bought it for $600. 

He had his find authenticated in 2019, when art historian Susan Barnes recognized it as a “surprisingly well-preserved” work by Van Dyck. “The oil sketch,” she wrote, “is an impressive and important find that helps us understand more about the artist’s method as a young man.”

The Van Dyck sketch, offered to Sotheby’s by the estate of Roberts, who died in 2021, joins a number of other freshly resurfaced European masterworks in the auction house’s Old Master series.

Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino, Portrait of A Man, Facing Left, With A Quill and a Sheet of Paper (ca. 1527). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Portrait of a Man with a Quill and Sheet of Paper (ca. 1527), a rare piece by Agnolo Bronzino, will hit the block following a storied line of ownership and misattribution. Munich collector Ilse Hesselberger acquired the canvas in 1927, believing the portrait to be the work of another Florentine artist. During World War II, the painting was seized by the Nazis, reattributed, and installed in various governmental offices in Germany. 

Last year, the work was restituted to Hesselberger’s heirs, who consigned it to Sotheby’s. There, it was restored and its radiant surfaces recognized as emerging from the assured hand of a young Bronzino (and likely even his self-portrait), echoing his other early oils such as Portrait of the Woman in Red (ca. 1533) at the Städel Museum.

The painting leads the Master Paintings auction with a high estimate of $5 million, proceeds of which will benefit the Selfhelp Community Services and the Lighthouse Guild.

Also included in the same sale is an expressive portrait newly attributed to Titian. Titled Ecce Homo—not to be confused with the artist’s massive 1543 composition of the same name that hangs in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum—the unfinished oil is painted with the proto-Impressionist flair that marked Titian’s late period, depicting Christ, crowned with thorns, being presented to Pontius Pilate. It is expected to fetch between $1.5 to $2 million.

Giandomenico Tiepolo, Head of a bearded man in a blue and yellow collared robe (ca. 1757). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Rounding out the sale is a group of Old Master paintings that will enter the market for the first time. Three previously unknown works by Giandomenico Tiepolo, executed around 1757, and forming a set of imagined portraits of Greek philosophers Demosthenes, Socrates, and Aristotle, carry estimates between $80,000 to $2 million each. 

Yet another newly attributed painting, Sebastiano del Piombo’s Portrait of a Woman Holding a Crown of Laurels (ca. 1540s), is making its debut as well. While three other versions of this same portrait exist—most notably, one that was sold at Christie’s London in 2015 from the collection of Lord and Lady Kennet—this particular panel, the largest and with a provenance that goes back to the Russian Dolgorukov dynasty, has been deemed the original. Its estimate starts at $1.5 million.

Sotheby’s Master Week series in New York runs from January 18–30. A public exhibition opens January 21.

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A Spanish Collector Is on Trial for Forging Artworks by Chillida, Lichtenstein, and Munch—Then Consigning Them to Auction Houses


A Spanish collector is facing years of prison time for allegedly forging and consigning artworks by Roy Lichtenstein, Edvard Munch, and others. 

Guillermo Chamorro, aged 67, is being charged with intellectual property theft and fraud related to the falsification of 15 works of art, according to Spanish newspaper El País. The prosecutor’s office in Madrid, where the trial is taking place, is seeking a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence. 

A once respected collector and occasional artist, Chamorro has now been connected to dozens of suspected forgeries going back several years. 

An Austrian collector named Tomas Weber told El Pais that an Eduardo Chillida lithograph he purchased in the spring of 2019, from Hampel Fine Art Auctions in Munich for €3,900, was fake. The artwork had been consigned by Chamorro, to whom Weber reached out, demanding a refund.

Soon after, Weber told Spanish police that he had spotted two additional Chillida forgeries at the Setdart auction house in Madrid. Subsequent searches of Setdart’s facilities yielded more artworks believed to have been fabricated by Chamorro, including seven attributed to Chillida, two to Lichtenstein, and one to Munch. 

Of the 15 pieces Chamorro has been accused of faking, Spanish police have recovered 10. The remaining five artworks—four attributed to the Spanish painter José Guerrero and one credited to Saul Steinberg—were sold to collectors by Setdart in December 2018. 

It’s unclear if their owners have been notified about the artworks’ suspected authenticity. Chamorro, for his part, claims he only moved these pieces to Setdart for study, not sale.

Representatives from the auction house did not immediately respond to Midnight Publishing Group News’s request for comment.  

Hampel Fine Art is heavily implicated in Chamorro’s trial, too. El País reported that a Spanish-based representative for the company approached the accused forger in 2017 with the idea of selling some of his collection. Chamorro subsequently sent 29 artworks to Munich. Among the group were several iterations of Munch’s famous Scream scene, which the collector valued to be worth €250,000 to €300,000 in total.

After not being paid for the artworks, Chamorro reached out to the auction house and found out that they were being held at a local police station due to questions over their legitimacy. The whereabouts of those artworks are currently unknown.

An expert from the Reina Sofía Museum, José Manuel Lara, helped confirm the dubious status of many of the artworks connected to Chamorro. He spotted irregularities in the artworks’ signatures and pointed out that many of the pictures were made using inkjet printing processes. 

Lara concluded in court that if the pieces were not fake, they were at least “manipulations of authentic pieces.”  

Meanwhile, Francisco Baena, director of the José Guerrero Center in Granada, weighed in on the Guerrero artworks.

“Guerrero was always firm and sure, but in the ones that the police showed me, the painter hesitates, as if he knew he was forging,” Baena said at the trial.

 

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Rare, Remarkable Chinese Porcelains From a Prominent Collecting Couple Go Up for Auction in New York


Bonhams New York is offering a host of delicate treasures in its “Cohen & Cohen: 50 Years of Chinese Export Porcelain live auction on January 24.

On view January 18–23, the 155 lots feature an array of mostly 18th-century Chinese porcelains, including famille rose vase garnitures, rare ‘European subject dishes and figures, and large Kangxi-period famille verte and blue and white dishes, a popular style for porcelain cabinets of the time.

Vying for highest sale price is a figure of a European lady from the Qianlong period, ca. 1740, estimated to fetch between $80,000–$100,000. The famille rose standing lady appears to have been modeled after a print by Dutch artist Casper Luyken, ca. 1703. The pattern illustrates figures in 17th-century Jewish costume, allegedly worn by women in Frankfurt’s Jewish community.

“One lovely aspect of the European lady figure is that the Chinese potter,” Michael C. Hughes, Vice President & Head of Department for Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Bonhams, told Midnight Publishing Group News, “is after having copied the sculptural form and style of dress from the original Western print, he did not know the decoration to be found on the lady’s clothing. So he had simply added an entirely Chinese decoration, as you see in the cloud scrolls on the apron and the dragon roundels to the blue cape.”

A garniture of five famille rose ‘parrot-on-a-swing’ vases, Qianlong period, ca. 1740. Courtesy of Bonhams New York.

Among the highest estimates is a pair of large famille rose ‘torch bearer’ candle sconces for the European market, ca. 1740, estimated at $80,000–$120,000. The brightly colored, ornamental pieces have an enameled center with a standing figure holding a flaming torch overhead and an unlit torch lowered at the right side. It’s all within a cheerfully hued frame displaying latticework, scrolling leaf forms, and other baroque motifs, as well as open-winged parrots for extra splash, all enameled and featuring gilt highlights. 

Pair of famille rose ‘torch-bearer’ rococo candle sconces for the European market,
early Qianlong period, ca. 1740. Courtesy of Bonhams New York.

Bonhams has enjoyed a long relationship with Michael and Ewa Cohen. The Cohens count clients all over the world, from the Hong Kong Maritime Museum in Hong Kong to the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, among many others, noted Hughes. “Michael and Ewa’s philosophy was to buy as collectors rather than dealers—only buying pieces that excited them,” he said. “They had standards to what they collected and sought out exceptional quality, rarity, and historic interest…We’re honored to be a part of their story.”

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This Creepy 17th-Century Baby Portrait Was Found in the Home of an ‘Eccentric’ English Farmer. It May Fetch $24,000 at Auction


For years, a 17th-century portrait of a child hid on the back of a door in an English cottage that was crammed with antiques, rarely seen even by the eccentric collector who lived there. 

Now, following the owner’s death, the artwork is set to hit the auction block in London, where it’s estimated to fetch £18,000 to £20,000 ($21,500 to $24,000).

That’s a lot for an artwork relegated to the back of a door. But if you’re wondering why such a valuable piece of art didn’t garner a more prominent placement in the Surrey home, well the painting itself may hold the answer: It’s creepy as hell. 

Hansons, the auction house set to sell the piece on January 28, calls the portrait’s subject a “miniature adult.” But the phrase “weirdly big baby” may better capture this picture’s particular brand of uncanniness. 

Painted nearly 400 years ago, it depicts a cherubic toddler decked out in an ankle-length gown and a lace collar. Stiffly upright the child stands next to a table, the proportions of which make her seem at least four-and-a-half feet tall. 

“I was surprised to find such a compelling portrait hidden away,” said Hansons associate director Chris Kirkham in a statement. “However, I discovered there was a reason for it. The keen collector who acquired it had downsized some years before and brought all of his much-loved antiques with him.”

“His collection included several paintings which were hung on much smaller walls than they had originally been intended for,” Kirkham went on. “He struggled for display space and this little girl in all her finery got tucked away behind a door. Sadly, the collector passed away and this centuries-old work was forgotten.”

It was only by chance that the auction house executive happened to look on the other side of the door, which otherwise remained perpetually propped open. “I just happened to move it and thank goodness I did,” he said.

Courtesy of Hansons Auctioneers.

The piece is being commissioned by the collector’s daughter, who called her father “an eccentric and a collector of all types of antiques and curios.” 

“He had a really good eye for unusual objects and art,” she said. “It offered him a hobby away from his working life as a farmer.”

She noted that she thinks the man “may have purchased the painting at auction many years ago but can’t be sure.”

In the upper register of the canvas is the artist’s name, Adriaen Verkins, and the date it was created, 1626. Hansons suggests that Verkins may have been a Dutch artist whose work—heavily influenced by that of masters like Van Dyck and Rubens—was otherwise lost to time.

The painting will be offered in the company’s Fine Art and Antiques Auction on January 28.

“It is remarkable what we find hidden away in homes, often forgotten and, in this case, behind a door,” added the auction house’s owner, Charles Hanson. “Collectors tend to fill their homes with so many wonderful items over the course of decades, it is easy to lose sight of which ones may be of special significance.”

“When you look into this little girl’s eyes you are swept back to the early 17th century. Fashions of the time for the rich—the poor were in rags—were showy and laden with ornamentation. Jewelry, lace, and multiple contrasting fabrics displayed wealth. This portrait is a remarkable find. It is like a time capsule offering an insight into the life of a wealthy child.”

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