Top-quality art – and a hefty cash prize – are up for grabs at a New York gallery this spring.
Nicholas Hall’s exhibition All That Glistens runs until May 20. It features 30 Old Master paintings on copper produced in Europe from 1560-1750.
The pictures appearing on loan and on offer include examples by major names such as Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) and Claude Lorraine (1600-82).
However, one key loan is unattributed. The Interior of the Linder Gallery… is a large work, 22in x 2ft 8in (56 x 82cm), painted in Milan in the late 1620s and is currently listed as the work of an anonymous Flemish artist. It depicts the impressive collection set up by a German merchant, whose scientific instruments and pictures by Brueghel and his school and similar artists are shown surrounding personifications of painting and drawing.
Over the years it has passed through the collections of the Viennese Rothschilds and Thomas Mellon Evans. And although a drawing in the Royal Collection attributed to Frans Francken the Younger bears a striking resemblance to the painting, so far any identification is up for debate.
Eager to rectify this unattributed state, the owner has offered $10,000 to the first person who can identify the artist.
It is a bit of fun in this prestigious show. The prize would only go so far in covering one of the works on offer, which range in price from $70,000 to seven figures.
Among them are a scene of Christ Bearing the Cross by Italian Baroque artist Guido Reni (1575-1642), a still life by Dutch artist Roelant Savery (1576-1639) and a landscape by the German artist Goffredo Wals (1595- 1638).
Of these, Wals is the least well known. Though popular in his lifetime he had long fallen into obscurity, only to be rediscovered in the 1960s.
He returned to prominence through a signed etching – also depicting trees by water – and some drawings with old attributions to him. For those hoping to invest in a Wals, it is a desirable scene. Much of his output involves naturalistic motifs, scenes of trees beside water and small, unobtrusive figures in round compositions on copper. However, he already commands five-figure prices at auction, and the work in question was hammered down at $75,000 at Sotheby’s New York last year.
The landscape demonstrates some of the attractions of copper as a medium, from its small scale to the luminous quality of the sky.
The metal gives artists a smooth, non-absorbent surface on which thinly applied layers of paint appear more intensely than they might on canvas. The vogue for copper painting came out of Florence in the late 16th century and eventually fell out of fashion in the 18th century.
Among the works on loan is The Flemish Fair, possibly the first work by Jan Brueghel the Elder to come to the US. It was bought by American collector Matthias H Arnot during the legendary Hamilton Palace auction at Christie’s in 1882.
The sale comprising more than 2000 items, included 11 paintings acquired by the National Gallery and is credited for establishing the taste for 18th century French furniture among great American collections. Aside from that, it formed the basis of Arnot’s collection, now housed at the Arnot Art Museum in New York, which has lent this work to the dealership.