Bélizaire and the Frey Children

After restoration: Bélizaire and the Frey Children by Jacques Amans (1801-88). 

Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of Ben Elwes Fine Art.

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Slave boy back in the picture for Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired a rediscovered painting attributed to French neoclassical painter Jacques Amans (1801-88) depicting an enslaved boy.

The painting, titled Bélizaire and the Frey Children, of c.1837, represents “one of the rarest and most fully documented American portraits of a black individual depicted with the family of his white enslaver”, according to the Met.

Amans was commissioned by German-born merchant and banker Frederick Frey to paint his three children with the Afro-Creole teenager, Bélizaire (c.1822-c.1860).

Bélizaire was later painted out of the composition by a member of the Frey family around 1900, and only recently uncovered.

Through research led by Louisiana collector Jeremy Simien, the identities of the sitters and the artist were uncovered. Simien first saw the portrait in 2013, tracked it down and purchased it in 2021. Working with Ben Elwes Fine Art in London, Simien sold the picture to the Met for an undisclosed amount.

American school portrait

Before restoration: this portrait, described as 'portrait of three children in a Louisiana landscape' sold at Christie's in 2005.

The canvas with Bélizaire still painted out was previously in the collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Gifted in 1972 by the Frey family’s descendants, it sat in storage until 2005 when the museum deaccessioned the work at Christie’s New York.

It sold for $6000 in March 2005 when catalogued as a 19th century American School portrait of three children in a Louisiana landscape.

Rachel Elwes, director at Ben Elwes Fine Art, London, said: “We are delighted to have sold this painting to the Met and to have played a part in making sure that the extraordinary story of Belizaire can be shared with the broadest possible audience both now, and long into the future.”

Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A Fleischman curator in charge of the American Wing at The Met, said: “The acquisition of this rare painting is transformative for the American Wing, representing our first naturalistic portrait of a named black subject set in a Southern landscape — a work that allows us to address many collection absences and asymmetries as we approach the 100th anniversary of the wing’s founding in 2024.”

The purchase was funded by the Met's Purchase Acquisitions Fund, Brooke Russell Astor Bequest, Friends of the American Wing Fund, Muriel J Kogan Bequest, and funds from various donors.

Appeal as antiques stolen from dealer

Perry & Co nib case

Among the stolen items was this Perry & Co nib case in the form of a gladstone bag.

Valuable antiques and jewellery were stolen from a former dealer’s home in Rainford, St Helens and the police are appealing for help.

The burglary took place while the victim was away in August. The stolen items include a Rolex watch, 28 rare Victorian Avery needle cases, a 500-dollar bill of General Lee, around 20 antique skirt lifters, two stamp boxes, a silver pocket watch and chain and a 9ct gold ring.

Also stolen was a 1ct loose diamond, a c.1890 watch fob, a gold locket and a glass jar containing approximately £80 worth of pennies and three antique pens.

Det Insp Richie Shillito said: “This collection of antiques is not only worth a lot of money, but has huge sentimental value to the victim. It includes rare and distinctive items that would be almost impossible to replace, and items passed down by family members.

“I would like to ask any members of the public to look out just in case they are, or have been, offered any of these antiques for sale on the street, in pawnbrokers or have seen them for sale on the internet.”

Anyone with information should contact the Merseyside Police by calling 101 quoting crime reference number 230000818297 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online.

Remaining Horten sales cancelled

Christie’s has cancelled the remaining sales of around 300 lots of jewellery from the estate of late Austrian art collector Heidi Horten which had been due to take place in November.

Horten’s wealth was accumulated by her late husband in Nazi-era Germany when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress.

The May auctions in Geneva took a premium-inclusive $202m, the most valuable single -owner jewellery collection to ever sell at auction. However, it led to an outcry from a number of Jewish organisations. See Letters this week.

Advertising gets grading service

Official grading, popular in coins and comics, has now extended into advertising memorabilia.

Authentication & Grading Services (AGS), an independent grading service for antique advertising of all types has been launched.

The company is led by Dan Morris, founder of the Cedartown Museum of Coca- Cola in Georgia, and John Mihovetz, head of automobilia at Morphy Auctions.

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In Numbers


The difference between the purchase price of $4 and the upper estimate of $250,000 for an oil on panel, Ramona, by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945).

The picture had previously been purchased in a New Hampshire thrift store and will be offered at Bonhams Skinner’s American art auction on September 19 with a guide of $150,000-$250,000.