What Remains of a "Not by Rembrandt"...
Had it happened when the market itself seemed less mad, the recent sale of a painting at an auction outside London might have been evidence of the madness of its buyer. But given how unpredictable the market seems at the moment overall, it's possibly a very shrewd move on the buyer's part. In case you haven't heard yet, here's the story via artinfo.com:
A museum in the Netherlands said the portrait was not by Rembrandt, and the provincial auction house in England was only advertising it as a work by one of his followers valued at $3,078.The most interesting twist of this story as being reported seems to be the speculation that the buyer actually might know something the experts do not:
But when 15 minutes of bidding on the painting ended Friday, it had sold for $4.5 million. [...]
The Young Rembrandt as Democrates the Laughing Philosopher, a 9.5-by-6.5 inch portrait of a young man, had hung in a local home for years.
The unidentified winning bidder may have concluded that it was a self-portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn, despite expert opinion.
The 17th-century Dutch artist painted a series of self-portraits. About 40 are recognized as his work, but others are believed to have been copies made by his students.
Allwood, the auctioneer for Moore, Allen & Innocent, said the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the unidentified owner of the oil painting that was sold Friday had concluded it was not by Rembrandt.
The auction house advertised the work as by a follower of Rembrandt.
Jan Six, a Dutch art expert with Sotheby's auction house in Amsterdam, said Sotheby's was an adviser for a potential buyer who did not win the painting.It's tough to defend the cult of personality that defines the "value" of so much art in light of episodes like this one. The ultimate market determinator (that so many well-informed people wanted it, the price went up) doesn't distinguish the difference for us here. There are auction flukes, of course, where two determined buyers drive prices up to insane heights out of stubborness, but there is this little voice in the back of my head, shyly raising its hand, wanting to ask whether or not this might just not be the first crack in the cult of personality's armor...whether we might not be witnessing the birth of a fine art market meritocracy. Shhhh...you silly little voice. If anything it's more likely the birth of Xtreme speculation where someone with an expert-for-hire in pocket will declare the other experts are wrong and it is indeed a long-lost self-portrait.
"Nobody pays 2.2 million (pounds, $4.5 million) for a follower of Rembrandt. If this was a known Rembrandt and was published in 20 books and had a great provenance it would go for 10 million (pounds, $21 million)," Six said Saturday.
He said the palette and pose of the painting were very characteristic of Rembrandt, and that the face was clearly his.
If the portrait is one day accepted as a Rembrandt, the buyer will have a bargain.
In January, a Rembrandt painting, Saint James the Greater, sold for $25.8 million at Sotheby's in New York.
Labels: art market