“Investing in Old Masters in Economic Hard Times” vs. “Why Old Masters Might Not be a Good Investment” Friday, Nov 14 2008 

In the context of this blog, we generously regard Old Master prints as a subset of the so called Old Masters, which at the same time can stand for Old Master Paintings/Drawings/Etchings/Engravings or for the actual creators of these. Whic is actually a strange case of pars pro toto: you would never use “shoe” synonymously with “shoemaker”.

It is often an amusing pastime to read comments about the current and future state of the Art market regarding Old Masters. Let us first have a look at an article by Felix Salmon, a finance blogger and Editorial contributor to Portfolio.com. (more…)

Set of Albrecht Dürer’s “Apocalypse” woodcuts sold for $1.4 million Thursday, Nov 13 2008 

from Albect Dürer's "Apocalypse"

The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired a complete set of Albrecht Dürer’s 16 woodcuts illustrating the Apocalypse for $1.4 million. It is one of only a few surviving specimens of the 1498 edition. The New York Times article states the Swiss dealer August Laube as the seller.

The most famous woodcut of the Apocalipsis cum figuris (“Apocalypse with pictures”,”Die Heimliche Offenbarung Johannes”), which was published at the same time in Latin and in German, are the Four Horsemen, depicted here. For the first time, each of the woodcuts bears the famous AD monogram. Thirteen years later, Dürer produced a second edition, but it is apparently the first edition which causes Museum and Art Gallery directors to invest large sums of their budgets.

This website (in German) gives a fine overview of all 16 woodcuts along with some short commentaries.

Old master prints auction at Christie’s Monday, Nov 10 2008 

Artdaily points out to an auction of 61 important old master prints over at Christie’s, featuring works on paper by Rembrandt, Goya, Mantegna, Dürer and other Old masters. Estimated prices range from £1,500 for Daniel Hopfer’s Three German Soldiers with Halberds and a Dog to a staggering £450,000 for Rembrandt’s Christ crucified between the two Thieves: ‘The Three Crosses’ .

Stolen Goya etching resurfaces in hotel in Bogota Monday, Oct 13 2008 

The etching “‘Tristes presentimientos de lo que ha de acontecer” (“Sad presentiments of what will happen”) by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), which was stolen a month ago at an important Goya exhibition at the Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño in Bogota, has been found in a hotel room in the same city, still in its original frame.

The etching is part of the series “Los desastres de la guerra” (Disasters of War) (1810-14) narrating the hardships of the Spanish liberation war against France.

Link to “El Tiempo” article (12.10.2008): Grabado de Goya robado el pasado mes de septiembre fue recuperado por las autoridades

Link to an article showing the corpus delicti (14.10.2008). This and some other articles erroneously speak of  “engravings”, although the Disasters of War prints are etchings (with the additional use of aquatint, dry point and burin). The use of “engraving” instead of “etching” seems to be a common mistake for news agencies, it happened also here.

“Backward countries “and pictorial statements Tuesday, Apr 29 2008 

William M. Ivins - Prints and Visual CommunicationI became aware that the backward countries of the world are and have been those that have not learned to take full advantage of the possibilities of pictorial statement and communication, and that many of the most characteristic ideas and abilities of our western civilization have been intimately related to our skills exactly to repeat pictorial statements and communications.”

These are the introductory words to the first chapter titled “The blocked road to pictorial communication” in William M. Ivins’ book “Prints and Visual Communication“. While I would agree to the thought that many ideas and cultural values of the western civilisation have been proposed and developed in a close bond with the ability to repeat pictorial statements and communicatios, I started to ponder about the first part. Backward countries? If you call countries backward, how do you define the “forward direction”? Furthermore: assuming that there is something like a backward country: Is it true that such countries did not take full advantage of pictorial statements?


Six pillows… Friday, Dec 7 2007 

Six pillows by Albrecht Dürer (1493).

… but not an etching. I wasn’t aware of this nice sketch by Albrecht Dürer before, so at first sight i thought: what a nice etching! But it’s indeed an ink drawing on paper he made in 1493 when he was 22 years old. This fine study is now in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, new York.

In 2001, Andreas Friese translated these hatchings and cross-hatchings into a modern ASCII-Art version:

“I have been working on this for ages! It is by no means finished but I have to stop somewhere. Please note that you see here before your unbelieving eyes the Ascii representation of six pillows that were kicked and pushed into shape for a drawing more than 500 years ago.
Ah yes, and this is an “organic” product. Only myself, my Emacs and of course a book with the print of the original were used.”

Dürer used pillows in at least one other study: The “Studies of Self-Portrait, Hand and Pillow” from the same year.

Thanks to the “Your Daily Art Blog” for providing my first view ever of these six pillows…

Thermal photography identifies watermarks in old prints Sunday, Oct 14 2007 

When you hold an old print or drawing in front of a light source, you can often discern an image or pattern within the paper itself – a watermark. They play an important role in identifying fakes and dating old master prints. Sometimes the writing or drawing is so dense that it renders it difficult to identify the watermark under normal light. Now a scientific team in Germany has developed a new method for identifying even poorly discernible watermarks.

The physicist Peter Meinlschmidt at the Fraunhofer-Institute for Wood Research in Germany developed a quite simple, but effective thermographic method to make watermarks clearly visible. He uses the fact that printed ink is transparent under thermal radiation. A thermal source is placed behind the drawing or print; a digital camera which is sensitive to thermal radiation shows the watermark density differences in the paper. As an example, under “normal”, visible light, the watermark in the drawing by Jan Lieven is barely visible (left). A thermal infrared picture of the same drawing shows clearly a crown watermark (right).

Jan Lieven Drawing - Watermark

Pictures from http://www.wki.fraunhofer.de/projekte/wki-pmt-2.html


Original oder Fälschung? (in German)

Rembrandt etching bought by 13 years old at Art fair Friday, Jun 1 2007 

Rembrandt - Agony in the Garden (1663) “I spotted it and immediately knew that was the kind of thing I wanted: “The Agony in the Garden”. It was really a stunning piece. You could see the expression on Jesus’ face, how passionate it was. It’s above my bed.” Those are the words of Brahm Wachter, who bought this original Rembrandt etching at the 2003 Maastricht art fair (click on the thumbail to the left for a full size version of the etching). Now this alone probably wouldn’t be enough in order to be mentioned in todays art market news, weren’t there the fact that the collector was 13 years old at that time he bought it with his bar mitzvah money.

While market and investing oriented magazines like Forbes interpret this as the start to a successfull art investing career, I see it rather as the first steps of an art passionate, or an “art amateur” (from Latin amare, to love); despite the fact that Brahm is the son of George Wachter, worldwide head of the old masters department at Sotheby’s.


Curators From the Cradle: Marbles, Bugs and Warhols (The New York Times, May 13, 2004)

Rembrandt etching (and an elephant) stolen in Chicago Thursday, May 24 2007 

Adam and Eve (Museum het Rembrandthuis)An etching by Rembrandt van Rijn, “Adam and Eve” (click on the left picture to see an enlarged version), has been stolen from an art gallery in Chicago. The suspected thieves are a couple who had briefly entered the gallery and left it, taken the etching with them. The etching dates from 1638 and is worth around 60’000 US$.

In some news articles the stolen print is labeled as “an engraving”, which is not correct. It is an etching. When you have a closer look at the full size version (click on the small picture above), you will discover a nice detail in the background: a small elephant. It is Hansken (1630-1655), an elephant which was shown across Europe in the 17th century.

Hansken (Source: Wikipedia)

Rembrandt van Rijn: Hansken (drawing, 1637)

An anonymous copper engraving from the 17th century shows Hansken’s manifold skills, which may also have impressed Rembrandt to include her (Hansken was a lady elephant) in a scene from the Bible.


Hilligoss Galleries in Chicago including a picture of the stolen item

Rembrandt stolen from Mag Mile gallery (Chicago Tribune) and followup.

17th Century Rembrandt Etching Stolen From Chicago Gallery (FoxNews)

A mysterious inscription Friday, May 18 2007 

On the reverse of the engraving and etching “Silence” by French engraver Laurent Cars (1699-1771) after the painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805), a handwritten inscription was found. The only thing I found out so far was that it is in French, and that it starts with “Cette epreuve…” (“This proof…”). If anybody is able to provide a transcription, I would very appreciate it.

Click on the picture below too see a full-sized version of the inscription.


Laurent Cars after Jean-Baptiste Greuze: Silence!

Laurent Cars after Jean-Baptise Greuze: Silence!

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