A Velázquez discovered at the Met and a Murillo in a Belgian museum


2. Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)
The Surrender of Breda, detail
Oil on canvas - 307 x 367 cm
Madrid, Museo del Prado
Photo : Wikimedia (Licence Creative Commons)

11/9/09 – Discoveries – New York, Metropolitan Museum and Liers, Stedelijk Museum – The Metropolitan Museum in New York has just revealed that a painting it held since 1949 was an authentic Velázquez. This three-quarter figure of a man (ill. 1) was bequeathed in 1949 by Jules Bache who had acquired it from an art dealer, Joseph Duveen. The provenance traces back to the collection of Johann Ludwig Reichsgraf von Wallmoden-Gimborn (illegitimate son of George II of England) and then comes down through George V. The man represented here, still unidentified, has been compared to a figure located on the far right of the Surrender of Breda from the Prado (ill. 2), perhaps a self-portrait.

2. Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)
The Surrender of Breda, detail
Oil on canvas - 307 x 367 cm
Madrid, Museo del Prado
Photo : Wikimedia (Licence Creative Commons)

This canvas had been considered since its acquisition as painted by the Velázquez workshop. An in-depth exam for the edition of the catalogue of Spanish paintings as well as the recent cleaning done on it convinced Keith Christiansen and Michael Gallagher, curators at the Metropolitan, that this was indeed a work by the master himself, as acknowledged also by Jonathan Brown, a specialist on the artist, who sees in it a quick and informal study. He will soon publish this discovery. Such a change in attribution, in fact a veritable acquisition, is one of the best arguments possible for maintaining the status of inalienability. The Metropolitan Museum sometimes sells works (see our editorial of 17/11/06, in French) and there is reason to believe it might have one day sold this one at auction.


3. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)
Virgin with Child, c. 1650
Oil on canvas - 113.5 x 85.5 cm
Liers, Stedelijk Museum
Photo : KIK-IRPA, Bruxelles

4. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)
Virgin with Child, c. 1650
Detail during restoration
Oil on canvas - 113.5 x 85.5 cm
Liers, Stedelijk Museum
Photo : KIK-IRPA, Bruxelles


Given that Belgium is planning to put an end to the inalienability of art works in its museums, the resurfacing of a painting by Murillo in one of its smaller establishments should also throw doubt on the wisdom of such a move. Last 1st September, the Belgian Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique released a statement concerning the identification of a Virgin with Child (ill. 3 and 4) by this artist at the Stedelijk Museum in Lierre, thanks to the research of a young Spanish art historian, Eduardo Lamas Delgado. A scholar at the documentation department of the IRPA on Spanish paintings held in Belgian public collections, he had noticed this work on the database of the Institut (available online). This is a work from the artist’s early period, listed in sources but whose whereabouts had been unknown since its sale in Paris in 1843. At the time it was in the Aguado collection and had been reproduced in an engraving. Although inventoried in the Lierre museum collections, the work had been overlooked by specialists of Spanish art. This Virgin with Child will be presented at the exhibition El joven Murillo which will take place in Bilbao starting in October, then traveling on to Seville in 2010.


Didier Rykner, vendredi 11 septembre 2009



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