Maastricht Fair (TEFAF) 2008

Maastricht, MECC, from 7 to 16 March 2008

1. Antonio de Bellis (active between 1635 and 1660)
La Libération de saint Pierre
Oil on canvas - 178.5 x 260.5 cm
London, Whitfield Fine Art
Photo : Whitfield Fine Art

Every year, the Maastricht Fair lives up to its reputation as the most important Antiques show in the world. This column will be anything but objective. At Maastricht, art lovers will find countless XXth century works to admire by such masters as Léger, Braque, Picasso. The fair is worth the trip for this modern section alone. However, we will not cover it in detail, as some of the works fall outside our chronological range and also due to our competence in the field, or lack thereof.

This short review will thus begin with XVIIth century painting. In the case of the Italians, special note should be made of Clovis Whitfield, who presents a striking Antonio de Bellis (ill. 1) representing The Liberation of Saint Peter. As always, a masterpiece by a lesser-known artist is more valuable than a secondary canvas by a prestigious master. The scarcity of offers on the market for Old masters still allows chances to make many discoveries. True, the major names before the XVIIIth century are rare. No Rubens will be found here [1], nor Raphaëls. A self-portrait by Rembrandt at the Noortman Gallery, small but of very high quality, is an exception, as are the two Annibale Carraci offered by Richard Feigen, paintings that had been shown at the recent Bolognese retrospective. The XVIIIth and XIXth centuries are richer in major artists, but it was perhaps not necessary to advertise the only Van Gogh, presented by Dickinson, as much, given its average quality. A name is not a synonym for quality. For the same price (over $30 million according to the information), one could establish a sumptuous collection of Baroque painting.

2. Jan Boeckhorst (1605-1668)
The Snyders Triptych
Oil on three panels - 178,5 x 260,5 cm (central panel)
and 106 x 48 cm (side panels)
London, Moatti Fine Arts Ltd
Photo : Moatti Fine Arts Ltd

3. Ferrau Fenzoni (1562-1645)
The Crucifixion
Oil on canvas - 106 x 145 cm
London, Moatti Fine Arts Ltd
Photo : Moatti Fine Arts Ltd

In the absence of any Rubens works, one can enjoy the extraordinary triptych by Jan Boeckhoerst (ill. 2), one of his close students. The history of this piece is fascinating and we will talk about it soon in an upcoming news item if it is acquired, as expected, by a museum (see News item of 23/7/08). It is offered by Moatti, who had been away from the art market for the last few years. Newly settled in London, he returns to Maastricht with flair : his stand, which is one of the smallest, presents one of the richest offerings of remarkable works, including a Jacques Stella that we had mentioned in a previous news item (1/12/07) and a superb Ferrau Fenzoni (ill. 3), a strange artist with another painting, The Presentation of the Head of Saint John the Baptist to Salome, but not as beautiful however, which can be found at Altomani & Sons.

4. Antoine Callet (1741-1823)
Jupiter and Ceres, Salon of 1777
Oil on canvas - 220 x 283 cm
Didier Aaron & Cie
Photo : DidierAaron & Cie

5. Henri Mauperché (c. 1602-1686)
Figures on the Steps of a Palace in Ruins, c. 1645
Oil on canvas - 128.5 x 113 cm
Didier Aaron & Cie
Photo : Didier Aaron & Cie

Speaking of Jacques Stella, Eric Coatalem presents a remarkable study (or modello) for the tapestry cartoon in Toulouse which had made a surprise appearance in a sale in Milan (see news item of 1/12/07 mentioned earlier). In passing, the museum in Caen should be commended for having recognized the master’s brush and, particularly, for having tried to purchase it. Another canvas which may be familiar to readers of The Art Tribune (ill. 4) is Antoine Callet’s “morceau d’agrément” to the Académie (news item of 18/11/07), acquired by Didier Aaron. This Jupiter and Ceres, after a cleaning and a removal of the heavier varnishes, is admirable for the subtlety of its colours and the spirit of the composition (this painting was finally bought by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, see News item of 23/7/08).

At the Coatalem stand, it is interesting to compare a Virgin with Child by Simon Vouet [2] with another canvas of the same subject by his student Michel Corneille the Elder, which is far from being inferior to the master’s. Still in XVIIth century French painting, with few examples offered this year, one may also enjoy a beautiful landscape by Henri Mauperché (ill. 5), again at Didier Aaron’s.

At the Matthiesen Gallery, there is a very beautiful Nicolas Regnier (ill. 6) making up for the Artemisia Gentilischi canvas of mediocre quality next to it and which, despite the positive opinions of several specialists, has been relegated by the vetting committee to the rank of workshop piece. Once again returning to the Italian school, let us point out at Maurizio Canesso’s an extraordinary painting (ill. 7) of a rare subject painted by an artist from Messina, Domenico Maroli, known for only about ten works. The brilliant work of attribution is detailed in a lengthy description by Alberto Crispo in the accompanying catalogue for this presentation of Italian realists. Still speaking of Italians, a work by Evaristo Baschenis is presented by Jack Kilgore & Otto Naumann, an artist who is still missing from the Louvre.

6. Nicolas Régnier (c. 1602-1686)
The Death of Sophonisbe
Oil on canvas - 126 x 161 cm
London, Matthiesen Gallery
Photo : Matthiesen Gallery

7. Domenico Maroli (c. 1612-1676)
Euclid of Megara Dressing as a Woman
to go Hear Socrates Teach in Athens

Oil on canvas - 139.5 x 223.5 cm
Paris, Galerie Canesso
Photo : Galerie Canesso

At the Colnaghi stand, one can admire a “work of major interest to French cultural heritage” and which we hope the Musée Fesch will be able to acquire at last as, in all rights, it should (see news item of 18/11/07). It is surprising that no firm has stepped up to purchase the work for the museum as it would cost barely 10% of the actual price. It would be unfortunate if a visitor to Maastricht were to buy it, depriving Philippe Costamagna, the curator of the Musée Fesch, of the chance to acquire it and thus returning to Corsica a painting originally belonging to the Cardinal Fesch collection.
Robilant+Voena offers a very impressive Pier Francesco Mola [3] (ill. 8), as well as two large landscapes by Sebastiano Ricci.

8. Pier Francesco Mola (vers 1612-1676)
A Standard Bearer
Oil on canvas - 101.5 x 77.5 cm
London, Robilant+Voena
Photo : Robilant+Voena

9. Artus Wollfort (1581-1641)
The Trinity, c. 1620
Oil on panel - 121 x 91 cm
Pocking, Peter Mühlbauer Kunsthandel
Photo : Peter Mühlbauer Kunsthandel

Visitors who have come to enjoy the paintings should not pass up the rest of the fair. In the section devoted to art objects (where several stands present interesting sculpture, notably that of David and Constance Yates), there is a panel by Artus Wolffort (ill. 9). In any case, one day is not enough to take in all the surprises offered by the Maastricht Fair this year.

Didier Rykner, dimanche 9 mars 2008


[1] With the exception of a small oil on paper. On the other hand, there is a Saint Sebastian by Van Dyck at the Weiss Gallery.

[2] Already presented at the exhibition celebrating the gallery’s twentieth anniversary in 2005

[3] Auctioned at Christie’s London on 6/12/07

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