Saturday 27 February 2021

Catalogues of Old Master Drawings

I have always enjoyed trawling auction catalogues for medieval manuscripts. Sometimes an entire catalogue is dedicated to medieval manuscripts, but more commonly a few medieval items are are listed together with later manuscripts, and/or printed books; sometimes there is only a single medieval leaf or cutting among hundreds of other items. The same applies to medieval manuscripts in the catalogues of rare book dealers; there are very few dealers in any generation who devote entire catalogues to medieval manuscripts.

When you find a medieval item in a catalogue that is mostly filled with other things, one of two situations typically applies. The most common situation is that the item is something very uninteresting, such as a leaf from a mediocre Book of Hours or choirbook. In a tiny minority of cases, however, you can find somethign much more interesting, and because it is hidden among lots of non-medieval material, it is likely to have been overlooked by most other medievalists. It is these discoveries that makes the hours of fruitless page-turning worthwhile.

It was only relatively late -- about four or five years ago -- that I realised how often medieval illuminated leaves and cuttings can also be found in auction and dealer catalogues of Old Master Drawings  -- a type of catalogue that I had previously ignored. This post provides a few examples.

Saturday 20 February 2021

The Dispersal of the Collection of Rodolphe Kann [II]: Other Perspectives

[The post I had planned to write today has to be postponed until I have some images from a collection in the US, which I had over-optimistically hoped to have received by now. Instead, here is an addendum to last week's post]

One of the books I am reading at present is René Gimpel, Diary of an Art Dealer, translated by by John Rosenberg (London, 1986). René Albert Gimpel (1881-1945) was the son of Clarisse, née Vuitton (of the luggage-making family) and the picture dealer Ernest Gimpel; he married Florence, the youngest sister of Joseph (later Lord) Duveen [Wikipedia]; and was the father of Jean [Wikipedia], the historian and medievalist, perhaps most famous for his book Les Bâtisseurs de cathédrales, 1958, translated as The Cathedral Builders in 1961.

In the previous post I suggested that the sale of the collection of Rodolphe Kann was mainly orchestrated by Nathan Wildenstein and the Duveens, but René's Diary provides a somewhat different perspective.

Saturday 13 February 2021

The Dispersal of the Collection of Rodolphe Kann

Rodolphe Kann (1845-1905)

In a previous post about Edouard Kann, I alluded to my difficulty in understanding exactly how he was related to various other members of the family, including Maurice and Rodolphe Kann, and how his art collection related to theirs. Since then, I have read a few books about the Duveen family of art dealers, and these have provided me with answers. [1]

Today’s post includes very little about medieval manuscripts per se, but instead provides some background for two forthcoming posts, which will focus on the illuminations of Rodolphe Kann, and I think it also exemplifies the sort of fascinating behind-the-scenes machinations that can be revealed by investigating provenance.

Sunday 7 February 2021

Illuminated Cuttings Sold in 1821

At the very end of last week's post I suggested that the initial above is the same as one described in 1821 as follows:

"Initial Letter S on one sheet.—In the larger miniature, the Letter is curiously formed by two Dragons, their tails twisted together, and within is represented the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, from the Cathedral Church of Como"

Readers should be sceptical: scores of depictions of Pentecost from illuminated manuscripts inhabit an initial S, because "Spiritus domini replevit" was a standard antiphon for Pentecost, and there are doubtless other initials formed of entwined dragons. So why am I confident of the identification?