Thursday, 27 November 2014

Rembrandt's Themes, and other recent books

Picture: Amazon
Richard Verdi Rembrandt's Themes: Life into Art Yale University Press 2014 £25

This is a magnificent short study of Rembrandt's subject matter. He returned to the same themes again and again, seemingly by choice rather than from commission. The evidence is that he had a degree of freedom in what he painted, and his chosen subjects reveal a Mennonite sensibility. I really recommend that you buy this above the Late Rembrandt catalogue. It's beautifully produced and illustrated, finely written and truly illuminating. 

Rembrandt scholarship has been rather consumed by acrimonious debates about attribution. No one enjoys attribution controversy, debate and acrimony more than I do, but it's a welcome change to read a book that steps back from all that to focus on Rembrandt's underlying genius. A good proportion of his output is portraiture, including some of his most famous pictures. But it's in the narrative pictures that we see the full range of his genius and his humanity. Verdi's splendid book ranges from detailed discussion of the genesis of some of his pictures, to the recognition that some masterpieces like the Return of the Prodigal Son "require few words, so serene and holy does it seem". That's an experience I often feel with Rembrandt, which has struck me a few times in the National Gallery's Late Rembrandt show. 

The book is based on a series of lectures, and it is an exploration rather than a definitive study. I think that's the best way of approaching Rembrandt, for he will always resist definitive systematisation. His history paintings began with animated crowd scenes that were noticeably more effectively and dramatically orchestrated than his peers' from an early date. But it's the more introspective and profoundly emotional late masterpieces that best show his unique genius. This book explores the genesis of these greatest of paintings, explaining their context in Rembrandt's development and the themes he pursued. 

A late entry to my mental list of 'best books of 2014'.
Picture: Amazon

James Hamilton is an academic, but this is a collection of anecdotes about art and commerce in Victorian Britain rather than an academic study. There's some interesting material here and I enjoyed reading it, but it's not quite the comprehensive account I'd hoped for. Hamilton has some strange literary foibles that start to jar, like long and irrelevant lists. For example, we are told that the new rich filled their villas with art "in Ealing and Hackney, Blackheath and Roydon, Herne Hill and Tottenham, Birmingham Bristol and Hastings" (p. 60). He never uses one example or one adjective when he can fit in six or seven (the Victorian art world includes "patrons, financiers, collectors and industrialists; lawyers, publishers, entrepreneurs and journalists; artists' suppliers, engravers, photographers and curators; hostesses, shopkeepers and brothel-keepers; quacks, charlatans and auctioneers", p. 3). It's an oddly old-fashioned affectation, redolent of nineteenth century British novelists like Dickens.

The book's strength is in its primary material; I found many of Hamilton's conclusions and generalisations too sweeping, such as the surprising claim that in the 1820s and 1830s collectors avoided old masters because they were too risky, concentrating instead on contemporary (p. 172). I thought that the great contemporary boom was late in the nineteenth century, and the '20s and '30s were a golden age for old master collecting as great works continued to flow into London from continental Europe, with the resumption of trade following the Napoleonic Wars.   

One of the most interesting sections concerns the moving of pictures, a hazardous business then as now. By the 1850s and 1860s specialist vans fitting with deep shelves were available for transporting pictures, but there are alarming tales of pictures damaged in transit, such as James Ward's Waterloo Allegory: "the  figure of Belona cracked by rolling yesterday - obliged to scrap[e] it off", wrote the artist (quoted p. 273). And as today, pictures were sometimes hastily cleaned for exhibitions. "Some picture cleaners might have been scrubbing floors", says Hamilton (p. 272). A Turner that came loose in its packing case damaged several pictures returning to London from Dublin in 1865, and were presumably sent to the National Gallery's repairing room, where robust 'repairing practices' were adopted (p. 283).

There's much else of interest, but it might better have been structured as a blog rather than a book. Lots of interesting material to dip into, but little evidence of underlying organisation. 
Picture: Amazon
A.N.Wilson Victoria: A Life Atlantic Books £25

This is an endearingly old-fashioned book in tone and style, and it's a fine and readable biography enlivened with idiosyncratic asides about the tendency of whisky to increase hot-temperedness and lack of charity (p. 324) or the lineage of 'celebrated photographer' Patrick Litchfield (p, 284), or his views on her title 'Empress of India' ("a title which many people would consider more appropriate for a railway engine, or possibly a pig, but it was the consummate cupola on the Victorian political endeavour", p. 368). Quite verboten in an academic study, but I'm sure his readers will share my delight in having such an opinionated and articulate guide to Queen Victoria's life. 

I've wanted to read a good biography of Queen Victoria for a while, hoping for more insight into nineteenth century Britain. The Victorian age was a fascinating dynamic period of economic growth, political intrigue and social transformation. But this book confirms to me that Queen Victoria was just a cypher, a dull dim woman at the top of her society but not at all at the centre of it. Wilson is mostly honest about her shortcomings, but sometimes tries to hard to make more of her than is really there. Sometimes he writes utter nonsense: "Queen Victoria was not a cerebral political analyst; yet she was developing, after nearly fifteen years on the throne, a symbiotic sense of her subjects, and what they felt" (p. 169), implying that she was a Princess Diana avant la lettre. She was a very average person, but that is not at all the same thing as the thoughtful (or sometimes plain cynical) empathy of the modern celebrity. 

There are plenty of examples quoted where Victoria was out of touch, or plain naive. The book also gives some feel for how quickly things were moving in the nineteenth century, and the canniness of the statesmen of that age are fine foil for the Queen's dullness. He quotes Victoria's favourite Lord Salisbury: "The classes that represent civilisation ... have a right to require securities to protect them from being overwhelmed by hordes who have neither control to guide them nor stake in the Commonwealth to control them" (p. 434). It's interesting on many levels. It immediately strikes the modern reader as grotesquely elitist, but the fact that it was stated at all reveals a degree of defensiveness against populist pressure, real and perceived, which was relieved by a series of preemptive reforms. Nineteenth century Britain had a succession of outstanding parliamentarians but, Wilson's pleas notwithstanding, the Queen at the top was an increasingly irrelevant figurehead who increasing withdrew from even a ceremonial role.

Wilson speculates that she was sometimes 'out of her mind', on the evidence of letters written in the 1860s showing a complete loss of control, scrawled in blue crayon and barely legible. Perhaps some echo in Prince Charles's spidery missives to ministers today? 
Picture: Amazon
I read Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy on my flight to the US. I don't think it's aged well, and its flabby plot needed a good editor. But I still enjoyed it greatly, an epic tale of pursuit of the American dream gone bad. Among other novels I've read recently, Emmanuel Carrère's Limonov stands out, a fictionalised biography of a Russian dissident who is unsavory on many levels, interspersed with autobiography reflections on writing the biography. It has been extremely well reviewed, rightly so in my view. Carrère is apparently already well-known if France. This book deserves to make his reputation in the anglophone world too. Another French novel I read in translation is Baise-Moi by Virginie Despentes. I previously read and enjoyed her Apocalypse Baby, but Baise-Moi was her most famous and controversial book. I enjoyed it much less, finding it a rather predictable Thelma and Louise style schlocker. Skip it, but do have have a look at Apocalypse Baby if you fancy some grim French nihilism. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A day at the Art Institute of Chicago

Picture: Art Institute of Chicago
I thought I knew the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago pretty well, but it's bigger, better and more coherent than I'd imagined. In my mind's eye their old master collection was patchy, but it actually has a solid and comprehensive collection with masterpieces in most areas. I especially loved the little room of French seventeenth century art with a great Poussin next to a fine (but damaged) Claude, and pictures by Bourdon, Moillon, Le Seur and La Hyre. One or two rooms lacked anchoring masterpieces. An optimistically attributed 'Titian and Studio' loan doesn't make up for lack of heft in the Venetian room, although a smart purchase of a Savoldo about a decade ago helps. It seemed at the time an odd purchase for Chicago, but I get it now. And the earlier Italian pictures are patchy, but a great early Correggio, a decent Botticelli and a wonderful group of Giovanni di Paolos make up for a lot.

Picture: MS
The large gallery of baroque art is stuffed with masterpieces, led by El Greco's great Assumption, a huge picture but just part of a vast altarpiece. There's also Zurbaran's tremendous Crucifixion, a scene he and his studio painted often but rarely approaching the quality of Chicago's version. But I especially liked Guido Reni's Salome with the Head of St John the Baptist (top), a great painting by a great artist who is unjustly neglected by today's art lovers. His rather austere classicism is out of kilter with the mood of our times, but give Guido a chance. He's really an outstanding artist. Those Georgian art collectors who put him and Raphael atop the pantheon of greats did actually know a thing or two. The Chicago picture is one of his very best; the colour is superb.
Picture: Art Institute of Chicago
Alongside the great masterpieces there are plenty of interesting but more minor pictures that I enjoyed seeing, including a Walter Gay interior (above) and a good collection of nineteenth century German and Scandinavian art. Chicago has followed a widespread trend of museums buying in these areas, making up for generations of neglect, but they've bought well. I confess that I wasn't sorry to have missed Grant Wood's famous American Gothic, which was on loan. I don't greatly care for the picture, and I don't think seeing this icon 'in the flesh' would have added much for me. But I was delighted to see so many other excellent American pictures, including a fantastic Bellows winter landscape. The small Dutch collection includes a great early Rembrandt, and a recently acquired Paulus Potter that I adored.
Picture: MS
A small collection of ancient art is augmented with some really good loans from a private collection. The wall text is especially good in this section, particularly the guide to understanding labels, above. They've done a great job of explaining in terms that anyone can understand, without dumbing down the content. Museums in the UK, take note! Many museums here don't even give attributions (even at the Ashmolean). There's also a strong collection of works on paper, with changing displays in galleries alongside European paintings as well as a lively programme of exhibitions in separate drawings galleries downstairs. Sadly I arrived between exhibitions, but I've seen several of their excellent exhibition catalogues and Chicago seems to punch above its weight in old master drawing shows. I missed out on their exhibitions and I didn't have time properly to investigate their print room, but I was grateful that they were able to show me their Raphael drawing, below, which was only identified as a Raphael in the mid 1990s. 

It's probably a study for St Peter in the fresco in the Sala di Constantino in the Vatican. Discoloured white highlights are more visually distracting in the image below; they are more legible in the original. You can see just how hard it is to get this kind of foreshortening right when you see the stumbling efforts of Raphael's epigones; even his more distinguished followers struggled. The Art Institute's excellent catalogue of their Italian drawings speculates about the unusually hard technique and theorises about the effect Raphael sought, but I wondered if there wasn't some re-enforcement of contours, which are unusually hard for a late Raphael. Still, it's a magnificent and enormously impressive drawing. I'm trying to see all of Raphael's drawings, so I was particularly glad that they were able to show it to me in their print room at short notice. It was striking how impressive it looked seeing it for the first time from across the room; it has amazing presence and power for a working study not intended as an independent work of art. 
Picture: Art Institute of Chicago
I knew the impressionists and post-impressionists would be the highlight, and they were even better than I'd expected. It's surprising how often impressionist pictures are poorly preserved, despite their relatively short lives. They have been so popular that they've changed hands often, and been relined and worked over as much as many old masters. Fortunatly Chicago seems to have been more restrained; the difference between their Seurat and the relined one in London is amazing. The impressionist galleries are superb; not only are the pictures themselves exceptional, but they are well displayed and less crowded than their equivalents in New York, Paris or London. I've never enjoyed looking at impressionists so much. Great pictures by Seurat and Caillebotte lead the collection, but there's incredible strength throughout. I even liked some of the Renoirs. 
Picture: Art Institute of Chicago
I laughed out loud at this Manet. The wall text (which you can read here), makes no reference to what I thought was rather obvious innuendo - quite rightly, as we can recognise smutty innuendo without needing the gallery to interpret for us. That ability is a human universal that requires no tutoring. Or at least that's what I thought; actually no one else seemed to get it, maybe because they're primed to think high art is, well, a bit higher than that. I spent a few minutes watching people's reactions to it, including a clean-cut young couple I overheard who seemed to be on an early date and recognised nothing beyond the wall text. Detail below should make it obvious...
Picture: MS
But enough of my schoolboy humour. The Art Institute of Chicago is fantastic. The collection is less comprehensive than many, but there are plenty of masterpieces and more coherence than I'd expected. And the display is excellent; good lighting, good framing, good wall text. It takes more than great art to make a great museum, and Chicago has it. My only niggle is the extremely restricted opening times - 10.30 to 5pm, surely one of the shortest of any major museum. But it's small enough that you can get around most of it in a day, though it'll leave you wanting more.

I didn't spend much time in Chicago, but the city looks fantastic. I stayed on Magnificent Mile among the most spectacular buildings - well designed rather than the mere giganticism that other cities confuse with architecture. And an early morning run along the lakeshore gives a great view of the skyline. I've just read Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronin, which is a really outstanding study of Chicago's development, a kind of geographic history linking the city to the development of markets in grain, lumber and meat. It's an intelligent and sophisticated analysis full of fascinating details about things like grain elevators and lumber transportation, all much more interesting than it sounds. I'd love to read more about Chicago - I'd be grateful if anyone can recommend a good general history. And I'd be fascinated to find out how Chicago developed such consistently great architecture when other cities that build big build dull. Was it private enterprise competing on aesthetics, or was it more planned? Again, recommended reading would be most appreciated.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The value of women artists

Picture: Metropolitan Museum of Art
A picture by Georgia O'Keefe has just smashed the record for a work by a female artist, selling for $44.4m. I fear to tread among the passionately politicised debates about women artists, but let me at least debunk a smug and sanctimonious response from Jonathan Jones. He thinks the achievements of women artists in the twentieth century have been 'subtly underplayed and undervalued'. Then, in a grotesque humblebrag, he says it's all his fault (or the fault of his trade), for it is male critics that determine greatness. Sorry Jonathan, but no amount of your praise will win Tracy Emin a reputation for posterity. I have great belief in the value and power of art criticism, but the art's the thing, and quality will out in the end.

And oddly enough the art market, for all its fads and fashions, has always valued some women artists very highly. The picture above, The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur, was one of the most expensive in the nineteenth century. It sold for 40,000 francs in 1855 and again in 1887 for $53,000. Bonheur's success eclipsed almost all of her male rivals. And Vigée Le Brun is another woman artist who has always been valued highly in the art market, and by critics and connoisseurs too. 

Of course there have always been immense barriers to women becoming artists - not only social and economic, but also institutional barriers such as exclusion from life drawing classes. And there have been challenges to getting critical attention once established as artists, though it is less clear to me that there's a gender divide at that point. But once established, great women artists have historically received their due from the market. Jones says "money ... is telling us that women are still not allowed in the pantheon of greatness". Was it telling us that women were allowed in the pantheon of greatness in the more enlightened nineteenth century, only to exclude them later? Of course that's nonsense, and Rosa Bonheur's runaway success tells us nothing about the oppression of women in the nineteenth century. We should be equally wary of drawing the opposite conclusion today. 

There are many disparities in the art market. I think O'Keefe is a lightweight and whoever paid $44m is a fool. But I think the same about Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, whereas certain unfashionable old masters (of either sex) are unbelievably cheap. The art market isn't institutionally sexist, but it shouldn't be taken as a reliable judge of quality either. Jones is guilty of both misreading the market and taking its judgments too seriously. 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Rembrandt Corpus, Volume VI

Picture: Amazon
Ernst van de Wetering A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings Volume VI Springer 2014 £899.50

This is the final volume of the Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, the result of a collaborative research project that has been running since 1968. This one's written by Ernst van de Wetering, the greatest living Rembrandt scholar, but it's the culmination of many lives' work by entire teams of scholars. The first five volumes, now available free online, set new standards in art publishing for the depth and quality of their analysis. In the latest volume van de Wetering explains the tensions within the team and the change of course when he took over. It remains a controversial undertaking, and I'm still sceptical of many of the attributions (and disattributions), but I fervently admire the enterprise. The final volume is a summary catalogue raisonné, reprising the authentic Rembrandts from previous volumes and adding new discoveries and pictures not previously discussed.   

It is a massive and massively expensive volume, and it should have been the greatest art book ever published. It is not. As the conclusion of almost half a century's toil it is a travesty; unacceptably partial and intolerably sloppy. It does have some considerable merits. Large high quality illustrations of all the attributed works are excellent, and the detailed pictures and reconstructions of cut-down works are particularly appreciated. Some of the catalogue entries are outstanding; closely argued, well documented and worthy of the project. And I found the personal account of the history of the Rembrandt Research Project revelatory. But these laudable features don't compensate for its shortcomings.

I understand the decision to present in summary form pictures previously catalogued, especially as all are now available free online, but many of the most interesting and controversial pictures are only discussed in this volume. They deserve - and need - fuller and more consistent treatment. We don't even get provenance, or consistent assessment of condition, which was one of the greatest merits of earlier volumes. Attributions of some pictures like the so-called Auctioneer in New York are argued at great length, but others like the Small Portrait of Margaretha de Geer which is disputed (wrongly in my view) are accepted almost without comment. And the small Oil Sketch of an Old Man (number 238, private collection) is attributed partly because of its relationship to a drawn copy attributed to Eeckhout, but also on the basis of brief subjective assertion of its quality. I think subjectivity is unavoidable and not blameworthy, but these comments are at odds with the attempted objectivity of other entries, and the implied certainty underlying a catalogue that gives precisely 324 surviving pictures to Rembrandt's own hand.
This volume, unlike the others, almost wholly ignores rejected paintings. So the great Washington Lucretia gets barely a mention because it is rejected - although so far as I'm aware every other authority has always given it to Rembrandt. Its rejection seems based on the premise that Rembrandt's business turned out free studio variants of his compositions. Volumes V and VI illustrate a sample of originals with purported studio variants, some close (e.g. Joseph Accused by Potiphar's Wife in Berlin, by Rembrandt, left, and studio version in Washington, right) and others very free (e.g. the composition of Rembrandt's Danae turned into a Jacob and Esau attributed to Ferdinand Bol). Van de Wetering seems so wedded to this idea that he insists that the Washington Lucretia must be a student's version of the St Louis version. The Washington picture does have certain faults in foreshortening, but many great artists made mistakes like that. I find it incomprehensible that an artist of Aert de Gelder's limited gifts could be mooted as the creator of this masterpiece. 

Whilst van de Wetering rejects certain good finished pictures because he believes Rembrandt would have produced only one version of each major composition, he attributes a number of weak pictures to Rembrandt because he believes they are preparatory studies. Assumptions about Rembrandt's working methods seems to determine some rather questionable results, such as a presumed sketch for the Jewish Bride in the Met and a sketch for an unrealised engraved portrait in Winterthur. 
There are also numerous careless errors that should have been caught by careful proof reading (I give examples in my list of newly attributed pictures, starting with the Corpus's own faulty list!). They would be easily forgiven if it were not for the monumental nature of the undertaking. If nothing else, its massive cost entitles us to expect better. 

My final objection is that there is no proper account of methodology, or account of van de Wetering's conception of Rembrandt, Instead there is a truly bizarre section about a statistician, where van de Wetering claims to espouse a Bayesian methodology. Bayesianism is an influential and important approach to statistics, which produces some superficially surprising results. It is not difficult to understand, but I can't find a good short summary online (if you want to know more, Nate Silver has a great simple chapter on it in this book). I thought it rather promising in the context of Rembrandt attribution, because among its characteristics are reasoning with prior assessments of probability (i.e. trying to account for one's own initial prejudices) and probabilistic reasoning, rather than the yes or no results of alternative frequentist statistics. Van de Wetering  seems to think that piling up separate pieces of evidence builds a Bayesian case for certain attribution, assembling several pieces of evidence to establish that a picture either is or is not by Rembrandt. In fact the very nature of the undertaking is profoundly frequentist (that is, the opposite of Bayesian); it lists the pictures that are by Rembrandt. No probabilities are assigned, no grey areas are acknowledged.
The Rembrandt Research Project has been immensely controversial and its early parsimony is now virtually universally rejected, not least by van de Wetering himself. But I'm still a great fan of the undertaking. Never has an artist been so comprehensively studied, and the exercise has paid great dividends both in its direct discoveries and its indirect spur to other scholars critical of its approach. The Corpus is a monument of art publishing, and volumes IV and V (on the small history paintings and the self-portraits) are in my view two of the greatest art books ever written. But the final volume is an ignominious ending.  

Demystifying Guarantees

Picture: UK Auction News
Guarantees have featured in big art auctions for a long time now, but recently they're a staple of market reports too. A lot of people suspect there's something untoward going on, and a recent FT article by Bendor Grosvenor prompted a response from Marion Maneker calling him splenetic and ill-informed, and a lively Twitter debate ensued. I think Maneker is right to criticise the FT piece for assuming that contemporary art is judged only on price; I have never seen it argued that art's good because it's expensive (instead we get all the guff that Bendor Grosvenor more astutely criticises). I find the prices paid for contemporary art inexplicable. Much is intrinsically unappealing to me, but even things that I like seem to be insanely out of line with good old masters that are as cheap as chips. But those prices can't be explained away as clever market manipulation. 

The main objection to guarantees is that they distort the market. Some buyers actually pay less than the reported sale price because they have provided a guarantee in return for a fee from the auction house that can net against the purchase price, if they buy the guaranteed lot. But this isn't simply a discount given to favoured clients (although I understand that some clients have enjoyed discounts on buyers' premiums - an issue that receives less attention than guarantees). It is a fee earned because the guarantors assume a real financial risk on behalf of the auctioneer, and give up the chance to buy the lot more cheaply after the sale if it fails to sell. There really are two legitimate nettable transactions here.

The fee is likely to be a proportion of the buyer's premium. A reasonable assumption is that the guarantee will be equal to the reserve hammer price. On top lots it's possible that sellers will get a portion of the buyer's premium as well as a guarantee, but I suspect usually sellers receive either a guarantee or a cut of the premium. So the premium must usually be shared between the guarantor and the auctioneer, which seems reasonable as each is providing part of the service - a financial guarantee plus the potential upside from a well-marketed auction sale.  

I agree with Bendor Grosvenor that guarantees mean that reported prices are unreliable, but I think that unreliability is more marginal than some critics realise. Only a minority of lots are guaranteed, and many of those sell to parties other than the guarantor. Of the remainder, the difference between reported price and price paid is unlikely to be substantial. You could argue that it's not a real price because they otherwise wouldn't have sold at all, assuming the guarantor would be unwilling to pay the 'real' reserve, but  a sale is a sale. No auction result is a reliable indication of how well a similar work will do next time; plenty of lots are bought by dealers only to remain unsold for years, or offloaded at a loss. Part of the criticism of guarantees arises from a misplaced belief in objective prices and a mistaken analogy between works of art and traded financial instruments.

Even if you think prices are manipulated at the margins, how many guarantees are actually underwritten by third parties? John Gapper reported in the FT that only $65m of $279m of guarantees were underwitten at Sotheby's. Christie's is privately held and doesn't disclose, but I suspect they take a much greater level of principal risk because they have to be bolder and take more risk to maintain their leading market position ($1.4bn vs $2.5bn over the last four NY contemporary sales, reports AHN).

So the most notable aspect of guarantees isn't their impact on reported prices, but their impact on the risk profile of the auction houses. Given their fairly thin capitalisation, they are very exposed to the risk of falling prices. Guaranteed lots are concentrated in a few high-profile sales. If just one sale tanks, they could face a huge loss. On that basis I'm not convinced that Christie's is really beating Sotheby's. They are certainly selling a lot more contemporary art, but probably with low margins and high risk. Sotheby's has been under pressure from activist investors to compete more aggressively, and they have just announced that their CEO is stepping down just after another drubbing in the contemporary sales (coincidentally, of course). But growing their market share won't necessarily boost returns on a risk-adjusted basis. Christie's can afford to behave like a hedge fund because it's underwritten by a billionaire private owner, but Sotheby's has a duty to its shareholders and must carefully assess the potential returns against the riskiness of guarantees. Art market downturns are even less predictable than financial crashes, but it is a cyclical market.

The final question is whether it matters. Two main reasons to regulate markets are to ensure market efficiency, which promotes optimal allocation of capital, and to protect consumers. The former shouldn't be an issue in the transactional art market. Art is a consumption good, even if some people speculate on prices (foolishly in my view). Indeed, there is some public interest in discouraging speculation in art because it diverts capital away from productive investment. Consumer protection is a valid concern, but guaranteed lots are already flagged in catalogues. I'm not convinced that the minor distortions justify further disclosure, or legislative clampdown that would hurt sellers and restrict market freedom. Art is inherently illiquid, prices for individual pieces are very volatile and a good deal of price setting occurs between dealers and their clients. A degree of caveat emptor may reasonably be required here. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

A Day in Detroit

Picture: Wikipedia
I've recently returned from a grand tour of American museums, focused on a cluster of superb collections in the Midwest. A particular highlight was the chance to see the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has happily now been saved from having to sell off part of its collection following the city's bankruptcy. Pieter Bruegel the Elder must surely have painted the scene above, from the DIA's collection, in anticipation of the celebrations. Detroit has a fabulous collection that they display well, and I was impressed by the lively and engaging docents. 
America's biggest museums - the Met and the National Gallery - are collections of collections, reflecting the taste of the collectors who donated their pictures. The biggest influence at Detroit is their scholarly director William Valentiner, who ran the DIA from 1924 to 1945. His taste for Dutch golden age painting, Renaissance sculpture, baroque art and German expressionism has shaped the DIA, both through direct purchases and his advice to local collectors. The sculpture was a particular treat; they have some really outstanding works, and an impressively coherent collection. The Judith (above) is one of the very best renaissance small bronzes, as good as anything in the Frick or the National Gallery. The sculpture collection harmonises with the pictures, the Judith alongside early Italian pictures by Sassetta, the Master of Osservanza and Fra Angelico, and a pair of large bronzes attributed to Vittoria flanking one of America's best Titians, the Judith with the Head of Holofernes.
Picture: MS
This trio is another great display - self-portraits by Max Beckmann and Otto Dix either side of an early German portrait by Michael Wolgemuth. Beckmann and Dix are two of my favourite twentieth century artists, and it's great to see them linked to the tradition that they clearly responded to. Three very different but clearly related pictures that look fantastic together.
Picture: New York Times
The collection of Dutch art is justly celebrated. A particular favourite of mine is the picture above by the rare and eccentric Michael Sweerts, one of his best and all the better for being rather well preserved. I commend the series of posts on Sweerts at Rembrandt's Room. There's also an exceptional group of Ruisdaels led by the large version of the Jewish Cemetery, a splendid Ter Borch and a small group of still life pictures is anchored with a fine flower piece by Rachel Ruysch, bought in 1995. It's an understandable addition to Detroit's collection, but I question the wisdom of its purchase given that a similar picture can be seen an hour's drive away in Toledo. Best of the Dutch collection is a group of pictures by Rembrandt and his school, led by The Visitation (below), a great religious picture by Rembrandt, of a type rare in American collections. It's one of those pictures that seen in the flesh looks vastly better than you could imagine from pictures. Even the high-quality photo in the Rembrandt Corpus fails to do justice to the dark background or the varied texture of the finely preserved paint surface. It's a much better picture than I'd previously appreciated, genuinely moving in its emotional range. 
Picture: New York Times
Valentiner was a celebrated Rembrandt scholar in his day, though many of his acquisitions have since been downgraded. The wall text is prudently cautious, only giving the Visitation in full to Rembrandt. There's a good version from the group of seven heads of Christ, which is rejected by van de Wetering, and a small Weeping Woman that I thought impressive and van de Wetering gives to Rembrandt. There's also a large Death of Lucretia from Rembrandt's studio, that is interesting rather than good. There is a group of large history pictures from Rembrandt's school of varying quality, which it is speculated might have been student's graduation pieces. Lucretia is a theme that Rembrandt himself painted twice, each time as a single dramatic figure rather than a group, as in the Detroit picture. 
Picture: Wikipedia
Elsewhere I thought some of the attributions to be somewhat optimistic. The lovely early Netherlandish picture of St Jerome in his Study is given to Van Eyck, but most scholars think it a school piece. Seeing it in the flesh I don't believe the alternative attribution to Petrus Chrustus that's sometimes mooted either, though it is a fine and rare painting. Mind you, that's a singularly ridiculous lion, even by the standards of the early renaissance!

There's a strong collection of American art, particularly Hudson River school landscapes, many in their original frames. The only place in Europe with any meaningful collection of American art is the Thyssen in Madrid, so I was glad of the chance to see so many strong collections on my US tour. There are also some fine impressionist and post-impressionist pictures including superb Cézannes, a fine Seurat and Degas. The modern art eclipses most European collections, including major works by Picasso and Matisse, and a large Giacometti sculpture alongside a David Smith from the Cubi series. And the baroque art is justly celebrated, augmented with the loan of a fine Mathias Stom Christ Disputing with the Doctors from the Taubman collection.

Christie's valued the artworks that had been bought with City funds as part of the bankruptcy negotiations. It's interesting reading, and in my view their valuations are reasonable; they have to ground their valuations against comparable sales, and given that old masters of this quality almost never come up for sale there is a large element of uncertainty. Some of the best pictures may soar, depending on how many billionaires are ready to compete for the best old masters, and the Sweerts is such a rare and lovely thing I suspect it would sell far above the Christie's estimate. But it's a shame that the valuations were made public at all. I overheard one tour guide ask a group of children if they wanted to see a hundred million dollar painting, which is such a degrading way of introducing a Bruegel. 

Detroit is not a big tourist destination and the DIA gets fewer out of town visitors than it deserves, but it is clearly cherished by Detroit residents, a shining star in a distressed city. Understandably great and successful efforts have been made to engage local people with the museum, which is laudable but sometimes seemed at the expense of more substantive information. The wall text is breezy and engaging, but I'd like to be able to read more about the artworks. It's a terrific collection, and well worth the effort of getting there. Detroit also has the wonderfully idiosyncratic Henry Ford Museum, and it's close to Toledo, which I'll be writing about later.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Bartholomeus Spranger

Picture: Yale University Press
Bartholemeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York until 1 February 2015

This beautiful show of madcap mannerist Bartholomeus Spranger does justice to an artist who has languished at the margins of art history. Many of his pictures are in obscure places and most remain in central and eastern Europe. Spranger started out apprenticed to minor Dutch artists before moving to Italy where he responded enthusiastically to mannerists like Parmigianino. But he came into his own in Prague, where his brand of sexy and subversive distortion was attuned to both the intellectual and  the libertine strands of court culture. The coincidence of an artist like Spranger at the court of Rudolf II in Prague was uniquely fortuitous. The Rudolfine court is a historical and art historical cul-de-sac, but one of the most fascinating and, one imagines, congenial places in history where pioneering scientists worked alongside alchemical charlatans, and fascinating artists produced some of the most eccentric masterpieces of European art. 

The exhibition is beautifully displayed, with one wall given over to a kunstkammer where paintings and drawings hang below shelves of shells and curiosities. It sounds a bit hackneyed, but they carry it off nicely. There are some sculptures in the show, and I wish there were more (Van de Vries, for example), but as the Rudolfine sculptors are already given their due it's perhaps right to shift the focus more decisively towards pictures. The chronological presentation mixes drawings and paintings showing his evolving response to artists around him, some of whom are exhibited. The early works are striking close to sources like Giulio Clovio, which is somewhat surprising for an artist who later painted with such quirky pizzazz. The exhibition is sensibly skewed towards the brilliant late works.  
Picture: Wikipedia
Spranger picked up the visual repertoire of high renaissance and the stylish exaggerations of mannerism, but his wicked characters and vivid motifs are his own. The catalogue entry for the Blindfolding of Cupid, above, is oddly humorless for such a conspicuously funny picture, describing its sources and formal characteristics. But it's the witty characterisation that's really striking, the resentful naughty boy and the coquettish Mercury. The gender reversal of the woman meting out punishment must have appealed to Spranger.
The most attractive picture in the show is this Hercules and Omphale. It's rather better preserved than many, showing a fine feathery technique with softened contours appropriate to the ironically dainty subject matter. We see Hercules punished by being made slave to Omphale, put in a pretty pink dress and made to carry out the feminine job of spinning while Omphale wields Hercules' club and poses seductively with his lion fur. A maidservant mocks him in the background (and doesn't she look a bit like a Jan Steen?). Spranger contrasts the pink dress hanging loosely on Hercules, barely covering his rippling torso, and the lion fur clasped closely to Omphale's bosom but leaving us voyeurists to see her naked from behind. The delicate curves of Omphale belie the power of the club she wields; the finicky task of spinning calls attention to the emasculation of the great muscle man subdued by feminine power. Its a delicious little summary of Spranger, a tightly composed and beautifully coloured scene of role reversal and sexual tension with exaggerated mannerist gestures staged for private enjoyment of his court patrons. 
Spranger came too soon to Parmigianino, absorbing his stylishness without ever fully mastering the underlying forms. The presentation drawings are very beautiful, but in some of the figure studies and compositional sketches he sometimes struggles, especially when attempting dramatic foreshortening. I found the occasional awkwardness more jarring in the drawings than the paintings. The vibrant colour probably helps, and the characterisation is stronger too. But I think he takes more risks in the drawings, adapting the final paintings to cover up difficulties with foreshortening. The cupid above is significantly different from a presumed preparatory drawing that shows a trailing left leg looking awkwardly elongated relative to the foreshortened right leg. In the painting both legs are kicked back, a less ambitious but more satisfying solution. I was struck by the contrast with the Moroni show that I recently reviewed. I liked Moroni a lot, and he's a technically excellent artist. But his range was limited and he took few risks. Spranger made mistakes, but he took more risks and was more daring and subversive. I admire Moroni, but I love Spranger.

This is one of the most purely pleasurable exhibitions I've seen, presenting beautiful pictures with intelligent wall text. Of The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist they write, "Spranger infused this seemingly static, conservative composition with portentous religiosity". It's the kind of thing you never see in British shows; neat phrases like 'portentous religiosity' are ruthlessly culled by 'experts' in visitor experience who insist that everything should be written for seven year olds. And the outstanding exhibition catalogue is a full catalogue raisonné of Spranger's paintings, drawings and etchings, written by guest curator Sally Metzler. It's quite an achievement, overshadowing the gift shop souvenirs that pass for exhibition catalogues at many London shows. An excellent review in The Art Newspaper speculates as to the fate of exhibitions of not-yet-famous old masters amid the rush to 'modish contemporary' shows. I do hope there is still room for exhibitions like this.

Looking through the illustrations I'm struck by how poorly Spranger reproduces. The small copper of Hercules and Omphale positively sings in the exhibition, with radiant light and gorgeous diaphonous dress. In pictures like The Blindfolding of Cupid the characterisation comes across much more strongly in the original, but is dulled in reproduction. Unfortunately quite a few pictures have suffered abrasion from harsh cleaning, which is especially cruel to Spranger's dainty colours and soft contours. But seeing the originals is the only way to see Spranger, and I'm delighted the Met had the courage to exhibit this delectable yet neglected master. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Newly attributed Rembrandts

Picture: National Gallery of Art
Ernst van de Wetering with collaboration of Carin Van Nes, translated and edited by Murray Pearson A Corpus of Rembrandt Painting Volume VI: Rembrandt's Paintings Revisited Springer 2014 £834.65 (yes, really...)

I've just got Volume VI of the Rembrandt Corpus, and as it's not widely available yet I thought a summary of the re-attributed pictures might be useful given the different media accounts. I'll review it in a later post; for now I'm just giving a summary. The new and changed attributions plus recently discovered or resurfaced pictures have been identified with a asterisk in the catalogue, but what constitutes a 'new' attribution is neither clear nor consistent. Many of the asterisked works have already been upgraded between the earlier and later volumes of the corpus. Others that have been upgraded are not identified with an asterisk. Press reports said there were seventy new attributions, but I count eighty asterisked paintings, although not all should really qualify as 'new' attributions. 

For me the most remarkable attribution is the Washington version of Lucretia (above), which is downgraded to a pupil's work, with scarcely any argument at all. Unfortunately there is no list of rejected attributions, but it is discussed under the entry for the Minneapolis version. I think it's one of Rembrandt's best. Other exclusions are the Liverpool Self Portrait and the Met's Bathsheba, although Vol V of the Corpus has the latter as by a pupil with intervention by Rembrandt, a surprisingly precise judgment of such a poorly preserved picture. 

It's a monumental and impressive book with great illustrations, but it has some obvious limitations. There is no provenance, information on condition is patchy, references are sparse. That's fine for the summary of previous volumes, but I do wish there was a fuller account of the later pictures that weren't included in earlier volumes. The rejected late works are also excluded. And it's poor that such an expensive book should be marred by typos and errors. A hilarious example is the photo on page 15, which identifies all present except for the sole woman in the picture, whom they perhaps missed because she is largely obscured by one of the men! It's probably Lideke Peese Binkhorst. Talk about excluding women from art history...

Here is a list of the asterisked pictures, with numbering from the Corpus. I've added my own asterisks to indicate where a picture has already been attributed to Rembrandt by the RRP in earlier volumes, and I've added some selective commentary in parenthesis. 

1.* The Spectacles (Sight) c. 1624 Leiden, Lakenhal (Previously re-attributed in Vol IV p. 627)
2.* Three Singers (Hearing) c. 1624 Private Collection (Previously re-attributed in Vol IV p. 627)
3.* The Operation (Touch) c. 1624 Private Collection (Previously re-attributed in Vol IV p. 627)
9.* The Baptism of the Eunuch 1626 Utrecht Museum, Catherijnconvent (discovered in 1975, but considered autograph even in Vol I, under A5)
13.* The Flight into Egypt 1627 Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts (Vol V, p.154 lists this as autograph, but the reference oddly isn't provided in vol VI. Also given to Rembrandt in The Mystery of the Young Rembrandt exhibition)
17.* The Foot Operation 1628 Private Collection (accepted Vol V p. 160)
18.* Rembrandt Laughing c. 1628 Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum (recent discovery that I don't think any authority has doubted and included as a Rembrandt in Vol V p. 157)
19.* Study in the Mirror (the human skin) c. 1627/1628 Indianapolis Museum of Art. (re-attributed in Vol IV) Rare case of x-rays being decisive in attribution, in this case determining that the Indianapolis version is primary and a version in Japan is a copy, rather than vice-versa as assumed in Vol I of the corpus.
21.* Bust of a Man Wearing a Turban c. 1628 Private Collection (recently resurfaced, given to Rembrandt in Vol IV p. 637)
22.* Interior with Figures called 'La main chaude' c. 1628 Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland (accepted in Vol V, pp. 158-9)
30.* Self Portrait with a Gorget c. 1629 Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationamuseum (accepted Vol IV p. 197)
32. Self-Portrait c. 1630 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
33.* Self-Portrait with Beret and Gathered Shirt 1630 Stockholm, Nationalmuseum (Vol IV p. 166 - 171)
35.* Laughing Soldier c. 1630 The Hague, Mauritshuis (Vol IV p. 166 - 171)
36. Bust of an Old Man c. 1630 Private Collection (a privately owned version that was not widely known, re-attributed following technical examination and restoration)
44.* Oil Study of an Old Man c. 1630 Kingston, Queen's University, Agnew Etherington Art Centre (Vol IV p. 628)
45. Oil Study of an Old Man c. 1630 Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst
46, Bust of an Old Man c. 1630 The Hague, Mauritshuis
56. A Man wearing a Gorget and Plumed Cap c. 1631 Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum (Vol I listed as a 'B' picture, i.e. uncertain authenticity, but that view was not widely held and the Getty has consistently shown it as a Rembrandt)
61. Portrait of a Couple in an Interior 1632 Boston, Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum (stolen) (rejected in Vol 2 but most continued to regard as Rembrandt)
63a.* Portrait of a Man 1632 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (NB there is a typo in the reference; it is attributed to Rembrandt in Vol V pp 313-4, not 113-4 as stated in Vol VI, p. 512)
63b.* Portrait of a Woman (companion to 63a) 1632 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art ('Rembrandt and (mainly) workshop')
69.* Self Portrait 1632 Whereabouts Unknown (Vol IV pp. 199-206)
79.* Bust of a Young Woman wearing a Plumed Cap 1632 (re-attributed Vol IV p. 629)
81. Bearded Old Man 1632 Cambridge Mass. Fogg Art Museum
82.* Study of an Old Man with a Gold Chain 1632 Kassel, Gemäldegalerie (re-attributed Vol IV p. 628)
85. A Scholar near a Window 1631 Stockholm, Nationalmuseum
87a. Portrait of a Man 1632 Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum
87b. Portrait of a Woman (companion to 87a) 1632 Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum
109.* The Adoration of the Magi (grisaille) c. 1633 St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 180 accepts as autograph)
115. Portrait of a Young Bachelor 1634 St Petersburg, Hermitage (only one paragraph on this re-attribution, which van de Wetering now considers autograph except for the collar)
118b. Portrait of a Woman (companion to 118a) 1634 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts (118a isn't marked with an asterisk, and is given to 'Rembrandt and mainly workshop', also a new attribution, but the text states that "there can scarcely be any doubt that the man was entirely executed by a different hand from the woman", pp. 536-537, my emphasis.)
122.* Oval Self Portrait with Shaded Eyes 1634 Private Collection (Vol IV p. 615 accepts as autograph)
126.* The Descent from the Cross 1634  St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 190 - 191) accepts as autograph)
130a. The Flight into Egypt 1634 Private Collection (re-attributed following recent re-investigation)
134. Self-Portrait 1635 Buckland Abbey, National Trust ('and Workshop?) (mentioned in the corrigenda and addenda to Vol IV as 'Rembrandt workshop (or Rembrandt?), reserving judgment pending further investigation.
141.* Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress 1635 Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum (Vol IV p. 635)
142. Bust of a Bearded Old Man in Fanciful Costume 1635 London, Royal Collection
146. Self-Portrait transformed into a Tronie c. 1633-1636 Berlin Gemäldegalerie (In Vol IV p. 603 van de Wetering thought this a picture started by Rembrandt that may or may not have been subsequently transformed by another hand. He now considers it fully Rembrandt, but with no new argument other than that the decision was reached 'after further stylistic analysis'. Well, that settles it then.)
151.* The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard 1637 St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 206-207 accepts as autograph)
152. River Landscape with Ruins c. 1637 - c. 1645 Kassel, Gemäldegalerie (uncertain attribution in Vol III)
154.* Self Portrait c. 1637 London, Wallace Collection (re-attributed in Vol IV)
156. Portrait of the Preacher Eleazar Swalmius 1637 Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (re-attributed following cleaning in 2008, revealing a very well preserved original)
157. Bust of a Man with Plumed Cap c. 1637 The Hague, Mauritshuis (re-attributed with only brief discussion; essentially a change of heart)
171*. Bust of a Young Woman c. 1640 Washington, National Gallery of Art (Van de Wetering gave dissenting opinion in Vol III, maintaining then that it was by Rembrandt)
172.* Self Portrait c. 1639 Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum of Art (re-attributed in Vol IV)
173. The Holy Family with St Anne 1640 Paris, Louvre (lengthy and closely-argued case is made in Vol VI for re-attribution)
178.* Self-Portrait c. 1640 Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (re-attributed Vol IV)
180. Portrait of a Woman, Possibly Anna Wijmer 1641 ('Rembrandt and workshop or a later hand') Amsterdam, Six Foundation (re-attributed following cleaning in 1995 and restoration in 2013/14 - I'd love to have more details of the work done on it in two major interventions within a decade. The picture was significantly altered, probably in Rembrandt's studio)
182. Oil Study of a Woman lit obliquely from behind c. 1640 Private Collection (re-attributed following restoration and removal of significant overpainting 2003-5)
185. A Scholar at a Writing Desk c. 1641 Warsaw, Royal Castle
186. Girl in a Fanciful Costume in a Picture Frame 1641 Warsaw, Royal Castle (185 and 186 are likely pendants with shared history, both thought lost in World War II but resurfaced in the early 1990s. Attribution of 186 is less certain, with arguments set out in some detail in Vol VI)
188.* David's Parting from Jonathan 1642 St Petersburg, Hermitage (Vol V p. 220-221 accepts as autograph)
189.* Self-Portrait 1642 Windsor Castle, Royal Collection (re-attributed in Vol IV)
191a. Portrait of a Man with a Hawk 1643 Private Collection ('Rembrandt and workshop'). Its companion, 191b, is not asterisked but is given to 'Rembrandt and (mainly) workshop' In my view, if these are considered to be at least in part by Rembrandt then there are strong grounds for regarding a number of other excluded works as at least in part his, including the recently sold Man with a Sword, which Van de Wetering rejects. Alternatively, and as least as likely, these may not be by Rembrandt at all
193. Bust of a Woman (Ruth?) 1643 Berlin Gemäldegalerie (lengthy entry gives full reasons for re-attribution)
195. Portrait of a Man with a Steel Gorget 1644 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
203. Old Man with Fur Coat 1645 Berlin Gemäldegalerie
206. The Mill c. 1645 Washington, National Gallery of Art (Despite the asterisk, this wasn't previously catalogued by the RRP and although it has often been questioned, many have continued to regard it as a Rembrandt, including in the National Gallery's own catalogue)
212. Saul and David c. 1645 and c. 1652 The Hague, Mauritshuis (rejected by Gerson in 1969, but many continued to regard it as Rembrandt)
216. Portrait of a Man Reading by Candlelight 1648 Williamstown, Clark Art Institute (having seen this last week, in my view this is one of the more questionable attributions)
217b. Oil Study of Christ c. 1648 Private Collection (Van de Wetering accepts this plus the generally accepted Berlin version from seven heads of Christ from Rembrandt's hand or studio. Solid reasons for regarding the group being from different hands are given, but after lengthy discussion of the series we are told that two are by Rembrandt, "Taking into account all the evidence (which is beyond the scope of this book to set out fully)", which left me feeling rather cheated.
221. Old Man in an Armchair 1652 London, National Gallery (I remain unconvinced, but lengthy argument is presented)
230. Oil Study of an Old Man in a Red Hat c. 1654 Berlin Gemäldegalerie (covered with discoloured varnish, but I confess I cannot see the great merit that Van de Wetering recognises in this picture)
235a.* Self Portrait 1654 Kassel Gemäldegalerie (was in poor condition already, but almost wholly destroyed in an acid attack in 1977. Already given to Rembrandt in Vol IV)
238 Oil Sketch of an Old Man 1655 Private Collection (only briefly discussed)
251 Venus and Cupid c.1657 Paris, Louvre (lengthy argument for re-attribution)
259. Portrait of an Unknown Scholar (also known as 'The Auctioneer') 1658 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (extensively argued for Rembrandt, contra the Met's curator Walter Liedtke.)
263. Portrait of the dyke reeve Dirck van Os c. 1658 Omaha, Joslyn Museum of Art (damaged and over-painted, re-attributed to Rembrandt following drastic restoration that seems from pictures to have seriously compromised the image)
266.* Tobit and Anna 1659 Rotterdam. Boijmans van Beuningen Museum (on loan from the Willem van der Vorm Foundation) (Given to Rembrandt in Vol V)
271. Oil Sketch for 272 (sic! i.e. for the Gothenberg Falconer) c. 1660 Copenhagen, Statens Museum (this picture looks really bad, but technical evidence puts its origin firmly in Rembrandt's studio, and it may possibly by his rather than a student's)
275.* Self Portrait (unfinished) c. 1659 Musée Granet, Aix en Provence (given to Rembrandt in Vol V)
276. Lighting Study with Old Man as Model 1659 Milwaukee, Daniel and Linda Bader Collection
277. Lighting Study with Hendricke Stoffels in a Silk Gown as Model c. 1659 Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut (on loan from the Federal Republic of Germany) (A surprising re-attribution of a picture that I didn't know at all, which is in store in Frankfurt and doesn't look great in reproduction, though very extensive argument is made for Rembrandt's authorship)
280. A Smiling Young Man (Titus) 1660 Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art (another surprise. Superficially unimpressive but cogently argued as a Rembrandt)
285.* Lighting Study of an Old Man in Profile probably painted in preparation of 286 (sic; i.e, for the Washington Circumcision) c. 1661 Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston Ontario (re-attributed in the Rembrandt: The Quest of a Genius exhibition)
288 Titus Posing for a Study of an Angel c. 1661 Detroit Institute of Arts (Van de Wetering had this reproduced as recently as 2006 in the Quest of a Genius exhibition as a studio work; eight years later he finds that inexplicable.
293 The Apostle James the  Less 1661 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art ("I belief it to be autograph" say Van de Wetering, in yet another typo)
309 Portrait of Jan Boursse Sitting by a Stove, probably painted in preparation for an unrealised etched portrait c. 1666 Winterthur, Museum Oskar Reinhart 'Am Römerholz' (Much damaged and uncharacteristic work)
310 A Presumed Sketch for the Male Sitter in 'A Jewish Bride' mid 1660s New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (in my view the weakest of all the re-attributions; in my view not a good picture and not a convincing argument)

Number 42, The Good Samaritan in the Wallace Collection, was also rejected and subsequently accepted, but is not asterisked as a new attribution. Number 77 (a & b), the Pelicorne portraits also in the Wallace, were also originally rejected and now included as partly autograph. Number 42, but not 77, is included in a master list in a footnote on page ix.

Number 86, Interior with a Window and a Winding Staircase in the Louvre was rejected in Vol II but accepted in Vol V pp. 196-197. All the re-attributions in Vol V are marked with an asterisk except this one and the Wallace's Good Samaritan

Number 92, Portrait of a Man wearing a Red Doublet from 1633, in a private collection, was included in Agenda and Corrigenda to Vol IV pp. 638-646 but unlike the other additions isn't marked with an asterisk. 

Number 192 was a much-publicised re-attribution of An Old Man in Rich Costume (Boas?) 1643 from Woburn Abbey, but it is not asterisked. It had been  widely considered to be a Rembrandt, but was not widely known as it was not on public display.

The Preface identifies a number of paintings as 'discovered or re-surfaced', but again it's a subjective list. It includes number 22, more accurately described as re-attributed, and a number of pictures that were in private hands and rarely seen for many years, but does not include the Woburn portrait or the Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo (261) recently exhibited by Otto Naumann at Frieze Masters.