Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bosch at the Prado continued (if you understand Spanish)


The Prado have just released another video ahead of the opening of their new Bosch exhibition: Bosch. The 5th Centenary Exhibition (31.05.2016 – 11.09.2016).It’s presented by Pilar Silva, who is head of the Prado’s collection of flemish painting before 1600, and who has had the lovely job (gripes over the findings of the BRCP notwithstanding) of curating the Bosch exhibition.

To say that my Spanish is rusty is putting it generously. But unless I’m totally wrong, and if I am, sorry, I think that Silva mentions in the video that the Garden of Earthly Delights was probably commissioned by Engelbrecht II of Nassau. If this is indeed what she says (?!), it heralds an interesting shift in the accepted view.

Most scholars have up to now tended to view the Garden as a mature work by Bosch (usually 1510 or thereabouts; certainly post-1500). The earliest documented reference to the triptych comes from 1517, when it was seen by Antonio de Beatis in Henry III of Nassau’s Brussels Palace. Since this became known, it always been used as evidence to support the view that the Garden is late, since it has often been assumed that Henry commissioned the triptych from Bosch. Underlying all this, of course, has always been the idea that Bosch’s most visually spectacular work must have been the product of his fully-formed genius. Silva’s reference to Engelbrecht in the above video, though, signals serious interest in an alternative point of view.

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, Prado, ,Madrid

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, 1480s, Prado, Madrid

I’ve always believed that the Garden is an early work; Bernard Vermet has convincingly, in my view, championed just this. It is based on style (I, for example, don’t see how the Garden can seriously be thought of as a mature work when you put it next to the Haywain, which certainly is). The surprisingly early dating of the planks of wood from which the triptych is made–surprising, that is, to proponents of a late date for the Garden– fully supports an earlier dating: the tree concerned was felled in the 1460s, meaning that the panels could have been assembled and painted on, say, during the 1480s, which seems to be the most likely date for the picture’s execution. And if you believe this, that the picture could have been made as early as the 1480s (and note at the start of the Prado’s video that the dating has indeed been pushed back as far as 1490), then you have to look elsewhere for possible patrons. And it turns out that you needn’t look far: Engelbrecht II of Nassau was Henry III’s uncle, and when Engelbrecht died his estate fell into the hands of Henry. Engelbrecht could therefore have been the patron of Bosch’s Garden, who, it turns out, had the opportunity to commission the work from Bosch in 1481, when he stayed in Bosch’s hometown of ‘s-Hertogenbosch to attended a meeting of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

It’ll be interesting to read more about this when I get my hands on the literature…

Should also say–I am going to Madrid in a fortnight’s time, and will do a write up of the show. So watch this space.


‘Church Design in Counter Reformation Venice: San Nicolò dei Mendicoli.’

Faith Trend

(University of Birmingham)

Wednesday 18 May
Barber Institute Photograph Room


‘In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the churches of Venice were a hive of activity as the majority were updated – either rebuilt entirely or retrofitted with new features – to correspond with the new requirements for ecclesiastic architecture that were triggered by the Counter Reformation. Until recently, this is an aspect of the architectural history of Venice’s churches that has not had enough academic attention and this paper considers the reasons behind this, as well as demonstrating through the renovation of the church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli just how significant this climate of reform was on the city and how clearly it can be demonstrated.’

All welcome; refreshments served
Enquiries to Sara Tarter:


‘Sweetness and Light at the Grosvenor Gallery’

Dr Melody Barnett Deusner

(Indiana University Bloomington and Fulbright-University of Birmingham Scholar 2016)

Thursday 12 May
Barber Institute Photograph Room


Grosvenor Gallery, 1877 (more images below)

‘Sir Coutts Lindsay’s Grosvenor Gallery in London has long been known to art historians as the premiere showplace for Aesthetic Movement painting in the late 1870s and 1880s. To technological historians, however, the location has a different significance as the site of London’s first truly successful central electrical power station, operated by Coutts Lindsay and located in the basement of the gallery itself. This paper draws together these two parallel histories and probes the relationships between the individuals involved in both projects. The cadre of upper-middle-class and aristocratic investors that speculated in this new technological field and reshaped the city as a series of interconnected nodes included collectors and promoters of Aesthetic paintings by James MacNeill Whistler and Albert Moore—pictures that elevate compositional arrangement and systemic organization to the level of the highest art.’

Biographical Statement:

Melody Barnett Deusner is an art historian for whom the networked conditions of our present world have sparked a series of investigations into the ways that an international range of artists and their audiences experienced and visualized the interconnected world of the past. As a Fulbright Scholar based at the University of Birmingham’s American & Canadian Studies Centre, she will be walking the canal towpaths and exploring the rail systems that served as key components of the nineteenth-century transportation, communications, and economics networks at the heart of her current research and teaching. Her own pathways have led her from Texas to an undergraduate degree at Rhodes College, a Ph.D. at the University of Delaware, and a post at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she serves as a specialist in American art to 1945. Her work has been recognized and supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS, and the Kress Foundation.

All welcome; refreshments served
Enquiries to Sara Tarter:


Grosvenor Gallery Electric Network


Albert Moore, Study for Birds, 1878


‘The Modernist Making of an International Rhythmic “Race”: Katherine Dreier’s Lithographs and Ted Shawn’s Dreier Lithograph Dance.’

Professor Robin Veder
(Penn State Harrisburg)

Wednesday 16 March
4:10 pm
Barber Institute Lecture Theatre

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 7.51.02 AM

‘In the 1920s and 1930s, artist Katherine Dreier and dancer Ted Shawn believed they could make a new “race” by rhythmically stimulating viewers’ neuromuscular systems. Veder locates their joint contribution to American modernism within the overlapping discourses of physiological psychology, neurasthenia, and theosophy.’

Biographical Statement:

Robin Veder is Associate Professor of Humanities and Art History/Visual Culture at Penn State Harrisburg. She received her doctorate in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, and she has held post-doctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center for American Modernism, Harvard’s Garden and Landscape Studies Program at Dumbarton Oaks, and in spring 2016, the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University. She is author of several articles on transatlantic art history, visual culture, history of the body, and landscape studies of the long nineteenth century, appearing in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, American Art, Visual Resources, Journal of Victorian Culture, Modernism/Modernity, and International Journal of the History of Sport. Veder’s book, The Living Line: Modern Art and the Economy of Energy, was published by the Dartmouth College Press/University Press of New England’s Visual Culture Series in 2015.

All welcome; refreshments served
Enquiries to Sara Tarter:

Departmental Research Seminar: Wednesday 24 February

‘”Love is simply the name for the desire and the pursuit of the whole” Love and money in Abraham Ortelius’s Album Amicorum

Professor Joanna Woodall
(Courtauld Institute of Art)

Wednesday 24 February
4:10 pm
Barber Institute Lecture Theatre


‘Abraham Ortelius’s Album Amicorum, fol.53r’

‘Abraham Ortelius was a renowned Antwerp humanist, merchant, businessman, collector and, from 1573, official geographer to King Philip II of Spain. He is accredited with the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World), published in 1570, which became a best seller for over forty years. His beautiful Album Amicorum (Book of Friends) is a collaborative work of art, made up of a huge variety of texts and images written, designed and contributed by the individuals counted amongst his wide network – all but one of them men. This paper explores the relationship between love and money in the Album Amicorum, in particular the links between the virtuous, ‘heavenly’ form of love and desire for physical and material fulfilment. It associates the Album with the Symposium, Plato’s famous dialogue on love, in which a group of elite men at a feast decide to forego complete surrender to drink in favour of speeches from each of them, offered in praise of Eros, one of the oldest and most revered of all the Gods.’

All welcome; refreshments served

Enquiries to Sara Tarter:

Mary Beard on Blogging: why etc.?


Little podcast here of Prof. Mary Beard (Cambridge classicist) discussing her enormously popular Blog A Don’s Life, which, it must be said, us Golovine’ers (this one in particular) are big fans of (I happen to be a major fan of its author as well). Beard takes us through the genesis of her blog–which started a decade ago now!–and considers why blogging matters in the 21st century. Why exactly do we blog? What do we talk about? And what’s the point of it all?

Her thoughts in response are pretty interesting, and gives much food for thought for me, who happens to blog as often as I can and who also happens to believe that blogging is very important indeed (not least because it provides a platform for free thought on a whole host of interesting subjects without having to worry, for instance, about the kind of decorum or conventions that are involved in academic writing proper).

Anyway, give it a listen here.





New Bosch found in storage.


Bosch (?), Temptation of S. Anthony, c.1500-10, oil on panel, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri (credit: Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project)

Bosch (?), Temptation of S. Anthony, c.1500-10, oil on panel, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri (credit: Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project)

The Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) strikes again. Regular readers might remember my previous post in which I set out some of the initial findings of the BRCP, which has seen a number of works removed, once and for all, from Bosch’s œuvre, along with the addition of a new drawing. Now more information about the BRCP’s findings have come to light and it’s good news for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, since the Project have concluded that its Temptation of St Anthony, which has been attributed to a “follower of Bosch” and is usually kept in storage, is in fact a bona fide Bosch.

Using powerful and sophisticated infrared photography and infrared reflectography, which reveal, amongst other things, images of the painting’s underdrawing, the BCRP have determined that they can assuredly identify Bosch’s “handwriting” in the St Anthony picture. This is to say that the underdrawing, its appearance and technique, along with the way in which the paint has been applied subsequently, compares favourably with other pictures by Bosch that the Project have examined. They’ve also removed a number of overpaints and more modern retouching, which, we read, obscured many of its details. This has all gone towards their revised attribution of the picture, and they have also concluded that the panel, which has been trimmed on all sides, was originally part of a triptych that has at some point been dismantled (a fate that befell many of Bosch’s works…).

Credit Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project)

Credit Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project

Anyway, there’s more here. You can see the picture for yourself in less than 2 weeks’ time when the major Bosch retrospective Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of a Genius opens at Noordbrabants Museum, ‘s-Hertogenbosch (13 Feb. to 8 May).

Careers and cake.


Careers after Art History? Undergraduates and Postgraduates – we’ll show you how.

Come to the ‘Bake off and Beyond’ careers event hosted by the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies and the Careers Network.

2nd March 2016:

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts Lecture Theatre

Mondrian cake

Come and hear from UoB graduates in Art History who are now working the fields of curating, insurance and marketing. Find out about what it’s really like working with contemporary artists, working behind the scenes at Tate Britain, and going round people’s houses and valuing their art, antique and jewellery collections. Get advice on how to write a good C.V., where to look for a job, eat exquisite cake, and win £30…..all in one afternoon!


Poppy Andrews (Communications Assistant at the Turner Contemporary, Margate)

Chris Packham (Careers Consultant – Arts and Law Careers Network – University of Birmingham)

Rebecca Peake-Sexton (Project Co-ordinator at Multistory, a Sandwell based arts organisation, on working with international photographers such as Martin Parr (UK) and David Goldblatt (SA) on community projects and publications)

Dr Jennifer Powell (Head Curator at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, previously Tate Britain Curator and worked on blockbusters such as, ‘Schwitters in Britain’, 2014)

Henrietta Thatcher (Appraiser at Chubb Insurance Company, valuing the rebuild of historic and modern private houses; advising on the conservation, protection and collection of fine art, antiques and jewellery)

There will be discussion and a chance to ask questions. As part of this event, the department is holding a tea party with a twist – a ‘Bake off’. Tea and coffee will be provided. Participates can make a cake, which will be served as refreshment with tea. The best cake will be voted by the participants and will receive a prize of £30.

So, if you think you can take on the Mondrian cake, why not give it a go? To attend, RSVP to Liam Campell-Cave: by 25 February 2016


‘Fantasy Figures: Inspiration and Reality’

Professor Melissa Percival
(University of Exeter)

Wednesday 3 February
4:10 pm
Barber Institute Photograph Room


‘This paper presents research that culminates in an exhibition at the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse (21 Nov 2015–28 Feb 2016). The fantasy figure is revealed as a recurring phenomenon in European painting, encompassing the Venetian bravi and courtesans of the Renaissance, the isolated half-length drinkers and musicians of the Caravaggisti, the tronies of Dutch painting, the pitocchi vagabonds of naturalist painters in Italy, the expressive heads of eighteenth-century France, and the English fancy picture. These paintings challenge social norms by their exploration of ambiguous identity; through their semiotic ‘gaps’ they incite the viewer to imaginative speculation. Operating independently of academic and institutional categories (portraiture, genre, allegory), these informal and often quirky productions of the studio are celebrations of artistic freedom. The paper will focus on the intellectual background to the project as well as the transformation from idea to exhibition.’

All welcome; refreshments served
Enquiries to Sara Tarter:

New Donatello?


New Donatello? Picture- NYT

New Donatello? Picture: NYT

The New York Times reports that a new statue by Donatello has apparently been discovered. In an article called “A Name Game With the Old Masters”, Scott Reyburn recounts the recent history of the statue, where it’s been and who’s owned it, and tells us a bit more about how the 2-foot-8-inch tall putto, or “spiritello”, has gone from being simply “15-century Florentine”, to “Donatello”; viz., from “by anonymous” to “by one of the greatest artists, not only of the early 15th century, but ever”.

You can take issue with Reyburn’s main concern in the article that this stuff, which is to say the attribution of works of art, is done in the name of financial gain. The article turns into a résumé of some recent notable attribution upgrades, mentioning among them La Bella Principessa, which regular readers of this blog will be familiar with because of its most recent foray into the spotlight, and spins this into a narrative about how big names change prices: “Such is the power of a famous name. If you can make it stick”, he says. You can also take issue with Reyburn’s very first statement:

One of the problems for a billionaire wanting to put together a trophy collection of old master art is that the supply of documented works by the most illustrious sculptors and painters has all but dried up.

This is, I think, quite wrong. Documented works by the Old Masters do still come up for sale–Old Master Sales are, after all, still put on regularly by Sotheby’s etc., which it goes without saying means that there are still Old Masters out there to flog–and works of art do crop up on the market which can be related back to the old documents in order to make a convincing argument about its authorship. (A famous case being the recent acquisition by the Kimbell Museum in Texas of the Torment of St. Anthony, which they, and others, believe to be by Michelangelo not least because Vasari et al. document that Michelangelo painted such a thing!)

But the real issue I have, and I suppose it stems from the above objections, is the quality of the art history. The seller of the “new Donatello”, Andrew Butterfield, is a Renaissance scholar and President of the dealership Andrew Butterfield Fine Arts. So Butterfield knows his stuff. He also drafted in a number of other Renaissance specialists, in order to lend robustness to his suspicion that the Putto he bought in 2002 as “15th-century Florentine” is, indeed, a Donatello. And obviously I haven’t been privy to all their discussions, am not aware of all their evidence, their data and so on. Yet the evidence mentioned in the NYT inspires skepticism. This is:

  1. the Putto was originally part of a pair of statues, the other one being in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, who call it “15th-century Italian (possibly Florentine)”
  2. the design of the statue, namely the tiptoe stance

This led Francesco Caglioti, one of the scholars called upon by Butterfield, to pronounce in a catalogue published to coincide with a 2015 exhibition, in which Butterfield showed the Putto, that

we can safely attribute to Donatello not only the invention and design [of both the Puttibut also the personal responsibility for their execution in his workshop and directly under his eyes, for a decorative project he devised and followed through to its completion.

This all seems to me to be a bit of a leap–a leap, indeed, that is driven by the “name game”. Saying that a Putto was once part of a pair, and that that pair of sculptures is thought to be 15th-century Italian, does not give immediate cause to identify the maker of the pair as Donatello and workshop. Plenty of other sculptors would have made pairs of things, especially putti. The tiptoe stance ditto. And it’s all good and well to say that Donatello designed these things and then supervised their manufacture (and this is how sculpture was done then) to fulfil a commissioned project, but what might this decorative project have been?

In all, it’s just a bit vague. Assuming that there’s no way of ever stumbling across a document that says Donatello made such things, art historians will want more evidence: What technical evidence is there? Are they really right stylistically? What comparable projects did Donatello actually undertake? Etc. Those billionaire buyers, however, seem to be less demanding: Butterfield won the “name game” this time and successfully sold it as a Donatello.

The biggest concern of all, I guess, is that now the statue has entered a private collection there’s little hope that art historians will get to see it much, to study it and to conclude, more objectively, that this statue and its twin in Boston really are by Donatello.





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