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Provenance project: European paintings

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By the Art Gallery of NSW
AGNSW collection attrib. Carlo Cignani The five senses (1670s) 8659

AGNSW collection attrib. Carlo Cignani The five senses (1670s) 8659

This painting, attributed to the Bolognese Baroque painter Cignani, was donated to the Gallery in 1952 by a private collector, GA Laughton. We know little about it from the 1670s to the 1950s, although records of different versions of the work in collections from Paris to Rome to the Soviet Union have offered hopeful glimpses. As it was thought to be in Europe in the 1930s and 40s, the work remains the subject of ongoing research.

AGNSW collection Georges Braque Landscape with houses (Winter 1908-1909) 2.1980

AGNSW collection Georges Braque Landscape with houses (Winter 1908-1909) 2.1980

This landscape by Braque, the co-founder of cubism, was first documented as belonging to the German collector Edwin Suermondt, who was known to have visited Gertrude Stein's famous salons and acquired paintings by Picasso in Paris. After some decades, sales records show it moving from the collection of George W and Emily Staempfli, New York, in the 1960s, when it was also listed in 'Cubism and twentieth century art' by Robert Rosenblum and lent to the 'Summer loan exhibition including the McIlhenny and Staempfli Collections' at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1968.

AGNSW collection Georges Braque Glass of absinthe (1911) 410.1997

AGNSW collection Georges Braque Glass of absinthe (1911) 410.1997

Braque's 1911 painting has a fascinating early provenance. It was sold at a Kahnweiler sale at Hotel Drouot, Paris in 1921. Art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler was one of the first champions of cubism. The piece was purchased by the leader of the surrealists Andre Breton, before records become unclear in WWII.

AGNSW collection Paul Bril A wooded landscape with a bridge and sportsmen at the edge of the river (1590s) 250.1998

AGNSW collection Paul Bril A wooded landscape with a bridge and sportsmen at the edge of the river (1590s) 250.1998

A label on the back of this Bril painting shows it belonging to an unidentified Italian collection in 1748. It came into the Rome collection of Otto E Messinger around 1910, then passed through Rudolph Lepke's Berlin auction rooms in 1918. 1932 saw the work at the Galerie Julius Stern, Dusseldorf, then in 1935 it was sold by Abels Brothers, Cologne. All that is known from then until 1997 was that it was in a private collection in Austria.

AGNSW collection Canaletto The Piazza San Marco, Venice (1742-1746) 302.1996

AGNSW collection Canaletto The Piazza San Marco, Venice (1742-1746) 302.1996

This 'venduta', or view, by Canaletto is recorded as being in the hands of the London frame dealer HJ Spiller before April 1928, presumably on its way to Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, who sold it to Leggatt Brothers in June 1928. The pre-1945 Leggatt Brothers business records were destroyed. The painting appeared again in Christie's London, in 1978 when it was listed for sale as the 'property of a gentleman'. Though that buyer is also unknown, when it was sold again, by Colnaghi New York in 1987, it was to James Fairfax. Fairfax lent the painting to the Gallery for nearly a decade from 1988, before donating it in 1996.

AGNSW collection Gustave Courbet Landscape with stag (1873) 194.1997

AGNSW collection Gustave Courbet Landscape with stag (1873) 194.1997

This Courbet landscape was once owned by the Norwegian Carl Matthiessen, living in Saltsjöbadenm, Sweden. It appeared in the Möjligen exhibition in an unknown venue in Stockholm in 1926. Between then and 1997, when it came up for sale at Christie's New York, the only citation is its inclusion in the exhibition 'Fem sekler Fransk Konst (Cinq siècles d'art français)', at the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, in 1958.

AGNSW collection Jean Cazin The three stacks (circa 1875?) 8327

AGNSW collection Jean Cazin The three stacks (circa 1875?) 8327

The Gallery purchased Cazin's painting in London, possibly from Arthur Tooth & Sons, in 1949. Though little is known about its prior provenance, the work was referred to by Gabriel Mourey in an 1895 edition of The Studio, reporting on 'Art at the Champs de Mars', London.

AGNSW collection Prospero Fontana Deposition (1543, 1563) 219.1994

AGNSW collection Prospero Fontana Deposition (1543, 1563) 219.1994

Though once in the Church of S Giacomo, Italy, Fontana's altarpiece is almost certainly the Deposition referred to by two early sources as for the altar of the Church of Corpus Domini, Bologna. The piece was owned by Conte Luigi Salina, Bologna, around 1841, but documentation only begins again over a century later with Whitfield Fine Art, London, who held the work in 1994, when it was purchased by the Gallery.

AGNSW collection André Derain Still life (1921-1922) 355.1987

AGNSW collection André Derain Still life (1921-1922) 355.1987

Derain's still life was owned by HJP Bomford when it appeared in the exhibition 'Paintings of the French School from a private collection', at Temple Newsam House, England, towards the end of the war in 1944. Though later ownership has been documented, who owned it before Bomford is unknown.

AGNSW collection Henri Hayden The Guitarist (1919) 9808

AGNSW collection Henri Hayden The Guitarist (1919) 9808

This painting by Polish-French artist Henri Hayden once belonged to one of the most influential art collectors and dealers of the 20th century, Léonce Rosenberg. As an early advocate of cubism, Rosenberg was dealing in major pieces of modern art until his gallery was forced to close in 1941. It is known that his personal collection was looted by the Nazis.

AGNSW collection Willem Key Portrait of a Protestant minister of religion (1563) OO1.1965

AGNSW collection Willem Key Portrait of a Protestant minister of religion (1563) OO1.1965

Key's portrait appears in catalogues dating back to 1910 and continuing to 1932, when it was listed by Brockwell as one of the pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Baronet (from his father Sir Frederick). The great collection of old masters was then passed to his son, the artist Sir Francis Cook. Between 1914 and 1934, it was catalogued as being by Antonio Moro and at other times by Frans Pourbus. From the mid 1930s its ownership is in doubt until acquired by the Netherlands Insurance Company, who donated it to the Gallery in 1965.

AGNSW collection Nicolas de Largillierre Portrait of an officer (circa 1714-circa 1715) 176.1995

AGNSW collection Nicolas de Largillierre Portrait of an officer (circa 1714-circa 1715) 176.1995

It is known that one owner of this Largillière portrait was the renowned collector Comtesse Niel, who had it in her possession in Paris by 1928. But then, perhaps because of the war, documentation is broken, and the painting is next recorded at a sale in Paris nearly 50 years later in 1976. A decade later it was sold through Colnaghi's, perhaps the oldest commercial art gallery in the world, before eventually being purchased in 1988 by James Fairfax, who donated the master work to the Gallery in 1995.

AGNSW collection Marie Laurencin Woman with bouquet (1924) 562.1987

AGNSW collection Marie Laurencin Woman with bouquet (1924) 562.1987

Laurencin's 'Woman with bouquet' was one of three works by the French artist donated to the Gallery in 1987 as part of the bequest of Beatrice Moresby in memory of her mother Joan Morrisby. Previous records go back to a 1924 transaction at Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, showing it was purchased directly from the artist by Rosenberg. It then went to a Mr Bentinck, London, in 1928 but its movements after are undocumented until coming to Moresby some time before 1987.

AGNSW collection Basile Lemeunier Portrait of Édouard Detaille (1891) 139.2014

AGNSW collection Basile Lemeunier Portrait of Édouard Detaille (1891) 139.2014

Basile Lemeunier’s portrait is of his painting master - the famous military painter Édouard Detaille - whose Paris studio he entered on a scholarship. Lemeunier shows Detaille working on his own great work, Vive l’Empereur!, in the Gallery’s collection. Though little is known of the ownership of the painting, the two had become great friends and is assumed that Lemeunier gave the portrait to Detaille. It was exhibited twice in 1891, and was reviewed in various newspapers and art journals. The work was purchased by the Gallery from Galerie Talabardon et Gautier in 2014, having come onto the market for the first time in 2013.

AGNSW collection Stanislas Lepine Washerwomen 563.1987

AGNSW collection Stanislas Lepine Washerwomen 563.1987

Lepine's gentle pastoral was acquired by the Gallery in 1987 as part of the bequest of Beatrice Moresby, through the National Art Collections Fund (UK), in memory of her mother Joan Morrisby. Its previous ownership is unrecorded.

AGNSW collection Albert Marquet The Pont Neuf in the snow (late 1920s) 6927

AGNSW collection Albert Marquet The Pont Neuf in the snow (late 1920s) 6927

The earliest record for Albert Marquet's late Fauve painting shows it in the Daily Telegraph Exhibition of French and British Modern Art held at David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, and Melbourne Town Hall, in 1939, the year it was purchased by the Gallery. The Gallery put it on display in an exhibition of French art in 1944. Though the work was purchased at the start of WWII, the period under review dates back to 1933, when this work would have been in Europe.

AGNSW collection Jean-Marc Nattier Madame de La Porte (1754) 119.1992

AGNSW collection Jean-Marc Nattier Madame de La Porte (1754) 119.1992

Nattier's beautiful portrait has had some owners of note. By 1900 it was in the collection of Rodolphe Kann, Paris, whose collection after his death in 1905 was sold 'en bloc' to the Duveen Brothers dealership. The painting then entered into the collection of Sir Ernest Cassel, whose sister Wilhelmina was bequeathed all of Sir Cassel's furniture, glass, pictures, fixtures and fittings and several properties for use during her lifetime. All these items passed to her niece Edwina (Lady Louis) Mountbatten. There is a gap in the painting's provenance between 1925 and 1946, when the eminent dealer of French art Morton Lee sold it to a Frank Partridge. Wildenstein London had it for a decade before selling it to Abby Rockefeller Mauzé. William Bowmore added it to his remarkable collection in or before 1976 and gifted it to the Gallery in 1992.

AGNSW collection Maurice Utrillo Bridge and church 564.1987

AGNSW collection Maurice Utrillo Bridge and church 564.1987

Utrillo's painting has a sales record dating to just prior to the outbreak of WWII, when Jean Racine of Paris sold the work to one Mrs Davis thorough Christie's London in May 1938. Half a century later, in 1987, the painting was donated to the Gallery as part of the bequest of Beatrice Moresby, London, through the National Art Collections Fund, in memory of her mother Joan Morrisby.

AGNSW collection Maurice de Vlaminck Sailing boats at Chatou (1906) 320.2006

AGNSW collection Maurice de Vlaminck Sailing boats at Chatou (1906) 320.2006

This lively painting was once owned by Ambroise Vollard, Paris, who in 1930 famously commissioned Picasso to produce the suite of 100 etchings that became known as the Vollard Suite. The story of the dispersal of Vollard's collection of over 10,000 artworks during WWII is a fascinating one. His Vlaminck was documented in 1943 as being at The Redfern Gallery, London, then subsequently in various prestigious collections, though dates are not confirmed until 1966. In 2006, the year it was purchased by the Gallery from Cyrille de Gunzburg, The Art Loss Register carried out a search and reported the painting not listed on its database.