Landscape with enraged ox by Dutch Golden Age master Adam Pynacker has what an art historian might call an almost perfect provenance. But just what does good provenance look like?
Art historians consider it pretty exciting to have records going back to 1764 for a painting dated 1665-70. This was a record of anonymous sale from a private collection, held 20 March 1764, at the rooms of Phillippus van der Schely and Hendrik de Winter in Amsterdam.
The initial purchase before that was probably directly from the artist or his dealer for a domestic collection and, as is usual in such cases, little was recorded. But other than the 100-year gap between the first private purchase and the Amsterdam sale, every sale since was recorded.
Pynacker’s landscape changed hands some 15 more times. It was sold in Leiden, then Paris in the 18th century, then after further sales in Paris was put up for auction in London in the early 19th century - all impeccably noted.
The painting was returned to France, entering the collection of first the Duc then the Duchesse de Berry, both serious – and famous – art patrons and collectors. Of interest is the fact that when the Duchesse sold some of her collection in 1822, a decade before she sold the Pynacker, it was the first time lithographic reproductions had ever been used in a list of sale.
After several sales in Germany and Switzerland, the Pynacker ended up in the hands of celebrated American artist Saul Steinberg after 1988.
Not only is the provenance of Landscape with enraged ox without significant gaps, it has been owned by some famous names in Steinberg and the Duchesse de Berry. Art historians acknowledge that having famous owners can't help but increase a work's value and significance – especially when already painted, as in this case, by a master.