Peregrine flight

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ab actu ad posse valet illatio.

One of the truisms in my line of work is that antique and antique painting dealers share two things in common. We have serious issues with authority and we are all essentially unemployable. I think that another shared quality is the happiness that those in my vocation get from treasure hunting.

Searching through the detritus of the past for a missed gold nugget takes luck, skill, detective work and most of all an eye. The latter is something that can never be learned, taught or purchased, it is sometimes brought forth into the light as an intuitive sixth sense.

The hunting and gathering that we engage in hearkens back to our atavistic roots as early humans, the passion for discovery that launched De Gama and Ponce and eventually pulled us out of the swamp, albeit with mixed success.

Buying art can be a scholastic or a visceral pursuit or even a combination of the two. I come from an academic household and because of that developed an early passion for research. Some of my fellows never crack a book or do a lick of reading about their work, others write tomes and monographs. There is obviously no right way, but I, wanting to see how objects and paintings fit into their particular era, fall pretty hard on the research side.


A cantor walked into my shop the other day with this charming little painting.

A sheep rests against a dark coat with a dog filling out the trio. A green jug sits in a large basket in the foreground. Paint very well handled, although the photographs don't capture its intrinsic warmth.

Oil on panel, about 7" x 10". Conjoined Monogram lower right, sticker and stamp on verso. RS?

The cantor was having the bad run of luck that is affecting so many members of our society these days and needed money for some important familial obligations. I offered to partner the painting with him and he decided on an outright sale.

He had taken it to an Antiques Roadshow and the supposed expert, a brash woman from New York suggested that it was english. Offered up a modest value.

Now I am sure that I have seen this artist before. My first inclination was Rosa Bonheur but the glyph was wrong. But certainly not London, it say Wien (Vienna) on the back and has a secessionist era ink stamp. So now I get to break it down and try to decipher the puzzle.

I have gone through my copy of "Artist's Monograms and Indiscernable Signatures" by Castagno, but as yet to no avail. Have sent a pic to Millard, in Santa Fe, the best I know in such pursuits. We shall see.  I love the little jewel. If it rings a bell, please do tell.


I come from an unusual background artistically. I painted and drew throughout my life, mostly stopping about fifteen years ago. When we first got into the business, Leslie and I sold off my own paintings and I have never painted again.

My father had an excellent collection of european court paintings - a Gainsborough of dubious vintage, a real Joshua Reynolds which I sold at auction, Hogarth, Peter Lely, even a wonderful large Van Dyke. I appreciate classical painters, the Spanish, the Flemish, the great Italians. Love Rembrandt and Vermeer above all. The side portrait of Degas in candlelight that hangs in the Picasso Museum in Paris.

I rebelled against the patrician over embellishment of my father's aesthetic and sought refuge in the unadorned simplicity of Mission and Maloof. Nakashima. Now my tastes are cycling back to the classics while many of my cohorts have set sail on the uneven boat of modernism. I find that there were no happy accidents with painters through the end of the nineteenth century, they all were quite facile with the brush. I won't bore you again with my soliloquy on current tastes.


I saw my father a few weeks ago and my stepmother gave me this wonderful painting, to sell. It was always there growing up, unsigned I think. We called it the astronomer or Nostradamas.

Fairly large and in a lovely and gallant old frame.

A skull sits on a shelf as does a telescope. I don't know where it was purchased.

I have studied it at length. My best personal guess is Dutch or Flemish but painted in Spain. The moorish windows make me think of the south.

There are some inscriptions on the book and some symbology to her jewelry that my more learned friends think might prove to be of an allegorical or non secular nature.

I was going to take it to New Mexico but a curator friend said to hold off and let the experts look at it, so that I might avert a massive financial mistake.


Come by the gallery and see these paintings and more. Happy Hunting.


Anonymous said...

This has been a test. It was only a test. If it had been an actual advert, readers would have been instructed to enter the item into their shopping cart or to activate "One-Click Buying."
Thank you for your attention. The regularly scheduled blog post will resume in just a moment...

Blue Heron said...

God forbid that I should make a living...