Like every other cultural institution whose primary purpose is to receive visitors, the Fondation Custodia’s operations have been severely curtailed this year. The doors of the house had to remain closed for months. Some members of staff have been able to work from home on ongoing projects: cataloguing newly acquired books for the library, updating the database, writing and editing texts for publications and exhibitions.

The exhibition True to Nature at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

True to Nature. Open-Air Painting in Europe 1780-1870, our project in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, opened in Washington at the beginning of February to much acclaim and a great deal of interest, but was forced to close after only a couple of weeks. It was not until July that the museum was allowed to admit visitors again, and then only in limited numbers. We have had to postpone the venues in Paris and Cambridge until 2021, along with those for the exhibition Léon Bonvin 1834-1866. Drawn to the Everyday, which is now scheduled for the autumn of next year. An oeuvre catalogue of this exhibition is being published. One useful side effect is that we have been given more time to complete it.

Our own exhibitions this spring, Studi & Schizzi. Drawing the Human Figure in Italy 1450-1700, Anna Metz. Etchings and Siemen Dijkstra. À bois perdu, which opened on 15 February, got off to a flying start with many visitors – there were more than nine hundred people at the vernissage – and positive coverage in the press. But on the morning of Sunday 15 March, I had to put a notice on the door saying ‘Fermé’. It was strange to see the carefully arranged rooms dark and closed for months and it was a joy to allow the public back into the house again on 7 July. By 6 September a great many people had found their way to the Fondation, new visitors among them. The catalogues on the work of the two contemporary artists had sold out before the exhibitions closed. The large panoramic postcards of woodcuts by Siemen Dijkstra prove to have offered many people comfort during the lockdown, which has been a difficult time for everyone, full of fear and uncertainty.

The loans from the Fondation for exhibitions in Rome, Ferrara, Milan, Madrid, London and many museums in the Netherlands and France have meanwhile been returned. We have been unconditionally positive in answering requests to extend exhibitions and this has generated a great deal of goodwill. Without exception our own lenders have also acceded to our similar requests.

Staircase of the Hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix
Photo Jannes Linders

There will be no exhibitions in the Fondation until next February and we are focusing on a major renovation of the courtyard between Hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix and Hôtel Turgot: the decidedly unlovely concrete floor there will be removed and replaced with a historically more appropriate pavement that will be centred in the space, creating greater harmony. The storage areas off the courtyard will also be renovated; there will be a small covered bicycle shed (the need for this is due to the sudden upsurge in two-wheeled traffic in Paris) and the drainage will be improved, as will the rainwater discharge to the street. In recent months the spacious stairwell of Hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix has been completely restored and painted (five storeys high). The ceiling is ‘Old Church White’ and the walls are ‘Dutch Pink’, a colour found in the mosaic on the ground floor which now firmly links that pattern with the rest of the space. The lighting has been replaced with a number of wall lamps in the shape of a ‘cornet de chasse’, two of which were originally on the top floor. Lustrerie Mathieu produced a complete set based on those late nineteenth-century prototypes (the transitional period from gas to electricity) that sheds bright LED light over the staircase and makes it far more pleasant for visitors. At the start of the year, the exhibition rooms on the first floor were painted and refurbished – including the decorated ceilings – and the lighting was improved. Everyone who enters them will definitely notice a huge difference that greatly benefits the presentation of the artworks.

Kunstschrift no. 5, Oct/Nov 2020

On 15 July fifty years ago, Frits Lugt, who founded the Fondation Custodia with his wife To Lugt-Klever in 1947, suddenly died on the Place de la Concorde. His wife had passed away the year before. To reflect upon the importance of this couple’s enormous legacy, an issue of the Dutch magazine Kunstschrift was devoted to the Fondation Custodia and there are plans to pursue this in greater detail in a book. The photographer Jannes Linders took a series of photographs of the interior and exterior of the building in the Rue de Lille. One of his pictures of the tomato-red front door features on the cover of the magazine, which was also published in French and English for the occasion. It came out just too late to be read by Irene Parein-Lugt, the Lugts’ last surviving daughter. She died in Switzerland, a month after she had celebrated her ninety-second birthday, while the October issue of the magazine was at the printer’s. She followed our activities closely and was a member of the board for many years. In our last conversation on the phone, two weeks before her death, she said that she was certain that the Fondation Custodia had become what her parents had intended it to be – a lively open house for art in which good care would be taken of their collection and where it would be expanded and made accessible, with a varied exhibition programme. A foundation that serves the cultural world, that facilitates and connects, and offers opportunities for young people to develop. Wonderful words spoken by someone we miss already.
Goodbye Irene, farewell.

Ger Luijten

Irene and her parents Frits and To Lugt in The Hague, 1950

British Oil Sketches

1. Matthew Ridley Corbet (South Willingham 1850 – 1902 London), Desert afternoon, 1878
Oil on canvas laid down on cardboard. – 10 × 22,4 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2010-S.58

‘Pour St André
Après 35 années!’
(For St Andrew
After 35 years!),
we read in the handwriting of Carlos van Hasselt at the back of a poetic little canvas by Matthew Ridley Corbet (1850-1902) at the Fondation Custodia (fig. 1). It is called Desert Afternoon and also has an annotation by the artist himself informing us about the precise moment of its creation: ‘4.30 pm Dec. 13 1878.’ Carlos presented it to his partner André Nieweglowski on 23 November 1999 to commemorate that they had been together for 35 years. Calling him St Andrew is a humorous hint: you would have to be saint to put up with the donor of this picture for 35 years.

Corbet’s gem was once given by the artist to his friend the animal-painter John Macallan Swan (1846-1910) as one of a larger group of views in Egypt. It was the only British work that the Fondation received in 2010 with the bequest of Carlos, the first director after the death of Frits Lugt in 1970, and André. That bequest of primarily open-air oil sketches was the beginning of a new domain to explore, with the intention of building up a reference collection of such sketches by French, Danish, German, Italian, Netherlandish and British artists. Here we show which fellow countrymen have come to accompany Corbet in recent years. They are primarily his predecessors.

2. Richard Wilson (Penegoes 1713/14 – 1782 Colomendy), View of the Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas in Tivoli, c. 1752
Oil on canvas. – 30,3 × 50,7 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2019-S.29

Richard Wilson

First there is Richard Wilson’s The Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas in Tivoli (fig. 2), a very early depiction of an artist painting in the open air. He seems to be watched by a woman standing close to him with a child on her arm. A larger version in which the landscape is cut off on the right is in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and is dated 1752. Wilson (1713/1714-1782) painted this with a companion piece for Joseph Henry of Straffan. It is likely that our colourful and atmospheric sketch shows an earlier stage of the composition. Another, almost identical version is in the Tate and once belonged – perhaps not surprisingly, given his own vision of landscape – to the artist John William Mallord Turner (1775-1851). It was Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), who Wilson met in Italy, and advised him not only to draw but also to paint in the open air and both artists were pioneers who created a new development in the rendering of nature.

  • 3. Thomas Jones (Trefonnen 1730 or 1742 – 1803 Pencerrig), The Crater on the Summit of Mount Vesuvius, c. 1778
    Oil on canvas. – 36 × 44,1 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2019-S.61
  • 4. Thomas Jones (Trefonnen 1730 or 1742 – 1803 Pencerrig), Rocky Promontory on the Sorrentine Coast, c. 1778
    Oil on canvas. – 35,2 × 43,7 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2020-S.9

Thomas Jones

Besides Turner, the Welsh artist Thomas Jones (1742-1803) was also attracted to the paintings of Richard Wilson. He was his pupil from 1763 to 1765. In 1776 Jones went to Italy and stayed there until 1783. He worked in Rome and in and around Naples. Very recently the Fondation managed to acquire two of his Italian views, which have been very much in demand since the artist, who had been largely forgotten, was rediscovered in the 1950’s. The first is a close-up of the crater of the Vesuvius intended to show the activity of the volcano. In his diary, Jones writes that he ascended the crater on 29 October 1778 together with John Warwick Smith (1749-1831) – ‘There was very little smoke issuing from the crater, so that we could discern the bottom’ – but soon they had to retreat, as close to them ‘a large crack or fissure which had opened imperceptibly’ made it very dangerous to stay. Jones made a drawing in pencil with colour annotations on which he based his painted version (fig. 3). When this faithful but somewhat estranging painting appeared on the market in 1980, it was accompanied by a canvas of the same size on which the Vesuvius is visible in the distance, most likely from the coast near Posilippo (fig. 4). Here, however, the attention goes to the rocks in the foreground. His entire life, also in his native Wales before and after his stay in Italy, Jones was preoccupied with geological formations and phenomena. He may have been together with the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Lusieri (1755-1821) who made a watercolour from this spot. Both paintings by Thomas Jones show a limited and subtle palette, which is typical for the artist.

5. John Constable (East Bergholt 1776 – 1837 London), View of Gardens at Hampstead, with an Elder Tree, c. 1821-22
Oil on cardboard. – 17,6 × 14 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2019-S.58

John Constable

It is not possible to illustrate the history of sketching in oils without a representative piece by John Constable (1776-1837). So when the invitation came from the treasurers of the board of the Fondation Custodia last year to propose an important desideratum for the collection it was decided to select View of Gardens at Hampstead, with an Elder Tree (fig. 5). It had been auctioned not long before as a new discovery, having been hidden in an unknown private collection for more than eighty years. The sketch lifts up the level of the painting collection and dialogues with the pictures of the great Netherlandish artists of the seventeenth century. It will be part of True to Nature. Open-air Painting in Europe 1780-1870 next spring and our curator-in-training Alice-Anne Tod wrote the following inspired passage for the exhibition guide:

‘Constable moved permanently from Suffolk to London in 1817. His wife Maria had delicate health, and from 1819 the family spent their summers in Hampstead to benefit from the cleaner air. Some five miles north of London, Hampstead was still a village at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was here that the artist painted his famous series of cloud studies, but he also made a number of sketches of back lanes and hidden corners. The view was probably painted from the garden or window of 2 Lower Terrace, a cottage on the western side of Hampstead Heath, which the artist rented in the summers of 1821 and 1822. The characteristic spontaneity of Constable’s brushwork is evident. The large cumulous cloud was painted quickly, in broad strokes with areas of impasto, while the white umbels of the elder flowers were more delicately rendered in little dabs of paint. Maria died of tuberculosis in 1828, and Constable was greatly affected by her passing. He would later write of the elder bush as “a favourite of mine, but ‘tis melancholy; an emblem of death.”’

6. James Holland (Burslem 1799/1800 – 1870 London), Landscape with Distant Mountains, Portugal
Oil on canvas, laid down on canvas. – 22,5 × 30,2 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2020-S.11

James Holland

Constable made many of his sketches for the sake of practice, but some of his contemporaries went out on painting sessions with a specific goal in mind. An example is James Holland (1799-1870), who was invited by the London publisher Robert Jenkins to travel to Portugal in 1837 to prepare illustrations for the so-called Landscape Annual edition of 1839. His watercolours and oils were subsequently transformed into steel engravings. Some of the paintings are known and give a rare Portuguese alternative to the abundance of views of Italy of the time. Holland came home with iconic topographic views of Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon but also with impromptus like this extraordinarily fresh sketch, which was never turned into a print (fig. 6). The brushstrokes are particularly free and the sky is a real joy to look at. It is done on a small piece of canvas left untouched at certain areas. The artist added the woman on the right with the big hat to indicate scale dimensions, the touches in deep red make her stand out.

7. Francis Danby (Wexford (Ireland) 1793 – 1861 Exmouth (Devon)), A Boatyard, possibly at Exmouth Point, Devon
Oil on paper. – 12,6 × 19 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2019-S.64

Francis Danby

Close in the approach and in the looseness of the brushwork is this very informal view of a boatyard by Francis Danby (1793-1861) (fig. 7). In the largest part of his work the artist showed himself a romantic genius with a predilection for overly dramatic skies and with a strong imaginary view on landscape. Here he is clearly indebted to Constable and displays the same desire to manipulate paint, indicating small shapes and rhythms with a brush that is slightly too broad. The dramatic sky is brilliantly suggested and must have been done quickly. Danby clearly made the sketch for his own joy. It stayed in his possession until he died and was inherited by his son James. Danby was a dedicated sailor and built his own boat. He lived on the Maer near Exmouth. This view possibly represents The Point, near the artist’s house, and the flag next to Ferry Cottage, which indicated when and where the ferry crossed from Exmouth over to Starcross. Two boat building firms were situated there.

8. Samuel Palmer (Newington (London) 1805 – 1881 Redhill (Surrey)), View of Box Hill, Surrey, 1848
Oil on paper, laid down on cardboard. – 24,1 × 41,4 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2018-S.16

Samuel Palmer

It was a great surprise to see Samuel Palmer’s minimalistic sketch Box Hill in the original (fig. 8). I knew it from a reproduction in a dealer’s catalogue, but the immediacy and the variation between the detailed pine trees and the rough strokes in the foreground give the sketch a wonderful tension. Not to speak of the almost spiritual blue on the right applied with only a few touches of the brush: a timeless work of art. More collectors have been drawn to this sketch: Sir John and Lady Witt were previous owners and so was the Polish-born Swiss art-dealer and Picasso-expert Jan Krugier (1928-2008) – collectors guided by great taste. Box Hill in Surrey was immortalised by Jane Austen in the picnic scene of her novel Emma (1815) and is still a place of great beauty. Interestingly enough, Samuel Palmer used this sketch not for a high-finish version in oil paint but for an elaborate watercolour (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). He dressed the landscape up and added houses in the foreground, smoke rising from a chimney, and a woman driving sheep.

9. Joseph Severn (Hoxton (London) 1793 – 1879 Rome), Sketching at the Baths of Caracalla, Rome, 1838-39
Oil on paper. – 26,2 × 40,5 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2019-S.33

Joseph Severn

Joseph Severn’s painting Sketching at the Baths of Caracalla, Rome (fig. 9) brings us to Italy again. The maker (1793-1879) donated it to Henry Acland, later professor of medicine at Oxford. During his grand tour Acland stayed with Severn in Rome, who inscribed the painting on the verso ‘Drawn together May 1838’. The visitor can be seen seated in the middle of the picture while drawing the Alban hills or parts of the Baths of Caracalla, which were excavated in the 1780’s and became a popular sketching ground for artists. Severn lived a great part of his life in Italy. He is famous for accompanying his friend the poet John Keats (1795-1821) to Rome when the latter was severely ill to only find him dying in his arms just a few months after they had arrived. The two are buried next to each other at the protestant cemetery in Rome. Severn built a career as a painter of motifs drawn from the writings of Keats and only few spontaneous sketches like this one by him exist. The view is visibly done with great speed applying only a few colours on the paper support: no need for blue, as the Roman sky was completely overcast the day it was made. The painting remained with Acland’s heirs until way into the twentieth century.

10. Charles Lock Eastlake (Plymouth 1793 – 1865 Pisa), Pitigliano, Tuscany
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 21,4 × 30,8 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2020-S.10

Charles Eastlake

The Plymouth artist Charles Lock Eastlake (1793-1865) was born in the same year as Severn and also died in Italy. He travelled widely, stayed for a long time in Italy (from 1816 to 1830) and returned to England. He would become president of the Royal Academy in London in 1850 and soon after he was appointed keeper at the National Gallery. In the nineteenth century, all over Europe artists were responsible for museums. The profession of art historian did not exist yet. Between 1855 and 1865 Eastlake would transform the collection with many important acquisitions, often found in Italy where he travelled every year for a few months hunting for art. He died in Pisa during one of these voyages. He was a history painter by training and his landscapes were a separate category, at times used for the background of his narrative pictures. He knew Italy very well, and had an eye for the picturesque qualities of places which had rarely been represented before. The newly acquired sketch shows Pitigliano in the Maremmo, not far from Grosseto (fig. 10). Still today it is a rather idiosyncratic town built on cliffs. We know the place was already inhabited in the Bronze Age. Since the sixteenth century it had an important Jewish community within its walls. Eastlake chose paper for his simple sketch, which is a faithful rendering of part of the rather severe silhouette of the town. He only needed green, blue and reddish-brown and a well-developed sense for volume and rhythm to accomplish this unusual painting.

  • 11. Augustus Leopold Egg (London 1816 – 1863 Algiers), The Farmyard
    Oil on board. – 20,2 × 25,3 cm
    The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, inv. PD.38–1980
  • 12. Augustus Leopold Egg (London 1816 – 1863 Algiers), A Cottage Garden, 1863
    Oil on panel. – 25,4 × 25,4 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2020-S.4

Augustus Leopold Egg

The Farmyard by Augustus Leopold Egg (1816-1863) is a rather enchanting picture in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (fig. 11). Egg is an artist known for paintings of a totally different nature like the triptych Past and Present (Tate, London) to which this rural intimacy is rather alien. Egg suffered from poor health and it was severe asthma that made him and his wife decide to leave London and go and live in the country. They moved to Eastbourne, where they rented a house called ‘Pilgrims’, where their friend Charles Dickens would visit. The story goes that he started to paint out of doors in these surroundings. While writing on The Farmyard for the catalogue True to Nature last year, I found out that in London another sketch by Egg was on the market, very similar in atmosphere. It is this Cottage Garden, dated 1863, the year of his early death, which has found its place in the Fondation Custodia (fig. 12) – a little marvel. It will be displayed ‘hors catalogue’ next to The Farmyard next spring in the Paris venue of the exhibition.

13. Richard Parkes Bonington (Arnold (Nottinghamshire) 1802 – 1828 London), The Giudecca in Venice, 1826
Oil on board. – 24,8 × 31,7 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2762

The intention is to give these recent acquisitions a place in the Hôtel Turgot in the near future, in the vicinity of the only nineteenth-century British painting Frits Lugt acquired (in 1927), Richard Parkes Bonington’s, The Giudecca in Venice (fig. 13). Lugt wrote on the inventory-card that he considered it to be a jolly little painting (‘een aardig schilderijtje’). For once he was wrong – he bought a masterpiece, a highlight in the group of Venetian views by the artist, as has been attested in more recent literature. The new acquisitions are also kept company by British drawings and watercolours which entered the collection over the years, a splendid group of English portrait miniatures, as well as prints by artists who contributed to the ‘etching revival’ for whom Rembrandt’s heavily inked etchings and dry-points were a vital source of inspiration.

Ger Luijten

Italian Drawings in Search of Attribution

Looking back at the exhibition Studi & Schizzi. Drawing the Human Figure in Italy 1450-1700

“Those people who have consulted the catalogue of any large exhibition of Italian art must have been startled by the diversity of the opinions – often even contradictory opinions – put forward by the specialists. The fact that all these attributions are attacked by some, totally rejected by others, should not be the cause of any anxiety to the less well-informed art lover.”
(Frits Lugt, preface to Italian Drawings in Dutch Collections, 1962)

The caution extended by Frits Lugt to exhibition visitors in 1962 still seems relevant: some of the drawings presented in the exhibition Studi & Schizzi which recently closed at the Fondation Custodia were still seeking an author, or bore doubtful attributions. The Dutch art historian and collector, with an established reputation as a connoisseur of old master drawings, particularly those belonging to the Dutch Golden Age, was prudent in respect of connoisseurship and the attributionist tradition in Italian art. James Byam Shaw relates that Lugt was very conscious of the relative rarity of Italian drawings with secure attributions, and aware also of the difficulty of attributing with any confidence those that lacked them to such and such an artist. He adds that for Lugt, it was the inherent quality of an Italian drawing that should constitute the principal criterion for its appreciation, above and beyond the name of its author (introduction to The Italian Drawings of the Frits Lugt Collection, 1983).

Since the second half of the twentieth century and the death of Frits Lugt in 1970, the intense scrutiny to which Italian painters and draughtsmen have been subjected has led to the publication of numbers of catalogues and works of reference. The titanic effort, led by James Byam Shaw, to produce a catalogue raisonné of the Italian drawings in the Fondation Custodia, published in 1983, was undertaken in this context. Basing his work on a close examination of the existing bibliography, and with advice from leading specialists in Italian drawing (A.E. Popham, Philip Pouncey, John Gere, Nicholas Turner, Roseline Bacou, Catherine Monbeig-Goguel, Anna Forlani Tempesti and Anna Petrioli Tofani), Byam Shaw provides details in his entries of all the disputed attributions, following up all shades of opinion. His book is still an indispensable work of reference for anyone looking for an introduction to our collection.

Since then, throughout the intervening years, the curators at the Fondation Custodia have laboured at expanding the documentation files of the drawings in line with current thinking. These documents have been carefully collected and classified, but any new light cast on the drawings has seldom been acknowledged or referred to in the inventories, apart from the few most spectacular re-attributions.

1. Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino (Cento 1591 – 1666 Bologna), Study of the Back of a Man, Seated, before 1619
Red chalk and stumping. – 337 × 272 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2536

This was the case with the Study of the Back of a Man, Seated (fig. 1). Formerly attributed to Annibale Carracci, this monumental drawing has now been ascribed to Guercino who, influenced by the artist from Bologna, shared his interest in drawing from life and in the use of red chalk. During the 1980s, this study was related to the figure of Samson in Guercino’s painting of Samson Captured by the Philistines (1619, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

2. Girolamo Macchietti (Florence 1535 – 1592 Florence), Saint Lawrence, c. 1575
Red chalk and stumping, squared in red chalk on reddish-toned paper. – 152 × 143 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 8884

When a start was made in 2015 on integrating and describing the Italian drawings of the collection of the Fondation Custodia for the new database, Byam Shaw’s catalogue formed a solid point of departure, augmented by valuable documentation from more recent times. These varied sources made it possible for us to take a further look at each of our 600 Italian drawings and to publish our findings. Thus, a Saint Lawrence (fig. 2), formerly ascribed to Denys Calvaert, has been correctly attributed to Girolamo Macchetti, thanks to Marta Privitera who, in 1994, identified it as the modello for a painting in the Luzzetti collection in Florence. The art historian’s findings have finally been acknowledged in the collections of the Fondation Custodia.

3. Clemente Paolo Gini, Village Landscape with Road by a Canal, Lined with Trees, 1624
Pen and brown ink over traces of black chalk. – 211 × 328 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 1181

Similarly, the Study of a Draped Figure Seated, with Right Arm Raised (inv. 5680), ascribed by Byam Shaw to Bernardino Poccetti, has now been attributed to Sigismondo Coccapani thanks to Miles Chappell who, in 2013, pointed out that the two figures outlined on the back of the sheet could be related respectively to Samson and Delilah (sold at Christie’s Rome in 1993) and to The Arts Crowning Michelangelo (Casa Buonarotti, Florence), both painted by Coccapani. Worth mentioning also is the Head of a Monk (inv. 7776), formerly ascribed to Fra Bartolommeo but now considered, thanks to Chris Fischer (1990), to be a preparatory sketch made by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani for the fresco of The Miracle of Saint Dominic in the monastery of San Marco in Florence. A landscape (fig. 3), attributed with some reservations to Cristofano Paolo Galli, has finally been identified by Stefano Rinaldi (2012) as the work of Clemente Paolo Gini. Numerous other drawings have had their attribution modified, some even being excluded from the Italian collection. A recto-verso depicting a Penitent Magdalene and a Mercury Directing Hercules to Olympus (inv. 5484), presented by Byam Shaw as belonging to the Genoese School, have now been related by Catherine Monbeig-Goguel to the drawings of the French artist Michel II Corneille. Two landscapes attributed until recently, with some hesitation, to Stefano della Bella (inv. 2007-T.19 and 20) now appear to be copies of drawings by Paul Bril and Bartholomeus Breenbergh, executed by a seventeenth-century Dutch artist.

4. Mariotto Albertinelli (Florence 1474 – 1515 Florence), Eight Studies of Naked Children
Pen and brown ink. – 208 × 286 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 4024

The exhibition Studi & Schizzi. Drawing the Human Figure in Italy 1450-1700 marked the climax of these endeavours. The 86 drawings in the exhibition were the subject of heightened attention, and a number of problems of attribution were sorted out. For example, the sheet bearing Eight Studies of Naked Children (fig. 4), formerly attributed to Fra Bartolommeo, was re-attributed to Mariotto Albertinelli, his collaborator. Chris Fischer, the expert on the drawings of Fra Bartolommeo, supported our proposal for a re-attribution of the work based on a re-appraisal of the drawing’s style.

5. Giuseppe Maria Rolli (Bologna 1645 – 1727 Bologna), Hercules Received into Olympus
Red chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash heightened with white bodycolour. – 348 × 297 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 1979-T.3

Two other results reflect the outcome of this intensive scrutiny. The study for the ceiling bearing Hercules Received into Olympus (fig. 5), acquired as the work of Sebastiano Conca, then linked by Byam Shaw to the School of Bologna because of its similarity to the work of Domenico Carnuti, has finally been presented as the work of Giuseppe Rolli. Last but not least, the identification of the painting prepared for by the drawing of The Apostles at the Tomb of the Virgin (inv. 5909) led to the secure attribution of the sheet in question to Giovanni Battista Ricci. Until then, the drawing had been ascribed (hesitantly) to his contemporary Girolamo Muziano.

  • 6. Gregorio de Ferrari? (Porto Maurizio (Imperia) 1644/1647 – 1726 Genua), Faith Subduing Satan
    Point of the brush with brown ink, white bodycolour over a sketch in black chalk, on brown paper. – 428 × 290 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 1980-T.4
  • 7. Francesco La Marra? (Naples c. 1710 – c. 1780), The Death of Saint Alexis
    Red chalk and red chalk wash, heightened with white bodycolour. – 332 × 251 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 1982-T.34

Any doubts that could not be raised have at least been pondered, and the exhibition has allowed light to be shone on them. The attention of the specialists who came to the exhibition was attracted. Thanks to these visitors, some attributions left pending have been resolved. Nicolas Schwed, in particular, but also Pierre Rosenberg, Eric Pagliano and Federica Mancini were able to recognise, in the Study of Arms and Drapery (inv. 1356), the hand of Fra Semplice da Verona and the Faith Subduing Satan (fig. 6) was acknowledged not to be the work of the Genoese artist Domenico Piola, but probably that of his compatriot Gregorio de Ferrari. The Death of Saint Alexis (fig. 7) is not by Luca Giordano, as we suspected. We did not manage to answer this question in time, but the reply – whispered by Nicolas Schwed – is probably to be found in the person of the Neapolitan artist Francesco La Marra. Finally, doubt still hovers over the attributions of The Allegory of Charity to an unknown Italian artist of the late sixteenth century (inv. 3777), of the Study a Male Nude, Half Length to Rosso Fiorentino (inv. 1355) and of the Miracle of Saint Anthony of Padua to Titian (inv. 1502). On the other hand, the paternity of the Portrait of a Young Man (fig. 8), tentatively presented as the work of Pietro Facini, has been confirmed by Nicolas Schwed who has just finished writing the catalogue raisonné of this artist’s work (to be published shortly).

8. Pietro Faccini (Bologna 1562 – 1602 Bologna), Portrait of a Young Man (?), Wearing a Ruff
Red chalk and red chalk wash. – 208 × 163 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 5087

The exhibition Studi & Schizzi and its visitors have thus contributed to the enrichment of our understanding of the works in our collection. This sharing of knowledge, plus the collaboration between the team at the Fondation Custodia and the experts and friends of the Fondation, all contribute richly to the life of our collections. Even when they are acquired and comfortably filed away in the albums in Hôtel Turgot, these old master drawings – whether Italian or French, Dutch or Flemish –, must continue to arouse general interest, the interest of the art lover, the student or the seasoned researcher. There remain some mysteries to be solved among the authors of these works and there is no doubt that the constant progress being made by art historians will be of assistance to us. Continuing to keep the collections alive, as Frits Lugt wished, can only be achieved by sharing them. We will keep fostering this life by publishing catalogues, organising exhibitions and, more recently, by the creation of a database available online.

Maud Guichané

Collection Online

The Fondation Custodia database online

The Fondation Custodia published the database of its collection on the Internet on 14 February 2020. At the time, we were showing the exhibition Studi & Schizzi. Drawing the Human Figure in Italy 1450-1700, so we decided to begin by publishing the Italian drawings in the Frits Lugt Collection.

Thus, more than 600 drawings were put online during the opening. Among them, not only the drawings acquired by Frits Lugt himself but also works acquired by the Fondation Custodia after Lugt’s death in 1970. Most of the drawings had been published in 1983 in James Byam Shaw’s catalogue raisonné, The Italian Drawings of the Frits Lugt Collection. The intention was to focus on and to add the knowledge gained since the compilation of this work of reference. The attributions of some drawings have changed, as attested to in the article by Maud Guichané, above. Other drawings have been acquired since the publication of Byam Shaw’s volumes, for example, a drawing attributed to Francesco Cappella (fig. 1) and a drawing by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (fig. 2), both of which entered the collection in 1996.

  • 1. Attributed to Francesco Cappella (Venice 1711 – 1774 Bergamo), Bust of an Adolescent Reading
    Charcoal and black chalk, heightened in white chalk on a greenish-grey prepared paper. – 355 × 257 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 1996-T.5
  • 2. Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727 – 1804 Venice), Paul and Silas Baptize the Jailer and His Family
    Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over a sketch in black chalk. – 474 × 367 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 1996-T.6

Encouraged by scholars and non-professionals alike, in 2012 the Fondation Custodia made arrangements to digitalise its holdings, first providing itself with a database for the management of the collection, a necessity before the collections could be put online. In close collaboration with the Dutch company Picturae, the collection management system Memorix Maior was adapted to our requirements and a first set of meta-data was integrated; this was made possible by the digitisation and OCR treatment of the inventory cards and of the other documents connected to the inventory. At the same time, Picturae, in a purpose-built photo studio in the Hôtel Turgot, began the digitisation of the drawings, prints, letters and manuscripts (see also the article in E-newsletter no. 11, October 2018). Then, simultaneously, with the help of our colleagues and numbers of interns (and we would like to express our thanks to them here) the data of a part of our drawings was keyed in. The digitisation campaign was completed in December 2019 (provisionally, of course, as new acquisitions will always trigger new campaigns in the future). By then, we had made progress with the construction of the interface of our database, also achieved in partnership with Picturae. On 14 February, thus, we were ready for the launch of the database.

Search screen of the Collection Online

This interface in English, known as the Collection Online, is aimed at interested amateurs and experts and offers intuitive use, thanks to research fields and filters. It can also be consulted from your tablet or your smartphone. In the tradition of the Fondation Custodia’s catalogues, the information contained in these index files is very copious, and has links to other databases, such as Les Marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes, making it simple to pursue investigations still further.

Record of the Self-Portrait by Polidoro da Caravaggio, inv. 2896

Each record is accompanied by a reproduction of the work. These images can be downloaded, for free, in jpg, under the terms of the following Creative Commons licence: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International). This allows use of the photographs, even when modified, provided that mention is made of the fact that the work is held by the Fondation Custodia. For commercial use, authorisation must be gained from the Fondation Custodia (the photograph will still be free of charge; if permission is granted, we ask solely for a complimentary copy of the publication or product). If you wish to obtain, without charge, a larger resolution (.jp2 or .tiff) you can contact us via our webpage Image Order.

Restricted at the outset for the publication of the Italian drawings, the database will progressively be completed by other parts of the collection. Currently in preparation are Rembrandt’s etchings, drawings by Rembrandt and his school, French nineteenth-century drawings and part of the collection of artists’ letters.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or require further information on the works published in our database (see webpage Contact). We await you all on: https://collectiononline.fondationcustodia.fr/

Rhea Sylvia Blok and Marie-Claire Nathan

The Research Project of the first Jacoba Lugt-Klever Fellow

On 1 March 2019, Joyce Zelen started as the first Jacoba Lugt-Klever Fellow. This fellowship has been established in memory of Jacoba (To) Lugt-Klever (1888-1969), wife of the collector and connoisseur Frits Lugt and co-founder of the Fondation Custodia. This collaboration between the Fondation Custodia and the RKD – The Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague, offers an experienced researcher in the area of prints and/or drawings the opportunity to work on their own research for a period of two years, stationed in The Hague.

Joyce Zelen
photo Erik Smits

The ambitious research project of Zelen concerns the earliest engravings ever made in Germany and the Netherlands; more specifically engravings produced by anonymous printmakers, who either signed their prints with a monogram or house mark to which we cannot link a name today, for example the Monogrammist PM and the Master IAM of Zwolle, or those who did not sign their prints at all. In case of the latter, a number of reconstructed oeuvres has been assigned contingency names, often referencing a key feature or important work within the oeuvre, such as the Master of the Berlin Passion or the Master of the Gardens of Love. The nine-volume catalogue Geschichte und kritischer Katalog des deutschen, niederländischen und französischen Kupferstichs im XV. Jahrhundert, composed by Max Lehrs between 1908 and 1934, is still regarded today as the standard work on early engraving. However, our knowledge of Netherlandish and German fifteenth-century prints has grown considerably since Lehrs. Modern techniques and initiatives, such as digital photography and online collection databases, have made it much better possible to research and compare this rare material. High time thus to re-examine the earliest engravings made in northern Europe and to present an up-to-date overview!

  • 1. Attributed to Monogrammist BR with Anchor, St Jerome in Penitence
    Engraving. – 155 × 106 mm
    Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. 74-1898
  • 2. Monogrammist ES, August and the Tiburtine Sybille
    Engraving. – 268 × 195 mm
    The Art Institute Chicago, inv. 1955.1224

The first, immense task at hand was to go through stacks of literature in search of references to anonymous fifteenth-century engravers and their prints. After months of going through the publications of Heineken, Nagler, Wurzbach, Passavant, Bartsch, Lehrs, Thieme-Becker, Hollstein and many more, there was an extensive preliminary list of all possible candidates and the engravings attributed to them. Given that the majority of the prints are unsigned, one can easily imagine that many were housed under different, or even multiple, names in the past. Therefore, it was necessary to carefully find out which contingency names and monograms actually referred to the same anonymous engravers. For instance, a print of St Jerome in Penitence (fig. 1) attributed by Lehrs to the Monogrammist BR with Anchor, in the 1940’s was assigned to a fifteenth-century painter from Brussels called the Master of the Heiligentafeln by P. Wescher.1 Wescher, unaware of the attribution by Lehrs, gave the print to the anonymous painter based on stylistic resemblance to his painted versions of the penitent cardinal. Which of the two attributions is correct has yet to be determined. Another interesting example forms the so-called Master of the Sybille; named after a large engraving of August and the Tiburtine Sybille (fig. 2). A group of seven engravings, for a short period of time, lived a life of its own after J.D. Passavant attributed them, based on stylistic elements such as shading in the draperies and manner of hatching, to a possible pupil of the Monogrammist ES who he named the Master of the Sybille. Yet Lehrs, some years later, ascertained their worth and gave them to the Master himself. His attribution to the Monogrammist ES has been maintained even since.

3. Master of the Berlin Passion, The Crowning with Thorns
Engraving. – 69 × 50 mm
British Museum London, inv. 1932,0312.2

The careful comparison of literature has led to a list of circa 125 individual engravers and over 3.000 engravings for which they are supposedly responsible.2 This list formed the starting point for phase two of the research project: finding all the prints. Did all the prints mentioned in the old literature still exist? For a lot could have happened to them in the last hundred years. The past few months have been dominated by tracing all the prints mentioned in the literature, either in online databases or physically during collection visits. And as it turns out, a large number of these early engravings have not survived bombings and fires during WWII, were stolen, or simply got lost over the years. Also, a large number of prints that once were part of aristocratic collections, like those of Friedrich August II von Sachsen and the Counts Yorck von Wartenburg, were auctioned in the twentieth century and changed locations. In addition, a number of undescribed prints and unknown impressions could be added to the corpus, most of which appeared on the market after Lehrs had published his monumental catalog. Like, for instance, The Crowning with Thorns by the Master of the Berlin Passion (fig. 3), which was acquired by the British Museum in 1932.3 And the beautiful, undescribed early Thistle Ornament by Monogrammist W with the Key (fig. 4), that entered the Rijksmuseum collection in 2006.

4. Monogrammist W with the Key, Thistle Ornament
Engraving. – 125 mm × 166 mm
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, inv. RP-P-2006-117

In the upcoming months, the existing corpus of fifteenth-century anonymous prints will be further expanded through the study of literature, searches in online collection databases, correspondence with curators and librarians, as well as the examination of original works in European print rooms. Some collections that have already been visited to examine the actual prints up-close are Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Wittert Collection in Liège, the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt, and the Albertina and Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna.

Once the corpus is up to date, another challenging phase of the research project still awaits: studying all individual prints (and all surviving impressions thereof). Innovations in the field of photography have made it possible today to compare multiple impressions of prints in great detail, in ways that Lehrs and his predecessors never could. This can help tremendously in establishing different states of engravings, but also in verifying all attributions of unsigned prints. If necessary, attributions will be refuted and adjusted based on stylistic analysis or other evidence, likely causing shifts among the oeuvres. Especially the circa 400 prints by the so-called St Erasmus Masters (i.e. the Master of the Dutuit Mount of Olives, the Master of the Ten Thousand Martyrs, the Master of the Flower Borders and the Master of St Erasmus), which are all very close in style and follow the same examples by the Master of the Berlin Passion, will be extensively compared to determine how many hands actually worked in this early German printing workshop.

The research will result in new volumes on fifteenth-century Netherlandish and German printmaking in The New Hollstein-series. Discoveries that do not fit into the format of the Hollstein series will be published in scholarly publications elsewhere. And hopefully there is also an exhibition about this beautiful early material in the offing. But for now, the research continues. Many challenges and puzzles still lay ahead, but thankfully the journey is wonderful and eye-opening.

1P. Wescher, ‘Der Meister der Heiligentafeln’, Oud Holland 57 (1940), pp. 65-71.

2A large group of prints remains completely anonymous, meaning that no monogram or contingency name could be attached. These will be treated as a separate group within the project.

3Lehrs’ volume (vol. III) on the Master of the Berlin Passion and his followers was published in 1915.

What do Serge Ernst’s rough drafts say to us?

A Russian archive was created at the Fondation Custodia when Carlos van Hasselt was director (1970-1994), thanks to gifts made by his artist friend Dimitri Bouchène (1893-1993), in 1985 and 1992, then as a bequest in 1993. In 2005, our former colleague Stijn Alsteens published part of the collection, including letters, drawings and Russian prints of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.1 A very large number of these documents remains to be examined. They come mainly from Serge Ernst (1895-1980), art historian and partner of Dimitri Bouchène.

When you decipher rough drafts, you reconstruct episodes from people’s lives. Of the 14 boxes full of the correspondence of Serge Ernst, now in the Fondation Custodia, approximately one quarter contain rough drafts and copies of letters, written mostly in Russian and French. They are difficult to read but are clearly dated and signed, and sometimes annotated; they present us today with a new source of information about the activities, the friendships and the circulation of news and views among Russian émigrés in the twentieth century.

Serge Ernst was curator of French painting in the Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg (1919-1925) and a member of the artistic and literary movement known as Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art), founded by Alexander Benois and Serge Diaghilev in 1898. After his departure for France in 1925, he continued his study of the visual art of the past and became a well-regarded expert among members of the antiques trade. Having set up house with Dimitri Bouchène in Paris (14 rue Royer-Collard, Paris V), he began publishing articles which were mainly about European artists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the presence of their work in Russian collections. In France, Serge Ernst renewed his contacts with the families of aristocratic émigrés: the Obolensky family, the Botkines, the Gagarines, the Kamenetskys, the Argoutinsky-Dolgoroukoffs and others. He assisted them with the management of their heritage, found buyers for family heirlooms and collected memoirs; he inherited some of the Gagarine family papers.

Serge Ernst’s correspondence provides some historical details which hitherto were lacking. It has allowed us, for example, to determine the exact date of the death of Frances Botkine, née Payson (1879-1970), the American wife of Pierre (Piotr Sergeyevich) Botkine (1865-1937), the Russian diplomat. In a letter to Mme Botkine written in 1970, Serge Ernst stops short in the middle of a page and in the middle of an unfinished sentence. On the back is noted in pencil: ‘The last letter of Mme Pierre Botkine – Mme P. de B. died in the night of 10-11 September, in her sleep, in Lausanne’.

1. Dimitri Bouchène, Portrait of Princess Aleksandra Obolenskaja, 1942
Graphite. – 312 × 427 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 1993-T.118

Others of Serge Ernst’s rough drafts report his conversations with Alexandra (Sandra) Obolenskaya, née Countess Apraksina (1851-1943), a favourite of the Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928). They provide some memories of the countess, anecdotes about her family and the Empress’s family, and about her sudden departure from Russia. Dimitri Bouchène was certainly present at one of these interviews: while the two talked, he drew a pencil portrait of Sandra Obolenskaya, now also in the Fondation Custodia (fig. 1).

In his letters to Renée Kaestlin-Notthaft (d.1958), Serge Ernst shares detailed news of himself, of Dimitri Bouchène and of their many mutual friends: Alexandre Benois, his artist niece Zinaida Serebriakova, the ballet dancer Alice Alanova di Robilant, the collector and amateur artist Nicolas Plater, the dress designer Valentina Schlee and her financier husband, and the collector Georges Schlee in the United States.

2. Zinaïda Serebryakova, Renée Notthaft, 1921
Tempera. – 630 × 478 mm
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, inv. РС-10552

Very little information has come down to us about Renée Kaestlin-Notthaft (fig. 2 and 3), although it would be impossible to imagine the artistic milieu of Saint-Petersburg in the early twentieth century without her. She was the wife of the celebrated collector Feodor Feodorovitch Notgaft (Friedrich Notthaft) (1886-1941) and was painted by a number of Russian artists. In 1921, after the Revolution, she decided to emigrate and moved with her son André to Switzerland.

3. Photography of Renée Kaestlin-Notthaft
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, inv. 1993-A.1687

The correspondence between Serge Ernst and Renée Kaestlin contains some important information, as it covers a long period, from 1924 to 1950. We learn, for example, that Renée Kaestlin sometimes gave financial support to Serge Ernst and Dimitri Bouchène. Serge Ernst, in his turn, added the following post scriptum in a letter of 1928: ‘I’ve seen some silver pieces that might interest you’. What might seem unusual about the correspondence is the absence of nostalgia or shared memories, except perhaps, in the course of one letter at the occasion of New Year 1928: ‘We are spending our holidays quietly, working – I am making corrections, Dima is preparing an exhibition and our dinner jackets still retain the memory of your white fur coat’.

Besides his letters to Renée Kaestlin-Nothaft, the correspondence between Serge Ernst and Princess Maria Gagarine (1875-1970) sheds light on certain aspects of the life, work and personality of Dimitri Bouchène. One of these letters confirms that in 1936, Dimitri Bouchène is organising an exhibition in New York in one of Paul Reinhardt’s galleries. ‘It’s the first time he has done an exhibition in America’, adds Serge Ernst. In another letter, in 1938, he tells Maria Gagarine that Grace Moore, a celebrated American actress and opera singer, has been to the house to see and purchase some paintings by Dimitri Bouchène. Another time, on his return from London where Serge Ernst had attended the opening of the ballet Les Éléments (1937) for which Bouchène had designed the scenery and the costumes, he describes the ballet’s resounding success:

‘… at the première the curtain was raised fifteen times, and even Bouchène had to make an appearance on the stage and salute the London public. One observer wrote that it was the most successful ballet in the entire repertoire of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo. It was all prepared in seven days and on the last night no-one went to bed; the final costumes were ready just as the curtain went up’.

4. Dimitri Bouchène, Portrait of Serge Ernst reading, 1936
Graphite. – 232 × 310 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, inv. 1993-T.116

The correspondence between Serge Ernst and Dimitri Bouchène when Bouchène was on tour is also packed with information. Dated and signed, the rough drafts of Serge Ernst’s letters are the only remaining evidence of their exchanges between 1938 and 1967. They keep us up-to-date with the news, the dates of first performances, public opinion, the people surrounding them. These drafts are easy to recognise among the collection in the Fondation Custodia because they are the only letters that begin with ‘My dear’.

The archive is testimony to the friendship between these two men and their faithful attachment to art until the end of their lives. Bouchène lived thirteen years longer than Ernst and was buried, as was Ernst, in Montparnasse cemetery. His epitaph, ‘How delightful, you have come’,2 echoes the words spoken by Serge Ernst in hospital when Dimitri came to see him.

Above and beyond the circle of Russian acquaintances, we should obviously mention the relationship between Serge Ernst and Frits Lugt (1884-1970), the Dutch collector and creator of the Fondation Custodia. In the drafts of his letters, Serge Ernst thanks him for the information he has sent regarding the sales catalogue of the works of the Countess Julie Samoïloff, née Pahlen, or congratulates him on the exhibition L’Art du timbre néerlandais (The Art of the Postage Stamp in Holland) (1961) at the Institut Néerlandais.

5. Postcard from Nicolas Plater to Serge Ernst, 11-XII-1949, Wassenaar
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, inv. 1993-A.1878

Some questions remain, nevertheless, about how Serge Ernst first made the acquaintance of Frits Lugt. The two men could easily have met, as they shared membership of the intellectual élite with a taste for the art of the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. In addition, one of the hypotheses could be vested in the character of Nicolas Plater (c. 1880-1957), a connection of Serge Ernst during his youth in Saint-Petersburg. Nicolas Plater was a great friend of the collector Stepan Jaremitch, under whose influence he began collecting old master drawings when he went abroad; later, this hobby was influential in his becoming an art dealer in France and in the Netherlands. In a postcard sent to Serge Ernst on 25 August from Wassenaar (fig. 5), Nicolas Plater describes the way he was entertained ‘to tea’ in Paris by Frits Lugt:

‘He was very kind. In his house-museum, as in the Bredius house,3 boxes with drawings by Rembrandt, (and my) Rubens, drawings by Dürer, M.[ichael]Angelo […]. Treasures. Among the guests, the Swedish ambassador, the minister of Spain and your humble servant were present’.

In the collection of Frits Lugt, the Bouchène gift provides us with a group of documents touching various aspects of the activity of the Russian diaspora in the field of art, literature, art history and the art market, theatre and publishing. Today, the documents which are related to the ‘correspondence’ in the Bouchène donation have all been inventoried. Remaining to be studied now are the manuscripts, the private notes and the research papers of Serge Ernst.

Olga Furman

1Catalogue of the Exposition-dossier VI, Mélange russe. Dessins, estampes et lettres russes de la Fondation Custodia, Fondation Custodia, Paris, 2005.

2The phrase is carved in Russian: ‘Какая радость, ты пришелъ’.

3Abraham Bredius (Amsterdam 1855-1946 Monaco) was an art historian, collector and director of the Mauritshuis in The Hague between 1889 and 1909. His collection forms the basis of the Bredius Museum in The Hague, in what was formerly his home.

The Discovery of the Collection of Prints and Drawings of Wilhelm von Blanckenhagen, of Riga

Christiane Lukatis, chief curator in the Department of Graphic Art at the Museumlandschaft Hessen-Kassel, has recently drawn our attention to the collector’s mark with the name of Blanckenhagen (fig. 1): it does not figure among the marks listed by Frits Lugt, nor among those located more recently, and this has allowed us to discover a hitherto unknown collection. Its distant location, on the fringes of Europe – Riga in Latvia – has no doubt contributed to our knowing nothing whatsoever about it.

1. Mark of Wilhelm von Blanckenhagen

Credit for the discovery of the stamp and of the activity of the collector Wilhelm von Blanckenhagen (1762-1840), is due to the museum in Kassel which, in 2019, acquired the remarkable Album amicorum, and at the same time a donation of 276 prints, all marked with the same stamp. Further research has revealed that the mark was not conceived by the collector himself but by his descendants through the Drobbusch line. Around the family coat of arms, both the name Blanckenhagen and the name of the Drobbusch estate, now Drabeši mõis, can be clearly seen. In September 2020, this mark was integrated into our database of collectors’ marks on prints and drawings with the number Lugt 5675. By chance, the descendants had kept the stamp itself, signed by the maker Kretzer, and produced for these works, which had not yet been stamped (fig. 2).

2. Wilhelm von Blanckenhagen’s stamp signed by the manufacturer Kretzer

Wilhelm von Blanckenhagen, landowner and farmer, was born into a wealthy family in Riga; he put together his Album amicorum during the year 1810 in Rome, where he lived with his family in the villa Aldobrandini for nearly a year. This stay in Rome was not in fact his first: before he began his studies at the universities of Leyden and Leipzig, he had previously undertaken earlier trips to Italy, in 1780 and 1781, as well as to France and England. He is quoted in the Journal of Johann Georg Wille (1715-1808) kept in the collection of the Fondation Custodia (inv. 2005-A.688, pp. 183-184), which in February 1781, mentions the traveller’s return from Italy in the company of his tutor, Christoph Gottlob Heinrich (1748-1810). In March, Wille notes the following details: ‘Messrs Heinrich and von Blanckenhagen took their leave. They are going hence to England and thence to Germany. I hold them in the greatest esteem.’

During his extensive travels, Wilhelm von Blanckenhagen purchased paintings, prints and antiques, particularly in Rome. Part of his collection was acquired during his lifetime by the museum of the University of Dorpat (Tartu), but another part remained in the family.

3. Drawing by Johann Friedrich Overbeck in the Album amicorum of Wilhelm von Blanckenhagen, 1810

The 32 drawings in the Album amicorum are by the hands of German and Danish artists whom Blanckenhagen had met through the good offices of Caroline von Humboldt (1766-1829), wife of the scholar and diplomat Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835). The album contains unpublished drawings by the painters Joseph Anton Koch, Johann Friedrich Overbeck (fig. 3), Franz Pforr, Christian Daniel Rauch, and also by the brothers Franz and Johannes Riepenhausen, by Christian Gottlieb Schick and the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

All the drawings in the album are on show in the exhibition Treffpunkt Rom 1810. Die Geschichte eines Künstlerstammbuchs, held at Schloss Wilhemshöhe, Kassel, from 23 October 2020 to 24 January 2021; the handsome catalogue published with the exhibition will allow visitors to expand on this and other discoveries.

Peter Fuhring

A Library from London Crosses the Channel

South of Islington, not far from the British Museum, lies the winding Clerkenwell Close. The small houses at the beginning of the street, the pubs and St James’ church give it the appearance of a village, in stark contrast to the industrial townscape that emerges further along. It is the kind of place where Oliver Twist might have picked his first pockets. This is also the charming corner of London where Christopher Mendez, the celebrated print dealer, lived until quite recently.

Christopher Mendez with his print by Esaias van de Velde, The Square Landscape, 1610

I had the good fortune to meet him there in October 2019, on the occasion of the gift of his reference library to the Fondation Custodia. As a lover of London, I was looking forward keenly to this trip, and I was not disappointed. From the moment you entered the house, historic prints of the area welcomed you along a corridor and up the narrow staircase that led to the main rooms. Upstairs, almost all the walls were adorned with prints from his collection, old masters responding to the contemporary Pannekoek. When I expressed the wish to photograph him for our newsletter, Mr Mendez insisted on posing with a print. He disappeared for a moment then came back with his copy of the rare etching of 1610 by Esaias van de Velde, The Square Landscape. This was shortly before he moved house, the moment when he was to separate himself from his books and present them to us.

Mendez played a role in the history of the Fondation Custodia. He explained how it came about in this message:

“I started my career as an independent print seller in 1965 and met Mr Lugt several times before he died in 1970. Carlos van Hasselt was his curator and we began a long and happy relationship. I was on the lookout for unusual and interesting prints and shared an affection for Dutch art and discovered many treasures for the collection. I occasionally also found rare chiaroscuro woodcuts and even bid on their behalf for some very important works from the Weld-Blundell collection at Christie’s.

Carlos and his colleague Mària van Berge introduced me to the work of Frans Lodewijk Pannekoek and I held an exhibition of his work here in London in 1976, a first for me of work by a living artist! When Carlos retired Mària took over the reins until she was succeeded by another good friend Ger Luijten who carries on the good work.

Earlier this year I donated my collection of Print Auction Catalogues to the Fondation Custodia and now, downsizing, have offered my Print Reference Library. It could not have found a better home!

Thanks Mr Lugt”

Christopher Mendez
October 2019

Thomas Wilson, A descriptive catalogue of the prints of Rembrandt, London, 1836

We received the books from this friend of the Fondation with great joy. They arrived via the Channel Tunnel in November 2019 in numerous boxes, representing about seventeen linear metres. The reference books on the history of the print have come to complete our collection in a precise and useful manner. Take, for example, the 1836 catalogue of the prints of Rembrandt by the English collector Thomas Wilson. ‘A well-known anonymous work’, in the words of Frits Lugt, we nevertheless did not own it, and we are delighted now to be able to give it a home.

Copies of prints by Jacques Callot in the catalogue of J. Lieure

The pleasure of cataloguing a private library is to be found in the discovery of the work of the person who created it. Manuscript notes, choice of subjects, habits. For example, Christopher Mendez has left in some of his books (as used to be the custom) copies of the prints that served as documentation. Our curators now integrate this type of works into the collection, describing them in our database, as they do for the original prints. A further task, but not an unpleasant one, is thus that of rummaging through each volume in search of any prints hidden between the pages.

Ex-libris of Christopher Mendez

In an exhibition catalogue devoted to Leonard Baskin, engraver, sculptor and collector, we found five hand-written letters sent to Christopher Mendez on the subject of the purchasing of prints. We already possessed a letter from Baskin and a print by Jan Fouceel, previously in the collection of this artist. This was therefore a worthwhile discovery for the Fondation. The hand-written notes by Christopher Mendez also add value to these books, who join those of James Byam Shaw, Carlos van Hasselt and Olivier Michel. In addition to the ex-libris which was already in Mendez’s books, we have marked this collection ‘Don Mendez’ (Mendez Gift) in our catalogue, which means that the books can be found with a simple search.

Thank you, Mr Mendez.

Cécile Raymond

Joachim Jacoby (1956-2020)

Fully unexpected our friend the eminent German art-historian Joachim Jacoby died much too young on 16 September.

Joachim in discussion with Catherine Monbeig-Goguel
Paris, 2015
Photo Philip Provily

I met Joachim when we were working together on the Hans von Aachen volume for The New Hollstein German series in the middle of the 1990’s and it has been a pleasure to know him. He worked with great dedication and took facts and data seriously. He catalogued the German paintings in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig, published about Hans von Aachen and Raphael and finished in 2008 the catalogue raisonné of the drawings of Adam Elsheimer. The Raphael drawings exhibition in Frankfurt of 2012 plus the colloquium organized at that occasion are memorable. In 2014 he was the author of the exhibition catalogue Raffael bis Tizian with the Italian renaissance drawings at the Städel Museum, a show we presented a year later at the Fondation Custodia with great success.

View of the exhibition Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo. Italian drawings from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt (1430-1600)
Fondation Custodia, 2015
Photo Philip Provily

Joachim had a special interest in the provenance and collecting history of drawings. A large group of drawings assembled by Johann Friedrich Städel (1728-1816) has the collector’s mark Lugt 3000, a mark that Lugt himself had not been able to bring home. After years of detective work, Joachim discovered that it was used by the Parisian drawings-dealer Guillaume Jean Constantin (1755-1816) and wrote a fascinating text about him with a lot of hitherto unknown information. His research brought him often to Paris to work in archives and libraries, which gave us opportunities to be together. The manuscript was published in 2018 as the first volume of Fondation Custodia Studies in the History of Art. This spring he organized an exhibition with a wonderful catalogue in Frankfurt: Städels Erbe. Meisterzeichnungen aus der Sammlung des Stifters in which the ideals of the enlightened collector to elevate the taste and the sense of beauty of a local audience were explained.

After the reopening of the Raphael exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome this summer Joachim visited four times studying the works in detail in order to write a well-funded review. He died at the end of the very day he had started a new project, the cataloguing of the Italian baroque drawings at the Städel. Being in his company was always a joy. He had a wonderful sense of humor – there was often an amused smile on his face – and great empathy. In the apps on my phone there are many questions about whether people we know are well. He will be missed by many colleagues and friends, but most deeply of all by Anette, his wife, and their children Moritz, Ruth and Louis.

Ger Luijten

Upcoming publication

Manet to Bracquemond: Unknown Letters to an Artist and a Friend

Jean-Paul Bouillon

This new edition publishes the letters addressed by Édouard Manet (1832–1883) to his friend, the artist Félix Bracquemond (1833–1914). The correspondence, for the most part unknown, surfaced at a sale in Paris in June 2016 and was acquired the next year by the Fondation Custodia with the generous help of Jean-Luc Baroni. It is edited here for the first time by Jean-Paul Bouillon, whose lifelong occupation with Bracquemond’s life and work has enabled him to situate the mostly undated letters accurately and discuss their contents in the context of both artist’s careers.

Bracquemond and Manet probably met around 1860, at a time when Manet was beginning to take an interest in the potential of printmaking for disseminating his work. Both were among the founders of the ‘Société des Aquafortistes’ in 1862 and in these years Manet must have relied heavily on Bracquemond, the outstanding engraver of his generation, for his first attempts in the technique.

Many of the letters attest to the frequent, at times almost daily, contacts between the two men, who met in Manet’s studio, at artist’s cafés like the café de Bade and the Guerbois, and at dinners with Manet, his wife and his mother. Others concern joint projects, such as the illustration of Émile Zola’s brochure issued at the occasion of Manet’s solo exhibition of 1867, or Manet’s ex-libris designed by Bracquemond in 1875. Their strong bond emerges perhaps most clearly from two longer letters in which Manet, writing from Arcachon – where, awaiting the end of the Commune, he tried to recover from the privations he suffered during the Siege of Paris in 1870 – poured his heart out to Bracquemond about the country’s political situation. Laconic in form as most of the letters are, the correspondence will certainly prove to be an important source for our knowledge of Manet’s life and dealings which, after more than a century of intense scholarship, still presents many a gap.

This book is published by Ad Ilissum, London, as the second volume in the series The Fondation Custodia Studies in the History of Art and will appear at the end of the year.