Just over twelve months ago I posted a short article on a painting held in a private collection. The owner describes his painting as ‘A unique, mysterious, unrecognised, unidentified painting’. The owner has a dedicated website (a link is in the footnote)[i] in the hope that someone will identify the subject matter, artistic attribution and provenance.
I was approached for my opinion and examined the painting in situ, spending weeks analysing and researching this image. I thought you might like to know my conclusions.
First of all I would like to thank the historians Professor Susan Doran and Dr Josephine Wilkinson, and art historians Professor Stijn Bussels, author of the book Spectacle, Rhetoric and Power: The Triumphal Entry of Prince Philip of Spain into Antwerp, and Professor Manfred Sellink, the leading expert on the work of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and other 16th century Flemish artists, for taking the time to consider my analysis and for the extremely helpful and enlightening observations regarding possible authorship and subject matter. I am eternally grateful for their help and advice.
My research included having access to the scientific report undertaken by the company Tager Stonor & Richardson. What is apparent from their examination using X-ray and infra-red reflectography, is that the painting is original, demonstrated by the number of changes visible in the underdrawing. In addition, the X-ray analysis shows a clear join down the middle of the panel showing that, at some point, the panel has been split and a scene excised, with the resulting halves joined resulting in the visible central, rather fat, column. The Courtauld Institute have also looked at the central column and confirmed TSR’s findings. There is a clear disparity seen between the two horizons of the distant landscape scenes depicated within the two arches, which supports the scientific evidence .
I have concluded this image has never been an altarpiece, as stated on the website, nor was it a hinged diptych or triptych, but always a single panel. Just as to who commissioned or painted it remains a mystery. One of my thoughts as to patronage was that it was commissioned by Cardinal Antoine Perronet de Granvelle, secretary of state first to Charles V and then Philip II of Spain. A considerable amount of time and money could be spent researching of the extensive records of the de Granvelle family kept at the municipal archives at Besançon.
Regarding authorship, my heartfelt thanks to Professors Sellink and Bussels for their patience and observations regarding attribution, which have led me to conclude that the image will remain the work of the artist, Anonymous.
What the missing scene represented is open to speculation. My theory that the painting now represents The 1549 Joyous Entry of Prince Philip of Spain into the city of Antwerp has not been disputed.
For transparency, I undertook this analysis pro bono. Anyone considering submitting their thoughts about authorship, content and provenance in the hope of claiming the reward, should take into consideration that the website has a notable lack clarity as to who will be the judge of their ideas. In the absence of such clarity, it has to be assumed the owner, who is merely an avid collector, will be the final arbiter of whether or not your ideas have any merit.
Here is the pfd file to download for those interested in reading my full analysis of what is a truly extraodinary panel painting. It is a shame it is not in a museum as it is worthy of further serious academic examination.
© Melanie V Taylor 2020.