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16: Jun17


The limits of connoisseurship

Valérie Kobi (Bielefeld University), ‘The limits of connoisseurship. Attribution issues and mistakes. An introduction’ 16/VK1

Abstract: Recent publications and conferences dedicated to connoisseurship have unanimously recognized the need to situate this practice within the context of its sociocultural conditions. One ought to view the connoisseur’s attribution as the final affirmation of a long and manifold procedure. This approach requires not only an investigation of the practical knowledge that informs the act of attribution but also a consideration of the network in which the judgment takes place, as well as its artistic, political and conceptual stakes. With this perspective in mind, the issue focuses its attention on a central yet often forgotten aspect of artistic expertise: mistaken attributions. Examination of these inaccurate assessments allows for a better understanding of the cultural and intellectual contexts in which they occurred and reveals the multiple discrepancies between connoisseurial theory and its practical application. By analyzing a few case studies situated at the limits of connoisseurship – whether they be prints, sculptures or paintings – the various articles question the operations that guide the (re)attribution of artworks and the theoretical or practical tensions generated by this process.

Keywords: connoisseurship, mistake, art historiography, authorship, provenance research

David Pullins (The Frick Collection), ‘The individual’s triumph: the eighteenth-century consolidation of authorship and art historiography’ 16/DP1

Abstract: The eighteenth-century consolidation of authorial identity – apparent in Salon livrets, art criticism, sales catalogs, inventories, the theoretical development of maniera, signing and hanging practices – was crucial to subsequent, nineteenth-century Romantic notions of what constituted individual authorship and to the kinds of eighteenth-century painting that were eventually written into or out of art history. Situating eighteenth-century paintings and drawings executed by multiple hands in a longue durée between workshop and court artisan practices on one hand and nineteenth-century singularity on the other, this article recovers an alternate thread of authorial identity. Having failed to find a place in art historiography as it developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, these examples in fact find sympathetic counterparts in late twentieth-century theories of the author function.  Reconsidering both these multi-authored works and writing about them helps to clarify the historical specificity with which we conceive of the relationship between object and maker.

Key words: authorship, multi-authored Works, art historiography, Eighteenth-century paintings, Eighteenth-century drawings, connoisseurship, provenance research

Catherine B. Scallen (Case Western Reserve University), ‘Do mistakes always matter? Jakob Rosenberg’s Rembrandt Life and Work16/CBS1

Abstract: Two generations of readers in the United States, art historians, students, and the general public, gained appreciation of Rembrandt’s art and knowledge of his life from Jakob Rosenberg’s monograph Rembrandt. Life and Work. First published in 1948, and appearing in subsequent editions in the 1960s and 1980s, it can still arouse admiration in the reader for Rosenberg’s sensitive understanding of Rembrandt as an artist and man. Yet Rosenberg’s conception of the artist as presented in this monograph is based on many works, particularly paintings, that are no longer considered the work of Rembrandt—and in some cases, not even viewed as workshop production. The question is: do these attribution errors matter?  In this article, I explore the question of whether individual connoisseurship decisions—and the cumulative weight of many mistakes—invalidate a larger conceptual presentation of Rembrandt.

Key words: Jakob Rosenberg, Rembrandt, connoisseurship, mistakes, provenance research

Noa Turel (The University of Alabama at Birmingham), ‘Genius disrobed: the Early Netherlandish underdrawing craze and the end of a connoisseurship era’ 16/NT1

Abstract: Over the 1970s, connoisseurship attained an implausible revival in the study of Early Netherlandish painting. Long overshadowed by iconographic studies, traditional inquiries into attribution and quality received a boost from an unexpected source: technology. Improvements in infrared imaging led to almost unfettered access to the underdrawing of these important paintings, affording insight into artistic process that would have made historic connoisseurs salivate. Drawing, after all, has long transcended its fifteenth-century roots as utilitarian tool to become tangible testament to genius. The inundation of drawing data in recent decades held up to its promise of shedding significant new light on Early Netherlandish painting, but not at all the light originally sought. Rather than individual genius, these studies time and again revealed an industry at work. Coinciding with the advent of New Art History, technologized connoisseurship, often perceived as methodologically regressive, ironically wound up figuratively, rather than merely literally, disrobing genius.

Key words: Early Netherlandish painting, connoisseurship, technology, infrared imaging, drawing, genius

Joris Corin Heyder (Bielefeld University), ‘Same, similar, semblable – languages of connoisseurship’ 16/JCH1

Abstract: To speak about “languages of connoisseurship” could be misleading or even wrong: connoisseurship can neither be exhaustively defined in terms of a certain methodology, as for instance the history of style and form or Giovanni Morelli’s approach, nor is it limited to a certain text genre or even a genuine language. However, clauses that suggest clarity and a certain resemblance are characteristic for more or less all connoisseurial texts, a simple observation that is nevertheless worth paying more attention to. Starting from methodological statements by two of the most influential connoisseurs in art history—Bernard Berenson and Max J. Friedländer—, I examine the entanglement of connoisseurship and linguistic customs: epistemic canonization, delimination, quantification and the paradigm of resemblance still rank among the common textual instruments to built a connoisseurial argument. My hypothesis is that these uncritical practiced linguistic habits are a principle weakness of connoisseurship that make it vulnerable to failures. By spotlighting the famous Hubert-and-Jan-van-Eyck-dispute, I am finally trying to show that in more than one dimension the 200 years old connoisseurial debate around the altar piece is intertwined, even trapped in a textual dimension.

Key words: connoisseurship, semantics, art historiography, Bernard Berenson, Max J. Friedländer, Hubert van Eyck, Jan van Eyck

Stefano Pierguidi (La Sapienza in Rome), ‘Che si conoscono al suo già detto segno: Vasari’s connoisseurship in the field of engravings’ 16/SP1

Abstract: In order to identify the paternity of Cinquecento engravings Vasari did not have sufficient critical tools in the absence of monograms or inscriptions. It was the “sign” (segno), the only element that allowed him to recognize the hand of an engraver. However, when those “signs” did not help him sufficiently, Vasari also sometimes suggested attributions based on the authorship of the inventions. In some of these cases he succeeded, probably only thanks to his eye and his knowledge of style, to identify the author of the inventions but, in other cases, he was misled by what his knowledge, without being able to judge those prints only by their style. The article intends to analyse this dynamic and to understand the operations at the origins of attribution’s mistakes.

Key words: Giorgio Vasari, connoisseurship, engravings, cinquecento, art historiography

Sharon Hecker (Independent), ‘The afterlife of sculptures: posthumous casts and the case of Medardo Rosso (1858–1928)’ 16/SH1

Abstract: A significant number of sculptures once attributed to Medardo Rosso have recently been reassigned to his son, Francesco. These objects represent a curious hybrid: Francesco, who was not an artist and was unaware of his father’s idiosyncratic processes, had these works cast by a professional foundry from Medardo’s plaster models after his death. He then sold them to collectors and museums as works by Medardo. Today, these casts, whose difference is only evident to the connoisseur, occupy an uncomfortable position within the artist’s œuvre and legacy. They generate material, aesthetic, legal, economic and philosophical questions about their identity, leading to broader issues concerning posthumous casts. Unlike Rodin, who authorized posthumous casting limited to the French State, or Degas, whose sculptures were cast posthumously without his consent, Rosso’s position on posthumous casting was contradictory, as was his heirs’ approach. A Catalogue raisonné has recently separated the casts by Medardo from those by Francesco, thereby implicitly devaluing the latter. Institutions, collectors, and dealers remain unsure whether to exhibit the posthumous works and if so, how to label them. What constitutes an “authentic” Rosso and what is the value of the posthumous cast?

Key words: Medardo Rosso, Francesco Rosso, connoisseurship, provenance research, art market, artist’s œuvre, catalogue raisonné

Pamella Guerdat (Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris and Neuchâtel University), ‘Through the appraisal process: René Gimpel (1881-1945) and Nicolas Poussin’s Self-Portrait, from rediscovery to de-attribution’ 16/PG1 Link to images

Abstract : In 1937, René Gimpel (1881–1945) organized a monographic exhibition in order to make public his recent acquisition: a Self-Portrait by Nicolas Poussin. Certified in the French artist’s correspondence, this painting is considered as the 1649 version dedicated to his patron Jean Pointel. It precedes the famous Self-Portrait at the Musée du Louvre executed in 1650 for Paul Fréart de Chantelou. The Gimpel Self-Portrait becomes the object of various publications and exhibitions, which affect its perception. In the 1950–1960s, its status of authentic masterpiece is gradually put into question. The reappearance of the Berlin’s version, nowadays regarded as the original, will lead its de-attribution. By means of a ‘regressive approach’, this contribution aims at bringing into light the historiographical views and the mechanisms at work in the contrasting appraisal of the Pointel Self-Portrait replica, updated by René Gimpel.

Key words : René Gimpel, Gimpel Fils Gallery, Nicolas Poussin, art market, connoisseurship, provenance research

Peter-David Friedrich (University of Bielefeld and Graduate School of the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), ‘Determining the value of connoisseurship – an art of lasting topicality’, review of Copy.Right – Adam von Bartsch – Kunst, Kommerz, Kennerschaft, edited by Stephan Brakensiek, Anette Michels, and Anne-Katrin Sors, Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2016 16/P-DF1

Abstract: Copy.Right – Adam von Bartsch – Kunst, Kommerz, Kennerschaft published by Stephan Brakensiek, Anette Michels, and Anne-Katrin Sors promises to open up fresh perspectives on the art, commerce and connoisseurship in 1800 – and appeared to coincide with the exhibition Copy.Right – Adam von Bartsch (1757-1821). The publication also functions as an exhibition catalogue and represents the result of cooperation between working groups comprising students and curators of the graphic collections of the art historical institutions of the universities of Göttingen, Trier and Tübingen. The catalogue provides a comprehensive insight into the history and methodology of connoisseurship, especially into the oeuvre of Adam von Bartsch as well as contains information about its potential impact on the art market and demonstrates developments in connoisseurial practice.

Key words: Adam von Bartsch, connoisseurship, art, commerce, Göttingen

Portuguese art historiography

Edward J. Sullivan (New York University), ‘Portuguese art history: a view from North America’ 16/EJS1

Abstract: This essay is a four part series of comments on art history in the United States and Canada devoted to the Portuguese Renaissance and Early Modern periods. It examines the relative lack of emphasis on this subject by scholars of Iberian art whose principal focus has been on Spain. Some noteworthy exceptions are signaled, especially the outstanding contributions of Robert C. Smith in the areas of Portuguese (and Brazilian) painting, sculpture and architecture and that of George Kubler in the study of the so-called “Plain Style” of building. The work of more recent scholars is also discussed. The essay evaluates recent exhibitions that have featured Portuguese art and ends with a consideration of the particular meaning of the term “Baroque” within a Portuguese context, focusing on the achievements of the female artist Josefa de Ayala (1630-1684, also known as Josefa de Óbidos), the only Portuguese painter of the period to have had a one-artist exhibition in the United States.

Key words: Portuguese art, Renaissance and Early Modern, scholarship, Portuguese art, U.S. and Canada, exhibitions, Josefa de Ayala (Josefa de Óbidos), Baroque in Portugal, Robert C. Smith, George Kubler

Foteini Vlachou (Instituto de História Contemporânea, Lisbon), ‘The discourse on utility: art theory in eighteenth-century Portugal’ 16/FV1

Abstract: This article examines the production of art theory in Portugal from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, in order to demonstrate the dominant theoretical strands centering around the utility of drawing and the arts, their practical applicability in various commercial sectors, and their importance in the contribution towards the enhancement of the nation’s industry and manufactures. It also proposes to show how these features constituted a hegemonic feature both of artistic education and theoretical discourse, and that the insistence on usefulness was intimately linked to priorities and concerns of contemporary Portuguese society. These ultimately shaped the active reception of theories and styles from various geographic areas, with a durable link to British artistic theory and notions of public utility of the arts.

Keywords: Portuguese artistic theory, utility of drawing, artistic education, arts and commerce

General papers

Vlad Ionescu (Faculty of Architecture and Arts, Hasselt University), ‘On moths and butterflies, or how to orient oneself through images. Georges-Didi Huberman’s art criticism in context’ 16/VI1

Abstract: The essay discusses the motif of the butterfly and other Lepidoptera that Georges Didi-Huberman occasionally addressed in the two volumes of Essais sur l’apparition, Phasmes (1998) and Phalènes (2013). The hypothesis is that this motif can be viewed as a figural model of conceiving two essential elements of all art history, namely the nature of the image and its temporality. The fluttering butterfly becomes an occasion to explain Didi-Huberman’s art history by relating its fundamental dimensions to other key figures with which he is implicitly or explicitly in dialogue: Aloïs Riegl, Franz Wickhoff or Aby Warburg. Whereas the content of their specific art histories differs, they all resist the canonical conception of the image as an entity whose place and ‘immanent sense’ is fixed in a diachronic narrative. Alternatively, they develop an art historical prototype where the image is thought of as an essentially relational entity whose latency of sense emerges when it is dialectically superposed to other images. Art history does not function as the stable chronological juxtaposition of artefacts but as the extraction of a virtual sense through the anachronistic superposition of images kept in movement. When the diachronic arrangement of primary sources whose sense depends on the world where they emerged fails, art history interiorizes a speculative epistemology where sense is equivalent to an associative force of images. Reading Didi-Huberman nowadays confronts the art historiographer with a fundamental epistemological question: what is the structure of the interpretative process presupposed in all story of art? An earlier version of this essay has been published in the Romanian journal Images, Imagini, Images 5/2016.

Key words: art historiography, image analysis, aesthetics, Aby Warburg, Aloïs Riegl, Franz Wickhoff, apparitions, appearance, visual sense, phenomenology

Eva Kernbauer (University of Applied Arts, Vienna), ‘Anachronic concepts, art historical containers and historiographical practices in contemporary art’ 16/EK1

Abstract: This paper examines the historiographical potential of contemporary art, asking how artworks have been envisaged to challenge, shape and undermine art historical models and how their contribution has been taken into view by theorists. Working through art historiographical models from Kubler to Panofsky and Benjamin, it reconsiders some aspects of the contested relationship between art and art history. It proposes a reconsideration of the ‘anachronic’ as a much discussed term in recent art theory, where, arguably, artistic and art historiographical interests intersect, and concludes with an examination of how art theory may do justice to the recent ‘historiographical turn’ in contemporary art beyond the conventional divide between ‘those who write and those who make art’.

Key words: anachronic, historiographical turn, Kubler, Panofsky, Benjamin


Ingrid R. Vermeulen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), ‘Pierre-Jean Mariette, enlightened art connoisseur and scholar of art history’, Mariette and the Science of the Connoisseur in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Kristel Smentek, Farnham: Ashgate, 2014 16/IRV1

Abstract: In her book Smentek brings back to life the rich scope of economic and scholarly activities and social ambitions employed by the art dealer and collector of European renown, Jean-Pierre Mariette (1694-1774). By concentrating on the various artistic media in which he was primarily involved, she each time singles out an aspect of Mariette’s expertise. Economic and social shrewdness in the case of printmaking, the very core of his art connoisseurship in the case of drawing, and his art-historical scholarship in the case of gem engraving. In spite of the diverse connections she here creates between artistic medium and expertise, Smentek makes abundantly clear that the scientific method of art connoisseurship was underlying the employment of all these artistic media, which favoured empirical analysis in the historical understanding of art. She thereby makes a highly convincing case of the ways in which Mariette’s practices changed the terms in which the artistic past was scrutinized. On this basis it seems only logical to further research the impact of Mariette’s practices on art-scholarly projects initiated elsewhere in Europe and the ways it contributed to the emergence of art history as a modern discipline.

Keywords: Mariette, connoisseurship, collecting, prints and drawings, dealing, art scholarship

Arnold Witte (University of Amsterdam and Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome), ‘Occupied Europe and German art historiography: methodology and morals’, Kunstgeschichte in den besetzten Gebieten 1939-1945, edited by Magdalena Bushart, Agnieszka Gasior and Alena Janatkova. Cologne/Weimar/Vienna: Böhlau, 2016 16/AW1

Abstract: The art historiography of the period of German National-Socialism has made significant methodological progress in the last two decades, and the present volume widens the geographical scope to include the territories occupied between 1939 and 1945 by the German army. How did art historians in these countries respond to the expectations and demands of these new authorities? A range of studies on Czech, Polish, Dutch, Belgian and Lithuanian academics shows how they were either lured into cooperation with the Germans on the basis of ‘Aryan’ concepts of art and culture, or ostracized when not considered part of the German race. A range of other essays on German art historians show how they were actively involved in propaganda activities in occupied countries. Notwithstanding its geographical bias towards eastern Europe, this volume shows how important this exchange was for the course of the discipline in various regions, and that using archival research is a sine-qua-non for the study of art historiography in times of regime change.

Keywords: Nazi Germany, occupied Europe, Ostforschung (in art history), Dagobert Frey, Wilhelm Pinder, Mikalojus Vorobjovas, Andreas Lindblom


Matthew Rampley (University of Birmingham), Report on Rudolf von Eitelberger: Netzwerker der Kunstgeschichte. Conference held for the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Rudolf Eitelberger (1817-1885). Museum of Applied Art, Vienna, 27-29 April 2017. Link to conference website. 16/MR1

Abstract: Rudolf von Eitelberger: Netzwerker der Kunstgeschichte was an important first step in gathering together the diverse array of projects that, different ways, refer to or focus on Eitelberger. Nevertheless, as with the best gatherings of this kind, it also highlighted how much more work there is to be done.

Key words: Eitelberger, Liberalism, design, museum, Hungary, network, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, policy



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