Thursday, August 01, 2019

A gem of an art collection and maybe a Titian?

This morning I went to see a painting and found an extremely impressive art collection as well.  You can see both at Apsley House and the permanent collection - like those at the Wallace Collection and the Courtauld - is an absolute gem.

A painting from the Titian Workshop

The painting is called Orpheus enchanting the animals. It celebrates the civilizing power of music and its capacity to create peace. English Heritage have been working on its conservation for the last 18 months - and they are now confident of attributing the painting to the workshop of Titian (1490-1576).

Orpheus Enchanting the Animals AFTER TREATMENT
(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House
The ancient Greek god and poet Orpheus is seen charming the animals by playing the a Lira di Bracchia which was a four stringed instrument popular in the 1560’s in Venice when the painting was made. His music has united the Lion and the Unicorn who are traditional foes.

There are a lot of animals in the painting - everything from iguanas and turtle doves to dragons, dogs and tortoises!

Orpheus hanging on the wall of the Waterloo Gallery

In 2018 the decision was made to conserve Orpheus Enchanting the Animals. The conservation involved:
  • removal of the old, yellowed varnish with swabs dipped in solvent mixtures. 
  • a specialist liner relined the painting as the old lining canvas was failing. 
  • old damages filled with chalk putty and retouched with easily removable, synthetic pigments which will not discolour like oil paint does
  • finally the painting was revarnished. 
Conservator Alice Tate-Harte restores 'Orpheus Enchanting the Animals'  
Working on the Conservation
(English Heritage | Apsley House)
The quality of the figure can now clearly be seen as the removal of dirty varnish revealed some subtlety in the shading and modelling of the figure.

New art historical research also found
  • An old inventory number was discovered on the back which linked it to the Spanish Royal Collection. This placed the painting in the Duke of Infantado’s collection in Spain from 1601 (meaning that its previous attribution to an artist called Padovanino is now unsustainable since he was only 13 when this was written!)
  • infrared examination of the work revealed an underdrawing - but also pentimento (significant changes between the underdrawing and the final painting). 
Some experts now believe that, at the very least, the figure and the red cloth are of sufficient quality to be painted by Titian himself.
The question of attribution is so tricky but by looking at technical and historical evidence we were able to pin it down at least to Titian’s workshop, although the process in Titian’s studio was very collaborative and Titian may well have done some of the underpainting or added some finishing touches. It is now over to connoisseurs of Titian to decide. Alice Tate-Harte, Fine Art Conservator, English Heritage 

The Apsley House Collection

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND art fans visit the art collection hung on the walls of this very prominent house. I had no idea that Apsley House has what is called the "the Spanish Gift".

These are 82 paintings which were removed from the Spanish Royal Collection by Napoleon and then rescued from Napoleon by the Duke of Wellington who tried to return them to the Spanish King.

King Ferdinand VII however considered that the Duke of Wellington had rescued Spain from the imperial ambitions of Napoleon and he was gifted the paintings - which became known as "The Spanish Gift".  They now form the core of the permanent art collection of Apsley House

This important collection of fine art, includes paintings by Velazquez, Goya, Titian, Rubens, Brueghel, Jan Steen, Sir Thomas Lawrence alongside an absolutely outstanding display of porcelain and silver (I thought it more posh than Buckingham Palace!). 

I came away with the impression of a house which has an outstanding art collection.

The Waterseller of Seville by Diego Velaquez
Entering the Ark by Jan Brueghel the Elder
Danae by Diego Velaquez

See Wellington's Titians revealed to be the real deal which talks about the conservation work done on this painting which proved that this is the painting which Velaquez sold direct to the Spanish King Philip II.

Apsley House

Apsley House is located at Hyde Park corner was purchased in 1817 by the 1st Duke of Wellington after his victory at Waterloo. 

As the victor of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, he had been voted £700,000 by Parliament to build a new ‘Waterloo Palace’. Instead of embarking on a new building, however, he submitted an anonymous bid to buy Apsley House (from his elder brother) for £40,000 to help resolve his brother’s financial difficulties.

The house became known as ‘Number 1 London’ although more conventionally it's located 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London, W1J 7NT. It is open Wednesday-Sunday from April until 22 December.

You can read more about on the Apsley House website about