The Future of Flaxman’s Adoration of the Magi?

Posted in Art Market by Editor on January 6, 2015

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John Flaxman, The Adoration of the Magi,
marble, 9 x 17 inches (228 by 430 mm), ca. 1792–94

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Press release (6 November 2014) from the Arts Council of England:

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a marble relief by John Flaxman, the renowned sculptor who in his youth served as a modeller for Josiah Wedgwood. The sculpture depicts the Adoration of the Magi: the three kings kneeling before the seated Virgin and Child. It will be exported overseas unless money can be found to match the asking price of £800,000.

The rectangular marble slab, carved in low relief, depicts the Virgin seated on the ground holding the Christ child on her lap. Before them kneel the three Magi. The relief panel, of exceptional quality, has been attributed to the renowned British artist John Flaxman. The composition closely corresponds with a slightly larger plaster version by the artist at Sir John Soane’s Museum, as well as two pen, ink and wash drawings, one of which is currently at the British Museum. This remarkable sculpture seems extraordinarily modern, doubtless because of the relative lack of surface ornament, and the simplicity and purity of its composition. It also presents an unusual subject within Flaxman’s oeuvre, in that it is neither a portrait nor a mythological composition, but taken from the New Testament.

The Minister has deferred granting an export licence for the piece following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, (RCEWA) administered by Arts Council England. The Committee made their recommendation on the grounds that the marble relief is of outstanding significance for the study of neo-classical sculpture and Flaxman’s role within its development.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “John Flaxman was one of the most influential British artists of the early nineteenth century, who worked for Josiah Wedgwood and was held in esteem around the world. This piece is a wonderful example of English neo-classical sculpture and I sincerely hope that efforts can be made to raise funds for a matching offer to keep the painting in the UK.”

Chairman of the RCEWA Sir Hayden Phillips said: “I am sure that many people will find, as I do, that this superbly crafted relief is of such direct and simple beauty that it offers its viewer a scene of compelling charm.”

The decision on the export licence application for the marble relief will be deferred for a period ending at midnight on 5 February 2015. This period may be extended until 5 May 2015 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the piece is made at the recommended price of £800,000.

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Note: The relief was exhibited in connection with the display Gainsborough and the Landscape of Refinement (Lowell Libson at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, 24 January — 1 February 2014).

Exhibition | Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 6, 2015

Press release (29 October 2014) from the NPG:

Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions
National Portrait Gallery, London, 12 March — 7 June 2015

Curated by Paul Cox with Lucy Peltz


Sir Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, 1815–16. (London: Wellington Collection, Apsley House, English Heritage).

The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington will open at the National Portrait Gallery, to mark the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015. Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions will explore not only the political and military career of the victor of this great battle—but also his personal life through portraits of his family and friends.

Highlights include Goya’s portrait of Wellington started in 1812 after his entry into Madrid and later modified twice to recognise further battle honours and awards; and from Wellington’s London home, Apsley House, Thomas Lawrence’s famous 1815 portrait painted in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo. This iconic military image of Wellington was used as the basis of the design of the British five pound note from 1971 to 1991.

Drawn from museums and private collections including that of the present Duke of Wellington, the exhibition of 59 portraits and other art works has the support of the Marquess of Douro, and includes rarely-seen loans from the family including a portrait by John Hoppner of the Duke as a youthful soldier and a daguerreotype portrait by Antoine Claudet, in the new medium of photography, taken on Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844. The family has also loaned Thomas Lawrence’s beautiful drawing of Wellington’s wife, Kitty (née Pakenham).

The real experience of soldiers fighting in Wellington’s armies will be explored through eyewitness accounts, including prints based on sketches by serving soldiers and the illustrated diary of a young officer, Edmund Wheatley written, in a lively style, with the intention of it being read by his sweetheart.

Francisco de Goya, Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, 1812–14 (London: The National Gallery).

Francisco de Goya, Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, 1812–14 (London: The National Gallery).

Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions considers the attempts of the art world to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s military successes. Commemorative objects on display will range from royal commissions by Europe’s foremost artists and manufacturers to more modest souvenirs aimed at the domestic market.  Wellington’s eventful and often difficult political career will be illustrated by examples of the many satirical prints published in the 1820s and 1830s and the exhibition will also examine the reappraisal of Wellington’s life that took place at his death and on the occasion of his lavish state funeral.

The Duke of Wellington’s long life (1769–1852) spanned the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most famous for his victory over Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, he later entered politics, serving twice as Prime Minister. Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions will explore the role of visual culture in creating the hero, the legacy of heroism and the role of the portrait in Wellington’s own public and personal self-representation.

Curated by Paul Cox, Associate Curator, National Portrait Gallery, with close support from Dr Lucy Peltz, Curator of Eighteenth-Century Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, this biographical exhibition will use portraits and objects to explore Wellington’s military career and his sometimes controversial political and personal life.

Paul Cox, Associate Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “The Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo is well known. This exhibition provides the opportunity to examine less familiar aspects of his life, including the long political career during which he saw through important forward-looking legislation, but suffered a dramatic loss of popularity. I hope that visitors to the exhibition will gain a fuller picture of Wellington as a man, rather than simply as a hero.”

The exhibition is part of the Battle of Waterloo 200th Anniversary Commemorations, the national partnership of commemorative events.

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Paul Cox, with a foreword by William Hague, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions (London: National Portrait Gallery, 2015), 128 pages, ISBN: 978-1855144996, £15.

This new book about the 1st Duke of Wellington provides a novel take on the traditional biography in that it explores the life of this complex man through portraits of Wellington himself, his friends, family and associates, as well as his political and military allies and opponents. There are examples of painted portraits by Goya and Thomas Lawrence, several caricatures that illustrate Wellingtons political career, and a watercolour by George Chinnery that shows the future duke as a young Major-General at the Chepauk Palace, Madras being received by Azim al-Daula, Nawab of the Carnatic, in February 1805. Also reproduced is a rare photograph, a Daguerreotype, made by Antoine Claudet on the occasion of Wellingtons seventy-fifth birthday in 1844, and sections of a sixty-six-foot roll from the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery depicting his entire funeral procession. Paul Cox explores Wellingtons military career and the battle of Waterloo, which remain central to his story, but also examines his personal relationships, his legacy and his enduring place in the popular imagination. Finally, a narrative chronology presents a useful overview of Wellingtons life and times.

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