Issues of Provenance: National Gallery of Canada Shares its Research with the World
Ottawa, Canada - December 15, 2000
« Questions de provenance : Le Musée des beaux-arts du Canada partage le fruit de ses recherches avec le monde »
Questions were raised regarding the history of four paintings from the National Gallery of Canada's permanent collection in today's National Post. The story follows on the heels of a decision made by the National Gallery of Canada last week to post 106 works of art which have gaps in their histories, or provenance, from the years 1933 and 1945, the period when many works of art were stolen from Jewish families by the reigning Nazis. Of the paintings mentioned in today's article, one will be added to the Gallery's web site devoted to this subject, to be launched on Friday 29 December 2000 at national.gallery.ca.
There is no evidence to indicate that any of works from the National Gallery of Canada's collection have ever been stolen. Gaps in the history of paintings is common in private and public collections across the world. Throughout the course of time, objects move without a paper trail, official documents are lost or destroyed by fire, works are given as gifts without a written record. Research into the permanent collections is a core function of the National Gallery of Canada's curatorial staff, a practice that is subject to constant revisions.
There are 4 works of art mentioned in today's National Post: J.M.W. Turner, Mercury and Argus, c. 1836; Quentin Matsys, The Lamentation, after 1511; Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Abraham and the Three Angels, c. 1670-74; Italian, 17th C., Augustus and Cleopatra, c. 1600-1699; and Jusepe Leonardo, St. John the Baptist, c. 1635-40. Of these four works, only the Leonardo will be added to the web site in December 2000.
There are no gaps in the provenance of the Turner. This work was in England from the time it was created. Since 1887, it was in Canada, in the collection of the Lords Strathcona, who eventually moved to London, England. The National Gallery purchased it from the 3rd Baron Strathcona.
The Murillo's records are complete; there are no gaps in its provenance. Indeed, it once belonged to the maternal family of the founder of the National Gallery of Canada, the Marques of Lorne, Governor General of Canada.
Our records indicate that the painting by an unknown artist, Augustus and Cleopatra, was in England since c. 1870. Although the Gallery has many questions about this painting - for instance, there is no general agreement about either the subject or the painter - there is no reason to believe that it was ever illegally acquired by any of its owners. In the future, as the National Gallery of Canada builds on its web site, information on this painting will be posted online to help us find the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Records for the Leonardo indicate that the painting belonged to Count Pedro Daupias, Lisbon, Portugal and that it was sold to a private gallery in Paris in 1892. There is a gap between this sale and another to a private collector in England. In light of the fact that the Gallery cannot adequately pinpoint where the work was from 1933 to the time it was acquired by the National Gallery in1937, the painting will be added to the list of works online in December 2000. It is important to note that this work has been published in annual reports, collection catalogues and other scholarly publications and that the Gallery has no reason to believe it was looted during the Spanish Civil War.
The National Gallery of Canada is committed to the guidelines instituted by the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization and the American Association of Art Museum Directors to make its collection of works with questionable provenance accessible to a worldwide audience via the Internet. It is currently concentrating on the years 1933 to 1945. Reproductions of all works of art in question will be posted on the site along with a full description of all known provenances from the time the works were created to the time they were acquired by the National Gallery of Canada.
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