253: A dealer to avoid / world's best-selling artist? / Botticelli turns up just when needed (Friday, 12 March 2004)

Perhaps think before you buy from this man...

Paul Gauguin, Vase de fleurs , 1896. Image held here

This is an old story,dating back to May 2000, with a new twist. In May 2000 Sotheby's and Christie's were offering at auction the same Gauguin's Vase de fleurs. Of course, one of the pictures was a fake, the Christie's one. Sotheby's kept auctioning the genuine painting, which made Ely Sakhai, a Manhattan gallery owner, $310,000 .

Since then, Sakhai has become the centre of investigations into the selling of masterpieces. Last Tuesday Sakhai was arrested (then released) with the accusation of managing an art-orgery racket. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sakhai would buy original paintings, duplicate them and then sell the duplicates to wealthy art dealers using the paintings' official documentation. After that, Sakhai would auction the original through auction houses.

In particular Sakhai is accused of selling a forgery of Monet's Le Mont Kolsas to two dealers for $650,000. When they discovered the truth, Sakhai offered them nine other canvases, not only by Monet but by Renoir and Cézanne too. The problem was that they were as fake as the previous one. In the end, the two dealers received an original painting by Chagall, Le Roi David dDans le paysage vert. They probably didn't know that a forgery of that Chagall had already been sold by Sakhai a few years earlier...

Marc Chagall, Le Roi David dans le paysage vert, 1975. Image held here

Source CNN and Financial Times

Pretty-unknown Vallotton

Annie Vallotton: Job rails against the Lord's injustice . Image held here

Who is Annie Vallotton? According to the publisher HarperCollins, she is the world's best-selling artist (!).

How so? Vallotton is a Swiss artist who draws illustrations for religious books, as for example the Good News Bible . The Good News Bible has sold 140 million copies worldwide. This means that Vallotton herself has sold a world record 70 billion pictures (500 per copy).

Annie Vallotton: Crowds greet Jesus on Palm Sunday . Image held here

Her style is very simple, but particularly effective. More effective, as BBC online news writer Stephen Tomkins said, than two hours of Mel Gibson's blood-spattered film, The Passion of the Christ. This is a reference to one of Vallotton's most memorable images, the crucifixion in Luke's gospel (below).

Annie Vallotton, The Crucifixion, Luke's gospel . Image held here

It's another case - see our reports on Jack Vettriano here and here - that the best-selling artists are not those you'd readily put a name to.

Source BBC

The Botticcelli round the corner

Many believed it was in a private collection in the US, others were still looking for it... In any event, the fourth panel of Botticelli's masterpiece The story of Nastagio degli Onesti was simply a quarter of a mile away from the Palazzo Strozzi.

Botticelli, La Storia di Nastagio degli Onesti, fourth panel (The Wedding Banquet), Puccii private collection, Florence. Image held here

Palazzo Strozzi is where an impressive exhibition of Botticelli's works will take place from tomorrow until 11 July. Botticelli's canvases, sixty in all (in Paris there were only seventeen; click here to read more), will be on display together with works by Filippino, Botticelli's apprentice and then artistic maestro himself.

The exhibition is full of 'unseen' paintings or works that have been missing from Italy for decades. The centerpiece is undoubtedly the fourth panel of The story of Nastagio degli Onesti.

This work, dating from 1483, was commissioned by Lorenzo il Magnifico on the occasion of the wedding of his nephew, Giannozzo Pucci. The story depicted is part of Boccaccio's Decameron and it tells how the young Nastagio from Ravenna was able to persuade his beloved to marry him. Botticelli painted it in four panels: three of them have been in Madrid's Prado Museum since 1941, the fourth one, as already said, was believed until a short time ago to be in the US.

Botticelli, La storia di Nastagio degli Onesti , first panel (The Encounter with the Damned in the Pine Forest), Prado, Madrid. Image held here

Botticelli, La storia di Nastagio degli Onesti , second panel (The Infernal Hunt), Prado, Madrid. Image held here

But the truth is that the 'lost' panel was still in the hands of one of Lorenzo's descendants, Cristina Pucci. The Pucci family didn't seem to be interested in lending the precious panel for the exhibition. But a month ago, as the Guardian reports, after the publication of an article criticizing the Puccis attitude, they changed their minds.

However, this is not the only case of reluctance. The National Gallery in London, for example, has lent Botticelli's Mystical Nativity only on condition that it was insured for a record sum of £35m.

Botticelli, Mystical Nativity , 1500, National Gallery, London. Image held here

And the Prado has accepted to lend the third panel only. There are still negotiations trying to obtain the first two panels .

Botticelli, La storia di Nastagio degli Onesti , third panel (The Banquet in the Pine Forest), Prado, Madrid. Image held here

An exhibition not to be missed, even if some bits are missing!

Source The Guardian and La Repubblica