The National Gallery of Art has acquired “The Concert,” a 1623oil by Gerrit van Honthorst, to bolster its Baroque holdings.
National Gallery Acquires a van Honthorst Masterwork
New York Times
By CAROL VOGELPublished: November 21, 2013
Although the National Gallery of Art in Washington has a rich collection of old master paintings, it has none by Caravaggio. “In principle, we’d love to have a Caravaggio,” said Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., the curator of Northern Baroque painting at the museum. “But there are more maybe-a-Caravaggios out there. If something came on the market that really was by him and of the quality we’d want, it would probably be well out of our price range.”
Instead, Mr. Wheelock set out a few years ago to illustrate the profound influence that Caravaggio had on artists in 17th-century Europe, as his style, characterized by diagonal light and dramatic shadows, traveled north with Dutch and Flemish artists who had visited Rome.
In 2009, for example, the museum bought “Bagpipe Player,” a 1624 canvas of a man shown in profile with his instrument, by the Dutch master Hendrick ter Brugghen, from a group of old master dealers who had purchased it at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for $10.2 million.
Now the National Gallery has further enriched its collection by recently acquiring “The Concert,” a monumental 1623 painting (over 4 feet high by nearly 7 feet wide) by the great Dutch painter Gerrit van Honthorst. “We never anticipated that anything of this quality would be available,” said Mr. Wheelock, who first saw “The Concert” in a back room at Adam Williams Fine Art in Manhattan.
Although neither he nor the dealer Adam Williams would say what the museum paid for the work, experts in the field suggested that the price was around $20 million.
“It’s not often in your career you can say that something is the best picture ever painted by an artist, but in this case I can,” said Mr. Williams, who said he had jointly purchased the work with Anthony Speelman, a London dealer, after Mr. Speelman saw it in Paris. It had resided in a chateau in Burgundy since the early 19th century, he said.