Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Paintings

The Princess Is Back

In March, one of the most elegant women at the Museum was forcibly escorted out of the galleries. I was there and saw the whole thing.

Princess Leonilla, who’d been on constant view since the Getty Center opened in 1997, was wheeled away (very gently—here is evidence) to make room for a new arrival, J.M.W. Turner’s Modern Rome-Campo Vaccino.

Visitors were quick to notice the princess’s departure and demand to know when she’d be back. So, good news: she’s taken up residence just one room over from her former home, in Gallery W201.

Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in Gallery W201 at the Getty Center

Checking out her new digs: Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1843. Oil on canvas, 56 x 83 1/2 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 86.PA.534

It’s true that the princess has to put up with a smaller wall than she presided over before. But she was a woman renowned for her intellect as well as her beauty, and I like to think she’s having a blast getting to know her new neighbors, which include a Roman emperor, an exotic horseman, a brooding Romantic, and a racy trio of lovers.

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      #ProvenancePeek: July 31

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This small panel by Dutch master Gerrit Dou (photographed only in black and white) is now in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was sold to American collector Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, in the summer of 1922.

      How do we know this? Archival sleuthing! A peek into the handwritten stock books of M. Knoedler & Co. (book 7, page 10, row 40, to be exact) records the Dou in “July 1922” (right page, margin). Turning to the sales books, which lists dates and prices, we again find the painting under the heading “New York July 1922,” with its inventory number 14892. A tiny “31” in superscript above Clark’s name indicates the date the sale was recorded.

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art, selling European paintings to collectors whose collections formed the genesis of great U.S. museums. The Knoedler stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Girl at a Window, 1623–75, Gerrit Dou. Oil on panel, 10 9/16 x 7 ½ in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts


      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.

      07/31/15

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