Tuesday, 22 October 2013

New Mantegna

Picture: Artslife.com

Exciting new discovery of Andrea Mantegna drawing is reported by Artslife (in Italian - English summary on ArtDaily). Mantegna is one of the greatest draughtsmen of the early renaissance, but his drawings are scarce. Ronald Lightbown's 1986 Mantegna catalogue lists just twenty, with some more added at the 1992 Mantegna exhibition at the Royal Academy/Metropolitan Museum of Art. This small double-sided sheet is related to three others that were included in the RA exhibition, probably studies for this engraving of the Entombment

My first thought was that this is too good to be true. Not only a new Mantegna, but what a perfect Mantegna! He is celebrated for his skillful foreshortening, most famously in the Dead Christ in Milan's Brera. This sheet fits (too?) perfectly between a study of Christ alone in the British Museum, and a more developed study of the upper group in Brescia. But it does seem right. The paper and the handwriting on the inscription match the related drawings, and it has a nervous energy characteristic of Mantegna, which would be hard to replicate. It seems too good and too characteristic of Mantegna to be other than by Mantegna or by a forger.  

The estimate of €140k-€220k is oddly wide and oddly low, presumably because it's subject to Italian export restrictions. I can't find the online catalogue entry on the auction site
Picture: Artslife


  1. Thanks for this. Here are my off-thecuff comments on the drawing: http://www.metabunker.dk/?p=5908

  2. In the world of auctions, the estimate for a work tells you more about the auction house's true opinion than the artist-line in the headmatter. If they were sure this was a Mantegna, the estimate would be 10x - 100x as high. Such a low estimate means 'we really don't think it's right. What's the provenance? Bet it's a Swiss private collection. Eric Hebborn, anyone?

    1. But works subject to export restrictions are worth much less. Countries like Spain, Germany and Italy are very restrictive. A major (& unquestionable) Holbein was recently sold for about 10% of its open market value because it couldn't leave Germany. The major old master drawing collectors are outside Italy (the Getty - though they have a Mantegna, Leon Black, the Met, Jean Bonna in Switzerland, etc). It was found in an Italian collection. I don't know earlier provenance.

      Hebborn is unlikely. The inscription matches inscription on the Brescia drawing that was only discovered when it was removed from mount for the 1992 Mantegna exhibition (Hebborn still alive then, but outed and not believed still to be working). Of course it's possible that the inscription was added later to a Hebborn, but there's also evidence of the same paper as the Brescia drawing. I think Matthias's link, above, raises some valid challenges, but I still think it looks right. I'm off to the British Museum this morning to see their Mantegnas.

  3. Dear GAH,



    Regards, l