Portrait likely Velazquez’s first of Spanish king (Associated Press)

By JAMIE STENGLE | Associated Press – Sat, Sep 15, 2012

This handout photo courtesy of the Meadows Museum shows workers installing a full-length portrait of Spain's King Philip IV at the Meadows Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The painting is on loan from Spain's Prado for an exhibit at the Meadows opening Sunday. The exhibit is part of a partnership between the Meadows and Madrid's famed Prado. (AP Photo/Meadows Museum, Hillsman S. Jackson)

DALLAS (AP) — In preparing an exhibit on 17th century artist Diego Velazquez’s early work for Spain’s King Philip IV, art historians believe they discovered that a portrait by the Spanish master at Dallas’ Meadows Museum is likely his first of his lifelong patron.

“Diego Velazquez: The Early Court Portraits” opens Sunday at the museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the result of a partnership between the Meadows and Madrid’s famed Museo del Prado, Spain’s national art museum. The exhibit, which the Meadows calls the most important devoted to Velazquez in the U.S. in more than two decades, will run through Jan. 13.

“What you’ll see in this exhibition is the beginning of one of the most extraordinary relationships in the history of art — that’s the relationship between young Velazquez and Philip IV,” said Gabriele Finaldi, the Prado’s deputy director for collections.

“What you need there is an extraordinarily talented artist, which you have in Velazquez. But you also need a very far-seeing patron, and that’s Philip IV, who had real personal passion for painting,” Finaldi added.

Velazquez became the king’s court painter in 1623, when he was only 24. It was a job he would hold until his death in 1660 at the age of 61. The exhibit focuses on his first decade working for the king.

This undated handout photo courtesy of the Meadows Museum shows Diego Rodriguez Velazquez's portrait of King Philip IV. Research has revealed that this portrait is likely the first one Velazquez painted of King Philip IV. The exhibit, opening Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, at the Meadows, is part of a partnership between the Meadows and Madrid's famed Prado. (AP Photo/Meadows Museum)For the first time in four centuries, the Dallas exhibit brings together two of Velazquez’s early portraits of the king: the Prado’s full-length portrait of him dressed all in black that was painted in the 1620s and the Meadow’s bust-length portrait.

In anticipation of the show, both portraits underwent analysis at the Prado. X-rays of the Meadows portrait showed brush strokes indicating Velazquez was working out how to paint the king, helping back up the belief that it could have been his initial attempt.

“Now we think more than ever that it was the first portrait,” said Mark Roglan, director of the Meadows.

The exhibit features five paintings by Velazquez, including his portrait of the poet Luis de Gongora y Argote from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which was done a year before Velazquez became Philip IV’s court painter. A Velazquez portrait of a court jester painted in the early 1630s comes from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

A portrait of Philip IV from Velazquez’s workshop that has never before been seen in public comes from a private Spanish collection. The exhibition also features 16 prints, some with engraved portraits modeled after Velazquez’s work.

The Prado and the Meadows began a three-year partnership in 2009 that has included an exchange of scholars, research, works of art and exhibitions. This summer the two institutions announced they will extend the collaboration for another two years.

The Meadows Museum, which opened in 1965, is the vision of a Texan who started collecting Spanish art after being inspired by visits to the Prado. Hoping to create a “Prado on the Prairie,” oil financier Algur H. Meadows donated his private Spanish art collection and funds to start the museum to SMU. The Meadows’ portrait of Philip IV was one of his acquisitions.

“It was a very easy and natural fit that the Prado should work closely with the Meadows,” Finaldi said.

Stolen Lichtenstein painting returned to widow after 42 years (Reuters)

By Chris Francescani | Reuters – Wed Oct 17, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A stolen Roy Lichtenstein painting, missing for 42 years and now worth $4 million, was returned Tuesday to a New York widow whose art dealer husband purchased the piece in the 1960s for $750.

The piece disappeared after Greenwich Village art dealer Leo Castelli sent it out for cleaning in 1971 and apparently lost track of it, his widow said Tuesday.

“He remembered it and didn’t know where it had gone,” Barbara Castelli said at a news conference during which federal prosecutors and FBI agents returned the artwork to her.

She said she plans to hang the piece in her home.

Leo Castelli hosted Lichtenstein’s first solo show in 1962, according to his gallery, and later purchased “Electric Cord,” which depicts a tightly wound cord in black paint on an off-white canvas.

Federal officials said Castelli sent the piece to art restorer Daniel Goldreyer in January 1971 and an employee apparently stashed the painting in his work locker. It remained there until 2009 when Goldreyer died, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Goldreyer’s widow, Sally, told federal investigators that the employee asked her to sell the painting for him. Not knowing it was stolen, she agreed to sell it to an art gallery in Colombia.

In June, a buyer contacted the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and asked for assistance authenticating the work, which the buyer said was stored in a New York warehouse. The foundation contacted Castelli, who called authorities.

Bharara declined to comment on discussions with Goldreyer, but said his office had been “prepared to take real action” against her, a sentiment echoed Tuesday by the FBI.

“Even when there is no crime charged, the FBI’s expertise can be valuable in ensuring that works of art end up with their rightful owners,” said Belle Chen, acting director of the criminal division at the FBI’s New York field office.

The FBI’s Art Crime Team maintains a list of its top 10 art crimes, similar to the bureau’s Most Wanted List, said Jim Wynne, a New York FBI agent who specializes in art theft.

Among the current top 10 art crimes under investigation are a $30 million theft from Amsterdam’s Vincent Van Gogh museum in 2002 and the theft from a Houston home in 2011 of a piece by French painter Pierre Auguste Renoir.

Barbara Castelli smiles as she stands with her $4 million Roy Lichtenstein painting 'Electric Cord' during a news conference at the US Attorney's office in New York October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid


Picasso, Matisse, Monets stolen from Dutch museum (Associated Press)

By TOBY STERLING | Associated Press Tue, Oct 16, 2012

This photo released by the police in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, shows the 1901 painting 'Charing Cross Bridge, London' by Claude Monet. Dutch police say seven paintings stolen from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam include one by Pablo Picasso, one by Henri Matisse, and two by Claude Monet. The heist, one of the largest in years in the Netherlands, occurred while the private Triton Foundation collection was being exhibited publicly as a group for the first time. (AP Photo/Police Rotterdam)

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Seven paintings by artists including Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet were stolen from a museum in Rotterdam in an early-hours heist, Dutch police said Tuesday.

The theft at the Kunsthal museum is one of the largest in years in the Netherlands, and is a stunning blow for the private Triton Foundation collection, which was being exhibited publicly as a group for the first time.

The collection was on display as part of celebrations surrounding Kunsthal’s 20th anniversary.

Police spokeswoman Willemieke Romijn said investigators were reviewing videotapes of the theft, which took place around 3 a.m. local time, and calling for any witnesses to come forward. Police have yet to reveal how the heist took place.

The stolen works were Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head”; Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”; Henri Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow”; Paul Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; Meyer de Haan’s “Self-Portrait,” around 1890, and Lucian Freud’s 2002 work “Woman with Eyes Closed.”

Mariette Maaskant of the Kunsthal museum said the paintings taken were of “considerable value.” Independent experts said the works were clearly worth millions of dollars but would be impossible to sell on the open market.

The museum’s director Emily Ansenk had been in Istanbul, Turkey, on business but was returning Tuesday.

The Triton Foundation is a collection of avant-garde art put together by multimillionaire Willem Cordia, an investor and businessman, and his wife, Marijke Cordia-Van der Laan.

The Kunsthal museum is a display space that has no permanent collection of its own — the name means “art gallery” in Dutch.

The Cordia family collection includes works by more than 150 famed artists. Others whose work was on show include Paul Cezanne, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas and Andy Warhol.

Curators of the Cordia family collection aim to have the works on display for the public, and pieces have been shown in the past.

The museum is closed Tuesday due to the police investigation.

Renoir painting found at W.Va flea market (Associated Press)

By BRETT ZONGKER | Associated Press – Thu, Sep 13, 2012

Associated Press/Potomack Company – This image released by Potomack Company shows an apparently original painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that was acquired by a woman from Virginia who stopped at a flea market in West Virginia and paid $7 for a box of trinkets that included the painting. Anne Norton Craner, fine arts director for the Potomack Co. auction house in Alexandria, Va., says the woman made an appointment in July to see if it might be real. Craner says the painting was verified through a close look at the colors and brushwork along with the help of the French publisher of a catalog of Renoir’s work. Craner said the painting is “Paysage Bords de Seine.” (AP Photo/Potomack Company)WASHINGTON (AP) — A woman who paid $7 for a box of trinkets at a West Virginia flea market two years ago apparently acquired an original painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir without knowing it.

The woman considered discarding the painting to salvage its frame, but instead made an appointment to have it evaluated in July by the Potomack Co. auction house in Alexandria, Va., said its fine arts director Anne Norton Craner.

When the woman pulled the painting out of a garbage bag she carried it in, Craner was nearly certain the painting was a Renoir with its distinct colors, light and brushwork. A plaque on the front labeled it “Renoir.”

“My gut said that it was right, but you have to then check,” Craner said.

French handwriting on the back of the canvass included a label and number. Craner turned to the catalog by French gallery Bernheim-Jeune that’s published all of Renoir’s work.

“Low and behold, it was in volume one,” she said.

An image of the painting was published in black and white, and the gallery’s stock number matched the flea market find. So Craner made a digital image of the flea market painting, converted it to black and white for a closer look, and the brush strokes also matched, she said.

“It’s not a painting you would fake,” Craner said. “If you’re going to fake something, you’d fake something easier.”

Painting No. 24349 turns out to be Renoir’s painting “Paysage Bords de Seine,” which translates to Banks of the River Seine, Craner determined. It dates to about 1879 and measures 6 inches by 10 inches.

The painting is set for auction Sept. 29. It could fetch $75,000 or more, Craner said.

Elizabeth Wainstein, owner of the Potomack Co., said there’s no doubt about the painting’s authenticity.

The Shenandoah Valley woman found the painting and kept it in storage for nearly two years has declined to publicly disclose her name.

After weeks of research, Craner believes Renoir gave the painting to a woman who modeled for him. The painting was then sold to the Bernheim-Jeune art gallery for 5,000 francs in 1925, according to gallery records. The following year, the gallery sold the painting to American lawyer Herbert L. May who kept homes in New York and Geneva and also worked for the government in Washington.

As far as Craner can tell, May kept the painting in his personal collection until his death in 1966. It’s a mystery, though, as to how the painting ended up in West Virginia. Still, its provenance is fairly short as the painting has not traded hands many times.

“It just did what paintings do sometimes — they kind of disappear out of circulation,” Craner said. “That’s what is so fantastic. This painting’s been unseen since 1926.”