à bout de souffle

Page Thirty-One

Die Fälschung unterscheidet sich vom Original dadurch, dass sie echter aussieht.
Ernst Bloch

"There are some curious men who form an idea of a master, by the sight of three or four of his pictures; and who, after this,
believe they have a sufficient authority to decide what his manner is."
Roger de Piles, 1635 - 1709


Christie's 5 June 2014

Monamy Productions


The three pictures at left are 100% genuine. They are images of rock-solid Monamy provenance. To the right are three masqueraders, the upper two looking more authentic than the originals they emulate.

No one need gnash their teeth at this verdict --- fakes and copies, in Monamy's case, fetch much higher prices than the real stuff. Of course, there are problems with Monamy's workshop output: he certainly did employ sub-contractors, some of whom may actually have been, or became, more skilled than himself. But that cannot be said of the works on the right: conventional, placid and dull.

10 May, 2014. Arrived on my doorstep today is a South Kensington Maritime Art Catalogue, from Messrs Christie's, dated 5 June 2014. It's an imponderable question why I've been sent this catalogue, but I assume its contents may now be discussed.

Four works are offered as by Monamy, none signed. Two more are as by Swaine, one signed; and another two as by Brooking, neither signed. The first "Monamy", lot 7, is shown below. There is a reason why this picture is said to be by Monamy; that is the label attached to the frame, which reads P.Monamy. There also appear to be dates, reading Jersey 1670 and London 1749. Otherwise, there is nothing at all to indicate that this painting is by Peter Monamy, and it is obviously not by him. There are a number of painters it might be by, all, no doubt, "better" than Monamy. However, until 1980, when Monamy's true place and date of birth were found to be London, 1681, almost any unsigned marine painting, later than about 1690, would be ascribed to him. Hence the label, probably affixed c 1875. Someone seems to have tried to scrape off the dates.

Not Monamy Products


This painting seems in fact, very probably, to be item [1] described by Robinson as belonging, 1981, in the collection of the Hon James Bruce, Perthshire. Robinson describes the painting from "a small photograph", and does not know its measurements. He says that it appears to be the version "most likely to be by Van de Velde and his studio", but that it "may be that this is also an eighteenth century copy". Robinson does not illustrate the painting, which he numbers composition 356 in his catalogue.

Bewilderingly, the auction-house catalogue seems to confuse Robinson's item [1] with his item [2], which he does illustrate in black and white in his volume, and which is reproduced in colour, with an extract of his comments, as number 2, below right.. This picture is in Lotherton Hall, Aberford, Leeds, where it was when Robinson published his study, in 1990.

Robinson remarks of his unillustrated item [1] that "stylistically, the picture looks to be of the end of the seventeenth century, and if it is by Van de Velde, it is likely to be mostly by the studio". Shall we say 1680-1695 ? In 1695 Monamy was 14 years old, and soon to be apprenticed to the London house-decorator, William Clarke. There is not a shred of evidence, of course, to say Monamy ever set his foot in Van de Velde's studio, at any age. Contrary to Christie's misleading catalogue note, the majority if not all the other versions of this composition appear to be attributed by Robinson to Charles Brooking, and not to "other artists of the period".

Elucidation by Number

1.   This picture's C20th history is instructive. At the Christie's auction in 1980 it was bought by a dealer named Hahn. In 1994 it turned up again, at Sotheby's. During the intervening 14 years it had miraculously acquired a signature, lower left. This was not Brooking's sign manual, however, but Peter Monamy's. Monamy's signature keeps popping up like this; it seems to have an independent life of its own. See Joel, page 128, no 39C. See also Robinson, Vol II, page 613, no 3.
2. The Lotherton Hall painting. David Joel notes, page 128, no 39A, that this picture is "signed on stretcher C.Brooking", although Robinson only attributes it to Brooking "on stylistic grounds." Joel adds of the two-decker that "from her stern shape she is a ship of about 1680 and may well have been inspired, or copied, from a van de Velde composition, although the frigate to the left which is broadside on is of a later date."
3. See Joel, p 128, no 39D. Illustrated, p 133. Unsigned.
4. See Joel, p 128, no 40. Signed Brooking on the barrel. "Two-decker is now modernised to around 1740 and the flags are post 1707."

Left, lot 7, 24 x 34½, Christie's, unsigned, 5 June 2014. Right, Shipping in the Solent, 44 x 60, Brooking, signed ll, NMM.

At right is a note typical of those which accompany the NMM works by Brooking. This one is titled Shipping in the Solent, although it is not clear to me how they know that the location is the Solent. The picture is shown above, right. The comments are interesting, if not entirely accurate. I'm surprised they don't point out that the upper two-thirds of the composition consist of sky, and the lower third of sea.

Among the several good reasons for deciding the picture above left, auctioned 5th June 2014, is not by Monamy, is the distinctively different palette. Monamy's lighter, and more colourful palette was remarked on by Archibald, and if he noticed this difference, then it is surely significant. Were a gun aimed at my head, I would say this picture was by Jacob Knyff, 1639-1681.

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may perhaps be continued
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All truth passes through three stages. 1) It is ridiculed. 2) It is violently opposed. 3) It is accepted as self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer

Try The Marranos of Spain, by Benzion Netanyahu, for instance

chronology & authenticity
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© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2014
all rights reserved

The Kasidah, 1880, has been cited as evidence of Sir Richard Burton's position as a Sufi. Presented by Burton as a translation, the poem and his notes and commentary on it contain layers of Sufic meaning, that seem to have been designed to project Sufi teaching in the West.

Do what thy manhood bids thee do
from none but self expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies
who makes and keeps his self-made laws

This is The Kasidah's most often-quoted passage.

"Forgeries are more real than the real art they fake." Jonathon Keats.

Bad money drives out good.