Wednesday, January 21, 2015

182. Chas. Ricketts: The Puzzle

Art reproductions abound on the Internet. Images of paintings can be ordered as posters, photographs are scaled up to be used as wallpaper, and imitations of paintings are sold by a variety of websites. Recently, I came across a website that sells drawings by Powys Evans (1899-1981), originally published in his book of portraits, Fifty Heads (London, Sheed and Ward, 1931). 

Well, drawings. Not exactly. The drawings are reproduced as... jigsaw puzzles, and one of them is his portrait of Charles Ricketts, advertised as Photo Jigsaw Puzzle of Chas Ricketts (Evans).


Jigsaw Puzzle of Charles Ricketts (Sold by PrintsPrintsPrints)
The price is $34.99 + $5.95 shipping, and for that you get a 'Photo Jigsaw Puzzle' featuring 'a cropped image of Chas Ricketts (Evans) chosen by Mary Evans'. The 'estimated image size' is: 356x254mm. The portrait is a '10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces'. It comes 'Packed in black cardboard box of dimensions 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top. Puzzle pieces printed on RA4 paper at 300 dpi.'

The Mary Evans Picture Library is the source for this piece of merchandizing. The puzzle is made by PrintsPrintsPrints, that is to say, Amazon.com. How many people would, actually, want a jigsaw puzzle of Charles Ricketts? By the way, no puzzle of Shannon is available.

Ricketts's puzzle is 'in stock' (printed on demand of course). And, no, I did not order a copy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

181. Théo Van Rysselberghe meets Ricketts and Shannon

The other day, I received an email asking for background information about a card written by Charles Ricketts to the Belgian artist Théo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926).


Théo van Rysselberghe, Self-Portrait (1916)
The correspondence card contains a short message, and is addressed to: 

T. Van Rijsselberghe Esq
c/o Mrs Morrell
1 Craven Street
Charing Cross

The card is postmarked with the date 6 June 1894. Mrs. Morrell was Charlotte Morrell, wife of William Morrell, a 'Private Hotel Keeper'. There were many small and quiet family hotels in the neighbourhood of The Strand.


Charles Ricketts, Autograph Letter to Théo van Rysselberghe, June 1894 (Private Collection)
In May 1894, Van Rysselberghe was in London. At the end of May, Lucien Pissarro wrote to his father Camille: 'Pas étonnant que tu n'aies pas de nouvelles de Rysselbergh[e] il est à Londres' (in reply of a letter of 26 May 1894): 'no wonder you haven't heard from Rysselbergh[e], he is in London'. Camille Pissarro, his wife Julie and their son Félix were planning a trip to Brussels, and on 25 June Théo van Rysselberge would greet them at the train station of the Belgian capital.

Before Van Rysselberghe returned to Belgium, he met Ricketts and Shannon. He was introduced to them by Lucien Pissarro. Contacts between Ricketts and Dutch or Belgian artists had already been established in the previous years. Leo Simons, for example, had been an intermediary between Ricketts, Shannon and the editors of Van Nu en Straks, a Belgian magazine that counted among its collaborators both Ricketts and Van Rysselberghe. The French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Belgian poet Émile Verhaeren paid Ricketts and Shannon a visit in 1894. And Ricketts's books would be exhibited in Brussels by La Libre esthétique in 1894 and 1897.

In May 1894, Van Rysselberghe visited London with his friend Pierre-Marie Olin (1865-1931). In 1887 he painted a portrait of Olin and in 1891 he decorated his book of poems, Légendes puériles. Olin wrote about art and had been the editor of the symbolist magazine La Wallonie (1886-1892). Olin dismissed Lucien Pissarro's paintings as lacking in strength and character, but his opinion of Lucien's wood engravings had been favourable.

Pissarro received them in Epping. He and Van Rysselberghe discussed working with glass, but nothing came of this. 'Ce bon Théo est vraiment bien charmant', wrote Lucien: 'The good Théo really is a charming fellow'.

Lucien accompanied Van Rysselberghe to The Vale to meet Ricketts and Shannon, and apparently Van Rysselberghe asked Pissarro about their furniture. Ricketts wrote to him:

Dear Mr. Van Rijsselberghe
Pissarro tells me you are fascinated by our chairs.


Dining Room, The Vale, around 1890
Paul Delaney described their rooms of this period: 'Furnished simply with scrubbed wood furniture and a table later usually covered with wood-blocks and burins, this was their work-room as well as the place where they received their guests.'


The Parlour, The Vale, around 1889
Another room was discussed by Stephen Calloway: 'In the parlour at the Vale, a new uncluttered and deliberately unpretentious approach is apparent. The chimneypiece, screened with a good piece of eighteenth century needlepoint, is flanked by two plain chests of drawers of the same period and by a pair of simple wooden cottage armchairs of a type costing about five or ten shillings only, when a Morris Sussex chair was not so durable and could not be had for less than seventeen.'

Ricketts's letter is more specific about the chairs:

They are ordinary high-backed kitchen chairs but unvarnished [.] this necessitates their being ordered a few days before wanted [.] they cost 6 shillings & we attained ours at a little shop at the entrance to The Vale itself [.]  The name of the man is Brown.
Yours in haste
C. Ricketts

It is unlikely that Van Rysselberghe ordered new chairs from this shop.

The card testifies Van Rysselberghe's extended stay in London, and his visit to Ricketts. It is delightfully detailed about a minor point, the provenance of Ricketts's and Shannon's cheap furniture in The Vale.


Charles Ricketts, Autograph Letter to Théo van Rysselberghe, June 1894 (Private Collection)
[Thanks are due to the private collector for permission to illustrate Ricketts's letter to Van Rysselberghe.]
[The information about Mrs Morrell was provided by Michael Seeney.]

References:
Stephen Calloway: ‘“Tout pour l’art”. Charles Ricketts, Charles Shannon, and the arrangement of a collection’, in: The Journal of The Decorative Arts Society 1890-1940, Number 8, 1984, p. 21.
Paul Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A Biography. Oxford 1990, p. 40.  
Adrienne et Luc Fontainas, Théo van Rysselberghe. L'ornement du livre. Catalogue raissonné. Antwerpen 1997, p. 54-55.
André Gide et Albert Mockel, Correspondance (
1891-1938). (Ed. Gustave Van Welkenhuyzen). Genève 1975, p. 50.
The Letters of Lucien to Camille Pissarro 1883-1903. Edited by Anne Thorold. Cambridge 1993, p. 363-368, 372, 383-384, 389.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

180. A Bibliography of Charles Ricketts

Shortly, the Paulton Press will publish a simple unillustrated booklet in a limited edition, A Bibliography of Charles Ricketts, listing the essays on typography and art written by Ricketts, including book reviews, prose stories, art books, and letters written to the editors of several newspapers.

'Puvis de Chavannes' (The Dial, No. 1, 1889):
text and wood-engraving by Charles Ricketts
The first descriptions in the bibliography are from 1889:
  • [C. Ricketts], ‘Puvis de Chavannes’, in: The Dial, No. 1 ([August] 1889), p. 1-4. [a]
  • C. Ricketts, ‘A Glimpse of Heaven’, in: The Dial, No. 1 ([August] 1889), p. 19-22. [p]
  • C. Ricketts, ‘The Cup of Happiness’, in: The Dial, No. 1 ([August] 1889), p. 27-33. [p]
  • [Chas. H. Shannon, Cs. Ricketts (the editors?)], ‘Apology’, in: The Dial, No. 1 ([August] 1889), p. 36. [a]

The last items in the bibliography (apart from the posthumous publications) are:
  • Charles Ricketts, ‘Detestable, but a Poet. A Study of Baudelaire’, in: The Observer, 19 July 1931, p. 4. [r]
  • Charles Ricketts, ‘Age-Long Egypt’, in: The Observer, 16 August 1931, p. 4. [r]

Copies will cost €15,00 (including postage). If you order a copy now, you will automatically and without costs receive the first updated edition that appears in the future. Orders can be mailed to: paulton[at]xs4all.nl.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

179. December 31, 1900

The last day of a happy year, free from humiliations or ill-health. Our positions have strengthened and reached that phase when small hostilities show themselves once more after a lull, due to the surprise at Shannon's and my return to the front as living art quantities, he as a successful painter and I as a printer. With comparative success and a lack of anxiety, one is conscious of the fragility of the thread of success to be followed, when all about makes for silence and indifference.

Charles Ricketts concluded his diary for 1900 with these dualistic phrases. He also remembered his great friend:

Our sorrow: the death, at first hardly felt, of poor Oscar Wilde; this affects one at stray moments, when one is off one's guard: at sundown, or at sunrise: moments, with me, of introspection, hesitation, or regret.

[Self-Portrait Taken from the Letters & Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A. London 1939, p. 50].

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

178. A Small Nativity Drawing by Charles Ricketts

The early published drawings of Charles Ricketts usually depict biblical or historical scenes. Five of those appeared in a children's book with Christian quotations in 1888: Our Father's Promises. There were also ten drawings by Geo. C. Haité, who edited the book as part of the 'St Pauls Series', published by Griffith, Farran & Co. One of Ricketts's drawings depicts a nativity scene, tucked away in a corner of the image.


Charles Ricketts, untitled drawing in Our Father's  Promises (1888)
The subject of the illustration is an outdoor winter scene. In a garden with a lantern, flower pots and a bare tree, two girls and a boy form a close group. They are playing the three magi. One of the girls holds a staff with the six-pointed star that symbolizes the star of Bethlehem and the journey of the magi in search of Christ.  


Charles Ricketts, untitled drawing [detail] in Our Father's  Promises (1888)
A small separate scene in the lower right corner depicts the adoration of the magi with Maria and child, measuring only 32 by 51 mm. Due to the format of the reproduction in Our Father's Promises it is sketchy - the original drawing will have been larger, as was the custom. However, the major figures are easily discernible, as is the donkey in the stable behind mother and child. 

Ricketts's signature is to the left of the small nativity scene. Please consider this blog as our season's greetings.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

177. Charles Ricketts in an Art Nouveau Border

Last Wednesday, 11 December, a Dutch translation of Oscar Wilde's Poems in Prose with drawings by Charles Ricketts was presented in Rotterdam by the publisher, Nadorst. The venue was a bar, Café Vermeulen, which was opened in 1903, and still boasts of its period appearance with brown panelling, a high dark brown ceiling, and Art Nouveau stained glass windows. It was a calm night with only a small number of regulars, chatting about local politics, and drinking beer. At the back of the narrow room a pool table was surrounded by a dozen literary visitors. A box on the table held copies of the newly published book.

Box containing Poems in Prose (Rotterdam, 11 December 2014)
Around half past eight, the presentation by the translator Joris Lenstra began. Lenstra translated works by Jack Kerouac and Walt Whitman, this was his first Wilde book. He told the audience that he had rejected a translation of the early poems of Oscar Wilde that was proposed to him by a professor of English, as the poems were too elaborate and artificial. Wilde's Poems in Prose, however, offered exactly the mixture of storytelling, erudition, and surprise that characterized Wilde as a conversationalist. 

Lenstra read one of the Poems in English. Gradually, the regulars at the bar end of the room were getting restless, chanting slowly, "Oscar Wilde, Oscar Wilde", as if it was the name of their favourite football player, and it was time for him to appear on the stage. A phone rang, and one of the regulars, who had just ordered a new pint of beer, answered what seemed to be a call from his wife, and used the best excuse for a habitual drinker I can imagine. 'I am in the middle of a book presentation', he said. By now, the book launch had been interrupted, because the man talked quite loudly. After the call was broken off, the story about Wilde was resumed, and Lenstra read one of his translations. Finally, the box was opened and copies of the new publication could be acquired.

Oscar Wilde, Poems in Prose (2014) with a drawing by Charles Ricketts

Two sketches by Charles Ricketts, published in Oscar Wilde, Poems in Prose (2014)
The drawings by Ricketts are taken from the collection of Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust, and most of them have never been published before. A few additional sketches follow the poems, such as a slight sketch of three dancing figures (page 60) and a sketch for 'The Actor and the Mask'. 

All pages - including those with Ricketts's drawings - are contained within an art nouveau border printed in gold. Seven different borders occur in this book, none of them similar in any way to the borders that were designed by Ricketts. The origins of these are not English, but Belgian or French. The application of these borders comes from the wrong assumption, that Ricketts's drawings are art nouveau in style. They are not. They were drawn in the 1920s, and, like the drawings in Beyond the Threshold, published 1929, they should have been reproduced without a border.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

176. A New Book Illustrated by Ricketts

Today a new book with illustrations by Charles Ricketts will be published by Nadorst in Rotterdam, Oscar Wilde's Poems in Prose

The bilingual edition - English with a Dutch translation and introduction by Joris Lenstra - is to be presented at café Vermeulen, Nieuwe Binnenweg 332, Rotterdam at 20.00 hours.

Ricketts's illustrations were discussed in an earlier blog, see "Pen and Ink Drawings in my Earliest Manner" (5 June 2013).

The drawings were made in 1894 or 1895, remained unpublished, and as they were stored away by Ricketts they were forgotten until he rediscovered them in 1918. In 1924 Ricketts produced another series for the same Poems in ProseSee also: Poems in Prose (10 August 2011).

Next week more about this new book.

Oscar Wilde, Poems in Prose (2014)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

175. Books from Oscar Wilde's Library Discovered in The National Library of the Netherlands

The Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands, has discovered in its holdings five books from the private library of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Five seems a small number, however, up to now, only 42 books from Wilde's library were known to have survived in public collections. Almost 3.000 have never been located.

Oscar Wilde knew quite a few modern artists and writers in England as well as in France, and he received dedication copies for his beautifully designed library in London. He also bought great numbers of foreign language books, particularly French, from several London booksellers. Wilde's arrest on 4 April 1895 immediately affected his library. On 25 May Wilde was convicted for homosexual acts (gross indecency) and sent to jail. In the meantime, his library was sold in public.

Early April, his creditors demanded to be paid, which resulted in Wilde's bankruptcy. His assets were seized, and an auction took place at his house in Tite Street, Chelsea. On 24 April books from his library, paintings, even some children's toys were sold. Books were bound together randomly and hastily sold from the bow window of his ground floor library.



Auction Catalogue of Oscar Wilde's Library (1895)
The auction catalogue shows that his books were sold together in bulky lots, and most of the catalogue descriptions are rather vague, which today makes it amost impossible to determine whether a book has been part of his library. Copies with extensive notes in his handwriting are more easily recognizable. Dedication copies have often been damaged, due to the scandal surrounding Wilde's trial a month later (25 May 1895). New owners erased inscriptions from the books to avoid any connection with the now notorious author. Many association copies have been mutilated and can not be traced back to Wilde's collection. Parcels of books were sold for small sums of money, mainly to dealers, and in no time his books were distributed over the many book stalls and shops in London. Wilde's library with all its literary connotations had been destroyed. 

Therefore, it is remarkable that the National Library of the Netherlands can state with certainty that five books have belonged to Wilde's library. Three of these books are dedication copies, given to Oscar Wilde, and two others bear a handwritten note stating the provenance.



Five Books from the Library of Oscar Wilde
in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands
These books are:
  • Lettres de Cecil Standish. Paris, Alphonse Lemerre, 1893. Copy no. 136 of 250 numbered copies. With handwritten dedication by Henry Standish: ‘To Oscar Wilde Esq. In remembrance of my brother, Henry Standish’. 
  • Maurice Maeterlinck. Alladine et Polomides, Intérieur, et La Mort de Tintagiles. Bruxelles, Edmond Deman, 1894. With handwritten dedication: ‘à Oscar Wilde Hommage de M. Maeterlinck’.
    Below the dedication is a note in pencil: ‘from Oscar Wilde’s Sale 16 Tite St. Chelsea April 24 / ‘95’. 
  • Richard Le Gallienne, Prose Fancies. London, Elkin Mathews & John Lane, 1894. With handwritten dedication by Richard Le Gallienne: ‘Oscar Wilde from his friend Richard Le Gallienne. 17, June, ’94. The fact of a man being a preacher is nothing against his Prose’.
    Facing this page is a note in pencil: ‘From Oscar Wilde’s Sale April 24th, ’95 16 Tite St. Chelsea’. 
  • Lord Henry Somerset. Songs of Adieu. London, Chatto & Windus, 1889.
    On the endleave is a note in pencil: ‘From Oscar Wilde’s Sale 16 Tite St Chelsea April 24th 1895’. 
  • W.J. Linton, Poems and Translations. London, John C. Nimmo, 1889. No. 280 of 780 numbered copies.
    On the endleave is a note in pencil: ‘From Oscar Wilde’s Sale 16 Tite Street Chelsea April 24th 1895’. 
Inscribed by  Maurice Maeterlinck to Oscar Wilde

Inscribed by Henry Standish to Oscar Wilde
The five books are contemporary literary works. The Maeterlinck dedication is not very personal, although the relation between Wilde and Maeterlinck was of consequence. The dedication from Richard Le Gallienne is the longest. Wilde did not make any notes in these books. Two of them - Maeterlinck and Standish - have been bound by the National Library after they were acquired.


Inscribed by Richard Le Gallienne to Oscar Wilde
The fascinating provenances were not recorded in the library's catalogue. I discovered the first book by accident, and the others after extended provenance research.

For an essay about limited editions, I needed a column written by Richard Le Gallienne, 'The Philosophy of "Limited Editions"'. It discusses the craze for bibliophile publications in the early eighteen-nineties, Wilde's years of glory. Le Gallienne, now a forgotten poet, shared a publisher with Wilde, The Bodley Head.

When I opened the book I was amazed to see a written dedication to Oscar Wilde. Moreover, from the title page I could deduct that the library had bought the book in 1895, the year of Wilde's disgrace. The acquisition note mentions the year and month, October 1895: '1895 / 10 / a / 1278'. This was the 1278th book that was acquired by the library in 1895. The note enabled me to search for books that were bought at the same time, having the same provenance.



Richard Le Gallienne, Prose Fancies (1894)
The archive of the library contains the acquisition ledger for 1895, showing that on the same date ten books were acquired from the same dealer. These were registered on 10 October 1895 from antiquarian book dealer W.P. van Stockum in The Hague. (The municipal archive contains some material concerning this bookseller and auction house, but nothing about 1895.) A printed catalogue - from which the works may have been selected - has not been preserved.



Acquisition ledger for 1895 (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands)

We can not ascertain where Van Stockum had originally acquired the books. However, five of the ten books that were bought on 10 October show evidence of the Wilde provenance. The other five may have belonged to his library as well, but there is no evidence, and it is not likely. The books were not acquired for their association with Wilde, - who by that time had been imprisoned, and had fallen out of favour - they served to enrich the library's collection of English literature. I examined more than ten books, of course, in fact I requested to see huge piles of other books that had been bought since April 1895, but alas, I did not find more books from Wilde's library.

The invoice was settled early 1896, and shows that the prices varied greatly. Standish was priced at ƒ 3,90, Linton and Maeterlinck each at ƒ 4,90, Somerset ƒ 12,00 and Le Gallienne ƒ 18,10.




Invoice of W.P. van Stockum (1896)
The highest price was paid for the most recently published book by a popular author - on 11 January 1894 the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad had called Le Gallienne 'een der beste Engelsche dichters' (one of the best English poets).

The annual report of the National Library (Verslag over den toestand der Koninklijke Bibliotheek in het jaar 1895, published 1896), duly mentioned the acquisitions in the section of English language studies and literature, but did not quote the provenance. The same goes for the card catalogue, and this reflects that the provenance was not considered important at the time. Nowadays, more than a hundred years later, the Oscar Wilde provenance of these books is seen as a remarkable and interesting feature. They are the testimony of his literary and social relations. The five books will be moved to the rare book department.



Annual report of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek,
National Library of the Netherlands for 1895


[Thomas Wright wrote a book on Oscar Wilde's library and the auction of his books, see: Oscar's Books (2008).]


See the press release by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

174. Altered Designs for American Covers

The six volumes of The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, issued by Macmillan in London between 1922 and 1926 (and reprinted several times), were also issued in American editions shortly afterwards. In his bibliographical description of the first volume Allan Wade states that the American edition of Later Poems was 'Issued in similar style and binding to the English edition', excepting the spine title and the trimming of the edges, an observation that was repeated in his descriptions of the other volumes.


Dustwrapper for W.B. Yeats, Essays (1924), designed by Charles Ricketts
The original cover drawing (also used for most of the dustwrappers), designed by Charles Ricketts, shows architectural elements. There are roses in the four corners. The central panel depicts sprays of yew and their berries, located at the corners. The inner panel contains circles and circled dots. These circled dots also appear in other places, and can be seen as Ricketts's trademark.

The volumes were printed by R. & R. Clark in Edinburgh. The American editions were 'Printed in the United States of America'. The London volumes were issued by Macmillan and Co. Limited, the American ones by The Macmillan Company of New York. The 'similar' bindings of the American editions were done in America as well, and, indeed, the designs for these bindings were redrawn.

The American deviation from Ricketts's original drawing can best be seen on the wrappers with the design printed in blue on brown paper. The second volume, Plays in Prose and Verse appeared in an American edition in April 1924.


Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924): upper part of front wrapper
The central panel with the circles and yew ornaments has been discarded in order to make room for a title, the author's and publisher's names (which in the English design are only printed on the spine of the wrapper). The cloth binding itself still shows these circles, so mercantile considerations must have prompted this change. Closer examination reveals that the whole design has been redrawn in another hand.

Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse (1922): part of front wrapper
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924): part of front wrapper
The heavy circle at the top of the design (above the triangle) is now a more open circle, the dotted circles next to the roses have become simple circles, and small ornaments have been added:
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse (1922):
part of front wrapper
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924)
and dots have become circles. The new design lacks a certain subtlety. Another type of cloth has been used and the blind stamped design is less clear on the American volumes.

Apparently, the added ornaments had called for comments, and they were removed the same year. Essays (October 1924) had the adapted design: 


Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Essays(American edition, 1924)
On whose authority?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

173. Ricketts on Moroni

The Royal Academy honours Giovanni Battista Moroni as 'the unsung genius of Renaissance portraiture'. His portrait of a tailor, especially, is seen as the work of an artist whose subject 'prefigured even as far forwards as the nineteenth century avant-garde' (curator Arturio Galansino in an interview).

Would Charles Ricketts have appreciated these accolades for Moroni? In his book on Titian, Ricketts mentions the artist three times.

Ricketts discusses a portrait of Cristoforo Madruzzo, that he does not consider to be a Titian picture:

Documented and dated, this last affects me (in reproduction: the original is unknown to me) as a late picture by Moroni; it is at once gauche in drawing (note the clumsy short thumbs) and design.
(Titian, 1910, p. 100)

Titian, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (Museo di Capodimonte)
Another portrait of a cardinal is also described unfavourably by Ricketts:

We may dismiss the 'Portrait of the Cardinal Alessandro Farnese' at Naples. This picture, with its cold greenish-grey tones and awkward curtain, seems by Moroni.
(Titian, 1910, p. 108) 

This painting was actually examined by Ricketts, as was the case with 'Lady in Rose' which he saw at Dresden:

An attractive picture, the 'Lady in Rose' at Dresden, which has passed, owing to general hesitation, as a possible Titian, is, in the opinion of the present writer, a good canvas by Moroni. The odd, sudden perspective of the table, the shape of the hands, the cold, greenish-grey of the background, and the mechanical rendering of the embroideries seem, to me at least, evidences of his literal and provincial workmanship.
(Titian, 1910, p. 122) 

Gauche, clumsy, cold - these terms do not give the impression of a great admiration for Moroni, who, of course, could not compare to Titian, the father of modern painting according to Ricketts. Ricketts and Shannon owned one drawing by Titian and nothing by Moroni.

However, as an adviser of the National Gallery of Canada, Ricketts proposed a portrait of a man by Moroni for the collection, and it was bought in 1924 for £3100. 

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Man (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)
Still, the most expensive painting he recommended was Titian's portrait of Daniele Barbaro in 1928.

Initially, this picture was thought to be from Titian's workshop as a copy of another portrait that belongs to the Prado in Madrid. Recent research, using x-rays, show that, actually, the Ottawa portrait is the original Titian. Titian struggled with certain elements in this version: the colour of the clothing, the collar height, and the representation of the nose. Ricketts would have been delighted to hear this.

Titian, Portrait of Daniele Barbaro (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

172. Titian in The Hague

There is only one painting by Titian in a Dutch collection, 'Boy with Dogs in a Landscape' (c. 1570-1576), one of the later paintings by Titian. It belongs to the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.


Titian, 'Boy with Dogs in a Landscape' (Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 
The painting was acquired by the museum in 1958 with the collection of D.G. van Beuningen (1877-1955). This painting was unknown to Ricketts when he compiled his notes for a monograph on Titian (1910). It was not in Rotterdam, when Ricketts visited Holland in 1911. Van Beuningen bought the painting in 1930 from the Amsterdam art dealer J. Goudstikker (paying fl. 240.000).

Another Titian painting is temporarily on display at the Prince William V Gallery in The Hague. 'Venus Rising from the Sea' is on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland. 


Titian, 'Venus Rising from the Sea' (c. 1520-1525)
When Ricketts saw this painting, it was in a private collection in London, at Bridgewater House. He noted:

A work allied to this last ['Laura Dianti'] in character, the 'Venus and the Shell' at Bridgewater House (Plate xxxv.), has fared rather better, but it is also falsified and given a later appearance by retouching and the deepening of the shadows.'
(Titian, 1910, page 53)


A footnote explained:

Since this was written this picture has been cleaned.

In Chapter X of his book, Ricketts continued:

The first record of Titian's journey to the court of Ferrara belongs to the year 1516, when he lodged at the Castello; we even know that salt, meal, oil, salad, chestnuts, oranges, tallow candles, cheese, and five measures of wine were allowed him and his two assistants weekly from the 13th of February till March 22nd. His letter to the Duke, dated February of the following year, makes mention of a picture of 'A Bath,' which we can identify with some measure of certainty with the beautiful, but damaged, 'Venus with the Shell,' in the Bridgewater collection. I think that we may assume that the same model who does duty for the Venus figures also as a nymph in the 'Garden of Loves,' and if we can trust an old copy of the last picture made in the early seventeenth century, and once in the possession of G.F. Watts, the same model was employed for the statue of Venus in that picture, before statue and attribute had been made unrecognisable by some restorer. In the copy the statue holds a recognisable shell done from nature, at Madrid the shell has become a sort of utensil or vase which looks like a sauce-boat; at one time the statue was a fair Venetian, both the statue and the 'Venus' at Bridgewater House have been 'founded,' in the pose of the torso at least, upon some Praxitelean statue of the type of the 'Venus of Ostia'; these details connect the two works, and they are further related to each other by a common classical origin. The 'Venus' in the Bridgewater collection manifestly emulates the description of the masterpiece of Apelles, while 'The Garden of Loves' is an illustration of one of the word-pictures in the Eikonon of Philostratus; these two works, the famous 'Bacchanal' and the better known 'Baccus and Ariadne' form a sequence in Titian's career; they add the evidence of richer resources and a profounder sensuousness to the secular mood which Titian had inherited from Giorgione, which he had intensified in the 'Three Ages of Man' and in the 'Sacred and Profane Love.' These paintings form a climax; in them the poetic impulse has become stronger and more conscious, the pictorial resources richer and more varied, they are the supreme expression of a temperament and vision which have remained unrivalled. We owe Titian's finest and most typical works to his relations with the house of Ferrara.

(Titian, 1910, pages 55-56)

The damage, mentioned by Ricketts, is not recorded in modern descriptions of this painting. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

171. Titian in Urbino

On Wednesday 8 October a bus brought us from Pesaro to Urbino, the city that is well-known for its Renaissance buildings and steep roads and alleys. The Palazzo Ducale (its origins go back to the fifteenth century) became a centre for the arts during the reign of Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482). Nowadays, it houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. There are two paintings by Titian who occasionally visited Urbino.
Wall in Urbino (October 2014) [© Ton Leenhouts]
Ricketts, in his book on Titian lists both works, and briefly describes one of them. He did not visit Urbino and probably saw photographs of 'Resurrection' ['Resurrezione', according to the museum's caption] and 'Last Supper' ['Ultima Cena']; both are reproduced in his book.

Room with paintings by Titian, Palazzo Ducale, Urbino (October 2014)
Ricketts wrote:

Between the years 1542 and 1544 Titian executed the two pictures, the 'Resurrection' and the 'Last Supper,' which still remain at Urbino, The 'Resurrection' (Plate LXXXIX) shows elements of affinity with the great 'Ecce Homo' now at Vienna, the shield-bearer in both pictures being similar in pose.
(Titian, 1910, page 102).

Titian, 'Last Supper' and 'Resurrection' (Urbino) 
More famous than the Titians that are now in Urbino are the paintings that were moved to other cities, especially Florence. In the Uffizi one finds the 'Venus of Urbino', a reclining nude woman. This work was commissioned by Guidobaldo II della Rovere, the Duke of Urbino. Ricketts gave a long description of this painting of a woman 'dressed only in a bracelet', but he found that 'To me there is something tiresome in the arrangement of this stately and famous nude, in the "ornate simplicity" and the sumptuous realism of the background' (page 92). 

At the time Ricketts saw it, it was hanging too high in the Uffizi, and 'If we can trust our eyesight, the magic the painting may have once possessed has left it'. To him it is a 'rather academic' picture: 'This Venus or courtesan seems to have taken off her clothes in a mood of boring ostentation, and it has pleased the public to detect purity, or maybe 'Lascivia,' in a work which remains a handsome and magisterial performance, or exercise in the fine arts'.

Titian, 'Venus of Urbino' (Florence)
Next week, another Venus by Titian.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

170. Titian in Ancona

A stay along the Adriatic Coast in Italy allowed us to visit a couple of places that could have been inspected by Charles Ricketts. But they were not. He might have, though, for his work on the painter Titian. Ricketts's Titian was published by Methuen in 1910.

The 'List of Works' at the end of this monograph mentions fourteen Italian cities where Titian's paintings were held at the time, of which we visited two on this trip: Urbino and Ancona. 

In Ancona, the 'List of Works' discloses, two paintings by Titian can be seen: the 'Altar-Piece of the Madonna and Child, with St. Francis, St. Blaise, and Donor', dated 1520, in the Church of San Domenico (plate XLV in Titian), and the 'Christ on the Cross, with the Virgin, St. John, and St. Dominic', or 'Crucifixion', at the Pinacoteca (plate CXLVI).


Titian, Crucifixion, or 'Christ on the Cross'
If I say that these paintings can be seen, I should add that we did not see them. The Church of San Domenico on the Piazza del Plebiscito was closed the Sunday afternoon that we walked from the Cathedral, past the amphitheatre and the archaeological museum to the new town centre. On our tour we also came past the Pinacoteca Comunale "Francesco Podesti" e Galleria d'Arte Moderna. It was 'chiuso per ristrutturazione'.


Announcement near the door of the Art Gallery of Ancona (October 2014)
In October, many art galleries in this region, the holiday season being over, are closed, or only open by appointment, but the art gallery was closed for an undetermined period.

The information board on the facade showed what we could not see: the Titian painting among other masterpieces.


Reading the information on the collection of the Art Gallery of Ancona (October 2014)
Refurbishment, or restoration, or whatever went on inside the building (the website was not clear on the matter), should probably be welcomed.


The Ancona Art Gallery in the via Pizzecolli (October 2014)
Ricketts did not see the painting either, he did not visit Ancona for his research, and based his opinion on a photograph:

The altar-piece at Ancona is known to me only by photographyit would seem to be one of Titian's most enchanting works (Plate XLV.). Something of the abruptness of pose and freshness of design of the work done in the first decade of the century is preserved in this picture, which benefits by the more subtle surfaces belonging to a period when Titian had nothing more to master. It has doubtless the frankness of execution which belongs to all his paintings on panel. I feel a certain hesitation in confessing that to me at least there is in this picture, and in 'The Entombment' (finished or delivered in 1523), a survival of something almost Giorgionesque, to use a vague and often abused expression. True, the Madonna at Ancona is dissimilar in facial type to any other of Titian's Virgins. She leans forward in the gracious pose which Titian often affects, but she strikes one as a portrait of some winning but not beautiful woman. She is not the matronly goddess of the 'Assunta' - she seems also nearer nature than the sedate or gracious Madonnas he has painted hitherto, whose placid beauty ranks them after all as the more dignified sisters of the lovely 'Vanitas.' The sky on which the Virgin rests, breaks into the billowy masses and the large white strata of cloud which Titian paints in the 'Bacchus and Ariadne.' In the two fig leaves against the sky the painter reverts to a scheme of things which was in vogue when Bellini was still alive, and in the design of the donor and the ardent figure of St. Blaise we are reminded at once of the 'St. Mark' in the Salute [in Venice], and even of the 'Baffo.' We are all the more conscious of this when we glance at the Pesaro family where the Bishop of Paphos kneels as an older man, and the singular freshness or abruptness in gesture in the picture at Ancona is forced upon us. (page 63)

Titian, Gozzi Altarpiece, or 'Madonna and Child' 
We didn't see the Titian paintings in Ancona - a city we enjoyed on a very hot October day, - however, we were luckier in Urbino.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

169. Four Shelves of Books at Auction

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, in Windsor, Connecticut, announced its 'Important Annual Fall Antiques and Fine Art Auction' that will take place on 25 October.

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, 25 October 2014, lot no. 437
The sale includes antique tables, chests, pianos, paintings, and also four shelves of books. The description of lot no. 437 - the last lot - is short:

Four shelves of books, some leather bound, to include Ivan Turgenieff, Edgar Allen Poe, Works of Longfellow, First Numbered Addition and Vale Press Hacon, Charles Ricketts Shakespear set.

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, 25 October 2014, lot no. 437
('Addition' must be a typo for 'Edition'; and Shakespeare's name lacks a final 'e' in the website description.)

The estimated price is $200-$400, starting bid is $100. The spines show heavy wear and serious damage to some of them. The Vale Press edition of Shakespeare seems to be almost complete - I can count 38 (out of 39) volumes, but I am not sure which volumes are included. Some spines look rather browned. Of course, one should also be able to smell the volumes to ascertain their provenance, as the contents of these shelves might be taken from a library that was also used as a smoking room...

[Note, 1 November 2014: Price realised: US$ 322.]