photo credit: Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
This very unusual subject was attributed to Salvator Rosa when in the collection of Dr William Hunter (1718–1783), founder of the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery. It was engraved with this attribution by Robert Strange. The idea that Rosa painted it was rejected a long time ago, but so far no convincing answer has been proposed as to who was its author.
It is not even certain whether it is by an artist from north or south of the Alps. Could it be by a Northerner who spent some time in Italy such as Bernhard Keil (1624–1687)?
Apologies for the unexpected source (familysearch.org), but I did find the painting with the following notation: Laomedon Refusing Payment to Poseidon and Apollo, 17th century, current location: Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland. Attributions: Joachim von Sandrart (1606–1688), Girolamo Troppa (1637–1710).
Perhaps the source of the notation above: http://museumsuk.net/en/collection/object/159774/laomedon-refusing-payment-to-poseidon-and-apollo
It seems French. Poussin never painted half-lengths, but maybe his Roman circle or Parisian relations might shed some light on the author of the painting?
It could well be a Joachim von Sandrart. Sandrart made his studies with Honthorst (as the Sandrart Family was of flemish origin, they had connections to dutch and flemish cities). He extensively travelled Italy from 1629 to 1635. It is known that Sandrart had some orders for religious as well as "history" paintings, including mythological scenes, when at Rome under Pope Urban VIII in the 1630. It would seem to me that the picture in question would fit into a style between 1620 and 1640, post Caravaggio, with a blend of northern and italian influences.
Actually, a Vienna Museum hast a scene where the head of the male mythological figure (Saturn) resembles one of the heads in this Picture.
A monograph on Bernhard Kielhau by Minna Heimburger was published in Rome in 1988.
The Historisches Museum held a Joachim von Sandrart exhibition in 2006
None of the Sandrart publications in the British Library show paintings anything like this
The Heimberger book on Keilhau mostly has very low quality illustrations - but look at the St John the Evangelist in the Musee des Beaux Arts,Quimper [p. 254 no 205] and The fishseller in a private collection [p. 197 no 89] for the hands and faces
However, subject pictures like this do not seem to be his thing - I saw a couple of paintings in the Musee des Beaux Arts, Rennes attributed to him [not in Heimberger] , but I have not yet located images of them
The leathery flesh could be compared with that on Keilhau's St John the Evangelist in the Musee des Beaux Arts, Quimper [De Veronese a Casanova. Parcours italien dans les collections de Bretagne, Musee des Beaux Arts, Rennes, 2014, pp. 120-121]
The Artnet page on Keil includes a number of pictures of similar style or handling:
I'd like to ask please
What were the circumstances of the painting losing it's attribution?
and when did that happen?
It was engraved by Sir Robert Strange as by Rosa in 1775 and this attribution was unchallenged well into the 20th century, but it was probably very little known. There was no art historian at the Hunterian Art Gallery or indeed in the University of Glasgow until after the Second World War. The Hunterian Art Gallery's records will no doubt record when the attribution was discarded. It was probably in the 1952 London exhibition of William Hunter's collection. I do not have that catalogue here. Since 1977 a number of different artists have been suggested as possibilities have been tentatively put forward including Sandrart and Roman and Genoese painters, none of them very likely - the Hunterian's files will include them all.
William Hunter seems to have forgotten who painted a Danae in his collection, even though he may well have met the artist Andrea Casali, recognised eventually by Alastair Laing despite its dirty condition less than 20 years ago - - a major discovery for Glasgow.
Thanks very much.
I wondered whether it was a recent change as it looks like it may have also lost its title as well as its attribution during its time in the Hunterian Art Gallery.
It appears that the painting was known to Robert Strange as ‘Laomedon detected’
His engravings were sold under that title, the painting was exhibited under that title and sold to Dr. Hunter in the auction of 1771 as painting 144. under that title. There were three sales of the paintings that he bought in France and Italy, 1771, 1773 and 1775.
In 1769 RobertStrange self-printed a Catalogue of his Pictures.
The following is the extract concerning the Salvator Rosa painting.
Laomedon Detected No. 63
Laomedon, king of Troy, having employed Neptune and Apollo to build the walls of the city, is afterwards surprised by the gods in the very act of concealing his treasure, when at the same time he had pretended he could not pay them. Whoever is acquainted with the Belisarius of Lord Townsend, will at once see the similitude, and discover that they are both painted in the same stile, and consequently about the same period. The figure of Laomedon is one of the most expressive characters that can be imagined and is painted with that freedom so perculiar to the pencil of Salvador. The Apollo is well characterised, and finely painted: the hand and the arm of this figure are admirably drawn and foreshortened. We find united in the Neptune much of the character both of Raphael and of the antique. It appears that the painter has taken his idea from one of the heads of the gods, in the little Farnese palace at Rome. Salvator, ever celebrated for the poetry of his inventions, has introduced behind this head, and at a distance the appearance of lightening; no doubt as a presage of the future calamities which Troy sustained on this account. No painter ever under stood more thou roughly the propriety of composition, nor knew better how to dispose of the accessories of a picture than Salvator. There is a spirit and liberty of pencil throughout this subject which animates the whole, in so much that it may with justice be ranked amongst the capital works of this master.
Three feet two inches and a half high, by two feet eight inches wide.”
It was exhibited in the Hunterian in 1880 under a slight variant of ‘Detection of Laomedon’ but there were still books from the 1950s that noted that there was a painting called ‘Laomedon Detected’ by ‘Salvator Rosa’ at the Gallery.
Whether it is or isn't a Rosa, has anyone read through Robert Strange’s correspondence and papers in the archives in the National Library of Scotland? (I'm too far away)
I understand that the paintings were allegedly shipped from the continent at the same time.
It may have some practical details as to where the painting was bought or shipped from. Judging by the above the probability would be Italy.
Ref:14253-59; CH 10674-83
Desc. Corresp and papers
There were plans for a Sir Robert Strange exhibition some years ago in which the National Gallery of Scotland and the Hunterian Art Gallery . This never happened, but I believe that Strange's correspondence was looked through then . Some of Strange's purchases were in France
I should add that the extreme rarity of the subject means that the painting's earlier history might be elucidated by an inventory or an earlier sale catalogue
The attribution to Sandrart remains plausible, although this picture is relatively coarsely painted, so it would be more likely to be by "circle of Sandrart." Here's a Sandrart for comparison:
Keilhau seems much less likely to have painted a mythological subject, although his style was rougher than Sandrart's.