Eén stuk is in ieder geval niet meer te koop. Nationaal Museum Paleis Het Loo kocht, uiteraard na afdingen, een schilderij van de Utrechtse caravaggist Gerard van Honthorst bij Johnny van Haeften. Bewonder hieronder de Allegorie van vrede en welvaart en lees het verhaal over de ontdekking en de betekenis.
Art.view: Identifying undiscovered paintings is, of course, what every dealer dreams of. In January Mr van Haeften, one of London’s most Knowledgeable dealers in paintings from the Dutch golden age, travelled to New York where he bought a pretty picture by Gerrit van Honthorst. It is of three small children feeding fruit to a spotted animal that could be a leopard or a cougar in a halter (pictured top).
The painting, which had been bought by the American vendor’s father in the 1920s, was estimated to fetch $70,000-90,000. But Mr van Haeften, betting on his superior knowledge of the genre, bid up to $165,000 to secure the picture ($200,500 with commission and taxes).
Back in the London, he had it cleaned and set a young researcher, Dave Dallas, to work on it. Looking at the painting over several weeks, the two men realised that the date on it was not 1649, as stated by Sotheby’s in the catalogue of its January sale, but 1629.
The date is important. Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, was still on the throne (he died in 1647), and the painting, “An Allegory of Peace and Plenty”, celebrates the Dutch conquest of Brazil. The three youngsters are Frederick Henry’s children, Prince Willem and the little princesses, Louise Henriette and Henriette Amalia. The cat is a jaguar and the halter actually orange ribbons restraining it, symbolic of the taming of South America by the House of Orange, which is enjoying the fruits of its conquest. A royal commission gives the painting a provenance it never had before.
Mr van Haeften had hoped to make his royal van Honthorst the star of his Master Paintings Week. Then he got a call from Het Loo in the Netherlands. Until recently a palace belonging to the Dutch royal family, Het Loo is now a museum to the House of Orange Nassau. The trustees would like to buy the picture, and please could they have a discount on the $575,000 Mr van Haeften was asking for it. How much, he won’t say. “We reached a happy conclusion all round.”