A closer look at what the Brooklyn Museum is selling

Lucas Cranach the Elder's Lucretia, which is to be auctioned at Christie's on 15 October

Taking advantage of recently relaxed rules, the Brooklyn Museum is auctioning 12 works to raise money for the care of its collections. The biggest-ticket item is Lucas Cranach the Elders 16th-century Lucretia, an oil on panel valued by Christies at $1.2m to $1.8m that will hit the auction block on 15 October.

Not long ago, this deaccessioning move would have stirred strenuous objections and even precipitated penalties from the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which has long mandated that museums sell works only to finance additional art acquisitions. But in April, the association revised its rules to help American museums struggling with a financial crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Until April 2022, they are free to use the proceeds of art sales for “the direct care” of their collections.

Anne Pasternak, the director of the Brooklyn Museum, says that the institution is planning to set up a $40m fund to pay for the collections care that could generate $2m a year for that purpose. The proceeds from the sale of the 12 works, all consigned to Christies for auctions in October, may amount to as much as $3.5m.

“The proceeds will be used to create a permanent restricted Collections Care Fund to support in perpetuity the work of our curators, registrars, conservators and others in preserving, protecting and caring for our collections—one of the most important functions of any museum,” Pasternak says in an email. She adds that the money will go toward purposes like proper storage, conservation, framing as well as toward the salaries paid to staff members involved in caring for the collection.

The museums deaccessioning move was first reported by The New York Times.

Pasternak says the sales were unanimously approved by the Brooklyn Museums board of trustees after the works were painstakingly selected by curators. Additional works will be deaccessioned in the future to help the museum reach its goal of $40m, she adds.

“While it is always difficult to part with a work by any artist, the curators have been very careful to select works that, while very good examples of their kind, will not diminish our collections by their absence,” the museum director says. “The museum has a deep collection of diverse, high-quality art,” encompassing more than 160,000 items, “and many of the works being deaccessioned have not been exhibited for decades.”

“While a few works have been exhibited, we have far stronger examples in the collection for which we are better known,” she says. “This step will enable these works to enrich other collections and reach new audiences, while allowing the museum to ensure that the core of our collection is protected in perpetuity.”

The Cranach, however, is the only work by the artist in the Brooklyn Museums collection. In the auction catalogue, Christies describes it as “consistent with works of highest quality” produced by Cranach from 1525 to the mid-1530s. “Overall it is characterised by the deft, assured, and efficient brushwork for which Cranach is known,” the catalogue says. “Of special note are the sensitive handling of the facial features, the calligraphic rendering of the highlights in the hair, the convincing modelling of volume in the hands and the striking intensity of the red folds of the robe.”

“In form and quality,” it adds, it can directly be compared with Cranachs Portrait of a Woman from around 1525-27 in the National Gallery in London. It notes, however, that the paintings “current appearance is somewhat compromised by old surface losses and discoloured retouchings”.

Among the other works consigned to Christies for sale in October is an 1868 landscape painting by Courbet, Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche, “a lovingly painted portrait of the strange beauty of his childhood land” in which “the artist found that nature was so dramatic in its own right there was little need for figures”. The work has a distinguished provenance, having been purchased in 1910 by the legendary American collector Louisine Havemeyer before her son donated it to the Brooklyn Museum in 1941. Its sale estimate is $400,000 to $600,000.

Courbet's Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche

Corots Italienne debut tenant une cruche from the 1820s, with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000, is an early-career portrait that shows the artist bordering on painting modern life. “Much of the power of this intimate painting is embedded in the directness and intensity of her gaze”, the catalogue notes of the woman depicted, which creates an “unusual intimacy.” It remained in the artists studio until his death in 1875.

Corot's Italienne debout tenant une cruche

A full-length 15th-century Saint Jerome by Donato de Bardi, who was active in Lombardy and Liguria and only drew significant contemporary recognition in the 1970s with a fresh attribution at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is estimated at $80,000 to $120,000.

Donato de Bardi's Saint Jerome

Also consigned to Christies are works by Giovanni dal Ponte, Francesco Botticini, Lorenzo Costa, Henrik Willem Mesdag, Charles-François Daubigny, Philip Wilson Steer, Jehan-Georges Vibert and an unidentified artist from the Netherlandish School.

Some are less than pleased by the museums fund-raising plan. “Nothing could be more depressing to anyone concerned with painting (indeed the arts) than the decision of the Brooklyn Museum to part company forever with some superb paintings,” says Michael Fried, a Courbet scholar and emeritus professor of humanities and the history of art at Johns Hopkins University. “We will all have our particular favorites, but for me the sale of the Corot, the Courbet and the Daubigny is particularly egregious.”

“I get it, of course, that the museum is financially strapped,” he adds. “But no such considerations can reconcileRead More – Source

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