Last week, Judith Dobrynski outlined in the Wall Street Journal the process whereby a Baroque statue by Matthais Steinl went from a $120,000 valuation to a $3.8m price tag. Hint: a big part of the issue is deteriminingt hat it really is a Steinl:
[D]espite proportions and features typical of Steinl, once the foremost sculptor at the imperial court of Vienna, the piece was not definitively tied to him. Fewer than 10 ivory carvings by Steinl were known, and five are in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Thus, this sculpture—a scene in the myth in which Ceres cuts a deal with Pluto to allow her daughter Proserpina to return to Earth yearly, initiating spring—attracted fierce bidding from dealers. Two, Anthony Blumka of New York and Florian Eitle-Böhler of Munich, jointly won the lot, and that’s when their work began. “The piece was in horrible condition,” Mr. Blumka says. They had it cleaned and restored to its original state, complete with pieces that had been missing. They also began a raft of research.
Then, says Mr. Blumka, “we took it to Munich for a major Baroque symposium, where it was studied by all the relevant Baroque scholars.” They agreed that the piece is by Steinl and dated it “circa 1690,” about the same time Steinl had carved his famous ivory depictions of Emperor Leopold I and King Joseph I. With its newly confirmed authorship, the piece appeared at a museum exhibition in Frankfurt last year.
“It is quite a sensation that this masterpiece, which was known to scholars only through an old photograph, taken when it was in the Rothschild collection, has re-emerged,” says Eike S. Schmidt, the author of several books on ivory sculpture.” It is, he adds, “certainly one of the most outstanding ivory sculptures that were made in Austria in the Baroque age.”
What’s in a (Certain Name?) A Big Boost in Prices (Wall Street Journal)