If you ignore the daft prattlings about the end of the auction houses and the depredations of estimates, Souren Melikian does his best to promote the dealers at TEFAF which opens later this week:
Last December, one of the most remarkable paintings by Jacob Jordaens, “The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausicaa,” was sold at Christie’s for £2.05 million, or $3.13 million. Done in his grandest Rubensian manner, the mythological scene is set in a landscape with admirable chiaroscuro light effects. The Jordaens, known from a valuation made in 1865, had never been illustrated before its reproduction in the Christie’s catalogue. Its glory, however, could be surmised rather than seen under a film of dirt and decaying varnish accumulated over 150 years.
It takes the eye of a professional with long experience to evaluate the actual state of the paint surface of a picture under these circumstances. Few collectors are able not only to make this assessment but, more important, to form a mental image of what the grimy picture might look like after cleaning. At the private viewing on Thursday, privileged guests will discover the Jordaens gleaming in pristine condition on Mr. Van Haeften’s stand. There, they will also see an admirable painting by Joachim Wtewael, “Maternal Charity.” Signed and dated 1623, this landmark in the Dutch Mannerist artist’s later oeuvre had come up at Christie’s December auction. But it is only after cleaning that the glory of its color scheme with its glazes intact was revealed for the first time in living memory.
A Russian collector was tempted to get the gem but, a professional in the trade tells me, he abstained, uncertain of how well preserved the paint surface would turn out to be after cleaning — buying a picture obscured by dirt is a gamble.
Why the Future Lies at Art Fairs (NYTimes)