The FT covers the unveiling of Andrew Butterfield’s latest Old Master re-discovery. Butterfield bought the bust six years ago at an auction paying £100k before doing his research and re-attributing the work to Bernini and his father. The work will be featured at Dickinson Roundell asking $10m, which is pretty close to £10m these days.
Butterfield is on a re-attribution roll these days. This will be his fourth Bernini after reclaiming 50 other works by artists like Donatello. Because of his ability to deliver the big names, Butterfield is a favorite among museum curators and big-ticket buyers.
Mr Butterfield paid $3.2m in 2002 for a work at Sotheby’s that was just “attributed to” Bernini, rather than “by” Bernini. After reauthenticating the sculpture — thought to have spent some of its time as a garden ornament — he was able to sell it to the Kimbell Art Museum for about twice that figure. […] Other works revealed to be by Bernini which were not found by Mr Butterfield have also soared in price. One went from about $25,000 in 2014 to $33m last year, in a sale to the Getty Museum.
These reports are the flip side of the news breaking recently of Old Master works being proved to be forgeries. Each time a new discovery comes to market, it validates the belief and possibility that a work without secure provenance may, indeed, be a re-discovered masterpiece.
This isn’t to blame Butterfield and the other sleuths who have added to the body of known works by these masters. Though it might begin to put more pressure on sales of Old Masters to include some scientific testing to validate the scholarly finds or, at the very least, insure that the find is not a forgery.
New old masters reshape the contemporary art market (Financial Times)