This edition of the Red Leather Archive recalls Christie’s sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s art collection. A clandestine treasure tucked away from the Old Master’s market by the 17th century Dutch master Frans Hals: Portrait of a Gentleman, Half-Length, in a Black Coat. At one time, the portrait hung over the fireplace at Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air home. Hals is often compared to Rembrandt for his vigorous and humorous depictions of the growing merchant class. A few images will follow verifying his abilities in facial expression.
Questionable attribution hung over the painting, until it was emphatically authenticated by Pieter Biesboer, retired curator of Old Master paintings at the Frans Hals Museum in Holland. Based on resemblances to other Hals portraits from the 1630s, Biesboer stated in his report,”… the application of the highlights around the eyes and nose, the final touches of the brush in deep ‘ivory black’ pigment in the pupils, the separation of the lips, all characteristics for the work of Hals…”
The back of the painting bears a label from the prestigious art gallery Thomas Agnew and Sons, where Taylor’s father, Francis Lenn Taylor, worked. The actress was fond of the work, so much so, that in 1956, while recuperating from back surgery at New York Presbyterian Medical Center, she had her hospital room decorated with “Portrait of a Man” and several other paintings, including a Renoir and Monet.
Listed at $700,000-$1m, the work proved highly covetable to collectors, and eventually sold for $2.1m in New York.
In comparison and in order to draw parallels, take a look at the Franz Hall acquisition at the Toledo Museum of Art, ‘Family Portrait in a Landscape’.
LA Times Early, Hidden Gem in Taylor Estate, Jori Finkel, 10/04/11
Thank you for joining me for another edition of The Red Leather Archive. There are many more gems to follow!