Auction Hightlights - Something Is Afoot At The Museum of Fine Art

Something Is Afoot At The Museum of Fine Art

Safely tucked away in the New York archives of the Museum of Fine Art is a sculpture by Early Renaissance artist Donatello…or so it is believed. The delightful gilded, wooden figure in question is of an angelic child lost in thought and swift of foot. It bears an uncanny resemblance to Donatello’s putto figures that were popular at the time, which is why Renaissance scholar and art dealer Andrew Butterfield is convinced it is by the same artist.

Butterfield recently sold his own Donatello for $8-11 million to Jon Landau of Bruce Springsteen fame. But not before he had the opportunity of comparing it to the MFA’s Cupid, together with another expert in the field. They studied every inch of each statue and pored over every detail before coming to the conclusion that the MFA Cupid is 100% Donatello.

Born Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi (1386-1466), Donatello was a gifted Early Renaissance sculptor from Florence. He was a student of the master sculptor, Lorenzo Ghiberti, who taught him the art of the Gothic form. Later, he studied under the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, and accompanied him to excavation sites of Ancient Rome. Excavating classical relics and artifacts gave Donatello a new perspective on his craft, and deepened his understanding of his art. In his time, he was as famous as Michelangelo was to become.

The MFA purchased the Donatello sculpture in 1960 for about $30,000. Its provenance says that allied forces discovered it in 1945, among Hitler’s hoard of coveted treasures. Today, it would fetch millions and millions of dollars at auction. But the experts at the MFA remain unconvinced. They argue that there are too many unanswered questions about the sculpture, and have placed Cupid back in storage.

As far as Butterfield is concerned, it’s not the money but the history that he’s more interested in. Each piece of art that remains hidden or in storage is a missing part of the complete story, and that seems a little unfair.

Butterfield has a nose for finding rare works of art. About 10 years ago, he recognized a masterpiece by the sculptor Bernini that has since been valued at $50 million. You can see this rare sculpture at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Metal Detectorist Who Discovered Viking Treasure

In a very rare discovery in Galloway, Scotland, a metal detectorist recently happened upon a Viking hoard of treasure. An incredible find, the detectorist called the authorities who sent a team of archeologists to begin the search. They found two burial sites or rather layers to this hoard. The top layer contained a beautiful gold pin in the likeness of a bird, and 67 silver ingots and arm rings, said to be crafted in Ireland. Silver was the currency in those days, and this cache reveals a Viking owner of some wealth and circumstance.

The second layer reveals another treasure trove, perhaps even more rare than the first, a highly ornate metal vessel from the Carolingian period. This "pot of gold" was simply brimming with jewellery and other valuables, each carefully wrapped in fabric and leather straps, decorated with runes. It’s an exciting and extremely rare find.

What drew detectorist Derek McLennan to this site in Galloway was the local story of the defeat of a Viking army by a Scots army. This was in the 10th century, at the end of the Viking’s bloody reign in the British Isles. He was right to follow his instincts. It’s the kind of once-in-a-lifetime find that metal detectorists only dream about. You can follow the whole incredible story at National Geographic.

Double Trouble: The Tribal Art of Jangarh Singh Shyam

If you’re not familiar with the name Jangarh Singh Shyam, chances are you’ve seen his pioneering work – it’s remarkable. Known as one of India’s most influential tribal artists, Shyam is responsible for starting a new artistic movement in the East, and inspiring other house painters like himself.

He moved from painting murals on plaster to creating works of art on canvas under the careful tutelage of modern Indian master Jagdish Swaminathan, who discovered Shyam in the 1980s.

His works of art are highly collectible and never fail to draw a big crowd whenever a piece goes up for sale at auction. Recently, one of his unknown pieces sold for twice the asking price at Saffronart, and went for $12,660.

Despite his fame and popularity, Shyam remained unfulfilled throughout his short life, tragically ending it all in 2001 while exiled in Japan. He is survived by many of his Tribal Art disciples, including his daughter Japani.

TEFAF Art Fair Coming To New York

TEFAF – the world’s most impressive art, antiques and design auction – is opening its doors to a new show in the fall at the spectacular New York Park Avenue Armory. A simply stunning location for this extraordinary show, this is one experience you need to witness in person.

Every year in Maastricht in the Netherlands, TEFAF draws a crowd of more than 75,000 people and boasts exhibits from more than 275 museums, galleries and dealers. Each one goes through a strict vetting process that checks authenticity, quality and the condition of each work. Since 1975, TEFAF has built up a reputation to become the world’s leading art fair and prestigious art market. Now is your chance to see this show close to home. For more information, please visit

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