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CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of the Olympic Posters
The Case of the Olympic Posters

The Case of the Solitary Surrealist
The Case of the Solitary Surrealist

The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity
The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys
The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard
The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910
The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of the Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2

The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light
The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light

The Case of Leni and the Nuba
The Case of Leni and the Nuba

The Case of the Seductive Souvenir
The Case of the Seductive Souvenir

The Case of the Irish Surrealist
The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The Case of the Developing Dalí
The Case of the Developing Dalí

The Case of Nano-D Technology
The Case of Nano-D Technology

The Case of Dabatable Donations
The Case of Debatable Donations

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of the Long-tailed Monkey

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of Edgar Heap of Birds

Silent Song
The Case of the Silent Song

Aficionado
The Case of Alex and the Art Aficionado

Portrait
The Case of the Privacy of the Publicity Photo

Potter
The Case of the Potter's Portraits

The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

The Case of the Political Portraitist

The Case of the Reconsidered Revolution

The Case of the Anabiotic Abbey

The Case of the Phoney Picasso

The Case of Setsuko Piroche

The Case of being on the Forest Edge with Vern Simpson

The Case of Being at the End of the Storm with Loren Adams

The Case of Being: Under the Table with Thomas

The Case of Wyland's Whales on Walls

The Case of A.Y. Jackson's Smart River (Alaska)

The Case of Red Fish with Blue Breasts

The Case of Looe Poole

The Case of Camaldoli

The Case of MS

The Case of the Misattributed Emily Carrs

The Case of the Doubtful Dürer

The Case of the Purloined Picasso

The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

The Case of the First Wife

The Case of the Dodford Priory

The Case of the Unknown Actor

Art Services & Materials


Confessions Back

Practical Art History
(or Confessions of a Fine Art Appraiser)

by Jim Finlay
Finlay Fine Art & Wealth Management
jim_finlay@telus.net

Chapter 21. The Case of the Political Portraitist

I first became aware of portraiture by the Swedish painter Alexander Roslin (1718-1793) when I stumbled on a copy of the same portrait Roslin had painted in 1768 of his artist wife, Marie- Suzanne Giroust. The copy was painted in oil on canvas board, measured approximately 18 x 14 inches, and was signed and dated in the lower right, "G. Godkin 1951". On the reverse, "G. Godkin 1951" was written in oil paint in what appeared to be the hand of the artist, and in pencil were the words “Lady with a Veil.” Affixed to the back was a gallery label from Hartley's Picture Crafts, Victoria, B.C. and a notation for delivery to a Mrs. W. Godkin of Kenora, Ontario by express COD. I was intrigued.

Lasy with a Veil - Roslin

Lady With a Veil by Alexander Roslin

Lady with a Veil – After Roslin

Lady With a Veil by G. Godkin after Alexander Roslin

The original painting by Roslin entitled Lady with a Veil is in the permanent collection of The National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Roslin's admirable realistic depiction of his wife is alluring, reverential and provocative. It evokes a sense of femininity, mystery and seduction, and pays homage to the committed loving relationship that both appear to share and enjoy.

How did a mid-20th century. copy by G. Godkin come to be addressed to a W. Godkin in Kenora, presumably around the same time as the painting was produced? I doubt that the painting was copied from an image in a book as large-scale colour reproductions of relatively obscure works were probably not available at that time and, of course, this would presuppose that the National Museum had licensed commercial reproductions of artworks from its collection.

I surmised that the artist G. Godkin had been at the museum in the early 1950s, and had painted a copy from the original with the intention of mailing it to his or her relative in Kenora. Possibly it could have arrived in Victoria as part of the household belongings of a family which had settled on Vancouver Island.

A number of portraits of Imperial Russian statesmen have been attributed to Alexander Roslin including those of Ivan Betskoi (1704-1795) and Ivan Shuvalov (1727-1797). Betskoi was a Russian school reformer who served as advisor to Catherine II on matters of education. He was President of the Imperial Academy of the Arts from 1764-94, and established a unified system of public education in Russia. Shuvalov was the first Russian Minister of Education, and he actively participated in the founding of Russian theatre, university, and arts academy institutions.

I am reminded of an admonition by one of my professors who exhorted any historian to avoid looking at historical pictures through contemporary eyes. What were the artist's intentions in painting a picture of his wife? I should think that no one knows but the artist himself. Was Roslin making a statement about political ideology and male power or telling us how much he was in love with his extraordinarily beautiful wife?

Next: The Case of Our Man in Havana

 Sat, Feb 6, 2010