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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
James Finlay Fine Art Appraisals

Chapter 3. The Case of the First Wife

Recently, I received a letter from the curator at The Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), in response to a query with regard to the authenticity of a signed and dated portrait painting of a young woman, in profile, with an unusually large lower jaw. I suspected that the work was by the important 20th century Dutch artist, Jan Sluijters (Sluyters) 1881-1957.

Bertha Langerhorst, 1902, age: 20 years

Unknown, possibly Bertha, Langerhorst, age: 22 years

Bertha Langerhorst, 1904, age: 22 years

The author of the letter stated that, although the painting “shows some semblance with early work by the artist in the period 1905-1906”, “the work in question is probably not a work by Jan Sluijters.” The letter further stated that, “the signature lower left cannot be attributed to Jan Sluijters.”

In 1904, Sluijters won the Prix de Rome and in 1906 visited Paris, immediately becoming fascinated by modern art. His confrontation with the work of Neo-Impressionists and Fauvists resulted in sensational and dynamically modern work and made him a champion of Modernism.

In 1899, Sluijters became romantically involved with Bertha Langerhorst (1882-1955). Winning the Prix de Rome probably played a role in his decision to marry her on December 29, 1904. In 1909, Sluijters began a relationship with Greet van Cooten and in 1910 his divorce from Bertha was finalized.

Several known portrait paintings and drawings exist by Sluijters of Bertha dating from 1902 to 1904. In each, she is recognizable due to the prominence of her rounded face and large lower jaw.

This observation, accompanied with a signature which read “Jan Sluyters” and the name “Jan Sluijters 1905”, on the back of the work, led me to suspect that the portrait painting in my possession was by Jan Sluijters.

I took images of known portrait drawings of Bertha and enlarged them to determine if the distance from the bottom of the chin to the uppermost hairline corresponded to the same dimension on my painting. I then compared the frontal facial image in both known portraits to the profile portrait in the painting. Both portraits corresponded almost exactly with each other, but they also corresponded exactly with the portrait in my possession.

The positioning of the hairline, the top of the eyebrow, the centre of the eyes, the tip of the nose, the centre of the closed mouth and the bottom of the chin, as well as, the lower tip of the ear lobe corresponded almost identically with each other.

A portrait by Jan Sluijters of his first wife, Bertha?, probably not.

A disclaimer in the curator’s letter states, “the result of the particular historian’s investigation and the RKD’s (Netherlands Institute for Art History) letter containing such information is not intended as an expertise. All liability for consequences of this free service is excluded.”

Next: The Case of the defrocked Duchess of Devonshire.

 Tue, May 30, 2006