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BIZ BUZZ: An artwork’s provenance

/ 05:22 AM October 13, 2021

We wrote last week about a string of issues raised by an art pundit on the provenance presented by an unnamed local auction house for a recently auctioned artwork by an old master.

Well, Salcedo Auctions wrote to refute the issues point by point.

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On the identity of the first owner of the painting, Salcedo managing director Victor Silvino stated that the “granny” cited by the anonymous art pundit quoted in the article was not the same person as the similarly named lady who was part of the provenance of the recently auctioned Félix Resurrección Hidalgo painting.

“The Biz Buzz article is apparently referring to a ‘Maria Luisa Rovira de Galatas’—who was born in Spain during the year 1909, married Manuel Galatas of the Philippines, and lived for a portion of her life in Forbes Park, Makati—however, such person is not the same lady as ‘Maria Luisa Galatas Vallejo’ who has been referenced in Salcedo Auctions’ catalogues and website. In fact, we have conducted due diligence and documentary evidence that belies any connection between the two individuals,” Silvino said. This was in reply to the issue about the dowager’s grandson doubting that it was ever part of granny’s assets.

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He noted Maria Luisa Rovira de Galatas had no relationship whatsoever to the painting, adding that the artwork had always remained in Europe until its return to the Philippines in 2021.

On questions on the movement of the artwork, based on the 1926 original invoice issued when the painting was purchased from Feuardent Frères, Silvino asserted that there was record of Feuardent Frères having offered ‘tableaux’ (paintings).

“Moreover, it is well-established industry knowledge that expertise or a lack thereof does not correlate to the venue of a sale and/or the source of an artwork as consignee,” Silvino said.

The date in the receipt, as referenced in Salcedo Auctions’ catalogues and website, only indicates a payment settlement date, without any mention of it having been specifically sold at auction, he added.

Citing the “standard” practice for auction houses, Silvino explained that such firms also conduct private treaty sales. The lack of citation in an auction sale catalogue “does not prove that the work was not transacted by Feuardent Frères,” he said.

On the absence of listing in the 1945 exhibit in Paris, he said the reference to the Galerie de France label and the painting having been “exhibited” did not in any way claim that the Hidalgo painting had been part of an exhibit of abstract works covering the period 1911-1918.

“The label at the back of the painting only showed, at best, its whereabouts at the time. By way of education, a painting being exhibited in a gallery may also mean that it is part of inventory for private treaty sale to be shown to interested parties that is displayed in a backroom.”

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Silvino further stated that the artists who had exhibited in an earlier 1943 exhibit at Galerie de France were not all French, and that a gallery exhibiting a particular school or style of painting —abstract, cubist, avant-garde—did not preclude it from carrying works by artists painting in other styles.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Speaking of which …

What Biz Buzz raised were issues about subjects that the Salcedo Auctions catalog itself has introduced to the art-buying public.

Naturally, any information put out online or in print as a catalog, not to mention publicized in various media, in order to induce a sale is, by definition, subject to examination and validation.

What was shared were the concerns of an art pundit who was seeking transparency in the provenance of this and other publicized paintings.

On the identity of “Maria Luisa Galatas,” it could have helped if more light was earlier shed on the owner’s identity to make it clear that it was a different person. This would help avoid confusion with the famous dowager with the same first and last names.

On the provenance of Feuardent Frères, the auctioneer house could have explained better how an expert in coins and antiquities, with no record of having sold any paintings, was able to sell a Philippine painting as a “commissaire priseur”—a title it has not used in any of its literature except on the letter published by Salcedo, dated July 21, 1926.

Salcedo wrote in its catalog that “a label describes where and when it was exhibited after it was purchased: the renowned Galerie de France in Paris on May 25, 1945.” A photograph of the label attached to the back of the Hidalgo painting is furthermore featured in the catalog. It reads: “Galerie de France, (address), Vernissage le Vendredi 25 Mai 1945.” This translates to: “Galerie de France (address), Exhibition Opening, Friday, 25 May 1945.”

As to how it appears to the layman reader, both the statement in the Salcedo catalog and the photograph of the label did not point to its mere “whereabouts at the time,” but squarely placed the painting at the exhibit opening of May 25, 1945, which happened to be the inauguration or “vernissage” of the show “Le Cubisme: 1911-1918” (or “Cubism: 1911-1918). The catalog of this Cubism exhibit is freely available on the internet and the lineup of artists did not include this artwork. However, our art pundit noted that the typeface, kerning and blue lettering of the Galerie de France “Le Cubisme” title page were identical to the Galerie de France label at the back of the Hidalgo painting and published in the catalog.

Our art pundit sought to find out why a Hidalgo painting dated 1900 would carry a provenance label corresponding to the Cubism exhibit of May 25, 1945, down to the typography of the catalog, but yet was absent from that same catalog.

In any case, the issues have now been clarified for all parties involved.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

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TAGS: Biz Buzz, Discovery World Corp., Salcedo Auctions
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