Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Fate of a Work of "Orphaned Art"

In September 2019, Gossips reported about an oil painting on canvas mounted on a board depicting a naked elderly man which Hudson resident Albert Roberts had purchased at an auction in Kinderhook for $600 in 2002. 

When Roberts found it, it was evident that the painting had been poorly stored somewhere. There were bird droppings on the back. But Roberts, who spent much of his life finding and identifying what he called "orphaned art," believed the painting was from the Dutch Golden Age of painting, the age of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Rubens. It turned out he was right. In 2019, the painting was authenticated as an early work by Anthony van Dyck and the oil sketch for his c. 1620 painting of St. Jerome with an angel, which hangs in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

In 2021, there were plans for the painting to be returned to the Netherlands, to the museum in Rotterdam where the painting of St. Jerome hangs. At that time, the Register-Star reported, "When the painting is being shown in Rotterdam, Roberts said the museum could buy it." Sadly, Roberts died before he and the painting could make the journey to the Netherlands.

Today, Gossips learned the van Dyck oil sketch will be auctioned at Sotheby's in New York City on January 26. Identified as "A Study for St. Jerome," it appears as item 110 in the collection Master Paintings Part 1. Its estimated value is given as "2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD." 


  1. Privately, Al Roberts had long determined that his van Dyck study should probably go to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

    However, at the time of his death there were no settled arrangements and no instructions left behind. Knowing Al, there was some nebulous purpose in that. Whatever it was, though, I don't believe it concerned money. Even when finances were stretched the paintings always came first.

    In the circumstances, I think Al would have approved the painting's auction. On behalf of the painting alone he'd have enjoyed the attention of this Gossips post, too.

  2. Al would be happy with this result. He was a good friend of John Anderson, our friend, of Foxfire Antiques,in 500 block of Hudson, and always was searching for lost art sometimes coming up with lesser but good paintings. This was an exceptional find. About equal to my brother-in-law's find, a similar searcher for art, who found an El Greco portrait of Rembrandt, in a sale in South Africa - paid $40. He spent 25 years Having it authenticated and it finally was. My sister had it auctioned after his death in an Old Master Sale in London about 12 years ago - not such a substantial price, as the painting had been cut down, - but pretty good. She was thrilled! Good for Al - and good for Arthur.