New works by Umberto Boccioni, the Italian futurist artist who died at the age of 34, are rare.
But last year one popped up at a clearance sale in the English seaside town of Dorset, and with the nifty price tag of under £100 ($115).
Its anonymous buyer told the The telegraph of the day, who reported the discovery, that they found the image in numerous works by around 20 different artists. Although they initially believed it to be the American impressionist William Merritt Chase, they found signatures on the front and back suggesting it could be a Boccioni .
They took the work to Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams, but only managed to attribute the work after taking it to the London office of the Vienna-based Dorotheum auction house, which referred the buyer to specialist Boccioni Alberto Dambruoso, based at the Academy of Fine Arts in Foggia.
The researcher examined the signatures and compared the technique with other known works, finding similarities with another early example by Boccioni in the Estorick collection in London.
Now Dambruoso has even included the work, which he dates to 1911, as a cover image for Boccioni: Unpublished Workswhich presents 41 new creations from the leader of futurism.
(However, not all scholars agree on the attribution: while Dambruoso awarded the portrait a certificate of authenticity, another prominent Boccioni expert, Ester Coen, abstained.)
This portrait marks a cornerstone in Boccioni’s practice, depicting his transition from his Divisionist period to an intuitive style of painting fundamental to the angular dynamism of Futurism.
Dambruoso estimates the portrait could be worth more than $288,000, which, while well below the $4 million raised for an edition of Boccioni’s most famous sculpture in 2019, is still a considerable sum.
How the painting arrived in England is a mystery, but its existence is a rarity, given Boccini’s untimely death in a training accident at Calvary in 1916. The artist left nearly 1,000 drawings, but only 250 paintings and 25 sculptures, according to the Telegraph.
In their time, the Futurists exhibited throughout the Western world, holding shows in Paris, Rotterdam, and even San Francisco between 1912 and 1915. New works from Dambruoso’s book are now everywhere from Brazil to Australia. Of 200 works submitted for this volume, three-quarters were fakes, a problem that particularly haunts Boccioni’s market.
That’s not the only reason futurism is in the news. Last month, activists glued themselves to an edition of Boccioni Unique forms of continuity in space in an effort to raise awareness of climate change.
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