DEPARTMENT OF LOST ART TREASURES
In my memoir of art discoveries, LEONARDO'S HOLY CHILD (Pegasus Books, 2016), I tell one story of discovering a drawing in a very dusty "antique" shop in San Antonio, Texas, around 1998. The chapter in the book is titled "A Masterpiece For My Brother." My younger brother Allen was dying of liver cancer and we were going around to antique shops looking for treasure, which I assured him we would find and I promised I would share any sale proceeds as a gift to him. In essence, I was calling my shot like Babe Ruth when he promised a sick kid in the hospital he would hit a home run for him, which he did. I was feeling lucky and very sure of myself, based on recent successes. Allen was dreaming of a cruise around the world with his wife. [ I will keep this brief--if further interest, the book is available at Collected Works (Santa Fe), at Amazon, and other bookstore sites.] The story begins with my kicking over a small framed drawing which was leaning against an old chair in this forlorn antique shop. It was covered in dust with a price sticker of $65.
I wiped away the dust, pulled out a magnifying loupe from my pocket and determined it was an original drawing, and to my reckoning a masterpiece, an old master circa 1770s-1790s. Alas, it was not signed, normal for old drawings, but I knew with research I could determine the author. The shop keeper suggested I could buy it for $50, which I did. After a year of serious and difficult research and dead ends with scholars I swear with buttons for eyes, I determined the author as Joseph Anton Koch--a rare and highly esteemed German Neoclassical painter. I had my attribution affirmed by the leading expert in Germany, the Director of the Stuttgart Museum, and sold it for $100,000 to the great Santa Fe collector Eugene Thaw for his old master drawings collection at The Morgan Library. It was, and still is, the finest drawing by Koch in America. Alas, my brother died before he could sail around the world but we had a fine time together bringing home this treasure. After I returned to my gallery in Santa Fe, he called me every day checking on the progress of my research. I had never seen him so happy and it was the best time we ever had together as brothers.
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Joseph Anton Koch (Germany, 1768-1839)
Bernese Oberland Landscape with Women Working, ca.1792-94
8 ¼ x 11 1/8 inches [209 x 280 mm]
Pen, black ink, brush & brown wash, white heightening, pencil
Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library, New York