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From Museum to Museum: Strogonov Spiro “The Duet” for Sale Again

Dutch Master Gerrit van Honthorst was a prolific artist but few of his paintings have lead as a exiting existence as “The Duet.” Painted in 1624, in the 19th century it resided in St. Petersburg, in the company of Rembrandts, van Dycks and Lucas Cranachs. “The Duet” was once a part of the illustrious collection of Count Strogonov.

Stroganov was the art advisor to Catherine the Great, as well as President of the Imperial Academy of Arts, and his gallery became a popular meeting place for artists and connoisseurs. He was also a generous patron of prominent living artists such as Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Marie-Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and Hubert Robert. He published a catalogue of his collection, the first of its type in Russia, using French texts as his model. From the various editions of these catalogues, it can be determined that Stroganov acquired The Duet after the publication of the 1793 catalogue, in which it is not included, but before that published in 1807, where it is listed as La leçon de chant, or The Singing Lesson. The picture passed by descent through the family and appears in the 1864 catalogue of the Hermitage and local collections. After 1912, it was housed at the Hermitage Museum along with other Stroganov pictures, two years before Count Sergei Alexandrovich (1852-1923) opened the family palace to the public in 1914. Following the Revolution of 1917, the family’s collection was nationalized, and in 1925 the Stroganov Palace was made part of the Hermitage Museum. In 1931, The Duet was sold in a special auction organized by the Soviet regime held at Lepke, Berlin. Later that same year, it was purchased by Bruno and Ellen Spiro, from whom it was seized by National Socialists and sold in 1938 along with the contents of Villa Spiro, their residence in Berlin. It passed through several German private collections before being acquired in 1969 on the Munich art market by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, from which it was restituted to the heirs of the Spiro family in April 2013. More Information: http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=62373#.UYvbPYKGuQ0%5B/url%5D Copyright © artdaily.org

Sources: The New York Times; ArtDaily.