Discovering a Lost Masterpiece
Hendrik Goltzius, Lot and His Daughters, 1616 (photo courtest if Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
Lost to scholars since the 1920s, and believed to have been destroyed in the bombing of Berlin at the end of World War II, this poignant Biblical portrayal of Lot and His Daughters, was discovered by Montgomery Gallery languishing high above a stairwell in the home of a Michigan collector. When the gallery was called upon to perform a routine appraisal it was immediately suspected that this long-forgotten painting was in fact the lost work of the exceptional Dutch Mannerist painter, Hendrik Goltzius. Familiar with the artist from a recent experience as agent for a Royal collector in the purchase of another Goltzius masterpiece, Jupiter and Danae, the gallery sought confirmation from the expert and was excited to learn that it was indeed a rare remaining piece from the artist’s small body of only fifty works. By recognizing this as a work of extraordinary quality and historical significance, Montgomery Gallery was able to return to the owners not the original appraised value of $20,000 but one that was well in excess of one million dollars.
Piecing Together California History
Charles Christian Nahl, Fire in San Francisco Bay, 1856
Montgomery Gallery first became aware of this magnificent painting, Fire in San Francisco Bay, when the corporation that owned it was moving and asked the gallery to assist them with an insurance appraisal. A boardroom fixture for decades, the owners were surprised to learn that the work was painted by one of the foremost artists working in California during the Gold Rush era, Charles Christian Nahl. By sifting through newspapers from the time, Montgomery Gallery was able to piece together the 1853 fire which Nahl had so dramatically depicted. According to the San Francisco newspaper Alta California, fire had broken out on the storeship Manco at 4 pm on July 24th, 1853. Anchored at what is now the Ferry Terminal the fire spread to a nearby ship and the fifteen kilograms of gunpowder stored aboard the Manco threatened the city. As Nahl brilliantly depicts, firefighters were forced onto small boats to put out the fires while hundreds gathered to watch. By 8 pm the fires had been tamed and the Manco sunk, taking with her 50,000 dollars in cargo and gunpowder. Nahl’s dynamic rendering of the event acts as a snapshot of an otherwise forgotten event in which calamity was averted.
Upon further research, it was discovered that this painting is Nahl’s only major portrayal of the San Francisco Bay, and the artistic equal of any presently held in museum collections. Thus apprised of the painting’s importance and value, the owners decided that it would be better appreciated in a museum or private collection than on the wall of a business office.