A Stolen Van Dyck recovered:

The Portrait of Wolfganf Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg

Meredith M. Hale

1 Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

In July 1951 Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg [fig. 1] was stolen from Boughton House, Northamptonshire. It is one of thirty-seven oil sketches at Boughton for Van Dyck’s print series known as the Iconography, a unique group of panels that, until the summer of 1951, had remained together in the same collection since 1682. This paper tells the remarkable story of the theft which spans three generations and involves some of the most prominent members of the art establishment in the UK and the US.

Through new archival research in the UK, US and Canada I have reconstructed the painting’s movements over the past seventy-three years as it passed through the hands of experts, conservators, auctioneers, dealers, and collectors from London to Toronto. Not only do these sources reveal a dynamic picture of events as they unfold, they highlight the factors that contributed to the success of the theft, foremost among them the conceptual and material complexity of Van Dyck’s Iconography project and the audacity of a thief cloaked in the respectability of expertise.[1]

The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg is one of thirty-seven oil sketches by Anthony van Dyck and his studio purchased by Ralph, Earl of Montagu, on 18 April 1682 from the sale of the collection of the painter Sir Peter Lely.[2] The grisailles, small panels measuring c. 8 ½ x 6 ½ inches (c. 22 x 16.5 cm) first hung in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, where they survived a fire in 1686, before the relocation of the household to Whitehall in the 1730s.[3] They were evacuated with the rest of the family’s collection to Boughton House, Northamptonshire, in 1940 where they remain today. The Boughton panels are the largest group of oil sketches associated with Van Dyck’s Iconography and, alongside preparatory drawings, played a key role in the production of printed portraits of Van Dyck’s contemporaries: princes, military leaders, scholars and artists.[4] The group remained intact in the collection of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry (descendants of the Duke of Montagu) for two hundred and sixty-nine years until the visit of L.G.G. Ramsay, editor of The Connoisseur, in summer 1951.[5]

i. The oil sketches, 1682-1950

The number of sketches for the Iconography in the Montagu collection increased from the thirty-seven bought at the Lely sale in 1682 to forty listed in an inventory of 1746, an increase in number that has caused considerable confusion in the literature.[6] A letter to the third Duke of Montagu of c. 1790 already reflects an early effort to account for the additional three panels: ‘I recollect [Joshua] Reynolds informing me that he had met with one amongst some old furniture & probably one might have been met with or bought prior to this time’.[7] However, the painting at the centre of the events reconstructed here, The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, was among the original group bought by Ralph Montagu in 1682. Indeed, it was listed as number six in George Vertue’s account of paintings at Montagu House in 1732: ‘pictures in Chiaroscure at the Duke of Mountagues house in Bloomsbury—those I mean from which the prints were engraved in Vandykes book of heads…6. P. Wolfange Willm C. Palatin’.[8] It was recorded in the Buccleuch collection in Ignatz von Szwykowski’s Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen of 1859 and by Arthur M. Hind in his Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography of 1915.[9] The panel also featured as number 167 in the Winter Exhibition of The Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, in 1900.[10] It was moved, together with the rest of the grisailles, to Boughton House in 1940 remaining there throughout the war.

The last record of the painting at Boughton House appears in the notebook of Van Dyck scholar Sir Oliver Millar (1923-2007), Deputy Surveyor of the Royal Collection from 1949 to 1972, where he records his examination of the sketches between 1 and 3 July 1950.[11] He wrote the following:

Wolfgang Wilhelm, Count Palatine (9 ½ x 7”): tol. [to left] front in gilded armour and the Golden Fleece with r. hand resting on bâton: curtain behind: silvery line in flesh and of rather a silverpoint texture: thin and liquid throughout.[12]

In 1958, seven years after the sketch had disappeared, Millar recalled: ‘When I spent that week-end at Boughton I devoted a morning to working through the grisailles. I took them off the wall one by one, measured them and looked at them. The missing subject is the first on my list and I assume it was the first I took down. It was therefore probably the one that came first to hand as one entered the room. If it was pinched from Boughton it was probably the easiest one to abduct’.[13]

ii. 1950-1958

In the summer of 1951, Leonard Gerald Gwynne (known as L.G.G.) Ramsey (1913-1990), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and editor of the journal The Connoisseur, visited Boughton House with the photographer Anthony F. Kersting for the 1952 edition of The Connoisseur Year Book.[14] A seven-page article written by Nicholas Carew and illustrated with sixteen plates discussed the history of the family, the architecture of the house, and the collections housed there. The Van Dyck sketches were not mentioned in the article.[15]

On 29 September 1953, Ramsey wrote to the art historian Ludwig Goldscheider (1896-1973), co-founder and editor of Phaidon Press, about two paintings that he intended to sell:[16]

My dear Dr. Goldscheider:

Some time ago I mentioned to you on the telephone that I was selling my two small Van Dyck subjects, photographs of which I enclose. (I must raise the money somehow to pay for new curtains for the house into which we have moved!) You very kindly said that you would be prepared to give me a short note saying that you considered these two subjects to be by Van Dyck’s hand. If you are still of the same mind I should be most grateful if you could do this in respect of the two which I have the pleasure to send you herewith.

Very kindest regards,

Leonard Gwynne Ramsey[17]

 

Though Ramsey did not identify his ‘two small Van Dyck subjects’ in this letter to Goldscheider, the latter’s certificate, dated the following day, 30 September 1953, confirms that one of the subjects was a portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg painted en grisaille for Van Dyck’s Iconography. Goldscheider’s certificate, which was written on the back of the photograph sent by Ramsey the previous day, reads:

Van Dyck: Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg (1578-1653)

Painted by Van Dyck for his “Iconography”, engraved by L. Vorsterman. A drawing in the Brit. Mus (Hind Nr. 37) is connected with a full length portrait of the Duke, of which one variant is in the Munich museum, and other versions in Chantilly, in the collection of Dr. Pietro del Gindice [sic], and elsewhere; the best version in the Yerkes Collection, New York. The present sketch in oil is the only one known which corresponds with the engraving in Van Dyck’s “Iconography”, and it is certainly done for Vorsterman who worked exactly from it. The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.

30 Sept: 1953 L. Goldscheider[18]

On 9 April 1954, the painting appeared as lot 129 in a sale at Christie’s, London. The catalogue described the painting as: ‘SIR A. VANDYCK 129. Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg: In armour and small white collar, wearing the chain and order of the Golden Fleece—monochrome—on panel—9 in. by 7 in. Engraved by L. Vorsterman in “Icones principum, vivorum [sic] doctorum”, published by Gillis Hendricx, Antwerp / Sold with the certificate of Dr. L. Goldscheider’.[19] The painting was sold anonymously, within the category of ‘Different Properties’, but the auctioneer’s book records the consignor as the art dealer, Eugene Slatter, of 30 Old Bond Street, W1. The buyer, who paid £189 (or 180 guineas) for the work, is listed as Nicholson, almost certainly Benedict Nicholson, editor of The Burlington Magazine and a prominent collector in the field.[20]

Ramsey, Goldscheider and Slatter, who had consigned the painting at Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, were all connected during these years by their association with The Connoisseur, of which Ramsey became editor in 1952-53.[21] Goldscheider published a range of scholarly articles in the journal between 1952 and 1954.[22] The exhibitions held in Eugene Slatter’s gallery on Old Bond Street routinely received enthusiastic praise in The Connoisseur between 1951 and 1957 as in, for example, this passage of 1954: ‘The exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Masters which is held each year at the 30 Old Bond Street, London, gallery of Eugene Slatter can now be considered as one of the events of the London season. These yearly exhibitions given by Mr Slatter are invariably outstanding, since the quality and academic importance of the works shown consistently maintain the highest possible level’.[23]

Nicholson retained the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg for less than a year. It was bought from him by an art dealer in New York and had entered the stock of a second New York dealer, Georges Seligmann, before 2 March 1955, when the first bill for his sale of the painting is dated.[24] Seligmann had the panel cleaned and cradled before selling it to a private collector in New York, Dr Lillian Malcove, for $2700, which was paid in three instalments.[25] Seligmann’s bills describe the painting as by Van Dyck and its dimensions, 9 ½ x 6 7/8 inches, are in keeping with those recorded by Millar in July 1950 and those listed in the Christie’s catalogue in 1954. The final instalment, dated 9 May 1955, was for $700.[26]

The Malcove family had emigrated from Russia to Canada in 1905 and Lillian (1902-1981) attended medical school in Manitoba, specializing in psychiatry. Her psychoanalytic practice was based in New York and she began collecting early in her career. Dr. Malcove’s interests ranged from Russian icons and Old Master Paintings to contemporary art.[27] One of her primary interests was Italian gold-grounds; between 1956 and 1964 she gave no fewer than eight such works to the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. In 1957 she donated Saint John Preaching by Paolo di Giovanni Fei and The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg. The latter was accessioned on 4 March 1957 and insured for the value of $9,000.[28]

It was at this point that the question of the painting’s provenance was first raised, prompted by the extraordinary chance visit of Mary Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry (1900-1993), to the Fogg in April 1957. When she was shown The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, she remarked on its similarity to a painting in the family collection at Boughton. A memo by a member of staff addressed to the Duchess in the archive at Boughton records the discovery that the sketch was missing:

You will remember telling me that you saw in the Fogg Art Museum, Massachusetts, a grisaille by Van Dyck of Wilhelmus Wolfgang, and that you thought it was very similar to one here. It so happens that ours is missing. It was here in 1940. I cannot find any reference or evidence that it was lent or sent away for any purpose.[29]

On 17 July 1957 the Duchess wrote to Agnes Mongan, Assistant Director and Curator of Drawings at the Fogg, who had shown her the painting in April. Mongan had given her a photograph of the Fogg painting and asked for a photograph of the Boughton one in return. The Duchess wrote:

I have been very slow writing to you because we have been searching for the little Van Dyck in order to photograph it for you. I am sorry to tell you that there is no trace of it here, or in any of the houses, nor is there any note at all of its having been lent or taken from this house for cleaning or for any other reason. We find that it was definitely here in 1940, as during the war all our things were stacked to make room for the British Museum, who were evacuated here for a bit, followed by the Science Museum.

It would be a matter of very great interest to us to know how long you have had your picture, and from whom it was purchased, as it seems improbable that there should have been two [paintings] of the same person.[30]

Mongan replied on 10 August:

It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching.

When your letter came our Registrar informed me that the picture that I showed you is on loan here from a collector, whose works some day we expect to inherit. This is where the matter becomes delicate! The private collector told our Registrar that the picture, which was purchased from a reputable New York dealer, was from the Queensberry Collection! That I certainly did not know when you were here, nor until I thought for a moment did I make the connection between Buccleuch and Queensberry…

At the present moment almost everybody here is on their vacation. I am afraid that I shall have to wait a little while before I can ask the professor whose friend is our benefactor, both present and potential, how we should handle this delicate situation. It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?[31]

Mongan’s letter provided the first piece of information that linked the sketch then at the Fogg to the Buccleuch and Queensberry collection. Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott (1894-1973), the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and 10th Duke of Queensberry, wrote to Mongan on 10 September apologizing for involving her in ‘a tiresome affair calling for diplomatic handling, as you suggest’ and expressing his desire to have the painting returned: ‘I hope eventually that we can trace through whom it was taken from Boughton, and how it got to America, and we naturally wish and feel that the picture should return to its rightful home’.[32] In her second and final letter, dated 24 September, Mongan told the Duke and Duchess that she had discussed the matter with John Coolidge (1913-1995), Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Art Museums from 1947 to 1972. She provided them with three further pieces of crucial information: first, that the collector told the archivist at the Fogg that the painting was sold at Christie’s on 9 April 1954; second, that it was sold with a certificate from Ludwig Goldscheider; and, finally, that a copy of the list of works photographed at Boughton House by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1954 did not include The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg.[33] Hereafter, all correspondence from the Fogg came from the museum’s Director, John Coolidge.

Coolidge wrote to the Duke two days later, on 26 September, reporting that he had spoken both to the donor of the painting and the dealer from whom she acquired it. He gave the Duke the names and addresses of Malcove and Seligmann and added the following information, which came from a dossier put together by one of the dealers who handled the painting prior to Dr. Malcove’s purchase of it: ‘I am told that it had been owned by R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall, Lydebury, North Shropshire. Previously it is said to have belonged to the Marquis of Queensbury [sic]’.[34] Coolidge promised to relate any developments to the Duke and raised, for the first time, the possibility that there were two versions of the sketch, an argument that recurs in the discussion over the next several years:

I understand that more than one version exists of some of the van Dyck grisaille sketches for the “Icones”. In establishing the identity of your picture and ours, it would be helpful if we could see a reproduction of your work…I should also like to learn as much as possible of the history of your painting after 1940…We are all anxious to clear up this distressing affair as rapidly as possible and to help you in every way to obtain your property back again.[35]

The Duke and the Fogg conducted their own investigations, contacting the parties involved and following up various leads, many of which were later described by Coolidge as ‘red herrings’.[36] One such ‘red herring’ was the information that the painting once belonged to an R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall.[37] With the help of connections in Shropshire, the Duke contacted a Ronald Stevens at Fermoyle Lodge, Costello, County Galway, Ireland. Stevens wrote to the Duke on 25 November:

A few weeks ago my brother and I both received letters from the Fogg Museum in America, asking us if we knew anything about a picture, believed to have been stolen! We were both entirely mystified as to how we were ever connected with this picture…Anyway, my brother at once replied for both of us, that we regretted we could not help in any way as neither of us had seen nor knew anything about this picture. I now realise that your monochrome sketch by Van Dyck may well be the same picture! I wish I could be of some help to you, but my brother and I know absolutely nothing about it.[38]

On 27 November Coolidge wrote to the Duke relating that he, too, had ‘inquired of this gentleman’s [R. Stevens] son, Mr. N. Stevens of Hope Court, Hope Bagot, Ludlow, England. He replies to the best of his belief neither he nor his father nor his brother (also R. Stevens) ever owned a picture of this sort’.[39]

Both the Duke and Coolidge asked Sir Alec Martin (1884-1971), Managing Director of Christie’s, for information about the consignor of The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to the April 1954 sale. Sir Alec’s son, W.A. Martin, wrote to the Duke on 4 November: ‘we have now heard from the man for whom we sold this lot in 1954 that he sent it to us on behalf of a client “known in public life, who bought the picture in an open country market in January, 1950.” We have therefore asked him to ascertain the history of the picture before that date.’[40] On the same day Martin wrote a similar letter to Coolidge.[41] On 12 November Martin notified the Duke that he had been in touch with Dr Goldscheider, whose certificate was sold with the painting: ‘Though he thought it was by Vandyck he says that, so far as he can remember, when he saw it it had been repainted by a later hand. So far as he can recall, he does not think that this applies to your pictures and he feels it cannot have been good enough to have belonged to your set.’[42] Martin wrote to the Duke again on 15 November:

With reference to my letter of 12th November, the owner of the picture in this lot has now been in to see me and it transpires that he is very well known to us. He says that he bought the picture in January, 1950, at a stall in the Old Market Place by the church at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Apparently the market there has been moved and he is unable to get into touch with the stallholder from whom he purchased it. I am afraid, therefore, that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture farther back than January, 1950.[43]

Martin’s argument that nothing more could be done suggests that he hoped the matter would end there. However, the Duke’s response on 17 November made it clear that he was not satisfied with this explanation. He expressed some puzzlement over the idea that ‘a Van Dyck should be picked up at a stall in a village, and [that] the picture seems likely to have come from some collection about the time of the disappearance from Boughton’:

You suggest that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture further back than January 1950, but should there not be some way to find out more about that market, and who was running it? With a wide experience of these matters your firm would know more about it than I could, and I feel it would help greatly if we could find a way to investigate this market. Do you think I should enquire of the Police, or would you know of a better way?

Do you suppose the purchaser of the picture in January 1950, who is well known to you, made a habit of going to this market place, or is it likely that someone there communicated with him that he had a Van Dyck? Do you suppose it is purely by chance that he happened to be passing on a particular day, or could he not perhaps tell us all a little more if he wished to do so?[44]

On 20 November Martin reported to the Duke that he had asked the owner ‘to make further efforts to elucidate the history of the picture before it came into his possession, especially as you are now thinking of putting the matter into the hands of the police’.[45] He also suggested what Christie’s legal position would be, stating that the firm’s solicitors had informed him that a purchase from a stall in a market place ‘comes under the heading of “market overt” and a purchaser at such a market has a perfectly good title unless and until a conviction is made for the theft of the purchase in question’.[46]

On 19 December Martin sent the Duke a copy of the response he received from Ramsey, which introduced many of the arguments the latter would make throughout the investigation: that the person from whom he purchased the painting could not be traced; that several witnesses saw it in his home in 1950; and that it was not of high enough quality to be associated with the sketches at Boughton House. Ramsey wrote to Martin:

Thank you for your letter of December 3rd in furtherance to your earlier letter of November 20th. I have not replied before since it has been necessary for me to make the journey to Hemel Hempstead, which has occasioned delay.

As I think I told you, the old market which used to exist by the Church at Hemel Hempstead no longer exists. Under the new town arrangements there is now a considerably larger market of open stalls in a different part of the town.

As no doubt you will appreciate, after a period of seven years I have not at all clear recollections of what the man looked like who sold me the picture now under discussion. I have, however, been down to Hemel Hempstead and made an extensive tour of the stalls of the new market in an attempt to establish his identity, without success.

Even if it had been possible to find this trader, I am doubtful whether he would remember having sold a particular picture to me in 1950. Furthermore, can you imagine such a person being willing to remember such a transaction if he thought that the matter was now the subject of an enquiry?…

I have already referred to a Mr. Higley of Hemel Hempstead who, a number of years ago, showed me his house (in High street, Hemel Hempstead) full of pictures, all of which he told me, he had acquired at the markets of Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury and St Albans. I am now trying to ascertain through official sources, when Mr. Higley died. It might help. It was he who originally suggested that I should keep a look out for pictures in the country markets.

It will therefore be apparent that I am not able, in spite of every effort to do so, to produce the vendor of the picture which it is now suggested might originally have come from Boughton: a picture which, as you know, was of insufficient interest to five leading members of the London picture trade for them to wish to acquire it.

I can, however, say that this picture was seen by friends in my home in September, 1950—if that is going to help in any way. Furthermore, it is worth adding that the picture concerned possessed eighteenth-century overpainting. This is one fact, I am told, which eliminates the possibility of the picture having once formed part of a set belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch, since his would not have displayed this feature.

My informant, moreover, is prepared to write to the Duke and tell him that there can be no connection between the picture which I orininally [sic] bought and the one which is now said to be missing from the Duke’s collection. I will delay taking this further action until I hear from you.[47]

Ramsey’s ‘informant’, Ludwig Goldscheider, wrote the following letter to Martin at Christie’s on 22 December 1957:

Dear Mr. Martin,

Here is an answer to your letter of December 6th., 1957.

  1. I think it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the small portrait of Duke Wolfgang aus Wilhelm of Platz-Neuberg [sic] by Van Dyck (Sale 9th April, 1954, Lot 129) has never been in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  2. I have never given a ‘certificate’ for this picture, if by certificate is meant a professional statement for which payment of any kind is accepted. The fact is that at no time and from no dealer or collector have I ever accepted payment of any kind or in any form. On the other hand, it is true that I have given in writing my opinion of this picture.
  3. I saw the little picture for the first time in 1953; it was called at that time ‘English, XVIIth century, perhaps by Lely’. I identified it at once as a portrait of the Duke of Phalz-Neuberg [sic] (whose full-length portrait is in the Munich Museum; a better version in a London private collection; and another one in New York). I also realised that the little portrait was one of the grisailles painted by Van Dyck and his assistants (mainly in London) for the engraved portraits of his ‘Iconography’.
  4. In the Exhibition Catalogue of ‘Flemish Art’, Royal Academy, Winter 1953/4, Mr Oliver Miller [sic] says on p. 133: “The engravings were carried out by various engravers under Van Dyck’s supervision, on the basis of grisailles; in certain cases several versions of the grisailles are known…The grisailles are very numerous, but the most important collection is them is the group of thirty-seven…which is now at Boughton (Duke of Buccleuch)”.
  5. The set always consisted of 37 panels. There were 37 in the Lely Sale. Waagen (‘Treasures of Art in Great Britain’, 1854, I, p. 415) counted 37. There were no doubt still 37 panels in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch when, in 1953, sixteen of those panels were chosen for the Exhibition of Flemish Art in the Royal Academy.
  6. There are other sets of those portraits known. The Earl of Arundel had 32. Waagen (Vol. II, p. 286) mentions 6 in the collection of the Duke of Bedford. Another set, in a New York private collection, is illustrated in Gluck’s ‘Van Dyck’, KdK XIII, 1931, p. XV, and [is] described (p. 517) as better than the one in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  7. The picture sold by you (as Lot 129, 9.4.54) was not of the same quality as those in the Buccleuch Collection. It was not even a proper grisaille, containing some blue and yellow; it showed XIXth century retouchings and was in an indifferent XIXth century frame.[48] It fetched only £190, whereas any of the panels from the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch would, owing to their quality, certainly fetch at least £1,000.
  8. Summary: When Lot 129 was already in your hands, 16 panels of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits were chosen for the Royal Academy Exhibition from a set of 37 belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch in that set. Of some of the grisailles several versions are known. Lot 129 is somewhat different in style and not very good. I feel sure that it never belonged to the famous set in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.

I hope that this is all that you want to know and that I shall not have to go through this dull material again.

Yours sincerely,

L. Goldscheider[49]

There are three copies of Goldscheider’s letter to Martin in the archive at Boughton: one sent to the Duke by Ramsey on 22 January 1958, cited above; the second, a typescript copy of the letter sent by Ramsey made at Boughton; and, the third, a cleaned-up copy sent to the Duke by Martin on 3 February 1958.[50] The primary difference between the copies sent by Ramsey and Martin is the latter’s insertion of an inaccurate clause in point 8—‘there were never more than 37 in that set’—and his deletion of the line at the end of Goldscheider’s letter referring to ‘this dull material’.[51]

The cornerstone of Goldscheider’s argument features in point seven—that the painting consigned to the Christie’s sale was of low quality, was not a true grisaille, and that it had nineteenth-century overpaint. Each of these assertions directly contradicts both the certificate he provided to Ramsay in 1953 and the description of the painting in the sale catalogue. It is notable that Goldscheider’s letter does not address the discrepancy between his assessment of the painting in 1953 (‘the picture is a fine original and in perfect state’) and his very different evaluation of it in 1957 (‘not very good’). His argument regarding the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, which was clearly intended to prove that none was missing in 1953-54, is inaccurate. As noted above, forty grisailles had been recorded in the collection in 1746 and forty had been lent to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1900.[52]

iii. 1958-1960

On 22 January 1958, exactly one month after Goldscheider wrote his letter to Martin at Christie’s, Ramsey wrote directly to the Duke enclosing the copy of Goldscheider’s letter cited above. This was Ramsey’s first correspondence with the Duke and the first time his identity was known beyond Christie’s.

Your Grace,

Mr. W.A. Martin of Messrs. Christie’s has told me of the correspondence which has passed between you and his office in reference to a small portrait which at one time belonged to me and which I offered for sale in Messrs. Christie’s rooms through an agent in April, 1954.

When Mr. Martin drew my attention to the fact that it was now thought that the subject concerned might originally have belonged to your collections, and that, in acquiring it in an open market, I might unwittingly have acquired an item which had been removed by some person or persons unknown from your possession, the matter at first caused me much concern.

As you will appreciate, my work is necessarily concerned with all the important art collections in this country and overseas. I cannot therefore afford to have my name associated with any possible unpleasantness, however apparently trivial, in the small world of art. Indeed, ironically enough, as Your Grace may know, I have to spend a good deal of my time in assisting various police forces to find missing works of art.[53] That is why, in the case of the sale of the picture in question, I preferred that my name should not initially be associated with the matter unless it became necessary to do so, particularly if it could eventually be said that the subject was merely a copy of a Van Dyck subject.

Whatever may be the opinion of the American museum which now possesses the picture, I am convinced, although I can hardly tell them so, that they have a copy of a Van Dyck subject. As I hope Mr. Martin may have told you, before arranging for this subject to be offered at public auction in his rooms, the picture concerned was shown, for purposes of acquisition, to five different London art dealers. None expressed any interest in the subject or wished to acquire it. It was also shown to a leading Van Dyck expert who did not consider that it was painted by that artist. Neither did the picture secure a Van Dyck price at auction. However, had I, in the course of the recent correspondence, for one moment considered that the picture which Messrs. Christie’s sold had once belonged to your collections, and had been removed from them without authority, the matter would have assumed graver proportions: and I should have been the first to re-fund the sale price to Messrs. Christie’s with the request that the picture be immediately returned from America.

Finally, on December 22nd 1958 [sic; it was 1957], and in an attempt finally to clear the matter up, Dr. Ludwig Goldscheider, the art historian, wrote to Mr. Martin, as shown in the attached copy of his letter.

I am leaving London tomorrow for the West of Scotland, but I hope that Your Grace will let me know if there is any further way in which you think that I could materially assist your enquiries.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Yours sincerely,

L.G.G. Ramsey[54]

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.
3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

On 26 January 1958 the Duke sent both Ramsey’s and Goldscheider’s letters to Coolidge, stating, significantly, that ‘I had not previously been aware that Mr. Ramsey was the seller. I have not actually met him, but he was apparently at our house in Northamptonshire in 1951 with a photographer taking some photographs: I was ill at the time and did not see him’.[55] He also asks Coolidge for his opinion of the painting’s quality given the dramatic difference between Goldscheider’s original certificate and his later letter. On 27 January Coolidge sent his assessment of the painting to the Duke [see figs. 2, 3]:

I have just examined the painting. Recently it was cradled. At that time the back of the panel was smoothed down so that no old surface is now visible. In addition, strips of wood about an eighth of an inch wide were added to all four edges so one cannot even see the edge of the panel. We looked at the picture under ultra-violet light. There appears to be no repaint at all. The painted surface ends at an awkward point on the figure’s right side and somewhat awkwardly on his left. I can imagine that at some time the painting has been slightly cut down, especially on the figure’s right.[56]

In a second letter to the Duke, dated 10 February, Coolidge expressed his enthusiasm for the painting, noting that the Fogg had insured the work for $9,000, which suggested a full attribution to Van Dyck. He also offered his view of Goldscheider’s change of heart: ‘I judge from the most interesting enclosures you sent to me that the experts now are trying to prove that our picture could never have belonged to you because of the startling difference in quality between this work and those in your collection. Quite aside from my own feelings about our picture, I find this attempt unconvincing in view of Mr. Goldscheider’s fine statement of September 30th, 1953, “The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.” I should think it might be more effective if Mr. Ramsay [sic] could demonstrate when and where he acquired our picture’.[57] It is the latter line of enquiry that Coolidge assiduously pursued in his extensive contact with Ramsey throughout 1959.

Martin’s view of Goldscheider’s revision of his original opinion was more resigned:

[Van Dyck scholar] Oliver Millar has seen the enclosed copy reply from Dr. Goldscheider and we both think that it doesn’t really help much at all in clearing the matter up. His change of view about the picture he certified is difficult to explain except that, as is well known, experts do change their minds.[58]

iv. Boughton

Up to this point the Duke, Coolidge, and Martin shared information relatively freely and appeared to share the same goal of discovering as much information about the panel at the Fogg as possible. However, their strategies diverged over the course of 1958. In late 1957 or early 1958, the Duchess sought the advice of Sir Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), later Lord Clark, who during these years was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain (1955-60). Clark wrote to the Duke on 28 January 1958 highlighting an important shift in Ramsey and Goldscheider’s position:

I have now had time to think over the letters from Mr. Ramsay [sic] and Dr. Goldscheider of which Molly gave me copies in Edinburgh. They both make a bad impression, especially that of Mr. Ramsay [sic]. Indeed his third paragraph, if read in court by a clever lawyer in conjunction with his second, almost amounts to an admission, that he knew that there was something fishy about the origin of the Van Dyck. However, it is not surprising that these gentlemen are rattled; they are in a dilemma. They have to admit either that the picture was stolen from your collection or that they sold it at Christie’s as a Van Dyck with a certificate knowing that it was not by the painter. Of these two evils they have chosen the lesser, that is to say the second. This decision has no doubt been the result of much anxious conference, and they will continue to swear that the picture never was or could have been the original Van Dyck.[59]

Clark enclosed a draft of the kind of letter that the duke might consider sending to Ramsey, concluding: ‘I do not think it will have much effect, but I am all in favour of giving them a run for their money’.

A memo in the archive at Boughton dated 26 January 1958 records the Duke’s intention to discuss the matter with the police.[60] Sir John Alexander Willison, Chief Constable of Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1952-1958, responded in the first two weeks of February, informing the duke that the Hertfordshire police would have to handle the case given that the supposed theft took place in Hemel Hempstead.[61] Kenneth Clark wrote to the duke again on 19 February 1958 after having received a copy of Goldscheider’s original certificate: ‘I cannot think how he can have been such a fool as to write that other letter to say that he had never given a certificate nor believed the picture to be an original. He must have known that he would be found out’.[62] He continues:

I am not very favourably impressed by Mr. Martin’s letter, and when he speaks about Dr. Goldscheider changing his mind he is trying to excuse the most bare-faced falsification; and I have the impression that he is influenced by Mr. Ramsey and Dr. Goldscheider. This is inevitable, because Christie’s stand to lose almost as much as the other two characters if it is proved that the picture was stolen property. For this reason I am fairly confident that he will already have told Mr. Ramsey that Oliver Millar saw the picture at Boughton in 1950, and Ramsey is meanwhile collecting witnesses to swear that they saw it in his possession at an earlier date…Honestly, I do not think it worth while trying to conduct the affair through Christie’s; after two more letters to Mr. Ramsey I should have [sic] it over to the law.[63]

 

The Duke had written to Ramsey on 26 January 1958, making the same points that he had made to Martin and Coolidge: that an enquiry into the market in Hemel Hempstead would surely shed some light on Ramsey’s purchase of the painting; and that some clarification of Goldscheider’s opinion of the work was necessary.[64] He never received a response from Ramsey and on 4 February 1959 drafted a more strongly worded letter that was never sent.[65]

Oliver Millar wrote to the Duke on 1 April 1958 directly addressing the issue of quality raised by Goldscheider:

Thank you for the bundle of material which you left with me last week. I have studied it with much interest and would like to discuss it with you. The trouble is that the back of the panel in America has been so completely renewed as to destroy any basis for comparison with the panels at Boughton. The question of the quality of the painting is a very invidious one and is also, I feel, irrelevant to the present problem. There are considerable variations of quality within the set at Boughton. The subjects that particularly interested Van Dyck, such as the portraits of his fellow artists, are of very high quality indeed, whereas the more official, formal portraits are often duller and less inspired.

I myself have found the coincidence between the loss of a particular grisaille from Boughton and the appearance of the same subject in America too remarkable to be true, and I also think the strange reference to the Queensberry Collection has a rather sinister flavour. However, opinions and hypotheses cannot have any weight in these cases and the only evidence I can offer you or anyone concerned with the affair is the date of my visit to Boughton, when I saw the picture in place (as cited above, p. 3).[66]

v. Harvard

On 6 January 1959 Coolidge wrote to the donor of the painting, Dr Malcove, sending her a copy of Martin’s letter of 4 November 1957 in which he explained the concept of ‘market overt’, adding that ‘I have also written to Martin asking him to get for the Fogg a firm opinion by a British barrister. When we have that, I believe our lawyers will let us return the Van Dyck to you’.[67] Coolidge’s significant efforts to uncover the painting’s history over the next year all served the goal of avoiding a suit for conversion (which includes straightforward theft but also holding onto property which accidentally comes into the converter’s hands) and returning The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove.[68] Before the Fogg could return the painting they were required to prove that Malcove had purchased it ‘in good faith’, which, in turn, depended entirely upon Ramsey’s claim to having purchased the painting ‘in good faith’ before 1 July 1950.[69]

Coolidge first contacted Ramsey on 15 March 1959, when he was in London, and asked for a meeting:

Sometime ago the Fogg Museum of Harvard University was lent a grisaille portrait by Van Dyck which had formerly been in your possession. We are now anxious to return this painting but cannot legally do so until we have determined what relation it bears to one owned by the Duke of Buccleugh [sic]. Your unique knowledge could extricate Harvard from what has become a most awkward situation.[70]

 

Coolidge met with Ramsey at the offices of The Connoisseur twice and made detailed notes of his conversations in both instances. During their first discussion on 23 March, he noted the following: that Ramsey claimed to have paid 10 shillings for the painting; that he was encouraged to look for works of art in the market by a Mr Higley, who had since died; that he sold the painting to buy a piece of furniture; and that he never believed that it was by van Dyck.[71] Their second meeting took place on 1 April, when Ramsey elaborated upon some of the points he had initially made. He claimed to have shown the painting to his stepfather in the second half of January, voiced his suspicion that Higley had ‘planted’ the painting at the market, and claimed that before Goldscheider’s identification of the painting as by Van Dyck, he did not know the series of Van Dyck grisailles at Boughton.[72]

Coolidge’s note regarding Ramsey’s living conditions records his initial concern about the quality of the latter’s witness statements, one that would only grow with time: ‘Ramsey did not go to St. John’s Wood until 1950, was not well known. The first person with whom he made contact there was the rector, Reverend Noel Perry-Gore. The latter is vague and cannot remember the furnishings of the house’.[73] In his report on the painting produced for Harvard’s lawyers the following year, Coolidge states: ‘There are hints of some disturbances in Mr. Ramsey’s personal life at this time. He may have been living in a hotel. However, by August he had moved and he declares various people (notably the local rector, the Reverend Noel Perry-Gore, and Mr. Geoffrey Harmsworth) saw his “Sir Peter Lely” in his new house in St. John’s Wood in August and November of 1950’.[74]

Coolidge left London for Vienna after Easter and wrote to Ramsey on 8 June 1959, clearly stating his requirements:

I fear a letter from you must have gone astray….When I left England you were to see your stepfather [Mr. Churchill-Dawes] the very next weekend and show him the photograph of the “Malcove” Van Dyck. You hoped and expected that he would recognize it as a reproduction of the painting you had bought at Hemel Hempstead and showed to him during Christmas holidays early in 1950. I had hoped he might be willing to put this in writing. A signed statement from him, would, I feel sure, settle the matter as far as Harvard’s lawyers are concerned.[75]

The correspondence between Coolidge and Ramsey continued well into the autumn of 1960. Coolidge continued to press Ramsey for witness statements and Ramsey provided a range of reasons for the delay in his provision of them: on 18 June 1959, ‘I am sorry, I did not appreciate that you were expecting to hear further from me. I was going to write to you in the States’[76]; on 25 June 1959, a printing strike and running ‘this magazine single-handed’ had kept him busy in London: ‘I did not appreciate that you required a signed “statement” in relation to the “Van Dyck”…Next time I see them [his witnesses, Churchill-Dawes and a sculptor, Patrick Synge-Hutchinson] I will get a letter from them to this effect. This may not be yet awhile, but there is no hurry as far as I am concerned’.[77] On 21 September Ramsey apologized for ‘this further delay, but I have to get away from here for a time each year, and I have been on holiday…I now have the pleasure in sending you photographic copies of two “statements” relative to my possession of a small portrait in the first half of 1950. I am told that these two statements should be quite sufficient for the purpose required’.[78]

However, Coolidge had to write several more times to clarify various aspects of Ramsey’s witness statements. On 4 February 1960 he wrote: ‘You remember that to establish the date when you purchased the grisaille is all important. Mr. Synge-Hutchinson’s letter confirms your contention that you bought it in the first half of 1950. Mr. Churchill-Dawes’ letter, however, implies that you had bought the painting “in the latter part of 1950”. Would he be willing to state whether this is his belief, or whether he merely meant that he had seen the painting in the latter half of 1950 although you had bought it earlier? To save you trouble, I have written a letter to him which I enclose, raising this question. If it is easier for you just mail it to him’.[79] Ramsey replied on 29 February: ‘Clearly this is an unfortunate and careless error, and one which entirely escaped us here. It was obviously not intended that it should be capable of two interpretations. The word “January” has been omitted. I am very sorry to give you this further correspondence, and will get the matter put right forthwith’.[80]

On 30 March 1960, Ramsey sent a photograph of the corrected Churchill-Dawes statement together with a photograph of another statement by Geoffrey Harmsworth.[81] There was, however, another problem and on 4 May Coolidge wrote to Ramsey again. The letter was headed URGENT: ‘The statements made by Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson are not clearly tied to the Van Dyck portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm. However, I believe that you obtained these statements by showing each of the two gentlemen a photograph of this painting [which had been supplied by Coolidge]. It was the photograph which jogged their memories and was the basis for the statements. Can you confirm this fact or provide any other incidental information that will incontrovertibly link what they have written with the Van Dyck painting you sold?’[82] Ramsey’s reply on 16 May reflects a shift in tone that becomes increasingly strained over the following six months: ‘If the Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson statements are not tied to the portrait which has been the subject of so much protracted correspondence between us, then it is not clear to what other subject they could be tied! Of course they are incontrovertibly linked to the painting sold at Christie’s’.[83] Ramsey did not, however, provide further information.

During the course of their eighteen-month correspondence, Ramsey raised a number of issues which seem designed to shift the focus of the investigation. In addition to restating the arguments laid out by Goldscheider regarding the palette, the quality of the painting and the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, he suggested that the picture he sold at Christie’s might not have been the same panel as that at the Fogg.[84] On 25 June 1959 Ramsey wrote: ‘I do not necessarily suggest that they are not one and the same. Yet your picture went through so many hands between the time I sold it and the time it reached the Fogg that it has occurred to some of us that a switch might have been made’.[85] One of the most important of Ramsey’s insinuations was that neither he nor any representative from The Connoisseur had ever been to Boughton House. Ramsey stated this fact categorically on a number of occasions but—significantly—his statement was always qualified with ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’. In his letter to Coolidge of 25 June 1959, he related a story that had been told to him by a friend:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch having said to him that ‘two men came down from The Connoisseur to photograph the Van Dycks, they must have taken it.’ This is distinctly macabre, since no representative of The Connoisseur at any time visited a Buccleuch residence ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’…I am sure you will agree, this is the type of unwise statement which all ladies make from time to time.[86]

On 29 February 1960 he wrote to Coolidge that ‘the Duchess of Buccleuch was very much in error in stating that The Connoisseur photographed her Van Dycks. It did not’.[87] Ramsey pushed this point further in a letter to Coolidge of 4 August 1960:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch’s unfortunate house-party statement, made about the Connoisseur and photography which it never carried out, has now come to the notice of this firm’s solicitors. They are naturally in some state about it and are straining at the leash to take immediate action. If they take it up with the Buccleuch solicitors, then it will doubtless in due course come before the Hearst Corporation. Thereafter, who knows, the matter might even be taken to the United Nations, such unnecessary proportions has the matter grown to’.[88]

It is clear that already by the end of 1959, Coolidge had grown weary of the case, as indicated by his letter to Martin of 30 November 1959:

Ramsay [sic] has…crashed through [sic] with a couple of letters which tend to confirm his purchase of the Van Dyck in the first two months of the year. I now think we have gotten as close to the bottom of this affair as we are ever likely to come…I can think of no very satisfactory explanation for what actually happened. One must take one’s pick between two improbable hypotheses. Fortunately, because of the decency of all parties concerned, I think one can act, even though uncertain as to the true facts.[89]

In the document entitled ‘Report on Malcove Van Dyck’, which Coolidge prepared in early February 1960 (crucially, before his correspondence with Ramsey had ended) for Oscar Shaw, the Harvard lawyer responsible for the case, he admitted that ‘Mr. Ramsey does not inspire confidence. Aspects of his story remain puzzling. Nonetheless, I have become convinced that he is telling the truth’.[90] Coolidge goes on, however, to suggest that the truth may not be necessary for their purposes:

Even assuming that the dates Ramsey gives are wrong and that the Ramsey-Fogg-Malcove picture was in fact stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch, Ramsey can still produce a witness who supports his contention he bought the painting at the Hemel Hempstead market. This being a market overt, he had, under English law, a good title to the painting until the thief had been convicted. I do not see how such a conviction can now be obtained, nor do I see how one can prove that Ramsey acted in bad faith. If Ramsey’s title was good under English law, might it not be hard for the Duke of Buccleuch to challenge Dr. Malcove’s title under American law.[91]

On 4 May 1960 Coolidge wrote to Martin stating that he expected the lawyers to reach a settlement the following week and, a month later, on 24 June, Coolidge wrote to the Duke with the Fogg’s conclusions: ‘I am convinced that the painting now hanging in the Fogg Museum is the one which was sold by Mr. Ramsey through Christie’s and intermediate dealers to our lender, Dr. Malcove’. He cited new evidence, almost certainly the statement of Synge-Hutchinson, that supported Ramsey’s claim to have bought the painting in January 1950 and noted that ‘we have discovered no evidence that this picture is identical with your grisaille of the same subject which was seen by Oliver Millar at Boughton in July 1950. I cannot think where to find further evidence. Unless such turns up, I can only conclude that there were at least two small grisaille portraits of Wolfgang Wilhelm of which the painting lent to us is one and your missing grisaille is another. I, therefore, believe that we must accede to the lender’s request and return the painting to her’.[92]

Coolidge’s postscript in which he used the same argument employed by Goldscheider in his original certificate supporting an attribution to Van Dyck (‘a fine original and in perfect state’) reflects some residual concern regarding his conclusion that there must be more than one grisaille of Wolfgang Wilhelm:

P.S. There are at least five, possibly seven and perhaps more, life-size portraits of the Duke by or attributed to Van Dyck. These are in the museums at Munich, Chantilly and Bremen, and in addition there are reported to have been versions in a private collection in London, in the Yerkes Collection in New York, in the Walter Briggs Collection in Detroit, and in the Pietro del Gindice Collection.[93]

Coolidge included the same paragraph in his report to Harvard’s lawyers in response to Oliver Millar’s opposing view, expressed at their meeting in London on 17 March 1959, which he cited in his report:

According to Oliver Millar, the most popular grisailles are those representing artists. All of the grisailles that he knows which exist in more than one version are portraits of artists. He can think of no example of a statesman whose portrait exists in two grisaille versions. It would seem especially extraordinary to Millar that a little-known political figure, such as Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach, should exist in two versions. However, as pointed out above, the problem of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits has never been thoroughly studied.[94]

In weighing Millar’s view against Ramsey’s story, Coolidge concluded: ‘Despite Millar’s opinion it seems more likely to me that there are two versions of the Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach portrait than that Mr. Ramsey should have arranged such an elaborate deception. If the Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm was vain and rich enough to commission so many full-scale Van Dyck portraits, why not two grisailles?’[95]

In response to Coolidge’s letter of 24 June 1960, the Duke again expressed his concern about the unanswered questions related to the painting’s provenance before Ramsey owned it and Goldscheider’s radical shift of opinion. In the course of this letter, the Duke returned to a crucial point that he had made to Coolidge on 26 January 1958—that Ramsey had been to Boughton House around the time the painting was stolen (see above p. 16): ‘It is an unfortunate coincidence that that Mr. Ramsey and a member of his staff were in this house the following year in connection with their work after the picture was last noticed at Boughton in July 1950 by Mr. Oliver Millar’.[96] On 26 August Coolidge wrote to Ramsey: ‘I gather that the Duke believes that you and a member of your staff were at Boughton the year after the picture was last noticed at Boughton by Mr. Oliver Millar in July 1950. Could you let me know if this is true, or is it a confusion with the visit of the photographer?’[97]

Ramsey’s response, dated 14 September 1960, was sharply defensive and mocking in tone and destroyed any credibility he had managed to maintain with Coolidge up to this point. After a robust defence of his argument that his painting was not of the same quality as those at Boughton—‘my painting was no more from the hand of Sir Anthony van Dyck than it was from that of Grandma Moses’—he admitted to having been at Boughton House:

In your letter of August 26th you gathered that the Duke of Buccleuch believes that I and a member of my staff was at Boughton House in 1951.

Certainly I was privileged to visit Boughton with a photographer in that year. That was one of the reasons why I was curious to know from you which Buccleuch residence contained the Buccleuch set of 37 (you report 41) panels of these very numerous grisailles; for it is reasonable to suppose that had they been at Boughton such a large number of such works would have been clearly evident. They were not.

Certainly I well recall going to this beautiful house, since I usually try to accompany my photographer to all homes which we photograph. After selecting the subjects I thereafter leave him to get on with the job.

On this particular exercise the occasion of the visit is quite clear in my mind. I was received and duly saw her again on my departure by a Miss MacEchern. The Duke had a cold and was confined to his room. I called to thank the Agent for the kind facilities granted. Finally, for the purpose of examining the Robert Adam designed Montagu Monument in Warkton Church, I had to obtain the key to this building from a Mrs Mutton. She lived next door to a Mrs Lamb.

What is the significance of this latter enquiry? It appears to be somewhat offensive. Is it now suggested that I naively remove objects of art from private collections, of which I have seen scores throughout Europe? Really, Mr Coolidge……..[98]

vi. Conclusion

The Fogg returned the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove in November 1960. Coolidge maintained his view that there were two versions of the sketch and that the Ramsay-Malcove-Fogg grisaille was in no way related to the missing panel from Boughton. However, it is significant that Coolidge had already advised the Duke, Christie’s, and, of course, Ramsey of the University’s decision to return the painting to Malcove before Ramsey finally admitted having been at Boughton House in the summer of 1951. By 1960, it must have seemed impossible to prove Ramsey’s involvement, however strong the circumstantial evidence, but the Fogg clearly wanted to avoid a legal case which would certainly have alienated Malcove (and other potential benefactors) and stopped her flow of bequests to Harvard, a concern expressed by Agnes Mongan when the problem first emerged in August 1957, before the correspondence was taken over by Coolidge: ‘It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching…It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?’[99] For the duke’s part, without photographic evidence of the missing sketch from Boughton, there could be no absolute proof that the Malcove painting and his lost grisaille were one and the same.

On 24 September 1984, Seymour Slive (1920-2015), then Professor of Art History at Harvard and Director of The Fogg, wrote to Julius Held (1905-2002), Emeritus Professor of Art History at Barnard College, who was then preparing a study of Van Dyck’s oil sketches. Slive recounted the dilemma in which the museum had found itself as a result of the Duchess’s visit in April 1957: ‘…[the] Duchess of Buccleuch visited the Fogg, saw the sketch and said: “We have one which is very similar.” Upon her return home she discovered hers was missing!’[100]:

However, a “$64,000 question” had to be answered: was the Malcove picture identical with the Buccleuch picture? Visual and circumstantial evidence suggested that it was. Obviously the Fogg could not keep a painting if there was reason to believe it had been stolen. What to do? Return it to Buccleuch? Or return it to the donor? It was decided to do the latter. The gift was cancelled by Harvard in 1958 and subsequently the painting was returned to Dr Malcove…If you manage to locate the picture I would be grateful for word of its present whereabouts for our file on the painting.[101]

4.Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

In fact, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg had remained undisturbed in Dr Malcove’s collection from November 1960 until her death in 1981, when it entered the collection of the University of Toronto as part of a larger bequest. It has remained in the collection of the Art Museum of the University of Toronto ever since.[102] Julius Held’s 1984 correspondence with Joneath Spicer, the curator of the collection who re-attributed the sketch to the printmaker Lucas Vorsterman, reflects his concerns about the painting’s provenance—on the back of the photograph supplied to him, he wrote ‘Stolen from Boughton?’[103] As evidenced by the research presented here, we have finally been able to resolve this question. In August 2021, the Executive Committee of the University of Toronto voted to deaccession the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg and return it to the Duke of Buccleuch. The painting returned to Boughton House in January 2024, seventy-three years after it was stolen.

1.Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo.

  1. Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

  1. Acknowledgments: I would like to thank the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry KBE; Scott Macdonald, Head of Collections & Conservation, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Crispin Powell, Archivist, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Gareth Fitzpatrick MBE, former Director of Collections and Archives, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Michelle Interrante, Assistant Archivist, Harvard Art Museums; Tracey Schuster, Head of Permissions and Photo Archive Services, Getty Research Institute, and the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Jenny Hill, Assistant Archivist and Records Manager, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; Hannah Jones, Archives and Library Assistant, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; and Professor Phillip Lindley.


    For another example of the theft of cultural objects by those closest to them—the curators, archivists and scholars who know them best—see Theresa Galvin, ‘The Boston Case of Charles Merrill Mount: The Archivist’s Arch Enemy’, American Archivist, vol 53 (Summer 1990), pp442-450.

  2. ‘Editorial: Sir Peter Lely’s Collection’, The Burlington Magazine, vol 83 (August 1943), p185.

  3. For Montagu House, Whitehall, see Montagu H. Cox and Philip Norman, eds, Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, part II: Whitehall I London, 1930, pp214-220.

  4. There are ten grisailles associated with The Iconography in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, though their attribution to van Dyck has been questioned. There are three further sketches in private collections. For the former, see Mirjam Neumeister, ed., Van Dyck: Gemälde von Anthonis Van Dyck. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, München, 2020, pp296-319.

  5. I am currently researching the life and career of L.G.G. Ramsey.

  6. Michael Jaffé, who wrote about the sketches in 1992, for example, wrongly cited the number purchased in 1682 as thirty-three. Michael Jaffé, ‘The Paintings and Drawings’, in Tessa Murdoch, ed, Boughton House: The English Versailles, London, 1992, p80.

  7. Unsigned undated letter of c1790-1800; no. 30, Limp Green Leather Portfolio, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  8. Most early inventories do not list the sketches individually; Vertue’s is the first. See The Twenty-Fourth Volume of the Walpole Society, 1935-1936. Vertue Note Books, Volume IV, Oxford, 1936, p42.

  9. Ignatz von Szwykowski, Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen, Leipzig, 1859, pp178-80; and Arthur M. Hind, Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography, Boston, 1915, p42.

  10. Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641. Winter Exhibition, 31st year , exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900, p51, no 167.

  11. During his first visit to Boughton on 5 November 1949, Millar noted that ‘The van Dyck grisailles are possibly of varying quality, but seemed exceedingly good in most instances, they are very dirty and hang high’. Journal V, p176, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  12. Journal V, p221, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  13. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. Millar does not specify the room in which the sketches hung, either in his notes or in this letter, but it is described as ‘the bathroom’ in a statement made by Michael Jaffé to John Coolidge regarding Millar’s visit to Boughton in July 1950. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 16 October 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  14. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  15. Nicholas Carew, ‘Boughton House, Northampton. A Seat of the Duke of Buccleuch’, in The Connoisseur Year Book 1952, H. Granville Fell and Helen Comstock eds, London, 1952, pp41-48. L.G.G. Ramsey contributed two articles to the volume. ‘A Scottish home of the Duke of Buccleuch, Drumlanrig Castle’, featured in L.G.G. Ramsey, ed, The Connoisseur Year Book 1954, London, 1954, pp18-25. None of the van Dyck sketches were mentioned in the journal edited by L.G.G. Ramsey, The Connoisseur. An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, between 1951 and 1958, though his knowledge of Van Dyck’s Iconography is evident in a passage from his later volume, L.G.G. Ramsey, The Complete Encyclopedia of Antiques. Compiled by The Connoisseur Editor: L.G.G. Ramsey, F.S.A., London, 1962, pp1111: “In the Netherlands, Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) showed himself a masterly etcher in twenty-two prints (mostly portraits) which he produced in the late 1620s”.

  16. Goldscheider immigrated to London from Vienna in 1938. He co-founded the Phaidon press in London in 1938 and remained an editor at the press until his death in 1973. His papers are housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

  17. L.G.G. Ramsey to Ludwig Goldscheider, 29 Sept 1953; The Ludwig Goldscheider papers, Box 1, Folder 4. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (840066).

  18. Copy of the certificate included in the ‘Malcove folder’ at the Fogg, sent to the Duke by W.A. Martin of Christie’s on 3 February 1958. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  19. Before 1967, when rules for cataloguing were made more consistent and explicit, the use of an initial and surname usually indicated that the work was “thought to be a work of the period of the artist and which may be in whole or part the work of the artist”. See Christie’s guidelines for artists and attributions before 1967, Christie’s archive, London.

  20. I am grateful to Daniel Jarmai and Dr Simona Dolari in the Christie’s archives for providing me with this information.


  21. For Slatter’s cleaning of the painting, see Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  22. See, for example: Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘A Rembrandt Self-Portrait’, The Connoisseur, vol 130 (August-December 1952), pp157-60; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo’s Sketches in clay and wax’, The Connoisseur, vol 131 (January-June 1953), pp73-75; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo Studies—II* Virtus et Voluptas’, The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), pp147-49; and Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘El Greco’s Christ on the Cross’, The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954), pp177-79.

  23. L.G.G. Ramsey, ed., The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), p257. Slatter’s exhibitions were positively reviewed in 1951, 1952 (when an oil sketch, Child with Pomegranate, attributed to Jacob Jordaens and owned by Slatter, appeared on the cover of the March-May edition of the journal), 1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957, when Slatter’s stock was given a two-page spread.

  24. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  25. In a letter of 3 October 1960, Seligmann confirms to John Coolidge, Director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, that ‘I had the picture cleaned and cradled: it was cleaned by Henry Helfer, 40 E. 78 St., N.Y.C. and it was cradled by Thorpe 131 W. 53 St., N.Y.C.’. Letter from Georges Seligmann to John Coolidge, October 3, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  26. Curatorial file, University of Toronto Art Centre. I am grateful to Ms Heather Darling Pigat for making this file available for inspection.

  27. Her collection comprised over 500 objects including Old Master paintings and drawings, Roman and Byzantine sculpture, Coptic textiles, Russian icons, English alabasters, stained glass and modern art. For a comprehensive discussion of her collection, see Sheila D. Campbell, ed, The Malcove Collection. A Catalogue of the Objects in the Lillian Malcove Collection of The University of Toronto, Toronto, 1985.

  28. The painting was accepted on 4 March 1957 and was given the accession number 1957.2. See: Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and Seymour Slive to Julius Held, 24 September 1984, Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  29. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 1.

  30. The Duchess of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 17 July 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 2.

  31. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3. There is a discrepancy in the wording used to describe the presence of the painting at the Fogg. Mongan describes it as ‘on loan’; elsewhere it is documented as having been accessioned on 4 March 1957.

  32. The Duke of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 10 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 5.

  33. Agnes Mongan to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 6. There was some confusion over which institution photographed the collection at Boughton House in 1954. Both the Courtauld Institute and the Frick Reference Library in New York were cited in the correspondence. It was, in fact, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery that took the photographs at Boughton. I would like to thank Dr Karin Kyburz, Picture Researcher, Witt and Conway Supervisor, for confirming this information.

  34. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dossier citing Wolcott Hall could have been produced by either Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer to whom he sold the painting, or Seligmann.

  35. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7.

  36. Letter from John Coolidge to Oscar Shaw, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  37. This information came from a dealer’s dossier and was given to the Duke by Coolidge; John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dealer’s dossier to which Coolidge later referred in a letter to Ramsey dated 21 October 1960 could have been compiled by Slatter, who consigned the painting to Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, or one of the dealers who owned the painting thereafter: Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer who bought the painting from Nicholson, or Seligmann, who sold it to Dr. Malcove. The Duke corresponded with the 6th Earl of Bradford at Weston Park in Shifnal, Shropshire, who, with the help of Sir Jasper More of Linley Hall, Bishops Castle, Shropshire, discovered that two brothers, Ronald and Noel Stevens, had once lived in Wolcott Hall but had since moved, one to Ludlow, Shropshire, and the other to Ireland. The Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 19; Sir Jasper More to the Earl of Bradford, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 20; and the Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 11 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 21.

  38. Quoted in a memo entitled ‘Missing Van Dyck Sketch’ written by the Earl of Dalkeith at Eildon Hall, 25 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive.

  39. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 28.

  40. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 4 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 17.

  41. Letter from W. A. Martin to John Coolidge, November 4, 1957. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1675. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  42. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 12 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 22.

  43. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 15 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 23.

  44. The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 17 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 24.

  45. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  46. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  47. L.G.G. Ramsey to W.A. Martin [undated], sent to the Duke of Buccleuch on 19 December 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  48. These ‘XIXth century retouchings’ were described as ‘eighteenth-century overpaint’ in Ramsay’s letter cited above.

  49. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; I have cited the copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by L.G.G. Ramsey, 22 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  50. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  51. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by W.A. Martin on 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  52. See ‘Inventory of Montagu House, Whitehall, June 1746’. ‘His Grace’s Room’ lists ‘40 pictures by Vandike in gilt frames’, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900. Thirty-nine were recorded in the most recent monograph on the artist, Susan Barnes, Nora de Poorter, Oliver Millar, and Horst Vey, eds, Van Dyck: a Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven, 2004, p365ff.

  53. Ramsey’s comment almost certainly refers to the following, in which the theft of a miniature belonging to the Duke from the exhibition, Versailles in Books and Pictures, featured in The Connoisseur volume 133: ‘A miniature of [the Marquise de Montespan] seated in a classical and architectural landscape, by Louis de Chatillon (1639?-1734), 190 x 127 mm., and the property of the Duke of Buccleuch was regrettably stolen not long after the exhibition opened. Its return is now sought’. The Connoisseur 133 (January-June 1954): 41. In the following issue, the journal’s success in recovering stolen property is highlighted: ‘As a result of investigations carried out by The Connoisseur and an official body, 17 out of 21 pictures and other works of art reported missing from a Hampstead, London, residence have since been recovered’. The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954, p287.

  54. L.G.G. Ramsey to the Duke of Buccleuch, 2 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  55. The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  56. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  57. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 10 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  58. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  59. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 28 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  60. Memo, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  61. Unsigned, undated memo, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. The Duke makes reference to this memo in a letter dated 14 February. See the Duke of Buccleuch to Kenneth Clark, 14 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  62. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  63. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  64. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. See also The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  65. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 4 February 1959, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  66. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  67. Letter from John Coolidge to Lillian Malcove, January 6, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  68. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  69. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  70. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, March 15, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  71. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, March 23, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  72. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  73. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  74. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  75. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, June 8, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  76. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 18, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  77. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  78. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 21, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  79. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  80. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  81. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 30, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


  82. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, May 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  83. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, May 16, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  84. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  85. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  86. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  87. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  88. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, August 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  89. Letter from John Coolidge to W. A. Martin, November 30, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  90. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  91. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  92. Letter from John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, June 24, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  93. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 June 1960, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  94. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  95. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  96. Letter from the Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, July 18, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  97. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, August 26, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  98. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  99. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3.

  100. Sorenson, Lee, ‘Slive, Seymour’, Dictionary of Art Historians, www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/slives.htm; accessed 1 September 2015.

  101. Julius Held Papers, Box 96, Folder 63, Series VIII, Photographs, Van Dyck Iconography, Seymour Slive correspondence; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  102. In the catalogue of the Malcove collection, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm is attributed to Lucas Vorsterman the Elder, the printmaker who produced this print for the Iconography. Its provenance is cited as: Private collection (said to have been purchased in 1950 at an open air market in Hemel Hampstead); Christie’s sale, London, 9 April 1954, lot 129; George Seligmann, NY; purchased by Dr Malcove in 1955. See Campbell, op cit, pp373-76.

  103. Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

 
 

A Stolen Van Dyck recovered:

The Portrait of Wolfganf Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg

Meredith M. Hale

1 Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

In July 1951 Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg [fig. 1] was stolen from Boughton House, Northamptonshire. It is one of thirty-seven oil sketches at Boughton for Van Dyck’s print series known as the Iconography, a unique group of panels that, until the summer of 1951, had remained together in the same collection since 1682. This paper tells the remarkable story of the theft which spans three generations and involves some of the most prominent members of the art establishment in the UK and the US.

Through new archival research in the UK, US and Canada I have reconstructed the painting’s movements over the past seventy-three years as it passed through the hands of experts, conservators, auctioneers, dealers, and collectors from London to Toronto. Not only do these sources reveal a dynamic picture of events as they unfold, they highlight the factors that contributed to the success of the theft, foremost among them the conceptual and material complexity of Van Dyck’s Iconography project and the audacity of a thief cloaked in the respectability of expertise.[1]

The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg is one of thirty-seven oil sketches by Anthony van Dyck and his studio purchased by Ralph, Earl of Montagu, on 18 April 1682 from the sale of the collection of the painter Sir Peter Lely.[2] The grisailles, small panels measuring c. 8 ½ x 6 ½ inches (c. 22 x 16.5 cm) first hung in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, where they survived a fire in 1686, before the relocation of the household to Whitehall in the 1730s.[3] They were evacuated with the rest of the family’s collection to Boughton House, Northamptonshire, in 1940 where they remain today. The Boughton panels are the largest group of oil sketches associated with Van Dyck’s Iconography and, alongside preparatory drawings, played a key role in the production of printed portraits of Van Dyck’s contemporaries: princes, military leaders, scholars and artists.[4] The group remained intact in the collection of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry (descendants of the Duke of Montagu) for two hundred and sixty-nine years until the visit of L.G.G. Ramsay, editor of The Connoisseur, in summer 1951.[5]

i. The oil sketches, 1682-1950

The number of sketches for the Iconography in the Montagu collection increased from the thirty-seven bought at the Lely sale in 1682 to forty listed in an inventory of 1746, an increase in number that has caused considerable confusion in the literature.[6] A letter to the third Duke of Montagu of c. 1790 already reflects an early effort to account for the additional three panels: ‘I recollect [Joshua] Reynolds informing me that he had met with one amongst some old furniture & probably one might have been met with or bought prior to this time’.[7] However, the painting at the centre of the events reconstructed here, The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, was among the original group bought by Ralph Montagu in 1682. Indeed, it was listed as number six in George Vertue’s account of paintings at Montagu House in 1732: ‘pictures in Chiaroscure at the Duke of Mountagues house in Bloomsbury—those I mean from which the prints were engraved in Vandykes book of heads…6. P. Wolfange Willm C. Palatin’.[8] It was recorded in the Buccleuch collection in Ignatz von Szwykowski’s Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen of 1859 and by Arthur M. Hind in his Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography of 1915.[9] The panel also featured as number 167 in the Winter Exhibition of The Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, in 1900.[10] It was moved, together with the rest of the grisailles, to Boughton House in 1940 remaining there throughout the war.

The last record of the painting at Boughton House appears in the notebook of Van Dyck scholar Sir Oliver Millar (1923-2007), Deputy Surveyor of the Royal Collection from 1949 to 1972, where he records his examination of the sketches between 1 and 3 July 1950.[11] He wrote the following:

Wolfgang Wilhelm, Count Palatine (9 ½ x 7”): tol. [to left] front in gilded armour and the Golden Fleece with r. hand resting on bâton: curtain behind: silvery line in flesh and of rather a silverpoint texture: thin and liquid throughout.[12]

In 1958, seven years after the sketch had disappeared, Millar recalled: ‘When I spent that week-end at Boughton I devoted a morning to working through the grisailles. I took them off the wall one by one, measured them and looked at them. The missing subject is the first on my list and I assume it was the first I took down. It was therefore probably the one that came first to hand as one entered the room. If it was pinched from Boughton it was probably the easiest one to abduct’.[13]

ii. 1950-1958

In the summer of 1951, Leonard Gerald Gwynne (known as L.G.G.) Ramsey (1913-1990), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and editor of the journal The Connoisseur, visited Boughton House with the photographer Anthony F. Kersting for the 1952 edition of The Connoisseur Year Book.[14] A seven-page article written by Nicholas Carew and illustrated with sixteen plates discussed the history of the family, the architecture of the house, and the collections housed there. The Van Dyck sketches were not mentioned in the article.[15]

On 29 September 1953, Ramsey wrote to the art historian Ludwig Goldscheider (1896-1973), co-founder and editor of Phaidon Press, about two paintings that he intended to sell:[16]

My dear Dr. Goldscheider:

Some time ago I mentioned to you on the telephone that I was selling my two small Van Dyck subjects, photographs of which I enclose. (I must raise the money somehow to pay for new curtains for the house into which we have moved!) You very kindly said that you would be prepared to give me a short note saying that you considered these two subjects to be by Van Dyck’s hand. If you are still of the same mind I should be most grateful if you could do this in respect of the two which I have the pleasure to send you herewith.

Very kindest regards,

Leonard Gwynne Ramsey[17]

 

Though Ramsey did not identify his ‘two small Van Dyck subjects’ in this letter to Goldscheider, the latter’s certificate, dated the following day, 30 September 1953, confirms that one of the subjects was a portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg painted en grisaille for Van Dyck’s Iconography. Goldscheider’s certificate, which was written on the back of the photograph sent by Ramsey the previous day, reads:

Van Dyck: Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg (1578-1653)

Painted by Van Dyck for his “Iconography”, engraved by L. Vorsterman. A drawing in the Brit. Mus (Hind Nr. 37) is connected with a full length portrait of the Duke, of which one variant is in the Munich museum, and other versions in Chantilly, in the collection of Dr. Pietro del Gindice [sic], and elsewhere; the best version in the Yerkes Collection, New York. The present sketch in oil is the only one known which corresponds with the engraving in Van Dyck’s “Iconography”, and it is certainly done for Vorsterman who worked exactly from it. The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.

30 Sept: 1953 L. Goldscheider[18]

On 9 April 1954, the painting appeared as lot 129 in a sale at Christie’s, London. The catalogue described the painting as: ‘SIR A. VANDYCK 129. Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg: In armour and small white collar, wearing the chain and order of the Golden Fleece—monochrome—on panel—9 in. by 7 in. Engraved by L. Vorsterman in “Icones principum, vivorum [sic] doctorum”, published by Gillis Hendricx, Antwerp / Sold with the certificate of Dr. L. Goldscheider’.[19] The painting was sold anonymously, within the category of ‘Different Properties’, but the auctioneer’s book records the consignor as the art dealer, Eugene Slatter, of 30 Old Bond Street, W1. The buyer, who paid £189 (or 180 guineas) for the work, is listed as Nicholson, almost certainly Benedict Nicholson, editor of The Burlington Magazine and a prominent collector in the field.[20]

Ramsey, Goldscheider and Slatter, who had consigned the painting at Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, were all connected during these years by their association with The Connoisseur, of which Ramsey became editor in 1952-53.[21] Goldscheider published a range of scholarly articles in the journal between 1952 and 1954.[22] The exhibitions held in Eugene Slatter’s gallery on Old Bond Street routinely received enthusiastic praise in The Connoisseur between 1951 and 1957 as in, for example, this passage of 1954: ‘The exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Masters which is held each year at the 30 Old Bond Street, London, gallery of Eugene Slatter can now be considered as one of the events of the London season. These yearly exhibitions given by Mr Slatter are invariably outstanding, since the quality and academic importance of the works shown consistently maintain the highest possible level’.[23]

Nicholson retained the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg for less than a year. It was bought from him by an art dealer in New York and had entered the stock of a second New York dealer, Georges Seligmann, before 2 March 1955, when the first bill for his sale of the painting is dated.[24] Seligmann had the panel cleaned and cradled before selling it to a private collector in New York, Dr Lillian Malcove, for $2700, which was paid in three instalments.[25] Seligmann’s bills describe the painting as by Van Dyck and its dimensions, 9 ½ x 6 7/8 inches, are in keeping with those recorded by Millar in July 1950 and those listed in the Christie’s catalogue in 1954. The final instalment, dated 9 May 1955, was for $700.[26]

The Malcove family had emigrated from Russia to Canada in 1905 and Lillian (1902-1981) attended medical school in Manitoba, specializing in psychiatry. Her psychoanalytic practice was based in New York and she began collecting early in her career. Dr. Malcove’s interests ranged from Russian icons and Old Master Paintings to contemporary art.[27] One of her primary interests was Italian gold-grounds; between 1956 and 1964 she gave no fewer than eight such works to the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. In 1957 she donated Saint John Preaching by Paolo di Giovanni Fei and The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg. The latter was accessioned on 4 March 1957 and insured for the value of $9,000.[28]

It was at this point that the question of the painting’s provenance was first raised, prompted by the extraordinary chance visit of Mary Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry (1900-1993), to the Fogg in April 1957. When she was shown The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, she remarked on its similarity to a painting in the family collection at Boughton. A memo by a member of staff addressed to the Duchess in the archive at Boughton records the discovery that the sketch was missing:

You will remember telling me that you saw in the Fogg Art Museum, Massachusetts, a grisaille by Van Dyck of Wilhelmus Wolfgang, and that you thought it was very similar to one here. It so happens that ours is missing. It was here in 1940. I cannot find any reference or evidence that it was lent or sent away for any purpose.[29]

On 17 July 1957 the Duchess wrote to Agnes Mongan, Assistant Director and Curator of Drawings at the Fogg, who had shown her the painting in April. Mongan had given her a photograph of the Fogg painting and asked for a photograph of the Boughton one in return. The Duchess wrote:

I have been very slow writing to you because we have been searching for the little Van Dyck in order to photograph it for you. I am sorry to tell you that there is no trace of it here, or in any of the houses, nor is there any note at all of its having been lent or taken from this house for cleaning or for any other reason. We find that it was definitely here in 1940, as during the war all our things were stacked to make room for the British Museum, who were evacuated here for a bit, followed by the Science Museum.

It would be a matter of very great interest to us to know how long you have had your picture, and from whom it was purchased, as it seems improbable that there should have been two [paintings] of the same person.[30]

Mongan replied on 10 August:

It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching.

When your letter came our Registrar informed me that the picture that I showed you is on loan here from a collector, whose works some day we expect to inherit. This is where the matter becomes delicate! The private collector told our Registrar that the picture, which was purchased from a reputable New York dealer, was from the Queensberry Collection! That I certainly did not know when you were here, nor until I thought for a moment did I make the connection between Buccleuch and Queensberry…

At the present moment almost everybody here is on their vacation. I am afraid that I shall have to wait a little while before I can ask the professor whose friend is our benefactor, both present and potential, how we should handle this delicate situation. It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?[31]

Mongan’s letter provided the first piece of information that linked the sketch then at the Fogg to the Buccleuch and Queensberry collection. Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott (1894-1973), the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and 10th Duke of Queensberry, wrote to Mongan on 10 September apologizing for involving her in ‘a tiresome affair calling for diplomatic handling, as you suggest’ and expressing his desire to have the painting returned: ‘I hope eventually that we can trace through whom it was taken from Boughton, and how it got to America, and we naturally wish and feel that the picture should return to its rightful home’.[32] In her second and final letter, dated 24 September, Mongan told the Duke and Duchess that she had discussed the matter with John Coolidge (1913-1995), Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Art Museums from 1947 to 1972. She provided them with three further pieces of crucial information: first, that the collector told the archivist at the Fogg that the painting was sold at Christie’s on 9 April 1954; second, that it was sold with a certificate from Ludwig Goldscheider; and, finally, that a copy of the list of works photographed at Boughton House by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1954 did not include The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg.[33] Hereafter, all correspondence from the Fogg came from the museum’s Director, John Coolidge.

Coolidge wrote to the Duke two days later, on 26 September, reporting that he had spoken both to the donor of the painting and the dealer from whom she acquired it. He gave the Duke the names and addresses of Malcove and Seligmann and added the following information, which came from a dossier put together by one of the dealers who handled the painting prior to Dr. Malcove’s purchase of it: ‘I am told that it had been owned by R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall, Lydebury, North Shropshire. Previously it is said to have belonged to the Marquis of Queensbury [sic]’.[34] Coolidge promised to relate any developments to the Duke and raised, for the first time, the possibility that there were two versions of the sketch, an argument that recurs in the discussion over the next several years:

I understand that more than one version exists of some of the van Dyck grisaille sketches for the “Icones”. In establishing the identity of your picture and ours, it would be helpful if we could see a reproduction of your work…I should also like to learn as much as possible of the history of your painting after 1940…We are all anxious to clear up this distressing affair as rapidly as possible and to help you in every way to obtain your property back again.[35]

The Duke and the Fogg conducted their own investigations, contacting the parties involved and following up various leads, many of which were later described by Coolidge as ‘red herrings’.[36] One such ‘red herring’ was the information that the painting once belonged to an R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall.[37] With the help of connections in Shropshire, the Duke contacted a Ronald Stevens at Fermoyle Lodge, Costello, County Galway, Ireland. Stevens wrote to the Duke on 25 November:

A few weeks ago my brother and I both received letters from the Fogg Museum in America, asking us if we knew anything about a picture, believed to have been stolen! We were both entirely mystified as to how we were ever connected with this picture…Anyway, my brother at once replied for both of us, that we regretted we could not help in any way as neither of us had seen nor knew anything about this picture. I now realise that your monochrome sketch by Van Dyck may well be the same picture! I wish I could be of some help to you, but my brother and I know absolutely nothing about it.[38]

On 27 November Coolidge wrote to the Duke relating that he, too, had ‘inquired of this gentleman’s [R. Stevens] son, Mr. N. Stevens of Hope Court, Hope Bagot, Ludlow, England. He replies to the best of his belief neither he nor his father nor his brother (also R. Stevens) ever owned a picture of this sort’.[39]

Both the Duke and Coolidge asked Sir Alec Martin (1884-1971), Managing Director of Christie’s, for information about the consignor of The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to the April 1954 sale. Sir Alec’s son, W.A. Martin, wrote to the Duke on 4 November: ‘we have now heard from the man for whom we sold this lot in 1954 that he sent it to us on behalf of a client “known in public life, who bought the picture in an open country market in January, 1950.” We have therefore asked him to ascertain the history of the picture before that date.’[40] On the same day Martin wrote a similar letter to Coolidge.[41] On 12 November Martin notified the Duke that he had been in touch with Dr Goldscheider, whose certificate was sold with the painting: ‘Though he thought it was by Vandyck he says that, so far as he can remember, when he saw it it had been repainted by a later hand. So far as he can recall, he does not think that this applies to your pictures and he feels it cannot have been good enough to have belonged to your set.’[42] Martin wrote to the Duke again on 15 November:

With reference to my letter of 12th November, the owner of the picture in this lot has now been in to see me and it transpires that he is very well known to us. He says that he bought the picture in January, 1950, at a stall in the Old Market Place by the church at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Apparently the market there has been moved and he is unable to get into touch with the stallholder from whom he purchased it. I am afraid, therefore, that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture farther back than January, 1950.[43]

Martin’s argument that nothing more could be done suggests that he hoped the matter would end there. However, the Duke’s response on 17 November made it clear that he was not satisfied with this explanation. He expressed some puzzlement over the idea that ‘a Van Dyck should be picked up at a stall in a village, and [that] the picture seems likely to have come from some collection about the time of the disappearance from Boughton’:

You suggest that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture further back than January 1950, but should there not be some way to find out more about that market, and who was running it? With a wide experience of these matters your firm would know more about it than I could, and I feel it would help greatly if we could find a way to investigate this market. Do you think I should enquire of the Police, or would you know of a better way?

Do you suppose the purchaser of the picture in January 1950, who is well known to you, made a habit of going to this market place, or is it likely that someone there communicated with him that he had a Van Dyck? Do you suppose it is purely by chance that he happened to be passing on a particular day, or could he not perhaps tell us all a little more if he wished to do so?[44]

On 20 November Martin reported to the Duke that he had asked the owner ‘to make further efforts to elucidate the history of the picture before it came into his possession, especially as you are now thinking of putting the matter into the hands of the police’.[45] He also suggested what Christie’s legal position would be, stating that the firm’s solicitors had informed him that a purchase from a stall in a market place ‘comes under the heading of “market overt” and a purchaser at such a market has a perfectly good title unless and until a conviction is made for the theft of the purchase in question’.[46]

On 19 December Martin sent the Duke a copy of the response he received from Ramsey, which introduced many of the arguments the latter would make throughout the investigation: that the person from whom he purchased the painting could not be traced; that several witnesses saw it in his home in 1950; and that it was not of high enough quality to be associated with the sketches at Boughton House. Ramsey wrote to Martin:

Thank you for your letter of December 3rd in furtherance to your earlier letter of November 20th. I have not replied before since it has been necessary for me to make the journey to Hemel Hempstead, which has occasioned delay.

As I think I told you, the old market which used to exist by the Church at Hemel Hempstead no longer exists. Under the new town arrangements there is now a considerably larger market of open stalls in a different part of the town.

As no doubt you will appreciate, after a period of seven years I have not at all clear recollections of what the man looked like who sold me the picture now under discussion. I have, however, been down to Hemel Hempstead and made an extensive tour of the stalls of the new market in an attempt to establish his identity, without success.

Even if it had been possible to find this trader, I am doubtful whether he would remember having sold a particular picture to me in 1950. Furthermore, can you imagine such a person being willing to remember such a transaction if he thought that the matter was now the subject of an enquiry?…

I have already referred to a Mr. Higley of Hemel Hempstead who, a number of years ago, showed me his house (in High street, Hemel Hempstead) full of pictures, all of which he told me, he had acquired at the markets of Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury and St Albans. I am now trying to ascertain through official sources, when Mr. Higley died. It might help. It was he who originally suggested that I should keep a look out for pictures in the country markets.

It will therefore be apparent that I am not able, in spite of every effort to do so, to produce the vendor of the picture which it is now suggested might originally have come from Boughton: a picture which, as you know, was of insufficient interest to five leading members of the London picture trade for them to wish to acquire it.

I can, however, say that this picture was seen by friends in my home in September, 1950—if that is going to help in any way. Furthermore, it is worth adding that the picture concerned possessed eighteenth-century overpainting. This is one fact, I am told, which eliminates the possibility of the picture having once formed part of a set belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch, since his would not have displayed this feature.

My informant, moreover, is prepared to write to the Duke and tell him that there can be no connection between the picture which I orininally [sic] bought and the one which is now said to be missing from the Duke’s collection. I will delay taking this further action until I hear from you.[47]

Ramsey’s ‘informant’, Ludwig Goldscheider, wrote the following letter to Martin at Christie’s on 22 December 1957:

Dear Mr. Martin,

Here is an answer to your letter of December 6th., 1957.

  1. I think it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the small portrait of Duke Wolfgang aus Wilhelm of Platz-Neuberg [sic] by Van Dyck (Sale 9th April, 1954, Lot 129) has never been in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  2. I have never given a ‘certificate’ for this picture, if by certificate is meant a professional statement for which payment of any kind is accepted. The fact is that at no time and from no dealer or collector have I ever accepted payment of any kind or in any form. On the other hand, it is true that I have given in writing my opinion of this picture.
  3. I saw the little picture for the first time in 1953; it was called at that time ‘English, XVIIth century, perhaps by Lely’. I identified it at once as a portrait of the Duke of Phalz-Neuberg [sic] (whose full-length portrait is in the Munich Museum; a better version in a London private collection; and another one in New York). I also realised that the little portrait was one of the grisailles painted by Van Dyck and his assistants (mainly in London) for the engraved portraits of his ‘Iconography’.
  4. In the Exhibition Catalogue of ‘Flemish Art’, Royal Academy, Winter 1953/4, Mr Oliver Miller [sic] says on p. 133: “The engravings were carried out by various engravers under Van Dyck’s supervision, on the basis of grisailles; in certain cases several versions of the grisailles are known…The grisailles are very numerous, but the most important collection is them is the group of thirty-seven…which is now at Boughton (Duke of Buccleuch)”.
  5. The set always consisted of 37 panels. There were 37 in the Lely Sale. Waagen (‘Treasures of Art in Great Britain’, 1854, I, p. 415) counted 37. There were no doubt still 37 panels in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch when, in 1953, sixteen of those panels were chosen for the Exhibition of Flemish Art in the Royal Academy.
  6. There are other sets of those portraits known. The Earl of Arundel had 32. Waagen (Vol. II, p. 286) mentions 6 in the collection of the Duke of Bedford. Another set, in a New York private collection, is illustrated in Gluck’s ‘Van Dyck’, KdK XIII, 1931, p. XV, and [is] described (p. 517) as better than the one in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  7. The picture sold by you (as Lot 129, 9.4.54) was not of the same quality as those in the Buccleuch Collection. It was not even a proper grisaille, containing some blue and yellow; it showed XIXth century retouchings and was in an indifferent XIXth century frame.[48] It fetched only £190, whereas any of the panels from the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch would, owing to their quality, certainly fetch at least £1,000.
  8. Summary: When Lot 129 was already in your hands, 16 panels of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits were chosen for the Royal Academy Exhibition from a set of 37 belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch in that set. Of some of the grisailles several versions are known. Lot 129 is somewhat different in style and not very good. I feel sure that it never belonged to the famous set in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.

I hope that this is all that you want to know and that I shall not have to go through this dull material again.

Yours sincerely,

L. Goldscheider[49]

There are three copies of Goldscheider’s letter to Martin in the archive at Boughton: one sent to the Duke by Ramsey on 22 January 1958, cited above; the second, a typescript copy of the letter sent by Ramsey made at Boughton; and, the third, a cleaned-up copy sent to the Duke by Martin on 3 February 1958.[50] The primary difference between the copies sent by Ramsey and Martin is the latter’s insertion of an inaccurate clause in point 8—‘there were never more than 37 in that set’—and his deletion of the line at the end of Goldscheider’s letter referring to ‘this dull material’.[51]

The cornerstone of Goldscheider’s argument features in point seven—that the painting consigned to the Christie’s sale was of low quality, was not a true grisaille, and that it had nineteenth-century overpaint. Each of these assertions directly contradicts both the certificate he provided to Ramsay in 1953 and the description of the painting in the sale catalogue. It is notable that Goldscheider’s letter does not address the discrepancy between his assessment of the painting in 1953 (‘the picture is a fine original and in perfect state’) and his very different evaluation of it in 1957 (‘not very good’). His argument regarding the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, which was clearly intended to prove that none was missing in 1953-54, is inaccurate. As noted above, forty grisailles had been recorded in the collection in 1746 and forty had been lent to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1900.[52]

iii. 1958-1960

On 22 January 1958, exactly one month after Goldscheider wrote his letter to Martin at Christie’s, Ramsey wrote directly to the Duke enclosing the copy of Goldscheider’s letter cited above. This was Ramsey’s first correspondence with the Duke and the first time his identity was known beyond Christie’s.

Your Grace,

Mr. W.A. Martin of Messrs. Christie’s has told me of the correspondence which has passed between you and his office in reference to a small portrait which at one time belonged to me and which I offered for sale in Messrs. Christie’s rooms through an agent in April, 1954.

When Mr. Martin drew my attention to the fact that it was now thought that the subject concerned might originally have belonged to your collections, and that, in acquiring it in an open market, I might unwittingly have acquired an item which had been removed by some person or persons unknown from your possession, the matter at first caused me much concern.

As you will appreciate, my work is necessarily concerned with all the important art collections in this country and overseas. I cannot therefore afford to have my name associated with any possible unpleasantness, however apparently trivial, in the small world of art. Indeed, ironically enough, as Your Grace may know, I have to spend a good deal of my time in assisting various police forces to find missing works of art.[53] That is why, in the case of the sale of the picture in question, I preferred that my name should not initially be associated with the matter unless it became necessary to do so, particularly if it could eventually be said that the subject was merely a copy of a Van Dyck subject.

Whatever may be the opinion of the American museum which now possesses the picture, I am convinced, although I can hardly tell them so, that they have a copy of a Van Dyck subject. As I hope Mr. Martin may have told you, before arranging for this subject to be offered at public auction in his rooms, the picture concerned was shown, for purposes of acquisition, to five different London art dealers. None expressed any interest in the subject or wished to acquire it. It was also shown to a leading Van Dyck expert who did not consider that it was painted by that artist. Neither did the picture secure a Van Dyck price at auction. However, had I, in the course of the recent correspondence, for one moment considered that the picture which Messrs. Christie’s sold had once belonged to your collections, and had been removed from them without authority, the matter would have assumed graver proportions: and I should have been the first to re-fund the sale price to Messrs. Christie’s with the request that the picture be immediately returned from America.

Finally, on December 22nd 1958 [sic; it was 1957], and in an attempt finally to clear the matter up, Dr. Ludwig Goldscheider, the art historian, wrote to Mr. Martin, as shown in the attached copy of his letter.

I am leaving London tomorrow for the West of Scotland, but I hope that Your Grace will let me know if there is any further way in which you think that I could materially assist your enquiries.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Yours sincerely,

L.G.G. Ramsey[54]

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.
3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

On 26 January 1958 the Duke sent both Ramsey’s and Goldscheider’s letters to Coolidge, stating, significantly, that ‘I had not previously been aware that Mr. Ramsey was the seller. I have not actually met him, but he was apparently at our house in Northamptonshire in 1951 with a photographer taking some photographs: I was ill at the time and did not see him’.[55] He also asks Coolidge for his opinion of the painting’s quality given the dramatic difference between Goldscheider’s original certificate and his later letter. On 27 January Coolidge sent his assessment of the painting to the Duke [see figs. 2, 3]:

I have just examined the painting. Recently it was cradled. At that time the back of the panel was smoothed down so that no old surface is now visible. In addition, strips of wood about an eighth of an inch wide were added to all four edges so one cannot even see the edge of the panel. We looked at the picture under ultra-violet light. There appears to be no repaint at all. The painted surface ends at an awkward point on the figure’s right side and somewhat awkwardly on his left. I can imagine that at some time the painting has been slightly cut down, especially on the figure’s right.[56]

In a second letter to the Duke, dated 10 February, Coolidge expressed his enthusiasm for the painting, noting that the Fogg had insured the work for $9,000, which suggested a full attribution to Van Dyck. He also offered his view of Goldscheider’s change of heart: ‘I judge from the most interesting enclosures you sent to me that the experts now are trying to prove that our picture could never have belonged to you because of the startling difference in quality between this work and those in your collection. Quite aside from my own feelings about our picture, I find this attempt unconvincing in view of Mr. Goldscheider’s fine statement of September 30th, 1953, “The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.” I should think it might be more effective if Mr. Ramsay [sic] could demonstrate when and where he acquired our picture’.[57] It is the latter line of enquiry that Coolidge assiduously pursued in his extensive contact with Ramsey throughout 1959.

Martin’s view of Goldscheider’s revision of his original opinion was more resigned:

[Van Dyck scholar] Oliver Millar has seen the enclosed copy reply from Dr. Goldscheider and we both think that it doesn’t really help much at all in clearing the matter up. His change of view about the picture he certified is difficult to explain except that, as is well known, experts do change their minds.[58]

iv. Boughton

Up to this point the Duke, Coolidge, and Martin shared information relatively freely and appeared to share the same goal of discovering as much information about the panel at the Fogg as possible. However, their strategies diverged over the course of 1958. In late 1957 or early 1958, the Duchess sought the advice of Sir Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), later Lord Clark, who during these years was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain (1955-60). Clark wrote to the Duke on 28 January 1958 highlighting an important shift in Ramsey and Goldscheider’s position:

I have now had time to think over the letters from Mr. Ramsay [sic] and Dr. Goldscheider of which Molly gave me copies in Edinburgh. They both make a bad impression, especially that of Mr. Ramsay [sic]. Indeed his third paragraph, if read in court by a clever lawyer in conjunction with his second, almost amounts to an admission, that he knew that there was something fishy about the origin of the Van Dyck. However, it is not surprising that these gentlemen are rattled; they are in a dilemma. They have to admit either that the picture was stolen from your collection or that they sold it at Christie’s as a Van Dyck with a certificate knowing that it was not by the painter. Of these two evils they have chosen the lesser, that is to say the second. This decision has no doubt been the result of much anxious conference, and they will continue to swear that the picture never was or could have been the original Van Dyck.[59]

Clark enclosed a draft of the kind of letter that the duke might consider sending to Ramsey, concluding: ‘I do not think it will have much effect, but I am all in favour of giving them a run for their money’.

A memo in the archive at Boughton dated 26 January 1958 records the Duke’s intention to discuss the matter with the police.[60] Sir John Alexander Willison, Chief Constable of Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1952-1958, responded in the first two weeks of February, informing the duke that the Hertfordshire police would have to handle the case given that the supposed theft took place in Hemel Hempstead.[61] Kenneth Clark wrote to the duke again on 19 February 1958 after having received a copy of Goldscheider’s original certificate: ‘I cannot think how he can have been such a fool as to write that other letter to say that he had never given a certificate nor believed the picture to be an original. He must have known that he would be found out’.[62] He continues:

I am not very favourably impressed by Mr. Martin’s letter, and when he speaks about Dr. Goldscheider changing his mind he is trying to excuse the most bare-faced falsification; and I have the impression that he is influenced by Mr. Ramsey and Dr. Goldscheider. This is inevitable, because Christie’s stand to lose almost as much as the other two characters if it is proved that the picture was stolen property. For this reason I am fairly confident that he will already have told Mr. Ramsey that Oliver Millar saw the picture at Boughton in 1950, and Ramsey is meanwhile collecting witnesses to swear that they saw it in his possession at an earlier date…Honestly, I do not think it worth while trying to conduct the affair through Christie’s; after two more letters to Mr. Ramsey I should have [sic] it over to the law.[63]

 

The Duke had written to Ramsey on 26 January 1958, making the same points that he had made to Martin and Coolidge: that an enquiry into the market in Hemel Hempstead would surely shed some light on Ramsey’s purchase of the painting; and that some clarification of Goldscheider’s opinion of the work was necessary.[64] He never received a response from Ramsey and on 4 February 1959 drafted a more strongly worded letter that was never sent.[65]

Oliver Millar wrote to the Duke on 1 April 1958 directly addressing the issue of quality raised by Goldscheider:

Thank you for the bundle of material which you left with me last week. I have studied it with much interest and would like to discuss it with you. The trouble is that the back of the panel in America has been so completely renewed as to destroy any basis for comparison with the panels at Boughton. The question of the quality of the painting is a very invidious one and is also, I feel, irrelevant to the present problem. There are considerable variations of quality within the set at Boughton. The subjects that particularly interested Van Dyck, such as the portraits of his fellow artists, are of very high quality indeed, whereas the more official, formal portraits are often duller and less inspired.

I myself have found the coincidence between the loss of a particular grisaille from Boughton and the appearance of the same subject in America too remarkable to be true, and I also think the strange reference to the Queensberry Collection has a rather sinister flavour. However, opinions and hypotheses cannot have any weight in these cases and the only evidence I can offer you or anyone concerned with the affair is the date of my visit to Boughton, when I saw the picture in place (as cited above, p. 3).[66]

v. Harvard

On 6 January 1959 Coolidge wrote to the donor of the painting, Dr Malcove, sending her a copy of Martin’s letter of 4 November 1957 in which he explained the concept of ‘market overt’, adding that ‘I have also written to Martin asking him to get for the Fogg a firm opinion by a British barrister. When we have that, I believe our lawyers will let us return the Van Dyck to you’.[67] Coolidge’s significant efforts to uncover the painting’s history over the next year all served the goal of avoiding a suit for conversion (which includes straightforward theft but also holding onto property which accidentally comes into the converter’s hands) and returning The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove.[68] Before the Fogg could return the painting they were required to prove that Malcove had purchased it ‘in good faith’, which, in turn, depended entirely upon Ramsey’s claim to having purchased the painting ‘in good faith’ before 1 July 1950.[69]

Coolidge first contacted Ramsey on 15 March 1959, when he was in London, and asked for a meeting:

Sometime ago the Fogg Museum of Harvard University was lent a grisaille portrait by Van Dyck which had formerly been in your possession. We are now anxious to return this painting but cannot legally do so until we have determined what relation it bears to one owned by the Duke of Buccleugh [sic]. Your unique knowledge could extricate Harvard from what has become a most awkward situation.[70]

 

Coolidge met with Ramsey at the offices of The Connoisseur twice and made detailed notes of his conversations in both instances. During their first discussion on 23 March, he noted the following: that Ramsey claimed to have paid 10 shillings for the painting; that he was encouraged to look for works of art in the market by a Mr Higley, who had since died; that he sold the painting to buy a piece of furniture; and that he never believed that it was by van Dyck.[71] Their second meeting took place on 1 April, when Ramsey elaborated upon some of the points he had initially made. He claimed to have shown the painting to his stepfather in the second half of January, voiced his suspicion that Higley had ‘planted’ the painting at the market, and claimed that before Goldscheider’s identification of the painting as by Van Dyck, he did not know the series of Van Dyck grisailles at Boughton.[72]

Coolidge’s note regarding Ramsey’s living conditions records his initial concern about the quality of the latter’s witness statements, one that would only grow with time: ‘Ramsey did not go to St. John’s Wood until 1950, was not well known. The first person with whom he made contact there was the rector, Reverend Noel Perry-Gore. The latter is vague and cannot remember the furnishings of the house’.[73] In his report on the painting produced for Harvard’s lawyers the following year, Coolidge states: ‘There are hints of some disturbances in Mr. Ramsey’s personal life at this time. He may have been living in a hotel. However, by August he had moved and he declares various people (notably the local rector, the Reverend Noel Perry-Gore, and Mr. Geoffrey Harmsworth) saw his “Sir Peter Lely” in his new house in St. John’s Wood in August and November of 1950’.[74]

Coolidge left London for Vienna after Easter and wrote to Ramsey on 8 June 1959, clearly stating his requirements:

I fear a letter from you must have gone astray….When I left England you were to see your stepfather [Mr. Churchill-Dawes] the very next weekend and show him the photograph of the “Malcove” Van Dyck. You hoped and expected that he would recognize it as a reproduction of the painting you had bought at Hemel Hempstead and showed to him during Christmas holidays early in 1950. I had hoped he might be willing to put this in writing. A signed statement from him, would, I feel sure, settle the matter as far as Harvard’s lawyers are concerned.[75]

The correspondence between Coolidge and Ramsey continued well into the autumn of 1960. Coolidge continued to press Ramsey for witness statements and Ramsey provided a range of reasons for the delay in his provision of them: on 18 June 1959, ‘I am sorry, I did not appreciate that you were expecting to hear further from me. I was going to write to you in the States’[76]; on 25 June 1959, a printing strike and running ‘this magazine single-handed’ had kept him busy in London: ‘I did not appreciate that you required a signed “statement” in relation to the “Van Dyck”…Next time I see them [his witnesses, Churchill-Dawes and a sculptor, Patrick Synge-Hutchinson] I will get a letter from them to this effect. This may not be yet awhile, but there is no hurry as far as I am concerned’.[77] On 21 September Ramsey apologized for ‘this further delay, but I have to get away from here for a time each year, and I have been on holiday…I now have the pleasure in sending you photographic copies of two “statements” relative to my possession of a small portrait in the first half of 1950. I am told that these two statements should be quite sufficient for the purpose required’.[78]

However, Coolidge had to write several more times to clarify various aspects of Ramsey’s witness statements. On 4 February 1960 he wrote: ‘You remember that to establish the date when you purchased the grisaille is all important. Mr. Synge-Hutchinson’s letter confirms your contention that you bought it in the first half of 1950. Mr. Churchill-Dawes’ letter, however, implies that you had bought the painting “in the latter part of 1950”. Would he be willing to state whether this is his belief, or whether he merely meant that he had seen the painting in the latter half of 1950 although you had bought it earlier? To save you trouble, I have written a letter to him which I enclose, raising this question. If it is easier for you just mail it to him’.[79] Ramsey replied on 29 February: ‘Clearly this is an unfortunate and careless error, and one which entirely escaped us here. It was obviously not intended that it should be capable of two interpretations. The word “January” has been omitted. I am very sorry to give you this further correspondence, and will get the matter put right forthwith’.[80]

On 30 March 1960, Ramsey sent a photograph of the corrected Churchill-Dawes statement together with a photograph of another statement by Geoffrey Harmsworth.[81] There was, however, another problem and on 4 May Coolidge wrote to Ramsey again. The letter was headed URGENT: ‘The statements made by Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson are not clearly tied to the Van Dyck portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm. However, I believe that you obtained these statements by showing each of the two gentlemen a photograph of this painting [which had been supplied by Coolidge]. It was the photograph which jogged their memories and was the basis for the statements. Can you confirm this fact or provide any other incidental information that will incontrovertibly link what they have written with the Van Dyck painting you sold?’[82] Ramsey’s reply on 16 May reflects a shift in tone that becomes increasingly strained over the following six months: ‘If the Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson statements are not tied to the portrait which has been the subject of so much protracted correspondence between us, then it is not clear to what other subject they could be tied! Of course they are incontrovertibly linked to the painting sold at Christie’s’.[83] Ramsey did not, however, provide further information.

During the course of their eighteen-month correspondence, Ramsey raised a number of issues which seem designed to shift the focus of the investigation. In addition to restating the arguments laid out by Goldscheider regarding the palette, the quality of the painting and the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, he suggested that the picture he sold at Christie’s might not have been the same panel as that at the Fogg.[84] On 25 June 1959 Ramsey wrote: ‘I do not necessarily suggest that they are not one and the same. Yet your picture went through so many hands between the time I sold it and the time it reached the Fogg that it has occurred to some of us that a switch might have been made’.[85] One of the most important of Ramsey’s insinuations was that neither he nor any representative from The Connoisseur had ever been to Boughton House. Ramsey stated this fact categorically on a number of occasions but—significantly—his statement was always qualified with ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’. In his letter to Coolidge of 25 June 1959, he related a story that had been told to him by a friend:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch having said to him that ‘two men came down from The Connoisseur to photograph the Van Dycks, they must have taken it.’ This is distinctly macabre, since no representative of The Connoisseur at any time visited a Buccleuch residence ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’…I am sure you will agree, this is the type of unwise statement which all ladies make from time to time.[86]

On 29 February 1960 he wrote to Coolidge that ‘the Duchess of Buccleuch was very much in error in stating that The Connoisseur photographed her Van Dycks. It did not’.[87] Ramsey pushed this point further in a letter to Coolidge of 4 August 1960:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch’s unfortunate house-party statement, made about the Connoisseur and photography which it never carried out, has now come to the notice of this firm’s solicitors. They are naturally in some state about it and are straining at the leash to take immediate action. If they take it up with the Buccleuch solicitors, then it will doubtless in due course come before the Hearst Corporation. Thereafter, who knows, the matter might even be taken to the United Nations, such unnecessary proportions has the matter grown to’.[88]

It is clear that already by the end of 1959, Coolidge had grown weary of the case, as indicated by his letter to Martin of 30 November 1959:

Ramsay [sic] has…crashed through [sic] with a couple of letters which tend to confirm his purchase of the Van Dyck in the first two months of the year. I now think we have gotten as close to the bottom of this affair as we are ever likely to come…I can think of no very satisfactory explanation for what actually happened. One must take one’s pick between two improbable hypotheses. Fortunately, because of the decency of all parties concerned, I think one can act, even though uncertain as to the true facts.[89]

In the document entitled ‘Report on Malcove Van Dyck’, which Coolidge prepared in early February 1960 (crucially, before his correspondence with Ramsey had ended) for Oscar Shaw, the Harvard lawyer responsible for the case, he admitted that ‘Mr. Ramsey does not inspire confidence. Aspects of his story remain puzzling. Nonetheless, I have become convinced that he is telling the truth’.[90] Coolidge goes on, however, to suggest that the truth may not be necessary for their purposes:

Even assuming that the dates Ramsey gives are wrong and that the Ramsey-Fogg-Malcove picture was in fact stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch, Ramsey can still produce a witness who supports his contention he bought the painting at the Hemel Hempstead market. This being a market overt, he had, under English law, a good title to the painting until the thief had been convicted. I do not see how such a conviction can now be obtained, nor do I see how one can prove that Ramsey acted in bad faith. If Ramsey’s title was good under English law, might it not be hard for the Duke of Buccleuch to challenge Dr. Malcove’s title under American law.[91]

On 4 May 1960 Coolidge wrote to Martin stating that he expected the lawyers to reach a settlement the following week and, a month later, on 24 June, Coolidge wrote to the Duke with the Fogg’s conclusions: ‘I am convinced that the painting now hanging in the Fogg Museum is the one which was sold by Mr. Ramsey through Christie’s and intermediate dealers to our lender, Dr. Malcove’. He cited new evidence, almost certainly the statement of Synge-Hutchinson, that supported Ramsey’s claim to have bought the painting in January 1950 and noted that ‘we have discovered no evidence that this picture is identical with your grisaille of the same subject which was seen by Oliver Millar at Boughton in July 1950. I cannot think where to find further evidence. Unless such turns up, I can only conclude that there were at least two small grisaille portraits of Wolfgang Wilhelm of which the painting lent to us is one and your missing grisaille is another. I, therefore, believe that we must accede to the lender’s request and return the painting to her’.[92]

Coolidge’s postscript in which he used the same argument employed by Goldscheider in his original certificate supporting an attribution to Van Dyck (‘a fine original and in perfect state’) reflects some residual concern regarding his conclusion that there must be more than one grisaille of Wolfgang Wilhelm:

P.S. There are at least five, possibly seven and perhaps more, life-size portraits of the Duke by or attributed to Van Dyck. These are in the museums at Munich, Chantilly and Bremen, and in addition there are reported to have been versions in a private collection in London, in the Yerkes Collection in New York, in the Walter Briggs Collection in Detroit, and in the Pietro del Gindice Collection.[93]

Coolidge included the same paragraph in his report to Harvard’s lawyers in response to Oliver Millar’s opposing view, expressed at their meeting in London on 17 March 1959, which he cited in his report:

According to Oliver Millar, the most popular grisailles are those representing artists. All of the grisailles that he knows which exist in more than one version are portraits of artists. He can think of no example of a statesman whose portrait exists in two grisaille versions. It would seem especially extraordinary to Millar that a little-known political figure, such as Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach, should exist in two versions. However, as pointed out above, the problem of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits has never been thoroughly studied.[94]

In weighing Millar’s view against Ramsey’s story, Coolidge concluded: ‘Despite Millar’s opinion it seems more likely to me that there are two versions of the Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach portrait than that Mr. Ramsey should have arranged such an elaborate deception. If the Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm was vain and rich enough to commission so many full-scale Van Dyck portraits, why not two grisailles?’[95]

In response to Coolidge’s letter of 24 June 1960, the Duke again expressed his concern about the unanswered questions related to the painting’s provenance before Ramsey owned it and Goldscheider’s radical shift of opinion. In the course of this letter, the Duke returned to a crucial point that he had made to Coolidge on 26 January 1958—that Ramsey had been to Boughton House around the time the painting was stolen (see above p. 16): ‘It is an unfortunate coincidence that that Mr. Ramsey and a member of his staff were in this house the following year in connection with their work after the picture was last noticed at Boughton in July 1950 by Mr. Oliver Millar’.[96] On 26 August Coolidge wrote to Ramsey: ‘I gather that the Duke believes that you and a member of your staff were at Boughton the year after the picture was last noticed at Boughton by Mr. Oliver Millar in July 1950. Could you let me know if this is true, or is it a confusion with the visit of the photographer?’[97]

Ramsey’s response, dated 14 September 1960, was sharply defensive and mocking in tone and destroyed any credibility he had managed to maintain with Coolidge up to this point. After a robust defence of his argument that his painting was not of the same quality as those at Boughton—‘my painting was no more from the hand of Sir Anthony van Dyck than it was from that of Grandma Moses’—he admitted to having been at Boughton House:

In your letter of August 26th you gathered that the Duke of Buccleuch believes that I and a member of my staff was at Boughton House in 1951.

Certainly I was privileged to visit Boughton with a photographer in that year. That was one of the reasons why I was curious to know from you which Buccleuch residence contained the Buccleuch set of 37 (you report 41) panels of these very numerous grisailles; for it is reasonable to suppose that had they been at Boughton such a large number of such works would have been clearly evident. They were not.

Certainly I well recall going to this beautiful house, since I usually try to accompany my photographer to all homes which we photograph. After selecting the subjects I thereafter leave him to get on with the job.

On this particular exercise the occasion of the visit is quite clear in my mind. I was received and duly saw her again on my departure by a Miss MacEchern. The Duke had a cold and was confined to his room. I called to thank the Agent for the kind facilities granted. Finally, for the purpose of examining the Robert Adam designed Montagu Monument in Warkton Church, I had to obtain the key to this building from a Mrs Mutton. She lived next door to a Mrs Lamb.

What is the significance of this latter enquiry? It appears to be somewhat offensive. Is it now suggested that I naively remove objects of art from private collections, of which I have seen scores throughout Europe? Really, Mr Coolidge……..[98]

vi. Conclusion

The Fogg returned the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove in November 1960. Coolidge maintained his view that there were two versions of the sketch and that the Ramsay-Malcove-Fogg grisaille was in no way related to the missing panel from Boughton. However, it is significant that Coolidge had already advised the Duke, Christie’s, and, of course, Ramsey of the University’s decision to return the painting to Malcove before Ramsey finally admitted having been at Boughton House in the summer of 1951. By 1960, it must have seemed impossible to prove Ramsey’s involvement, however strong the circumstantial evidence, but the Fogg clearly wanted to avoid a legal case which would certainly have alienated Malcove (and other potential benefactors) and stopped her flow of bequests to Harvard, a concern expressed by Agnes Mongan when the problem first emerged in August 1957, before the correspondence was taken over by Coolidge: ‘It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching…It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?’[99] For the duke’s part, without photographic evidence of the missing sketch from Boughton, there could be no absolute proof that the Malcove painting and his lost grisaille were one and the same.

On 24 September 1984, Seymour Slive (1920-2015), then Professor of Art History at Harvard and Director of The Fogg, wrote to Julius Held (1905-2002), Emeritus Professor of Art History at Barnard College, who was then preparing a study of Van Dyck’s oil sketches. Slive recounted the dilemma in which the museum had found itself as a result of the Duchess’s visit in April 1957: ‘…[the] Duchess of Buccleuch visited the Fogg, saw the sketch and said: “We have one which is very similar.” Upon her return home she discovered hers was missing!’[100]:

However, a “$64,000 question” had to be answered: was the Malcove picture identical with the Buccleuch picture? Visual and circumstantial evidence suggested that it was. Obviously the Fogg could not keep a painting if there was reason to believe it had been stolen. What to do? Return it to Buccleuch? Or return it to the donor? It was decided to do the latter. The gift was cancelled by Harvard in 1958 and subsequently the painting was returned to Dr Malcove…If you manage to locate the picture I would be grateful for word of its present whereabouts for our file on the painting.[101]

4.Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

In fact, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg had remained undisturbed in Dr Malcove’s collection from November 1960 until her death in 1981, when it entered the collection of the University of Toronto as part of a larger bequest. It has remained in the collection of the Art Museum of the University of Toronto ever since.[102] Julius Held’s 1984 correspondence with Joneath Spicer, the curator of the collection who re-attributed the sketch to the printmaker Lucas Vorsterman, reflects his concerns about the painting’s provenance—on the back of the photograph supplied to him, he wrote ‘Stolen from Boughton?’[103] As evidenced by the research presented here, we have finally been able to resolve this question. In August 2021, the Executive Committee of the University of Toronto voted to deaccession the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg and return it to the Duke of Buccleuch. The painting returned to Boughton House in January 2024, seventy-three years after it was stolen.

1.Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo.

  1. Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

  1. Acknowledgments: I would like to thank the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry KBE; Scott Macdonald, Head of Collections & Conservation, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Crispin Powell, Archivist, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Gareth Fitzpatrick MBE, former Director of Collections and Archives, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Michelle Interrante, Assistant Archivist, Harvard Art Museums; Tracey Schuster, Head of Permissions and Photo Archive Services, Getty Research Institute, and the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Jenny Hill, Assistant Archivist and Records Manager, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; Hannah Jones, Archives and Library Assistant, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; and Professor Phillip Lindley.


    For another example of the theft of cultural objects by those closest to them—the curators, archivists and scholars who know them best—see Theresa Galvin, ‘The Boston Case of Charles Merrill Mount: The Archivist’s Arch Enemy’, American Archivist, vol 53 (Summer 1990), pp442-450.

  2. ‘Editorial: Sir Peter Lely’s Collection’, The Burlington Magazine, vol 83 (August 1943), p185.

  3. For Montagu House, Whitehall, see Montagu H. Cox and Philip Norman, eds, Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, part II: Whitehall I London, 1930, pp214-220.

  4. There are ten grisailles associated with The Iconography in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, though their attribution to van Dyck has been questioned. There are three further sketches in private collections. For the former, see Mirjam Neumeister, ed., Van Dyck: Gemälde von Anthonis Van Dyck. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, München, 2020, pp296-319.

  5. I am currently researching the life and career of L.G.G. Ramsey.

  6. Michael Jaffé, who wrote about the sketches in 1992, for example, wrongly cited the number purchased in 1682 as thirty-three. Michael Jaffé, ‘The Paintings and Drawings’, in Tessa Murdoch, ed, Boughton House: The English Versailles, London, 1992, p80.

  7. Unsigned undated letter of c1790-1800; no. 30, Limp Green Leather Portfolio, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  8. Most early inventories do not list the sketches individually; Vertue’s is the first. See The Twenty-Fourth Volume of the Walpole Society, 1935-1936. Vertue Note Books, Volume IV, Oxford, 1936, p42.

  9. Ignatz von Szwykowski, Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen, Leipzig, 1859, pp178-80; and Arthur M. Hind, Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography, Boston, 1915, p42.

  10. Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641. Winter Exhibition, 31st year , exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900, p51, no 167.

  11. During his first visit to Boughton on 5 November 1949, Millar noted that ‘The van Dyck grisailles are possibly of varying quality, but seemed exceedingly good in most instances, they are very dirty and hang high’. Journal V, p176, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  12. Journal V, p221, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  13. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. Millar does not specify the room in which the sketches hung, either in his notes or in this letter, but it is described as ‘the bathroom’ in a statement made by Michael Jaffé to John Coolidge regarding Millar’s visit to Boughton in July 1950. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 16 October 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  14. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  15. Nicholas Carew, ‘Boughton House, Northampton. A Seat of the Duke of Buccleuch’, in The Connoisseur Year Book 1952, H. Granville Fell and Helen Comstock eds, London, 1952, pp41-48. L.G.G. Ramsey contributed two articles to the volume. ‘A Scottish home of the Duke of Buccleuch, Drumlanrig Castle’, featured in L.G.G. Ramsey, ed, The Connoisseur Year Book 1954, London, 1954, pp18-25. None of the van Dyck sketches were mentioned in the journal edited by L.G.G. Ramsey, The Connoisseur. An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, between 1951 and 1958, though his knowledge of Van Dyck’s Iconography is evident in a passage from his later volume, L.G.G. Ramsey, The Complete Encyclopedia of Antiques. Compiled by The Connoisseur Editor: L.G.G. Ramsey, F.S.A., London, 1962, pp1111: “In the Netherlands, Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) showed himself a masterly etcher in twenty-two prints (mostly portraits) which he produced in the late 1620s”.

  16. Goldscheider immigrated to London from Vienna in 1938. He co-founded the Phaidon press in London in 1938 and remained an editor at the press until his death in 1973. His papers are housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

  17. L.G.G. Ramsey to Ludwig Goldscheider, 29 Sept 1953; The Ludwig Goldscheider papers, Box 1, Folder 4. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (840066).

  18. Copy of the certificate included in the ‘Malcove folder’ at the Fogg, sent to the Duke by W.A. Martin of Christie’s on 3 February 1958. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  19. Before 1967, when rules for cataloguing were made more consistent and explicit, the use of an initial and surname usually indicated that the work was “thought to be a work of the period of the artist and which may be in whole or part the work of the artist”. See Christie’s guidelines for artists and attributions before 1967, Christie’s archive, London.

  20. I am grateful to Daniel Jarmai and Dr Simona Dolari in the Christie’s archives for providing me with this information.


  21. For Slatter’s cleaning of the painting, see Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  22. See, for example: Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘A Rembrandt Self-Portrait’, The Connoisseur, vol 130 (August-December 1952), pp157-60; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo’s Sketches in clay and wax’, The Connoisseur, vol 131 (January-June 1953), pp73-75; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo Studies—II* Virtus et Voluptas’, The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), pp147-49; and Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘El Greco’s Christ on the Cross’, The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954), pp177-79.

  23. L.G.G. Ramsey, ed., The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), p257. Slatter’s exhibitions were positively reviewed in 1951, 1952 (when an oil sketch, Child with Pomegranate, attributed to Jacob Jordaens and owned by Slatter, appeared on the cover of the March-May edition of the journal), 1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957, when Slatter’s stock was given a two-page spread.

  24. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  25. In a letter of 3 October 1960, Seligmann confirms to John Coolidge, Director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, that ‘I had the picture cleaned and cradled: it was cleaned by Henry Helfer, 40 E. 78 St., N.Y.C. and it was cradled by Thorpe 131 W. 53 St., N.Y.C.’. Letter from Georges Seligmann to John Coolidge, October 3, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  26. Curatorial file, University of Toronto Art Centre. I am grateful to Ms Heather Darling Pigat for making this file available for inspection.

  27. Her collection comprised over 500 objects including Old Master paintings and drawings, Roman and Byzantine sculpture, Coptic textiles, Russian icons, English alabasters, stained glass and modern art. For a comprehensive discussion of her collection, see Sheila D. Campbell, ed, The Malcove Collection. A Catalogue of the Objects in the Lillian Malcove Collection of The University of Toronto, Toronto, 1985.

  28. The painting was accepted on 4 March 1957 and was given the accession number 1957.2. See: Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and Seymour Slive to Julius Held, 24 September 1984, Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  29. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 1.

  30. The Duchess of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 17 July 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 2.

  31. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3. There is a discrepancy in the wording used to describe the presence of the painting at the Fogg. Mongan describes it as ‘on loan’; elsewhere it is documented as having been accessioned on 4 March 1957.

  32. The Duke of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 10 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 5.

  33. Agnes Mongan to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 6. There was some confusion over which institution photographed the collection at Boughton House in 1954. Both the Courtauld Institute and the Frick Reference Library in New York were cited in the correspondence. It was, in fact, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery that took the photographs at Boughton. I would like to thank Dr Karin Kyburz, Picture Researcher, Witt and Conway Supervisor, for confirming this information.

  34. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dossier citing Wolcott Hall could have been produced by either Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer to whom he sold the painting, or Seligmann.

  35. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7.

  36. Letter from John Coolidge to Oscar Shaw, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  37. This information came from a dealer’s dossier and was given to the Duke by Coolidge; John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dealer’s dossier to which Coolidge later referred in a letter to Ramsey dated 21 October 1960 could have been compiled by Slatter, who consigned the painting to Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, or one of the dealers who owned the painting thereafter: Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer who bought the painting from Nicholson, or Seligmann, who sold it to Dr. Malcove. The Duke corresponded with the 6th Earl of Bradford at Weston Park in Shifnal, Shropshire, who, with the help of Sir Jasper More of Linley Hall, Bishops Castle, Shropshire, discovered that two brothers, Ronald and Noel Stevens, had once lived in Wolcott Hall but had since moved, one to Ludlow, Shropshire, and the other to Ireland. The Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 19; Sir Jasper More to the Earl of Bradford, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 20; and the Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 11 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 21.

  38. Quoted in a memo entitled ‘Missing Van Dyck Sketch’ written by the Earl of Dalkeith at Eildon Hall, 25 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive.

  39. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 28.

  40. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 4 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 17.

  41. Letter from W. A. Martin to John Coolidge, November 4, 1957. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1675. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  42. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 12 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 22.

  43. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 15 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 23.

  44. The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 17 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 24.

  45. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  46. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  47. L.G.G. Ramsey to W.A. Martin [undated], sent to the Duke of Buccleuch on 19 December 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  48. These ‘XIXth century retouchings’ were described as ‘eighteenth-century overpaint’ in Ramsay’s letter cited above.

  49. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; I have cited the copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by L.G.G. Ramsey, 22 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  50. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  51. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by W.A. Martin on 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  52. See ‘Inventory of Montagu House, Whitehall, June 1746’. ‘His Grace’s Room’ lists ‘40 pictures by Vandike in gilt frames’, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900. Thirty-nine were recorded in the most recent monograph on the artist, Susan Barnes, Nora de Poorter, Oliver Millar, and Horst Vey, eds, Van Dyck: a Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven, 2004, p365ff.

  53. Ramsey’s comment almost certainly refers to the following, in which the theft of a miniature belonging to the Duke from the exhibition, Versailles in Books and Pictures, featured in The Connoisseur volume 133: ‘A miniature of [the Marquise de Montespan] seated in a classical and architectural landscape, by Louis de Chatillon (1639?-1734), 190 x 127 mm., and the property of the Duke of Buccleuch was regrettably stolen not long after the exhibition opened. Its return is now sought’. The Connoisseur 133 (January-June 1954): 41. In the following issue, the journal’s success in recovering stolen property is highlighted: ‘As a result of investigations carried out by The Connoisseur and an official body, 17 out of 21 pictures and other works of art reported missing from a Hampstead, London, residence have since been recovered’. The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954, p287.

  54. L.G.G. Ramsey to the Duke of Buccleuch, 2 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  55. The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  56. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  57. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 10 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  58. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  59. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 28 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  60. Memo, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  61. Unsigned, undated memo, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. The Duke makes reference to this memo in a letter dated 14 February. See the Duke of Buccleuch to Kenneth Clark, 14 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  62. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  63. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  64. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. See also The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  65. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 4 February 1959, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  66. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  67. Letter from John Coolidge to Lillian Malcove, January 6, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  68. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  69. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  70. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, March 15, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  71. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, March 23, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  72. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  73. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  74. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  75. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, June 8, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  76. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 18, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  77. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  78. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 21, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  79. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  80. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  81. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 30, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


  82. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, May 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  83. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, May 16, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  84. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  85. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  86. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  87. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  88. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, August 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  89. Letter from John Coolidge to W. A. Martin, November 30, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  90. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  91. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  92. Letter from John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, June 24, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  93. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 June 1960, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  94. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  95. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  96. Letter from the Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, July 18, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  97. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, August 26, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  98. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  99. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3.

  100. Sorenson, Lee, ‘Slive, Seymour’, Dictionary of Art Historians, www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/slives.htm; accessed 1 September 2015.

  101. Julius Held Papers, Box 96, Folder 63, Series VIII, Photographs, Van Dyck Iconography, Seymour Slive correspondence; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  102. In the catalogue of the Malcove collection, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm is attributed to Lucas Vorsterman the Elder, the printmaker who produced this print for the Iconography. Its provenance is cited as: Private collection (said to have been purchased in 1950 at an open air market in Hemel Hampstead); Christie’s sale, London, 9 April 1954, lot 129; George Seligmann, NY; purchased by Dr Malcove in 1955. See Campbell, op cit, pp373-76.

  103. Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

 
 

A Stolen Van Dyck recovered:

The Portrait of Wolfganf Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg

Meredith M. Hale

1 Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

In July 1951 Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg [fig. 1] was stolen from Boughton House, Northamptonshire. It is one of thirty-seven oil sketches at Boughton for Van Dyck’s print series known as the Iconography, a unique group of panels that, until the summer of 1951, had remained together in the same collection since 1682. This paper tells the remarkable story of the theft which spans three generations and involves some of the most prominent members of the art establishment in the UK and the US.

Through new archival research in the UK, US and Canada I have reconstructed the painting’s movements over the past seventy-three years as it passed through the hands of experts, conservators, auctioneers, dealers, and collectors from London to Toronto. Not only do these sources reveal a dynamic picture of events as they unfold, they highlight the factors that contributed to the success of the theft, foremost among them the conceptual and material complexity of Van Dyck’s Iconography project and the audacity of a thief cloaked in the respectability of expertise.[1]

The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg is one of thirty-seven oil sketches by Anthony van Dyck and his studio purchased by Ralph, Earl of Montagu, on 18 April 1682 from the sale of the collection of the painter Sir Peter Lely.[2] The grisailles, small panels measuring c. 8 ½ x 6 ½ inches (c. 22 x 16.5 cm) first hung in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, where they survived a fire in 1686, before the relocation of the household to Whitehall in the 1730s.[3] They were evacuated with the rest of the family’s collection to Boughton House, Northamptonshire, in 1940 where they remain today. The Boughton panels are the largest group of oil sketches associated with Van Dyck’s Iconography and, alongside preparatory drawings, played a key role in the production of printed portraits of Van Dyck’s contemporaries: princes, military leaders, scholars and artists.[4] The group remained intact in the collection of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry (descendants of the Duke of Montagu) for two hundred and sixty-nine years until the visit of L.G.G. Ramsay, editor of The Connoisseur, in summer 1951.[5]

i. The oil sketches, 1682-1950

The number of sketches for the Iconography in the Montagu collection increased from the thirty-seven bought at the Lely sale in 1682 to forty listed in an inventory of 1746, an increase in number that has caused considerable confusion in the literature.[6] A letter to the third Duke of Montagu of c. 1790 already reflects an early effort to account for the additional three panels: ‘I recollect [Joshua] Reynolds informing me that he had met with one amongst some old furniture & probably one might have been met with or bought prior to this time’.[7] However, the painting at the centre of the events reconstructed here, The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, was among the original group bought by Ralph Montagu in 1682. Indeed, it was listed as number six in George Vertue’s account of paintings at Montagu House in 1732: ‘pictures in Chiaroscure at the Duke of Mountagues house in Bloomsbury—those I mean from which the prints were engraved in Vandykes book of heads…6. P. Wolfange Willm C. Palatin’.[8] It was recorded in the Buccleuch collection in Ignatz von Szwykowski’s Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen of 1859 and by Arthur M. Hind in his Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography of 1915.[9] The panel also featured as number 167 in the Winter Exhibition of The Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, in 1900.[10] It was moved, together with the rest of the grisailles, to Boughton House in 1940 remaining there throughout the war.

The last record of the painting at Boughton House appears in the notebook of Van Dyck scholar Sir Oliver Millar (1923-2007), Deputy Surveyor of the Royal Collection from 1949 to 1972, where he records his examination of the sketches between 1 and 3 July 1950.[11] He wrote the following:

Wolfgang Wilhelm, Count Palatine (9 ½ x 7”): tol. [to left] front in gilded armour and the Golden Fleece with r. hand resting on bâton: curtain behind: silvery line in flesh and of rather a silverpoint texture: thin and liquid throughout.[12]

In 1958, seven years after the sketch had disappeared, Millar recalled: ‘When I spent that week-end at Boughton I devoted a morning to working through the grisailles. I took them off the wall one by one, measured them and looked at them. The missing subject is the first on my list and I assume it was the first I took down. It was therefore probably the one that came first to hand as one entered the room. If it was pinched from Boughton it was probably the easiest one to abduct’.[13]

ii. 1950-1958

In the summer of 1951, Leonard Gerald Gwynne (known as L.G.G.) Ramsey (1913-1990), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and editor of the journal The Connoisseur, visited Boughton House with the photographer Anthony F. Kersting for the 1952 edition of The Connoisseur Year Book.[14] A seven-page article written by Nicholas Carew and illustrated with sixteen plates discussed the history of the family, the architecture of the house, and the collections housed there. The Van Dyck sketches were not mentioned in the article.[15]

On 29 September 1953, Ramsey wrote to the art historian Ludwig Goldscheider (1896-1973), co-founder and editor of Phaidon Press, about two paintings that he intended to sell:[16]

My dear Dr. Goldscheider:

Some time ago I mentioned to you on the telephone that I was selling my two small Van Dyck subjects, photographs of which I enclose. (I must raise the money somehow to pay for new curtains for the house into which we have moved!) You very kindly said that you would be prepared to give me a short note saying that you considered these two subjects to be by Van Dyck’s hand. If you are still of the same mind I should be most grateful if you could do this in respect of the two which I have the pleasure to send you herewith.

Very kindest regards,

Leonard Gwynne Ramsey[17]

 

Though Ramsey did not identify his ‘two small Van Dyck subjects’ in this letter to Goldscheider, the latter’s certificate, dated the following day, 30 September 1953, confirms that one of the subjects was a portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg painted en grisaille for Van Dyck’s Iconography. Goldscheider’s certificate, which was written on the back of the photograph sent by Ramsey the previous day, reads:

Van Dyck: Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg (1578-1653)

Painted by Van Dyck for his “Iconography”, engraved by L. Vorsterman. A drawing in the Brit. Mus (Hind Nr. 37) is connected with a full length portrait of the Duke, of which one variant is in the Munich museum, and other versions in Chantilly, in the collection of Dr. Pietro del Gindice [sic], and elsewhere; the best version in the Yerkes Collection, New York. The present sketch in oil is the only one known which corresponds with the engraving in Van Dyck’s “Iconography”, and it is certainly done for Vorsterman who worked exactly from it. The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.

30 Sept: 1953 L. Goldscheider[18]

On 9 April 1954, the painting appeared as lot 129 in a sale at Christie’s, London. The catalogue described the painting as: ‘SIR A. VANDYCK 129. Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg: In armour and small white collar, wearing the chain and order of the Golden Fleece—monochrome—on panel—9 in. by 7 in. Engraved by L. Vorsterman in “Icones principum, vivorum [sic] doctorum”, published by Gillis Hendricx, Antwerp / Sold with the certificate of Dr. L. Goldscheider’.[19] The painting was sold anonymously, within the category of ‘Different Properties’, but the auctioneer’s book records the consignor as the art dealer, Eugene Slatter, of 30 Old Bond Street, W1. The buyer, who paid £189 (or 180 guineas) for the work, is listed as Nicholson, almost certainly Benedict Nicholson, editor of The Burlington Magazine and a prominent collector in the field.[20]

Ramsey, Goldscheider and Slatter, who had consigned the painting at Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, were all connected during these years by their association with The Connoisseur, of which Ramsey became editor in 1952-53.[21] Goldscheider published a range of scholarly articles in the journal between 1952 and 1954.[22] The exhibitions held in Eugene Slatter’s gallery on Old Bond Street routinely received enthusiastic praise in The Connoisseur between 1951 and 1957 as in, for example, this passage of 1954: ‘The exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Masters which is held each year at the 30 Old Bond Street, London, gallery of Eugene Slatter can now be considered as one of the events of the London season. These yearly exhibitions given by Mr Slatter are invariably outstanding, since the quality and academic importance of the works shown consistently maintain the highest possible level’.[23]

Nicholson retained the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg for less than a year. It was bought from him by an art dealer in New York and had entered the stock of a second New York dealer, Georges Seligmann, before 2 March 1955, when the first bill for his sale of the painting is dated.[24] Seligmann had the panel cleaned and cradled before selling it to a private collector in New York, Dr Lillian Malcove, for $2700, which was paid in three instalments.[25] Seligmann’s bills describe the painting as by Van Dyck and its dimensions, 9 ½ x 6 7/8 inches, are in keeping with those recorded by Millar in July 1950 and those listed in the Christie’s catalogue in 1954. The final instalment, dated 9 May 1955, was for $700.[26]

The Malcove family had emigrated from Russia to Canada in 1905 and Lillian (1902-1981) attended medical school in Manitoba, specializing in psychiatry. Her psychoanalytic practice was based in New York and she began collecting early in her career. Dr. Malcove’s interests ranged from Russian icons and Old Master Paintings to contemporary art.[27] One of her primary interests was Italian gold-grounds; between 1956 and 1964 she gave no fewer than eight such works to the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. In 1957 she donated Saint John Preaching by Paolo di Giovanni Fei and The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg. The latter was accessioned on 4 March 1957 and insured for the value of $9,000.[28]

It was at this point that the question of the painting’s provenance was first raised, prompted by the extraordinary chance visit of Mary Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry (1900-1993), to the Fogg in April 1957. When she was shown The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, she remarked on its similarity to a painting in the family collection at Boughton. A memo by a member of staff addressed to the Duchess in the archive at Boughton records the discovery that the sketch was missing:

You will remember telling me that you saw in the Fogg Art Museum, Massachusetts, a grisaille by Van Dyck of Wilhelmus Wolfgang, and that you thought it was very similar to one here. It so happens that ours is missing. It was here in 1940. I cannot find any reference or evidence that it was lent or sent away for any purpose.[29]

On 17 July 1957 the Duchess wrote to Agnes Mongan, Assistant Director and Curator of Drawings at the Fogg, who had shown her the painting in April. Mongan had given her a photograph of the Fogg painting and asked for a photograph of the Boughton one in return. The Duchess wrote:

I have been very slow writing to you because we have been searching for the little Van Dyck in order to photograph it for you. I am sorry to tell you that there is no trace of it here, or in any of the houses, nor is there any note at all of its having been lent or taken from this house for cleaning or for any other reason. We find that it was definitely here in 1940, as during the war all our things were stacked to make room for the British Museum, who were evacuated here for a bit, followed by the Science Museum.

It would be a matter of very great interest to us to know how long you have had your picture, and from whom it was purchased, as it seems improbable that there should have been two [paintings] of the same person.[30]

Mongan replied on 10 August:

It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching.

When your letter came our Registrar informed me that the picture that I showed you is on loan here from a collector, whose works some day we expect to inherit. This is where the matter becomes delicate! The private collector told our Registrar that the picture, which was purchased from a reputable New York dealer, was from the Queensberry Collection! That I certainly did not know when you were here, nor until I thought for a moment did I make the connection between Buccleuch and Queensberry…

At the present moment almost everybody here is on their vacation. I am afraid that I shall have to wait a little while before I can ask the professor whose friend is our benefactor, both present and potential, how we should handle this delicate situation. It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?[31]

Mongan’s letter provided the first piece of information that linked the sketch then at the Fogg to the Buccleuch and Queensberry collection. Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott (1894-1973), the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and 10th Duke of Queensberry, wrote to Mongan on 10 September apologizing for involving her in ‘a tiresome affair calling for diplomatic handling, as you suggest’ and expressing his desire to have the painting returned: ‘I hope eventually that we can trace through whom it was taken from Boughton, and how it got to America, and we naturally wish and feel that the picture should return to its rightful home’.[32] In her second and final letter, dated 24 September, Mongan told the Duke and Duchess that she had discussed the matter with John Coolidge (1913-1995), Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Art Museums from 1947 to 1972. She provided them with three further pieces of crucial information: first, that the collector told the archivist at the Fogg that the painting was sold at Christie’s on 9 April 1954; second, that it was sold with a certificate from Ludwig Goldscheider; and, finally, that a copy of the list of works photographed at Boughton House by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1954 did not include The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg.[33] Hereafter, all correspondence from the Fogg came from the museum’s Director, John Coolidge.

Coolidge wrote to the Duke two days later, on 26 September, reporting that he had spoken both to the donor of the painting and the dealer from whom she acquired it. He gave the Duke the names and addresses of Malcove and Seligmann and added the following information, which came from a dossier put together by one of the dealers who handled the painting prior to Dr. Malcove’s purchase of it: ‘I am told that it had been owned by R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall, Lydebury, North Shropshire. Previously it is said to have belonged to the Marquis of Queensbury [sic]’.[34] Coolidge promised to relate any developments to the Duke and raised, for the first time, the possibility that there were two versions of the sketch, an argument that recurs in the discussion over the next several years:

I understand that more than one version exists of some of the van Dyck grisaille sketches for the “Icones”. In establishing the identity of your picture and ours, it would be helpful if we could see a reproduction of your work…I should also like to learn as much as possible of the history of your painting after 1940…We are all anxious to clear up this distressing affair as rapidly as possible and to help you in every way to obtain your property back again.[35]

The Duke and the Fogg conducted their own investigations, contacting the parties involved and following up various leads, many of which were later described by Coolidge as ‘red herrings’.[36] One such ‘red herring’ was the information that the painting once belonged to an R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall.[37] With the help of connections in Shropshire, the Duke contacted a Ronald Stevens at Fermoyle Lodge, Costello, County Galway, Ireland. Stevens wrote to the Duke on 25 November:

A few weeks ago my brother and I both received letters from the Fogg Museum in America, asking us if we knew anything about a picture, believed to have been stolen! We were both entirely mystified as to how we were ever connected with this picture…Anyway, my brother at once replied for both of us, that we regretted we could not help in any way as neither of us had seen nor knew anything about this picture. I now realise that your monochrome sketch by Van Dyck may well be the same picture! I wish I could be of some help to you, but my brother and I know absolutely nothing about it.[38]

On 27 November Coolidge wrote to the Duke relating that he, too, had ‘inquired of this gentleman’s [R. Stevens] son, Mr. N. Stevens of Hope Court, Hope Bagot, Ludlow, England. He replies to the best of his belief neither he nor his father nor his brother (also R. Stevens) ever owned a picture of this sort’.[39]

Both the Duke and Coolidge asked Sir Alec Martin (1884-1971), Managing Director of Christie’s, for information about the consignor of The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to the April 1954 sale. Sir Alec’s son, W.A. Martin, wrote to the Duke on 4 November: ‘we have now heard from the man for whom we sold this lot in 1954 that he sent it to us on behalf of a client “known in public life, who bought the picture in an open country market in January, 1950.” We have therefore asked him to ascertain the history of the picture before that date.’[40] On the same day Martin wrote a similar letter to Coolidge.[41] On 12 November Martin notified the Duke that he had been in touch with Dr Goldscheider, whose certificate was sold with the painting: ‘Though he thought it was by Vandyck he says that, so far as he can remember, when he saw it it had been repainted by a later hand. So far as he can recall, he does not think that this applies to your pictures and he feels it cannot have been good enough to have belonged to your set.’[42] Martin wrote to the Duke again on 15 November:

With reference to my letter of 12th November, the owner of the picture in this lot has now been in to see me and it transpires that he is very well known to us. He says that he bought the picture in January, 1950, at a stall in the Old Market Place by the church at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Apparently the market there has been moved and he is unable to get into touch with the stallholder from whom he purchased it. I am afraid, therefore, that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture farther back than January, 1950.[43]

Martin’s argument that nothing more could be done suggests that he hoped the matter would end there. However, the Duke’s response on 17 November made it clear that he was not satisfied with this explanation. He expressed some puzzlement over the idea that ‘a Van Dyck should be picked up at a stall in a village, and [that] the picture seems likely to have come from some collection about the time of the disappearance from Boughton’:

You suggest that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture further back than January 1950, but should there not be some way to find out more about that market, and who was running it? With a wide experience of these matters your firm would know more about it than I could, and I feel it would help greatly if we could find a way to investigate this market. Do you think I should enquire of the Police, or would you know of a better way?

Do you suppose the purchaser of the picture in January 1950, who is well known to you, made a habit of going to this market place, or is it likely that someone there communicated with him that he had a Van Dyck? Do you suppose it is purely by chance that he happened to be passing on a particular day, or could he not perhaps tell us all a little more if he wished to do so?[44]

On 20 November Martin reported to the Duke that he had asked the owner ‘to make further efforts to elucidate the history of the picture before it came into his possession, especially as you are now thinking of putting the matter into the hands of the police’.[45] He also suggested what Christie’s legal position would be, stating that the firm’s solicitors had informed him that a purchase from a stall in a market place ‘comes under the heading of “market overt” and a purchaser at such a market has a perfectly good title unless and until a conviction is made for the theft of the purchase in question’.[46]

On 19 December Martin sent the Duke a copy of the response he received from Ramsey, which introduced many of the arguments the latter would make throughout the investigation: that the person from whom he purchased the painting could not be traced; that several witnesses saw it in his home in 1950; and that it was not of high enough quality to be associated with the sketches at Boughton House. Ramsey wrote to Martin:

Thank you for your letter of December 3rd in furtherance to your earlier letter of November 20th. I have not replied before since it has been necessary for me to make the journey to Hemel Hempstead, which has occasioned delay.

As I think I told you, the old market which used to exist by the Church at Hemel Hempstead no longer exists. Under the new town arrangements there is now a considerably larger market of open stalls in a different part of the town.

As no doubt you will appreciate, after a period of seven years I have not at all clear recollections of what the man looked like who sold me the picture now under discussion. I have, however, been down to Hemel Hempstead and made an extensive tour of the stalls of the new market in an attempt to establish his identity, without success.

Even if it had been possible to find this trader, I am doubtful whether he would remember having sold a particular picture to me in 1950. Furthermore, can you imagine such a person being willing to remember such a transaction if he thought that the matter was now the subject of an enquiry?…

I have already referred to a Mr. Higley of Hemel Hempstead who, a number of years ago, showed me his house (in High street, Hemel Hempstead) full of pictures, all of which he told me, he had acquired at the markets of Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury and St Albans. I am now trying to ascertain through official sources, when Mr. Higley died. It might help. It was he who originally suggested that I should keep a look out for pictures in the country markets.

It will therefore be apparent that I am not able, in spite of every effort to do so, to produce the vendor of the picture which it is now suggested might originally have come from Boughton: a picture which, as you know, was of insufficient interest to five leading members of the London picture trade for them to wish to acquire it.

I can, however, say that this picture was seen by friends in my home in September, 1950—if that is going to help in any way. Furthermore, it is worth adding that the picture concerned possessed eighteenth-century overpainting. This is one fact, I am told, which eliminates the possibility of the picture having once formed part of a set belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch, since his would not have displayed this feature.

My informant, moreover, is prepared to write to the Duke and tell him that there can be no connection between the picture which I orininally [sic] bought and the one which is now said to be missing from the Duke’s collection. I will delay taking this further action until I hear from you.[47]

Ramsey’s ‘informant’, Ludwig Goldscheider, wrote the following letter to Martin at Christie’s on 22 December 1957:

Dear Mr. Martin,

Here is an answer to your letter of December 6th., 1957.

  1. I think it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the small portrait of Duke Wolfgang aus Wilhelm of Platz-Neuberg [sic] by Van Dyck (Sale 9th April, 1954, Lot 129) has never been in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  2. I have never given a ‘certificate’ for this picture, if by certificate is meant a professional statement for which payment of any kind is accepted. The fact is that at no time and from no dealer or collector have I ever accepted payment of any kind or in any form. On the other hand, it is true that I have given in writing my opinion of this picture.
  3. I saw the little picture for the first time in 1953; it was called at that time ‘English, XVIIth century, perhaps by Lely’. I identified it at once as a portrait of the Duke of Phalz-Neuberg [sic] (whose full-length portrait is in the Munich Museum; a better version in a London private collection; and another one in New York). I also realised that the little portrait was one of the grisailles painted by Van Dyck and his assistants (mainly in London) for the engraved portraits of his ‘Iconography’.
  4. In the Exhibition Catalogue of ‘Flemish Art’, Royal Academy, Winter 1953/4, Mr Oliver Miller [sic] says on p. 133: “The engravings were carried out by various engravers under Van Dyck’s supervision, on the basis of grisailles; in certain cases several versions of the grisailles are known…The grisailles are very numerous, but the most important collection is them is the group of thirty-seven…which is now at Boughton (Duke of Buccleuch)”.
  5. The set always consisted of 37 panels. There were 37 in the Lely Sale. Waagen (‘Treasures of Art in Great Britain’, 1854, I, p. 415) counted 37. There were no doubt still 37 panels in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch when, in 1953, sixteen of those panels were chosen for the Exhibition of Flemish Art in the Royal Academy.
  6. There are other sets of those portraits known. The Earl of Arundel had 32. Waagen (Vol. II, p. 286) mentions 6 in the collection of the Duke of Bedford. Another set, in a New York private collection, is illustrated in Gluck’s ‘Van Dyck’, KdK XIII, 1931, p. XV, and [is] described (p. 517) as better than the one in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  7. The picture sold by you (as Lot 129, 9.4.54) was not of the same quality as those in the Buccleuch Collection. It was not even a proper grisaille, containing some blue and yellow; it showed XIXth century retouchings and was in an indifferent XIXth century frame.[48] It fetched only £190, whereas any of the panels from the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch would, owing to their quality, certainly fetch at least £1,000.
  8. Summary: When Lot 129 was already in your hands, 16 panels of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits were chosen for the Royal Academy Exhibition from a set of 37 belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch in that set. Of some of the grisailles several versions are known. Lot 129 is somewhat different in style and not very good. I feel sure that it never belonged to the famous set in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.

I hope that this is all that you want to know and that I shall not have to go through this dull material again.

Yours sincerely,

L. Goldscheider[49]

There are three copies of Goldscheider’s letter to Martin in the archive at Boughton: one sent to the Duke by Ramsey on 22 January 1958, cited above; the second, a typescript copy of the letter sent by Ramsey made at Boughton; and, the third, a cleaned-up copy sent to the Duke by Martin on 3 February 1958.[50] The primary difference between the copies sent by Ramsey and Martin is the latter’s insertion of an inaccurate clause in point 8—‘there were never more than 37 in that set’—and his deletion of the line at the end of Goldscheider’s letter referring to ‘this dull material’.[51]

The cornerstone of Goldscheider’s argument features in point seven—that the painting consigned to the Christie’s sale was of low quality, was not a true grisaille, and that it had nineteenth-century overpaint. Each of these assertions directly contradicts both the certificate he provided to Ramsay in 1953 and the description of the painting in the sale catalogue. It is notable that Goldscheider’s letter does not address the discrepancy between his assessment of the painting in 1953 (‘the picture is a fine original and in perfect state’) and his very different evaluation of it in 1957 (‘not very good’). His argument regarding the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, which was clearly intended to prove that none was missing in 1953-54, is inaccurate. As noted above, forty grisailles had been recorded in the collection in 1746 and forty had been lent to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1900.[52]

iii. 1958-1960

On 22 January 1958, exactly one month after Goldscheider wrote his letter to Martin at Christie’s, Ramsey wrote directly to the Duke enclosing the copy of Goldscheider’s letter cited above. This was Ramsey’s first correspondence with the Duke and the first time his identity was known beyond Christie’s.

Your Grace,

Mr. W.A. Martin of Messrs. Christie’s has told me of the correspondence which has passed between you and his office in reference to a small portrait which at one time belonged to me and which I offered for sale in Messrs. Christie’s rooms through an agent in April, 1954.

When Mr. Martin drew my attention to the fact that it was now thought that the subject concerned might originally have belonged to your collections, and that, in acquiring it in an open market, I might unwittingly have acquired an item which had been removed by some person or persons unknown from your possession, the matter at first caused me much concern.

As you will appreciate, my work is necessarily concerned with all the important art collections in this country and overseas. I cannot therefore afford to have my name associated with any possible unpleasantness, however apparently trivial, in the small world of art. Indeed, ironically enough, as Your Grace may know, I have to spend a good deal of my time in assisting various police forces to find missing works of art.[53] That is why, in the case of the sale of the picture in question, I preferred that my name should not initially be associated with the matter unless it became necessary to do so, particularly if it could eventually be said that the subject was merely a copy of a Van Dyck subject.

Whatever may be the opinion of the American museum which now possesses the picture, I am convinced, although I can hardly tell them so, that they have a copy of a Van Dyck subject. As I hope Mr. Martin may have told you, before arranging for this subject to be offered at public auction in his rooms, the picture concerned was shown, for purposes of acquisition, to five different London art dealers. None expressed any interest in the subject or wished to acquire it. It was also shown to a leading Van Dyck expert who did not consider that it was painted by that artist. Neither did the picture secure a Van Dyck price at auction. However, had I, in the course of the recent correspondence, for one moment considered that the picture which Messrs. Christie’s sold had once belonged to your collections, and had been removed from them without authority, the matter would have assumed graver proportions: and I should have been the first to re-fund the sale price to Messrs. Christie’s with the request that the picture be immediately returned from America.

Finally, on December 22nd 1958 [sic; it was 1957], and in an attempt finally to clear the matter up, Dr. Ludwig Goldscheider, the art historian, wrote to Mr. Martin, as shown in the attached copy of his letter.

I am leaving London tomorrow for the West of Scotland, but I hope that Your Grace will let me know if there is any further way in which you think that I could materially assist your enquiries.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Yours sincerely,

L.G.G. Ramsey[54]

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.
3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

On 26 January 1958 the Duke sent both Ramsey’s and Goldscheider’s letters to Coolidge, stating, significantly, that ‘I had not previously been aware that Mr. Ramsey was the seller. I have not actually met him, but he was apparently at our house in Northamptonshire in 1951 with a photographer taking some photographs: I was ill at the time and did not see him’.[55] He also asks Coolidge for his opinion of the painting’s quality given the dramatic difference between Goldscheider’s original certificate and his later letter. On 27 January Coolidge sent his assessment of the painting to the Duke [see figs. 2, 3]:

I have just examined the painting. Recently it was cradled. At that time the back of the panel was smoothed down so that no old surface is now visible. In addition, strips of wood about an eighth of an inch wide were added to all four edges so one cannot even see the edge of the panel. We looked at the picture under ultra-violet light. There appears to be no repaint at all. The painted surface ends at an awkward point on the figure’s right side and somewhat awkwardly on his left. I can imagine that at some time the painting has been slightly cut down, especially on the figure’s right.[56]

In a second letter to the Duke, dated 10 February, Coolidge expressed his enthusiasm for the painting, noting that the Fogg had insured the work for $9,000, which suggested a full attribution to Van Dyck. He also offered his view of Goldscheider’s change of heart: ‘I judge from the most interesting enclosures you sent to me that the experts now are trying to prove that our picture could never have belonged to you because of the startling difference in quality between this work and those in your collection. Quite aside from my own feelings about our picture, I find this attempt unconvincing in view of Mr. Goldscheider’s fine statement of September 30th, 1953, “The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.” I should think it might be more effective if Mr. Ramsay [sic] could demonstrate when and where he acquired our picture’.[57] It is the latter line of enquiry that Coolidge assiduously pursued in his extensive contact with Ramsey throughout 1959.

Martin’s view of Goldscheider’s revision of his original opinion was more resigned:

[Van Dyck scholar] Oliver Millar has seen the enclosed copy reply from Dr. Goldscheider and we both think that it doesn’t really help much at all in clearing the matter up. His change of view about the picture he certified is difficult to explain except that, as is well known, experts do change their minds.[58]

iv. Boughton

Up to this point the Duke, Coolidge, and Martin shared information relatively freely and appeared to share the same goal of discovering as much information about the panel at the Fogg as possible. However, their strategies diverged over the course of 1958. In late 1957 or early 1958, the Duchess sought the advice of Sir Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), later Lord Clark, who during these years was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain (1955-60). Clark wrote to the Duke on 28 January 1958 highlighting an important shift in Ramsey and Goldscheider’s position:

I have now had time to think over the letters from Mr. Ramsay [sic] and Dr. Goldscheider of which Molly gave me copies in Edinburgh. They both make a bad impression, especially that of Mr. Ramsay [sic]. Indeed his third paragraph, if read in court by a clever lawyer in conjunction with his second, almost amounts to an admission, that he knew that there was something fishy about the origin of the Van Dyck. However, it is not surprising that these gentlemen are rattled; they are in a dilemma. They have to admit either that the picture was stolen from your collection or that they sold it at Christie’s as a Van Dyck with a certificate knowing that it was not by the painter. Of these two evils they have chosen the lesser, that is to say the second. This decision has no doubt been the result of much anxious conference, and they will continue to swear that the picture never was or could have been the original Van Dyck.[59]

Clark enclosed a draft of the kind of letter that the duke might consider sending to Ramsey, concluding: ‘I do not think it will have much effect, but I am all in favour of giving them a run for their money’.

A memo in the archive at Boughton dated 26 January 1958 records the Duke’s intention to discuss the matter with the police.[60] Sir John Alexander Willison, Chief Constable of Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1952-1958, responded in the first two weeks of February, informing the duke that the Hertfordshire police would have to handle the case given that the supposed theft took place in Hemel Hempstead.[61] Kenneth Clark wrote to the duke again on 19 February 1958 after having received a copy of Goldscheider’s original certificate: ‘I cannot think how he can have been such a fool as to write that other letter to say that he had never given a certificate nor believed the picture to be an original. He must have known that he would be found out’.[62] He continues:

I am not very favourably impressed by Mr. Martin’s letter, and when he speaks about Dr. Goldscheider changing his mind he is trying to excuse the most bare-faced falsification; and I have the impression that he is influenced by Mr. Ramsey and Dr. Goldscheider. This is inevitable, because Christie’s stand to lose almost as much as the other two characters if it is proved that the picture was stolen property. For this reason I am fairly confident that he will already have told Mr. Ramsey that Oliver Millar saw the picture at Boughton in 1950, and Ramsey is meanwhile collecting witnesses to swear that they saw it in his possession at an earlier date…Honestly, I do not think it worth while trying to conduct the affair through Christie’s; after two more letters to Mr. Ramsey I should have [sic] it over to the law.[63]

 

The Duke had written to Ramsey on 26 January 1958, making the same points that he had made to Martin and Coolidge: that an enquiry into the market in Hemel Hempstead would surely shed some light on Ramsey’s purchase of the painting; and that some clarification of Goldscheider’s opinion of the work was necessary.[64] He never received a response from Ramsey and on 4 February 1959 drafted a more strongly worded letter that was never sent.[65]

Oliver Millar wrote to the Duke on 1 April 1958 directly addressing the issue of quality raised by Goldscheider:

Thank you for the bundle of material which you left with me last week. I have studied it with much interest and would like to discuss it with you. The trouble is that the back of the panel in America has been so completely renewed as to destroy any basis for comparison with the panels at Boughton. The question of the quality of the painting is a very invidious one and is also, I feel, irrelevant to the present problem. There are considerable variations of quality within the set at Boughton. The subjects that particularly interested Van Dyck, such as the portraits of his fellow artists, are of very high quality indeed, whereas the more official, formal portraits are often duller and less inspired.

I myself have found the coincidence between the loss of a particular grisaille from Boughton and the appearance of the same subject in America too remarkable to be true, and I also think the strange reference to the Queensberry Collection has a rather sinister flavour. However, opinions and hypotheses cannot have any weight in these cases and the only evidence I can offer you or anyone concerned with the affair is the date of my visit to Boughton, when I saw the picture in place (as cited above, p. 3).[66]

v. Harvard

On 6 January 1959 Coolidge wrote to the donor of the painting, Dr Malcove, sending her a copy of Martin’s letter of 4 November 1957 in which he explained the concept of ‘market overt’, adding that ‘I have also written to Martin asking him to get for the Fogg a firm opinion by a British barrister. When we have that, I believe our lawyers will let us return the Van Dyck to you’.[67] Coolidge’s significant efforts to uncover the painting’s history over the next year all served the goal of avoiding a suit for conversion (which includes straightforward theft but also holding onto property which accidentally comes into the converter’s hands) and returning The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove.[68] Before the Fogg could return the painting they were required to prove that Malcove had purchased it ‘in good faith’, which, in turn, depended entirely upon Ramsey’s claim to having purchased the painting ‘in good faith’ before 1 July 1950.[69]

Coolidge first contacted Ramsey on 15 March 1959, when he was in London, and asked for a meeting:

Sometime ago the Fogg Museum of Harvard University was lent a grisaille portrait by Van Dyck which had formerly been in your possession. We are now anxious to return this painting but cannot legally do so until we have determined what relation it bears to one owned by the Duke of Buccleugh [sic]. Your unique knowledge could extricate Harvard from what has become a most awkward situation.[70]

 

Coolidge met with Ramsey at the offices of The Connoisseur twice and made detailed notes of his conversations in both instances. During their first discussion on 23 March, he noted the following: that Ramsey claimed to have paid 10 shillings for the painting; that he was encouraged to look for works of art in the market by a Mr Higley, who had since died; that he sold the painting to buy a piece of furniture; and that he never believed that it was by van Dyck.[71] Their second meeting took place on 1 April, when Ramsey elaborated upon some of the points he had initially made. He claimed to have shown the painting to his stepfather in the second half of January, voiced his suspicion that Higley had ‘planted’ the painting at the market, and claimed that before Goldscheider’s identification of the painting as by Van Dyck, he did not know the series of Van Dyck grisailles at Boughton.[72]

Coolidge’s note regarding Ramsey’s living conditions records his initial concern about the quality of the latter’s witness statements, one that would only grow with time: ‘Ramsey did not go to St. John’s Wood until 1950, was not well known. The first person with whom he made contact there was the rector, Reverend Noel Perry-Gore. The latter is vague and cannot remember the furnishings of the house’.[73] In his report on the painting produced for Harvard’s lawyers the following year, Coolidge states: ‘There are hints of some disturbances in Mr. Ramsey’s personal life at this time. He may have been living in a hotel. However, by August he had moved and he declares various people (notably the local rector, the Reverend Noel Perry-Gore, and Mr. Geoffrey Harmsworth) saw his “Sir Peter Lely” in his new house in St. John’s Wood in August and November of 1950’.[74]

Coolidge left London for Vienna after Easter and wrote to Ramsey on 8 June 1959, clearly stating his requirements:

I fear a letter from you must have gone astray….When I left England you were to see your stepfather [Mr. Churchill-Dawes] the very next weekend and show him the photograph of the “Malcove” Van Dyck. You hoped and expected that he would recognize it as a reproduction of the painting you had bought at Hemel Hempstead and showed to him during Christmas holidays early in 1950. I had hoped he might be willing to put this in writing. A signed statement from him, would, I feel sure, settle the matter as far as Harvard’s lawyers are concerned.[75]

The correspondence between Coolidge and Ramsey continued well into the autumn of 1960. Coolidge continued to press Ramsey for witness statements and Ramsey provided a range of reasons for the delay in his provision of them: on 18 June 1959, ‘I am sorry, I did not appreciate that you were expecting to hear further from me. I was going to write to you in the States’[76]; on 25 June 1959, a printing strike and running ‘this magazine single-handed’ had kept him busy in London: ‘I did not appreciate that you required a signed “statement” in relation to the “Van Dyck”…Next time I see them [his witnesses, Churchill-Dawes and a sculptor, Patrick Synge-Hutchinson] I will get a letter from them to this effect. This may not be yet awhile, but there is no hurry as far as I am concerned’.[77] On 21 September Ramsey apologized for ‘this further delay, but I have to get away from here for a time each year, and I have been on holiday…I now have the pleasure in sending you photographic copies of two “statements” relative to my possession of a small portrait in the first half of 1950. I am told that these two statements should be quite sufficient for the purpose required’.[78]

However, Coolidge had to write several more times to clarify various aspects of Ramsey’s witness statements. On 4 February 1960 he wrote: ‘You remember that to establish the date when you purchased the grisaille is all important. Mr. Synge-Hutchinson’s letter confirms your contention that you bought it in the first half of 1950. Mr. Churchill-Dawes’ letter, however, implies that you had bought the painting “in the latter part of 1950”. Would he be willing to state whether this is his belief, or whether he merely meant that he had seen the painting in the latter half of 1950 although you had bought it earlier? To save you trouble, I have written a letter to him which I enclose, raising this question. If it is easier for you just mail it to him’.[79] Ramsey replied on 29 February: ‘Clearly this is an unfortunate and careless error, and one which entirely escaped us here. It was obviously not intended that it should be capable of two interpretations. The word “January” has been omitted. I am very sorry to give you this further correspondence, and will get the matter put right forthwith’.[80]

On 30 March 1960, Ramsey sent a photograph of the corrected Churchill-Dawes statement together with a photograph of another statement by Geoffrey Harmsworth.[81] There was, however, another problem and on 4 May Coolidge wrote to Ramsey again. The letter was headed URGENT: ‘The statements made by Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson are not clearly tied to the Van Dyck portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm. However, I believe that you obtained these statements by showing each of the two gentlemen a photograph of this painting [which had been supplied by Coolidge]. It was the photograph which jogged their memories and was the basis for the statements. Can you confirm this fact or provide any other incidental information that will incontrovertibly link what they have written with the Van Dyck painting you sold?’[82] Ramsey’s reply on 16 May reflects a shift in tone that becomes increasingly strained over the following six months: ‘If the Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson statements are not tied to the portrait which has been the subject of so much protracted correspondence between us, then it is not clear to what other subject they could be tied! Of course they are incontrovertibly linked to the painting sold at Christie’s’.[83] Ramsey did not, however, provide further information.

During the course of their eighteen-month correspondence, Ramsey raised a number of issues which seem designed to shift the focus of the investigation. In addition to restating the arguments laid out by Goldscheider regarding the palette, the quality of the painting and the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, he suggested that the picture he sold at Christie’s might not have been the same panel as that at the Fogg.[84] On 25 June 1959 Ramsey wrote: ‘I do not necessarily suggest that they are not one and the same. Yet your picture went through so many hands between the time I sold it and the time it reached the Fogg that it has occurred to some of us that a switch might have been made’.[85] One of the most important of Ramsey’s insinuations was that neither he nor any representative from The Connoisseur had ever been to Boughton House. Ramsey stated this fact categorically on a number of occasions but—significantly—his statement was always qualified with ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’. In his letter to Coolidge of 25 June 1959, he related a story that had been told to him by a friend:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch having said to him that ‘two men came down from The Connoisseur to photograph the Van Dycks, they must have taken it.’ This is distinctly macabre, since no representative of The Connoisseur at any time visited a Buccleuch residence ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’…I am sure you will agree, this is the type of unwise statement which all ladies make from time to time.[86]

On 29 February 1960 he wrote to Coolidge that ‘the Duchess of Buccleuch was very much in error in stating that The Connoisseur photographed her Van Dycks. It did not’.[87] Ramsey pushed this point further in a letter to Coolidge of 4 August 1960:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch’s unfortunate house-party statement, made about the Connoisseur and photography which it never carried out, has now come to the notice of this firm’s solicitors. They are naturally in some state about it and are straining at the leash to take immediate action. If they take it up with the Buccleuch solicitors, then it will doubtless in due course come before the Hearst Corporation. Thereafter, who knows, the matter might even be taken to the United Nations, such unnecessary proportions has the matter grown to’.[88]

It is clear that already by the end of 1959, Coolidge had grown weary of the case, as indicated by his letter to Martin of 30 November 1959:

Ramsay [sic] has…crashed through [sic] with a couple of letters which tend to confirm his purchase of the Van Dyck in the first two months of the year. I now think we have gotten as close to the bottom of this affair as we are ever likely to come…I can think of no very satisfactory explanation for what actually happened. One must take one’s pick between two improbable hypotheses. Fortunately, because of the decency of all parties concerned, I think one can act, even though uncertain as to the true facts.[89]

In the document entitled ‘Report on Malcove Van Dyck’, which Coolidge prepared in early February 1960 (crucially, before his correspondence with Ramsey had ended) for Oscar Shaw, the Harvard lawyer responsible for the case, he admitted that ‘Mr. Ramsey does not inspire confidence. Aspects of his story remain puzzling. Nonetheless, I have become convinced that he is telling the truth’.[90] Coolidge goes on, however, to suggest that the truth may not be necessary for their purposes:

Even assuming that the dates Ramsey gives are wrong and that the Ramsey-Fogg-Malcove picture was in fact stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch, Ramsey can still produce a witness who supports his contention he bought the painting at the Hemel Hempstead market. This being a market overt, he had, under English law, a good title to the painting until the thief had been convicted. I do not see how such a conviction can now be obtained, nor do I see how one can prove that Ramsey acted in bad faith. If Ramsey’s title was good under English law, might it not be hard for the Duke of Buccleuch to challenge Dr. Malcove’s title under American law.[91]

On 4 May 1960 Coolidge wrote to Martin stating that he expected the lawyers to reach a settlement the following week and, a month later, on 24 June, Coolidge wrote to the Duke with the Fogg’s conclusions: ‘I am convinced that the painting now hanging in the Fogg Museum is the one which was sold by Mr. Ramsey through Christie’s and intermediate dealers to our lender, Dr. Malcove’. He cited new evidence, almost certainly the statement of Synge-Hutchinson, that supported Ramsey’s claim to have bought the painting in January 1950 and noted that ‘we have discovered no evidence that this picture is identical with your grisaille of the same subject which was seen by Oliver Millar at Boughton in July 1950. I cannot think where to find further evidence. Unless such turns up, I can only conclude that there were at least two small grisaille portraits of Wolfgang Wilhelm of which the painting lent to us is one and your missing grisaille is another. I, therefore, believe that we must accede to the lender’s request and return the painting to her’.[92]

Coolidge’s postscript in which he used the same argument employed by Goldscheider in his original certificate supporting an attribution to Van Dyck (‘a fine original and in perfect state’) reflects some residual concern regarding his conclusion that there must be more than one grisaille of Wolfgang Wilhelm:

P.S. There are at least five, possibly seven and perhaps more, life-size portraits of the Duke by or attributed to Van Dyck. These are in the museums at Munich, Chantilly and Bremen, and in addition there are reported to have been versions in a private collection in London, in the Yerkes Collection in New York, in the Walter Briggs Collection in Detroit, and in the Pietro del Gindice Collection.[93]

Coolidge included the same paragraph in his report to Harvard’s lawyers in response to Oliver Millar’s opposing view, expressed at their meeting in London on 17 March 1959, which he cited in his report:

According to Oliver Millar, the most popular grisailles are those representing artists. All of the grisailles that he knows which exist in more than one version are portraits of artists. He can think of no example of a statesman whose portrait exists in two grisaille versions. It would seem especially extraordinary to Millar that a little-known political figure, such as Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach, should exist in two versions. However, as pointed out above, the problem of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits has never been thoroughly studied.[94]

In weighing Millar’s view against Ramsey’s story, Coolidge concluded: ‘Despite Millar’s opinion it seems more likely to me that there are two versions of the Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach portrait than that Mr. Ramsey should have arranged such an elaborate deception. If the Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm was vain and rich enough to commission so many full-scale Van Dyck portraits, why not two grisailles?’[95]

In response to Coolidge’s letter of 24 June 1960, the Duke again expressed his concern about the unanswered questions related to the painting’s provenance before Ramsey owned it and Goldscheider’s radical shift of opinion. In the course of this letter, the Duke returned to a crucial point that he had made to Coolidge on 26 January 1958—that Ramsey had been to Boughton House around the time the painting was stolen (see above p. 16): ‘It is an unfortunate coincidence that that Mr. Ramsey and a member of his staff were in this house the following year in connection with their work after the picture was last noticed at Boughton in July 1950 by Mr. Oliver Millar’.[96] On 26 August Coolidge wrote to Ramsey: ‘I gather that the Duke believes that you and a member of your staff were at Boughton the year after the picture was last noticed at Boughton by Mr. Oliver Millar in July 1950. Could you let me know if this is true, or is it a confusion with the visit of the photographer?’[97]

Ramsey’s response, dated 14 September 1960, was sharply defensive and mocking in tone and destroyed any credibility he had managed to maintain with Coolidge up to this point. After a robust defence of his argument that his painting was not of the same quality as those at Boughton—‘my painting was no more from the hand of Sir Anthony van Dyck than it was from that of Grandma Moses’—he admitted to having been at Boughton House:

In your letter of August 26th you gathered that the Duke of Buccleuch believes that I and a member of my staff was at Boughton House in 1951.

Certainly I was privileged to visit Boughton with a photographer in that year. That was one of the reasons why I was curious to know from you which Buccleuch residence contained the Buccleuch set of 37 (you report 41) panels of these very numerous grisailles; for it is reasonable to suppose that had they been at Boughton such a large number of such works would have been clearly evident. They were not.

Certainly I well recall going to this beautiful house, since I usually try to accompany my photographer to all homes which we photograph. After selecting the subjects I thereafter leave him to get on with the job.

On this particular exercise the occasion of the visit is quite clear in my mind. I was received and duly saw her again on my departure by a Miss MacEchern. The Duke had a cold and was confined to his room. I called to thank the Agent for the kind facilities granted. Finally, for the purpose of examining the Robert Adam designed Montagu Monument in Warkton Church, I had to obtain the key to this building from a Mrs Mutton. She lived next door to a Mrs Lamb.

What is the significance of this latter enquiry? It appears to be somewhat offensive. Is it now suggested that I naively remove objects of art from private collections, of which I have seen scores throughout Europe? Really, Mr Coolidge……..[98]

vi. Conclusion

The Fogg returned the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove in November 1960. Coolidge maintained his view that there were two versions of the sketch and that the Ramsay-Malcove-Fogg grisaille was in no way related to the missing panel from Boughton. However, it is significant that Coolidge had already advised the Duke, Christie’s, and, of course, Ramsey of the University’s decision to return the painting to Malcove before Ramsey finally admitted having been at Boughton House in the summer of 1951. By 1960, it must have seemed impossible to prove Ramsey’s involvement, however strong the circumstantial evidence, but the Fogg clearly wanted to avoid a legal case which would certainly have alienated Malcove (and other potential benefactors) and stopped her flow of bequests to Harvard, a concern expressed by Agnes Mongan when the problem first emerged in August 1957, before the correspondence was taken over by Coolidge: ‘It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching…It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?’[99] For the duke’s part, without photographic evidence of the missing sketch from Boughton, there could be no absolute proof that the Malcove painting and his lost grisaille were one and the same.

On 24 September 1984, Seymour Slive (1920-2015), then Professor of Art History at Harvard and Director of The Fogg, wrote to Julius Held (1905-2002), Emeritus Professor of Art History at Barnard College, who was then preparing a study of Van Dyck’s oil sketches. Slive recounted the dilemma in which the museum had found itself as a result of the Duchess’s visit in April 1957: ‘…[the] Duchess of Buccleuch visited the Fogg, saw the sketch and said: “We have one which is very similar.” Upon her return home she discovered hers was missing!’[100]:

However, a “$64,000 question” had to be answered: was the Malcove picture identical with the Buccleuch picture? Visual and circumstantial evidence suggested that it was. Obviously the Fogg could not keep a painting if there was reason to believe it had been stolen. What to do? Return it to Buccleuch? Or return it to the donor? It was decided to do the latter. The gift was cancelled by Harvard in 1958 and subsequently the painting was returned to Dr Malcove…If you manage to locate the picture I would be grateful for word of its present whereabouts for our file on the painting.[101]

4.Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

In fact, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg had remained undisturbed in Dr Malcove’s collection from November 1960 until her death in 1981, when it entered the collection of the University of Toronto as part of a larger bequest. It has remained in the collection of the Art Museum of the University of Toronto ever since.[102] Julius Held’s 1984 correspondence with Joneath Spicer, the curator of the collection who re-attributed the sketch to the printmaker Lucas Vorsterman, reflects his concerns about the painting’s provenance—on the back of the photograph supplied to him, he wrote ‘Stolen from Boughton?’[103] As evidenced by the research presented here, we have finally been able to resolve this question. In August 2021, the Executive Committee of the University of Toronto voted to deaccession the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg and return it to the Duke of Buccleuch. The painting returned to Boughton House in January 2024, seventy-three years after it was stolen.

1.Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo.

  1. Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

  1. Acknowledgments: I would like to thank the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry KBE; Scott Macdonald, Head of Collections & Conservation, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Crispin Powell, Archivist, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Gareth Fitzpatrick MBE, former Director of Collections and Archives, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Michelle Interrante, Assistant Archivist, Harvard Art Museums; Tracey Schuster, Head of Permissions and Photo Archive Services, Getty Research Institute, and the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Jenny Hill, Assistant Archivist and Records Manager, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; Hannah Jones, Archives and Library Assistant, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; and Professor Phillip Lindley.


    For another example of the theft of cultural objects by those closest to them—the curators, archivists and scholars who know them best—see Theresa Galvin, ‘The Boston Case of Charles Merrill Mount: The Archivist’s Arch Enemy’, American Archivist, vol 53 (Summer 1990), pp442-450.

  2. ‘Editorial: Sir Peter Lely’s Collection’, The Burlington Magazine, vol 83 (August 1943), p185.

  3. For Montagu House, Whitehall, see Montagu H. Cox and Philip Norman, eds, Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, part II: Whitehall I London, 1930, pp214-220.

  4. There are ten grisailles associated with The Iconography in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, though their attribution to van Dyck has been questioned. There are three further sketches in private collections. For the former, see Mirjam Neumeister, ed., Van Dyck: Gemälde von Anthonis Van Dyck. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, München, 2020, pp296-319.

  5. I am currently researching the life and career of L.G.G. Ramsey.

  6. Michael Jaffé, who wrote about the sketches in 1992, for example, wrongly cited the number purchased in 1682 as thirty-three. Michael Jaffé, ‘The Paintings and Drawings’, in Tessa Murdoch, ed, Boughton House: The English Versailles, London, 1992, p80.

  7. Unsigned undated letter of c1790-1800; no. 30, Limp Green Leather Portfolio, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  8. Most early inventories do not list the sketches individually; Vertue’s is the first. See The Twenty-Fourth Volume of the Walpole Society, 1935-1936. Vertue Note Books, Volume IV, Oxford, 1936, p42.

  9. Ignatz von Szwykowski, Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen, Leipzig, 1859, pp178-80; and Arthur M. Hind, Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography, Boston, 1915, p42.

  10. Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641. Winter Exhibition, 31st year , exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900, p51, no 167.

  11. During his first visit to Boughton on 5 November 1949, Millar noted that ‘The van Dyck grisailles are possibly of varying quality, but seemed exceedingly good in most instances, they are very dirty and hang high’. Journal V, p176, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  12. Journal V, p221, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  13. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. Millar does not specify the room in which the sketches hung, either in his notes or in this letter, but it is described as ‘the bathroom’ in a statement made by Michael Jaffé to John Coolidge regarding Millar’s visit to Boughton in July 1950. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 16 October 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  14. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  15. Nicholas Carew, ‘Boughton House, Northampton. A Seat of the Duke of Buccleuch’, in The Connoisseur Year Book 1952, H. Granville Fell and Helen Comstock eds, London, 1952, pp41-48. L.G.G. Ramsey contributed two articles to the volume. ‘A Scottish home of the Duke of Buccleuch, Drumlanrig Castle’, featured in L.G.G. Ramsey, ed, The Connoisseur Year Book 1954, London, 1954, pp18-25. None of the van Dyck sketches were mentioned in the journal edited by L.G.G. Ramsey, The Connoisseur. An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, between 1951 and 1958, though his knowledge of Van Dyck’s Iconography is evident in a passage from his later volume, L.G.G. Ramsey, The Complete Encyclopedia of Antiques. Compiled by The Connoisseur Editor: L.G.G. Ramsey, F.S.A., London, 1962, pp1111: “In the Netherlands, Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) showed himself a masterly etcher in twenty-two prints (mostly portraits) which he produced in the late 1620s”.

  16. Goldscheider immigrated to London from Vienna in 1938. He co-founded the Phaidon press in London in 1938 and remained an editor at the press until his death in 1973. His papers are housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

  17. L.G.G. Ramsey to Ludwig Goldscheider, 29 Sept 1953; The Ludwig Goldscheider papers, Box 1, Folder 4. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (840066).

  18. Copy of the certificate included in the ‘Malcove folder’ at the Fogg, sent to the Duke by W.A. Martin of Christie’s on 3 February 1958. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  19. Before 1967, when rules for cataloguing were made more consistent and explicit, the use of an initial and surname usually indicated that the work was “thought to be a work of the period of the artist and which may be in whole or part the work of the artist”. See Christie’s guidelines for artists and attributions before 1967, Christie’s archive, London.

  20. I am grateful to Daniel Jarmai and Dr Simona Dolari in the Christie’s archives for providing me with this information.


  21. For Slatter’s cleaning of the painting, see Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  22. See, for example: Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘A Rembrandt Self-Portrait’, The Connoisseur, vol 130 (August-December 1952), pp157-60; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo’s Sketches in clay and wax’, The Connoisseur, vol 131 (January-June 1953), pp73-75; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo Studies—II* Virtus et Voluptas’, The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), pp147-49; and Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘El Greco’s Christ on the Cross’, The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954), pp177-79.

  23. L.G.G. Ramsey, ed., The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), p257. Slatter’s exhibitions were positively reviewed in 1951, 1952 (when an oil sketch, Child with Pomegranate, attributed to Jacob Jordaens and owned by Slatter, appeared on the cover of the March-May edition of the journal), 1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957, when Slatter’s stock was given a two-page spread.

  24. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  25. In a letter of 3 October 1960, Seligmann confirms to John Coolidge, Director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, that ‘I had the picture cleaned and cradled: it was cleaned by Henry Helfer, 40 E. 78 St., N.Y.C. and it was cradled by Thorpe 131 W. 53 St., N.Y.C.’. Letter from Georges Seligmann to John Coolidge, October 3, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  26. Curatorial file, University of Toronto Art Centre. I am grateful to Ms Heather Darling Pigat for making this file available for inspection.

  27. Her collection comprised over 500 objects including Old Master paintings and drawings, Roman and Byzantine sculpture, Coptic textiles, Russian icons, English alabasters, stained glass and modern art. For a comprehensive discussion of her collection, see Sheila D. Campbell, ed, The Malcove Collection. A Catalogue of the Objects in the Lillian Malcove Collection of The University of Toronto, Toronto, 1985.

  28. The painting was accepted on 4 March 1957 and was given the accession number 1957.2. See: Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and Seymour Slive to Julius Held, 24 September 1984, Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  29. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 1.

  30. The Duchess of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 17 July 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 2.

  31. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3. There is a discrepancy in the wording used to describe the presence of the painting at the Fogg. Mongan describes it as ‘on loan’; elsewhere it is documented as having been accessioned on 4 March 1957.

  32. The Duke of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 10 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 5.

  33. Agnes Mongan to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 6. There was some confusion over which institution photographed the collection at Boughton House in 1954. Both the Courtauld Institute and the Frick Reference Library in New York were cited in the correspondence. It was, in fact, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery that took the photographs at Boughton. I would like to thank Dr Karin Kyburz, Picture Researcher, Witt and Conway Supervisor, for confirming this information.

  34. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dossier citing Wolcott Hall could have been produced by either Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer to whom he sold the painting, or Seligmann.

  35. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7.

  36. Letter from John Coolidge to Oscar Shaw, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  37. This information came from a dealer’s dossier and was given to the Duke by Coolidge; John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dealer’s dossier to which Coolidge later referred in a letter to Ramsey dated 21 October 1960 could have been compiled by Slatter, who consigned the painting to Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, or one of the dealers who owned the painting thereafter: Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer who bought the painting from Nicholson, or Seligmann, who sold it to Dr. Malcove. The Duke corresponded with the 6th Earl of Bradford at Weston Park in Shifnal, Shropshire, who, with the help of Sir Jasper More of Linley Hall, Bishops Castle, Shropshire, discovered that two brothers, Ronald and Noel Stevens, had once lived in Wolcott Hall but had since moved, one to Ludlow, Shropshire, and the other to Ireland. The Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 19; Sir Jasper More to the Earl of Bradford, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 20; and the Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 11 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 21.

  38. Quoted in a memo entitled ‘Missing Van Dyck Sketch’ written by the Earl of Dalkeith at Eildon Hall, 25 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive.

  39. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 28.

  40. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 4 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 17.

  41. Letter from W. A. Martin to John Coolidge, November 4, 1957. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1675. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  42. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 12 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 22.

  43. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 15 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 23.

  44. The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 17 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 24.

  45. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  46. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  47. L.G.G. Ramsey to W.A. Martin [undated], sent to the Duke of Buccleuch on 19 December 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  48. These ‘XIXth century retouchings’ were described as ‘eighteenth-century overpaint’ in Ramsay’s letter cited above.

  49. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; I have cited the copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by L.G.G. Ramsey, 22 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  50. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  51. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by W.A. Martin on 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  52. See ‘Inventory of Montagu House, Whitehall, June 1746’. ‘His Grace’s Room’ lists ‘40 pictures by Vandike in gilt frames’, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900. Thirty-nine were recorded in the most recent monograph on the artist, Susan Barnes, Nora de Poorter, Oliver Millar, and Horst Vey, eds, Van Dyck: a Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven, 2004, p365ff.

  53. Ramsey’s comment almost certainly refers to the following, in which the theft of a miniature belonging to the Duke from the exhibition, Versailles in Books and Pictures, featured in The Connoisseur volume 133: ‘A miniature of [the Marquise de Montespan] seated in a classical and architectural landscape, by Louis de Chatillon (1639?-1734), 190 x 127 mm., and the property of the Duke of Buccleuch was regrettably stolen not long after the exhibition opened. Its return is now sought’. The Connoisseur 133 (January-June 1954): 41. In the following issue, the journal’s success in recovering stolen property is highlighted: ‘As a result of investigations carried out by The Connoisseur and an official body, 17 out of 21 pictures and other works of art reported missing from a Hampstead, London, residence have since been recovered’. The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954, p287.

  54. L.G.G. Ramsey to the Duke of Buccleuch, 2 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  55. The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  56. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  57. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 10 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  58. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  59. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 28 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  60. Memo, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  61. Unsigned, undated memo, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. The Duke makes reference to this memo in a letter dated 14 February. See the Duke of Buccleuch to Kenneth Clark, 14 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  62. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  63. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  64. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. See also The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  65. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 4 February 1959, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  66. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  67. Letter from John Coolidge to Lillian Malcove, January 6, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  68. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  69. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  70. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, March 15, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  71. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, March 23, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  72. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  73. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  74. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  75. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, June 8, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  76. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 18, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  77. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  78. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 21, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  79. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  80. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  81. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 30, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


  82. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, May 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  83. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, May 16, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  84. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  85. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  86. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  87. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  88. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, August 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  89. Letter from John Coolidge to W. A. Martin, November 30, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  90. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  91. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  92. Letter from John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, June 24, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  93. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 June 1960, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  94. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  95. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  96. Letter from the Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, July 18, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  97. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, August 26, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  98. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  99. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3.

  100. Sorenson, Lee, ‘Slive, Seymour’, Dictionary of Art Historians, www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/slives.htm; accessed 1 September 2015.

  101. Julius Held Papers, Box 96, Folder 63, Series VIII, Photographs, Van Dyck Iconography, Seymour Slive correspondence; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  102. In the catalogue of the Malcove collection, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm is attributed to Lucas Vorsterman the Elder, the printmaker who produced this print for the Iconography. Its provenance is cited as: Private collection (said to have been purchased in 1950 at an open air market in Hemel Hampstead); Christie’s sale, London, 9 April 1954, lot 129; George Seligmann, NY; purchased by Dr Malcove in 1955. See Campbell, op cit, pp373-76.

  103. Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

 
 

A Stolen Van Dyck recovered:

The Portrait of Wolfganf Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg

Meredith M. Hale

1 Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

In July 1951 Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg [fig. 1] was stolen from Boughton House, Northamptonshire. It is one of thirty-seven oil sketches at Boughton for Van Dyck’s print series known as the Iconography, a unique group of panels that, until the summer of 1951, had remained together in the same collection since 1682. This paper tells the remarkable story of the theft which spans three generations and involves some of the most prominent members of the art establishment in the UK and the US.

Through new archival research in the UK, US and Canada I have reconstructed the painting’s movements over the past seventy-three years as it passed through the hands of experts, conservators, auctioneers, dealers, and collectors from London to Toronto. Not only do these sources reveal a dynamic picture of events as they unfold, they highlight the factors that contributed to the success of the theft, foremost among them the conceptual and material complexity of Van Dyck’s Iconography project and the audacity of a thief cloaked in the respectability of expertise.[1]

The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg is one of thirty-seven oil sketches by Anthony van Dyck and his studio purchased by Ralph, Earl of Montagu, on 18 April 1682 from the sale of the collection of the painter Sir Peter Lely.[2] The grisailles, small panels measuring c. 8 ½ x 6 ½ inches (c. 22 x 16.5 cm) first hung in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, where they survived a fire in 1686, before the relocation of the household to Whitehall in the 1730s.[3] They were evacuated with the rest of the family’s collection to Boughton House, Northamptonshire, in 1940 where they remain today. The Boughton panels are the largest group of oil sketches associated with Van Dyck’s Iconography and, alongside preparatory drawings, played a key role in the production of printed portraits of Van Dyck’s contemporaries: princes, military leaders, scholars and artists.[4] The group remained intact in the collection of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry (descendants of the Duke of Montagu) for two hundred and sixty-nine years until the visit of L.G.G. Ramsay, editor of The Connoisseur, in summer 1951.[5]

i. The oil sketches, 1682-1950

The number of sketches for the Iconography in the Montagu collection increased from the thirty-seven bought at the Lely sale in 1682 to forty listed in an inventory of 1746, an increase in number that has caused considerable confusion in the literature.[6] A letter to the third Duke of Montagu of c. 1790 already reflects an early effort to account for the additional three panels: ‘I recollect [Joshua] Reynolds informing me that he had met with one amongst some old furniture & probably one might have been met with or bought prior to this time’.[7] However, the painting at the centre of the events reconstructed here, The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, was among the original group bought by Ralph Montagu in 1682. Indeed, it was listed as number six in George Vertue’s account of paintings at Montagu House in 1732: ‘pictures in Chiaroscure at the Duke of Mountagues house in Bloomsbury—those I mean from which the prints were engraved in Vandykes book of heads…6. P. Wolfange Willm C. Palatin’.[8] It was recorded in the Buccleuch collection in Ignatz von Szwykowski’s Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen of 1859 and by Arthur M. Hind in his Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography of 1915.[9] The panel also featured as number 167 in the Winter Exhibition of The Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, in 1900.[10] It was moved, together with the rest of the grisailles, to Boughton House in 1940 remaining there throughout the war.

The last record of the painting at Boughton House appears in the notebook of Van Dyck scholar Sir Oliver Millar (1923-2007), Deputy Surveyor of the Royal Collection from 1949 to 1972, where he records his examination of the sketches between 1 and 3 July 1950.[11] He wrote the following:

Wolfgang Wilhelm, Count Palatine (9 ½ x 7”): tol. [to left] front in gilded armour and the Golden Fleece with r. hand resting on bâton: curtain behind: silvery line in flesh and of rather a silverpoint texture: thin and liquid throughout.[12]

In 1958, seven years after the sketch had disappeared, Millar recalled: ‘When I spent that week-end at Boughton I devoted a morning to working through the grisailles. I took them off the wall one by one, measured them and looked at them. The missing subject is the first on my list and I assume it was the first I took down. It was therefore probably the one that came first to hand as one entered the room. If it was pinched from Boughton it was probably the easiest one to abduct’.[13]

ii. 1950-1958

In the summer of 1951, Leonard Gerald Gwynne (known as L.G.G.) Ramsey (1913-1990), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and editor of the journal The Connoisseur, visited Boughton House with the photographer Anthony F. Kersting for the 1952 edition of The Connoisseur Year Book.[14] A seven-page article written by Nicholas Carew and illustrated with sixteen plates discussed the history of the family, the architecture of the house, and the collections housed there. The Van Dyck sketches were not mentioned in the article.[15]

On 29 September 1953, Ramsey wrote to the art historian Ludwig Goldscheider (1896-1973), co-founder and editor of Phaidon Press, about two paintings that he intended to sell:[16]

My dear Dr. Goldscheider:

Some time ago I mentioned to you on the telephone that I was selling my two small Van Dyck subjects, photographs of which I enclose. (I must raise the money somehow to pay for new curtains for the house into which we have moved!) You very kindly said that you would be prepared to give me a short note saying that you considered these two subjects to be by Van Dyck’s hand. If you are still of the same mind I should be most grateful if you could do this in respect of the two which I have the pleasure to send you herewith.

Very kindest regards,

Leonard Gwynne Ramsey[17]

 

Though Ramsey did not identify his ‘two small Van Dyck subjects’ in this letter to Goldscheider, the latter’s certificate, dated the following day, 30 September 1953, confirms that one of the subjects was a portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuberg painted en grisaille for Van Dyck’s Iconography. Goldscheider’s certificate, which was written on the back of the photograph sent by Ramsey the previous day, reads:

Van Dyck: Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg (1578-1653)

Painted by Van Dyck for his “Iconography”, engraved by L. Vorsterman. A drawing in the Brit. Mus (Hind Nr. 37) is connected with a full length portrait of the Duke, of which one variant is in the Munich museum, and other versions in Chantilly, in the collection of Dr. Pietro del Gindice [sic], and elsewhere; the best version in the Yerkes Collection, New York. The present sketch in oil is the only one known which corresponds with the engraving in Van Dyck’s “Iconography”, and it is certainly done for Vorsterman who worked exactly from it. The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.

30 Sept: 1953 L. Goldscheider[18]

On 9 April 1954, the painting appeared as lot 129 in a sale at Christie’s, London. The catalogue described the painting as: ‘SIR A. VANDYCK 129. Portrait of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg: In armour and small white collar, wearing the chain and order of the Golden Fleece—monochrome—on panel—9 in. by 7 in. Engraved by L. Vorsterman in “Icones principum, vivorum [sic] doctorum”, published by Gillis Hendricx, Antwerp / Sold with the certificate of Dr. L. Goldscheider’.[19] The painting was sold anonymously, within the category of ‘Different Properties’, but the auctioneer’s book records the consignor as the art dealer, Eugene Slatter, of 30 Old Bond Street, W1. The buyer, who paid £189 (or 180 guineas) for the work, is listed as Nicholson, almost certainly Benedict Nicholson, editor of The Burlington Magazine and a prominent collector in the field.[20]

Ramsey, Goldscheider and Slatter, who had consigned the painting at Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, were all connected during these years by their association with The Connoisseur, of which Ramsey became editor in 1952-53.[21] Goldscheider published a range of scholarly articles in the journal between 1952 and 1954.[22] The exhibitions held in Eugene Slatter’s gallery on Old Bond Street routinely received enthusiastic praise in The Connoisseur between 1951 and 1957 as in, for example, this passage of 1954: ‘The exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Masters which is held each year at the 30 Old Bond Street, London, gallery of Eugene Slatter can now be considered as one of the events of the London season. These yearly exhibitions given by Mr Slatter are invariably outstanding, since the quality and academic importance of the works shown consistently maintain the highest possible level’.[23]

Nicholson retained the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg for less than a year. It was bought from him by an art dealer in New York and had entered the stock of a second New York dealer, Georges Seligmann, before 2 March 1955, when the first bill for his sale of the painting is dated.[24] Seligmann had the panel cleaned and cradled before selling it to a private collector in New York, Dr Lillian Malcove, for $2700, which was paid in three instalments.[25] Seligmann’s bills describe the painting as by Van Dyck and its dimensions, 9 ½ x 6 7/8 inches, are in keeping with those recorded by Millar in July 1950 and those listed in the Christie’s catalogue in 1954. The final instalment, dated 9 May 1955, was for $700.[26]

The Malcove family had emigrated from Russia to Canada in 1905 and Lillian (1902-1981) attended medical school in Manitoba, specializing in psychiatry. Her psychoanalytic practice was based in New York and she began collecting early in her career. Dr. Malcove’s interests ranged from Russian icons and Old Master Paintings to contemporary art.[27] One of her primary interests was Italian gold-grounds; between 1956 and 1964 she gave no fewer than eight such works to the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. In 1957 she donated Saint John Preaching by Paolo di Giovanni Fei and The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg. The latter was accessioned on 4 March 1957 and insured for the value of $9,000.[28]

It was at this point that the question of the painting’s provenance was first raised, prompted by the extraordinary chance visit of Mary Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry (1900-1993), to the Fogg in April 1957. When she was shown The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, she remarked on its similarity to a painting in the family collection at Boughton. A memo by a member of staff addressed to the Duchess in the archive at Boughton records the discovery that the sketch was missing:

You will remember telling me that you saw in the Fogg Art Museum, Massachusetts, a grisaille by Van Dyck of Wilhelmus Wolfgang, and that you thought it was very similar to one here. It so happens that ours is missing. It was here in 1940. I cannot find any reference or evidence that it was lent or sent away for any purpose.[29]

On 17 July 1957 the Duchess wrote to Agnes Mongan, Assistant Director and Curator of Drawings at the Fogg, who had shown her the painting in April. Mongan had given her a photograph of the Fogg painting and asked for a photograph of the Boughton one in return. The Duchess wrote:

I have been very slow writing to you because we have been searching for the little Van Dyck in order to photograph it for you. I am sorry to tell you that there is no trace of it here, or in any of the houses, nor is there any note at all of its having been lent or taken from this house for cleaning or for any other reason. We find that it was definitely here in 1940, as during the war all our things were stacked to make room for the British Museum, who were evacuated here for a bit, followed by the Science Museum.

It would be a matter of very great interest to us to know how long you have had your picture, and from whom it was purchased, as it seems improbable that there should have been two [paintings] of the same person.[30]

Mongan replied on 10 August:

It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching.

When your letter came our Registrar informed me that the picture that I showed you is on loan here from a collector, whose works some day we expect to inherit. This is where the matter becomes delicate! The private collector told our Registrar that the picture, which was purchased from a reputable New York dealer, was from the Queensberry Collection! That I certainly did not know when you were here, nor until I thought for a moment did I make the connection between Buccleuch and Queensberry…

At the present moment almost everybody here is on their vacation. I am afraid that I shall have to wait a little while before I can ask the professor whose friend is our benefactor, both present and potential, how we should handle this delicate situation. It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?[31]

Mongan’s letter provided the first piece of information that linked the sketch then at the Fogg to the Buccleuch and Queensberry collection. Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott (1894-1973), the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and 10th Duke of Queensberry, wrote to Mongan on 10 September apologizing for involving her in ‘a tiresome affair calling for diplomatic handling, as you suggest’ and expressing his desire to have the painting returned: ‘I hope eventually that we can trace through whom it was taken from Boughton, and how it got to America, and we naturally wish and feel that the picture should return to its rightful home’.[32] In her second and final letter, dated 24 September, Mongan told the Duke and Duchess that she had discussed the matter with John Coolidge (1913-1995), Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Art Museums from 1947 to 1972. She provided them with three further pieces of crucial information: first, that the collector told the archivist at the Fogg that the painting was sold at Christie’s on 9 April 1954; second, that it was sold with a certificate from Ludwig Goldscheider; and, finally, that a copy of the list of works photographed at Boughton House by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1954 did not include The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg.[33] Hereafter, all correspondence from the Fogg came from the museum’s Director, John Coolidge.

Coolidge wrote to the Duke two days later, on 26 September, reporting that he had spoken both to the donor of the painting and the dealer from whom she acquired it. He gave the Duke the names and addresses of Malcove and Seligmann and added the following information, which came from a dossier put together by one of the dealers who handled the painting prior to Dr. Malcove’s purchase of it: ‘I am told that it had been owned by R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall, Lydebury, North Shropshire. Previously it is said to have belonged to the Marquis of Queensbury [sic]’.[34] Coolidge promised to relate any developments to the Duke and raised, for the first time, the possibility that there were two versions of the sketch, an argument that recurs in the discussion over the next several years:

I understand that more than one version exists of some of the van Dyck grisaille sketches for the “Icones”. In establishing the identity of your picture and ours, it would be helpful if we could see a reproduction of your work…I should also like to learn as much as possible of the history of your painting after 1940…We are all anxious to clear up this distressing affair as rapidly as possible and to help you in every way to obtain your property back again.[35]

The Duke and the Fogg conducted their own investigations, contacting the parties involved and following up various leads, many of which were later described by Coolidge as ‘red herrings’.[36] One such ‘red herring’ was the information that the painting once belonged to an R. Stevens of Wolcott Hall.[37] With the help of connections in Shropshire, the Duke contacted a Ronald Stevens at Fermoyle Lodge, Costello, County Galway, Ireland. Stevens wrote to the Duke on 25 November:

A few weeks ago my brother and I both received letters from the Fogg Museum in America, asking us if we knew anything about a picture, believed to have been stolen! We were both entirely mystified as to how we were ever connected with this picture…Anyway, my brother at once replied for both of us, that we regretted we could not help in any way as neither of us had seen nor knew anything about this picture. I now realise that your monochrome sketch by Van Dyck may well be the same picture! I wish I could be of some help to you, but my brother and I know absolutely nothing about it.[38]

On 27 November Coolidge wrote to the Duke relating that he, too, had ‘inquired of this gentleman’s [R. Stevens] son, Mr. N. Stevens of Hope Court, Hope Bagot, Ludlow, England. He replies to the best of his belief neither he nor his father nor his brother (also R. Stevens) ever owned a picture of this sort’.[39]

Both the Duke and Coolidge asked Sir Alec Martin (1884-1971), Managing Director of Christie’s, for information about the consignor of The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to the April 1954 sale. Sir Alec’s son, W.A. Martin, wrote to the Duke on 4 November: ‘we have now heard from the man for whom we sold this lot in 1954 that he sent it to us on behalf of a client “known in public life, who bought the picture in an open country market in January, 1950.” We have therefore asked him to ascertain the history of the picture before that date.’[40] On the same day Martin wrote a similar letter to Coolidge.[41] On 12 November Martin notified the Duke that he had been in touch with Dr Goldscheider, whose certificate was sold with the painting: ‘Though he thought it was by Vandyck he says that, so far as he can remember, when he saw it it had been repainted by a later hand. So far as he can recall, he does not think that this applies to your pictures and he feels it cannot have been good enough to have belonged to your set.’[42] Martin wrote to the Duke again on 15 November:

With reference to my letter of 12th November, the owner of the picture in this lot has now been in to see me and it transpires that he is very well known to us. He says that he bought the picture in January, 1950, at a stall in the Old Market Place by the church at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Apparently the market there has been moved and he is unable to get into touch with the stallholder from whom he purchased it. I am afraid, therefore, that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture farther back than January, 1950.[43]

Martin’s argument that nothing more could be done suggests that he hoped the matter would end there. However, the Duke’s response on 17 November made it clear that he was not satisfied with this explanation. He expressed some puzzlement over the idea that ‘a Van Dyck should be picked up at a stall in a village, and [that] the picture seems likely to have come from some collection about the time of the disappearance from Boughton’:

You suggest that it is impossible to trace the history of the picture further back than January 1950, but should there not be some way to find out more about that market, and who was running it? With a wide experience of these matters your firm would know more about it than I could, and I feel it would help greatly if we could find a way to investigate this market. Do you think I should enquire of the Police, or would you know of a better way?

Do you suppose the purchaser of the picture in January 1950, who is well known to you, made a habit of going to this market place, or is it likely that someone there communicated with him that he had a Van Dyck? Do you suppose it is purely by chance that he happened to be passing on a particular day, or could he not perhaps tell us all a little more if he wished to do so?[44]

On 20 November Martin reported to the Duke that he had asked the owner ‘to make further efforts to elucidate the history of the picture before it came into his possession, especially as you are now thinking of putting the matter into the hands of the police’.[45] He also suggested what Christie’s legal position would be, stating that the firm’s solicitors had informed him that a purchase from a stall in a market place ‘comes under the heading of “market overt” and a purchaser at such a market has a perfectly good title unless and until a conviction is made for the theft of the purchase in question’.[46]

On 19 December Martin sent the Duke a copy of the response he received from Ramsey, which introduced many of the arguments the latter would make throughout the investigation: that the person from whom he purchased the painting could not be traced; that several witnesses saw it in his home in 1950; and that it was not of high enough quality to be associated with the sketches at Boughton House. Ramsey wrote to Martin:

Thank you for your letter of December 3rd in furtherance to your earlier letter of November 20th. I have not replied before since it has been necessary for me to make the journey to Hemel Hempstead, which has occasioned delay.

As I think I told you, the old market which used to exist by the Church at Hemel Hempstead no longer exists. Under the new town arrangements there is now a considerably larger market of open stalls in a different part of the town.

As no doubt you will appreciate, after a period of seven years I have not at all clear recollections of what the man looked like who sold me the picture now under discussion. I have, however, been down to Hemel Hempstead and made an extensive tour of the stalls of the new market in an attempt to establish his identity, without success.

Even if it had been possible to find this trader, I am doubtful whether he would remember having sold a particular picture to me in 1950. Furthermore, can you imagine such a person being willing to remember such a transaction if he thought that the matter was now the subject of an enquiry?…

I have already referred to a Mr. Higley of Hemel Hempstead who, a number of years ago, showed me his house (in High street, Hemel Hempstead) full of pictures, all of which he told me, he had acquired at the markets of Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury and St Albans. I am now trying to ascertain through official sources, when Mr. Higley died. It might help. It was he who originally suggested that I should keep a look out for pictures in the country markets.

It will therefore be apparent that I am not able, in spite of every effort to do so, to produce the vendor of the picture which it is now suggested might originally have come from Boughton: a picture which, as you know, was of insufficient interest to five leading members of the London picture trade for them to wish to acquire it.

I can, however, say that this picture was seen by friends in my home in September, 1950—if that is going to help in any way. Furthermore, it is worth adding that the picture concerned possessed eighteenth-century overpainting. This is one fact, I am told, which eliminates the possibility of the picture having once formed part of a set belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch, since his would not have displayed this feature.

My informant, moreover, is prepared to write to the Duke and tell him that there can be no connection between the picture which I orininally [sic] bought and the one which is now said to be missing from the Duke’s collection. I will delay taking this further action until I hear from you.[47]

Ramsey’s ‘informant’, Ludwig Goldscheider, wrote the following letter to Martin at Christie’s on 22 December 1957:

Dear Mr. Martin,

Here is an answer to your letter of December 6th., 1957.

  1. I think it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the small portrait of Duke Wolfgang aus Wilhelm of Platz-Neuberg [sic] by Van Dyck (Sale 9th April, 1954, Lot 129) has never been in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  2. I have never given a ‘certificate’ for this picture, if by certificate is meant a professional statement for which payment of any kind is accepted. The fact is that at no time and from no dealer or collector have I ever accepted payment of any kind or in any form. On the other hand, it is true that I have given in writing my opinion of this picture.
  3. I saw the little picture for the first time in 1953; it was called at that time ‘English, XVIIth century, perhaps by Lely’. I identified it at once as a portrait of the Duke of Phalz-Neuberg [sic] (whose full-length portrait is in the Munich Museum; a better version in a London private collection; and another one in New York). I also realised that the little portrait was one of the grisailles painted by Van Dyck and his assistants (mainly in London) for the engraved portraits of his ‘Iconography’.
  4. In the Exhibition Catalogue of ‘Flemish Art’, Royal Academy, Winter 1953/4, Mr Oliver Miller [sic] says on p. 133: “The engravings were carried out by various engravers under Van Dyck’s supervision, on the basis of grisailles; in certain cases several versions of the grisailles are known…The grisailles are very numerous, but the most important collection is them is the group of thirty-seven…which is now at Boughton (Duke of Buccleuch)”.
  5. The set always consisted of 37 panels. There were 37 in the Lely Sale. Waagen (‘Treasures of Art in Great Britain’, 1854, I, p. 415) counted 37. There were no doubt still 37 panels in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch when, in 1953, sixteen of those panels were chosen for the Exhibition of Flemish Art in the Royal Academy.
  6. There are other sets of those portraits known. The Earl of Arundel had 32. Waagen (Vol. II, p. 286) mentions 6 in the collection of the Duke of Bedford. Another set, in a New York private collection, is illustrated in Gluck’s ‘Van Dyck’, KdK XIII, 1931, p. XV, and [is] described (p. 517) as better than the one in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.
  7. The picture sold by you (as Lot 129, 9.4.54) was not of the same quality as those in the Buccleuch Collection. It was not even a proper grisaille, containing some blue and yellow; it showed XIXth century retouchings and was in an indifferent XIXth century frame.[48] It fetched only £190, whereas any of the panels from the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch would, owing to their quality, certainly fetch at least £1,000.
  8. Summary: When Lot 129 was already in your hands, 16 panels of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits were chosen for the Royal Academy Exhibition from a set of 37 belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch in that set. Of some of the grisailles several versions are known. Lot 129 is somewhat different in style and not very good. I feel sure that it never belonged to the famous set in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.

I hope that this is all that you want to know and that I shall not have to go through this dull material again.

Yours sincerely,

L. Goldscheider[49]

There are three copies of Goldscheider’s letter to Martin in the archive at Boughton: one sent to the Duke by Ramsey on 22 January 1958, cited above; the second, a typescript copy of the letter sent by Ramsey made at Boughton; and, the third, a cleaned-up copy sent to the Duke by Martin on 3 February 1958.[50] The primary difference between the copies sent by Ramsey and Martin is the latter’s insertion of an inaccurate clause in point 8—‘there were never more than 37 in that set’—and his deletion of the line at the end of Goldscheider’s letter referring to ‘this dull material’.[51]

The cornerstone of Goldscheider’s argument features in point seven—that the painting consigned to the Christie’s sale was of low quality, was not a true grisaille, and that it had nineteenth-century overpaint. Each of these assertions directly contradicts both the certificate he provided to Ramsay in 1953 and the description of the painting in the sale catalogue. It is notable that Goldscheider’s letter does not address the discrepancy between his assessment of the painting in 1953 (‘the picture is a fine original and in perfect state’) and his very different evaluation of it in 1957 (‘not very good’). His argument regarding the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, which was clearly intended to prove that none was missing in 1953-54, is inaccurate. As noted above, forty grisailles had been recorded in the collection in 1746 and forty had been lent to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1900.[52]

iii. 1958-1960

On 22 January 1958, exactly one month after Goldscheider wrote his letter to Martin at Christie’s, Ramsey wrote directly to the Duke enclosing the copy of Goldscheider’s letter cited above. This was Ramsey’s first correspondence with the Duke and the first time his identity was known beyond Christie’s.

Your Grace,

Mr. W.A. Martin of Messrs. Christie’s has told me of the correspondence which has passed between you and his office in reference to a small portrait which at one time belonged to me and which I offered for sale in Messrs. Christie’s rooms through an agent in April, 1954.

When Mr. Martin drew my attention to the fact that it was now thought that the subject concerned might originally have belonged to your collections, and that, in acquiring it in an open market, I might unwittingly have acquired an item which had been removed by some person or persons unknown from your possession, the matter at first caused me much concern.

As you will appreciate, my work is necessarily concerned with all the important art collections in this country and overseas. I cannot therefore afford to have my name associated with any possible unpleasantness, however apparently trivial, in the small world of art. Indeed, ironically enough, as Your Grace may know, I have to spend a good deal of my time in assisting various police forces to find missing works of art.[53] That is why, in the case of the sale of the picture in question, I preferred that my name should not initially be associated with the matter unless it became necessary to do so, particularly if it could eventually be said that the subject was merely a copy of a Van Dyck subject.

Whatever may be the opinion of the American museum which now possesses the picture, I am convinced, although I can hardly tell them so, that they have a copy of a Van Dyck subject. As I hope Mr. Martin may have told you, before arranging for this subject to be offered at public auction in his rooms, the picture concerned was shown, for purposes of acquisition, to five different London art dealers. None expressed any interest in the subject or wished to acquire it. It was also shown to a leading Van Dyck expert who did not consider that it was painted by that artist. Neither did the picture secure a Van Dyck price at auction. However, had I, in the course of the recent correspondence, for one moment considered that the picture which Messrs. Christie’s sold had once belonged to your collections, and had been removed from them without authority, the matter would have assumed graver proportions: and I should have been the first to re-fund the sale price to Messrs. Christie’s with the request that the picture be immediately returned from America.

Finally, on December 22nd 1958 [sic; it was 1957], and in an attempt finally to clear the matter up, Dr. Ludwig Goldscheider, the art historian, wrote to Mr. Martin, as shown in the attached copy of his letter.

I am leaving London tomorrow for the West of Scotland, but I hope that Your Grace will let me know if there is any further way in which you think that I could materially assist your enquiries.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Yours sincerely,

L.G.G. Ramsey[54]

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.
3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

On 26 January 1958 the Duke sent both Ramsey’s and Goldscheider’s letters to Coolidge, stating, significantly, that ‘I had not previously been aware that Mr. Ramsey was the seller. I have not actually met him, but he was apparently at our house in Northamptonshire in 1951 with a photographer taking some photographs: I was ill at the time and did not see him’.[55] He also asks Coolidge for his opinion of the painting’s quality given the dramatic difference between Goldscheider’s original certificate and his later letter. On 27 January Coolidge sent his assessment of the painting to the Duke [see figs. 2, 3]:

I have just examined the painting. Recently it was cradled. At that time the back of the panel was smoothed down so that no old surface is now visible. In addition, strips of wood about an eighth of an inch wide were added to all four edges so one cannot even see the edge of the panel. We looked at the picture under ultra-violet light. There appears to be no repaint at all. The painted surface ends at an awkward point on the figure’s right side and somewhat awkwardly on his left. I can imagine that at some time the painting has been slightly cut down, especially on the figure’s right.[56]

In a second letter to the Duke, dated 10 February, Coolidge expressed his enthusiasm for the painting, noting that the Fogg had insured the work for $9,000, which suggested a full attribution to Van Dyck. He also offered his view of Goldscheider’s change of heart: ‘I judge from the most interesting enclosures you sent to me that the experts now are trying to prove that our picture could never have belonged to you because of the startling difference in quality between this work and those in your collection. Quite aside from my own feelings about our picture, I find this attempt unconvincing in view of Mr. Goldscheider’s fine statement of September 30th, 1953, “The picture is a fine original and in perfect state.” I should think it might be more effective if Mr. Ramsay [sic] could demonstrate when and where he acquired our picture’.[57] It is the latter line of enquiry that Coolidge assiduously pursued in his extensive contact with Ramsey throughout 1959.

Martin’s view of Goldscheider’s revision of his original opinion was more resigned:

[Van Dyck scholar] Oliver Millar has seen the enclosed copy reply from Dr. Goldscheider and we both think that it doesn’t really help much at all in clearing the matter up. His change of view about the picture he certified is difficult to explain except that, as is well known, experts do change their minds.[58]

iv. Boughton

Up to this point the Duke, Coolidge, and Martin shared information relatively freely and appeared to share the same goal of discovering as much information about the panel at the Fogg as possible. However, their strategies diverged over the course of 1958. In late 1957 or early 1958, the Duchess sought the advice of Sir Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), later Lord Clark, who during these years was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain (1955-60). Clark wrote to the Duke on 28 January 1958 highlighting an important shift in Ramsey and Goldscheider’s position:

I have now had time to think over the letters from Mr. Ramsay [sic] and Dr. Goldscheider of which Molly gave me copies in Edinburgh. They both make a bad impression, especially that of Mr. Ramsay [sic]. Indeed his third paragraph, if read in court by a clever lawyer in conjunction with his second, almost amounts to an admission, that he knew that there was something fishy about the origin of the Van Dyck. However, it is not surprising that these gentlemen are rattled; they are in a dilemma. They have to admit either that the picture was stolen from your collection or that they sold it at Christie’s as a Van Dyck with a certificate knowing that it was not by the painter. Of these two evils they have chosen the lesser, that is to say the second. This decision has no doubt been the result of much anxious conference, and they will continue to swear that the picture never was or could have been the original Van Dyck.[59]

Clark enclosed a draft of the kind of letter that the duke might consider sending to Ramsey, concluding: ‘I do not think it will have much effect, but I am all in favour of giving them a run for their money’.

A memo in the archive at Boughton dated 26 January 1958 records the Duke’s intention to discuss the matter with the police.[60] Sir John Alexander Willison, Chief Constable of Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1952-1958, responded in the first two weeks of February, informing the duke that the Hertfordshire police would have to handle the case given that the supposed theft took place in Hemel Hempstead.[61] Kenneth Clark wrote to the duke again on 19 February 1958 after having received a copy of Goldscheider’s original certificate: ‘I cannot think how he can have been such a fool as to write that other letter to say that he had never given a certificate nor believed the picture to be an original. He must have known that he would be found out’.[62] He continues:

I am not very favourably impressed by Mr. Martin’s letter, and when he speaks about Dr. Goldscheider changing his mind he is trying to excuse the most bare-faced falsification; and I have the impression that he is influenced by Mr. Ramsey and Dr. Goldscheider. This is inevitable, because Christie’s stand to lose almost as much as the other two characters if it is proved that the picture was stolen property. For this reason I am fairly confident that he will already have told Mr. Ramsey that Oliver Millar saw the picture at Boughton in 1950, and Ramsey is meanwhile collecting witnesses to swear that they saw it in his possession at an earlier date…Honestly, I do not think it worth while trying to conduct the affair through Christie’s; after two more letters to Mr. Ramsey I should have [sic] it over to the law.[63]

 

The Duke had written to Ramsey on 26 January 1958, making the same points that he had made to Martin and Coolidge: that an enquiry into the market in Hemel Hempstead would surely shed some light on Ramsey’s purchase of the painting; and that some clarification of Goldscheider’s opinion of the work was necessary.[64] He never received a response from Ramsey and on 4 February 1959 drafted a more strongly worded letter that was never sent.[65]

Oliver Millar wrote to the Duke on 1 April 1958 directly addressing the issue of quality raised by Goldscheider:

Thank you for the bundle of material which you left with me last week. I have studied it with much interest and would like to discuss it with you. The trouble is that the back of the panel in America has been so completely renewed as to destroy any basis for comparison with the panels at Boughton. The question of the quality of the painting is a very invidious one and is also, I feel, irrelevant to the present problem. There are considerable variations of quality within the set at Boughton. The subjects that particularly interested Van Dyck, such as the portraits of his fellow artists, are of very high quality indeed, whereas the more official, formal portraits are often duller and less inspired.

I myself have found the coincidence between the loss of a particular grisaille from Boughton and the appearance of the same subject in America too remarkable to be true, and I also think the strange reference to the Queensberry Collection has a rather sinister flavour. However, opinions and hypotheses cannot have any weight in these cases and the only evidence I can offer you or anyone concerned with the affair is the date of my visit to Boughton, when I saw the picture in place (as cited above, p. 3).[66]

v. Harvard

On 6 January 1959 Coolidge wrote to the donor of the painting, Dr Malcove, sending her a copy of Martin’s letter of 4 November 1957 in which he explained the concept of ‘market overt’, adding that ‘I have also written to Martin asking him to get for the Fogg a firm opinion by a British barrister. When we have that, I believe our lawyers will let us return the Van Dyck to you’.[67] Coolidge’s significant efforts to uncover the painting’s history over the next year all served the goal of avoiding a suit for conversion (which includes straightforward theft but also holding onto property which accidentally comes into the converter’s hands) and returning The Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove.[68] Before the Fogg could return the painting they were required to prove that Malcove had purchased it ‘in good faith’, which, in turn, depended entirely upon Ramsey’s claim to having purchased the painting ‘in good faith’ before 1 July 1950.[69]

Coolidge first contacted Ramsey on 15 March 1959, when he was in London, and asked for a meeting:

Sometime ago the Fogg Museum of Harvard University was lent a grisaille portrait by Van Dyck which had formerly been in your possession. We are now anxious to return this painting but cannot legally do so until we have determined what relation it bears to one owned by the Duke of Buccleugh [sic]. Your unique knowledge could extricate Harvard from what has become a most awkward situation.[70]

 

Coolidge met with Ramsey at the offices of The Connoisseur twice and made detailed notes of his conversations in both instances. During their first discussion on 23 March, he noted the following: that Ramsey claimed to have paid 10 shillings for the painting; that he was encouraged to look for works of art in the market by a Mr Higley, who had since died; that he sold the painting to buy a piece of furniture; and that he never believed that it was by van Dyck.[71] Their second meeting took place on 1 April, when Ramsey elaborated upon some of the points he had initially made. He claimed to have shown the painting to his stepfather in the second half of January, voiced his suspicion that Higley had ‘planted’ the painting at the market, and claimed that before Goldscheider’s identification of the painting as by Van Dyck, he did not know the series of Van Dyck grisailles at Boughton.[72]

Coolidge’s note regarding Ramsey’s living conditions records his initial concern about the quality of the latter’s witness statements, one that would only grow with time: ‘Ramsey did not go to St. John’s Wood until 1950, was not well known. The first person with whom he made contact there was the rector, Reverend Noel Perry-Gore. The latter is vague and cannot remember the furnishings of the house’.[73] In his report on the painting produced for Harvard’s lawyers the following year, Coolidge states: ‘There are hints of some disturbances in Mr. Ramsey’s personal life at this time. He may have been living in a hotel. However, by August he had moved and he declares various people (notably the local rector, the Reverend Noel Perry-Gore, and Mr. Geoffrey Harmsworth) saw his “Sir Peter Lely” in his new house in St. John’s Wood in August and November of 1950’.[74]

Coolidge left London for Vienna after Easter and wrote to Ramsey on 8 June 1959, clearly stating his requirements:

I fear a letter from you must have gone astray….When I left England you were to see your stepfather [Mr. Churchill-Dawes] the very next weekend and show him the photograph of the “Malcove” Van Dyck. You hoped and expected that he would recognize it as a reproduction of the painting you had bought at Hemel Hempstead and showed to him during Christmas holidays early in 1950. I had hoped he might be willing to put this in writing. A signed statement from him, would, I feel sure, settle the matter as far as Harvard’s lawyers are concerned.[75]

The correspondence between Coolidge and Ramsey continued well into the autumn of 1960. Coolidge continued to press Ramsey for witness statements and Ramsey provided a range of reasons for the delay in his provision of them: on 18 June 1959, ‘I am sorry, I did not appreciate that you were expecting to hear further from me. I was going to write to you in the States’[76]; on 25 June 1959, a printing strike and running ‘this magazine single-handed’ had kept him busy in London: ‘I did not appreciate that you required a signed “statement” in relation to the “Van Dyck”…Next time I see them [his witnesses, Churchill-Dawes and a sculptor, Patrick Synge-Hutchinson] I will get a letter from them to this effect. This may not be yet awhile, but there is no hurry as far as I am concerned’.[77] On 21 September Ramsey apologized for ‘this further delay, but I have to get away from here for a time each year, and I have been on holiday…I now have the pleasure in sending you photographic copies of two “statements” relative to my possession of a small portrait in the first half of 1950. I am told that these two statements should be quite sufficient for the purpose required’.[78]

However, Coolidge had to write several more times to clarify various aspects of Ramsey’s witness statements. On 4 February 1960 he wrote: ‘You remember that to establish the date when you purchased the grisaille is all important. Mr. Synge-Hutchinson’s letter confirms your contention that you bought it in the first half of 1950. Mr. Churchill-Dawes’ letter, however, implies that you had bought the painting “in the latter part of 1950”. Would he be willing to state whether this is his belief, or whether he merely meant that he had seen the painting in the latter half of 1950 although you had bought it earlier? To save you trouble, I have written a letter to him which I enclose, raising this question. If it is easier for you just mail it to him’.[79] Ramsey replied on 29 February: ‘Clearly this is an unfortunate and careless error, and one which entirely escaped us here. It was obviously not intended that it should be capable of two interpretations. The word “January” has been omitted. I am very sorry to give you this further correspondence, and will get the matter put right forthwith’.[80]

On 30 March 1960, Ramsey sent a photograph of the corrected Churchill-Dawes statement together with a photograph of another statement by Geoffrey Harmsworth.[81] There was, however, another problem and on 4 May Coolidge wrote to Ramsey again. The letter was headed URGENT: ‘The statements made by Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson are not clearly tied to the Van Dyck portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm. However, I believe that you obtained these statements by showing each of the two gentlemen a photograph of this painting [which had been supplied by Coolidge]. It was the photograph which jogged their memories and was the basis for the statements. Can you confirm this fact or provide any other incidental information that will incontrovertibly link what they have written with the Van Dyck painting you sold?’[82] Ramsey’s reply on 16 May reflects a shift in tone that becomes increasingly strained over the following six months: ‘If the Churchill-Dawes and Synge-Hutchinson statements are not tied to the portrait which has been the subject of so much protracted correspondence between us, then it is not clear to what other subject they could be tied! Of course they are incontrovertibly linked to the painting sold at Christie’s’.[83] Ramsey did not, however, provide further information.

During the course of their eighteen-month correspondence, Ramsey raised a number of issues which seem designed to shift the focus of the investigation. In addition to restating the arguments laid out by Goldscheider regarding the palette, the quality of the painting and the number of sketches in the Buccleuch collection, he suggested that the picture he sold at Christie’s might not have been the same panel as that at the Fogg.[84] On 25 June 1959 Ramsey wrote: ‘I do not necessarily suggest that they are not one and the same. Yet your picture went through so many hands between the time I sold it and the time it reached the Fogg that it has occurred to some of us that a switch might have been made’.[85] One of the most important of Ramsey’s insinuations was that neither he nor any representative from The Connoisseur had ever been to Boughton House. Ramsey stated this fact categorically on a number of occasions but—significantly—his statement was always qualified with ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’. In his letter to Coolidge of 25 June 1959, he related a story that had been told to him by a friend:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch having said to him that ‘two men came down from The Connoisseur to photograph the Van Dycks, they must have taken it.’ This is distinctly macabre, since no representative of The Connoisseur at any time visited a Buccleuch residence ‘to photograph the Van Dycks’…I am sure you will agree, this is the type of unwise statement which all ladies make from time to time.[86]

On 29 February 1960 he wrote to Coolidge that ‘the Duchess of Buccleuch was very much in error in stating that The Connoisseur photographed her Van Dycks. It did not’.[87] Ramsey pushed this point further in a letter to Coolidge of 4 August 1960:

…the Duchess of Buccleuch’s unfortunate house-party statement, made about the Connoisseur and photography which it never carried out, has now come to the notice of this firm’s solicitors. They are naturally in some state about it and are straining at the leash to take immediate action. If they take it up with the Buccleuch solicitors, then it will doubtless in due course come before the Hearst Corporation. Thereafter, who knows, the matter might even be taken to the United Nations, such unnecessary proportions has the matter grown to’.[88]

It is clear that already by the end of 1959, Coolidge had grown weary of the case, as indicated by his letter to Martin of 30 November 1959:

Ramsay [sic] has…crashed through [sic] with a couple of letters which tend to confirm his purchase of the Van Dyck in the first two months of the year. I now think we have gotten as close to the bottom of this affair as we are ever likely to come…I can think of no very satisfactory explanation for what actually happened. One must take one’s pick between two improbable hypotheses. Fortunately, because of the decency of all parties concerned, I think one can act, even though uncertain as to the true facts.[89]

In the document entitled ‘Report on Malcove Van Dyck’, which Coolidge prepared in early February 1960 (crucially, before his correspondence with Ramsey had ended) for Oscar Shaw, the Harvard lawyer responsible for the case, he admitted that ‘Mr. Ramsey does not inspire confidence. Aspects of his story remain puzzling. Nonetheless, I have become convinced that he is telling the truth’.[90] Coolidge goes on, however, to suggest that the truth may not be necessary for their purposes:

Even assuming that the dates Ramsey gives are wrong and that the Ramsey-Fogg-Malcove picture was in fact stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch, Ramsey can still produce a witness who supports his contention he bought the painting at the Hemel Hempstead market. This being a market overt, he had, under English law, a good title to the painting until the thief had been convicted. I do not see how such a conviction can now be obtained, nor do I see how one can prove that Ramsey acted in bad faith. If Ramsey’s title was good under English law, might it not be hard for the Duke of Buccleuch to challenge Dr. Malcove’s title under American law.[91]

On 4 May 1960 Coolidge wrote to Martin stating that he expected the lawyers to reach a settlement the following week and, a month later, on 24 June, Coolidge wrote to the Duke with the Fogg’s conclusions: ‘I am convinced that the painting now hanging in the Fogg Museum is the one which was sold by Mr. Ramsey through Christie’s and intermediate dealers to our lender, Dr. Malcove’. He cited new evidence, almost certainly the statement of Synge-Hutchinson, that supported Ramsey’s claim to have bought the painting in January 1950 and noted that ‘we have discovered no evidence that this picture is identical with your grisaille of the same subject which was seen by Oliver Millar at Boughton in July 1950. I cannot think where to find further evidence. Unless such turns up, I can only conclude that there were at least two small grisaille portraits of Wolfgang Wilhelm of which the painting lent to us is one and your missing grisaille is another. I, therefore, believe that we must accede to the lender’s request and return the painting to her’.[92]

Coolidge’s postscript in which he used the same argument employed by Goldscheider in his original certificate supporting an attribution to Van Dyck (‘a fine original and in perfect state’) reflects some residual concern regarding his conclusion that there must be more than one grisaille of Wolfgang Wilhelm:

P.S. There are at least five, possibly seven and perhaps more, life-size portraits of the Duke by or attributed to Van Dyck. These are in the museums at Munich, Chantilly and Bremen, and in addition there are reported to have been versions in a private collection in London, in the Yerkes Collection in New York, in the Walter Briggs Collection in Detroit, and in the Pietro del Gindice Collection.[93]

Coolidge included the same paragraph in his report to Harvard’s lawyers in response to Oliver Millar’s opposing view, expressed at their meeting in London on 17 March 1959, which he cited in his report:

According to Oliver Millar, the most popular grisailles are those representing artists. All of the grisailles that he knows which exist in more than one version are portraits of artists. He can think of no example of a statesman whose portrait exists in two grisaille versions. It would seem especially extraordinary to Millar that a little-known political figure, such as Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach, should exist in two versions. However, as pointed out above, the problem of the Van Dyck grisaille portraits has never been thoroughly studied.[94]

In weighing Millar’s view against Ramsey’s story, Coolidge concluded: ‘Despite Millar’s opinion it seems more likely to me that there are two versions of the Wolfgang Wilhelm Wittelsbach portrait than that Mr. Ramsey should have arranged such an elaborate deception. If the Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm was vain and rich enough to commission so many full-scale Van Dyck portraits, why not two grisailles?’[95]

In response to Coolidge’s letter of 24 June 1960, the Duke again expressed his concern about the unanswered questions related to the painting’s provenance before Ramsey owned it and Goldscheider’s radical shift of opinion. In the course of this letter, the Duke returned to a crucial point that he had made to Coolidge on 26 January 1958—that Ramsey had been to Boughton House around the time the painting was stolen (see above p. 16): ‘It is an unfortunate coincidence that that Mr. Ramsey and a member of his staff were in this house the following year in connection with their work after the picture was last noticed at Boughton in July 1950 by Mr. Oliver Millar’.[96] On 26 August Coolidge wrote to Ramsey: ‘I gather that the Duke believes that you and a member of your staff were at Boughton the year after the picture was last noticed at Boughton by Mr. Oliver Millar in July 1950. Could you let me know if this is true, or is it a confusion with the visit of the photographer?’[97]

Ramsey’s response, dated 14 September 1960, was sharply defensive and mocking in tone and destroyed any credibility he had managed to maintain with Coolidge up to this point. After a robust defence of his argument that his painting was not of the same quality as those at Boughton—‘my painting was no more from the hand of Sir Anthony van Dyck than it was from that of Grandma Moses’—he admitted to having been at Boughton House:

In your letter of August 26th you gathered that the Duke of Buccleuch believes that I and a member of my staff was at Boughton House in 1951.

Certainly I was privileged to visit Boughton with a photographer in that year. That was one of the reasons why I was curious to know from you which Buccleuch residence contained the Buccleuch set of 37 (you report 41) panels of these very numerous grisailles; for it is reasonable to suppose that had they been at Boughton such a large number of such works would have been clearly evident. They were not.

Certainly I well recall going to this beautiful house, since I usually try to accompany my photographer to all homes which we photograph. After selecting the subjects I thereafter leave him to get on with the job.

On this particular exercise the occasion of the visit is quite clear in my mind. I was received and duly saw her again on my departure by a Miss MacEchern. The Duke had a cold and was confined to his room. I called to thank the Agent for the kind facilities granted. Finally, for the purpose of examining the Robert Adam designed Montagu Monument in Warkton Church, I had to obtain the key to this building from a Mrs Mutton. She lived next door to a Mrs Lamb.

What is the significance of this latter enquiry? It appears to be somewhat offensive. Is it now suggested that I naively remove objects of art from private collections, of which I have seen scores throughout Europe? Really, Mr Coolidge……..[98]

vi. Conclusion

The Fogg returned the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Dr Malcove in November 1960. Coolidge maintained his view that there were two versions of the sketch and that the Ramsay-Malcove-Fogg grisaille was in no way related to the missing panel from Boughton. However, it is significant that Coolidge had already advised the Duke, Christie’s, and, of course, Ramsey of the University’s decision to return the painting to Malcove before Ramsey finally admitted having been at Boughton House in the summer of 1951. By 1960, it must have seemed impossible to prove Ramsey’s involvement, however strong the circumstantial evidence, but the Fogg clearly wanted to avoid a legal case which would certainly have alienated Malcove (and other potential benefactors) and stopped her flow of bequests to Harvard, a concern expressed by Agnes Mongan when the problem first emerged in August 1957, before the correspondence was taken over by Coolidge: ‘It looks as though we will have to do a little diplomatic searching…It may turn out to have a simple solution, but at the present moment, it doesn’t look that way, does it?’[99] For the duke’s part, without photographic evidence of the missing sketch from Boughton, there could be no absolute proof that the Malcove painting and his lost grisaille were one and the same.

On 24 September 1984, Seymour Slive (1920-2015), then Professor of Art History at Harvard and Director of The Fogg, wrote to Julius Held (1905-2002), Emeritus Professor of Art History at Barnard College, who was then preparing a study of Van Dyck’s oil sketches. Slive recounted the dilemma in which the museum had found itself as a result of the Duchess’s visit in April 1957: ‘…[the] Duchess of Buccleuch visited the Fogg, saw the sketch and said: “We have one which is very similar.” Upon her return home she discovered hers was missing!’[100]:

However, a “$64,000 question” had to be answered: was the Malcove picture identical with the Buccleuch picture? Visual and circumstantial evidence suggested that it was. Obviously the Fogg could not keep a painting if there was reason to believe it had been stolen. What to do? Return it to Buccleuch? Or return it to the donor? It was decided to do the latter. The gift was cancelled by Harvard in 1958 and subsequently the painting was returned to Dr Malcove…If you manage to locate the picture I would be grateful for word of its present whereabouts for our file on the painting.[101]

4.Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

In fact, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg had remained undisturbed in Dr Malcove’s collection from November 1960 until her death in 1981, when it entered the collection of the University of Toronto as part of a larger bequest. It has remained in the collection of the Art Museum of the University of Toronto ever since.[102] Julius Held’s 1984 correspondence with Joneath Spicer, the curator of the collection who re-attributed the sketch to the printmaker Lucas Vorsterman, reflects his concerns about the painting’s provenance—on the back of the photograph supplied to him, he wrote ‘Stolen from Boughton?’[103] As evidenced by the research presented here, we have finally been able to resolve this question. In August 2021, the Executive Committee of the University of Toronto voted to deaccession the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg and return it to the Duke of Buccleuch. The painting returned to Boughton House in January 2024, seventy-three years after it was stolen.

1.Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, Boughton House, Northamptonshire

2. Photograph of Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) taken at the Fogg, Harvard University, 1957. The Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

3. The reverse of the painting showing the cradling of the panel commissioned by Georges Seligmann in 1955.

Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo.

  1. Photograph of a portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm by Van Dyck, (ONM/2/77) Dyck, Anthony van, 1599-1641: ‘Grisailles Iconography’, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Photo taken at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1957.

  1. Acknowledgments: I would like to thank the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry KBE; Scott Macdonald, Head of Collections & Conservation, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Crispin Powell, Archivist, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Gareth Fitzpatrick MBE, former Director of Collections and Archives, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust; Michelle Interrante, Assistant Archivist, Harvard Art Museums; Tracey Schuster, Head of Permissions and Photo Archive Services, Getty Research Institute, and the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Jenny Hill, Assistant Archivist and Records Manager, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; Hannah Jones, Archives and Library Assistant, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; and Professor Phillip Lindley.


    For another example of the theft of cultural objects by those closest to them—the curators, archivists and scholars who know them best—see Theresa Galvin, ‘The Boston Case of Charles Merrill Mount: The Archivist’s Arch Enemy’, American Archivist, vol 53 (Summer 1990), pp442-450.

  2. ‘Editorial: Sir Peter Lely’s Collection’, The Burlington Magazine, vol 83 (August 1943), p185.

  3. For Montagu House, Whitehall, see Montagu H. Cox and Philip Norman, eds, Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, part II: Whitehall I London, 1930, pp214-220.

  4. There are ten grisailles associated with The Iconography in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, though their attribution to van Dyck has been questioned. There are three further sketches in private collections. For the former, see Mirjam Neumeister, ed., Van Dyck: Gemälde von Anthonis Van Dyck. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, München, 2020, pp296-319.

  5. I am currently researching the life and career of L.G.G. Ramsey.

  6. Michael Jaffé, who wrote about the sketches in 1992, for example, wrongly cited the number purchased in 1682 as thirty-three. Michael Jaffé, ‘The Paintings and Drawings’, in Tessa Murdoch, ed, Boughton House: The English Versailles, London, 1992, p80.

  7. Unsigned undated letter of c1790-1800; no. 30, Limp Green Leather Portfolio, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  8. Most early inventories do not list the sketches individually; Vertue’s is the first. See The Twenty-Fourth Volume of the Walpole Society, 1935-1936. Vertue Note Books, Volume IV, Oxford, 1936, p42.

  9. Ignatz von Szwykowski, Anton van Dyck’s Bildnisse Bekannter Personen, Leipzig, 1859, pp178-80; and Arthur M. Hind, Van Dyck. His Original Etchings and his Iconography, Boston, 1915, p42.

  10. Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641. Winter Exhibition, 31st year , exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900, p51, no 167.

  11. During his first visit to Boughton on 5 November 1949, Millar noted that ‘The van Dyck grisailles are possibly of varying quality, but seemed exceedingly good in most instances, they are very dirty and hang high’. Journal V, p176, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  12. Journal V, p221, (ONM/1/2/5) Journal V, Oliver Millar Archive, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London.

  13. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. Millar does not specify the room in which the sketches hung, either in his notes or in this letter, but it is described as ‘the bathroom’ in a statement made by Michael Jaffé to John Coolidge regarding Millar’s visit to Boughton in July 1950. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 16 October 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  14. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  15. Nicholas Carew, ‘Boughton House, Northampton. A Seat of the Duke of Buccleuch’, in The Connoisseur Year Book 1952, H. Granville Fell and Helen Comstock eds, London, 1952, pp41-48. L.G.G. Ramsey contributed two articles to the volume. ‘A Scottish home of the Duke of Buccleuch, Drumlanrig Castle’, featured in L.G.G. Ramsey, ed, The Connoisseur Year Book 1954, London, 1954, pp18-25. None of the van Dyck sketches were mentioned in the journal edited by L.G.G. Ramsey, The Connoisseur. An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, between 1951 and 1958, though his knowledge of Van Dyck’s Iconography is evident in a passage from his later volume, L.G.G. Ramsey, The Complete Encyclopedia of Antiques. Compiled by The Connoisseur Editor: L.G.G. Ramsey, F.S.A., London, 1962, pp1111: “In the Netherlands, Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) showed himself a masterly etcher in twenty-two prints (mostly portraits) which he produced in the late 1620s”.

  16. Goldscheider immigrated to London from Vienna in 1938. He co-founded the Phaidon press in London in 1938 and remained an editor at the press until his death in 1973. His papers are housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

  17. L.G.G. Ramsey to Ludwig Goldscheider, 29 Sept 1953; The Ludwig Goldscheider papers, Box 1, Folder 4. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (840066).

  18. Copy of the certificate included in the ‘Malcove folder’ at the Fogg, sent to the Duke by W.A. Martin of Christie’s on 3 February 1958. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  19. Before 1967, when rules for cataloguing were made more consistent and explicit, the use of an initial and surname usually indicated that the work was “thought to be a work of the period of the artist and which may be in whole or part the work of the artist”. See Christie’s guidelines for artists and attributions before 1967, Christie’s archive, London.

  20. I am grateful to Daniel Jarmai and Dr Simona Dolari in the Christie’s archives for providing me with this information.


  21. For Slatter’s cleaning of the painting, see Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  22. See, for example: Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘A Rembrandt Self-Portrait’, The Connoisseur, vol 130 (August-December 1952), pp157-60; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo’s Sketches in clay and wax’, The Connoisseur, vol 131 (January-June 1953), pp73-75; Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘Michelangelo Studies—II* Virtus et Voluptas’, The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), pp147-49; and Ludwig Goldscheider, ‘El Greco’s Christ on the Cross’, The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954), pp177-79.

  23. L.G.G. Ramsey, ed., The Connoisseur, vol 133 (January-June 1954), p257. Slatter’s exhibitions were positively reviewed in 1951, 1952 (when an oil sketch, Child with Pomegranate, attributed to Jacob Jordaens and owned by Slatter, appeared on the cover of the March-May edition of the journal), 1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957, when Slatter’s stock was given a two-page spread.

  24. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  25. In a letter of 3 October 1960, Seligmann confirms to John Coolidge, Director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, that ‘I had the picture cleaned and cradled: it was cleaned by Henry Helfer, 40 E. 78 St., N.Y.C. and it was cradled by Thorpe 131 W. 53 St., N.Y.C.’. Letter from Georges Seligmann to John Coolidge, October 3, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  26. Curatorial file, University of Toronto Art Centre. I am grateful to Ms Heather Darling Pigat for making this file available for inspection.

  27. Her collection comprised over 500 objects including Old Master paintings and drawings, Roman and Byzantine sculpture, Coptic textiles, Russian icons, English alabasters, stained glass and modern art. For a comprehensive discussion of her collection, see Sheila D. Campbell, ed, The Malcove Collection. A Catalogue of the Objects in the Lillian Malcove Collection of The University of Toronto, Toronto, 1985.

  28. The painting was accepted on 4 March 1957 and was given the accession number 1957.2. See: Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and Seymour Slive to Julius Held, 24 September 1984, Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  29. Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 1.

  30. The Duchess of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 17 July 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 2.

  31. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3. There is a discrepancy in the wording used to describe the presence of the painting at the Fogg. Mongan describes it as ‘on loan’; elsewhere it is documented as having been accessioned on 4 March 1957.

  32. The Duke of Buccleuch to Agnes Mongan, 10 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 5.

  33. Agnes Mongan to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 6. There was some confusion over which institution photographed the collection at Boughton House in 1954. Both the Courtauld Institute and the Frick Reference Library in New York were cited in the correspondence. It was, in fact, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery that took the photographs at Boughton. I would like to thank Dr Karin Kyburz, Picture Researcher, Witt and Conway Supervisor, for confirming this information.

  34. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dossier citing Wolcott Hall could have been produced by either Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer to whom he sold the painting, or Seligmann.

  35. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7.

  36. Letter from John Coolidge to Oscar Shaw, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  37. This information came from a dealer’s dossier and was given to the Duke by Coolidge; John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 26 September 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 7. The dealer’s dossier to which Coolidge later referred in a letter to Ramsey dated 21 October 1960 could have been compiled by Slatter, who consigned the painting to Christie’s on Ramsey’s behalf, or one of the dealers who owned the painting thereafter: Nicholson, the unidentified New York dealer who bought the painting from Nicholson, or Seligmann, who sold it to Dr. Malcove. The Duke corresponded with the 6th Earl of Bradford at Weston Park in Shifnal, Shropshire, who, with the help of Sir Jasper More of Linley Hall, Bishops Castle, Shropshire, discovered that two brothers, Ronald and Noel Stevens, had once lived in Wolcott Hall but had since moved, one to Ludlow, Shropshire, and the other to Ireland. The Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 19; Sir Jasper More to the Earl of Bradford, 9 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 20; and the Earl of Bradford to the Duke of Buccleuch, 11 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 21.

  38. Quoted in a memo entitled ‘Missing Van Dyck Sketch’ written by the Earl of Dalkeith at Eildon Hall, 25 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive.

  39. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 28.

  40. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 4 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 17.

  41. Letter from W. A. Martin to John Coolidge, November 4, 1957. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1675. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  42. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 12 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 22.

  43. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 15 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 23.

  44. The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 17 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 24.

  45. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  46. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 20 November 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 26.

  47. L.G.G. Ramsey to W.A. Martin [undated], sent to the Duke of Buccleuch on 19 December 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  48. These ‘XIXth century retouchings’ were described as ‘eighteenth-century overpaint’ in Ramsay’s letter cited above.

  49. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; I have cited the copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by L.G.G. Ramsey, 22 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  50. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  51. Ludwig Goldscheider to W.A. Martin, 22 December 1957; copy sent to the Duke of Buccleuch by W.A. Martin on 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  52. See ‘Inventory of Montagu House, Whitehall, June 1746’. ‘His Grace’s Room’ lists ‘40 pictures by Vandike in gilt frames’, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and Exhibition of Works by Van Dyck, 1599-1641, exh cat, Royal Academy, London, 1900. Thirty-nine were recorded in the most recent monograph on the artist, Susan Barnes, Nora de Poorter, Oliver Millar, and Horst Vey, eds, Van Dyck: a Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven, 2004, p365ff.

  53. Ramsey’s comment almost certainly refers to the following, in which the theft of a miniature belonging to the Duke from the exhibition, Versailles in Books and Pictures, featured in The Connoisseur volume 133: ‘A miniature of [the Marquise de Montespan] seated in a classical and architectural landscape, by Louis de Chatillon (1639?-1734), 190 x 127 mm., and the property of the Duke of Buccleuch was regrettably stolen not long after the exhibition opened. Its return is now sought’. The Connoisseur 133 (January-June 1954): 41. In the following issue, the journal’s success in recovering stolen property is highlighted: ‘As a result of investigations carried out by The Connoisseur and an official body, 17 out of 21 pictures and other works of art reported missing from a Hampstead, London, residence have since been recovered’. The Connoisseur, vol 134 (July-December 1954, p287.

  54. L.G.G. Ramsey to the Duke of Buccleuch, 2 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  55. The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  56. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 27 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  57. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 10 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  58. W.A. Martin to the Duke of Buccleuch, 3 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  59. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 28 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  60. Memo, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  61. Unsigned, undated memo, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. The Duke makes reference to this memo in a letter dated 14 February. See the Duke of Buccleuch to Kenneth Clark, 14 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  62. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  63. Kenneth Clark to the Duke of Buccleuch, 19 February 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  64. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House. See also The Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House; and The Duke of Buccleuch to W.A. Martin, 26 January 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  65. The Duke of Buccleuch to L.G.G. Ramsey, 4 February 1959, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  66. Oliver Millar to the Duke of Buccleuch, 1 April 1958, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  67. Letter from John Coolidge to Lillian Malcove, January 6, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  68. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  69. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  70. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, March 15, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  71. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, March 23, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  72. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  73. John Coolidge’s notes on a conversation with Mr. L.G.G. Ramsey, April 1, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  74. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  75. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, June 8, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  76. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 18, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  77. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  78. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 21, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  79. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  80. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  81. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 30, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


  82. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, May 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  83. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, May 16, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  84. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, March 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  85. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  86. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, June 25, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1672. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  87. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, February 29, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1670. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  88. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, August 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  89. Letter from John Coolidge to W. A. Martin, November 30, 1959. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1671. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  90. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  91. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  92. Letter from John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, June 24, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  93. John Coolidge to the Duke of Buccleuch, 24 June 1960, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House.

  94. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  95. Report on Malcove Van Dyck by John Coolidge, February 4, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1668. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  96. Letter from the Duke of Buccleuch to John Coolidge, July 18, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  97. Letter from John Coolidge to L. G. G. Ramsey, August 26, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  98. Letter from L. G. G. Ramsey to John Coolidge, September 14, 1960. John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan Papers (HC 5), folder 1669. Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

  99. Agnes Mongan to the Duchess of Buccleuch, 10 August 1957, Uncatalogued Buccleuch Archive, Boughton House, 3.

  100. Sorenson, Lee, ‘Slive, Seymour’, Dictionary of Art Historians, www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/slives.htm; accessed 1 September 2015.

  101. Julius Held Papers, Box 96, Folder 63, Series VIII, Photographs, Van Dyck Iconography, Seymour Slive correspondence; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).

  102. In the catalogue of the Malcove collection, the Portrait of Wolfgang Wilhelm is attributed to Lucas Vorsterman the Elder, the printmaker who produced this print for the Iconography. Its provenance is cited as: Private collection (said to have been purchased in 1950 at an open air market in Hemel Hampstead); Christie’s sale, London, 9 April 1954, lot 129; George Seligmann, NY; purchased by Dr Malcove in 1955. See Campbell, op cit, pp373-76.

  103. Julius Held papers, Box 96, Folder 63; ©J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (990056).