Just yesterday I was sharing our latest Art Mystery, an oil on canvas painting by Eli Andersen. You can read more about that painting (and my wonder-filled thoughts) here. The painting sat around for two years and inspired a blog post before I was finally able to come up with an answer of sorts.
After spending my afternoon deeply inspecting the painting, and reporting my findings via the blog, I decided to make a last-ditch search effort. One method of search that I have used hundreds of times is Google Image search. You simply go to Google and drop any image in the search bar. This search is useful for so many things, like finding the original post for your favorite Pinterest recipe or de-bunking the latest social media scandal. I have also heard of it being used to identify the creepy crawlies invading your house, or the weeds (are you sure those are weeds?) growing in your garden. While I have found this method of search useful in many instances, it has been far less successful at identifying artwork and artist signatures.
Except for last night. Of course.
Just after posting my Art Mystery, I decided to drop one of my images of our painting into the Google search bar. I pressed enter, and my jaw dropped. When I regained use of my mouth, I called for the boss.
Our painting (above)
The painting in my Google Image search results (above)
As my search revealed, our painting by Eli Andersen is not an original scene. It is a hand-painted reproduction of a well-known painting by a well-known artist. The original painting to feature this scene is titled In a Roman Osteria. It was created by Carl Heinrich Bloch.
Bloch was a Danish painter who lived from 1834 to 1890. According to www.carlbloch.org, his early work featured rural scenes and everyday moments. As he traveled and aged, he was inspired by his life in Italy and his admiration for Rembrant. Bloch's first real success came in 1865 with his exhibition of "Prometheus Unbound" in Copenhagen. Soon following his exhibit, he was commissioned to paint a series of 23 paintings of the life of Christ for use at Frederiksborg Castle, where they still reside to this day. You can see a full-room picture of Bloch's paintings on display in the King's Oratory here.
This painting, titled In a Roman Osteria, was created in 1866. An "osteria" was originally an Italian venue serving wine and "simple" food. It hangs in the National Gallery of Denmark, where my cousin just happened to see it in person this summer. She had no idea of the painting sitting in the office of her family's antique business, but she was intrigued by what she saw. She was so intrigued, in fact, that she snapped a couple of pictures on her phone, including a close-up of that crazy cat!
Though some of my questions have been answered, I am still left wondering: who is Eli Andersen? Is he the Danish immigrant who made his way to America in 1919? There is no question that the painting is old, so the theory seems plausible.
There are sites still today that reproduce paintings, such as this one, which have been placed in the public domain. These works are high-quality, hand-painted pieces. Most carry with them a hefty price tag, depending on the size, medium, mounting and framing. The price tag is small, though, when compared to the price of an original, well-known work of art at auction today. Ordering a reproduction of In a Roman Osteria for creation today, with the same specs as our painting, would cost upwards of $800.00.
I am also still curious about the context of this picture. Is this the look Carl Bloch received when he sat in his first Osteria in Rome?
Frankly, I am not fond of monkeys. They affect me the way spiders and snakes affect other people. The flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz” and the rogue monkeys in Robin Williams’s “Jumanji” were menacing to me, and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see them.