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The provenance of an artwork can be just as important as its aesthetic qualities, authorship, and meaning. An illustrious ownership history can dramatically increase a work’s desirability and its market value.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s Christ After the Flagellation enjoys an aristocratic lineage.
Scholars believe it was painted for a Seville church. Its first known owner, the Englishman Frank Hall Standish (1799–1840), amassed a celebrated collection of Spanish Baroque paintings in the early nineteenth century. In 1842, Standish bequeathed more than 200 paintings, including this one, to Louis-Philippe, the “citizen-king” of France.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Christ After the Flagellation was displayed in the Louvre Museum, where Louis-Philippe’s famous “Spanish Gallery” was visited by a new generation of artists, such as Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, whose aesthetic vision was influenced by these works.
After Louis-Philippe’s abdication and subsequent death, the painting was purchased in 1853 by Thomas Conolly (1823–1876), an Irish Member of Parliament, and the painting was passed down in the Conolly-Carew family for three generations. Peers of the United Kingdom, the Barons Carew exhibited the painting in the Red Drawing Room of their Palladian country house, Castletown House in County Kildare, until its sale at auction in 1957.
Christ After the Flagellation formed part of an art dealer’s stock until it was acquired by the University of Illinois through a generous gift from Ellnora Krannert (1890–1974). In addition to its pedagogic value, the painting was a strategic acquisition motivated by a collective will to position Midwestern state university art museums as meaningful counterparts to elite East Coast collections.
Author: Nancy Karrels, doctoral candidate in Art History and guest curator of Provenance: A Forensic History of Art, 2017