Friday, 22 February 2008

The Flute Player?

Philippe Mercier - 'The Flute Player'Here's another painting from the Looking For Owners exhibition at the Israel Museum: Philippe Mercier's "The Flute Player", on loan from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Strasbourg. Pity I can't find a coloured graphic. Maybe that's because the title is wrong. Flute? Take a closer look. This instrument belongs to the bagpipes family. It isn't the familiar Scottish version. Also, according to different sources, Philippe Mercier was German, French or British, all 1689-1760. (I mentioned before that Brits adopt foreigners with talent. It looks as though the French do too.) He was born in Berlin, but lived and worked in England from about 1716. He visited Ireland and Scotland. So my best guess is that these bagpipes are Irish. The correct name for this painting is The Bagpiper. Click the title link for an online gallery of MNR exhibits in Israel. The exhibition continues until 3 June.


At 22/4/08, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm currently writing a book on the bagpipe in the Scottish Lowlands; I knew of this painting but took it to be french; I found your post after learning from wikipedia that Mercier was in England from 1715 till he died in 1760; he lived in York until 1752 and visited Scotland in 1750, (wiki says nothing about Ireland) which I was told was the date of this painting. The bagpipe is therefore quite possibly the only picture of the lowland bagpipe without the long 'pastoral' chanter I have seen; which makes this a very important picture
pete stewart

At 23/4/08, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Pete

Thank you for a very interesting comment. I'm pleased to have been instrumental in helping you find this important painting.

The Wikipedia entry I found was for Philip Mercier, rather than Phillipe, and it mentions his visits to Ireland in 1747, to Scotland in 1750 and to Portugal in 1751-2. If the date of this painting is 1750, then it must be from the Scottish visit.

Not knowing much about bagpipes, my guess was that it might be an Irish bagpipe. It obviously isn't the familiar Scottish bagpipe used by the military.

The two big questions are 1) Who misnamed this painting 'The Flute Player'? and 2) How did it fall into Nazi hands?

I e-mailed the curator of the Israel Museum, asking if he knew whether any paintings had been stolen by the Nazis when they captured the Channel Islands, but I received no reply.

As it's a painting from Mercier's British period, the answer to this puzzle must lie in Britain, but where? And, if the Nazis stole it from the Channel Islands, shouldn't we be claiming it back, especially as it's so important?

If you track down any more information on this painting, please let me know.

At 9/7/08, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family research has turned up the fact that Philip Mercier's son, also called Philip, became fort major of the Jersey Garrison, dying there in 1793. After this date there is some evidence that Philp's widow, Anne, may have visited, or lived on Alderney. I don't know if any descendants remained in the Channel Islands until the German invasion, but it is a possible link.

At 10/7/08, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

How fascinating! Many thanks for the update. This might well be the missing link. The assumption with all this German loot is that it was stolen from Jews in Germany or France, which is why this painting came to be exhibited in Israel. That it might have been looted from a British family in the Channel Isles makes the story unusual. Good item for a local newspaper maybe. Or a museum. Some publicity wouldn't go amiss.

Keep in touch. If I find out anything I'll post it here as a comment.

At 11/8/08, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Pete

I emailed Crown Dependencies about the looted Mercier. My query was taken seriously and passed on to an official in the Ministry of Justice. There has been some serious detective work going on. Nothing concrete has turned up, but the investigation is still ongoing. If you would like the latest news, please post your email address here or email me directly.


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