Adriaen Brouwer painting triggers controversy

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Critics say the Flemish government paid too much for a Adriaen Brouwer painting priced at EUR 743,000.

21 July 2008   

BELGIUM - The Flemish government has acquired a painting by 17th-century artist Adriaen Brouwer for almost EUR 743,000.

Critics say Flemish Culture Minister Bert Anciaux paid too much for the work, as it was auctioned for no more than EUR 4,600 in 2007.

The painting is called "Old man in an Ale House" and was sold at a small Brussels auction house in June last year. At that time, it wasn't certain whether it was a real Brouwer or just a replica.

The painting only fetched EUR 4,600. The buyer, a private person, later had it auctioned at Sotheby's in Amsterdam for EUR 360,000 amid mounting rumours that the painting could be real.

After it had become apparent that the painting was original, the Flemish government acquired it for almost EUR 743,000.

Critics say that the government could easily have saved EUR 400,000 if had been quicker to react.

Anciaux claims that the price he paid is justified.

"When it was auctioned at Sotheby's, it was unclear whether the painting was original. It's not up to the government to take any risk with tax payers' money."

About the painter
Adriaen Brouwer was born in Oudenaarde in East Flanders in 1605 and died in Antwerp in 1638. He was a Flemish genre painter who worked across the Low Countries.

He spent much time in alehouses across Flanders and Holland. His works are typically detailed and small and often adopt themes of smoking, drinking and brawling. He often depicts peasants.

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