Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Travels Of A Traveller's Triptych

How's this for provenance ...

A tiny 14th century enamel-on-gold traveller's devotional triptych :

  • Mary Queen of Scots had it during her imprisonment in the Tower of London; she gave it to
  • Elizabeth Vaux, wife of 4th Lord Vaux of Harrowden (gr-gr granddaugher of St Thomas More).
  • Claudio Acquaviva, General of the Jesuits 1581-1616, who gave it as a coronation gift to:
  • Pope Leo XI dei Medici (1605); it was returned upon the Pope's death to:
  • Family of Fr Aquaviva, Dukes of Atri
  • Maximilian I , Duke of Bavaria Wittelsbach (c.1616); Wittelsbach family owned it for more than three centuries, until they
  • Sold it to a Munich art dealer (1933), who sold it to
  • Fritz Mannheimer (died during WWII, wife Jane remarried Charles Wm Engelhard)
  • During war, the triptych was stored in a London bank vault; Although the bank was bombed to smitthereens, the triptych remained intact;
  • Looted from rubble by an English sailor who traded it it for drinks at an Irish pub
  • Pubkeeper gave it to a convent, whence it passed to
  • An unnamed local collector who traded it to a dealer for some chairs.
  • The dealer showed it to Fr Martin D'Arcy, (Jesuit priest, Oxford) who knew it belonged to Mannheimer (he had bid against Mannheimer for it at auction when Mannheimer acquired it.)
  • Returned to Jane Engelhard (c 1948); She gave it to D'Arcy, who was a noted collector.
  • Put on public view to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (1953)
  • Evidently now on permanent loan to Victoria and Albert Museum, London

I'd love to see the tryptych, but I've been unable to find a picture of it, not even on the V&A website or the D'Arcy Museum website. Any leads?


simone sharman said...

hello there I was at the V&A today & came across the triptych - my daughter is married to a Vaux & so I am very interested in how you came about the information of how it was passed to each particular person - can please enlighten me further please?
If you are still interested I can send you a picture of the triptych

regards vanessa beakbane

Jane's Smart Art said...

Greetings Vanessa!

I found the original reference to the triptych in either Thomas Hoving's "False Impressions".(A spirited romp through the world of art fakery), or Michael Gross' new book,"Rogues Gallery" ... an unauthorized history of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.(An interesting read, although perhaps a wee bit more detailed than most readers want.)

Then I turned to the internet and my own library to fill in the holes in its provenance. I wish I could be more specific, but I didn't document my sources as I went along.

I would love it if you would send me a picture of the triptych. I'd like to add it to this blog posting. You can email me at

Thanks so much! Best, Jane

Françoise Darneau said...

Greetings Vanessa,

I am Françoise Darneau and I met you in London 20 years ago.

If you remeber me pls send me your e-mail, please.

You can reach me at

Regards- Françoise