Thursday 18 February 2021

A place in the country

Not having a telly, I waste a fair bit of time channel flicking through Youtube for slack-jawed edutainment. A fraction of these clips/flicks ends up in The Blob's Sunday Miscellanies; when you see something peculiar or useless there, you'd be excused for thinking I exercise no editorial winnow. About a month ago, I spent 10 minutes watching an expert restoring a 400 year old painting by Rubens to its original Summer brilliance. It's a landscape called Het Steen [R] in which the house of the same name has but a small part in the drama half hidden by trees on the left. The view was really familiar to the artist because Het Steen was his gaff. I wondered idly where the mansion was located and google revealed that it was for sale in 2018 for €4million. It's got 33 rooms and is 25 commutable km from Antwerpen/Anvers, so I don't doubt that a diamond dealer or currency trader or footballer would snatch it up.

It seemed a small enough price to pay for a lovingly restored ancient monument which still had bricks-and-mortar shelter value. Certainly the price compared favorably with, say, a painting by the Flemish master. Lot and his Daughters [1614] went under the hammer in 2016 for $58million! But that was news because it broke records but reg'lar Rubens portraits go for about the same price as his substantial, functional home. It made me wonder about the cost of authentique French chateaux. Here's one in Lot-et-Garonne, same size as Het Steen with 33 hectares to keep people at a distance. It's half the price of Rubens home-place. There is a wide range of choice in and around the 1 €uromillion. On dit que you'll need at least as much again salted away for care and maintenance. €1m will buy you a quite modest terraced house in Dublin 4 or D6. There's something wonk in all this.

Note added in press. Check out Rachel Rothwell's rather wonderful Wexford Stories today? She has republished the very first of my earlier Not Sunday Miscellany stories with a good quality repro of the actual picture in all its 1960s chilliness.

No comments:

Post a Comment