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Rediscovered Old Master & 19th Century Works among Offerings in Christie’s Auction

by WorthPoint Staff (01/25/10).

NEW YORK – Several rediscovered painting by European masters from the 15th to the 19th century—including Lucas Cranach the Elder, Jan Brueghel II, Thomas Gainsborough, Gaetano Gandolfi, Louis Léopold Boilly, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and Samuel Palmer, among others—will be among the 320 works up for auction in Christie’s New York in a two-part auction on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010.

This sale, titled “Old Master & 19th Century Paintings, Drawings and Watercolors,” comes on the heels of record-breaking success of its Old Master & 19th Century Art sale in December in London. This sale in New York is to net in excess of $48 million.

“The record prices achieved at Christie’s London last month for Raphael’s ‘Head of a Muse,’ Rembrandt’s ‘Portrait of a man with arms akimbo’ and Domenichino’s ‘Saint John the Evangelist’ galvanized the art market and renewed collector interest in this exciting field,” said Nicholas Hall, Christie’s International co-head of Old Masters and 19th Century Art. “Now, perhaps more than ever, our clients are seeking the optimal mix of quality, rarity, scholarship, condition, and provenance in their fine art investments, whether it is an early 15th-century altarpiece panel such as Granacci’s majestic ‘Madonna delle Cintola,’ or a 19th-century rediscovery, such as Corot’s ‘Evening Star.’ The upcoming sale was crafted with these collecting criteria in mind, and we are delighted to present a robust selection of superb works, including a number of exciting rediscoveries, fresh-to-market works from prominent collections, and truly exceptional career masterpieces that seldom come to market.”

Property of a Private Collector

"The Entrance to the Turkish Garden Café" by Boilly.

"The Entrance to the Turkish Garden Café" by Boilly.

The sale will include 11 top-quality works from a distinguished private collector of Old Master and 19th century paintings and drawings. A highlight of the collection—and the top lot of the upcoming sale—is “The Entrance to the Turkish Garden Café,” 1812 by Boilly (1761-1845), a brilliantly executed Parisian street scene recognized as one of the most ambitious and technically accomplished paintings of the artist’s career (estimate: $3-5 million). The painting depicts the crowd gathered outside of the Café Turc, a popular restaurant of the day located on the Boulevard du Temple in the Marais. From a compositional standpoint, the painting is a veritable tour-de-force of figural painting that introduces more than 60 individual characters in rich detail and great variety of dress, gesture, posture and expression. Boilly even inserts his own self-portrait into the scene; he is the man in round spectacles and a top hat on the right-hand side of the canvas who gazes out directly at the viewer. The painting was first exhibited at the Paris Salons of 1812 and 1814, and more recently at the Kimbell Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art. The upcoming sale marks the first time it will be offered at auction since 1902.

The Sleeping Shepherd” by Palmer

The Sleeping Shepherd” by Palmer.

A 19th-century highlight from the same collection is “The Sleeping Shepherd” by Palmer (1805-1881), an extraordinarily rare and beautifully-preserved painting that is roundly hailed as one of the artist’s finest accomplishments (estimate: $2.5-3.5 million). Though undated, the work is believed to be from the period between 1826 and 1835, when Palmer lived in the Kent village of Shoreham. Using an unusual technique inspired by 15th century Old Masters, Palmer painted this cozy depiction of a sleeping shepherd and his dog with tempera and oil glazes, creating rich tonalities and warm atmospheric effects. Despite its relatively small scale of roughly 15 by 20 inches, Palmer’s masterful use of light and shadow imbues the painting with a powerful intensity. Never before offered at auction, the painting was initially purchased in 1874 as a wedding present, and descended within the family of the original owner for more than 100 years.

Additional Old Master highlights from this private collection include “The Mocking of Christ” by Hendrick Jansz. Ter Brugghen (1588-1629), one of the artist’s most moving compositions of a religious subject (estimate: $800,000-$1.2 million); “An Allegory of Faith” by Jacob Duck (1600-1667), a complex and multi-layered work that juxtaposes opulent symbols of material wealth and success with ominous reminders of mortality (estimate: $300,000-$500,000); and a selection of Old Master and 19th century drawings by Pietro Faccini (1560-1602), Baccio del Bianco (1604-1657), and Eugène-Victor-Ferdinand Delacroix (1798-1863), among others (estimates range: $25,000-$100,000).

Rediscovered Works

Among the exciting rediscoveries in this sale is “Wooded Rocky Landscape with Mounted Peasant, Drover and Cattle” (estimate: $2-3 million) by Gainsborough (1727-1788), a tranquil scene of cattle and a herdsman that is set amidst a lush, verdant landscape. The painting is one half of a pair Gainsborough completed in 1786 and sold to Robert Palmer, a successful London solicitor. The paintings remained together for 130 years until 1916, when they were sold at auction and later dispersed. In 2008, the companion work entitled “A Wooded Landscape with a Herdsman, Cows, and Sheep near a Pool” re-emerged at Christie’s New York, where it sold for $5.75 million—a record price for the artist at auction. The present work, “Wooded Rocky Landscape,” remained in a private collection until 2009, when an anonymous donor gifted the painting to the Tacoma Art Museum with the expressed intent of selling the work to generate funds for art acquisition.

L’Étoile du Berger (The Evening Star)” by Corot.

L’Étoile du Berger (The Evening Star)” by Corot.

Renewed scholarship has brought to light a sublime large-scale work by the great 19th century French master Corot (1796-1875). “L’Étoile du Berger (The Evening Star),” 1863, is one of the least-known but most accomplished works by the artist (estimate: $1.2-1.8 million). Never before offered at auction, the painting has been in the collections of several private American collectors since the late 19th century and thus escaped inclusion in the artist’s catalogue raisonné. Continued study of the painting now suggests that work may be the as-yet unidentified painting that Corot exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1863 under the title “Soleil Levant (Rising Sun).” Dominated by a near-dark sky that may be interpreted as twilight or approaching dawn, the painting portrays a young woman in classical dress with her hand outstretched toward a single pale star.

Diana and Callisto” by Gandolfi.

Diana and Callisto” by Gandolfi.

Similarly, “Diana and Callisto,” (estimate: $800,000-$1.2 million) by the 18th century Italian master Gandolfi (1734-1802) emerged from a private American collection in 2009 and was instantly recognized as a painting previously known only from photos stored in the archives at the Louvre. Exquisitely drawn and masterfully painted, this depiction of Diana’s banishment of Callisto is believed to be one of two paintings originally commissioned in the late 1780’s by the Russian prince Nicholay Yusupov (1751-1831), a preeminent collector of European art. The upcoming sale represents not only the first appearance of the painting at auction, but also the first known public exhibition of this groundbreaking discovery.

Old Master Highlights

Bacchus at the Wine Vat” by Cranach.

Bacchus at the Wine Vat” by Cranach.

A gloriously eccentric work by Cranach (1472-1553), “Bacchus at the Wine Vat,” 1530 (pictured at left; estimate: $2.5-3.5 million), re-imagines the typically youthful wine god Bacchus as a balding old man with tankard in hand amidst a rollicking group of putti grouped around a vat of wine. Enabled by an old crone who serves them, the cherubs engage in messy antics that wryly warn the viewer of the perils of excess drink—fighting, falling down, vomiting, and even passing out. Interestingly, the work is believed to be one of the earliest references in painting to the process of wine-making. Given the German origins of the work and the surrounding landscape depicted within it, the white wine inside the vat may specifically reference German Riesling wine, a varietal first recorded in royal ledgers in 1435.

Also among the Old Master highlights is “The entry of the animals into Noah’s ark,” circa 1625 by Brueghel (1601-1678), a majestic composition in excellent state consigned from the personal collection of Peter Tillou, a prominent American antiques dealer (estimate: $2.5-3.5 million), and “The Four Elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air,” a four-panel collaboration by Breughel and Frans Francken II (1581-1642) that descended through the royal family in Belgium and was previously owned by King Albert I, among others (estimate: $2-3 million). Executed in the years between 1632 and 1642, this epic series of lush narrative scenes is the only known collaboration on this theme between the two artists.

Le pont sur le torrent” by Hubert Roberts.

Le pont sur le torrent” by Hubert Roberts.

At more than 20 feet in width, “Le pont sur le torrent” (estimate: $2-3 million) by the 18th century French master Hubert Robert (1733-1808) is one of the largest Old Master paintings ever to be offered at Christie’s New York. This vast painting, which depicts a wild torrent of roaring waters descending into a waterfall below an arched stone bridge, was originally commissioned by the Duc de Luynes (1748-1793) for the dining room of his opulent Paris townhouse. Subsequent owners include the American newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, who installed the painting and its equally massive mate “La cascade” in his beachfront castle in Sands Point, Long Island. Though the pair was separated in later years, “Le pont sur torrent” survives in its original state as a masterpiece of decorative painting with a dominating presence that is nearly cinematic in effect. Given its immense size, the canvas will be stretched on-site and installed in Christie’s Rockefeller Center galleries—the first time in more than 50 years that the painting will be publicly displayed.

Old Master Drawings and Watercolors

The arrival of Aeneas at Pallanteum,” by Claude Lorrain.

The arrival of Aeneas at Pallanteum,” by Claude Lorrain.

With more than 65 individual works, the sale features one of the strongest selections of Old Master drawings and works on paper to be offered in New York in recent years. The lead highlight is “The arrival of Aeneas at Pallanteum,” 1673 by Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), a narrative scene portraying the mythological founding of Rome. This signed, dated, and highly-finished drawing (estimate: $300,000-$500,000) is related to one of the most important and beautiful commissions of Claude’s late career, a painting completed for Don Gasparo Altieri (1646-1720), the prominent Roman patron. The drawing bears an intriguing American provenance; among its previous owners is Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918), grandson and great-grandson, respectively, of U.S. Presidents John Quincy Adams and John Adams.

Scholars believe it may well be the earliest example of a drawing by Claude in an American collection. Additional drawing highlights include “The Fall of Preveza,” by Jacopo Ligozzi (1547-1632), a preparatory drawing for a painting commissioned for the ceiling of the church of Saint Stefano dei Cavalieri in Pisa (estimate: $150,000-$250,000) and “The head of a young woman wearing a bonnet and facing left” by Jean Baptiste Greuze (1725-1825), a rare pastel portrait by the artist that is believed to depict his wife (estimate: $60,000-$80,000).

Additional Highlights

Hailed as primary force in the revival of an Irish cultural identity, Sir William Orpen, R.A., R.H.A. (1878-1931) is perhaps best known as a sought-after society portraitist. The upcoming sale features an early-career work by the artist, “’In Dublin Bay’: Portrait of the Artist’s Wife” (estimate: $700,000-$1 million). Well-documented by critics and scholars, this visually-arresting portrait remains one of the most celebrated of the works painted during Orpen’s summer holidays at Howth Head, a point north of Dublin Bay. Described as “a harmony of greys and blues,” the painting portrays Orpen’s wife Grace standing on the cliff-top above the bay, her direct stare shadowed by the angle of the sun. The wind catches the scarf at her neck, lending a swirling sense of motion that is reinforced by scudding clouds in the sky behind her. Last offered at auction in 1992, the painting is one of several excellent works in the sale consigned from a prominent American collection, the Thomas J. Carroll Revocable Trust.

Late 19th century highlights include two paintings by the renowned French masters William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) and Jean François Raffaelli (1850-1924). “Amour voltigeant sur les eaux (Love flying over the waters),” 1900, by Bouguereau is a late-career depiction of the young god Eros that was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1901 (estimate: $500,000-$700,000) and “Élégante sur le Boulevard des Italiens, Paris,” circa 1899, by Raffaelli is an intimate street-level scene that captures the essence of contemporary Parisian society (estimate: $300,000-$500,000). The latter painting comes from the collection of the late Raymond and Miriam Klein, prominent Philadelphia-based collectors and long-time supporters of the fine and decorative arts.

Millicent Baron on 'Magpie'” by Sir Alfred Munnings.
“Millicent Baron on ‘Magpie’” by Sir Alfred Munnings.

Rounding out the sale’s offerings is a magnificent selection of sporting art, including many exceptional examples from the private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery Fisher. Featuring more than 35 equestrian paintings by the most sought-after artists of the genre, the section is led by top-quality works by Sir Alfred Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959) including “A Park Meeting” (estimate: $400,000-$600,000), “Millicent Baron on ‘Magpie’,” 1929 (estimate: $800,000-$1.2 million), and “Study for ‘Why Weren’t You Out Yesterday’” (estimate: $400,000-$600,000). Admired for his unique understanding of the equestrian world, Munnings’ most celebrated works demonstrate equal skill in depicting horses, people and the landscape around them, whether the setting is a racetrack or an open field.

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