UPDATE 2: Artnet points to an article in The Independent, which claims that Turner’s Rome, from Mount Aventine was sold by the father of Lord Dalmeny, chairman of Sotheby’s UK and a father of five who is getting divorced from his wife of 20years: ‘Hinting at the reason for his 85-year-old father’s decision to sell the painting, Lord Dalmeny is said to have dubbed it “Rome, from Mount Alimony”.’
According to The Independent:
He has a reputation as a larger-than-life character – helped by his willingness to act the comic. At an event to mark what would have been the late Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday in 2011, Lord Dalmeny wore a grey suit, cut away at the back to reveal the suspenders, PVC shorts and fishnet stockings he was wearing underneath.
UPDATE 1: The energy in the room was palpable starting from the first lot through to the record breaking £30,332,500 (or $47,430,455) for the Turner. Of 43 lots offered seven works failed to sell, with the sale bringing in £53,972,000 (inclusive of the buyers fees or $84,423,002).
The first lot, a Teniers shot past it’s £150,000 high estimate to hammer t £350,000 (£422,500 with fees or $660,875), followed by a Joos de Momper that more than doubled it’s £150,000 high estimate to make £320,000 (£386,500 with fees or $604,563). Aggressive bidding for a Pieter Brueghel the Younger pushed the work to £2.25 million (£2,602,500 with fees or $4,070,831), to the same buyer as the Teniers.
The Asselijn (below) opened at £220,000 and hammered at a comfortable £500,000 (£602,500 with fees or $942,431), followed by a Jan van der Heyden, that hammered £60,000 below it’s £250,000 low estimate at £190,000 (£230,500 with fees or $360,548) to the same buyer as the Teniers and Brueghel.
Canaletto’s view of the Piazza San Marco hammered below its low estimate for £4.8 million (£5,458,500 with fees or $8,538,186). However, in a post-sale announcement, the Sotheby’s Web site currently says:
This is not true – the pre-sale estimate does not include the buyer’s premium. This lot missed its low estimate by £200,000. They are certainly justified in promoting the success of the sale, but as a publicly traded company, they should know better than to make this false assertion.
While both the Cranach Faun Family and the Bruyn failed to sell, the underestimated Gentileschi sold for £500,000 (£602,500 with fees or $942,431), and the tiny Brueghel river scene made a substantial hammer price of £450,000 (£542,500 with fees or $848,579). A Crossiers Prodigal Son saw very spirited bidding that took to nearly four times it £150,000 highest estimate, hammering at £550,000 (£662,500 with fees or $1,036,283).
The Coorte still life of peaches (below) that last sold for £2 million, opened at £1.1 million managed to make a respectable hammer price of £3.0 million, its high estimate (£3,442,500 with fees or $5,384,759). The Turner opened at £12 million and crept timidly at first, but picked up steam to hammer for a record breaking £27 million (£30,332,500 with fees or $47,430,455).
ORIGINAL POST: A large, richly detailed Turner painting of early 19th century Rome, estimated at £15-20 million, leads Sotheby’s 43-lot December 3, 2014 Old Masters evening sale in London. Other highlights include a classic Canaletto view of the Piazza San Marco, a peculiar Lucas Cranach the Elder – The Faun Family – and an Adriaen Coorte still life that last appeared at Bonham’s on December 7, 2011.
Turner’s panoramic view of the Eternal City, which last changed hands in 1878 (for a then record of £6,142), was a “direct commission from his close friend and patron, Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864),” according to the sale catalogue, which dedicates more than 40 pages to describing the history, condition and even the frame of this lot – there’s also a short video. According to the Telegraph: “The only comparable work, commissioned by the same patron, was acquired by the Getty Museum from Sotheby’s in July 2010 for £29.7 million” – the current auction record for the artist. Will this work break the record?
The work’s light palette gives a sense of exuberance to the city, which contrasts the catalogue’s description of Rome at the time: “The city that Turner visited in the 1820s and 1830s was … a city in decline, its buildings in generally poor state of repair and its streets badly maintained.” Rome was part of the Papal States, which had interesting theories about urban development and general welfare: “[T]he papal regime regarded street lighting as the work of the devil. Similar obscurantism ruled out vaccination and railways: Gregory VIII, the pope of the 1830s … banned railway construction in his territories.”
The painting’s exceptional condition is to having never been relined (a process that would flatten the impasto), there’s no evidence it has ever been cleaned, and has remained framed and under glass for most of its existence.
The Asselijn is an unpublished and intriguing work in his oeuvre, which is largely Italianate, as it covers an historic event. According to the sale catalogue:
In the late winter of 1651, stormy weather and tidal surges caused extensive flooding in the Dutch province of North Holland, the areas exposed to the Diemerdijk east of Amsterdam being particularly affected. Finally, on the night of 5–6 March, strong north-westerly winds and a high spring tide caused the Sint Anthonisdijk to rupture in two places, flooding much of the city of Amsterdam. There were numerous eye-witness accounts of the tragedy, and as soon as the waters had subsided sufficiently, artists flooded out of Amsterdam and beyond to record the event. … Asselijn also painted the reconstruction of the Sint Anthonisdijk which took place in the summer of 1652, in a work in Berlin, although the two pictures are of different proportions and were probably not conceived as pendants.2 The Reconstruction is a rather more conventional painting by Asselijn, being bathed in a warm almost Italianate light and peopled by peasants familiar from his Bambocciate, although billowing clouds to the left allude to the disaster of the year before.
There is an extensive catalogue entry and video for this painting. From the lot notes:
From the beginning of the 1730s, the decade that would establish Canaletto as the greatest of all exponents of the Italianveduta, this quintessential view of Venice has enjoyed a particularly distinguished English provenance and is here shown in public for the first time since the ground-breaking Manchester Art Treasures exhibition back in 1857. The Piazza of San Marco in Venice, with the Basilica di San Marco and the famous Campanile has always been recognised as one of the most famous of all European settings, and has come to occupy a central place in the work of Canaletto, the city’s most famous view painter. … The number of variants of this scene that Canaletto painted throughout his career is evidence of the popularity that it enjoyed with eighteenth-century visitors to Venice. The earliest of these, and at over two metres in width, much the largest, is the painting [from 1723] now in the Museo Thyssen in Madrid, generally acknowledged as the masterpiece of Canaletto’s early career [below]. The Madrid painting can be dated to around 1723, for it clearly shows the new pavement of the Piazza, with its white geometrical design by Andrea Tirali, being laid, which is documented to that year.
Although there has been general agreement in assigning the present canvas to Canaletto’s early period, there does not seem to have been any scholarly unanimity as to an exact date of execution … Most recently Charles Beddington has kindly suggested a potential dating to around 1730.7 By this date Canaletto had eschewed the use of the dark brown grounds employed in his earlier canvases such as that in Madrid, favouring instead a lighter ground as here. The tonality is cool and clear, notably around the Basilica and the adjoining buildings. The loose and animated handling of the brushwork in the clouds around the Basilica in the present canvas recalls Canaletto’s treatment in the New York painting of the late 1720s. The neatly ruled perspective lines and the closely observed detail are also similar in both pictures. Taken together, these factors would seem to support a dating to around 1730, perhaps just prior to the Fogg and Woburn paintings. Although it is constantly asserted that Canaletto always subordinated topographical accuracy for pictorial concerns, that is not particularly the case in the present canvas. Unlike his later capricci the scene is mostly an accurate transcription of reality; only the omission of one window on the Campanile is an obvious change.
From the lot notes:
Painted at the height of the artist’s career, in 1531, this is an outstanding work by Lucas Cranach the Elder, commissioned no doubt by a member of the courtly circle in Wittenberg, where the artist was in the employ of the Electors of Saxony. The subject represents the mythological depiction of wild people, forest dwellers or demigods, which had long fascinated Cranach and first appeared in his works in prints and drawings, but culminated in a series of panel paintings from the second half of the 1520s onwards. … The subject of the Faun Family relates to the romantic topos of the ‘wild people who live in the forest’, which can be found in the Metamorphoses, a mythological moralizing poem by the ancient writer Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD), and in De Rerum Natura by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (circa 99 BC- 55 AD). Both texts were widely known during the Middle Ages, but they enjoyed increased popularity following their reintroduction during the Renaissance. At the beginning of the 16th century scholars contemplated the original state of mankind before civilization, a notion triggered in part by the accounts of travellers who witnessed the ancient tribes in the newly discovered Americas, as well as the idealization of ideas of ancient pagan traditions during the religious turmoil during the Reformation.
The Bruyn Coronation of about 1515 is a brilliant, radiant and beguiling work. A winning mix of the corporeal and the mystical. According to the lot notes:
This luminous representation of the Coronation of the Virgin is a major early work by Bartholornaus Bruyn the Elder, the dominant figure in the Cologne School in the first half of the 16th Century. The picture is important not only for providing a synthesis of the late Gothic tradition with more contemporary, Renaissance elements, but also for demonstrating the assimilation of strong early Netherlandish influences within the context of contemporary Rhenish art. With it, Bruyn brings inventions of the art of the Netherlands into the Rhenish vernacular. The hierarchical composition and the placing of the figures upon a traditional paved floor is influenced by late Gothic prototypes, which can be found in works by artists active in Cologne in the mid to late 15th Century. The treatment of the firmament of angels, however, shows an awareness of new modes of pictorial representation, which developed as the influence of the Renaissance was felt more widely in Northern Europe. Bruyn’s early development as an artist took place in the workshop of Jan Joest van Kalkar, which he entered in 1505. Although Jan Joest was German, he was profoundly influenced by the art of the Low Countries and in particular by the artists Gerard David and Geertgen tot sint Jans. The dramatic use of light employed by Bruyn in the Coronation of the Virgin clearly demonstrates Jan Joest’s influence, but the composition is entirely of Bruyn’s own devising. Although this is one of the artist’s first independent works, his unique artistic personality was already well developed.
The catalogue says this painting, a late work by the artist, is offered for sale at auction for the first time. I am surprised at the low estimate.
From the catalogue:
Paintings such as this, in which the spiritual sufferings of the ascetic hermit Saint Anthony could be depicted in the most vivid pictorial terms, were enormously popular in the Southern Netherlands throughout the first half of the 16th century. Their inspiration was undoubtedly the work of the Flemish painter Hieronymous Bosch (1453–1516) who was the first to explore the theme of the hermit saints in landscapes filled with symbolic imagery. The saint is here seated beneath a hollow tree, the traditional medieval symbol of evil-doing or alchemy. At its base a rat pours ale into a jug which will then be passed to monks and other figures who sit in the tent at the top of the tree, symbolic of both gluttony and lust. A grylle or demon tugs at the saint’s cloak, pulling him towards two reclining figures, a man and a devil disguised as a woman, who together with the apple and jug floating next to them signify the temptation of lust. Behind them more demons drag a tumbril with another naked sinner towards an Infernal head and ‘Hell’ mouth beyond. In front of them a spectacled owl, normally a symbol of wisdom, trudges disconsolately with a crossbow slung across his shoulders. In the far distance, upon a river, pigs – themselves unclean and symbolic of greed and lust – are seen manning a ship, undoubtedly a parody of the late medieval depictions of the Ship of Fools and its representation of Human Folly. This is one of a group of paintings that have been associated in the past with Bosch’s two principal followers, Pieter Huys (1519–84) and Jan Mandijn (c.1500–60), to whom this picture was attributed by M.J. Friedländer at the time of the 1952 sale.
This painting is coming back to auction after only three years when it last sold for slightly more than £2 million, the lot’s current low estimate.
From the catalogue: “Painted in 1662, this is likely the earliest topographical birds-eye view of a British estate, a genre that would become hugely popular over the ensuing decades.”
UPDATE: A lethargic sale that saw the lead lot (above) sell for the low estimate and 25% of the sale – or nine lots – fail to sell. The sale totaled £13,951,500 inclusive of buyer’s fees.
ORIGINAL POST: Christie’s December 2, 2014 Old Masters Evening Sale in London doesn’t have as much sizzle as rival Sotheby’s the following night. The top lot, a van Dyck portrait of musician Hendrick Liberti (above) who appears to be in the midst of a major “What-everrr” and throwing a bit of shade, is estimated at £2.5-3.5 million, a fraction of the estimate for Sotheby’s top lot, a Turner view of Rome that could sell for £15-20 million. The work, according to the sale catalogue, was originally owned by King Charles I and has not been seen, not even by scholars, since it was last at auction in 1923.
Like Sotheby’s Christie’s also has a video associated with the sale in which “Alexis Ashot, Specialist in the Old Masters department, selects the single work he would most like to own.” What’s weird is that, unlike the Sotheby’s videos, which are about works in the sale, this video is about the Adoration of the Magi in the Snow, circa 1600, by Peter Brueghel the Younger, which is not on offer. Am I missing something here?
There are a handful of other pictures worthy of attention.
From the sale notes:
The Master of the Misericordia was a key figure in later trecento Florentine painting. Influenced by Andrea di Cione, called Orcagna, and Bernardo Daddi, his body of work has been steadily recovered, ever since Richard Offner identifed his hand in the 1920s in two particular works: in compartments relating the Stories of Saint Eligius, formerly in the Cambò collection, Barcelona, and in the panel held in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, the Madonna della Misericordia with Kneeling Nuns, the latter previously given to the circle of Agnolo Gaddi.
The two works in Lot 3 are Gothic-style German works that pre-date Durer. From the catalogue:
These panels were part of a magnificent Passion altarpiece with two sets of wings formerly in the Canonical Augustinian monastery of Rottenbuch, as established by Ludwig Meyer (letter of expertise, 2002) … Consistent with the practice of the day, the central shrine, now lost, would have been sculpted, while the outer and inner wings showed, when opened completely, scenes from the Life of the Virgin in relief. When the inner set of wings was closed, eight panels depicting scenes from the Passion were visible, and when completely closed four additional scenes could be seen, including the present Ascension and Pentecost, forming the conclusion of the iconographic programme.
This is an impressive panel rich in detail and was previously attributed to Herri met de Bles. From the catalogue:
The master behind this intriguing painting was working in the tradition established by Joachim Patinir in early sixteenth-century Antwerp. Using the pretext of a biblical narrative, Patinir created vast and richly detailed panoramas, inventing a genre that has been called the Weltlandschaften or ‘world landscape’. Patinir himself frequently treated the theme of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, one of the most accomplished examples being that now in the Prado Museum, Madrid, to which the present panel seems to owe a degree of debt: for instance in the placement of the Virgin and Child on a centrally elevated mound, and in the careful depiction of the staff and white saddlebag in the foreground. Also following Patinir, the artist has incorporated several extraneous narrative details relating to the biblical story of the Flight, including the Massacre of the Innocents in the far right background and the Miracle of the Wheatfield in the left middle distance. Of the myriad of carefully rendered details others are more incidental, such as the figures bathing in a pond adjacent to a farm in the distance.
The Brueghel Dynasty is represented by several works including these two by Pieter the Younger. A Country Brawl (above) is the earliest know version of this subject, which may or may not be an original composition and not based on a work by Pieter the Elder, as are most of the Younger’s paintings. It may also have been owned by the painter Govaert Flinck and comes from the collection of the industrialist Baron Evence III Coppée (1882-1945), formed in Brussels between 1920 and 1939.
Of The Good Shepherd (below), which last sold at Pierre Bergé, Paris, 11 June 2012, lot 15, as by ‘Jan II Brueghel’, the catalogue states:
Long believed by many scholars to be a work in whole or in part by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Good Shepherd is one of the rarest subjects in the oeuvre of his son, Pieter Brueghel the Younger. No drawn or painted prototype for the composition by the Elder exists, suggesting that this is an original invention by Pieter the Younger, doubtless conceived in relation to The Bad Shepherd, which exists in a unique version by Pieter the Younger (sold in these Rooms, 8 July 2008, lot 38, £2,505,250). Together the two compositions can be considered one of the personal masterpieces of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s art; their outstanding compositional and philosophical excellence eloquently accounts for the desire of so many past experts to see in them the authorship of the artist’s illustrious father. The Good Shepherdexists in only three versions, making it a great rarity in a body of work which often comprises prolific repetition of ‘iconic’ compositions (for example, no fewer than 20 autograph versions of Spring, 45 of The Birdtrap and 25 of The Country Lawyer: The Payment of the Tithes). Of the two other versions of The Good Shepherd, one work, signed and dated 1616, is in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels (donated by Dr. and Mme. Frans Heulens-van der Meiren in 1988); the other, restituted to the heirs of Ernst and Gisella Pollack of Vienna in 2001, is now in a private collection.
The van de Velde comes from a private collection and has not been seen publicly for 60 years. The catalogue notes:
This work belongs with a small group of paintings on this theme from the early 1660s in which, as George Keyes attested: ‘Van de Velde brings his concept of the calm to perfection’ (Mirror of Empire, exhibition catalogue, Cambridge, 1990, p. 162). It is very closely comparable with the celebrated picture in the National Gallery, London, also dated 1661, which is widely recognised as the outstanding example from this group.
It has been suggested that van de Velde based his view on an actual location in Den Helder, the northernmost tip of the north Holland peninsula, by a break in the seawall. It may have been that van de Velde was particularly struck by the beauty of the coastline at Den Helder, where he made plein air drawings for later use in his paintings. A few other works were painted from the same spot, most notably the aforementioned picture in the National Gallery, London, and a picture in the Staatliche Gemäldegalerie, Kassel, which, perhaps painted slightly earlier, displays a similar arrangement of vessels.
The corpus of the Dutch Caravaggisti, especially those from Utrecht like the author of An Allegory of Winter, is distinct and fascinating. The sale catalogue states:
Signed and dated 1631, An Allegory of Winter is one of the earliest known paintings by Hendrick Bloemaert, son of Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651), and represents the culmination of all that he had learnt in his father’s studio during the 1620s, and absorbed on a recent sojourn to Italy (1627-30). This picture is one of only a small number of genre subjects that the artist executed in the early 1630s, before specialising in portraits and religious subjects, for which he is now best known. The figure types, scale and lighting recall the work of his father’s most celebrated pupils, Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629) and Gerrit van Honthorst (1592-1656).
This is a modest, respectable painting by Canaletto that depicts the Grand Canal palazzo Ca’ Vendramin-Calergi, where Wagner died in 1883.
The lead lot, by estimate, in Christie’s December 11, 2014 sale of antiquities, a 4,500-year-old Sardinian idol, has been withdrawn from the sale according to the Web site of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA).
Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a Research Assistant in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow, linked the work to one in the photographic archives of looted antiquities maintained by Giacomo Medici, an art dealer convicted in 2004 of dealing in looted antiquities and the subject of the 2006 book The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums. Dr. Tsirogaiannis wrote: “The object appears in the Medici archive, smashed in 6 pieces, missing the upper left part of its head.” The work was also the subject of several posts on David Gill’s Looting Matters Web site and several others. The idol is among more than one-third of the 192 lots on offer that lack a pre-1970 provenance.
The work has been removed from Christie’s Web site and attempts to find it result in the following:
The entry that was removed looked like this:
The Heidelberg Project, a singular and inspiring multi-block art installation in Detroit created over the space of nearly 30 years by Tyree Guyton, is under attack … again. The Heidelberg Project was recently included in The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s (TCLF) Landslide 2014: Art and the Landscape compendium of nationally significant works of land-based art that are threatened and at-risk. Last night Mr. Guyton’s creation was hit by an arson attack, the 12th in 18 months according to the local CBS affiliate. Six of the homes were demolished by the City of Detroit in the 1990s and now arsonists seem determined to finish off the rest.
Works of art are not all found in museums and galleries. There are not all the subject of headline making bidding wars and astronomical prices. Works of art are also places like the Heidelberg Project, joyful and idiosyncratic neighborhood-based creations by impassioned and visionary people like Tyree Guyton. Today, the Heidelberg Project needs your help and support. Share this story and do what you can to help prevent the destruction of Tyree Guyton’s artistic legacy.
UPDATE: In a December 5, 2014 email Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a Research Assistant in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow, identified three works in the Christie’s sale that were connected to dealers and collectors who had handled looted works. In an email on December 11, 2014 Dr. Tsirogiannis said all three had been withdrawn from sale. He had previously identified another work as suspect, this, too, a Sardinian stone idol, was withdrawn (see below):
LOT 51: AN EGYPTIAN ALABASTER FIGURAL JUG, estimated at $150,000 – $250,000. The object appears in the same condition in the Symes-Michaelides archive. The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by Christie’s.LOT 95: AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED COLUMN-KRATER, estimated at $60,000 – $90,000. The object is depicted in the same condition in the images that have been confiscated by the American authorities from the antiquities dealer David Swingler, among hundreds of antiquities which were repatriated to Italy, after it was found that they were smuggled. Swingler’s name is not included in the collecting history supplied by Christie’s.LOT 139: A ROMAN MARBLE COLUMN CAPITAL, estimated at $80,000 – $120,000. The object appears in Christie’s catalogue with its surface cleaned, unlike its appearance in the Symes-Michaelides archive. The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by Christie’s.
ORIGINAL POST: In recent years, numerous American museums – including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art and the Getty in Los Angeles – have been forced, after protracted legal battles, to return looted antiquities to their host countries. Not wanting further legal trouble, and the attendant bad publicity, museum curators are more circumspect and their acquisitions more carefully considered. Private collectors, on the other hand, would appear to have fewer qualms despite a New York Times article that reports some are having a harder time disposing of works – either through sale or donation – of non pre-1970 works:
Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, is … [a]n antiquities collector … eager to sell an Egyptian sarcophagus he bought from Sotheby’s in the early 1990s. But he is stymied, he said, because auction houses are applying tighter policies to the items they accept for consignment.
Which auction houses are we talking about? Are collectors being sent mixed messages?
In the upcoming New York antiquities auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, there are at least 90 works that lack a pre-1970 provenance, including the two highest estimated works at Christie’s December 11, 2014 sale. More than one-third of the 192 lots at Christie’s and eighteen of the 49 lots offered at Sotheby’s December 12, 2014 sale have no pre-1970 provenance.
The “pre-1970″ refers to the date of an internationalUNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As one New York Times article reported, “In 2004 the Association of Art Museum Directors declared ‘member museums should not acquire’ any undocumented works ‘that were removed after November 1970, regardless of any applicable statutes of limitation.’” I would argue that private collectors should adopt a similar policy.
This is not to say the works in these sale are looted, but how do you explain that more than one-third of the works cannot be sourced earlier than 1970? Are collectors willing to “roll the dice” and hope such works are legitimately out of their source countries? Should the auction houses adopt a policy that precludes the acceptance of non pre-1970 works (which would infuriate a lot of clients)?
While you ponder those questions, here are several objects, including Christie’s cover lot, that reasonably raise concerns about where they came from and, more importantly, when?
According to a posting on the Web site of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, Lot 85 (above) has been linked to an item in the photographic archives of looted antiquities maintained by Giacomo Medici, an art dealer convicted in 2004 of dealing in looted antiquities and the subject of the 2006 book The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums: “The object appears in the Medici archive, smashed in 6 pieces, missing the upper left part of its head,” according to Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a Research Assistant in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow. “The Steinhardt collection [from which this piece is being sold] has been previously connected with the acquisition of questionable antiquities.”
The Web site Looting Matters has additional commentary about Dr. Tsirogiannis’ discovery.
UPDATE: David Gill writes in Looting Matters: “It appears that officials in Sardinia have asked US Ambassador Phillips (in Rome) that the Sardinian figure due to be auctioned at Christie’s in December should be returned to Italy.”
UPDATE: The Web site of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art reports that the Sardinian idol has been withdrawn from sale. The work no longer appears on Christie’s Web site. Below is the description that appeared online before the item was withdrawn.
An article well worth reading.
Originally posted on CHASING APHRODITE:
On the front page of this month’s The Art Newspaper I report that the Bowers Museum of Art has agreed to return 542 ancient vases, bowls and other artifacts to Thailand. The objects were allegedly looted from one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and smuggled into the United States by an antiquities trafficking ring that was broken up in 2008.
The Bowers will also forfeit 71 Native American ladles were allegedly taken from federal or native lands in the United States. The Bowers acquired the ladles and Thai antiquities from Robert Olson, an alleged smuggler who I profiled in 2008. Olson has admitted buying illegally excavated objects from looters and middlemen and bragged that his collection Ban Chiang artifacts and Native American ladles were the largest in the world. He currently faces a December trial on federal charges in Los Angeles.
The returns mark additional fallout from the 2008 federal raids on several Southern California museums. (Our previous coverage…
View original 1,107 more words
UPDATE: The de Vries sold for $27,885,000, a world record price at auction for the artist – and the work sold to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. According to an emailed statement:
[T]he magnificent Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe by Adrien de Vries was bought by the Rijksmuseum with the support of the Rembrandt Society, the BankGiro Loterij, VSB fund, Mondriaan fund and private donors. The Mannerist sculpture, which is widely recognized as a masterpiece by the 17th century artist known as the “Dutch Michaelangelo”, was won by the museum after a tense three-way phone bidding battle that lasted four minutes and captivated the audience at Christie’s Rockefeller Center saleroom in New York. The final price with premium of $27,885,000 (£17,743,735/ €22,503,724) marks a new world auction record for any work by de Vries.
Following the sale, Taco Dibbits, Director of Collections for the Rijksmuseum remarked: “We are thrilled to have acquired this exceptional work of art by the Dutch Michelangelo, Adriaen de Vries. Until today there was no sculpture by him in the Netherlands.”
ORIGINAL POST: Nested within Christie’s December 11, 2014 Exceptional Sale is a 368-year-old bronze by one of the most important European sculptors of the 16th/17th century, Adrian de Vries – a work that has been missing for more than 300 years – now A Bronze Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe created in 1626, the artist’s final year of life, is estimated at a hefty $15-25 million. Iconographically, the statue is somewhat enigmatic, as the excerpt from the catalogue entry (below) notes. In addition, the globe is a later addition (though it was present by 1700), and may obscure the true narrative.
According to the sale catalogue:
The recent discovery of this Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe is a hugely signifcant event, bringing to light, as it does, a major, unrecorded bronze executed in the fnal year of the life of its creator, Adriaen de Vries. The bronze stood unrecognised atop a column in the centre of a pool in a schloss courtyard for at least 300 years where it is recorded in an engraving of circa 1700. Although, in his maturity, Adriaen de Vries was considered to be the most important sculptor working in bronze in all of Europe, his celebrity rapidly declined after his death.
Of the iconography, the catalogue notes:
The iconography of this bronze group is unusual in that it appears to include elements from more than one mythological narrative. A male fgure carrying a globe immediately suggests Atlas or Hercules, although both these fgures are normally represented as more mature men with beards. The grapevines on the tree stump and the pan pipes are associated with Bacchus and his cult, but there is nothing among the stories of Bacchus that includes a globe. One could argue that it represents an unusual confation of the stories of Hercules Supporting the Globe and Hercules at the Crossroads. In this interpretation the pan pipes and grapes represent the path of sin and indulgence, while the wreath in the fgure’s hair could be a victor’s wreath, having chosen the path of righteousness.