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Chrysler Museum receives bequest of European Old Master paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts

April 16, 2014
Cornelis van Cleve, Flemish, 1520-1567, Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and Angels Oil on panel: 22 3/8 x 20 1/8 in. (56.8 x 51.1 cm)

Cornelis van Cleve, Flemish, 1520-1567, Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and Angels
Oil on panel: 22 3/8 x 20 1/8 in. (56.8 x 51.1 cm)

The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA, last covered by this blog in a December 2013 posting, has received the Irene Leache Memorial Foundation’s entire collection of European Old Master paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts, according to a museum press release:

On long-term loan to the Museum since within a year of its 1933 opening, the Irene Leache Memorial collection comprises 27 works of art dating from the 14th through 19th centuries. Many of the works were among the earliest art on gallery view in the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, the genesis of the Chrysler Museum.

Accompanying the gifts of art is another substantial bequest—an endowed curatorship. The Foundation has created the Irene Leache Curator of European Art, a position currently held by Jeff Harrison, who is also the Museum’s chief curator. The named curatorship is designed both to memorialize and perpetuate the symbiotic 80-year history between the Irene Leache Memorial and the Museum, giving both a more active and ongoing influence in the future of the arts in Hampton Roads.

The Memorial also will transfer a trove of books and historical materials to the Jean Outland Chrysler Library for cataloging, conservation, and community access. The archival documents, photographs, and memorabilia provide solid research background into the early collections and history of the Museum.

Here are a couple of other works in the bequest.

Francesco Botticini, Italian, 1446-1497, Adoration of the Magi in a Landscape Tempera on wood: 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (80 x 80 cm). Click on image to enlarge.

Francesco Botticini, Italian, 1446-1497, Adoration of the Magi in a Landscape
Tempera on wood: 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (80 x 80 cm). Click on image to enlarge.

Museum object label:

Francesco Botticini Italian, Florence (1446-1497) Adoration of the Magi in a Landscape, 15th century Tempera on panel, 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA Gift of the Irene Leache Memorial Foundation 2014.3.2 Botticini’s sweeping, “world-view” landscape is enlivened by a host of holy figures. The Adoration of the Magi unfolds in the foreground, as the three kings pay homage to the infant Christ and proclaim his dominion over all earthly rulers. Behind them the angel Gabriel announces Christ’s birth to shepherds in the field. Encircling these biblical narratives, from left to right, we see Saint Jerome in the wilderness, Saint Christopher carrying the infant Christ, Saint Francis receiving the stigmata, and the journey of Tobias and the angel. Three more saints-Catherine, Roch, and Sebastian-kneel before the holy family at the lower left. And at the bottom, a somber meditative image of Christ as Man of Sorrows alludes to his future sacrifice for mankind. Scholars have puzzled over the meaning of this “holy landscape” with its disparate array of figures. Yet all have acknowledged the charm of the painting itself. With its jewel-like colors and minutely crafted detail, the painting fully reveals Botticini’s deft and delicate Late Gothic style.

Attributed to Naddo Ceccarelli, Italian, active ca. 1347, Madonna and Child Flanked by Four Saints Tempera and Gold leaf on Panel: Overall: 22 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. Click on image to enlarge.

Attributed to Naddo Ceccarelli, Italian, active ca. 1347, Madonna and Child Flanked by Four Saints
Tempera and Gold leaf on Panel: Overall: 22 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. Click on image to enlarge.

Museum object label:

The intimate scale of this triptych-a three-part altarpiece topped with pointed Gothic arches-suggests that it was not a public, church commission, but a work meant for private worship. So, too, do the saints appearing on its shutters. Three of them-Eligius, Bartholomew, and Nicholas-served as patron saints of medieval craft guilds, those of blacksmiths, butchers, and sailors, respectively. The altarpiece may well have been ordered by a wealthy Italian merchant for an altar in his home. The figures’ placement and varying sizes are dictated by their hierarchical importance, an artistic device used throughout the Middle Ages. The Virgin and Child assume center stage, where they tower over the saints who attend them. At left are Saint Eligius, who holds as his attributes the tools of the blacksmith’s forge, and Saint Bartholomew, who displays the knife with which he was martyred. At right are Saint Anthony Abbot, with his book and staff, and Saint Nicholas of Bari, who holds the three golden balls he gave to enrich the dowries of an impoverished nobleman’s daughters. Crowning the shutters is a two-part Annunciation to the Virgin. The painter here is believed to be Naddo Ceccarelli, who was active in Siena, a city steeped in the decorative traditions of medieval art. The artist’s roots are clearly traced in the painting’s luminous colors, richly patterned garments, and delicate floral banding of the gold-leaf background.

$30 Million Jean-Michel Basquiat At Christie’s May 2014 Contemporary Art Sale in New York

April 15, 2014
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) Untitled acrylic and oil stick on canvas 68 x 103 in. (172.7 x 261.6 cm.) Executed in 1981 Estimate: $20,000,000 – 30,000,000

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), Untitled
acrylic and oil stick on canvas: 68 x 103 in. (172.7 x 261.6 cm.)
Executed in 1981
Estimate: $20-30 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Christie’s has just announced that on May 13, 2014, as part of the evening sale of Post War and Contemporary Art, they will be auctioning a large Jean-Michel Basquiat painting that has been in the same collection since 1982 – it carries a pre-sale estimate of $20-30 million.  According to a press release, it comes from the Reiner Family Collection.

The release notes:

The year 1981 marked Jean-Michel Basquiat’s transcendence from the leading figure on the underground art scene, SAMO, to the established world of international art stardom. Untitled, 1981 is an emblem to this success, created at this precise moment in Basquiat’s career when he was channeling the raw energy of his street art into the medium of fine art. Executed on canvas and on a scale akin to the wall expanses he had previously utilized on the street of downtown New York City, Basquiat’s menacing warrior basks in a vibrant orange and crimson backdrop built up from broad swathes of acrylic paint. Laid down on peach ground, the anatomical makeup of Basquiat’s warrior emerges from scrawls of black, white and brown oilstick. Illuminating the figure from within, this haloed aura along with punctuations of yellow and black paint as well as metallic spra-paint come together to form a mandorla of sorts, a typical motif found in the rendering of Christ in Majesty. Fierce and intimidating, Basquiat’s regal warrior with glowing red eyes and bared teeth embodies the artist’s own feelings of triumph after his sudden rise to international art world fame. Just as Basquiat, the “king of the streets” had conquered the art world, his warrior too has been crowned king victorious. Replete with the graffiti-inspired text and imagery that first garnered Basquiat attention during his SAMO days, Untitled reinforces Basquiat’s street heritage and revels in it with the framing of this work with crowns, a motif that, along with the copyright sign and comic book seal, signifies Basquiat’s own personal emblem and seal of approval. Untitled has been held in the same collection since it was first seen in the artist’s studio in the basement of Annina Nosei’s gallery in 1982.

Tennis Great Ivan Lendl sells all 116 of his Art Nouveau Alfons Mucha posters

April 15, 2014
Alfons Mucha - Summer

Alfons Mucha – Summer

According to the Prague PostBusinessman Richard Fuxa has bought a very valuable collection of 116 posters by Czech Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha (1860–1939) from legendary tennis player Ivan Lendl … Fuxa refused to release the price of the posters, but the daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today that Lendl sold his collection of Mucha’s posters for 3.5 million dollars.”

The collection was shown in Prague last year and attracted more than 185,000 people, “the second-highest attendance at Prague exhibitions and one of the highest in Czech history.”

The article continued:

“Fuxa, whose BigMedia firm organized the exhibition in Prague, bought the collection.”

“This was part of my contract with Ivan Lendl,” Fuxa told Czech Radio and said he would like to display Mucha’s posters again.

“We are considering further projects with this collection,” he said.

Fuxa is negotiating about the conditions of such a display, for instance, in China, Japan and the United States, and he also plans to open his own gallery for the collection in Prague.

MfD writes that art exhibitions in the Czech Republic usually make a loss; however, Fuxa and his fund are trying to bring art closer to ordinary people and he has scored a success.

BigMedia will open an exhibition of Czech poet and graphic artist Bohuslav Reynek (1892–1971) in Prague this week. Fuxa told MfD a spacecraft would land during the exhibition.

 

Fuxa has also bought some 80 graphic sheets by Reynek, he told the radio.

 

Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts Acquires a Rare and Dramatic 17th Century French Painting

April 1, 2014
Lot 29. ADRIEN SACQUESPEE (CAUDEBEC-EN-CAUX 1629-1692)  Christ en croix  signé et daté 'Sacquespe pinxit./.1656' (sur le pied de la croix) huile sur toile  83 x 49 cm. Estimate: €15,000-20,000 ($20,642-27,523). This lot sold for a hammer price of €14,000 (or €17,500 with the buyer's premium - $24,091).

Lot 29. ADRIEN SACQUESPEE (CAUDEBEC-EN-CAUX 1629-1692)
Christ en croix
signé et daté ‘Sacquespe pinxit./.1656′ (sur le pied de la croix)
huile sur toile: 83 x 49 cm.
Estimate: €15,000-20,000 ($20,642-27,523). This lot sold for a hammer price of €14,000 (or €17,500 with the buyer’s premium – $24,091).

Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts today purchased Adrien Sacquespee’s Mannerist Christ on the Cross at Christie’s sale of Old Master paintings in Paris, according to the Art Tribune. It’s a striking and dramatic work, believed to be one of the artist’s earliest 20 or so known works (some signed). In the 1640′s he was a pupil of François Garnier, but he returned to Normandy and made his career in Rouen.  Most of his work is found in Norman churches and the museum.

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen

This work joins six others in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, including the Martyrdom of St. Adrian (below), The Apparition of Christ to St. Peter (1667), Christ mourned by the Virgin and St. John (formerly known Descent from the Cross - c.1670-80), Chartreux buried under the snow (c.1670-75), Saint Bruno in prayer (1671), and Eternal Father (before 1692).

Martyrdom of St. Adrien.

Martyrdom of St. Adrian, 1659.

Although he’s considered “provincial” he does have a flair for the dramatic – just look at Saint Mathurin exorcising the Empress Theodora, Abbey Saint-Ouen in Rouen (below) – who doesn’t like a good exorcism?

Saint Mathurin exorcising the Empress Theodora, Abbey Saint-Ouen in Rouen

Saint Mathurin exorcising the Empress Theodora, Abbey Saint-Ouen in Rouen

It’s a Fake – Not a £20 Million El Greco Portrait

April 1, 2014
ART expert Antonio Garcia has produced a 60-page report which states the 16th century painting Lady in a Fur Wrap (above), which is on display in Glasgow's Pollok House, was not created by the artist El Greco.

ART expert Antonio Garcia has produced a 60-page report that states the 16th century painting Lady in a Fur Wrap (above), usually displayed in Glasgow’s Pollok House, was not created by the artist El Greco.

Lady in a Fur Wrap, a painting long believed to be an early portrait by El Greco – the Spanish-based Greek artist Domenikos Theotokopoulos – painted in Toledo, Spain, has been declared a fake by Antonio Garcia in a 60-page report, according to Scotland’s Daily Record and other media outlets.  Garcia  was culture editor for Spain’s El Mundo newspaper for 20 years and spent two years investigating the painting.

The work is “part of the Glasgow Museums collection and is usually displayed at the city’s Pollok House,” but is currently “on loan to the Museo de Santa Cruz in the Spanish city of Toledo for an exhibition marking the 400th anniversary of the artist’s death.”

Garcia is very pointed in his criticism and “has accused Glasgow council chiefs of blocking scientific tests, which were requested a decade ago, to find out the truth.” According to the article, Garcia said: “Anyone – no matter how few of El Greco’s works they may have seen and without being in any way an art expert – can see that the colours used and the perfect facial features in the portrait of this enigmatic lady have nothing to do with the style of El Greco.”

By way of background:

The painting was bought by Sir William Stirling Maxwell for £1857 in 1853 and gifted to the city in 1966.

[…]

The painting was discovered in Paris 300 years after the death of El Greco …

Garcia said: “It was the first time this work had ever been seen.

“It had never been exhibited anywhere and had never been listed as part of any collection. It was a mysterious appearance that captured the people of Paris.

“At that time, there were probably five or six artists in Spain who could have painted it but none of them were famous.

“I am not in a position to say that whoever painted this work was involved in any deceit. He may well have acted in good faith.”

In a rebuttal:

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council culture body Glasgow Life said: “Within the art world, there are many debates between scholars and academics over the provenance of works and we welcome this contribution as part of that debate.”

Professor Fernando Marias, curator of the current exhibition in Toldeo said,  “This could be a restoration and to a certain extent was possibly changed. More a restorer than a faker, but that’s speculation.” He added, “What I can say is that we are having this painting at the Toledo exhibition and we are accepting it as an El Greco.”

Garcia says event though the portrait is not by El Greco, it’s an excellent painting: “Whoever painted it, the Lady in a Fur Wrap is a great work of art and that’s the first thing that should matter, not who signed the picture or its economic value.”

Hazy History for some Antiquities at Bonham’s, April 2014 – UPDATED

March 28, 2014
Lot 67. A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Septimius Severus  Circa 194 A.D.  Slightly over-lifesized, depicted with his head turned to his right, his thick curling hair and beard with drilled detail, the beard characteristically full and long with ringlets at the chin and a thick moustache at the upper lip, his eyebrows incised above large eyes with articulated pupils gazing upward, the strong neck designed to be set into a composite statue, 16¼in (41.3cm) high, mounted FOOTNOTES Provenance: American private collection, California. Christie's New York, 11 December 2003, lot 232. European private collection, acquired in the 1980s. Estimate: £120,000-150,000 ($200,000-250,000).

Lot 67. A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Septimius Severus, Circa 194 A.D.
Slightly over-lifesized, depicted with his head turned to his right, his thick curling hair and beard with drilled detail, the beard characteristically full and long with ringlets at the chin and a thick moustache at the upper lip, his eyebrows incised above large eyes with articulated pupils gazing upward, the strong neck designed to be set into a composite statue, 16¼in (41.3cm) high, mounted
Provenance:
American private collection, California.
Christie’s New York, 11 December 2003, lot 232.
European private collection, acquired in the 1980s.
Estimate: £120,000-150,000 ($200,000-250,000). This lot sold for £206,500 (US$ 344,041)

UPDATED with sale results.

Bonham’s April 3, 2014 Antiquities sale in London has more than a handful of works that lack a pre-1970 provenance (I know … it’s this issue again).  Among them, according to ARCA, are some found in the archives of looted works of “two art dealers, Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina, [that were] confiscated by Italian and Greek police who have used them to identify objects looted and smuggled from at least 1972 until 2006.”

The “pre-1970″ refers to the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As the New York Times 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.”’ 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 to return looted antiquities to their host countries.” It’s a standard I believe should apply to private collectors as well as museums and other institutions.

UPDATE: ARCA reports one of the items they previously highlighted, lot 22 (below), has been withdrawn from the sale. According to ARCA, Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis had matched this object to those in the archives of looted work sold by Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina.

Lot 22. A CANOSAN POLYCHROME PAINTED LIDDED POTTERY PYXIS A Canosan polychrome painted lidded pottery pyxis  Circa 3rd Century B.C. The domed lid with a central mask modelled in relief surrounded with bands of painted decoration, the front of the cylindrical vessel painted in pink, red and pale blue with a band of swags, the tripod legs comprising two doves and a rectangular slab foot at the back, 9in (22.9cm) high FOOTNOTES Provenance: American private collection, New York, acquired from Ariadne Galleries, New York City in the late 1980s. Estimate: £3,000-5,000 ($5,000-8,300). THis lot ha been Withdrawn

Lot 22. A CANOSAN POLYCHROME PAINTED LIDDED POTTERY PYXIS
A Canosan polychrome painted lidded pottery pyxis
Circa 3rd Century B.C.
The domed lid with a central mask modelled in relief surrounded with bands of painted decoration, the front of the cylindrical vessel painted in pink, red and pale blue with a band of swags, the tripod legs comprising two doves and a rectangular slab foot at the back, 9in (22.9cm) high
Provenance:
American private collection, New York, acquired from Ariadne Galleries, New York City in the late 1980s.
Estimate: £3,000-5,000 ($5,000-8,300). This lot has been Withdrawn.

The ARCA report continued:

Peter Watson, co-author with Cecilia Todeschini of The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities From Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums (Public Affairs, 2007), wrote in The Times (“Auction houses ‘handling stolen goods’“, April 2):

Christos Tsirogiannis, of the Division of Archaeology at Cambridge University, and formerly a member of the Greek Task Force that oversaw the return of smuggled objects, said that the auction houses should have realised that they were handling illegal objects. “They themselves do not release all the information they have about how these objects reach the market,” he said. “These objects have no real provenance.”
The objects are believed to be part of hauls gathered during the 1980s and 1990s by Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina, two notorious Italian dealers. Both men have been convicted of trafficking in illicit antiquities. Medici’s archive was seized in 1995 in Geneva, and Becchina’s was seized in Basle in 2002. Between them, the men supplied thousands of illegally excavated and smuggled antiquities, many of which were dug up by mechanical digger, and sold at Sotheby’s throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Some of them were priceless and many still had soil on them. They passed in their thousands through London salesrooms until the traffic was exposed, partly by The Times in 1997. Sotheby’s was forced to discontinue its sales in London.
[...]
Mr Tsirogiannis, who has just been awarded his PhD for a thesis on the illicit international antiquities trade, has access to two Polaroid archives of the hauls that were seized by the Italian carabinieri in Switzerland. He noticed that the two objects coming up for sale at Bonhams and Christie’s were identical to two shown in the photographs of the seized archives, in one case dirty and broken before restoration.

UPDATE: A reader has indicated that another lot has come under question, a Neo-Assyrian Black Basalt Stele.

The reader supplied a link to Heritage for Peace, which in its March 26, 2014 newsletter contains the following:

Potentially looted relief up for sale at Bonhams

• According to a recent article in Al-Akhbar (17 March 2014), a new lot at Bonhams Auction House, due to be sold on the 3rd April in London, may have been looted. The article publishes a video entitled “Stop the Theft and Sale of Antiquities in Syria”, by the Saadeh Cultural Foundation. The video is addressed to UNESCO, the Syrian Government and Bonhams. The video claims that Auction Lot 99, which is apparently from Tell Shiekh Hamad, in Haseke province, is looted, despite Bonhams claim is was excavated in the 1970s. The upper section of the stele was discovered in 1879 by Hormuzd Rassam, and is now in the British Museum. Rassam’s notes comment he was unable to fund [sic] the lower half. There is also no evidence that Layard, who also excavated the site, found it. The site was excavated by Kuhne in 1975, but his excavation records also do not mention it. Therefore, the foundation argues, it must be looted. [emphasis added].

Looting has certainly been reported at the site since at least September 2012.
To read the full article (in arabic) and see the video (arabic with English subtitles) in Al-Akhbar, click here.

Lot 99. A monumental Neo-Assyrian black basalt royal stele of Adad-nerari III of Assyria  Circa 805-797 B.C. Comprising the lower two-thirds of the stele of rectangular cross-section, the front carved in high relief with a standing figure of the king in prayer, depicted in profile from the waist down, shown wearing a long fringed robe, with bare feet, holding a staff before him, the neat regular cuneiform text inscribed across the body of the king is preserved with the beginnings of lines 9-10 and lines 11-20 in their entirety, each line separated by horizontal rulings, with several lines continuing onto the raised border. 54in (137.5cm) high; 29½in (75cm) wide; 10½in (27cm) deep FOOTNOTES Provenance: Private collection, Geneva, Switzerland, given as a gift from father to son in the 1960s. Estimate: £600,000-800,000 ($1-1.3 million).

Lot 99. A monumental Neo-Assyrian black basalt royal stele of Adad-nerari III of Assyria, Circa 805-797 B.C.
Comprising the lower two-thirds of the stele of rectangular cross-section, the front carved in high relief with a standing figure of the king in prayer, depicted in profile from the waist down, shown wearing a long fringed robe, with bare feet, holding a staff before him, the neat regular cuneiform text inscribed across the body of the king is preserved with the beginnings of lines 9-10 and lines 11-20 in their entirety, each line separated by horizontal rulings, with several lines continuing onto the raised border. 54in (137.5cm) high; 29½in (75cm) wide; 10½in (27cm) deep
Provenance:
Private collection, Geneva, Switzerland, given as a gift from father to son in the 1960s.
The top section of this stele fragment, now in the British Museum, was discovered in May 1879 by a close friend of Sir Austen Henry Layard, the renowned archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam (1826-1910), following reports of its existence from different Arab travellers. The round-topped section was found to have been hurled down the mound by Arabs as this effigy was considered idolatrous and the site itself was sacred to the spirit of Sheikh Hamad, to whom various cures of ailments and afflictions had been attributed. Rassam believed the remainder of the stele was buried at the top of the mound, see H. Rassam, Asshur and the Land of Nimrod, being an account of the discoveries made in the ancient ruins of Nineveh, Asshur, Sepharvaim, Calah, etc, Cininnati & New York, 1897, p.312. The top of the stele was removed with some difficulty to the coast and eventually arrived at the British Museum where it entered the Museums’ collections in 1881 (Inv. No. BM 131124; 1881,0721.1).
Rassam had dug some test trenches at Tell Sheikh Hamad (ancient Dur-Katlimmu) but was unable to return to the site and continue his excavations after failing to receive the necessary permit. It was in 1978 that Hartmut Kühne directed the German excavations in Tell Sheikh Hamad but he found no evidence of the lower half the stele that Rassam had believed to be at the top of the mound. So it seems this lower stele section, forming the larger part of the monument must have been removed prior to this date and likely prior to 1975 [emphasis added] when Kühne began surveying the site.
Estimate: £600,000-800,000 ($1-1.3 million).

UPDATE: The Art Newspaper reports the Neo-Assyrian Black Basalt Stele that the organization Heritage for Peace concluded is looted has been withdrawn from Bonham’s sale. According to the article: “A spokesman told us that the withdrawal was “for further study”, but he remained “hopeful that the stele will be offered at one of our future sales”. With an estimate of £600,000 to £800,000, the stele would have been by far the most valuable object in the 3 April auction.” In an earlier report, the paper said the British Museum, which owns the top half of the stele, had not plans to bid on the bottom portion. That article also noted: “The Switzerland-based owner of the stele tried to sell it at Christie’s New York in 2000, with an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000, but it failed to sell. It was only after this that Karen Radner, an Assyriologist at University College London, linked the piece with the fragment in the British Museum and identified the praying figure as Adad-nerari III. A curse written in cuneiform on the object condemns anyone who removes the stele from its original site.”

Here are several more works with problematic/hazy/incomplete provenance (I’m always amazed/amused by the number of works that come out of private Swiss collections):

Lot 5. A Greek bronze Illyrian helmet  Circa 6th-5th Century B.C. The domed helmet with a pair of raised double parallel ridges, each with smaller ridges at the outer edge, with a central frontal tang and loop at the back for attachment of a crest, with an everted rear flange and long pointed cheekpieces perforated at the forward tip, edged with a border of studs, 9in (23cm) high FOOTNOTES Provenance: English private collection, acquired in the early 1990s on the UK art market. Estimate: £10,000-15,000 ($17,000-25,000).

Lot 5. A Greek bronze Illyrian helmet, Circa 6th-5th Century B.C.
The domed helmet with a pair of raised double parallel ridges, each with smaller ridges at the outer edge, with a central frontal tang and loop at the back for attachment of a crest, with an everted rear flange and long pointed cheekpieces perforated at the forward tip, edged with a border of studs, 9in (23cm) high
Provenance:
English private collection, acquired in the early 1990s on the UK art market.
Estimate: £10,000-15,000 ($17,000-25,000) This lot sold for £21,250 ($35,403).

Lot 107. A Sasanian silver-gilt royal hunting scene plate  Iran, circa early 4th Century A.D. The interior decorated in relief, the figural scene with gilding and finely incised details, depicting a king, thought to be Hormizd II, riding a horse at flying gallop to right, the king wearing a crown in the form of a winged eagle surmounted with a globe, with three rippling streamers flying out behind, wearing a chest halter over a belted tunic, and trousers with pleated edging, wearing a quiver at his right hip, decorated with a wavy palmette tendril and a rosette above, a beribboned sword hilt on his left, seated astride the horse with a dotted cross-hatched saddle blanket, a pair of incised balloons fly out behind, a rippling ribbon attached to its bridle with a ribbed globe above, wearing a harness ornamented with large bosses, its tail elaborately tied, the king drawing a bow, taking aim at a fleeing ostrich or great bustard in front, two shot birds below, one collapsed with an arrow through its turned neck, the other shot through its breast, the plate on a ring foot, the base with a dotted Pahlavi inscription mentioning the weight, and two monograms (23.3cm) diameter; 791.9g weight FOOTNOTES Provenance: Private collection, Switzerland, acquired between 2002-2005. European private collection, UK and Switzerland, formed in the 1970s and 1980s. Estimate: £150,000-250,000 ($250,000-420,000).

Lot 107. A Sasanian silver-gilt royal hunting scene plate, Iran, circa early 4th Century A.D.
The interior decorated in relief, the figural scene with gilding and finely incised details, depicting a king, thought to be Hormizd II, riding a horse at flying gallop to right, the king wearing a crown in the form of a winged eagle surmounted with a globe, with three rippling streamers flying out behind, wearing a chest halter over a belted tunic, and trousers with pleated edging, wearing a quiver at his right hip, decorated with a wavy palmette tendril and a rosette above, a beribboned sword hilt on his left, seated astride the horse with a dotted cross-hatched saddle blanket, a pair of incised balloons fly out behind, a rippling ribbon attached to its bridle with a ribbed globe above, wearing a harness ornamented with large bosses, its tail elaborately tied, the king drawing a bow, taking aim at a fleeing ostrich or great bustard in front, two shot birds below, one collapsed with an arrow through its turned neck, the other shot through its breast, the plate on a ring foot, the base with a dotted Pahlavi inscription mentioning the weight, and two monograms (23.3cm) diameter; 791.9g weight
Provenance:
Private collection, Switzerland, acquired between 2002-2005.
European private collection, UK and Switzerland, formed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Estimate: £150,000-250,000 ($250,000-420,000) This lot sold for £182,500 (US$ 304,056).

Lot 177. An Egyptian bronze Horus falcon sarcophagus  Late Period, circa 664-30 B.C. The falcon deity wearing the double crown, perched with closed wings crossing over the tail feathers, with finely incised details on the feathers and claws, standing with arched talons on a corniced hollow sarcophagus, 6¾in (17cm) high, 7in (18cm) long FOOTNOTES Provenance: French private collection, Normandy, acquired in the 1970s. Estimate: £12,000-15,000 ($20,000-25,000).

Lot 177. An Egyptian bronze Horus falcon sarcophagus, Late Period, circa 664-30 B.C.
The falcon deity wearing the double crown, perched with closed wings crossing over the tail feathers, with finely incised details on the feathers and claws, standing with arched talons on a corniced hollow sarcophagus, 6¾in (17cm) high, 7in (18cm) long
Provenance:
French private collection, Normandy, acquired in the 1970s.
Estimate: £12,000-15,000 ($20,000-25,000). This lot failed to sell.

Lot 19. A Greek red-figure hydria  Apulia, attributed to the Baltimore Painter, circa 320-310 B.C.  Decorated with added white, ochre and crimson slip, the upper frieze depicting a wedding scene, the bride seated on a chair beneath a parasol, unveiling herself to the groom standing in front, leaning on a basin, flanked by three attendants, the lower frieze with a naiskos flanked by female figures carrying caskets and situlae, 26¼in (66.7cm) high FOOTNOTES Provenance: T.L. Collection, Berne, Switzerland.  V.L. Collection, Nyon, Switzerland, acquired in the 1990s. Estimate: £20,000-30,000 ($33,000-50,000).

Lot 19. A Greek red-figure hydra, Apulia, attributed to the Baltimore Painter, circa 320-310 B.C.
Decorated with added white, ochre and crimson slip, the upper frieze depicting a wedding scene, the bride seated on a chair beneath a parasol, unveiling herself to the groom standing in front, leaning on a basin, flanked by three attendants, the lower frieze with a naiskos flanked by female figures carrying caskets and situlae, 26¼in (66.7cm) high
Provenance:
T.L. Collection, Berne, Switzerland.
V.L. Collection, Nyon, Switzerland, acquired in the 1990s.
Estimate: £20,000-30,000 ($33,000-50,000). This lot failed to sell.

 

Wadsworth Atheneum Acquires an Artemisia Gentileschi Self-Portrait

March 27, 2014
Lot 36. Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-1654 Naples)  Self-Portrait as a Lute Player  oil on canvas  30½ x 28¼ in. (77.5 x 71.8 cm.)  Estimate: $3-5 million.

Lot 36. Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-1654 Naples)
Self-Portrait as a Lute Player
oil on canvas
30½ x 28¼ in. (77.5 x 71.8 cm.)
Estimate: $3-5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $2.0 million and it failed to sell.

One of the star paintings at Christie’s Old Master sales in New York this past January was this Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait done when the artist was about 25. It carried an aggressive $3-5 million estimate and went unsold. Now, the New York Times reports, the painting, “from estate of Myron Kunin, a Minneapolis philanthropist, collector and founder of the hair salon chain Regis Corp., who died in November at the age of 85″  has been acquired by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT, joining a work by her father, Orazio, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (below).

The Wadsworth had not bid on the painting because the estimate was too high, according to the article:

“We didn’t bid on it at auction because it was well beyond our means,” said Susan L. Talbott, director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. But as frequently happens, when a painting doesn’t sell at auction, experts try to sell it privately at a lower price. Knowing the Wadsworth has one of the top collections of Baroque art in the country, Nicholas Hall, co-chairman of old master and 19th-century art at Christie’s, called that museum to see if it would be interested in buying the painting.

“We were bowled over by it,” Ms. Talbott said. “We have a great masterpiece by Artemisia’s father, Orazio Gentileschi, but none by her, so this was a real gap. And that it was a self-portrait also added to the importance of the story.”

While Ms. Talbott declined to say what the museum paid for the painting, she did hint that it was purchased for well under the estimate, bought with funds from a recent bequest from the Charles H. Schwartz Fund for European art.

“Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” will go on view as part of the reopening of the Wadsworth’s Morgan Memorial Building in 2015.

For some background on the painting, the Christie’s sale catalogue include the following:

Lost to notice until its discovery in a private European collection in 1998, this beautiful Self-Portrait as a Lute Player is by Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the leading painters of the Baroque age and among the boldest and most powerfully expressive woman painters in history. Born in Rome, Artemisia studied with her father, the prominent artist Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639), who introduced her to the dramatic realism of Caravaggio and the practice of painting from live models. In 1611, when she was 17, she was sexually assaulted by her father’s business associate and fellow artist Agostino Tassi, a crime against the family’s honor. When Tassi reneged on his promise to marry Artemisia, Orazio brought charges against him, and at the end of a protracted trial, Tassi was convicted and sentenced to a 5-year banishment from Rome. To minimize the scandal which the trial had engendered, Orazio arranged for Artemisia to marry the minor Florentine painter, Pierantonio Stiattesi, and at the end of 1612, the couple moved to Florence, where they would live until 1620.

 

Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, 1621-24, oil on canvas, 53 3/4 x 62 5/8 in., The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1949.52

Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, 1621-24, oil on canvas, 53 3/4 x 62 5/8 in., The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1949.52

Crimean Crisis Could Strand Hundreds of Ancient Gold Antiquities

March 27, 2014

tentoonstelling-krim_broche

The fate of hundreds of artifacts on loan from four Crimean museums currently on view at the Allard Pearson Museum in Amsterdam is up in the air following Russia’s recent annexation of the former Ukranian peninsula, according to Agence France-Presse.  The works were created between the 2nd century BC and the late medieval era.  “In the [loan] agreement it states that these items are part of the national state fund of Ukraine,” said Andrei Malgin, director of the Tavrida museum in Simferopol.

The article notes:

press-release-the-crimea-gold-and-secrets-of-the-black-seaNow curators in both Amsterdam and Crimea have been left wringing their hands over the political dilemma facing them: do the artefacts go to Kiev or Moscow once the exhibition ends?

[…]

The [Tavrida] museum is one of five from Ukraine taking part in the exhibit, four of which are situated in the now-Russian peninsula of Crimea.

The absorption — which is not recognised by Western states — has left the museum with a “very complex legal issue,” said Yasha Lange, spokeswoman for Amsterdam University which owns the museum.

“Who owns the objects?” Lange asked. “The art objects will remain in the Netherlands until the exhibition ends, but given the political changes, we’re now checking to whom we should give them.”

The Allard Pierson has now turned to the Dutch foreign ministry for advice, Lange said, adding the museum was in “constant contact” with Kiev and Moscow on the issue.

He highlighted that the museum “considers it extremely important to exercise care in this situation”.

The exhibits include a scabbard and a ceremonial Scythian helmet made from gold, as well as a lacquered box, originally from China, which in Roman times found its way to Crimea via the Silk Road.

According to the museum’s Web site: “Never before has Ukraine made so many prize archaeological exhibits available on loan: stunning artefacts made of gold, including a scabbard and a ceremonial helmet, and countless precious gems. These objects and other archaeological discoveries reveal the rich history of the peninsula colonised by the Greeks since the seventh century BC.”

The AFP article continues:

The ambiguity over the artefacts’ future worries Crimea’s museums, Malgin told AFP.

“I don’t see why political events should threaten these items,” he said in his office in central Simferopol.

“Probably there are people in Kiev who would be interested in these items not making it back to the Crimea,” but the museums will put maximum effort into getting them back, he said, adding that the Russian culture ministry had already been informed about the potential conflict.

Malgin said the Scythian brass and ceramic items on loan were the symbol of his museum.

tentoonstelling-krim_zwaard

“They are beautiful items that would be a great loss.”

Crimea was at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and the shores of the Black Sea peninsula have long been excavated by archeologists, yielding fantastic treasures.

“Never before has Ukraine made so many prize archaeological exhibits available on loan,” a press release for the exhibit said.

“The exhibition casts new light on the Scythians, Goths and Huns, for centuries dismissed as little more than ‘barbarians’.”

The exhibition ends in August.

Give it Back – UK Panel Says Tate Museum Must Return Constable Painting Stolen by Nazis

March 26, 2014
Beaching a Boat, Brighton 1824 John Constable 1776-1837  Oil paint on paper on canvas: 248 x 294 mm  Clink on image to enlarge

John Constable (1776-1837), “Beaching a Boat, Brighton” (1824)
Oil paint on paper on canvas: 248 x 294 mm
Clink on image to enlarge.

A UK panel has concluded a John Constable painting in the collection of the Tate Museum in London was stolen by the Nazis in 1944 and should be returned to the heirs of the owner from whom it was taken.  In a new report, the Spoliation Advisory Panel determined that the claim by heirs of the Hatvany family “was sufficiently strong to warrant a return of the painting by the Tate in accordance with the provisions of the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009.

“The Panel concluded that it is likely that the Painting was in the ownership of a Hungarian art collector in 1944 at the time when the Germans invaded Hungary and that it was taken in the course of antisemitic persecution of the collector and his family by the German occupying forces.”

According to the Tate’s Web site, the painting, which is not currently on view, was given to the museum by Mrs. P.M. Rainsford in 1986.

According to the report:

The task of the Panel is to consider claims from anyone, or from their heirs, who lost possession of a cultural object during the Nazi era (1933-1945) where such an object is now in the possession of a UK national collection, or in the possession of another UK museum or gallery established for the public benefit; and to advise the claimant, the institution, and, where it considers it appropriate, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on what action should be taken in relation to the claim (see the Panel’s Constitution and Terms of Reference in the Appendix). If the Panel recommends the transfer of an object from a collection belonging to one of the bodies named in Section 1 of The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009 to the claimant and the Secretary of State approves the Panel’s recommendation, the Museum is empowered to return the objects in question to the claimant. Section 1 of the Act applies to the Board of Trustees of the Tate.

Newly Discovered Pieter Brueghel the Younger “Census at Bethlehem” in Paris Auction, March 2014

March 25, 2014
Pieter BRUEGHEL II (Anvers 1564-1637/38) et Joos de MOMPER II (Anvers 1564-1635) Le dénombrement de Bethléem Panneau parqueté 88,5 x 121,5 cm Estimate: €500,000-600,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Pieter BRUEGHEL II (Anvers 1564-1637/38)
et Joos de MOMPER II (Anvers 1564-1635)
Le dénombrement de Bethléem
Panneau parqueté
88,5 x 121,5 cm
Estimate: €500,000-600,000. This lot sold for €595,740.
Click on image to enlarge.

UPDATED with sale results.

A newly rediscovered Census at Bethlehem by Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Joos de Momper II is the prize lot of Piasa’s upcoming sale of Old Master Drawings and Paintings in Paris on March 31, 2014.  As with so many of Pieter the Younger’s work, this picture is based on the 1566 original by his father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which is in the Musées Royaux Des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium. The scene is taken from the Bible:

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered … So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. — Luke 2:1-5

 Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1566 THe Census at Bethlehem Oil on panel: 116 cm × 164.5 cm (46 in × 64.8 in) Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels Click on image to enlarge.


Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1566
The Census at Bethlehem
Oil on panel: 116 cm × 164.5 cm (46 in × 64.8 in)
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels
Click on image to enlarge.

Slightly more than a dozen versions of this painting exist – another was discovered in Africa last year and had been part of the same private English collection since the descendants bought it from Brueghel’s studio in 1611.  That picture, which compositionally is much more faithful to Elder’s original, was discovered by the London-based Old Master painting dealer Johnny van Haeften and was featured at Frieze Masters in October 2013 with an asking price of £6 million, according to the Financial Times (illustrated below). The work did sell. The work at Piasa is estimated at  €500,000-600,000.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger The Census at Bethlehem. Featured at Johnny van Haeften's Frieze Masters Booth, London, October 2013. Asking price £6 million.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, 1611
The Census at Bethlehem.
Featured at Johnny van Haeften’s Frieze Masters Booth, London, October 2013.
Asking price £6 million.

The Piasa version is more closely focused on the gathering in front of the inn and the Holy Family. The ancillary figures along the right hand side and all the immediately adjacent additional buildings and nearly all of the additional figures are absent. There is only a cityscape in the background. According to the catalogue entry, Brueghel scholar Dr. Klaus Ertz has confirmed the attribution and in a certificate of authenticity dated December 4, 2013 says that Brueghel is responsible for the “animated scene” in the foreground, while Joos de Momper II is responsible for the background.  Moreover, he dates the work to 1610-1620, which makes it a later version. 

In the November 2008 Harper’s article Auden’s Musée des Beaux Artsauthor Scott Horton wrote:

But is this painting really a religious work? Other artists portraying the dangerous trip by Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for the census show the nativity itself, focusing on the adoration of the Christ child or the wondrous visit of the Magi. One could almost overlook that aspect of the painting. Indeed, it is not of the Holy Land, but of a village in Flanders, filled with the life and scenes that Brueghel knew so well. Children play on a frozen stream. A butcher prepared to slaughter a hog, furnishing the meat that the census-taker will offer to those who subscribe. And in the single scene that most commands the viewer’s attention, a crowd gathers at the census-taker’s house, pressing to declare themselves, to pay their taxes, to claim their share of the feast which is offered to those who have traveled far to fulfill a social duty. That house bears an official seal near its door: the double-headed eagle in black on an golden field, the insignia of the Hapsburg Empire. In Brueghel’s day Flemish attitudes towards the Hapsburgs were frankly hostile—they were associated with relentless war-making and heavy taxation. So is Brueghel’s message political, and not religious? Or could it not be both at the same time?

Lot 149. Detail of the scene at the inn.

Lot 149. Detail of the scene at the inn.

Horton’s article continues:

But there in the center of the painting is Mary, and a short distance ahead of her, Joseph. The villagers are, all of them, busy about their affairs. None seems to stop to notice the arrival of the Holy Family; their focus is elsewhere. Auden writes “passionately waiting/For the miraculous birth,” but I think he misdescribes the painting on this point. Brueghel is driven by irony. In fact they are consumed by their quotidian lives, they anticipate nothing. A miracle is being played before them, and they don’t stop to notice it. But this is the special genius of Brueghel—he casts a sharp eye on the life of a village. He misses nothing. And in everything he sees the misery and harshness of human existence, but also the potential for something better. His images are remarkably precise, they are unforgiving, they seem quickly executed. But there is always something of the spirit of the moment and of the person captured in them.

Lot 140. Detail of the Holy Family.

Lot 140. Detail of the Holy Family.

Can we really say that about the carefully staged graciousness of the Renaissance masters of Italy? Brueghel disregards the rules of form that the church would have him obey: the religious images should be central, and all attention should be dedicated to them. The divine status of the Virgin Mary should be signaled. But for Brueghel, the Holy Family is marked by its normalcy; they are a part of the village scene. The activities of the village swirl about them, not sensitive to the miracle about to unfold. This is Brueghel’s inner message–that we rush through our lives, attached to our needful things, accomplishing the roadmarkers of our careers, unconscious of the miracles of life that unfold about us. “The Census at Bethlehem” is a masterwork because of this message, quite apart from the technical skill and vision of its physical execution.

Kunsthaus Zurich Acquires Giovanni Lanfranco’s “Rinaldo’s Farewell to Armida” at TEFAF

March 25, 2014
Giovanni Lanfranco (Parma 1582 - Rome 1647) Rinaldo's Farewell to Armida Oil on Canvas, 43 x 70 In.  Signed and dated on the hull of the ship: «IOA.S LANFRANCUS PARM/1614»  Click on image to enlarge.

Giovanni Lanfranco
(Parma 1582 – Rome 1647)
Rinaldo’s Farewell to Armida
Oil on Canvas, 43 x 70 In.
Signed and dated on the hull of the ship: «IOA.S LANFRANCUS PARM/1614»
Click on image to enlarge.

At the recently concluded TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Paris-based Galerie Canesso sold Rinaldo’s Farewell to Armida by Giovanni Lanfranco to the Kunsthaus Zurich, according to the Art Tribune.  The work has been on the market for a couple of years and was seen at Didier Aaron in New York in May 2012.

According to Canesso:

The painting illustrates an episode from canto XVI (stanzas 60-63) of [Torquato] Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. The artist’s focus is on the defining moment of pathos as Rinaldo takes his final leave of Armida, with the hero caught between guilt for abandoning the unconscious Armida and the pressing need to follow his destiny, placed in the hands of Fortune, who is depicted holding the tiller. Lanfranco has imagined the scene described in stanza 62: “What should he do? Leave on the naked sand / This woful lady, half alive, half dead? / Kindness forbade, pity did that withstand; / But hard constraint, alas! Did thence him lead. / Away he went, the west wind blew from land / ‘Mongst the rich tresses of their pilot’s head’” (Fair-fax translation, 1600). The narrative spreads across the foreground like a frieze, while the background is filled entirely by a landscape that also faithfully reflects the description by Tasso. Armida’s palace, “proudly built [...] on top of yonder mountain’s height” (XV, st. 44), is further described in the next canto as “builded rich and round” (XVI, st. 1). Mellini has identified the ancient édifice that inspired this depiction as the Theatrum Marcelli reproduced in Bartolomeo Marliani’s Urbis Romae Topographia.

The artist depicts the two messengers Carlo and Ubaldo, whom the Christians have sent to Rinaldo to recall him to martial duty. Having arrived by sea, they ready themselves to set sail again, accompanied by the champion “of Christ’s true faith” (xv, st. 44) and thus return victorious in their mission. Several pentimenti in this figure group are visible to the naked eye, which are confirmed by X-radiography. The placement of the two warriors originally had two alternatives: another head can be perceived behind and above the head of the messenger with a shield, and the silhouette of another figure is clearly visible between Rinaldo and the seated warrior – perhaps that of Rinaldo himself – which the artist subsequently moved to the left – or perhaps the right – and then shifted forward. A few revised details, such as the thumb of Rinaldo’s right hand or the left knee of the seated messenger, display occasional tentative moments during the execution of the painting. Lanfranco constructs the narrative with painstaking detail, and the immense landscape, empty and desolate, bristling with menacing peaks, lends even greater poignancy to the abandoned Armida, seemingly shipwrecked in the foreground. Only the warm tones of the drapery sing out here, run through with shot silk effects and animated by the marine breeze. X-radiography shows that the figure of Armida was painted without any revision, since not one pentimento betrays the slightest hesitation of the painter’s hand.
The canvas was painted with a light touch and its surface occasionally reveals the brown preparation, especially in the area around the rocks. Elsewhere, numerous passages of the artist’s own overpainting are visible, allowing us to assess the relatively thin paint layer. Examples of this include the light strip of earth in the foreground that covers a little of Armida’s yellow drapery, Rinaldo’s hand over the shield, and the mast and sail painted over the intense blue of the sea and sky.

Qatar provides $135 Million for Sudanese Archaeological Heritage

March 23, 2014

SUDAN

The Gulf state of Qatar is providing $135 million in funding for Sudan’s archaeological heritage, according to a report from Agence France-Presse. According to the article:

The money will support 29 projects including the rehabilitation of ancient relics, construction of museums and study of the Meroitic language, said Salahaddin Mohammed Ahmed, the project coordinator.

He said the funds will support archaeological work by several Western nations as well as Sudan over five years.

“This is the biggest amount of money for Sudanese antiquities in their entire history,” Abdurrahman Ali, head of the country’s museums, told reporters, adding that the project will lay the foundation for “archaeological tourism”.

Sudan’s remote and relatively undiscovered pyramids, north of Khartoum, contrast with their grander and better-known cousins in Egypt, which occupied northern Sudan for about 500 years until roughly 1,000 BC.

Two Sudanese sites are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

These are Gebel Barkal and surrounding tombs, temples and other relics from the Napatan and Meroitic periods that followed Egyptian rule.

Also listed are the pyramids of Meroe and nearby sites including Naqa and Musawwarat es Sufra.

The first archaeological digs in Sudan took place only about 100 years ago, much later than in Egypt or Greece.

French, Polish, German and other foreign teams are working on various sites in northern Sudan and will benefit from the Qatari funding.

Claude Rilly, director of the French archaeological mission in Sedeinga, says sponsors are hard to come by in his profession.

Qatar’s funds “will give a new start, I hope, to archaeology” in Sudan.

The money will be used to help protect the sites, develop small local museums and tourism booklets, restore the National Museum in Khartoum, and build two presentation and conference centres at the UNESCO sites, he told AFP.

Some of the funds will also help to excavate and restore the monuments themselves, including at Sedeinga where the French team is digging about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the Egyptian border.

Rilly said work has begun with Qatar’s assistance to reinforce the sandstone blocks of a temple there.

Tourists at the Sudanese pyramids and other relics often have the attractions to themselves, though the few visitors have still managed to leave litter behind.

The stonework of some monuments has collapsed, they are poorly guarded and there are no explanatory signs.

Another Provenance-challenged Pre-Columbian Art auction in Paris, March 2014

March 22, 2014
Lot 24. Important Sitting Person Culture Jama - Coaque, Manabí, Ecuador 500 BC to AD 500 H. 40,5 cm - L. 23 cm Estimate: €20,000-30,000. Provenance - Private French Collection

Lot 24. Important Sitting Person
Culture Jama – Coaque, Manabí, Ecuador
500 BC to AD 500
H. 40,5 cm – L. 23 cm
Estimate: €20,000-30,000. This lot failed to sell.
Provenance – Private French Collection

UPDATE: Results of the sale have been posted, and 68 of the 158 lots sold – 90 lots bought in. Not exactly a sustainable business model.

The 158-lot Pre-Columbian art auction by Binoche et Giquello at Drouot in Paris on March 28, 2014, is stocked largely with artifacts that lack a published pre-1970 provenance, and more than 50% of the work in this sale has no published provenance at all (download the catalogue and see for yourself). The “pre-1970″ refers to the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As the New York Times 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.”’ 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 to return looted antiquities to their host countries.” It’s a standard I believe should apply to private collectors as well as museums and other institutions.

Of the 158 lots, 86 have no published provenance, an additional 54 do not have a published pre-1970 provenance (such as Lot 24 above), 13 do have a published pre-1970 provenance, and five more are unclear.  Here are a few more works without published pre-1970 provenance.

Lot 111. Anthropomorphic Figure. Culture Veracruz, Remojadas style, Mexico  Classic, 450-650 AD H. 50 cm - L. 24 cm Estimate: €12,000-14,000. Provenance: Galerie Mermoz, Paris, 1982.

Lot 111. Anthropomorphic Figure.
Culture Veracruz, Remojadas style, Mexico
Classic, 450-650 AD
H. 50 cm – L. 24 cm
Estimate: €12,000-14,000. This lot failed to sell.
Provenance: Galerie Mermoz, Paris, 1982.

Lot 112. Yoke/collar Culture Veracruz, Gulf Coast, Mexico  Classic, 450-650 AD H. 12 cm - L. 32,5 cm Estimate: €35,000-40,000. Provenance: None published.

Lot 112. Yoke/collar
Culture Veracruz, Gulf Coast, Mexico
Classic, 450-650 AD
H. 12 cm – L. 32,5 cm
Estimate: €35,000-40,000. This lot failed to sell.
Provenance: None published.

Lot 121. STATUE OF TYPE "SMILEY"  Culture Veracruz, Mexico  Classic, 450-650 AD H. 40 cm - L. 25,5 cm Estimate: 8,000-10,000. Provenance: French Private Collection.

Lot 121. STATUE OF TYPE “SMILEY”
Culture Veracruz, Mexico
Classic, 450-650 AD
H. 40 cm – L. 25,5 cm
Estimate: 8,000-10,000. This lot failed to sell.
Provenance: French Private Collection.

Brueghel, Natoire, and Hallé works featured at Artcurial Auction in Paris March 2014

March 22, 2014
Lot 86. Carlos Schwabe Altona-Hambourg, 1866 - Avon, 1926  La Vague  Mine de plomb  Monogrammé en bas à droite  'THE WAVE', PENCIL, MONOGRAMMED, BY C. SCHWABE  h: 29 w: 21 cm  Estimate: €6,000-8,000.

Lot 86. Carlos Schwabe Altona-Hambourg, 1866 – Avon, 1926
La Vague
Mine de plomb
Monogrammé en bas à droite
‘THE WAVE’, PENCIL, MONOGRAMMED, BY C. SCHWABE
h: 29 w: 21 cm
Estimate: €6,000-8,000. This lot sold for €20,800.

UPDATED with sale results.

Tajan’s March 26, 2014 sale of Old Master & 19th Century Paintings & Drawings contains a number of works amid the 157-lot sale worth pondering. Among the more entertaining is The Wave, a work on paper by the German Symbolist artist Carlos Schwabe, whose style suggests Gustav Doré meets Edvard Munch. According to the lot notes, this image was used to illustrate The Words of a Believer by the upstart French priest Félicité de Lamennais (1782-1854). According to Answers.com, in the work Lamennais “denounced all authority, civil as well as ecclesiastical. In the next decade his thinking moved further and further to the left. He believed in the moral superiority of the working class and foresaw a time when governments would be overthrown and the workers would rule. During his last years he spent time in prison and was also elected to the Chamber of Deputies. After his death in Paris on Feb. 27, 1854, Lamennais was buried without funeral rites, mourned by thousands of intellectual and political sympathizers around the world.” As the lot notes indicate, “Stormy waters are the metaphor of angry people described in this Catholic social manifesto.”

Lot 41. Charles-Joseph Natoire Nîmes, 1700 - Castel Gandolfo, 1777  L'arrivée de Cléopâtre à Tarse  Aquarelle gouachée sur trait de crayon  Signée et datée 'C.H NATOIRE / 1774' en bas à droite  (Restaurations, traces d'humidité en partie supérieure)  'CLEOPATRA ARRIVING IN TARSUS', WATERCOLOUR AND GOUACHE, SIGNED AND DATED, BY C.-J. NATOIRE  h: 37 w: 64,50 cm  Estimate: €60,000-80,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 41. Charles-Joseph Natoire Nîmes, 1700 – Castel Gandolfo, 1777
L’arrivée de Cléopâtre à Tarse
Aquarelle gouachée sur trait de crayon
Signée et datée ‘C.H NATOIRE / 1774′ en bas à droite
(Restaurations, traces d’humidité en partie supérieure)
‘CLEOPATRA ARRIVING IN TARSUS’, WATERCOLOUR AND GOUACHE, SIGNED AND DATED, BY C.-J. NATOIRE
h: 37 w: 64,50 cm
Estimate: €60,000-80,000. This lot sold for €144,400.
Click on image to enlarge.

This watercolor of 1774 is an autograph copy of the artist’s original tapestry cartoon of 1756, itself one of seven scenes from the life of Marc Antony created between 1740 and 1757 that would be rendered as Gobelin tapestries.  If the Google translation of the lot notes is correct, only three of the tapestries were realized.  The scene, which follows Caesar’s assassination, depicts the meeting of Cleopatra and Marc Antony in 41 BC. The imagery is based on a 1559 translation of Plutarch; according to the catalogue:

The text provides many details on the wealth of the … Queen of Egypt['s ship] “whose stern was gold, the sails of purple, silver oars” and the splendor of his suite, consisting of “small children dressed more or less as painters are wont to portray the Amours “and” women and ladies similarly the most beautiful …dressed as nymphs Nereids, which are the fairy waters, and as the Graces , some resting on the pole, the other on the cables and ropes of the boat, which he left wonderfully soft and sweet smells of perfume …

Lot 42. Noël Hallé Paris, 1711 - 1781  Scilurus, roi des Scythes, faisant rassembler ses enfants  Crayon noir, sanguine et rehauts de blancs  'SCILURUS', BLACK AND RED CHALK, WHITE HIGHLIGHTS, BY N. HALLE  h: 87 w: 57 cm. Estimate: €30,000-40,000.

Lot 42. Noël Hallé Paris, 1711 – 1781
Scilurus, roi des Scythes, faisant rassembler ses enfants
Crayon noir, sanguine et rehauts de blancs
‘SCILURUS’, BLACK AND RED CHALK, WHITE HIGHLIGHTS, BY N. HALLE
h: 87 w: 57 cm.
Estimate: €30,000-40,000. This lot sold for €107,200.

This highly finished work has an equally interesting story.  First, there is the stated provenance: “Mentioned in the will of the artist and bequeathed to his wife: “Madame Hallé … the grand design of the Scythians from the table made ​​for the King of Poland” … Thence by descent.”  Second, the drawing is based on a suite of four paintings created for Stanisław August Poniatowski, King of Poland from 1764 to 1795, which depict good governance.  They are still preserved in the Royal Castle in Warsaw. According to the lot notes: 

The monarch had a very clear idea of the iconographic program he wanted and gave his instructions. Painters mission was to illustrate the essential to good government moral virtues: Magnanimity, Concorde [Agreement/Harmony], Emulation and Justice. After the death of Carle Van Loo in 1765 and the defection of François Boucher, the achievement of these four large paintings … was entrusted to Louis Lagrenée (The head of Pompey delivered to Caesar), Joseph-Marie Vien (Caesar at the foot of the statue of Alexander and The Continence of Scipio), and Noël Hallé (Scilurus, king of the Scythians). Our artist in charge of the allegory of the Concorde, represented a rare episode in the life of Scilurus king of the Scythians.

The supposed tomb of Scilurus in Scythian Neapolis.

The supposed tomb of Scilurus in Scythian Neapolis.

From Wikipedia, Scilurus “was the best known king of Scythia in the 2nd century BC. He was the son of a king and the father of a king, but the relation of his dynasty to the previous one is disputed. His realm included the lower reaches of the Borysthenes and Hypanis, as well as the northern part of Crimea, where his capital, Scythian Neapolis, was situated.”

This specific scene in Scilurus’ life is drawn from Plutarch’s Sayings of Kings and Commanders: “Scilurus on his death-bed, being about to leave eighty sons surviving, offered a bundle of darts to each of them, and bade them break them. When all refused, drawing out one by one, he easily broke them; thus teaching them that, if they held together, they would continue strong, but if they fell out and were divided, they would become weak.”

Lot 42. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 42. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 103. Pays-Bas, début du XVIe siècle  Le Christ et les apôtres dans la tempête  Huile sur panneau de chêne, une planche  'CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES IN THE STORM', OIL ON PANEL, NETHERLANDS, BEGINNING OF THE 16TH CENTURY  h: 24,50 w: 36 cm  Estimate: €20,000-30,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 103. Pays-Bas, début du XVIe siècle
Le Christ et les apôtres dans la tempête
Huile sur panneau de chêne, une planche
‘CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES IN THE STORM’, OIL ON PANEL, NETHERLANDS, BEGINNING OF THE 16TH CENTURY
h: 24,50 w: 36 cm
Estimate: €20,000-30,000. This lot sold for €45,200.
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 105. Le Maître de 1518 Actif à Anvers au XVIe siècle  L'Adoration des Mages, entre La Nativité et La Présentation au temple  Trois huiles sur panneaux de forme chantournée formant triptyque  Panneau central : 101 x 70 cm (39,80 x 27,60 in.)  Volets latéraux : 101 x 35 cm (39,80 x 13,80 in.)  Dimensions totales du triptyque ouvert : 101 x 139,50 cm  (39,80 x 54,90 in.)  'THE NATIVITY', 'THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI' AND 'THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE', OIL ON PANEL, A TRIPTYCH, BY THE MASTER OF 1518  Estimate: €60,000-80,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 105. Le Maître de 1518 Actif à Anvers au XVIe siècle
L’Adoration des Mages, entre La Nativité et La Présentation au temple
Trois huiles sur panneaux de forme chantournée formant triptyque
Panneau central : 101 x 70 cm (39,80 x 27,60 in.)
Volets latéraux : 101 x 35 cm (39,80 x 13,80 in.)
Dimensions totales du triptyque ouvert : 101 x 139,50 cm
(39,80 x 54,90 in.)
‘THE NATIVITY’, ‘THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI’ AND ‘THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE’, OIL ON PANEL, A TRIPTYCH, BY THE MASTER OF 1518
Estimate: €60,000-80,000. This lot sold for €82,400.
Click on image to enlarge.

The Antwerp Mannerists of the first part of the 16th century, which includes the Master of 1518, produced congested images within daffy architectural settings – they never fail to entertain. According to the lot notes, Max J. Friedländer was the first to identify the artist and his moniker is based on a Life of the Virgin in the church of St. Mary in Lübeck and dated 1518. There are currently seem 40 works attributed to the artist.

Lot 106. Pieter Brueghel le Jeune Bruxelles, vers 1564 - Anvers, vers 1637/38  La danse de noces en plein air  Huile sur panneau, deux planches, parqueté  Signé et daté 'BREVGHEL. 1624.' en bas à gauche  (Fente horizontale en partie supérieure, signature partiellement effacée)  'THE WEDDING DANCE', OIL ON PANEL, CRADLED, SIGNED AND DATED, BY P. BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER  h: 37,50 w: 52 cm  Estimate: €800,000-1,200,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 106. Pieter Brueghel le Jeune Bruxelles, vers 1564 – Anvers, vers 1637/38
La danse de noces en plein air
Huile sur panneau, deux planches, parqueté
Signé et daté ‘BREVGHEL. 1624.’ en bas à gauche
(Fente horizontale en partie supérieure, signature partiellement effacée)
‘THE WEDDING DANCE’, OIL ON PANEL, CRADLED, SIGNED AND DATED, BY P. BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER
h: 37,50 w: 52 cm
Estimate: €800,000-1,200,000. This lot sold for €1,661,400.
Click on image to enlarge.

It almost goes without saying that no Old Master sale is complete without a Brueghel or two.  According to the provenance, this has been in the same family collection since the early 20th century, implying that it’s fresh to the market. This work by Pieter Brueghel the Younger is presumably based on a similar work by his father in the Detroit Museum of Art.  Pieter the Younger made a career out reproducing compositions his father created.  This work from 1624 is one of more than 30 versions produced between 1607 and 1626. In an entertaining bit of French snark, the lot notes bemoan the “cruel news about the potential sale of some masterpieces” from the museum, so satisfy Detroit’s debt, including the Elder’s Wedding Dance, valued at $100-200 million. Mon dieu.

Lot 109. Jan Brueghel l'Ancien Bruxelles, 1568 - Anvers, 1625  Scènes de la vie de la Vierge et du Christ  Seize gouaches et or sur vélin (réparties en quatre montages)  - Joachim chassé du temple  - La Rencontre d'Anne et Joachim à la Porte dorée  - La Naissance de la Vierge  - La Présentation de la Vierge au temple  - Le Mariage de la Vierge  - Le Massacre des Innocents  - L'Enfance du Christ  - La Circoncision  - Le Christ parmi les docteurs  - Le Lavement des pieds  - Le Christ au Mont des Oliviers  - L'Arrestation du Christ  - Le Christ recollant l'oreille de Malchus  - La Flagellation du Christ  - L'Ascension  - L'Assomption  Sans cadres  'SCENES OF THE LIFE OF THE VIRGIN AND THE PASSION OF CHRIST', SIXTEEN GOUACHES ON VELLUM, BY J. BRUEGHEL THE ELDER  h: 7,50 w: 4,70 cm Estimate: €400,000-600,000.

Lot 109. Jan Brueghel l’Ancien Bruxelles, 1568 – Anvers, 1625
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge et du Christ
Seize gouaches et or sur vélin (réparties en quatre montages)
- Joachim chassé du temple
- La Rencontre d’Anne et Joachim à la Porte dorée
- La Naissance de la Vierge
- La Présentation de la Vierge au temple
- Le Mariage de la Vierge
- Le Massacre des Innocents
- L’Enfance du Christ
- La Circoncision
- Le Christ parmi les docteurs
- Le Lavement des pieds
- Le Christ au Mont des Oliviers
- L’Arrestation du Christ
- Le Christ recollant l’oreille de Malchus
- La Flagellation du Christ
- L’Ascension
- L’Assomption
Sans cadres
‘SCENES OF THE LIFE OF THE VIRGIN AND THE PASSION OF CHRIST’, SIXTEEN GOUACHES ON VELLUM, BY J. BRUEGHEL THE ELDER
h: 7,50 w: 4,70 cm
Estimate: €400,000-600,000. This lot failed to sell.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s brother, Jan the Elder (also know as the Velvet Brueghel), is the author of this remarkable set of miniature gouaches.  According to the lot notes, Jan the Elder was “famous both for his religious and mythological painting[s,] … his landscapes, still lifes and genre scenes. Although well documented, one aspect of [his] production, however, is too little mentioned … his work as a miniaturist.”  It continues: “Originally, our sixteen scenes from the life of the Virgin and Christ were probably part of a Book of Hours lavishly illuminated manuscript of great value …” The works date to Jan’s stay in Italy from 1590-1596.

Lot 109. Showing all sixteen works.

Lot 109. Showing all sixteen works.

Lot 112. J. Boets Actif en Flandres, avant 1635 - après 1660  Allégorie de la Vue et de l'Odorat  Huile sur toile  Signée et datée 'J. BOETS fecit / 1660' en bas au milieu (signature reprise)  'ALLEGORY OF THE SENSES OF VIEW AND SMELL', OIL ON CANVAS, SIGNED AND DATED, BY J. BOETS  h: 135 w: 200 cm Estimate: €150,000-200,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 112. J. Boets Actif en Flandres, avant 1635 – après 1660
Allégorie de la Vue et de l’Odorat
Huile sur toile
Signée et datée ‘J. BOETS fecit / 1660′ en bas au milieu (signature reprise)
‘ALLEGORY OF THE SENSES OF VIEW AND SMELL’, OIL ON CANVAS, SIGNED AND DATED, BY J. BOETS
h: 135 w: 200 cm
Estimate: €150,000-200,000. This lot sold for €559,800.
Click on image to enlarge.

The genre of the collector’s cabinet painting, with intent and studious figures surrounded by paintings, drawings, sculpture, scientific objects and other ephemera, probably started with Frans Francken II, according to the lot notes.  It certainly became a popular reflection and representation of Netherlandish prosperity.   There are two variants, one shows the wealthy and preening well-dressed collector amidst his prized possessions, frequently showing them off to others. The second, developed by Peter Paul Reubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder, artists who periodically worked together, are allegories of the senses, from which this present composition is derived.  Part of the enjoyment these works provide is identifying the paintings depicted. Fortunately, the cataloguers took care of that, see below.

Lot 112. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 112. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 112. Decoded. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 112. Decoded. Click on image to enlarge.

Identifications and proposed identifications for some of the works:

1 . Frans Francken II (?) The Meal at Simon
2 . Peter Paul Rubens Satyrs and Leopards (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)
3 . Peter Paul Rubens  Drunken Silenus (Moscow, Pushkin Museum)
4 . Peter Paul Rubens Hunting Tigers (Rennes, Musée des Beaux- Arts)
5 . Giambologna Hercules and the Centaur
6 . According to the Antique The Laocoon
7 . Peter Paul Rubens The Judgment of Paris (Vienna, Dorotheum, April 16, 2008 , No. 302)
8 . Lambert van Noort (?) The Healing of the Blind
9 . Joos de Momper Animated characters Rocky Landscape
10 . Andries von Eertvelt (?) Marine
11 . Frans Francken II (?) Croesus showing Solon his Treasures
12 . Hendrick van Balen The Adoration of the Shepherds
13 . Peter Paul Rubens Portrait of Charles the Bold (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum)
14 . Pieter Brueghel the Elder The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist
15 . Sebastian Vrancx Scene looting
16 . Gaspar de Grayer Portraits of the Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella (Althorp, Spencer collection and Chrysler Museum Collection, Norfolk, VA)
17 . Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder ( ?) Virgin and Child in a Garland of Flowers
18 . Hieronymus Bosch (?) The Temptation of St. Antony

$15 Million Pollock Featured Christie’s May 2104 Post-War and Contemporary Art sale

March 21, 2014

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) Number 5 (Elegant Lady), 1951 Estimate: US$ 15-20 Million. © 2014 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Number 5 (Elegant Lady), 1951
Estimate: US$ 15-20 Million.
© 2014 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

It’s time to start chumming the waters for the mega-million dollar evening sales of Post-War and Contemporary art this coming May in New York.  Christie’s has just announced they’ll be offering a 1951 Jackson Pollock painting from the collection of E.ON, the German power and gas company.  Number 5 (Elegant Lady) is estimated to bring $15-20 million, which a Christie’s press release states, E.ON plans to use “to continue their art and culture activities as well as their commitment to Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf.”

Additionally from the release:

―The sale of Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) offers the rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a late Jackson Pollock masterpiece with exceptional provenance. This work has been owned by two legendary dealers from both sides of the Atlantic – the celebrated New York dealer Martha Jackson and one of the most powerful gallerists of Post-War Germany Alfred Schmela. It‘s an honor for Christie‘s to support E.ON to continue pursuing its outstanding dedication to the arts by facilitating this sale‖, commented Robert Manley, International Director Post-War and Contemporary Art New York and Herrad Schorn, Director Post-War and Contemporary Art Düsseldorf. 

―We do not part with Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) easily, but this sale will allow us to secure E.ON‘s engagement with art and culture for years to come‖ explained Dr. Johannes Teyssen, CEO E.ON SE and Dorothee Gräfin von Posadowsky-Wehner, Head of Arts & Culture E.ON SE.

Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) found its way into the E.ON art collection in 1980. The corporation known then as VEBA acquired the painting on the advice of the legendary art dealer Alfred Schmela (1918-1980). For the next twenty years, the painting hung in VEBA‘s headquarters in Düsseldorf. In 2001, after VEBA merged with VIAG to become E.ON, the company moved into its new headquarters in Düsseldorf, neighboring the Museum Kunstpalast. To share the work with the wider public, Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) was exhibited in the museum from then on. At Museum Kunstpalast Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) was part of the widely acknowledged exhibition Le grand geste! (April – August 2010), which traced the development of Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism. Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) was also shown in the equally bespoke exhibition Jorn & Pollock: Revolutionary Roads (November 2013 – February 2014) at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk north of Copenhagen.

The outstanding exhibition history of Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) spans back to 1956, when the legendary New York art dealer Martha Jackson (1907-1969) presented it in the opening show of her new space at 32 East 69th Street. In 1954, Martha Jackson had traded this work with Pollock — along with another painting from the same period (Number 23, 1951/Frogman currently in the collection of the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia) – for her green 1950s Oldsmobile. A move which would have tragic circumstances two years later when Pollock crashed this car into a tree near his home on Long Island killing himself and Edith Metzger. As was the practice at the time Pollock only titled his work with a number and the verbal titles of these two pieces were assigned by Martha Jackson herself. It is not difficult to see how she come up with this particular moniker as the curvaceous line that spills down the right hand portion of the canvas recalls the seductive outline of a female figure along with the sultry form of two eyes suggested by the bold form that emerges in the upper left corner. Both paintings, Elegant Lady and Frogman are from Pollock‘s celebrated series of black enamel paintings, which he started in late 1950s and of which examples can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London as well as the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. 1951 marks the most productive and significant moment in Pollock‘s career as a draughtsman and the black enamel paintings articulate a new and more sophisticated approach to his famed dripped technique.

In the months prior to 1951, Pollock began to work on a series of drawings using black enamel dripped directly onto his chosen support. In a letter to his friend and mentor Alfonso Ossorio in January 1951, Pollock announced, ―I‘ve had a period of drawing on canvas in black — with some of my early images coming thru — think the non-objectivists will find them disturbing — and the kids who think it‘s simple to splash a Pollock out‖. Following his radical intervention into the artistic canon with his iconic ‗drip‘ paintings, this return to his earlier interest in automatic drawing provided the artist with a new approach to the drip. In works such as Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951), Pollock reduced its means to the bare minimum: colors are expelled in favor of black, and lines are used sparsely. Although not properly figurative, these paintings began to move away from the abstract, atmospheric feeling of the drip paintings, in which lines, colors and space fuse into wholeness. As Kirk Varnedoe suggests, Pollock disliked being thought of as a ‗known quantity‘ and with these new works he relished the opportunity to surprise people again by revisiting some long abandoned habits of the hand.

Following its exhibition debut at Martha Jackson Gallery in 1956 Number 5 (Elegant Lady, 1951) was included in a number of early museum exhibitions for the artist, including the influential New Images of Man show curated by Peter Selz at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959. The exhibition included works by artists such as Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti and Willem de Kooning. In his essay for the exhibition catalogue, Frank O‘Hara extolled the virtues of Pollock‘s work, particularly its originality and richness: ―One of the dramas of these paintings is the intolerable conflict between an artistic intent of unerring articulateness and a medium which is seeking to devour its meaning. In the traditional sense, there is no surface, as there is no color. There is simply the hand of the artist, in mid-air, awaiting the confirmation of form.

Sublime and Beautiful – and Questionable Provenance – Christie’s Asian Art Sale in NY March 2014

March 20, 2014
Lot 1600. AN IMPORTANT AND IMPRESSIVE GREY SCHIST FIGURE OF A BODHISATTVA  GANDHARA, 2ND/3RD CENTURY  The bodhisattva is standing in a relaxed pose, with his weight resting on his right leg and his left slightly bent. He is clad in a dhoti tied at the waist and a sanghati with cascading folds of drapery. The bodhisattva is adorned with a close-fitting torque and braided necklace with a crescent-shaped amulet. His handsome face is very finely carved with a bow-shaped mouth, aquiline nose and almond-shaped eyes, the forehead centered by a raised urna. The hair is arranged in thick, wavy locks and tied over the ushnisha. 38¼ in. (97 cm.) high  Estimate: $600,000-800,000 Provenance Private collection, Japan, by 1985. Private collection, New York, acquired at Christie's New York, 17 October 2001, lot 4.

Lot 1600. AN IMPORTANT AND IMPRESSIVE GREY SCHIST FIGURE OF A BODHISATTVA
GANDHARA, 2ND/3RD CENTURY
The bodhisattva is standing in a relaxed pose, with his weight resting on his right leg and his left slightly bent. He is clad in a dhoti tied at the waist and a sanghati with cascading folds of drapery. The bodhisattva is adorned with a close-fitting torque and braided necklace with a crescent-shaped amulet. His handsome face is very finely carved with a bow-shaped mouth, aquiline nose and almond-shaped eyes, the forehead centered by a raised urna. The hair is arranged in thick, wavy locks and tied over the ushnisha.
38¼ in. (97 cm.) high
Estimate: $600,000-800,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $840,000 ($1,013,000 with the buyer’s premium)
Provenance
Private collection, Japan, by 1985.
Private collection, New York, acquired at Christie’s New York, 17 October 2001, lot 4.

There’s some big news coming out of the Asia Week auctions in New York, including the sale of the “Min” Fanglei, a massive ancient Chinese bronze vessel, at Christie’s in a private transaction for more than $30 million.  That was followed this morning by The Sublime and the Beautiful: Asian Masterpieces of Devotion, which did include some sublime works – including several with no pre-1970 provenance.   The “pre-1970″ refers to the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As the New York Times 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.”’ 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 to return looted antiquities to their host countries.”

Shouldn’t private collectors adhere to the same standards? Apparently not as today’s sale and others demonstrate.  Collectors are still willing to take a chance, ignore international news reports about looting in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Italy, Greece, Egypt and elsewhere and hope/assume/pretend the poorly-provenanced work they own is OK.

The sale made a hair under $19 million ($18,985,250), with 21 lots sold from 33 offered.  Here are four items that sold despite having no pre-1970 provenance, or in one case no published provenance whatsoever, beginning with the first item, an elegant Gandhara Bodhisattva estimated at $600,000-800,000.  Despite a provenance that only goes back to 1985, a US private collector bidding by telephone paid $840,000 ($1,103,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 1600. Detail.

Lot 1600. Detail.

From the lot notes:

The ancient region of Gandhara, straddling the Khyber Pass in what is now eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, was for centuries an important center of trade and commerce. Its position at the crossroads of Central Asia meant that it was exposed to the goods and ideas from India, China, and the Mediterranean world. In the centuries before the beginning of the Common Era, the region came under Hellenistic control after Alexander the Great annexed Gandhara to his expansive empire; following his death, the region was controlled by a succession of kings of mixed Greek and Central Asian descent. Buddhism was already well established during this time, with the Indo-Greek King Menander and the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka both noted proponents of the faith.
It was not until the reign of the Kushans in the first centuries CE, however, that profound changes in the religious art of the region were realized. The Kushans were nomadic horsemen from the steppes of Central Asia. Sometime around 160 BCE, they were pushed out of their homeland in Western China, and after more than a century of migration ended up seizing power in the regions of Gandhara and Northern India. Astute rulers, the Kushans allowed religious freedom for their subjects and adopted local Hellenistic and Indian traditions, including the Buddhist faith. Prior to their rule, the presence of Buddha was depicted in art through conspicuous symbols such as the dharmachakra (wheel of law) or his footprints; upon their ascension to power, however, the first images of Buddha in anthropomorphic form began to appear.
In Gandhara, the sculptural tradition was still heavily influenced by the earlier Hellenistic style. Local artisans favored the principles of figural naturalism, in particular the athletic and heroic idealized body. The depiction of the Indiandhoti and sanghati, like that of the Greek chiton and himation, offered the artisans an opportunity to reproduce voluminous folds of drapery with wondrous aplomb, as is evident in the present work. The deeply carved locks of curly hair are a further indication of the artisan’s sculptural élan.

Lot 1608. A RARE AND IMPORTANT STONE FIGURE OF A MOTHER GODDESS  NORTH INDIA, ALMORA, 9TH CENTURY  This exquisitely carved and finely detailed sculpture depicts a goddess with her attendant. She is an idealized beauty with lotus-shaped eyes framed by delicately arched brows and centered by an incised spiral. Her lips are full and bow-shaped. Her finely incised hair is arranged in a simple twist above her left shoulder, with small curls escaping at her temples. She wears a tiara centered by a foliate element and with pendants terminating in floral buds and peepul leaves, both of which are echoed in her jewelry elsewhere. Her ample curves are highlighted by the multiple necklaces swaying over her breasts and belly, and a pendant girdle that encircles her hips. She stands with her weight on her right leg and her left turned out, causing her hip to sway to the right. She wears a long striated dhoti incised with flowers. A sash with floral motifs still encircles her upper right arm and shoulders. The attendant wears her hair in an identical manner and is clad in a dhoti and scarf with corresponding motifs. She holds a water pot and what appears to be a flower bud, flywhisk or small club in her raised hand. 26¾ in. (68 cms.) high  Estimate: $800,000-1,000,000. Provenance An important and distinguished private collection, Switzerland, before 1985.

Lot 1608. A RARE AND IMPORTANT STONE FIGURE OF A MOTHER GODDESS
NORTH INDIA, ALMORA, 9TH CENTURY
This exquisitely carved and finely detailed sculpture depicts a goddess with her attendant. She is an idealized beauty with lotus-shaped eyes framed by delicately arched brows and centered by an incised spiral. Her lips are full and bow-shaped. Her finely incised hair is arranged in a simple twist above her left shoulder, with small curls escaping at her temples. She wears a tiara centered by a foliate element and with pendants terminating in floral buds and peepul leaves, both of which are echoed in her jewelry elsewhere. Her ample curves are highlighted by the multiple necklaces swaying over her breasts and belly, and a pendant girdle that encircles her hips. She stands with her weight on her right leg and her left turned out, causing her hip to sway to the right. She wears a long striated dhoti incised with flowers. A sash with floral motifs still encircles her upper right arm and shoulders. The attendant wears her hair in an identical manner and is clad in a dhoti and scarf with corresponding motifs. She holds a water pot and what appears to be a flower bud, flywhisk or small club in her raised hand.
26¾ in. (68 cms.) high
Estimate: $800,000-1,000,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $850,000 ($1,025,000 with the buyer’s premium)
Provenance
An important and distinguished private collection, Switzerland, before 1985.

A few minutes later the story repeated itself with lot 1608, also with a provenance that goes back to c. 1985, hammered at $850,000 to a European private collector bidding by telephone ($1,025,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 1608. Detail.

Lot 1608. Detail.

From the lot notes:

This superbly carved sculpture evolves from the Gupta stylistic tradition, with flowing lines, well-rounded forms, and sensuous expression of the lips. The jewelry of the goddess is particularly noteworthy in identifying the date and region from which the sculpture comes. In addition to the armbands, anklets and multiple necklaces, she wears two different earrings, a hoop made of flower buds in her right ear and a thick foliate circle in her left. Her girdle is composed of a floral belt with two lion or kirttimukha masks at front issuing loops from their mouths, and two chains hanging straight down over her thighs, both terminating in corresponding peepul leaves as found in her tiara. The contrast within her jewelry of the soft, floral elements on her right and the bolder, more rugged motifs on her left could indicate that she is a matrika, a Hindu goddess who is the counterpart to a male figure and embodies both male and female aspects within herself.

Lot 1616. A POLYCHROME- AND GILDED-WOOD FIGURE OF NYOIRIN KANNON, "THE BODHISATTVA WHO GRANTS DESIRES" JAPAN, KAMAKURA PERIOD, WITH DOCUMENTATION DATED 1304 CE  The "bodhisattva who grants desires" (Sanskrit, Cintamani-chakra-Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) is carved from a single block of wood, for the body, and six separately carved and inserted partially replaced arms on a separately assembled lotiform throne. The figure is shown seated in the posture of "royal ease" with the left leg folded horizontally to expose the sole of the foot, on which the right foot rests.The right thigh supports the elbow of the one of the deity's six arms, the hand touching the right cheek of the inclined head in a gesture of contemplation. The lower of the three right arms holds a rosary and the upper cups, as if to extend, a lotus jewel, the nyoi hoju (cintamani) that bestows wishes. The main left arm steadies the figure on the lotus throne. The raised left arm bent at the elbow has a hand with four clasped fingers and index finger pointed upward, which supports another attribute, the Wheel of the Law, or rin, forming a syllable of the deity's name. The third left hand clasps the stalk of a blossoming lotus, symbolic of spontaneous generation (the lotus reproduces from its matrix not soil), the purity and perfection of the Buddha and the mercy and compassion associated with Kannon (Avalokiteshvara). The delicate features of the face, painted black with gold overlayer, have a black mustache and forehead scallop above the inlaid glass urna between the arched brows. The glass eyes are white with black pupils. Pendulous earlobes and elaborate black coiffure frame the face. The hair on the back of the head is carved in narrow vertical lobes. The figure is clothed in a skirt that ripples onto the lap and legs in gentle pleats and in a shoulder scarf, carved to the middle of the back in a series of wide, U-shaped pleats. The drapery shows areas of meticulous gilded diaperwork, particularly evident on the edges of the scarf, central fold and over the knees of the robe. The arms are black with slight traces of gold coloration. The lotus throne is comprised of a bracket-footed double plinth in the outline of a lotus flower that is embellished on the edges with flower reserves in red, black and gold pigment below a support of lotus lappets applied with black lacquer. The uppermost plinth supporting the figure is carved with overlapping green lotus leaves detailed with gold veins. The reverses of the central lacquered support and upper green lotus support are carved smooth and the back surface of the lotus support is cut with a small rectangle to accommodate the peg of a separate mandorla. Figure 8 1/8 in. (20.5cm.) high; figure with pedestal 14½ in. (36.9 cm.) high With accompanying shari (interior relics of stones wrapped in paper symbolizing the cremated remains of the Buddha) and votive documentation mounted on two handscrolls and with later mandorla and lacquered-wood shrine. Estimate: $200,000-300,000. NO PROVENANCE

Lot 1616. A POLYCHROME- AND GILDED-WOOD FIGURE OF NYOIRIN KANNON, “THE BODHISATTVA WHO GRANTS DESIRES”
JAPAN, KAMAKURA PERIOD, WITH DOCUMENTATION DATED 1304 CE
The “bodhisattva who grants desires” (Sanskrit, Cintamani-chakra-Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) is carved from a single block of wood, for the body, and six separately carved and inserted partially replaced arms on a separately assembled lotiform throne. The figure is shown seated in the posture of “royal ease” with the left leg folded horizontally to expose the sole of the foot, on which the right foot rests.The right thigh supports the elbow of the one of the deity’s six arms, the hand touching the right cheek of the inclined head in a gesture of contemplation. The lower of the three right arms holds a rosary and the upper cups, as if to extend, a lotus jewel, the nyoi hoju (cintamani) that bestows wishes. The main left arm steadies the figure on the lotus throne. The raised left arm bent at the elbow has a hand with four clasped fingers and index finger pointed upward, which supports another attribute, the Wheel of the Law, or rin, forming a syllable of the deity’s name. The third left hand clasps the stalk of a blossoming lotus, symbolic of spontaneous generation (the lotus reproduces from its matrix not soil), the purity and perfection of the Buddha and the mercy and compassion associated with Kannon (Avalokiteshvara). The delicate features of the face, painted black with gold overlayer, have a black mustache and forehead scallop above the inlaid glass urna between the arched brows. The glass eyes are white with black pupils. Pendulous earlobes and elaborate black coiffure frame the face. The hair on the back of the head is carved in narrow vertical lobes. The figure is clothed in a skirt that ripples onto the lap and legs in gentle pleats and in a shoulder scarf, carved to the middle of the back in a series of wide, U-shaped pleats. The drapery shows areas of meticulous gilded diaperwork, particularly evident on the edges of the scarf, central fold and over the knees of the robe. The arms are black with slight traces of gold coloration. The lotus throne is comprised of a bracket-footed double plinth in the outline of a lotus flower that is embellished on the edges with flower reserves in red, black and gold pigment below a support of lotus lappets applied with black lacquer. The uppermost plinth supporting the figure is carved with overlapping green lotus leaves detailed with gold veins. The reverses of the central lacquered support and upper green lotus support are carved smooth and the back surface of the lotus support is cut with a small rectangle to accommodate the peg of a separate mandorla.
Figure 8 1/8 in. (20.5cm.) high; figure with pedestal 14½ in. (36.9 cm.) high
With accompanying shari (interior relics of stones wrapped in paper symbolizing the cremated remains of the Buddha) and votive documentation mounted on two handscrolls and with later mandorla and lacquered-wood shrine.
Estimate: $200,000-300,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $280,000 ($341,000 with the buyer’s premium)
NO PROVENANCE

Even with no published provenance, Lot 1616, a 14th century Japanese Bodhisattva, pulled down a hammer price of $280,000 ($341,000 with the buyer’s premium) to a telephone bidder.

Lot 1622. A RARE AND SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA  CHINA, MING DYNASTY, YONGLE SIX-CHARACTER MARK INSCRIBED IN A LINE AND OF THE PERIOD (1403-1425) The bodhisattva is shown seated in lalitasana with the right foot supported on a lotus stem that projects from the front of the double-lotus base just above a rare, additional narrow band of circle-centered leaves. The right hand, which rests on the edge of the base, holds one of the two stems that rise to the shoulders from the sides of the base, while the raised left hand holds the Book of Wisdom. The graceful figure wears an elegantly draped dhoti secured with a beaded, festoon-hung sash, beaded necklaces, armlets, large circular earrings and a ribbon-tied tiara with eight foliate points that surrounds a seated figure of Amitabha Buddha and the artfully arranged chignon. The reign mark, Da Ming Yongle nian shi, "Bestowed in the Great Ming Yongle reign," is inscribed in a line at the front of the base. The figure is richly gilded, and the base is sealed with a plate inscribed with a double vajra. 8¾ in. (22.3 cm.) high  Estimate: $600,000-800,000. Provenance Christie's New York, 21 March 2001, lot 88.

Lot 1622. A RARE AND SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA
CHINA, MING DYNASTY, YONGLE SIX-CHARACTER MARK INSCRIBED IN A LINE AND OF THE PERIOD (1403-1425)
The bodhisattva is shown seated in lalitasana with the right foot supported on a lotus stem that projects from the front of the double-lotus base just above a rare, additional narrow band of circle-centered leaves. The right hand, which rests on the edge of the base, holds one of the two stems that rise to the shoulders from the sides of the base, while the raised left hand holds the Book of Wisdom. The graceful figure wears an elegantly draped dhoti secured with a beaded, festoon-hung sash, beaded necklaces, armlets, large circular earrings and a ribbon-tied tiara with eight foliate points that surrounds a seated figure of Amitabha Buddha and the artfully arranged chignon. The reign mark, Da Ming Yongle nian shi, “Bestowed in the Great Ming Yongle reign,” is inscribed in a line at the front of the base. The figure is richly gilded, and the base is sealed with a plate inscribed with a double vajra.
8¾ in. (22.3 cm.) high
Estimate: $600,000-800,000. This lot sold for $2.2 million ($2,629,000 with the buyer’s premium)
Provenance
Christie’s New York, 21 March 2001, lot 88.

Lot 1622 a Ming Dynasty Avalokiteshvara, with a provenance that only dates to 2001,  topped its $800,000 high estimate and hammered for $2.2 million ($2,629,000 with the buyer’s premium) to a US private collector bidding in the room (true same bidder also purchased Lot 1611, a gilt-bronze Buddha Amitabha from China for $1,565,000 with the buyer’s premium).

More than $30 Million for Massive Ancient Chinese Bronze Wine Vessel at Christie’s

March 19, 2014
Lot 1888. A MAGNIFICENT AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT MASSIVE BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, FANGLEI LATE SHANG/EARLY WESTERN ZHOU DYNASTY, 12TH/11TH CENTURY BC  The decoration on each of the four sides of the broad, tapering body is arranged in horizontal registers divided by vertical hooked flanges which are repeated at the corners. The lowest and widest register is cast in relief with large taotie masks, one of which is centered by a D-shaped handle surmounted by a horned dragon mask cast on the underside of the upturned lower jaw with a cicada. In the register above a smaller taotie mask is flanked by a pair of birds, which are repeated on the rectangular neck and on the flared pedestal foot where they flank a short, hooked flange. The rounded shoulder is cast with pairs of dragons separated on two sides by a horned dragon mask with curved tusks cast in high relief, and on the other two, narrower sides, with a pair of dragon-mask-surmounted, D-shaped handles that suspend loose rings cast with abstract, attenuated dragons with large eyes. All of the decoration is cast in crisp relief and reserved on leiwen grounds. A six-character inscription, min, followed by Fu Ji zuo zun yi (Father Ji made (i.e., commissioned) this sacred vessel), is cast inside the neck. The vessel has an olive-toned patina with some areas of malachite encrustation. 25 in. (63.6 cm.) high  92.5 lbs. (41.9 kg.)  Estimate on Request.

Lot 1888. A MAGNIFICENT AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT MASSIVE BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, FANGLEI
LATE SHANG/EARLY WESTERN ZHOU DYNASTY, 12TH/11TH CENTURY BC
The decoration on each of the four sides of the broad, tapering body is arranged in horizontal registers divided by vertical hooked flanges which are repeated at the corners. The lowest and widest register is cast in relief with large taotie masks, one of which is centered by a D-shaped handle surmounted by a horned dragon mask cast on the underside of the upturned lower jaw with a cicada. In the register above a smaller taotie mask is flanked by a pair of birds, which are repeated on the rectangular neck and on the flared pedestal foot where they flank a short, hooked flange. The rounded shoulder is cast with pairs of dragons separated on two sides by a horned dragon mask with curved tusks cast in high relief, and on the other two, narrower sides, with a pair of dragon-mask-surmounted, D-shaped handles that suspend loose rings cast with abstract, attenuated dragons with large eyes. All of the decoration is cast in crisp relief and reserved on leiwen grounds. A six-character inscription, min, followed by Fu Ji zuo zun yi (Father Ji made (i.e., commissioned) this sacred vessel), is cast inside the neck. The vessel has an olive-toned patina with some areas of malachite encrustation.
25 in. (63.6 cm.) high
92.5 lbs. (41.9 kg.)
Estimate on Request (approximately $15 million).

UPDATE: ArtNet.com‘s Eileen Kinsella reports that “Christie’s Asian Art Department staff are furious” at the company’s CEO Steven Murphy for selling the “Min” Fanglei privately, rather than at auction. The report also revises up the selling price to $30 million from $20 million.  According to Kinsella:

The Asian art department staff had been working on the sale for over a year and believed the price of the vessel could climb as high as $50 million on the auction block. Now the deal won’t be reflected in the department’s auction coffers.

[ … ]

According to an inside source, Christie’s CEO Murphy was “panicked” over the possibility of a repeat of the the fiasco that occurred during the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé sale in Paris in 2009. That sale included two rare bronze Chinese zodiac sculptures, a rabbit and a rat, that had been looted from Beijing’s Old Summer Palace during the 1860s and passed through several hands before coming into the collection of the Parisian fashion designer. Prior to the sale, Chinese state media officials referred to the objects as “war plunder.”

Murphy’s fears are not unfounded. A report by the Chinese Association of Auctioneers “found that about half the sales of artworks worth more than $1.5 million between 2010 and 2013 were not completed because the buyer failed to pay what was owed.”

Kinsella also reports:

[I]nternal sources at Christie’s suggested … fear of buyer default drove the decision-making and overrode specialists. “I think people here are upset because they worked so hard on this consignment, marketing, catalogs, views, vetting, etc.,” said one inside source. “It’s anti-climactic.”

“Of course the specialists have every right to be angry unless senior leadership has compensated for it in their goals” for that department, said a former senior executive at Christie’s who asked not to be named. “Historically I’ve seen there always be a disconnect between senior leadership and how they drive and motivate specialists. They tend to put all this pressure on the specialists, and then come in and make these types of decisions, which dilutes the holistic approach to the business.”

Good stuff!

ArtNet.com‘s Eileen Kinsella reports the “Min” Fanglei, a massive ancient Chinese bronze vessel, was just sold at Christie’s in a private transaction for more than $20 million, and that tomorrow’s scheduled auction of the work has been cancelled.  The bronze had been estimated to sell for approximately $15 million and ealier in the day ArtNet.com‘s Ben Genocchio wrote the work might make $40 million.  According to the more recent report: “A group of private collectors from China’s Hunan provence bought the  famed “Min” Fanglei,  a massive bronze ritual vessel that dates from the Late Shang/Early Western Zhou dynasty (12th–11th century BC), and agreed to donate the object to the Hunan Provincial Museum where the cover of the object is currently located.” This is the second major ancient Chinese bronze vessel at auction during Asia Week 2014 – the first, wine vessel with an owl head, failed to sell at Sotheby’s.

In his earlier article, Genocchio wrote:

Christie’s New York offered the work in March 2001, when it sold for US$9 million and set a then–world record for an Asian artwork. This remains a world auction record for any archaic Chinese bronze sold at auction. Who won it? Christie’s is not saying, but a New York Asian art dealer told me privately it was an Italian man, who just died, and his wife has put it back up for sale.

[…]

I can’t confirm these details, but this work was the talk of many Asia Week dinners and receptions over the weekend. I was told the vessel is well known in China and that several prominent Chinese museums want it back. Shanghai Museum has sent a delegation to attend the auction and presumably bid on items.

[…]

The vessel is missing its lid, or cover, which may be in the Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha, in China. I have been in touch with the museum to verify, but have not received confirmation. The Christie’s sale catalog mentions this possibility as well. If this is indeed true, then it is a fair bet that the Hunan Museum will be bidding on it.

Here’s a selection from the lot notes and there’s also a three-minute video:

Bronze ritual vessels produced in China in the late Shang and Early Western Zhou periods-in the twelfth and eleventh centuries BC-rank among the most beautiful, most accomplished, and most technically sophisticated examples of bronze casting ever seen. The ritual vessels’ bold forms, brilliant designs, and perfect casting reflect both the sophisticated aesthetic sensibilities and the technological prowess of early China, just as they also convey insight into the culture that produced them.

Arguably the largest wine storage jar known from ancient China, the present magnificent fanglei embodies all of the characteristics associated with the finest and most impressive bronzes from the late Shang and early Western Zhou periods. Its massive scale, robust, tapering form, forceful decoration with clearly defined motifs and superbly articulated details, combined with casting so flawless as to demonstrate consummate mastery of the bronze caster’s art produce a truly phenomenal display of aesthetic inventiveness and casting proficiency.

Bronze casting came fully into its own during the Shang dynasty (c. 1600 BC- c. 1050 BC) with the production of sacral vessels intended for use in ceremonies honoring the spirits of deceased ancestors. These include vessels for food and wine as well as vessels for water; those for food and wine, the types most frequently encountered, group themselves into storage and presentation vessels, heating and cooking vessels, and serving vessels. Vessels for storage and presentation, such as this majestic fanglei wine vessel, typically assume one of a variety of jar forms.

Lot 1888. Detail.

Lot 1888. Detail.

Rare Archaic Chinese Bronze Owl Tanks at Sotheby’s

March 18, 2014
Lot 18. A VERY RARE AND IMPORTANT BRONZE OWL-HEADED RITUAL WINE VESSEL (HU) EARLY EASTERN ZHOU DYNASTY, 8TH-7TH CENTURY BC the stoutly cast pear-shaped body encircled by thirty horizontal grooves and supported on a straight ring foot, underneath a plain neck tapering on one end to a short channeled spout, the cover shaped as the head of a beaked raptor, with large eyes gazing upwards, two upright tab-shaped ears set in a shallow scrolled recess and the sharp down-curved beak separately hinged to the center of the mask, further set with a pair of loops supporting two large rings linked to a high swing handle made of movable sections, the lower-most sections secured by  a pair of nail-like knobs issuing from the shoulders, connected to the middle section by rotating hinge-like devices, in turn joined with a single yoke-shaped section over the top by the same devices as the lower-most joint, the interior of the cover engraved with a nine-character inscription, the patination of overall olive-green color, with light malachite encrustations   Height 18 1/4  in., 46.5 cm Estimate: $4-6 million.

Lot 18. A VERY RARE AND IMPORTANT BRONZE OWL-HEADED RITUAL WINE VESSEL (HU)
EARLY EASTERN ZHOU DYNASTY,
8TH-7TH CENTURY BC
the stoutly cast pear-shaped body encircled by thirty horizontal grooves and supported on a straight ring foot, underneath a plain neck tapering on one end to a short channeled spout, the cover shaped as the head of a beaked raptor, with large eyes gazing upwards, two upright tab-shaped ears set in a shallow scrolled recess and the sharp down-curved beak separately hinged to the center of the mask, further set with a pair of loops supporting two large rings linked to a high swing handle made of movable sections, the lower-most sections secured by a pair of nail-like knobs issuing from the shoulders, connected to the middle section by rotating hinge-like devices, in turn joined with a single yoke-shaped section over the top by the same devices as the lower-most joint, the interior of the cover engraved with a nine-character inscription, the patination of overall olive-green color, with light malachite encrustations
Height 18 1/4 in., 46.5 cm
Estimate: $4-6 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $3.7 million and it failed to sell.

The auctions during Asia Week 2014 include two highly important Ancient Chinese bronzes – the first this morning at Sotheby’s, a rare, Early Zhou Dynasty Owl-Headed Wine Vessel, estimated at $4-6 million, bombed, unable to surpass a chandelier bid of $3.7 million. It was preceded by mostly spirited bidding for the first dozen lots in the sale, including the late 19th century Wu Dacheng Jijintu Qing Dynasty scroll, estimated at $100,000-150,000, which bid up swiftly to $260,000 before a bidder in the room offered $500,000, which effectively ended the battle (the final price inclusive of buyer’s premium was $605,000).

As for the owl wine vessel – appropriately known as a hu - it is a unique surviving example of its type with a clear provenance dating back at to the 1800s.

According to a Sotheby’s press release:

The piece dates from the Early Eastern Zhou Dynasty (c. 8/7th century BC) and is the only surviving owl bronze of this caliber. In addition to its extraordinary rarity, the vessel boasts a distinguished provenance dating back to the early 19th century, having at various times been in some of the world’s most illustrious private collections of Chinese Art.

[…]

Dr. Tao Wang, Head of the Chinese Works of Art Department at Sotheby’s New York commented: “This bronze owl from the collection of Sakamoto Goro is one of the rarest examples of early Chinese bronze culture to have appeared at auction. With a history that includes some of the most renowned 19th and 20th century collections of Chinese Art, the provenance, form, iconography, and condition combine to make this one of the greatest objects I’ve handled in my career.”

The Owl In Chinese Art
The owl has a unique and enormously significant place in early Chinese culture where it was perceived as a deity by the Shang people. The screech call and nocturnal behavior fit perfectly a perception of abnormality in ritual and magic while the physical appearance is warrior-like. Indeed, it has even been suggested that Xuanniao, the mythical black-bird from which the Shang people originated can be associated with an owl.

A Distinguished History
The bronze and its inscription was published by Wu Yun, one of the most accomplished Chinese connoisseurs of the 19th century, one of over 100 ancient bronzes in his precautious collection. The bronze vessel was first collected by Li Meisheng, an eminent scholar-official in Suzhou and was allegedly rescued from a metal recycling store in Shanghai in 1861. In the 20th century the owl belonged to two renowned collectors of Chinese Art – Lionel Edwards and Baron Paul Hatvany. In the late 1970s it entered the collection of the British Rail Pension Fund from whom Sakamoto Goro acquired it at the landmark auction at Sotheby’s London in 1989.

Lot 18. Detail.

Lot 18. Detail.

Bombshell – Prized British Museum Treasure Declared a Fake

March 12, 2014
The Warren Cup, Bittir (ancient Bethther), near Jerusalem, Roman, AD 5 – 15 Height: 11 cm Width: 9.9 cm (max.) Depth: 11 cm Room 70: Roman Empire  Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund, the British Museum Friends, the Caryatid Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Warren Cup, Bittir (ancient Bethther), near Jerusalem, Roman, AD 5 – 15
Height: 11 cm Width: 9.9 cm (max.) Depth: 11 cm
Room 70: Roman Empire
Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund, the British Museum Friends, the Caryatid Fund & the Heritage Lottery Fund.

One of the British Museum’s great treasures of antiquity, the 1st century AD silver Warren Cup, which depicts homosexual lovers, has been declared a 20th century creation by Luca Giuliani, professor of classical archaeology at Humboldt University in Berlin, reports The Guardian.

Giuliani’s reasoning, according to the article, is “such explicit imagery is unprecedented in Roman silverware. He suggested instead that the cup was designed for the pleasure of its former owner – a wealthy American gay man, Edward Perry Warren, who bought it in Rome in 1911, and who also acquired other ‘counterfeit’ pieces, he said.”

The museum purchased the object 15 years ago for £1.8 million and it has been “singled out by director Neil MacGregor for his critically acclaimed History of the World in 100 Objects.”

This debate is not over. Professor Dyfri Williams, author of The Warren Cup, published by the British Museum Press in 2006, is not backing down:

The fact that Warren bought other fakes is irrelevant, he said. He also dismissed the uniqueness of the iconography as not being proof: “We’re really only reacting to each piece when it’s found. We may find something spectacular next week.”

He added: “The real issue, which he has not addressed, is the object itself … If the cup was made around 1900, as he claims, they would be using virtually pure silver. They have been refining silver since the middle of the 19th century.”

The homoerotic content of the Warren Cup is discussed in a museum audio guide, part of a new project called ”A Little Gay History.”

Kimbell Art Museum Purchases Major 17th Century Dutch Landscape Painting by Jacob van Ruisdael

March 9, 2014
Jacob van Ruisdael Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield, c. 1656 Oil on canvas, 41 x 57 ½ in. (103.8 x 146.2 cm) Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682)
Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield, c. 1656
Oil on canvas, 41 x 57 ½ in. (103.8 x 146.2 cm)
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

UPDATE: The sale price of the painting was approximately $16 million, according to the Art Tribune, which reports “the work did not receive the temporary export ban from British soil. This means no attempt was made to see if it might be acquired by an English museum when in fact the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, to quote just one example, only holds two paintings by Ruisdael, both much smaller.”

The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas has just announced its acquisition of a major 17th century Dutch landscape painting by Jacob van Ruisdael. The work had been in the same English collection since 1811 and will go on view in April.  The sale was brokered by Nicholas Hall at Christie’s.  Text of the museum’s announcement:

FORT WORTH—The Kimbell Art Museum announced today the acquisition of Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield, c. 1656, an exceptional work by one of the greatest landscape painters of all time, Jacob van Ruisdael. As the leading exponent of the Dutch landscape tradition in the 17th century, Ruisdael was renowned for his love of nature and for his ability to render its glories in paint. The remarkable work, impressively large and in near-perfect condition, is considered by experts to be among the greatest Dutch landscapes in the world.

Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield epitomizes Ruisdael’s mastery of landscape painting, uniting an unprecedented observation of nature with a sympathetic feeling for the bounteous glory of the Dutch countryside,” commented Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “It is an imposing complement to the Kimbell’s Rough Sea at a Jetty, one of his most important seascapes. Whether depicting the sea or the land, these paintings attest to Ruisdael’s profound love of nature in all its forms.”

Seymour Slive, professor emeritus in the department of fine arts at Harvard University, former director of the Harvard University Art Museums, and the world’s greatest authority on Ruisdael, called the painting “a world-class masterpiece,” describing it as “an unusually large, signed, and almost miraculously well-preserved masterwork by the greatest and most versatile—by far—17th-century Dutch landscapist. A special feature of the painting is the large, mirror-smooth lily pond that virtually extends across its foreground. Comparable [stretches of water] are found in the artist’s forest [paintings] in Berlin and at the Hermitage. The fact that this landscape holds its own when juxtaposed to these stellar achievements by Ruisdael speaks volumes for its superior quality.”

Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield was donated by an alumnus to Oxford University’s Worcester College in 1811Except for its appearance in exhibitions, including the famous Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the painting remained in the possession of Worcester College until its purchase by the Kimbell Art Foundation through a private treaty sale negotiated by Christie’s, London, represented by Nicholas Hall.

The painting is in remarkably good condition. Before it is put on display at the Kimbell this April, director of conservation Claire Barry will delicately adjust small areas of old restoration. The landscape will be enhanced by an antique Dutch frame, dated to approximately 1730, in the French style, typical of the luxurious but restrained frames placed on paintings by Ruisdael in the century after his death.

Jacob van Ruisdael
Jacob van Ruisdael is considered the greatest Dutch landscape painter of the 17th century, Holland’s “Golden Age.” Born in Haarlem in 1628 or 1629, the son of a painter and picture dealer, Ruisdael was probably tutored by his uncle Salomon van Ruysdael, another landscape painter. Ruisdael began painting in his teenage years and moved to Amsterdam in 1655, shortly before he began Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield. Paintings from this period in his life are the ones for which he is most renowned. They typically show a greater emphasis on the majestic power of natural forms—noble trees and cloud-filled skies—and an increased mastery of light effects to give those forms emotional resonance. A prolific artist, he completed some 700 paintings over the three decades of his career, before his death in 1682. Edge of a Forest is ranked as one of his highest achievements, from the years of his greatest genius.

Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield
A large and imposing canvas, Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield shows a typical scene of Dutch country landscape as imagined by one of its greatest admirers. A grove of old oak and elm trees stands beside a pool or a stream, at the intersection of a sandy road or path. Tall timbers reach towards a cloudy sky, while one tree trunk lies fallen at the left. The trees—standing or fallen—are reflected in the water of the pool, the surface of which is broken by pads of water lilies and bunches of reeds. To the right, in the background beyond the stand of trees, fields of wheat can be seen. In the near ground, the ears of wheat can almost be counted one by one against the darker foliage of scrubby oaks, but in the distance, fields stretch towards a low horizon.

Above the trees, and echoing their shapes, large cumulus clouds rise against a bright blue sky; light reflects on the clouds, as it reflects off distant patches of leaves seen in the spaces between branches. Below the trees, a flock of sheep graze in the shade, watched by a shepherd with a staff, in conversation with a seated woman. Untouched nature, in the form of the oak trees, is placed side by side with the natural world as shaped or husbanded by mankind—the people who sow wheat in the fields or graze their sheep on Holland’s sandy soil.

Every detail of the painting attests to the artist’s keen eye and his love of natural variety and incident. Everywhere he leads the viewer towards something he thinks should be noticed: a broken branch lies bent in the lower right, pointing the way into the canvas; a puddle of water in the sandy road reflects the bark of the tree above it; delicate flowers of a water lily poke their heads above the water; a bush is in flower in the shadowy glade beside one of the trees, while silvery-green leaves shine between patches of ivy green. These myriad details, however, do not detract from the impressive unity of the whole—the sense of nature, in its grandeur, captured by a painter who truly loves it.

Provenance
The Reverend Treadway Russell Nash (1724–1811), by whom bequeathed to Worcester College, Oxford, in 1811.
The painting remained in the possession of Worcester College since 1811 and was consigned for sale through Christie’s, London, represented by Nicholas Hall.

MoMA to show new work by Jasper Johns

March 6, 2014
A work in Jasper Johns’s “Regrets” series, from last year. The works will be on display at MoMA beginning on March 15. Credit Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York

A work in Jasper Johns’s “Regrets” series, from last year. The works will be on display at MoMA beginning on March 15. Credit Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York

New York’s Museum of Modern Art will exhibit a new suite of paintings, etchings and drawings by 83-year-old artist Jasper Johns from March 15 to September 1, 2014, reports the New York Times.  The Regrets series is based on a Christie’s auction catalogue image of a John Deakin photograph of a young Lucian Freud once owned by Francis Bacon.  According to the article: “Over the years, Bacon took that photograph of Freud on the bed and folded it, tore it and creased it until a pronounced dark patch dominated its foreground.” Johns’ works are abstractions derived from the auction catalogue image.

The article continues:

Last summer, Ann Temkin, chief curator in the Museum of Modern Art’s painting and sculpture department, and Christophe Cherix, the museum’s chief curator of drawings and prints, made separate visits to Mr. Johns’s studio, where they first saw many examples of “Regrets.”

“Our jaws dropped,” Ms. Temkin recalled.

Not everything was finished, but that didn’t matter. The curators decided the museum had to show the series as soon as possible. The result is“Jasper Johns: Regrets,” which will be displayed from March 15 through Sept. 1 in a drawings gallery on the third floor.

The curators were also determined to acquire as much of the series as possible for the museum’s collection. At last count, MoMA has either been promised or been given eight works in the show — two etchings, four ink-on-plastic drawings, a watercolor and a painting — by museum supporters.

Nice antiquities – where did they come from? Nagging questions about provenance

March 5, 2014
Lot 77. Detail

Lot 77. An Apulian Red-Figured Bell Krater – detail.
Attributed to the Schiller Painter, circa 380-370 BC
Estimate: £10,000-15,000 ($17,000-25,000)
Earliest dated provenance: “with V. Rosenbaum, Galleria Serodine, Ascona, Switzerland, 1970s.”

The e-catalogue for Christie’s Antiquities sale in London on April 2, 2014 has just gone live and there are some intriguing items, such as the ones illustrated here – but there’s also an issue of provenance.  None of the works illustrated in this blog post has a datable pre-1970 provenance – as noted in the provenance section of each catalogue listing – and there are many, many more like them in the sale.   The “pre-1970″ refers to the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As the New York Times 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.”’ 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 to return looted antiquities to their host countries.

Take the Roman Wall Mosaic show below – how many times have we seen images of walls at archaeological sites with gaps that once contained mosaics? Recently, federal officials seized control of a sarcophagus of a Roman noblewoman worth $4 million that was allegedly looted from Italy in the 1970s or early 1980s, according to the New York Times, and had been offered for sale by Phoenix Ancient Art. I cannot assert these are looted – but – as the repatriation of antiquities continues to make international news, one wonders why any potential buyer would consider acquiring works without clear datable pre-1970 provenance.

Lot 77.

Lot 77. An Apulian Red-Figured Bell Krater
Attributed to the Schiller Painter, circa 380-370 BC
Estimate: £10,000-15,000 ($17,000-25,000)
Earliest dated provenance: “with V. Rosenbaum, Galleria Serodine, Ascona, Switzerland, 1970s.”

Lot 30.

Lot 30. An Anatoilian Bronze Chariot
circa 2nd Millennium BC
10.25 inches long
Estimate: £40,000-60,000 ($67,000-100,000)
Earliest dated provenance: “Art Market, Maryland, USA, 1989.”

Lot 106.

Lot 106. A Roman Marble Mosaic Panel.
circa 3rd-4th century AD
34 x 28 inches
Estimate: £20,000-30,000 ($34,000-50,000)
Earliest dated provenance: “Anonymous sale; Vente de Ricqles, Paris, 1st October 1999.”

Lot 41.

Lot 41. A Sasanian Silver Bowl
circa 6th-8th century AD
4.75 inches in diameter
Estimate: £30,000-50,000 ($51,000-83,000)
Earliest dated provenance: “German art market, 1988.”

Lot 80.

Lot 80. A Large Red-Figured Apulian Knop-Handled Patera
circa 340-320 BC
27 inches in diameter
Estimate: £30,000-50,000 ($51,000-83,000)
Earliest dated provenance: “Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 14 December 1994, lot 119.”

Big Discount – Newly discovered $200 Million Leonardo Painting sold for $75 million

March 3, 2014
Christ as Salvator Mundi

Christ as Salvator Mundi, c. 1500
Oil on panel: 26 x 18 inches

A newly attributed and heavily restored painting by Leonardo da Vinci, which had been shopped to the Dallas Museum of Art in summer of 2012 with a reported $200 million asking price, has finally found a buyer – at the substantially reduced price of $75 million, reports the New York Times. According to the article, the painting “was bought by an unidentified collector for between $75 million and $80 million in May 2013, in a private sale brokered by Sotheby’s.”

The painting was first unveiled in November 2011 and featured in the National Gallery exhibition Leonardo da Vinci – Painter at the Court of Milan.   In August 2012Art in America reported the painting was on offer to Dallas for $200 million, but after weeks of negotiation, an offer by the museum was rejected by the consortium of dealers who owned the work.

We’ll see where it shows up next.

Rare Madonna and Child by Mabuse heads Up Koller’s March 28, 2014 Zurich Old Masters sale

February 25, 2014
Lot 3017. JAN GOSSAERT, called MABUSE (Maubeuge 1478 - 1532 Antwerp) Mary with Child. ca. 1530. Oil on wood 44.5 x 34 cm. Estimate: CHF 1.8-2.2 million. (€1,500,000-1,833,330)

Lot 3017. JAN GOSSAERT, called MABUSE (Maubeuge 1478 – 1532 Antwerp)
Madonna and Child. ca. 1530.
Oil on wood 44.5 x 34 cm.
Estimate: CHF 1.8-2.2 million. (€1,500,000-1,833,330) Sold for CHF 2,050,000.- exclusive buyers premium.

UPDATED with sale results.

The March 28, 2104 sale of Old Masters at Koller in Zurich includes a Madonna and Child by Jan Gossaert, known as Mabuse, a capably wrought triptych by a 16th century follower of that great Netherlandish genius Rogier Van Der Weyden, the exterior wings of a a triptych by the Master of the Holy Kinship, and a Hermit Praying by Gerrit Dou.  There’s also a bizarre set of four paintings depicting some of Aesop’s Fables by Jan van Kessel the Elder (estimated at CHF150,000-200 000 or € 123,000-164 000), a so-so Pieter de Hooch of musicians (estimated at CHF 90,000-120,000 or € 75 000-100,000), six painting by Jakob Philipp Hackert including two pendants, the landscapes View of the Chateau Gaillard and the Seine and View on ruins of a river (estimated at CHF 120,000-180,000 or  €100,000-150,000) and the seascapes Coastal landscape near Vietri, 1776 and A shipwreck (estimated at CHF 200,000-300,000 or  €166,670-250,000), and others.

The Mabuse is one of approximately 60 works by this artist accepted as autograph.  This work is a recent addition having been deemed authentic by Maryan Ainsworth, author of the artist’s catalogue raisonné and curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance.  According to the Met, that exhibition  brought “together the majority of Gossart’s paintings, drawings, and prints, and place[d] them in the context of the influences on his transformation from Late Gothic Mannerism to the new Renaissance mode.”  We’ll see what the market says.  The painting last been sold at auction at Christie’s in London, July 10, 2002, Lot 97 as  “Studio of Gossaert“ (selling for £41,825 or $64,829).

Gossaert, Jan, Netherlandish, c. 1478 - 1532 Madonna and Child c. 1532 oil on panel overall: 34.4 x 24.8 cm (13 9/16 x 9 3/4 in.) Gift of Grace Vogel Aldworth in memory of her grandparents Ralph and Mary Booth1981.87.1 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Gossaert, Jan, Netherlandish, c. 1478 – 1532
Madonna and Child c. 1532
oil on panel overall: 13 9/16 x 9 3/4 in.
Gift of Grace Vogel Aldworth in memory of her grandparents Ralph and Mary Booth 1981.87.1
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Gemäldegalerie of the National Museums Berlin

Gemäldegalerie of the
National Museums Berlin

I have long thought that if we did not know the artist’s identity, he might plausibly have been titled the “Master of the Double Jointed Madonnas” (in the vein of the Master of the Female Half-Lengths and similar monikers), because of his strange rendering of physiognomy (the National Gallery of Art’s Madonna and Child of 1532 is a prime example. Exactly what is going on with her left arm? It’s a peculiar painting).

According to the lot notes, this is one of only two known Gossaert’s depicting the Madonna and Child in private hands.  Here’s more from Koller’s entry:

“Jan Gossaert, also called Mabuse after his birthplace Maubeuge in Hennegau, counts as one of the outstanding painters of the Renaissance north of the Alps. His work combines the tradition of early Netherlandish painting from Jan van Eyck to Memling with the artistic achievements of the Italian Renaissance and transforms them into an ideal synthesis of the highest perfection. Gossaert, who was active in the first third of the 16th century, completed both religious as well as secular paintings, which he created for the major patrons of his day. Thus Gossaert entered into the service of Philip of Burgundy and followed him in 1508/09 to Italy, where he came to terms with the masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.”

“The composition … depicts the Mother of God in front of a late-Gothic architectonic throne, part filigree and part solid stone, with the infant Jesus sitting before her on green velvet. Each is turned towards the viewer in a frontal pose. While

“Mary assumes a contemplative attitude, gazing downward and embracing her child protectively, the Christ Child through his expansive gestures and direct eye contact, engages the attention of the viewer, and his childlike exuberance is expressed affectionately.”

Lot 3009. 16th Century follower of ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN (1398/1400 Tournai - Brüssel 1464) Triptych: central panel with Lamentation of Christ,  Wing inside with scenes of the Passion  Christ, wing outside the  Proclamation.  Oil on wood. Middle panel 108 x 72 cm,  Wing of each 110.5 x 33 cm. Estimate: CHF 300,000-350,000 (€250,000-291,670) click on image to enlarge

Lot 3009. 16th Century follower of ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN (1398/1400 Tournai – Brüssel 1464)
Triptych: central panel with Lamentation of Christ, Wing inside with scenes of the Passion, wing outside the
Proclamation.
Oil on wood. Middle panel 108 x 72 cm, each wing:  110.5 x 33 cm.
Estimate: CHF 300,000-350,000 (€250,000-291,670) This lot went unsold.
click on image to enlarge

The center panel of this triptych is based on a Pietà by Rogier van der Weyden in Brussels from 1441 (below).

Pietà, 1436-1446, Rogier van der Weyden, Musées royaux des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belbium. Oil on panel: 12.8 x 18 inches. click on image to enlarge

Pietà, 1436-1446, Rogier van der Weyden, Musées royaux des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belbium.
Oil on panel: 12.8 x 18 inches. click on image to enlarge

Lot 3014. MASTER OF THE HOLY KINSHIP (active in Cologne ca. 1475-1510) Two altarpiece wings: The Annunciation, with Saints Bartholomew and Peter. Ca. 1490. Oil on oak panels: each 134 x 94 cm. Estimate: CHF 300,000-500,000 (€250,000-416,670) click on image to enlarge

Lot 3014. MASTER OF THE HOLY KINSHIP (active in Cologne ca. 1475-1510)
Two altarpiece wings: The Annunciation, with
Saints Bartholomew and Peter. Ca. 1490.
Oil on oak panels: each 134 x 94 cm.
Estimate: CHF 300,000-500,000 (€250,000-416,670) Sold for CHF 480,000.- exclusive buyers premium.
click on image to enlarge

According to the sale catalogue:

“[This] Annunciation with Saints Bartholomew and Peter [was] once part of a substantial altarpiece that originally graced the Catholic parish church of St. Martin in Richterich, Aachen …  The altarpiece was divided by 1862, when the central panel with the Crucifixion of Christ was transferred to the Brussels collection of the Musées des Beaux-Arts Royaux de Belgique (inv. no. 1498). The wings (interior and exterior) moved through several private German collections and were sold separately first in 1978 at a London auction … The inner panels then entered the Indiana University Art Museum in Bloomington (inv. nos 78.62.1 and 78.62.2), so that [these] paintings … are the last privately owned pieces of this important altarpiece.

“The master [whose identity remains unknown] was among the most important Cologne painters of the Gothic period and was active in the last quarter of the 15th and first quarter of the 16th century. His method comes out of the Cologne tradition embodied by Stephan Lochner (ca. 1400-1451), and is also influenced by Flemish masters such as Rogier van der Weyden (ca. 1400-1464), Justus van Gent (ca. 1410-1480) or Hugo van der Goes (ca. 1440-1482).”

Lot 3022. DIRCK JACOBSZ. (1496 wohl Amsterdam 1567) Bildnis eines Mannes. Öl auf Leinwand. 80,5 x 66 cm. Estimate: CHF 150,000-200,000 (€125,000-166,670)

Lot 3022. DIRCK JACOBSZ. (1496 wohl Amsterdam 1567)
Bildnis eines Mannes.
Öl auf Leinwand. 80,5 x 66 cm.
Estimate: CHF 150,000-200,000 (€125,000-166,670) Sold for CHF 120,000.- exclusive buyers premium.

Apparently there are few known works by Jacobsz. who was influenced by Jan van Scorel (1498 - 1562). The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has a similarly-themed and more accomplished vanitas painting of Pompeius Occo (below). The handling of the paint is much broader and less detailed in the Koller picture - see the treatment of the fur, skull parapet, facial features, and landscape, which is pretty much the entire work.

Pompeius Occo, Dirck Jacobsz., c. 1531 Oil on panel: h 66.5cm × w 55.1cm.

Pompeius Occo, Dirck Jacobsz., c. 1531
Oil on panel: h 66.5cm × w 55.1cm.
Rijskmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Lot 3026. PIERRE DUMONSTIER (um 1543 Paris 1601) Bildnis des Bernard de Nogaret, Seigneur de La Valette. Um 1584-1585. Kohlestift und Rötel auf Papier. 34 x 24 cm. Estimate: CHF 75,000-90,000 (€62,500-75,000)

Lot 3026. PIERRE DUMONSTIER (um 1543 Paris 1601)
Bildnis des Bernard de Nogaret, Seigneur de La
Valette. Um 1584-1585.
Kohlestift und Rötel auf Papier. 34 x 24 cm.
Estimate: CHF 75,000-90,000 (€62,500-75,000) This lot went unsold.

This beautifully rendered work by Dumonstier, who along with his brother Etienne was a student of François Clouet, depicts 30-year-old French nobleman and admiral Bernard de Nogaret de La Valette (1553 – 1592). It is exquisite.

Lot 3038. GERRIT DOU (1613 Leiden before 1675) Hermit Praying. ca. 1670. Oil on wood. Signed on the book lower left: GDOV. 34.5 x 29 cm. Estimate: CHF 400,000-500,000  (€333,330-416,670)

Lot 3038. GERRIT DOU (1613 Leiden before 1675)
Hermit Praying. ca. 1670.
Oil on wood. Signed on the book lower left: GDOV. 34.5 x 29 cm.
Estimate: CHF 400,000-500,000 (€333,330-416,670) Sold for CHF 900,000.- exclusive buyers premium.

According to the sale catalogue:

“This painting … by Gerrit Dou, discovered in a Swiss private collection, [was examined firsthand by art historian ] Ronni Baer …and she confirms that it is the one she lists in her catalogue raisonné of 1990 as no. 119 … At that time it was known to her only through a black-and-white photograph.

“The painting was once in the collection of the Kurfürstlichen Galerie, Alte Pinakothek, before it was transferred in 1935 to the collection of the Stadtresidenz in Landshut and was then passed on to the art dealer Dr. Plietzsch in Berlin in an exchange of 1938 (written confirmation from the Alte Pinakothek is available). Through the Dutch art trade the painting then came eventually to Switzerland and” is being sold from a private collection.

Lot 3048. ISAAC SOREAU  (1604 Hanau am Main 1645)  Fruit Still Life with Grapes in a  Wicker basket and apricots on a table top.  Oil on wood. 48.3 x 72.3 cm.  Estimate: CHF 140000-180000 (€116.670-150.000) click on image to enlarge

Lot 3048. ISAAC SOREAU
(1604 Hanau am Main 1645)
Fruit Still Life with Grapes in a
Wicker basket and apricots on a table top.
Oil on wood. 48.3 x 72.3 cm.
Estimate: CHF 140000-180000 (€116.670-150.000) This lot went unsold.
click on image to enlarge

A Rediscovered Caravaggesque Masterwork by Bartolomeo Manfredi

February 24, 2014
Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582-1622) The Crowning of Thorns, c. 1615 Oil on canvas - 157 x 233 cm Le Mans, Musée Tessé Photo : Musée Tessé click on image to enlarge

Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582-1622)
The Crowning of Thorns, c. 1615
Oil on canvas – 157 x 233 cm
Le Mans, Musée Tessé
Photo : Musée Tessé (click on image to enlarge)

After removing years of accumulated dirt, discolored varnish and a good deal of overpainting, officials at Musée Tessé in Le Mans, France, could finally settle the debate – was The Crowing of Thorns in their collection actually by the Caravaggesque painter Bartolomeo Manfredi?  After consulting “several specialists, including Jean-Pierre Cuzin and Gianni Papi” according to The Art Tribune, the work was determined to be authentic.

According to the article:

This rediscovery is important as Manfredi’s paintings are particularly rare in [France]. This is the third one residing in France along with Christ Chasing the Merchants from the Temple in Libourne (recently exhibited in Montpellier) and The Triumph of David over Goliath purchased over twenty years ago by the Louvre, and also a fourth one if we consider a Saint John the Baptist at the Louvre which is only attributed to Manfredi.

The restoration of this canvas now enables the Musée Tessé to display it alongside The Drinkers painted by a French disciple of the Manfrediana Methodus, Nicolas Tournier. The Crowning of Thorns will also be the subject of an exhibition from 24 March to 24 May 2014.

$70 million Bacon Leads Christie’s Feb. 2014 Contemporary Art Sale in London

February 13, 2014
Lot 10. Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Portrait of George Dyer Talking  titled and dated 'Portrait of George Dyer Talking 1966' (on the reverse) oil on canvas 78 x 58in. (198.2 x 147.3cm.) Painted in 1966 Estimate on Request

Lot 10. Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Portrait of George Dyer Talking
titled and dated ‘Portrait of George Dyer Talking 1966′ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas: 78 x 58in. (198.2 x 147.3cm.), Painted in 1966
Estimate on Request (in the region of £30 million) This lot sold for a hammer price of £37.5 million or £42,194,500 with the buyer’s premium ($70,042,870).

Christies’ February 13, 2014 Evening Sale of Contemporary Art, which pulled in £124,192,000 ($206,158,720), started on a ridiculous note with a Damien Hirst BgYWImnIEAADIb1spot painting of Mickey Mouse, which should disappear for the sake of us all.  It made a hammer price of £750,000 or £902,500 with the buyer’s premium ($1,498,150), perhaps because auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen and staff wore mouse ears during the sale of that lot. Fortunately, it was sold to benefit a charity.  Of the 49 lots offered, one was withdrawn and nine went sold.

Compared with Sotheby’s the night before, this was a lively almost fevered event with active, engaged and sustained bidding for many lots.  A painting by white hot Oscar Murillo had 14 phone bidders interested, and a Lucio Fontana had 10 telephone bidders.  Stand out works included a 1966 Francis Bacon portrait of his lover/muse George Dyer (above), that hammered for £37.6 million or £42,194,500 with the buyer’s premium ($70,042,870).  During the Old Master sales preview in New York last month, it was tucked into a ground floor alcove (along with the Twombly and Richter, below), completely at home with those older works.  It’s sinuous, fraught and vibrant – and spell binding.  Ignore the enormous prices for the artist’s work – it’s can be an impediment to appreciating his genius, and this painting is worthy of much contemplation.

Following tentative bidding at Sotheby’s the night before for Richter’s much touted Wall, there was greater enthusiasm for the artist’s 1989 Abstraktes Bild (below), the subject of a dedicated video and separate catalogue, which opened £12 million at ultimately hammered for £17.4 million or £19,570,500 with the buyer’s premium ($32,487,030). There was a selection of paintings by a few YBA’s formerly in the Saatchi collection including Jenny Saville’s Plan, which was exhibited in 1997′s Sensation in London and New York (est. £800,000-1,200,000), BgYwRynCUAA9KtDhammered for a record price £1.8 million or £2,098,500 with the buyer’s premium ($3,483,510); Gary Hume’s Vicious (est. £300,000-400,000) for a record hammer price of £340,000 or £410,500 with the buyer’s premium ($681,430); and Chris Ofili’s Popcorn Tits (est. £400,000-600,000) hammer price £320,000 or £386,500 with the buyer’s premium ($641,590) – a price reflective of the fair number of Ofili’s currently on the market.

Two Cy Twombly works came up, Untitled (Rome) from 1960 (est. £1.2-1.6 million), opened at £900,000 and climbed at a healthy clip to hammer at £2.3 million or £2,658,500 with the buyer’s premium ($4,413,110),  to Turkish collector Kemal Has  Cingillioglu, while Untitled (below) from 1972 and part of the legendary Bolsena series (est. £1.2– £1.8 million),  made £2.0 million or £2,322,500 with the buyer’s premium ($3,855,350). The Koons market remains strong and his über bauble Cracked Egg (Magenta) (below), also the subject of a dedicated video and separate catalogue, made a hammer price of £12.5 million, smack in the middle of it’s £10-15 million estimate (£14,082,500 with the buyer’s premium or $23,376,950). The work is part of Koon’s “Celebration” series and the first cracked egg to come to auction. Domenico Gnoli’s Black Hair soared way past its £1.8 million high estimate to hammer at £6.2 million or £7,026,500 with the buyer’s premium ($11,544,540).  According to Artinfo.com’s Judd Tully, it “sold to London dealer Guya Bertoni, who apparently beat out a determined Chinese telephone bidder. Bertoni acknowledged that she had bought the painting on behalf of a client as she raced out of the salesroom.” Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Slide Germ hammered below its £2.2 million estimate at £2.0 million or £2,322,500 with the buyer’s premium ($3,815,868).

Here’s more on some individual works in the sale.

The story behind the Bacon of George Dyer is complicated and ultimately tragic – from the catalogue:

Among the cast of colourful characters that touched Bacon’s life, George Dyer was perhaps one of the most captivating. The two men had met in Soho in the autumn of 1963.

[…]

Painted in 1966, Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966) is a glowing tribute to George Dyer, Bacon’s great lover and muse. The subject of some of Bacon’s most arresting portraits including Two Studies of George Dyer (1968) (Art Museum Ateneum, Helsinki), Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (1968) (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), andPortrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle (1966) (Fondation Beyeler, Basel), it was this man who was to dominate the artist’s greatest decade in paint: the 1960s. Even on the eve of the artist’s major retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1971, an occasion which marked his career’s achievements, it was Dyer who was to mark the occasion, tragically taking his life just hours before the opening.

Lot 17. Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) Abstraktes Bild  signed, numbered and dated ‘709 Richter 1989’ (on the reverse) oil on canvas 102.1/8 x 78.7/8in. (259.4 x 200.3cm.) Painted in 1989 Estimate on Request

Lot 17. Gerhard Richter (b. 1932), Abstraktes Bild
signed, numbered and dated ‘709 Richter 1989’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas: 102.1/8 x 78.7/8in. (259.4 x 200.3cm.), Painted in 1989
Estimate on Request This lot sold for a hammer price of £17.4 million or £19,570,500 with the buyer’s premium ($32,487,030).

From the catalogue:

Executed in 1989, Abstraktes Bild hails from the finest period in Richter’s abstraction and is a key example of this abstract style that would become synonymous with the artist and that he would return to time and again throughout his career. These works dating from 1988 through 1992 are the product of a long investigation into the possibilities of painting spanning more than five decades and are the purest articulation of the artist’s improvised technique.

Lot 23. JEFF KOONS (B. 1955) Cracked Egg (Magenta)  mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating (i) 65 x 62.5/8 x 62.5/8in. (165.1 x 159.1 x 159.1cm.) (ii) 39.3/8 x 62.5/8 x 62.5/8 (100 x 159.1 x 159.1cm.) Executed in 1994-2006, this work is one of five unique versions Estimate: £10,000,000 – £15,000,000 ($16,310,000 - $24,465,000)

Lot 23. JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
Cracked Egg (Magenta)
mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating
(i) 65 x 62.5/8 x 62.5/8in. (165.1 x 159.1 x 159.1cm.)
(ii) 39.3/8 x 62.5/8 x 62.5/8 (100 x 159.1 x 159.1cm.)
Executed in 1994-2006, this work is one of five unique versions
Estimate: £10,000,000 – £15,000,000 ($16,310,000 – $24,465,000) This lot sold for a hammer price of £12.5 million or £14,082,500 with the buyer’s premium ($23,376,950).

According to a 2103 Koons statement: “Cracked Egg is a symbol of birth. It’s already happened so it’s about moving on and transcendence, like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It was technically very difficult to create due to both the concave and convex surfaces.”

Lot 24. Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Study for a Portrait signed, titled and dated 'Study for a portrait Francis Bacon 1978' (on the reverse) oil on canvas 14 x 12in. (35.5 x 30.5cm.) Painted in 1978 Estimate: £2,300,000 – £3,000,000 ($3,751,300 - $4,893,000)

Lot 24. Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Study for a Portrait
signed, titled and dated ‘Study for a portrait Francis Bacon 1978′ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas: 14 x 12in. (35.5 x 30.5cm.), Painted in 1978
Estimate: £2,300,000 – £3,000,000 ($3,751,300 – $4,893,000) This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.3 million or £2,658,500 with the buyer’s premium ($4,413,110).

From the catalogue:

Executed in 1978, Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait is a marked departure from the artist’s painting of the previous decade which had been dominated by canvases that explored his inner turmoil following the death of his former lover George Dyer. It is one of the first beacons marking Bacon’s emergence from this dark period thanks to his burgeoning friendship with John Edwards, an affable young East Ender four decades his junior whom he met in the Colony Club in 1974 and who became Bacon’s closest friend and companion from 1976. Study for a Portrait possesses many of the young man’s distinguishing features while seemingly merging them with that of Dyer and Bacon’s own self-portraits. The work also relates to a prolonged series of very dark self-portrait heads Bacon began in the mid-1970s.

Lot 29. Cy Twombly (1928-2011) Untitled signed and dated twice 'Cy Twombly 1972' (centre left edge and upper centre edge); dated '1972' (lower right) graphite and crayon on paper 61 x 78in. (154.9 x 198.1cm.) Executed in 1972 Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000 ($1,957,200 - $2,935,800)

Lot 29. Cy Twombly (1928-2011), Untitled
signed and dated twice ‘Cy Twombly 1972′ (centre left edge and upper centre edge);
dated ’1972′ (lower right)
graphite and crayon on paper: 61 x 78in. (154.9 x 198.1cm.), Executed in 1972
Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000 ($1,957,200 – $2,935,800) This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.0 million or £2,322,500 with the buyer’s premium ($3,855,350).

I love this work – it’s big, authoritative, mysterious and magisterial. From the catalogue:

Vast and engulfing, Untitled of 1972 is an outstanding large-scale drawing related to both the poetics of Stephane Mallarmé and Twombly’s celebrated Bolsena series of paintings made in 1969, exemplified by its combination of fragmented language, disjointed measurements, corrections, grids and overdrawings schismatically outlining a sense of poetic calculation in space. It was during the summer of 1969 at the very same moment that Neil Armstrong was taking his first bold steps onto the surface of the moon, that Twombly found himself standing in the Palazzo del Dago on the shores of Lake Bolsena engaged in the painting of a series of white and grey-ground paintings that attempted to reflect a sense of the strange synchronicity of this division in space and time. The fourteen paintings that resulted from this summer came to be known as the Bolsena series and reflected in many ways the culmination of the artist’s increasing interest in the concepts of time, space and measurement as an essential part of his ongoing concern in the late 1960s with the development of line.

$28.8 million Richter Leads Sotheby’s Feb. 2014 Contemporary Art Sales in London

February 12, 2014
Lot 12. GERHARD RICHTER B.1932 WAND (WALL) signed, numbered 806 and dated 1994 on the reverse oil on canvas 240 by 240cm.; 94 1/2 by 94 1/2 in. Estimate Upon Request

Lot 12. GERHARD RICHTER B.1932, WAND (WALL)
signed, numbered 806 and dated 1994 on the reverse
oil on canvas: 240 by 240cm.; 94 1/2 by 94 1/2 in.
Estimate Upon Request (in excess of £15m/$25m). This lot sold for a hammer price of £15.5 million or £17,442,500 with the buyer’s premium ($28,678,958).

Sotheby’s February 12, 2014 Evening Sale of Contemporary art contains works by the artists collectors are hungry for: Richter, Warhol, Basquiat, Twombly, Freud and more.

The Richter Wall (above) opened at £12 million and it took an effort to get it to the £15.5 million hammer price. Indeed, much of the sale, with some exceptions, proved lethargic.  Of 59 lots offered, two were withdrawn and ten failed to sell and generated a total of £87,915,500 ($144,550,665).

The Twombly from 1964, which had not been seen for some 40 years, generated a serious bidding war before finally hammering to a phone bidder for £10.8 million. The Basquiat Tenor just managed to hammer at £3.8 million, the bottom end of its estimate, while the Freud squeaked past its £2.5 million low estimate to hammer for £2.6 million, purportedly to Stephen Ongpin. The Kiefer Let a Thousand Flower Bloom dried up at £550,000 (low estimate was £60,000). The remaining Twombly’s sold – one (Lot 49, below) well over its high estimate, while another (Lot 52) went £10,000 over the reserve to hammer at £310,000.

Lot 26. ANDY WARHOL 1928 - 1987 MAO signed on the reverse oil on canvas 127 by 106.6cm.; 50 by 42in. Executed in 1973. Estimate: £5.5-7.5 million ($9,020,550 — 12,300,750).

Lot 26. ANDY WARHOL 1928 – 1987, MAO
signed on the reverse
oil on canvas: 127 by 106.6cm.; 50 by 42in., Executed in 1973.
Estimate: £5.5-7.5 million ($9,020,550 — 12,300,750). This lot sold for a hammer price of £6.7 million or £7,586,500 with the buyer’s premium ($12,473,723).

Lot 9. CY TWOMBLY 1928 - 2011 UNTITLED (ROME) oil, wax crayon and pencil on canvas 206 by 253cm.; 81 1/8 by 99 5/8 in. Executed in 1964. Estimate: £5-7 million ($8,200,500 — 11,480,700).

Lot 9. CY TWOMBLY 1928 – 2011, UNTITLED (ROME)
oil, wax crayon and pencil on canvas: 206 by 253cm.; 81 1/8 by 99 5/8 in., Executed in 1964.
Estimate: £5-7 million ($8,200,500 — 11,480,700). This lot sold for a hammer price of £10.8 million or £12,178,500 with the buyer’s premium ($20,023,890).

This Twombly has apparently not been seen for some four decades, which makes its appearance at auction notable.  From the catalogue:

Cy Twombly’s breathtaking painting Untitled (Rome) of 1964 brings together in perfect concert all the spectacular drama, enveloping scale, stunning colour, sublime confluence of line and form, and sheer emotional urgency that characterise the most irresistible achievements of his prodigious oeuvre. Executed in the artist’s thirty-sixth year, this major triumph of his groundbreaking 1960s output belongs to a critical moment in his long and illustrious career. Created in Rome, Twombly’s beloved adopted home, it was acquired in Italy forty-five years ago and has remained in the same important private European collection ever since. Never before exhibited publically,Untitled (Rome)’s monumental scale, surpassed by only one other work of 1964, sets it apart as among the most physically impressive canvases of Twombly’s entire canon. The canvas spans in excess of two by two and-a-half meters, and to stand before it first-hand is to enter an experiential arena limited only by the beholder’s imagination.

Lot 29. JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT 1960 - 1988 TENOR signed, titled and dated 1985 on the reverse acrylic, oilstick and paper collage on canvas 254 by 289.5cm.; 100 by 114in. Estimate: £3.8-4.8 million ($6,232,380 — 7,872,480).

Lot 29. JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT 1960 – 1988, TENOR
signed, titled and dated 1985 on the reverse
acrylic, oilstick and paper collage on canvas: 254 by 289.5cm.; 100 by 114in.
Estimate: £3.8-4.8 million ($6,232,380 — 7,872,480). This lot sold for a hammer price of £3.8 million or £4,338,500 with the buyer’s premium ($7,133,362).

Lot 15. 1922-2011 HEAD ON A GREEN SOFA oil on canvas 91.5 by 91.5cm.; 36 by 36in. Executed in 1960-61. Estimate: £2.5-3.5 million ($4,100,250 — 5,740,350).

Lot 15. LUCIAN FREUD 1922-2011 HEAD ON A GREEN SOFA
oil on canvas: 91.5 by 91.5cm.; 36 by 36in., Executed in 1960-61.
Estimate: £2.5-3.5 million ($4,100,250 — 5,740,350). This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.6 million or £2,994,500 with the buyer’s premium ($4,923,557)

Lot 49. CY TWOMBLY 1928 - 2011 LYCIAN DRAWING (NIPHIDIA) signed with the artist's initials twice, titled and dated Aug 22 82 and Sept 19 82  oil, crayon and pencil on Fabriano paper 100 by 70cm.; 39 3/8 by 27 5/8 in. Estimate: £1-1.2 million ($1,640,100 — 1,968,120).

Lot 49. CY TWOMBLY 1928 – 2011 LYCIAN DRAWING (NIPHIDIA)
signed with the artist’s initials twice, titled and dated Aug 22 82 and Sept 19 82
oil, crayon and pencil on Fabriano paper: 100 by 70cm.; 39 3/8 by 27 5/8 in.
Estimate: £1-1.2 million ($1,640,100 — 1,968,120). This lot sold for a hammer price of £1.55 million or £1,818,500 with the buyer’s premium ($2,989,979).

Lot 52. CY TWOMBLY 1928-2011 IDILLI signed with the artist's initials and dated 76 oil, watercolour and crayon on three sheets of Fabriano paper sheet: 116.8 by 83.8cm.; 46 by 33in. Estimate: £400,000-600,000 ($656,040 — 984,060).

Lot 52. CY TWOMBLY 1928-2011 IDILLI
signed with the artist’s initials and dated 76
oil, watercolour and crayon on three sheets of Fabriano paper: sheet: 116.8 by 83.8cm.; 46 by 33in.
Estimate: £400,000-600,000 ($656,040 — 984,060). This lot sold for a hammer price of £320,000 or £386,500 with the buyer’s premium ($635,483).

Lot 20. ANSELM KIEFER B.1945 LASST TAUSEND BLUMEN BLÜHEN titled; signed on the reverse mixed media on canvas 190 by 280cm.; 74 3/4 by 110 1/4 in. Executed in 1998. Estimate: £600,000-800,000 ($984,060 — 1,312,080).

Lot 20. ANSELM KIEFER B.1945, LASST TAUSEND BLUMEN BLÜHEN
titled; signed on the reverse
mixed media on canvas: 190 by 280cm.; 74 3/4 by 110 1/4 in., Executed in 1998.
Estimate: £600,000-800,000 ($984,060 — 1,312,080) Bidding on this lot stopped at £550,000 and it failed to sell.

Extraordinary and Rare Bronze Statue discovered in Gaza – but where?

February 2, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 6.42.19 PMThanks to Looting Matters for this fascinating story.  Bloomberg’s Vernon Silver reports in The Apollo of Gaza about the discovery last year of an ancient male nude bronze statue purportedly in waters off the shore of the Gaza Strip.  The nearly six-foot-tall, 1,000-pound antiquity is a rare surviving large scale figure, of Roman or Greek origin and perhaps 2,000-years-old.  It’s also incredibly valuable to archaeologists, art historians, among others:

Research by  Thomas Bauzou [a professor of ancient history at France’s Université d’Orléans who does archaeological research in Gaza] concluded … the statue dated from between the 5th century B.C. and 2nd century A.D. “The Apollo of Gaza is exceptional because it is the only classical Greek bronze life-size statue found in the whole Middle East.”

And, theoretically, it’s worth a good deal of money:

“A bronze of this size is one of a kind,” says Giacomo Medici, a dealer whose 2004 conviction in Rome for acting as a hub of the global antiquities trade led to the repatriation of works from the world’s biggest museums and richest collectors, including the Getty and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. If the Apollo could be sold, such a statue would bring “20, 30, 40 million euros, maybe more, 100 million for the highest quality,” Medici says, speaking by phone from house arrest at his villa north of the Italian capital. “You could make it a centerpiece of a museum or private collection.”

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 7.07.00 PMBecause of numerous regulations, potential buyers in the US and Europe are prohibited from purchasing the statue, even if it could be exported from Gaza. Silver’s article provides some valuable insights on that dimension.

But the most intriguing question is where was the statue found.  Jouda Ghorab, as 26-year-old fisherman claims to have discovered the object in 12- to 15-foot-deep waters off the coast in mid-August, 2013.  However, at least one expert is unconvinced:

“It does not come from the sea. It’s obvious,” Bauzou says. The giveaway, they say, is the lack of any sea encrustation or damage from hundreds of years underwater. Instead, they suspect the bronze came from a clandestine excavation somewhere on land. “This story has been fabricated to hide the real place where the statue was found so they can continue digging.”

So what is the future for this amazing discovery:

Officially, that determination will be made by Hamas. “Our investigations are still going on,” says Muhammad Ismael Khillah, assistant undersecretary at the Gaza Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities … [who] hopes to strike a deal outside of Gaza to restore and display the bronze. Along with the Louvre, whose contacts have been “indirect,” a U.S. museum has gotten in touch, he says. (Of course, any Hamas deal with an American institution risks running afoul of sanctions if not done with permission from the U.S. government.)

One arrangement Khillah floats is lending out the Apollo to a foreign museum for money. “We are keeping the door open to cooperation with any government,” he says. He also doesn’t rule out a public exhibition at home in Gaza, making accommodations for its nudity, of course. “We will have to cover it in certain places,” he says. In the meantime, almost nobody can set eyes on the bronze, which is being held at a secret location. Khillah will reveal only a few details: The Apollo is in a Hamas Interior Ministry office, somewhere in Gaza, being kept away from sources of humidity, he says. It is propped up in a corner.

Reclusive heiress’ $35 million Monet painting featured in May 2014 auction

January 31, 2014
Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1907 Estimate: $25-35 million.

Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1907
Estimate: $25-35 million.

Christie’s will be offering property from estate of Huguette Clark, the reclusive heiress who died in May 2011 at the age of 104.  As the New York Times obituary noted: “She was almost certainly the last link to New York’s Gilded Age, reared in Beaux-Arts splendor in a 121-room Fifth Avenue mansion awash in Rembrandt, Donatello, Rubens and Degas. Her father, a copper baron who once bought himself a United States Senate seat as casually as another man might buy a pair of shoes, had been born before the Mexican War.”

The 121-room mansion her father built on Fifth Avenue.

The 121-room mansion her father built on Fifth Avenue.

According to the Christie’s announcement, more than 400 items will be put to auction including “[f]our masterworks by Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be presented in the Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s New York on May 6, followed by a dedicated sale titled An American Dynasty: The Clark Family Treasures on June 18.”

One of the stars is a 1907 Claude Monet Nymphéas, that has not been publicly exhibited since 1926. According to the announcement:

Huguette Clark purchased Claude Monet’s Nymphéas in 1930 in New York from the Durand-Ruel Galleries, whose Paris branch had jointly acquired the work with the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune directly from the artist ten years earlier.

Paintings by John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase will also be offered:

Leading the group of American Art is John Singer Sargent’s Girl Fishing at San Vigilio [(Estimate: $3-5 million)]  

John Singer Sargent, Girl Fishing at San Vigilio, 1913  Estimate: $3-5 million.

John Singer Sargent, Girl Fishing at San Vigilio, 1913
Estimate: $3-5 million.

San Vigilio was a small fishing village at the southern end of Lake Garda and Sargent was so taken with this picturesque locale that he referred
to the spot as “paradise” in a letter to his friend Ralph Curtis. In Girl Fishing at San Vigilio, painted in 1913, Sargent painted one of his companions fishing along the shore, draped in a cashmere shawl, which appears in many of Sargent’s compositions from the period.”

[ … ]

William Merrit Chase, A Water Fountain in Prospect Park, 1886-1887. Estimate: $700,000-1,000,000.

William Merrit Chase, A Water Fountain in Prospect Park, 1886-1887.
Estimate: $700,000-1,000,000.

William Merritt Chase’s A Water Fountain in Prospect Park (illustrated left; estimate: $700,000-1,000,000) was painted in Brooklyn, New York in 1886. It depicts a water fountain near the lake in the park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the landscape architects also responsible for Central Park. This small work was probably painted en plein air at the park and belongs to a series of works he painted in the same park between 1886 and 1887. In 1915, Chase was commissioned to paint a portrait of Senator Clark and it has been surmised that this painting was given to Clark as a token for having commissioned the portrait.

A Degas that should have been part of the cache is instead with the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. In March 2012  MSNBC reported about that a $10 million Degas ballerina painting was stolen sometime in the 1990′s from Clark’s extensive Fifth Avenue apartment complex overlooking New York’s Central Park. It ended up in the home of Henry Bloch (the “H” in H&R Block),  who purchased it in good faith.  Even after the theft was discovered and the FBI brought in, the very private Clark declined to make a stink lest the affair become public.

Large, Opulent 17th Dutch still life among National Gallery of Art’s notable new acquisitions

January 31, 2014
Pieter Claesz, Dutch, 1596/1597 – 1660 Still Life with Peacock Pie, 1627 oil on panel. 77.5 x 128.9 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund

Pieter Claesz, Dutch, 1596/1597 – 1660
Still Life with Peacock Pie, 1627
oil on panel. 77.5 x 128.9 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund

The National Gallery of Art has just announced a round of new acquisitions (made since September 2013) and the lead work is a crazy, opulent Still Life with Peacock Pie by the 17th Dutch painter Pieter Claesz:

In this large―more than four feet across―and magnificent banquet piece, Pieter Claesz (1596/97–1660) demonstrates why he was one of the most important still-life painters in Haarlem. A sumptuous feast is set with some of the most extravagant foods available in the Netherlands in the early 17th century. A large peacock pie is festooned with the fowl’s own feathers and gullet—a true delicacy marking only the most special occasions—plus a pink rose placed in its beak. An array of foods surrounds the garnished game, including a cooked bird, olives, lemons, breads, peaches, nuts, and candies. Many of these foods, which Claesz rendered beautifully in pewter platters and Wan-li bowls, were delicacies imported from foreign lands. A small mound of salt, which was itself a precious spice, in a gilded saltcellar adds even more flavor to the meal. Perched at the ready is a berkemeier filled with glistening white wine poured from a pewter pitcher.

Painted in 1627, the size of this spectacular banquet feast is critical to its impact. Using life-size pictorial elements, the table top becomes extension of the viewer’s space. Claesz subtly enhances the effect with evidence of human presence―food partially eaten, a napkin crumpled―and precisely captured textures: the pebbly lemon peel cascading from the plate, the shining pewter pitcher, the tablecloth’s crisp folds. He harmonized and animated the scene with subtle shadows and delicate touches of light, as in the light passing through the glass of wine and reflecting on the cloth. This banquet scene was purchased through the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund.

Also purchased, the first illustrated publication of De claris mulieribus by Giovanni Boccaccio; 15th- and 16th-century tempera-and-gold drawings on vellum by Zanobi Strozzi and Simon Bening; an 18th-century chalk-and-ink wash by Jean-Honoré Fragonard; 19th-century works on paper by French masters Cézanne, Monet, and Gauguin; and a charcoal-on-canvas painting by the American contemporary artist, Jim Dine, the first painting by the artist to enter the gallery’s collection.

One Italian Baroque Painting – Nine months later it’s three times the price

January 26, 2014
ALESSANDRO MAGNASCO GENOA 1667 - 1749 JOSEPH INTERPRETS THE DREAMS OF THE PHARAOH’S SERVANTS WHILST IN JAIL oil on canvas 52  4/5  by 69 in.; 134 by 177 cm.

ALESSANDRO MAGNASCO, GENOA 1667 – 1749
JOSEPH INTERPRETS THE DREAMS OF THE PHARAOH’S SERVANTS WHILST IN JAIL
oil on canvas: 52 4/5 by 69 in.; 134 by 177 cm.

UPDATE: The painting was featured in Robilant & Voena’s booth at Maastricht as seen in this Judd Tully video.

The standout in Sotheby’s current selling exhibition Painting & Passion: The Baroque in Italy is the dramatic/operatic Alessandro Magnasco prison painting (above).  But when I saw it the other day I was struck with deja vu – hadn’t this recently been at auction.

In fact, the painting was sold at Dorotheum on April 17, 2013. The picture was estimated at EUR200,000-300,000 and sold for EUR253,330  (approximately $347,000) – the current asking price is slightly north of $1 million. This is one of the artist’s finest and most interesting works I’ve encountered and I don’t begrudge an owner who wants to make a profit, but a three fold increase?

The provenance provided by Sotheby’s lists the painting’s most recent appearance at auction as ” Sotheby’s, London 5th July 1995, lot 57″, and at least one Sotheby’s Old Masters representative queried professed to know nothing of the painting’s most recent auction history.

Setting aside all of that, enjoy the picture – if you’re in New York, be certain to visit Sotheby’s and see it.  Meanwhile, here’s the catalogue entry from Dorotheum:

Fausta Franchini Guelfi believes the present painting to have been painted entirely by Alessandro Magnasco without the assistance of artists such as Antonio Francesco Peruzzini or Clemente Spera, and as such it is an important example within the artist´s oeuvre.

The theatrical rendering of the interior of a prison apparent in the present painting helps to illustrate an episode from the biblical story of Joseph and the composition almost certainly relates as a ricordo of a backdrop, or scenery, designed for the performance of an oratorio.

The story of Joseph offered reflections on both devout meditation and considerations on royal recognition, and the story was the subject of at least three “sacred acts” or oratorios sung at Vienna’s Imperial Chapel, all with text and music by Italian authors . The most well-known – Giuseppe (Joseph) by Apostolo Zeno (1722) and Giuseppe riconosciuto (Joseph recognised) by Pietro Metastasio (1733), the first with music by Antonio Caldara, the second set to music by G. Porsile – both focus on the end of the biblical hero’s story when Joseph, as the Pharaoh’s chief minister, recognises his brothers. However the performance of interest here is Gioseffo che interpreta i sogni (Joseph interpreting dreams) with text by Giovanni Battista Neri and music by Antonio Caldara, also performed in Vienna’s Imperial Chapel for Emperor Charles VI in 1726. A copy of the opera libretto, printed in Vienna, is in the Theatrical Library collections of La Scala in Milan (TI.R.909/18); while the score by Caldara is kept in the Archives of Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. The Parte Prima (First Part) starts precisely with the scene portrayed here by Magnasco, and the obsessive burden of prison in his painting, with connotations of suffering and denial of freedom, with Joseph’s Aria: “Maybe you are unsettled by your foot being / restrained within these walls? Ah! Be consoled in the knowledge / that every man in this world/ is a prisoner, / and whether his prison / be large or small / there is nothing of more pain or less suffering/ than a chain fixed to a wall”.

The oratorio would have been performed at a later date in Milan, which was usual practice for many performances first held in Vienna and the oratorio would have been held with the presence of the scenery. This suggests that the religious opera was performed at a convent, monastery or the palace of an nobleman (perhaps the commissioner of the painting himself) who followed the latest musical events of the Viennese court. Particularly appreciated were the works of Antonio Caldara (Venice 1670/1671–Vienna 1736), imperial composer as of 1716; the maestro of Emperor Charles VI who took pleasure in music and appreciated its extraordinary creative versatility.

If the painting, as has been suggested by Fausta Franchini Gulefi, were a documentation of the Milanese scenery of Gioseffo (Joseph), Magnasco would have had the sketch directly from the scenic designer in order to depict the scene, according to the commissioner’s wishes. It is currently not possible to propose the name of a scenic designer; however Corpo di guardia reale (The guard) and Anteriore di un serraglio di fiere (Front of a menagerie of animals) designed by Pietro Righini for Medo, performed at the Teatro Ducale of Parma in 1728, and engraved by Jacopo Vezzani and Martin Engelbrecht (see G. Botti, Pietro Righini apparatore e scenografo a Parma, in La Parma in festa. Spettacolarita e teatro nel Ducato di Parma nel Settecento, Modena 1987, fìgs. 6-7), can be compared, hypothetically, with the scenic design of Magnasco’s painting, both for the presence of the pointed arches in the centre of the scene, and the type of prison in Serraglio. The author of the scenic design for Gioseffo che interpreta i sogni (Joseph who interprets dreams) would have been, most probably a pupil of Ferdinando Galli Bibiena, as shown by the “veduta per angolo”; the presence of a large group of Bibiena scenic designers in Milan has been documented for the first half of the eighteenth century (S. Zatti Scenografi in Lombardia dallíllusione al vero, in Settocento Lombardo (exhibition catalogue) edited by R. Bossaglia, V. Terraroli, 1991, p. 441).

Fausta Franchini Guelfi dates the present composition to between 1726 and 1730 and it can be stylistically be compared to the works executed by Magnesco for Seitenstetten Abbey, Austria, painted for Conte Gerolamo Colloredo, the Austrian Governor of Milan. These works, and others completed during the succeeding period, such as the Satire of the Nobleman in Poverty (Detroit, Institute of Art) and The Synagogue (Cleveland, Museum of Art), suggest the artist’s active participation in the intellectual debates of advanced aristocratic circles. In the first half of the 18th century in Milan, protests against corruption in the monastic orders, religious intolerance and social prejudice and ignorance began to be expressed in circles that were particularly sensitive to the new ideas of the Enlightenment emerging from France, Austria and the countries of northern Europe. In fact it has been argued that Magnasco influenced by these trends, used compositions such as the present painting and others of his prison scenes to depict the misery of those incarcerated, using such works to show the poor conditions and the cruel methods of torture to which prisoners were subjected. Magnasco´s paintings such as the Transportation of Prisoners (F. F. Guelfi, Magnasco, 1977, p. 123, fig. 118) or a Scene of the Inquisition (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) were also social comments according to some observers.

Whatever the underlying message in Magnasco´s oeuvre it is clear that he excelled in producing canvases of atmospheric interiors. These were often peopled with small, and elongated characters who were frequently dressed in tatters, such as here, and they are rendered in flickering, nervous brushstrokes. Magnasco’s style is strikingly original. In late-baroque and Rococo painting, the loose brush became a tool used by other artists and ultimately, his work may also have influenced other celebrated painters de tocco (by touch) such as Gianantonio and Francesco Guardi in Venice.

We are extremely grateful to Fausta Franchini Guelfi for her help in the cataloguing of this lot.

Beautiful $13.6 Million Book of Hours and Choice $8.9 million Bassano lead Christies Jan. 2014 Old Masters Sale

January 26, 2014

Lot 157. THE ROTHSCHILD PRAYERBOOK, A BOOK OF HOURS, USE OF ROME, IN LATIN, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [Ghent or Bruges, c.1505-1510] 228 x 160mm. 252 leaves. Estimate $12-18 million.

Lot 157. THE ROTHSCHILD PRAYERBOOK, A BOOK OF HOURS, USE OF ROME, IN LATIN, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Ghent or Bruges, c.1505-1510]
228 x 160mm. 252 leaves.
Estimate $12-18 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $12 million ($13,605,000 with the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE: A brisk morning session was followed by a lethargic afternoon session, but Christie’s still managed to sell many of their top estimated lots including the Rothschild Book of Hours ($13,605,000) and a Bassano Adoration ($8,901,000).  There were several speed bumps as several lots with multimillion dollar estimates - Artemisia Gentileschi’s self-portrait, a Christoph Amberger portrait, a small devotional work by Gerard David, a Ferrdinand Bol portrait and several others – all failed to sell.

The morning session sale results totaled $15,825,570, while the afternoon brought in just under $45 million.

ORIGINAL POST: The January 29, 2014 Old Masters sale at Christie’s in New York is crowded with intriguing and desirable works, starting with a beautiful Netherlandish Book of Hours from the early 16th-century. Though I’m quick to call out auction house hyperbole, this time the exaltations are worthy:

The Rothschild Prayerbook is one of the group of spectacular manuscrits-de-luxe produced around 1490 to 1520 for an international clientele and members of the Habsburg court in the Netherlands. Vast undertakings, they achieved completion — unlike so many earlier ambitious manuscript projects — through the efficient co-ordination of labour and the collaboration of several artists and their workshops.

The Rothschild Book of Hours includes work by Gerard Horenbout, Simon Benning and his father, Alexander Benning (also know as the Master of the Older Prayerbook), and Gerard David, who painted the image of the Madonna and Child on a Crescent Moon (above).

Lot 157. THE ROTHSCHILD PRAYERBOOK, A BOOK OF HOURS, USE OF ROME, IN LATIN, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [Ghent or Bruges, c.1505-1510] 228 x 160mm. 252 leaves. Estimate $12-18 million.

Lot 157. THE ROTHSCHILD PRAYERBOOK, A BOOK OF HOURS, USE OF ROME, IN LATIN, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Ghent or Bruges, c.1505-1510]
228 x 160mm. 252 leaves.
Estimate $12-18 million. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 157. THE ROTHSCHILD PRAYERBOOK, A BOOK OF HOURS, USE OF ROME, IN LATIN, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [Ghent or Bruges, c.1505-1510] 228 x 160mm. 252 leaves. Estimate $12-18 million.

Lot 157. THE ROTHSCHILD PRAYERBOOK, A BOOK OF HOURS, USE OF ROME, IN LATIN, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Ghent or Bruges, c.1505-1510]
228 x 160mm. 252 leaves.
Estimate $12-18 million. (click on image to enlarge)

 The lot that surprised me is this Adoration of the Shepherds by Jacapo Bassano, specifically it’s $8-12 million estimate – and it carries a third party guarantee, so it will be sold.

Lot 116. Jacopo da Ponte, called Jacopo Bassano (Bassano del Grappa c. 1510-1592) The Adoration of the Shepherds  signed 'iac.s/bassa [...]' (lower right)  oil on canvas  28 3/8 x 44 1/8 in. (72 x 112 cm.)  Estimate: $8-12 million.

Lot 116. Jacopo da Ponte, called Jacopo Bassano (Bassano del Grappa c. 1510-1592)
The Adoration of the Shepherds
signed ‘iac.s/bassa [...]‘ (lower right)
oil on canvas
28 3/8 x 44 1/8 in. (72 x 112 cm.)
Estimate: $8-12 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for a hammer price of $7.8 million ($8,901,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Jacopo Bassano ranked with Titian, Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto as among the most significant 16th-century artists in the Veneto, yet today he is not as well known as his peers.  This is a particularly handsome example of his work – the details of the three shepherds (it has been suggested that they represent the three ages of man), particularly the oldest one kneeling in the foreground (Bassano’s pictures often have kneeling figures with legs tucked closely beneath them).  The figure of St. Peter on the right is unusually imposing – even though he’s reclining, they way he engages the viewer verges on intimidating.  More about the artist from the lot notes:

Jacopo Bassano, known as such because he was born in the town of Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto, was the son of a provincial painter, Francesco, and after working with him was sent to Venice where he trained with Bonifazio de’ Pitati. In Venice he would have been exposed to the work of Titian and Pordenone, whose influence is apparent in early works such as the Supper at Emmaus (Fort Worth, Kimbell Museum) of 1538. In the 1540s Pordenone’s influence–seen in the tendency to crowd figures into a curve in the foreground–is combined with a Lombard naturalism perhaps inspired by Savoldo and a colorism reminiscent of Lorenzo Lotto. By 1540, Jacopo had returned to live in his native Bassano where he would remain for the rest of his life. However, he traveled frequently to Venice and was clearly abreast of the current artistic trends there.

Lot 125. Paolo di Giovanni Fei (San Quirico, Castelvecchio, or Siena c. 1340/5-c. 1411) The Madonna Nursing the Christ child  tempera and gold on panel, in its original engaged frame  30½ x 20¼ in. (77.5 x 51.4 cm.)  Estimate: $600,000-800,000.

Lot 125. Paolo di Giovanni Fei (San Quirico, Castelvecchio, or Siena c. 1340/5-c. 1411)
The Madonna Nursing the Christ child
tempera and gold on panel, in its original engaged frame
30½ x 20¼ in. (77.5 x 51.4 cm.)
Estimate: $600,000-800,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $480,000 ($581,000 with the buyer’s premium).

First, the biographical background from the sale catalogue:

Paolo di Giovanni Fei was among the leading Sienese painters of the 14th century. Influenced by the earlier masters of the Sienese Trecento including Duccio, Ugolino, the Lorenzetti, and Simone Martini, Fei also looked to the art of his closer contemporaries, Bartolo di Fredi and Andrea Vanni, as he developed his own style. First recorded as a painter in 1369, Fei’s earliest secure works date from 1381. His name is mentioned in the 1389 register of painters enrolled in the Breve dell’Arte, and between 1395 and 1400 he is documented as working in the Siena Cathedral. Although he is known to have undertaken major public commissions, Fei’s extant oeuvre mainly consists of small, exquisitely-wrought panels for private devotion, of which the present work is an important example.

The picture is characteristic work that also retains its original engaged frame “inlaid with small cabochon stones and medallions of reverse-painted glass, orverre églomisé.” It’s being offloaded by the estate of Barbara Piasecka Johnson with proceeds to benefit her eponymous foundation.

Lot 104. Piero di Giovanni, called Lorenzo Monaco (?1370/75-c.1425/30 Florence) and Workshop The Madonna of Humility with adoring angels  tempera and gold on panel  35¼ x 22 1/8 in. (89.5 x 56.2 cm.)  Estimate: $350,000-500,000.

Lot 104. Piero di Giovanni, called Lorenzo Monaco (?1370/75-c.1425/30 Florence) and Workshop
The Madonna of Humility with adoring angels
tempera and gold on panel
35¼ x 22 1/8 in. (89.5 x 56.2 cm.)
Estimate: $350,000-500,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $450,000 ($545,000 with the buyer’s premium).

This is a so-so work in so-so condition by a very talented artist – it’s begin sold by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. According to the lot notes:

Though long attributed to the master himself, more recent scholarship has convincingly associated this Madonna of Humility with an artist in Lorenzo’s workshop, which included, among others, the young Fra Angelico. However, Federico Zeri (loc. cit.) has argued that while executed by a close associate, the design of the present work must have been invented by the master himself. Zeri suggests The Madonna of Humility was painted c. 1405-1410, while Eisenberg (loc. cit.) favors a dating of c. 1408-1410.

Actually, for more than 40 years the attribution on this work has bounced between the artist, the artist and workshop and just plain workshop.  Moreover, both scholars cited above say this is a workshop picture.  That lack of consensus and it’s questionable condition could prove fatal.

Lot 5. Frans van Mieris I (Leiden 1635-1681)  A traveler at rest  signed 'F. van Mieris' (lower right)  oil on copper  8½ x 7 in. (21.6 x 17.8 cm.)  Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million.

Lot 5. Frans van Mieris I (Leiden 1635-1681)
A traveler at rest
signed ‘F. van Mieris’ (lower right)
oil on copper
8½ x 7 in. (21.6 x 17.8 cm.)
Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $1.3 million ($1,565,000 with the buyer’s premium)

This is a splendid picture by Leiden fijnschilder Frans van Mieris – intimate in scale and rich in detail. The photo would appear to make the lush sleeves look in more contrast to the rest of the clothing than is actually the case. From the lot notes:

Van Mieris was apparently fascinated with the subject of the seated traveler, as it appears elsewhere in his oeuvre. A similar figure can be found in The Painter in his Studio in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden …

The theme of the traveler is part of a long tradition in Netherlandish art, of which perhaps the best-known prototype is Hieronymus Bosch’s The Pedlar in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam … Like Van Mieris’ protagonist, Bosch’s figure has a bag, hat, stick and untidy clothing. The Pedlar has been interpreted as embodying the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the young man who squanders his inheritance on frivolous amusements in a distant land before returning home repentant, or, alternatively, as representing all mankind, striving to improve himself even as he is surrounded by opportunities for sin … The meaning of Van Mieris’ traveler is similarly complex: he is unambiguously drinking and living as a vagrant, yet his clear, intelligent gaze and handsome features distinguish him from the boorish peasants of [Adriaen] Brouwer and [David] Teniers [II]. A possible pendant, similar in size and also on copper, is Van Mieris’ The Broken Egg in the Hermitage Museum. In this painting, a woman sits on the ground beside a basket of eggs, staring forlornly at one that has broken on the ground beside her, perhaps referring to her lost virginity … Together, the two pictures might signify a narrative linking her unhappy expression with the traveler’s vagrancy, although the ambiguity of Van Mieris’ imagery prevents a single, definitive interpretation.

Lot 12. Giandomenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727-1804)  I Cani Sapienti (The Dancing Dogs)  oil on canvas  13 x 19 in. (33 x 48.5 cm.) Estimate: $2-3 million.

Lot 12. Giandomenico Tiepolo (Venice 1727-1804)
I Cani Sapienti (The Dancing Dogs)
oil on canvas
13 x 19 in. (33 x 48.5 cm.)
Estimate: $2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $3.1 million ($3,637,000 with the buyer’s premium).

This is a peculiar picture that would benefit from a bath, but is not without charm. From the lot notes:

The 18th century witnessed a second Golden Age of Venetian culture: though the city was no longer a great political power, it had reemerged as an artistic capital, home to luminaries such as Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, Giambattista Piazzetta, and Giambattista Piranesi. Its greatest artistic dynasty, though, was without doubt the Tiepolo family workshop, in which the young Giandomenico trained under his father Giambattista and traveled with him to assist on vast decorative commissions in Wurzburg (1750-1752) and Madrid (1762-1770). In these early years, Giandomenico’s style was meant to blend seamlessly with that of his father, and some of his youthful works are barely distinguishable from Giambattista’s. Indeed, the present picture and its pendant Dancing the Minuet … which most recently sold at Christie’s, London (£1,308,500), were for many years thought to be works by the elder Tiepolo.

Lot 156. Jan Provost (Bergen-Mons, Henegouwen c. 1465-1529 Bruges)  The Annunciation  oil on panel  20 3/8 x 15 5/8 in. (51.8 x 39.7 cm.)  Estimate: $2-4 million.

Lot 156. Jan Provost (Bergen-Mons, Henegouwen c. 1465-1529 Bruges)
The Annunciation
oil on panel
20 3/8 x 15 5/8 in. (51.8 x 39.7 cm.)
Estimate: $2-4 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $3.1 million ($3,637,000 with the buyer’s premium).

The catalogue notes open with this: “In exceptionally fine condition, this tender representation of the Annunciation is a rare, early painting by the South Netherlandish master, Jan Provost. Considered by Max J. Friedländer one of the most important exponents of the Renaissance as it was interpreted in the Low Countries, Provost was an extraordinarily inventive artist, never repeating his compositions and often striving for the esoteric and enigmatic in his paintings.”

Though I am a fan of the artist, I am not a fan of this painting. There is a certain lack of pictorial cohesion – the geometry of the room acts against rather than supports the primary narrative.

Lot 158. Gerard David (Oudewater c. 1460-1523 Bruges)  The Lamentation  oil on panel, in the original frame  9 3/8 x 7 3/8 in. (23.9 x 18.6 cm.) Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million.

Lot 158. Gerard David (Oudewater c. 1460-1523 Bruges)
The Lamentation
oil on panel, in the original frame
9 3/8 x 7 3/8 in. (23.9 x 18.6 cm.)
Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $1.05 million and it failed to sell.

This is a highly important artist and a personal favorite of mine.  I am, however, a little taken aback by the estimate. From the lot notes:

Conceived on an intimate scale, it originally formed the right half of a portable diptych, which could open and close like a book to be conveniently carried and displayed by travelers. David represents the Virgin Mary cradling Christ’s ashen body in her arms, while Saint John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene grieve behind them.

A popular subject in Netherlandish Renaissance art, The Lamentation depicts a moment immediately after Christ is taken down from the Cross. While the Deposition is briefly described by all four Evangelists, the specific episode represented here does not appear in the Gospels. David’s source was likely the Meditations on the Life of Christ, a widely read text that promoted a deep, personal connection with the sufferings of Jesus. Probably written in the late-13th century by an anonymous Franciscan friar called the Pseudo-Bonaventura, the book offers a detailed account of the events following the Crucifixion, specifying that Mary Magdalene and Saint John the Evangelist were both present while Mary mourned for her son. The motif of the Virgin embracing her son cheek-to-cheek, however, ultimately derives from a Byzantine icon type known as the Threnos.

Lot 36. Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-1654 Naples)  Self-Portrait as a Lute Player  oil on canvas  30½ x 28¼ in. (77.5 x 71.8 cm.)  Estimate: $3-5 million.

Lot 36. Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-1654 Naples)
Self-Portrait as a Lute Player
oil on canvas
30½ x 28¼ in. (77.5 x 71.8 cm.)
Estimate: $3-5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $2.0 million and it failed to sell.

Lost to notice until its discovery in a private European collection in 1998, this beautiful Self-Portrait as a Lute Player is by Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the leading painters of the Baroque age and among the boldest and most powerfully expressive woman painters in history. Born in Rome, Artemisia studied with her father, the prominent artist Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639), who introduced her to the dramatic realism of Caravaggio and the practice of painting from live models. In 1611, when she was 17, she was sexually assaulted by her father’s business associate and fellow artist Agostino Tassi, a crime against the family’s honor. When Tassi reneged on his promise to marry Artemisia, Orazio brought charges against him, and at the end of a protracted trial, Tassi was convicted and sentenced to a 5-year banishment from Rome. To minimize the scandal which the trial had engendered, Orazio arranged for Artemisia to marry the minor Florentine painter, Pierantonio Stiattesi, and at the end of 1612, the couple moved to Florence, where they would live until 1620.

Lot 38. Evaristo Baschenis (Bergamo 1617-1677)  Still Life with musical instruments  oil on canvas  38½ x 55 7/8 in. (97.8 x 142 cm.)  Estimate: $1.2-1.6 million.

Lot 38. Evaristo Baschenis (Bergamo 1617-1677)
Still Life with musical instruments
oil on canvas
38½ x 55 7/8 in. (97.8 x 142 cm.)
Estimate: $1.2-1.6 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot was withdrawn.

Once belonging to Ferdinando de’ Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany, this splendid, recently discovered Still Life with musical instruments is among the masterpieces of Evaristo Baschenis, the preeminent still life painter of 17th-century Italy. An ordained priest and practicing musician in his native Bergamo, Baschenis invented the subject of the musical still life and became its most celebrated practitioner. His fascination with musical instruments, which he himself collected, was likely influenced by the contemporary fame of the Amati family of violin-makers in nearby Cremona, whom he may have known. While Baschenis’s dramatically illuminated, acutely naturalistic still lifes surely owe a debt to Caravaggio and the 17th-century Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish still life masters, their quiet poetry and exquisite harmonies of color and form reflect his own unique sensibility.

Lot 108. Giovanni da Bologna (documented in Venice and Treviso 1377-1389)  The Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist  tempera and gold on panel, arched top, in an engaged frame  65 1/8 x 30 3/8 in. (165.4 x 77.2 cm.) Estimate: $500,000-700,000.

Lot 108. Giovanni da Bologna (documented in Venice and Treviso 1377-1389)
The Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist
tempera and gold on panel, arched top, in an engaged frame
65 1/8 x 30 3/8 in. (165.4 x 77.2 cm.)
Estimate: $500,000-700,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $400,000 ($485,000 with the buyer’s premium).

At present, there are only four signed works by “Giovanni da Bologna, one of the most faithful pupils of Lorenzo Veneziano (fl. 1356-1372), the leading Venetian painter of the second half of the 14th century. Although Giovanni’s career remains somewhat shrouded in mystery, recent efforts to reassess his development have uncovered numerous documents, including several which show that he worked in Treviso in the late 1370s and early 1380s. He is also recorded as living in Venice from 1383-1385, where he seems to have primarily remained for the rest of his career, writing his will in that city in October 1389.”

Lot 121. Circle of the Master of the Crucifix no. 434 (active Tuscany, c.1230-1250) The Madonna and Child Enthroned with two angels  tempera and gold on panel  40 7/8 x 27¾ in. (103.9 x 70.5 cm.)  Estimate: $300,000-500,000.

Lot 121. Circle of the Master of the Crucifix no. 434 (active Tuscany, c.1230-1250)
The Madonna and Child Enthroned with two angels
tempera and gold on panel
40 7/8 x 27¾ in. (103.9 x 70.5 cm.)
Estimate: $300,000-500,000. Bidding on this lot stopped at $240,000 and it failed to sell.

It is rare to see a 13th century Italian painting at auction:

[T]he present composition is inspired by the iconography known as the ‘Hodegetria’ type, which translates to ‘she who shows the way’. Associated with a lost Byzantine icon showing the Virgin Mary thought to have been painted from life by Saint Luke himself, this format was taken up by numerous painters of the 13th-century, who hoped to achieve an accurate depiction of the Mother of God. The most celebrated example of the so-called ‘Hodegetria’ was once kept in a home in Constantinople run by blind guides (hod*e*goi), whence the name. In such images, the Christ child, shown slightly off to one side of the composition, is presented as a teacher or ancient philosopher, dressed in a toga, holding a scroll while blessing the viewer with his empty hand. The Madonna’s proper right hand gestures toward her son, who will lead the way to salvation, while the elegant golden fringe on her mantle, as seen here at left, denotes her royal status as Queen of Heaven.

The posture and gestures of the Madonna have been conceived in such a way as a to emphasize her three-dimensionality as well as her expressiveness. Instead of facing the viewer squarely, she is turned at a slight angle to the picture plane, underscoring her bulk while at the same time emphasizing her protective stance towards her son, whom she gently supports on her lap. The placement of her hands, while recalling the Hodegetria type, underscores her caring, motherly attitude, instead of presenting him stiffly to the viewer, as was frequently the case in other such representations at the time. In this guise, she is more than Queen of Heaven: she is a human mother as well. Her gently inclined head and plaintive gaze add to the emotional tenor of the image, inviting the viewer to share in her love for her son as well as her future suffering. In the 1260s and 1270s, such innovations were truly remarkable: thisMadonna and Child thus provides an early glimpse of the human, earthly aspect of Christ’s life which would become the great devotional preoccupation of the Renaissance.

Lot 124. Spinello di Luca Spinelli, called Spinello Aretino (Arezzo 1350/2-1410)  The Adoration of the Magi  tempera and gold on panel, unframed  8 5/8 x 15 in. (21.9 x 38.1 cm.)  Estimate: $600,000-800,000. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 124. Spinello di Luca Spinelli, called Spinello Aretino (Arezzo 1350/2-1410)
The Adoration of the Magi
tempera and gold on panel, unframed
8 5/8 x 15 in. (21.9 x 38.1 cm.)
Estimate: $600,000-800,000. (click on image to enlarge) Bidding on this lot stopped at $450,000 and it failed to sell.

Despite some obvious condition issues, this is a splendid work by Arentino that should clean well:

Born in Arezzo around 1350, Spinello Aretino received major commissions throughout his life in his native city, as well as in Lucca, Florence, Pisa, and Siena. A passionate respondent to the work of Giotto’s immediate followers, such as Andrea di Cione, called Orcagna, and his brothers Nardo and Jacopo di Cione, Spinello soon became one of the most famous Tuscan painters of the late Trecento; by the early 15th century, his renown was such that he was awarded commissions for work in the Duomo (1404) and Palazzo Pubblico (1407) in Siena.

Lot 29. Ferdinand Bol (Dordrecht 1610-1680 Amsterdam)  Portrait of a gentleman, half-length, in a cloak and bejeweled hat  oil on canvas, the upper corners made up  34¼ x 30¾ in. (87 x 78.1 cm.) Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million.

Lot 29. Ferdinand Bol (Dordrecht 1610-1680 Amsterdam)
Portrait of a gentleman, half-length, in a cloak and bejeweled hat
oil on canvas, the upper corners made up
34¼ x 30¾ in. (87 x 78.1 cm.)
Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $1.1 million and it failed to sell.

Born and baptized in Dordrecht, Bol went to Amsterdam to study with Rembrandt in about 1636, and probably remained in the studio until about 1641. Some scholars have proposed that Bol may have even become an assistant to the older master, a level of responsibility suggested by his having witnessed a document in 1640 concerning the inheritance of Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612-1642). Like that of his teacher, Bol’s oeuvre largely consists of history pictures, portraits, and genre figures dressed in exotic costumes. Bol also remained deeply influenced by Rembrandt’s palette, technique, and compositions through the 1640s. Bol was successful throughout his entire career, and by the mid-1650s was unrivalled by any of his contemporaries in Amsterdam in receiving official commissions.

Datable to c. 1642, the present Portrait of a Gentleman is contemporaneous with Bol’s earliest signed and dated works, such as the Portrait of a Woman (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art); the Portrait of a Young Woman(Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art); and the Portrait of a middle-aged woman (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie).

Lot 163. Christoph Amberger (Augsburg c. 1505-1561/1562)  Portrait of Barbara Schwarz, half-length  dated '1501/ADI·21:AVG:TO' (upper right, in geometric diagram with symbols) and inscribed 'TO·XXI.AVG:M·DXLII·BARBARA·DIE MATHEVSIN SCHWERTZIN·AE.KRAD.XXXV.IAR' (upper right) oil on panel  28 3/8 x 24 1/8 in. (72 x 61.2 cm.)  Estimate: $4-6 million.

Lot 163. Christoph Amberger (Augsburg c. 1505-1561/1562)
Portrait of Barbara Schwarz, half-length
dated ’1501/ADI·21:AVG:TO’ (upper right, in geometric diagram with symbols) and inscribed ‘TO·XXI.AVG:M·DXLII·BARBARA·DIE MATHEVSIN SCHWERTZIN·AE.KRAD.XXXV.IAR’ (upper right)
oil on panel
28 3/8 x 24 1/8 in. (72 x 61.2 cm.)
Estimate: $4-6 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $2.9 million and it failed to sell.

From the lot notes:

Painted in 1542, this beautifully preserved Portrait of Barbara Schwarz is among the most significant surviving works by the German Renaissance artist, Christoph Amberger, the leading portraitist of the patrician classes in 16th-century Augsburg. One of the major masters of the International courtly portrait style prevailing at the time, Amberger, like his near contemporary Hans Holbein, belongs to the generation of artists following that of Albrecht Dürer.

The Portrait of Barbara Schwarz has as its pendant the portrait of her husband, Matthäus Schwarz [in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza] … Just months after his own likeness was finished, Matthäus commissioned Amberger to execute his wife’s portrait to commemorate her 35th birthday, of which the date, 21 August 1542, is inscribed at upper right.

An astrological horoscope is [also] included at upper right [corner of the painting], consisting of a diagram showing the position of the stars at the time of the sitter’s birth on 21 August 1501.

Lot 165. Lucas Cranach I (Kronach 1472-1553 Weimar) and Lucas Cranach II (Wittenberg 1515-1586 Weimar) Law and Grace  signed with the artist's serpent device and dated '1536' (lower right, on the rock), and extensively inscribed. oil, gold and paper on panel, transferred on panel  25½ x 47½ (64.8 x 120.6 cm.) Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 165. Lucas Cranach I (Kronach 1472-1553 Weimar) and Lucas Cranach II (Wittenberg 1515-1586 Weimar)
Law and Grace
signed with the artist’s serpent device and dated ’1536′ (lower right, on the rock), and extensively inscribed.
oil, gold and paper on panel, transferred on panel
25½ x 47½ (64.8 x 120.6 cm.)
Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for a hammer price of $1.85 million ($2,225,000 with the buyer’s premium).

This painting is large and strange – the subject is the Protestant Reformation – as the catalogue notes: “Painted in 1536, the [Law and Grace] panel illustrates Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith with explanatory passages from a German translation of the bible written on papers affixed to its lower and upper edges.”

The message of Law and Grace is rooted in the theological principles of Martin Luther, as set forth in his Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (published in 1535, but based on lectures given as early as 1519; see J. Dillenberger, Images and Relics: Theological Perceptions and Visual Images in Sixteenth-Century Europe, Oxford, 1999, p. 96). In the tract, the German reformer asserted that Christian salvation is not dependent on human actions, i.e., “good works”, but rather on undeserved divine Grace freely given by God. Charity, penance, purchasing of indulgences or any mortal acts are ultimately ineffectual: mankind’s sole path to heaven is through faith and God’s grace. In Luther’s words: “By faith alone can we become righteous, for faith invests us with the sinlessness of Christ. The more fully we believe this, the fuller will be our joy.” (M. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, trans. T. Graebner, Grand Rapids, 1941, chapter 1, verse 13; see also B. Noble, Lucas Cranach the Elder: Art and Devotion of the German Reformation, p. 35 ff.).

Lot 172. Giorgio Vasari (Arezzo 1511-1574 Florence)  The Pietà  oil on panel  22 5/8 x 17 in. (57.4 x 43.1 cm.) Estimate: $300,000-500,000.

Lot 172. Giorgio Vasari (Arezzo 1511-1574 Florence)
The Pietà
oil on panel
22 5/8 x 17 in. (57.4 x 43.1 cm.)
Estimate: $300,000-500,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $280,000 ($341,000 with the buyer’s premium).

From the lot notes:

Previously unpublished, this Pietà is a significant addition to Vasari’s corpus of paintings. Representing the moment following Christ’s Deposition, it shows the Virgin seated before the cross, mourning the loss of her Son. His slumped body is resting at her feet; at his side lies the crown of thorns, one of the instruments of his Passion. As related in the Gospels, the scene is shrouded in darkness with the sun and moon obscured. It is typical of the smaller-scale devotional paintings that Vasari made for friends and private patrons in and outside Florence during the earlier years of his career and in particular prior to his engagement as court artist to Duke Cosimo de’ Medici in Florence in 1555.

Newly Discovered $7.5 million Honthorst leads Sotheby’s Jan. 2014 Old Master Painting Sale

January 20, 2014
Lot 34. GERRIT VAN HONTHORST UTRECHT 1590 - 1656 A MERRY GROUP BEHIND A BALUSTRADE WITH A VIOLIN AND A LUTE PLAYER signed lower center: GH (in ligature) onthorst. fec oil on canvas 39 1/4  by 54 1/2  in.; 99.4 by 138.5 cm. Estimate: $2-3 million.

Lot 34. GERRIT VAN HONTHORST
UTRECHT 1590 – 1656
A MERRY GROUP BEHIND A BALUSTRADE WITH A VIOLIN AND A LUTE PLAYER
signed lower center: GH (in ligature) onthorst. fec
oil on canvas
39 1/4 by 54 1/2 in.; 99.4 by 138.5 cm.
Estimate: $2-3 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for a hammer price of $6.6 million ($7,557,000 with the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE: One bidder picked up several of the best Dutch paintings at today’s sale of Old Masters at Sotheby’s including the newly rediscovered Honrthorst (above), the Pieter Brueghel the Younger Summer scene (below), the Ochtervelt (below) and lot 19, a Martin van Cleve picture - spending a total of $17,308,000. The highest estimated lot, an insipid Fragonard estimated at $6-8 million, tanked. Of the 73 lots originally offered, 3 were withdrawn and thirty failed to sell. More results from this morning’s sale. As expected, the Vernet (below) did not sell; and as hoped for, neither did that insipid Fragonard.

ORIGINAL POST: Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York are getting ready to auction hundreds of Old Master paintings and drawings later this month. Each has produced a specialty catalogue within the sale – at Christie’s it’s Renaissance and at Sotheby’s, The Courts of Europe.  Finally, each has on offer works either unknown or not seen in a very long time. Christie’s, however, has a more interesting group of works.

A recently re-discovered Honthorst (above), while not carrying the highest estimate at Sotheby’s January 30, 2014 Old Master Painting sale, is certainly one of the sale’s most interesting works.  Sotheby’s calls it “a major addition” to Honthorst’s oeuvre, though it’s not nearly as significant as the large-scale concert painting recently acquired by the National Gallery of Art.  Nevertheless, it is important because of its subject and quality, and it more affirmatively displaces a painting of the same subject in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon that until 20 years ago had been considered autograph Honthorst.  It’s one of several significant 17th-century Dutch paintings discussed in a brief video about the sale.

Honthorst is among the group of Utrecht Caravaggisti - artists who were influenced by and emulated Caravaggio.  His major colleagues/competitors were Dirck van Baburen (ca. 1592/93-1624) and Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629). This picture is museum worthy and the estimate seems modest given its import.

Lot 22. PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER BRUSSELS 1564 - 1637/8 ANTWERP SUMMER: FIGURES EATING DURING THE SUMMER HARVEST signed and dated lower left: BRVEGHEL. 1600 oil on panel 23 3/8  by 31 5/8  in.; 59.7 by 80.4 cm. Estimate: $2.5-3.5 million.

Lot 22. PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER
BRUSSELS 1564 – 1637/8 ANTWERP
SUMMER: FIGURES EATING DURING THE SUMMER HARVEST
signed and dated lower left: BRVEGHEL. 1600
oil on panel
23 3/8 by 31 5/8 in.; 59.7 by 80.4 cm.
Estimate: $2.5-3.5 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for a hammer price of $4.5 million ($5,205,000 with the buyer’s premium).

This Pieter Brueghel the Younger Summer Harvest is based on a painting from 1565 of the same subject by the artist’s father and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. According to the lot notes:

Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s interpretation of Summer must be considered one of his most popular and successful subjects, and the present version is perhaps the finest and most impeccably preserved example to emerge in decades. Of the approximately twenty variations on the composition which [Klaus] Ertz [in Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere (1564-1637/38). Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen 1988/2000] considers autograph (only five of which are dated), this panel, signed and dated 1600, is the earliest by some 21 years, a fact which strongly suggests that it is the prime version of the group.

Lot 7. SIMONE MARTINI CIRCA 1284-1344 AVIGNON A BEARDED SAINT, PROBABLY A PROPHET tempera on panel, gold ground with a shaped top 14 1/8  by 8 1/2  in.; 36 by 21.5 cm. Estimate: $1.5-2 million.

Lot 7. SIMONE MARTINI
CIRCA 1284-1344 AVIGNON
A BEARDED SAINT, PROBABLY A PROPHET
tempera on panel, gold ground with a shaped top
14 1/8 by 8 1/2 in.; 36 by 21.5 cm.
Estimate: $1.5-2 million. This lot was withdrawn.

The violence inflicted on 14th-and 15th-century polyptychs and panel paintings is evident in the work above.  Predellas, pinnacles and other segments were sawn off and sold piecemeal, which destroyed the narrative structure, obscured iconography that could point towards those who commissioned the work, and other salient details.  The lot notes indicate how little is known about this work’s original function: “It would appear that the panel either sat above and between two larger panels, or perhaps formed part of a piece of furniture, such as choir stall seating.”  Nevertheless, this is of significance; as the catalogue entry states:

This exquisitely rendered depiction of a prophet, only newly discovered, is a rare and important addition to the corpus of Simone Martini, one of the undisputed masters of early Italian painting.  Simone skillfully combined the innovations of Duccio with Giotto’s lively narratives and, far outshining his contemporaries, he created exalted compositions that were as sensational to the 14th century viewer as they remain today.

Lot 1. MASTER OF THE SAN BARTOLOMEO TRIPTYCH ACTIVE IN URBINO AT THE END OF THE 14TH CENTURY AND EARLY 15TH CENTURY THE BETRAYAL OF CHRIST tempera on panel, gold ground 7 1/2  by 9 1/2  in.; 19 by 24 cm. Estimate: $70,000-90,000. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 1. MASTER OF THE SAN BARTOLOMEO TRIPTYCH
ACTIVE IN URBINO AT THE END OF THE 14TH CENTURY AND EARLY 15TH CENTURY
THE BETRAYAL OF CHRIST
tempera on panel, gold ground
7 1/2 by 9 1/2 in.; 19 by 24 cm.
Estimate: $70,000-90,000. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for a hammer price of $70,000 ($87,500 with the buyer’s premium).

According to the lot notes: “This rare, Marchigian master takes his name from an unusual Late Gothic triptych dating to 1408, removed from San Bartolo (or rather, San Bartolomeo), Urbino, in 1864 and now in the Galleria Nazionale  delle Marche, Urbino.”  This may or may not have been part of a larger altarpiece or a portable triptych.  The painting could certainly use a bath and there are surface abrasions and losses that require attention, but overall this work is in solid shape.  Compositionally, it follows accepted iconographic protocols, but there is one odd and amusing feature I don’t recall seeing in comparable works from the period – note the heads in profile at the top of the painting, seeming to move behind the hilly backdrop.  They have halos, which makes them saints, perhaps the Apostles.  Again, a pictorial device I don’t recall having seen before.

Lot 5. FLORENTINE PAINTER, ACTIVE IN THE AMBIT OF CIMABUE, CIRCA 1285 - 1290 MADONNA AND CHILD oil on panel 27 5/8  by 18 in.; 70.2 by 45.7 cm. Estimate: $600,000-800,000.

Lot 5. FLORENTINE PAINTER, ACTIVE IN THE AMBIT OF CIMABUE, CIRCA 1285 – 1290
MADONNA AND CHILD
oil on panel
27 5/8 by 18 in.; 70.2 by 45.7 cm.
Estimate: $600,000-800,000. This lot was withdrawn.

The catalogue entry for this early Italian painting starts: “An early and rare panel of monumental scale, this remarkably expressive and touching depiction of the Madonna and Child can be dated between circa 1285 and 1290. While the painting undoubtedly shares an affinity with models by Duccio di Buoninsegna, such as his Rucellai Madonna, now in the Uffizi, Florence (inv. no. P555), Andrea De Marchi and Laurence Kanter believe the author of this panel to have been Florentine rather than Sienese, and more heavily influenced by Duccio’s contemporary Cimabue.”

Unfortunately, the condition of the painting, specifically the losses on the faces of the Madonna and Child (particularly the latter), will likely make a successful sale difficult to any but the most dedicated.

Lot 60. CLAUDE-JOSEPH VERNET AVIGNON 1714 - 1789 PARIS L'ARC EN CIEL: AN ITALIANATE COASTAL VIEW WITH A RAINBOW, FISHERMAN, AND PEASANTS AT AN INLET IN THE FOREGROUND, A SHIPWRIGHT'S YARD BEYOND signed, inscribed, and dated lower left: 'Joseph. Vernet. f/Romae 1749' (ae linked) oil on canvas 45 by 64 1/8 in.; 114.3 by 162.7 cm. Estimate: $1.8-2 million. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 60. CLAUDE-JOSEPH VERNET
AVIGNON 1714 – 1789 PARIS
L’ARC EN CIEL: AN ITALIANATE COASTAL VIEW WITH A RAINBOW, FISHERMAN, AND PEASANTS AT AN INLET IN THE FOREGROUND, A SHIPWRIGHT’S YARD BEYOND
signed, inscribed, and dated lower left: ‘Joseph. Vernet. f/Romae 1749′ (ae linked)
oil on canvas
45 by 64 1/8 in.; 114.3 by 162.7 cm.
Estimate: $1.8-2 million. (click on image to enlarge) Bidding on this lot stopped at $1.7 million and it failed to sell.

This detail in the provenance hints this picture may be “shopped out” and/or the Vernet market was overheated – the present collector purchased this work just over 15 years ago (London, Christie’s, 16 December 1998, lot 71) for $1,809,782, just a hair over the current low estimate. Not a particularly good investment.

Lot 37. JAN JOSEFSZ. VAN GOYEN LEIDEN 1596 - 1656 THE HAGUE A WOODEN LANDING STAGE ON A FROZEN RIVER, CHURCHES AND A WINDMILL AT LEFT ON THE DISTANT SHORE signed in monogram and dated on the rowboat lower right: VG 1646 oil on panel 14 3/8  by 13 1/2  in.; 36.5 by 34.3 cm.  Estimate: $1-1.5 million.

Lot 37. JAN JOSEFSZ. VAN GOYEN
LEIDEN 1596 – 1656 THE HAGUE
A WOODEN LANDING STAGE ON A FROZEN RIVER, CHURCHES AND A WINDMILL AT LEFT ON THE DISTANT SHORE
signed in monogram and dated on the rowboat lower right: VG 1646
oil on panel
14 3/8 by 13 1/2 in.; 36.5 by 34.3 cm.
Estimate: $1-1.5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $1.2 million ($1,445,000 with the buyer’s premium).

First, let’s dispense with the auction house hype: “This landscape by Jan van Goyen is among the most refined and impeccably preserved examples from his entire oeuvre to come to market. Dated 1646, it is an ideal demonstration of the artist’s shift from a purely tonal color palette of various hues of brown, characteristic of his work from the 1630s, towards a more naturalistic and varied range of blues, greens, dark browns and greys.”

Initially, I was skeptical, but upon firsthand inspection, it is a wonderful picture. The figures (below) are engaged in a variety of activities that gives the work narrative strength an diversity – some are skating, a group travels in a horse drawn sled, and one fellow chases after his hat – the articulation of windmill’s details, such as the black highlights on the ladders, adds veracity and texture.

Lot 37. JAN JOSEFSZ. VAN GOYEN LEIDEN 1596 - 1656 THE HAGUE A WOODEN LANDING STAGE ON A FROZEN RIVER, CHURCHES AND A WINDMILL AT LEFT ON THE DISTANT SHORE (detail) signed in monogram and dated on the rowboat lower right: VG 1646 oil on panel 14 3/8 by 13 1/2 in.; 36.5 by 34.3 cm. Estimate: $1-1.5 million. (click on image to enlarge0

Lot 37. JAN JOSEFSZ. VAN GOYEN
LEIDEN 1596 – 1656 THE HAGUE
A WOODEN LANDING STAGE ON A FROZEN RIVER, CHURCHES AND A WINDMILL AT LEFT ON THE DISTANT SHORE (detail)
signed in monogram and dated on the rowboat lower right: VG 1646
oil on panel
14 3/8 by 13 1/2 in.; 36.5 by 34.3 cm.
Estimate: $1-1.5 million. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 27. PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER BRUSSELS 1564 - 1637/8 ANTWERP THE BIRD TRAP oil on panel 14 7/8  by 23 1/2  in.; 37.8 by 59.7 cm.  Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 27. PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER
BRUSSELS 1564 – 1637/8 ANTWERP
THE BIRD TRAP
oil on panel
14 7/8 by 23 1/2 in.; 37.8 by 59.7 cm.
Estimate: $1.5-2.5 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for a hammer price of $2.3 million ($2,741,000 with the buyer’s premium).

There are so many versions of this image – here’s the background:

The composition of The Bird Trap is one of the most popular created by the Brueghel family.  The prototype has generally been thought to be the painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, signed BRVEGEL and dated 1565, formerly in the F. Delporte collection and now in the Musées des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. More recently, however, Klaus Ertz has proposed that the prototype may be a lost work by Jan Brueghel the Elder, inspired by Pieter Breugel the Elder’s celebrated Hunters in the Snow, also of 1565 and now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.  Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his busy studio produced numerous copies and variations of the composition.

Lot 38. JACOB OCHTERVELT ROTTERDAM 1634 - 1682 AMSTERDAM A CHILD AND NURSE IN THE FOYER OF AN ELEGANT TOWNHOUSE, THE PARENTS BEYOND signed and dated on floor lower right:  J. Ochtervelt f./1663 oil on canvas 32 by 26 1/4  in.; 81.5 by 66.8 cm. Estimate: $3-4 million.

Lot 38. JACOB OCHTERVELT
ROTTERDAM 1634 – 1682 AMSTERDAM
A CHILD AND NURSE IN THE FOYER OF AN ELEGANT TOWNHOUSE, THE PARENTS BEYOND
signed and dated on floor lower right: J. Ochtervelt f./1663
oil on canvas
32 by 26 1/4 in.; 81.5 by 66.8 cm.
Estimate: $3-4 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $3.8 million ($4,421,000 with the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE: This painting was purchased by London-based Old Master dealer Johnny van Haeften and it was featured in his TEFAF 2014 booth in Maastricht with an asking price of $7.5 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This painting would appear to be a new addition – and the earliest dated work – from a group of nine other paintings of the genre.  From the catalogue:

A Child and Nurse in the Foyer of an Elegant Townhouse is an previously unpublished painting by Jacob Ochtervelt and an important addition to his oeuvre. The only record that we have been able to find for it is the auction catalogue from 1816 … The subject matter and composition are related to a group of nine other “entrance hall paintings” that Ochtervelt made over the course of about twenty years and which are universally considered to be among his most innovative and interesting pictures. Meticulously painted, the present work is both a beautiful example of Ochtervelt’s luminous style as well as a sophisticated representation of Dutch life and values in the mid-17th century.

Lot 66. JEAN-HONORÉ FRAGONARD GRASSE 1732 - 1806 PARIS TWO GIRLS ON A BED PLAYING WITH THEIR DOGS oil on canvas 29 1/4  by 23 3/8  in.; 74.3 by 59.3 cm. Estimate: $6-8 million.

Lot 66. JEAN-HONORÉ FRAGONARD
GRASSE 1732 – 1806 PARIS
TWO GIRLS ON A BED PLAYING WITH THEIR DOGS
oil on canvas
29 1/4 by 23 3/8 in.; 74.3 by 59.3 cm.
Estimate: $6-8 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $5.8 million and it failed to sell.

I find this both prurient and insipid … but let the catalogue entry enlighten us:

Painted in circa 1770, this light and intimate scene dates from Fragonard’s most fertile artistic period. The spontaneous brushwork clearly illustrates why Fragonard’s virtuoso technique so impressed his contemporaries and why his style still resonates with the modern viewer as much as it did for the members of the court of Louis XV. The artist offers allows us to peer into a moment of blithe playfulness as two girls, probably in their early teens, delight in each other’s company. While the innocence of the scene is underlined by the stock symbolism of the lapdogs, a gentle eroticism pervades the scene; the picture was almost certainly destined to hang in a private boudoir, in much the same way as the artist’s celebrated and much copied Girl in her Bed, Making her Dog Dance, from circa 1768, in Munich.

Allegedly Looted Ancient Cambodian Statue to be Repatriated

December 13, 2013
This 10th-century Khmer sculpture is at the heart of a pending lawsuit involving Sotheby's.

This 10th-century Khmer sculpture will be repatriated to Cambodia following a settlement agreement.

In a significant development, a settlement has been reached in the multi-year dispute between Sotheby’s and the Cambodian government about an allegedly looted 10th-century Khmer sculpture, according to the New York Times

The accord ends a long bare-knuckled court battle over the Khmer treasure, a 10th-century statue valued at more than $2 million. The Belgian woman who had consigned it for sale in 2011 will receive no compensation for the statue from Cambodia, and Sotheby’s has expressed a willingness to pick up the cost of shipping the 500-pound sandstone antiquity to that country within the next 90 days.

A quick recap of the situation: Sotheby’s planned to sell the statue in New York for an estimated $2-3 million during a March 24, 2011 auction.  Cambodian officials raised concerns about the work’s provenance and it was pulled from the sale.  Federal officials confiscated the work in April 2012 and Sotheby’s entered into litigation over the statue’s ownership.  Cambodian officials claimed the statue, and possibly a companion piece now in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, was looted during that country’s 1970′s-era civil war.  Sotheby’s countered there’s no proof, the statues could have been removed any time  in the past 1,000 years and they were legally exported into the US.  However, some anecdotal evidence has the statues in situ in the 1960′s.

Of the settlement, the Times reports:

The settlement, filed in United States District Court in Manhattan, declared that all sides agreed that additional litigation “would be burdensome and would require resolution of disputed factual issues and issues of U.S., Cambodian, French Colonial, and other law.”

The article also states that Cambodian officials are turning their attention to the statue at the Norton Simon Museum.

Elegant and rare 17th Italian Baroque painting for sale in Paris – UPDATED

December 10, 2013
Giovanni Battista BONCORI (Campli 1643 - Rome 1699)

Giovanni Battista BONCORI (Campli 1643 – Rome 1699) The prophet Elijah rescued by an angel
Oil on canvas: 198 x 120 cm; old restorations, frameless
Estimate: €50,000-70,000. This lot sold for €94,734 (€75,000 hammer price plus the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE:  This lot sold for €94,734 (€75,000 hammer price plus the buyer’s premium).

ORIGINAL POST: This handsome 17th century Italian Baroque painting by Giovanni Battista Boncori at Tajan’s December 11, 2013 Old Master Painting sale in Paris recently caught my eye.

The tight composition, elegant depiction of the figures, and deft use of a restricted palette are part of the appeal. So who is this guy?  Information about the artist, like his extant body of work, is scarce and at times contradictory.  According to a Wikipedia entry (which spells his last name Buonocore): “[H]e first trained with [Pier Francesco] Mola in Lombardy, then traveled to Parma, Venice, Ferrara, Cento, Florence, and Bologna, before settling in Rome.” A recent Sotheby’s catalogue entry for Rest on the Flight into Egypt attributed to the artist (that failed to sell) says: “Boncori trained in the workshop of Pier Francesco Mola between 1660-66.” Meanwhile, La Gazette Drouot, in a catalogue entry about another of the artist’s work, says Boncori arrived in Rome in 1660 and trained in Mola’s workshop (so when and where Boncori first met Mola is unclear, along with when he first gets to Rome).

According to La Gazette Drouot, after Boncori returned to Rome he was the guest of Cardinal Francesco Maria Mancini, brother of Lorenzo Mancini (the brother of Cardinal Mazarin). He received commissions from Mancini along with the Colonna family and the community of Dominicans. He entered the Academy of St. Luke in 1678, became professor five years later, then director in 1699, the year he died.  Carlo Maratta succeeded him.

The Wikipedia entry also states:

He painted an altar-piece for the Chiesa degli Orfanelli at Rome. He is known there for a canvas of Martyrdom of San Gaetano which was once in the Villa Medici. He also painted a San Andrea AvellinoMassacre of the InnocentsSt Anthony of Padua with Virgin and Child, and a Deposition. He painted a Crucifixion for the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. He also painted some frescoes in the tribune of the church of San Carlo al Corso. He painted the main altarpiece for the church of the Orfanelli. He painted a series of canvases depicting the victories of Hannibal at Ticino, Trebbia, Trasimeno, and Canae, and also the Defeat of Hasdrubal at the battle of Metauro.

The present work comes from the Koelliker Collection, having previously been in the collection Cardinal Luigi Alessandro Omodei (before 1682) and with the art dealers Altomani & Sons in Milan (2005).   It was included in the 2005 exhibition: Mola and His Time: Figure Painting in Rome from the Koelliker Collection, and cited as follows: “One of the most important new acquisitions within the school of Mola, is Elias with the Angel by John Batiste Boncori, an artist who has been all but forgotten but that in the second half of the 1600′s was greatly appreciated and even became Prince of the Academy of Saint Luke.”

I think this is a very appealing picture, but I don’t know if it’s fresh to the market (relatively speaking, this was sold to the Koelloker Collection in 2005), if it’s shopped out.

Today about a dozen works are firmly attributed to the artist and two are owned by the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA – one titled The Musical Group has been in their collection since 1971.

Giovanni The Musical Group Oil on canvas: 78 1/4 x 58 3/8 in. (198.8 x 148.3 cm)

Giovanni Battista Boncori (Campli 1643 – Rome 1699) The Musical Group
Oil on canvas: 78 1/4 x 58 3/8 in. (198.8 x 148.3 cm)

The second work is a pendant – same dimensions, same models and almost a mirror image compositionally – and it came up at auction in Paris in May 2009.

Giovanni Battista Boncori (Campli 1643 - Rome 1699) The Card Players Oil on canvas: 78 1/4 x 58 3/8 in. (198.8 x 148.3 cm)

Giovanni Battista Boncori (Campli 1643 – Rome 1699) The Card Players
Oil on canvas: 78 1/4 x 58 3/8 in. (198.8 x 148.3 cm)

Estimated at €120,000-150,000, the museum spent €409,795 (€350,000 hammer price plus buyer’s premium) and a year restoring the work.  The Card Players now hangs next to The Musical Group.

Reunited Boncori paintings at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA.

Reunited Boncori paintings at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA.

$15.7 million Pair of Canalettos leads Sotheby’s December 2013 Evening Sale of Old Masters in London

November 27, 2013
Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO VENICE 1697 - 1768 VENICE, A VIEW OF PIAZZA SAN MARCO LOOKING EAST TOWARDS THE BASILICA; VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING NORTH-EAST FROM THE PALAZZO DOLFIN-MANIN TO THE RIALTO BRIDGE One of a pair, both oil on canvas each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4  by 30 3/8  in. Estimate: 8-12 Million.

Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO, VENICE 1697 – 1768
VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING NORTH-EAST FROM THE PALAZZO DOLFIN-MANIN TO THE RIALTO BRIDGE
One of a pair, both oil on canvas
each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4 by 30 3/8 in.
Estimate: £8-12 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £8.5 million (£9,602,500 with the buyer’s premium or $15,732,736 ).click on image to enlarge

Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO VENICE 1697 - 1768 VENICE, A VIEW OF PIAZZA SAN MARCO LOOKING EAST TOWARDS THE BASILICA; VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING NORTH-EAST FROM THE PALAZZO DOLFIN-MANIN TO THE RIALTO BRIDGE One of a pair, both oil on canvas each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4  by 30 3/8  in. Estimate: 8-12 million.

Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO, VENICE 1697 – 1768
VENICE, A VIEW OF PIAZZA SAN MARCO LOOKING EAST TOWARDS THE BASILICA; 
One of a pair, both oil on canvas
each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4 by 30 3/8 in.
Estimate: £8-12 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £8.5 million (£9,602,500 with the buyer’s premium of $15,732,736). click on image to enlarge

POST SALE UPDATE: 

The just concluded Evening Sale, which saw the star lot – a pair of Canaletto’s sell for a hammer price of £8.5 million (£9,602,500 with the buyer’s premium or $15,732,736 ) – started with a sprint. The Pietà by the van der Weyden in brisk bidding shot well past its £300,000 high estimate and sold to a determined telephone bidder for a hammer price of £800,000 (£962,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,576,960).  Of the 49 lots offered, one was withdrawn and thirteen failed to sell. The tiny Cranach of Lucretia, as predicted, was also very popular, surpassing its £500,000 top estimate to make an £850,000 hammer price (£1,022,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,675,264). The Aert van der Neer and Cranach the Younger Virgin and Child sold on the lower side of their respective estimates while the Frans Hals portrait did slightly better. And, two of the three Leverhulme paintings bombed – the one that sold – the Rossetti – struggled to make its low estimate.

ORIGINAL POST: The Evening Sale of Old Masters at Sotheby’s December 4, 2013 in London, leads with a pair of “sofa size” oils by Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, a group of Cranachs (both Lucas the Elder and the Younger), Dutch pictures including a Hals portrait and an Aert van der Neer winter scene, and concludes with three Victorian works from the Leverhulme Collection.  Also tucked into the sale is a splendid work based on a Pietà by the great 15th century Rogier van der Weyden.

The Canalettos (above) come from the HSBC corporate collection, formerly know as Safra Republic Holdings.  The paintings depict  quintessentially Venetian views – the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, and Piazza San Marco, as Sotheby’s specialist Alexander Bell tells us in a two-minute video. The pictures capture the city’s great and iconic architecture, the hustle of daily life on the canal and in the piazza, all in lively brushwork and loving attention to detail. The price, however, strikes me as a bit steep, all the more so if they’ve been offered privately.

Lot 1. FOLLOWER OF ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN THE PIETÀ, WITH SAINTS JOHN AND MARY MAGDELENE oil on oak panel 21 by 31.8 cm.; 8 1/4  by 12 1/2  in. Estimate: 200,000-300,000. click on image to enlarge

Lot 1. FOLLOWER OF ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN
THE PIETÀ, WITH SAINTS JOHN AND MARY MAGDELENE
oil on oak panel
21 by 31.8 cm.; 8 1/4 by 12 1/2 in.
Estimate: £200,000-300,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £800,000 (£962,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,576,960). click on image to enlarge

This Pietà by a follower of Rogier van der Weyden (above) is one of a number of known variants. Another in the National Gallery in London (below), was considered autograph, though in recent years it has been assigned to his workshop.  The only accepted autograph version (further below) is in the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium. The picture at Sotheby’s is closer in composition to the Brussels version, though substantially smaller. The handling of St. John’s face in the picture at auction is not as refined as the Brussels picture, though the treatment of the faces of Christ, the Virgin and the Magdelene are of better quality and closer to the Brussels work. Other differences from the autograph panel include the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdelene, the treatment of the background landscape, and the lack of the skull in the work at auction.   Nevertheless, this appears to be a beautiful panel that could reveal some more secrets and details following proper restoration.

Pietà, c. 1464, workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, National Gallery , London. Oil on panel: 14 x 17.7 inches.

Pietà, c. 1464, workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, National Gallery , London.
Oil on panel: 14 x 17.7 inches. click on image to enlarge

Pietà, 1436-1446, Rogier van der Weyden, Musées royaux des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belbium. Oil on panel: 12.8 x 18 inches. click on image to enlarge

Pietà, 1436-1446, Rogier van der Weyden, Musées royaux des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belgium.
Oil on panel: 12.8 x 18 inches. click on image to enlarge

Lot 22. AERT VAN DER NEER AMSTERDAM CIRCA 1603/4 - 1677 A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH SKATERS AND KOLF PLAYERS ON A FROZEN RIVER BY A VILLAGE signed with the artist's double monogram lower left: AV DN oil on oak panel 40 by 55 cm.; 15 3/4  by 21 3/4  in. Estimate: 2-3 million. click on image to enlarge

Lot 22. AERT VAN DER NEER
AMSTERDAM CIRCA 1603/4 – 1677
A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH SKATERS AND KOLF PLAYERS ON A FROZEN RIVER BY A VILLAGE
signed with the artist’s double monogram lower left: AV DN
oil on oak panel
40 by 55 cm.; 15 3/4 by 21 3/4 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. This work sold for a hammer price of £2.3 million (£2,658,500 with the buyer’s premium or $4,355,686). click on image to enlarge

According to the lot notes, this painting “was completely unknown to scholars until its appearance at auction at Sotheby’s in 1975 … [where]  it caused a sensation, fetching the then unprecedented price of £110,000.” It has gotten a little more expensive since then. It may or may not be “one of [the artist's]  finest works left in private hands,” as Sotheby’s claims, but it is impressive, intricate and a thoroughly delightful example of 17th Dutch winter scenes.

Lot 3. LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER KRONACH 1472 - 1553 WEIMAR LUCRETIA signed with the winged serpent lower centre oil on hardwood (probably beech) panel, circular diameter: 14.9 cm.; 5 7/8  in. Estimate: 300,000-500,000.

Lot 3. LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER
KRONACH 1472 – 1553 WEIMAR
LUCRETIA
signed with the winged serpent lower centre
oil on hardwood (probably beech) panel, circular
diameter: 14.9 cm.; 5 7/8 in.
Estimate: £300,000-500,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £850,000 (£1,022,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,675,264).

This tiny Lucretia is the sort of little jewel of restrained eroticism that old school dealers and collectors adore. Provided it’s fresh to the market, it should do well. It’s the first of sale’s three Cranachs, about which there is a video.

Lot 25. LUCAS CRANACH THE YOUNGER WITTENBERG 1515 - 1586 VIRGIN AND CHILD WITH A BUNCH OF GRAPES signed centre right with the artist's device of a winged serpent, in the style used after 1537, and inscribed on a label on the reverse in an old hand: Tabla original de Luca Cranach./ Lla... Muller/ Nacio en Cranach cliosesi...e barnberg nEn 1472, Nacio Murio/ en Weimar en 1552 Escu...Alemana/La firma del autur...convales y/ pintor del Duque de Savolla...de 1509. oil on beechwood panel 77.7 by 57.1 cm. : 30 5/8  by 22 1/2  in. Estimate: 800,000-1,200,000.

Lot 25. LUCAS CRANACH THE YOUNGER
WITTENBERG 1515 – 1586
VIRGIN AND CHILD WITH A BUNCH OF GRAPES
signed centre right with the artist’s device of a winged serpent, in the style used after 1537, and inscribed on a label on the reverse in an old hand: Tabla original de Luca Cranach./ Lla… Muller/ Nacio en Cranach cliosesi…e barnberg nEn 1472, Nacio Murio/ en Weimar en 1552 Escu…Alemana/La firma del autur…convales y/ pintor del Duque de Savolla…de 1509.
oil on beechwood panel
77.7 by 57.1 cm. : 30 5/8 by 22 1/2 in.
Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £800,000 (£962,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,576,960).

Lot 35. FRANS HALS ANTWERP 1581/5 - 1666 HAARLEM PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, HALF-LENGTH IN BLACK WITH LACE COLLAR AND CUFFS, AND WEARING A BROAD-BRIMMED BLACK HAT oil on canvas, in a magnificent German or Netherlandish boxwood mirror frame  79.5 by 58.5 cm.; 31 1/4  by 23 in. Estimate: 2-3 million.

Lot 35. FRANS HALS
ANTWERP 1581/5 – 1666 HAARLEM
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, HALF-LENGTH IN BLACK WITH LACE COLLAR AND CUFFS, AND WEARING A BROAD-BRIMMED BLACK HAT
oil on canvas, in a magnificent German or Netherlandish boxwood mirror frame
79.5 by 58.5 cm.; 31 1/4 by 23 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.6 million (£2,994,500 with the buyer’s premium or $4,906,189).

I’m not particularly impressed with this Hals – there’s a certain lack of vibrancy.  As the catalogue says: “Much has been written about Frans Hals’ bravura brushwork, which is the overriding hallmark of his style.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t come through for me.  [I'm also suspicious of catalogue entries that include language about the "magnificent" frame - who cares?]

The following in the Day Sale caught my eye, a pair of panels for a polyptych by Puccio di Simone:

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365 SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST one of a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4  by 13 5/8  in. Estimate: 100,000-150,000.

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE
ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365
SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST one of
a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground
each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4 by 13 5/8 in.
Estimate: £100,000-150,000. This lot sold for £254,500, inclusive of buyer’s premium.

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365 SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST one of a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4  by 13 5/8  in. Estimate: 100,000-150,000.

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE
ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365
SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
one of a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground
each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4 by 13 5/8 in.
Estimate: £100,000-150,000. This lot sold for £254,500, inclusive of buyer’s premium.

From the lot notes:

Puccio di Simone was active in Florence around the middle of the fourteenth century and was heavily influenced both by Maso di Banco and Bernardo Daddi. One of his early works, an Annunciation with two saints in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, also betrays the influence of Giovanni da Milano. Puccio is first recorded as a painter in 1346 when his name was included in the records of the Arte dei Medici de Speziali, the guild of doctors, druggists and painters but he is known to have been active before 522L13036_73JF5_comp.jpg.thumb.319.319then since his damaged frescoes in the Strozzi Chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence once bore the date of 1340.
These youthful works, probably datable to the late 1340s, formed part of the same dismembered polyptych as the Saint James the Greater in the Seattle Art Museum. Boskovits associated the latter with a Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine last recorded in Berlin with Paul Bottenweiser. In the original configuration, the Mystic Marriage would have formed the central component; along the left would have stood the present Saint James the Lesser and a fifth, as-yet unknown panel; on the right flank would have stood the Seattle Saint James the Greater and the present Saint John the Baptist [above]. All the extant panels except the Saint John the Baptist stand out for their lavish use of the same decorative arabesque motif which is also present in several late works by Bernardo Daddi and his shop and it is likely that the two artists were collaborating regularly by the early 1340s.2

As noted above, the Evening Sale’s final three works, all Victorian pictures, come from the Leverhulme Collection. I happen not to care for a single one.

Lot 47. JAMES TISSOT 1836 - 1902 A VISIT TO THE YACHT (LA VISITE AU NAVIRE) signed l.l.: J.J Tissot oil on canvas 86.5 by 54cm.; 34 by 21¼in. Estimate: 2-3 million.

Lot 47. JAMES TISSOT
1836 – 1902
A VISIT TO THE YACHT (LA VISITE AU NAVIRE)
signed l.l.: J.J Tissot
oil on canvas
86.5 by 54cm.; 34 by 21¼in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at £1.9 million and it failed to sell.

Lot 48. DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 1828 - 1882 A CHRISTMAS CAROL signed with monogram and dated 1867 l.r., inscribed, signed and dated on the reverse: A Christmas Carol/ D.G. Rossetti 1867/ (oil) oil on panel 45.5 by 38cm., 18 by 15in. Estimate: 4-6 million.

Lot 48. DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI
1828 – 1882
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
signed with monogram and dated 1867 l.r., inscribed, signed and dated on the reverse: A Christmas Carol/ D.G. Rossetti 1867/ (oil)
oil on panel
45.5 by 38cm., 18 by 15in.
Estimate: £4-6 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £4.0 million (£4,562,500 with the buyer’s premium or $7,475,200).

Lot 49. WILLIAM HOLMAN HUNT, O.M., R.W.S., A.R.S.A. 1827 - 1910 TUSCAN GIRL PLAITING STRAW signed with monogram and dated 69 l.l. oil on canvas, in a simplified cassetta frame with medallions decorated with daisies, designed by the artist and executed by Green & Co. 53.5 by 43.5cm., 21 by 17in. Estimate: 3-5 million.

Lot 49. WILLIAM HOLMAN HUNT, O.M., R.W.S., A.R.S.A.
1827 – 1910
TUSCAN GIRL PLAITING STRAW
signed with monogram and dated 69 l.l.
oil on canvas, in a simplified cassetta frame with medallions decorated with daisies, designed by the artist and executed by Green & Co.
53.5 by 43.5cm., 21 by 17in.
Estimate: £3-5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at £2.9 million and it failed to sell.

LACMA Gets Baroque Masterpiece – formerly Nazi Loot – UPDATED

November 26, 2013
The life-size figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria, painted in Genoa around 1615 by Bernardo Strozzi, was installed Monday in the third floor galleries for European art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art / November 25, 2013)

The life-size figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria, painted in Genoa around 1615 by Bernardo Strozzi, was installed Monday in the third floor galleries for European art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art / November 25, 2013)

SEE UPDATE AFTER ORIGINAL POST

ORIGINAL POST: Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight has an amazing story about a Bernardo Strozzi paintingSt. Catherine of Alexandria, that has recently been donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).  According to Knight: [The] Nazi-looted Baroque masterpiece … turned up on the art market five years ago [and] was returned Friday to its owner.” Here are some of the many interesting highlights:

The restitution of the Strozzi by an Italian court was made to Philippa Calnan, the original owner’s sole direct descendant. Calnan, a retired public affairs director at LACMA and the J. Paul Getty Trust, is making the gift to the museum.

[…]

The painting is among Strozzi’s supreme early achievements. It disappeared after the 1943 Nazi occupation of Florence, one of nearly a dozen works stolen from the collection assembled by Charles A. Loeser, an American expatriate and heir to a Brooklyn department store fortune. Loeser moved to Italy in 1890 and died in 1928.

[…]

Sotheby’s was approached about accepting the painting for auction, but research into its provenance, or history of ownership, identified its status as Nazi plunder. The auction house notified Italian police and contacted Calnan, Loeser’s granddaughter.

The painting had by then been jointly bought by Marco Voena and Fabrizio Moretti, Old Master art dealers with galleries in Milan, Florence, London and New York. Calnan was blocked by the Italian courts from obtaining an export license for what was deemed a national treasure. She appealed the ruling.

[…]

The Strozzi is one of two Loeser works looted by the Nazis to resurface. Last year, a gold-ground Sienese devotional altar by the Master of the Richardson Triptych (circa 1370-1415) [below] was retrieved by the FBI from Moretti’s Manhattan gallery. Like the Strozzi, it was listed in the Lost Art database. In excellent condition given its age and tumultuous history, “The Virgin and Child Enthroned With Angels and Saints, the Redeemer and the Annunciation” is also on loan to LACMA.

UPDATE: The two art dealers from whom the painting was confiscated – Marco Voena and Fabrizio Moretti – have responded by email to the Los Angeles Times’ request for comment.  First, it’s unfortunate that it took a couple of days to get a response.  Second, the response provided by Voena on behalf of himself and Moretti doesn’t address the extent of their due diligence (or if it does, it was not included in the follow up article).  The Los Angeles Times reports: “Voena said that the pair had acquired the painting “in good faith” in 2006 from Open Care, a company in Milan that offers art-related services, including appraisals, storage and restoration. The price was 450,000 euros, the equivalent of about $611,000 today.” When the pair tried to auction the painting through Sotheby’s in 2009, the auction house quickly determined the painting was looted.  What due diligence did the two pursue? When acquiring works do they check them against databases of looted and stolen art? The article includes the following:

Voena said that the dealers’ joint acquisition of the painting took place when “restitution issues were very much in their infancy. There may already have been such issues in Germany and the Netherlands and the northern countries generally, but Italy seemed to be completely out of the loop, presumably as very little looting had taken place in the first place.”

“Restitution issues” were not “in their infancy” in 2006 – far from it.  Moreover, the painting was listed on the Lost Art Internet Database, founded in 1994.  Calling into question “restitution issues” does these dealers a disservice.  It would be better for these dealers to describe how they vet material before they buy it, and use this experience to educate their clients and colleagues, and collectors generally, about the need for proper documentation.  In addition, what about Open Care, the organization from which the men purchased the Strozzi? Where did they get the painting? What do we know about their due diligence? Have they been associated with any other similarly problematic works? Finally, what are the responsibilities of buyers and sellers?

Master of The Richardson Triptych (Siena c. 1370-1415) Enthroned Virgin and Child with Angels and Saints; the Redeemer; the Annunciation. Tempera on panel. 30½ x 229/16 in, 77.5 x 57.4 cm open. (Moretti Fine Art)

Master of The Richardson Triptych (Siena c. 1370-1415) Enthroned Virgin and Child with Angels and Saints; the Redeemer; the Annunciation. Tempera on panel. 30½ x 229/16 in, 77.5 x 57.4 cm open.
(Moretti Fine Art)

Rediscovered $8.3 Million Claude Lorrain leads Christie’s December 2013 Evening Sale of Old Masters

November 26, 2013
Lot 21. Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain (Champagne 1600-1682 Rome) A Mediterranean port at sunrise with the Embarkation of Saint Paula for Jerusalem inscribed 'NOBMA. ROMANA ST PAVOLA IM- BARCHI PER GIERVSALEMME' (lower centre) oil on canvas 39¾ x 53¼ in. (100.9 x 135.2 cm.) in an English mid-18th century carved and gilded frame with pierced scallopshell cartouche centers Estimate: £3,000,000 – £5,000,000 ($4,806,000 - $8,010,000). Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 21. Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain (Champagne 1600-1682 Rome)
A Mediterranean port at sunrise with the Embarkation of Saint Paula for Jerusalem
inscribed ‘NOBMA. ROMANA ST PAVOLA IM- BARCHI PER GIERVSALEMME’ (lower centre)
oil on canvas: 39¾ x 53¼ in. (100.9 x 135.2 cm.)
in an English mid-18th century carved and gilded frame with pierced scallopshell cartouche centers
Estimate: £3,000,000 – £5,000,000 ($4,806,000 – $8,010,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £4.45 million (£5,066,500 with the buyer’s premium or $8,309,060). Click on image to enlarge.

POST SALE UPDATE: A recently rediscovered Claude Lorrain (above) that sold for £5,066,500 (£4.45 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium), was the highlight in an otherwise unremarkable sale. Of the 46 lots offered, none were withdrawn and 12 failed to sell. One work that got bidders’ blood flowing was Marten van Cleve I’s Saint George’s Day (below), estimated at £200,000 – £300,000 ($320,400 – $480,600). It opened at £160,000 and rapidly shot up to £560,000, before making a hammer price of £620,000, more than doubling its high estimate, or £746,500 with the buyer’s premium ($1,224,260).

ORIGINAL POST: Compared against the great Honthorst just acquired the National Gallery of Art, the offerings at Christie’s Old Masters Evening Sale in London on December 3 look a bit thin, though there are a handful of pictures worth watching, several of which the auction house claims are recently rediscovered.  The lead lot, by estimate, is a Claude Lorrain harbor scene (above), and it is about as Claudian in terms of composition and luminosity as they get. The lot notes trumpet this work as a great rediscovery – the composition had been known through variants, including one until now considered autograph:

The reappearance of The Embarkation of Saint Paula from the Smith collection at Hambleden Manor, Buckinghamshire constitutes the most important rediscovery of a painting by Claude Lorrain in more than a generation. It is not that the Hambleden Claude was entirely unrecorded, but it was inaccessible to scholars and students of Claude’s works – even through photographic reproduction – and had been unseen by the public since the late 19th century, when it was last exhibited at the Royal Academy … [T]he careful examination of the present painting, undertaken only in the last few months after it was withdrawn from a sale (Colefax and Fowler. Then and Now. Collection from Hambleden Manor, Lushill and 39 Brook Street, Mayfair; Christie’s, London, 10 July 2013), has shown the Hambleden painting to be – beyond question – not only Claude’s unique autograph version of the composition, but a masterpiece of the artist’s full maturity … Professor Marcel Rothlisberger, doyen of Claude studies and author of the catalogue raisonnéof the artist’s paintings … declared it a ‘great Claude’, concluding that it is ‘a truly sensational discovery, all the more so as the picture is in such wonderful condition, luminous, visible down to every detail, complete with an elaborate figure scene, the brilliant sun, rippling waves, a Roman temple, trees and rocks’ (written correspondence, 19 September 2013).

Lot 5. Jan Davidsz. de Heem (Utrecht 1606-1684 Antwerp) Tulips, a sunflower, an iris, anemone, hydrangeas, honeysuckle, willow catkins, carnations and other flowers in a glass vase on a marble pediment oil on canvas 37¼ x 28¾ in. (94.6 x 73 cm.) Estimate: £1,500,000 – £2,500,000 ($2,403,000 - $4,005,000)

Lot 5. Jan Davidsz. de Heem (Utrecht 1606-1684 Antwerp)
Tulips, a sunflower, an iris, anemone, hydrangeas, honeysuckle, willow catkins, carnations and other flowers in a glass vase on a marble pediment
oil on canvas: 37¼ x 28¾ in. (94.6 x 73 cm.)
Estimate: £1,500,000 – £2,500,000 ($2,403,000 – $4,005,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £1.1 million (£1,314,500 with the buyer’s premium or $2,155,780).

The lot notes claim this work is in a “perfect state of preservation.” This quintessentially de Heem, an exuberant overabundance of flora and fruit. No dull, moralizing and ponderous memento mori here, this is straight up eye candy.

Lot 9. Marten van Cleve I (Antwerp c. 1527-1587) Saint George’s Day: A village kermesse with figures dancing and merrymaking, others drinking before an inn at the sign of The Horn inscribed ‘DIT IS • INDEN • HOREN’ (upper right, on the inn sign) oil on canvas 54? x 106½ in. (138 x 270 cm.) Estimate: £200,000 – £300,000 ($320,400 - $480,600)

Lot 9. Marten van Cleve I (Antwerp c. 1527-1587)
Saint George’s Day: A village kermesse with figures dancing and merrymaking, others drinking before an inn at the sign of The Horn
inscribed ‘DIT IS • INDEN • HOREN’ (upper right, on the inn sign)
oil on canvas: 54 x 106½ in. (138 x 270 cm.)
Estimate: £200,000 – £300,000 ($320,400 – $480,600). This lot made a hammer price of £620,000 (£746,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,224,260). Click on image to enlarge.

Marten van Cleve could be an extremely accomplished painter, but I don’t think this is a picture with which to make that claim – it’s a dense composition, but broadly painted.  Nevertheless, to the lot notes:

This exceptionally large treatment of the theme of the village kermesse, a subject which enjoyed widespread popularity in the art of Early Modern Northern Europe, particularly in the Dutch and Flemish tradition, has long been associated with the world of Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Sold as ‘School of Pieter Brueghel II’ in 1974, the work was published Dr. Klaus Ertz as ‘very close to the early pictures of Pieter II’ (‘Sehr nahe bei den frühen Pieter II-Bildern’): ‘the hand is that of another painter, unknown to us, who must have painted this wonderful composition towards the end of the sixteenth century, in the immediate proximity of Pieter II’s early compositions. We cannot exclude that Pieter II was himself influenced by this enormous painting’ (loc. cit., p. 881).

More recently, Dr. Ertz has identified this as the work of the earlier artist Marten van Cleve, a contemporary of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. This makes it a fascinating rediscovery, an exciting addition to the oeuvre of this important sixteenth-century artist, a key ‘missing link’ in the development of Flemish painting of the Northern Renaissance.

A more interesting work is his Blind Leading the Blind (below):

Christie's, December 8, 2005, Lot 13. Marten van Cleve (Antwerp c. 1527-before 1581)  The Blind leading the Blind  oil on panel  29½ x 41¼ in. (74.9 x 104.8 cm.)  Estimate: £50,000 - £70,000 ($86,700 - $121,380). This lot sold for £153,600 ($266,342).

Christie’s, December 8, 2005, Lot 13. Marten van Cleve (Antwerp c. 1527-before 1581)
The Blind leading the Blind
oil on panel
29½ x 41¼ in. (74.9 x 104.8 cm.)
Estimate: £50,000 – £70,000 ($86,700 – $121,380). This lot sold for £153,600 ($266,342).

Lot 10. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) The Birdtrap signed '·P.BREVGHEL' (partially strengthened, lower right) oil on panel 15 1/8 x 22 5/8 in. (38.4 x 57.5 cm.) Estimate: £800,000 – £1,000,000 ($1,281,600 - $1,602,000). Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 10. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp)
The Birdtrap
signed ‘·P.BREVGHEL’ (partially strengthened, lower right)
oil on panel: 15 1/8 x 22 5/8 in. (38.4 x 57.5 cm.)
Estimate: £800,000 – £1,000,000 ($1,281,600 – $1,602,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £1 million (£1,258,500 with the buyer’s premium or $2,063,940). Click on image to enlarge.

The Brueghel Birdtrap is one of dozens of variants of this subject, as noted in the catalogue entry:

This picture is an exquisite and beautifully preserved example of what is arguably the Brueghel dynasty’s most iconic invention. With no fewer than 127 versions of varying quality surviving, The Bird Trap is one of the most enduringly popular images in Western art. The sheer number of these extant examples suggests that many would have been workshop productions. By contrast, the present work is one of only 45 panels to have been recognised as autograph by Klaus Ertz, the leading expert on the artist, who praised its ‘remarkable quality and perfect state of conservation, certainly [a work] by the hand of the master himself’ (K. Ertz, Breughel-Brueghel, Antwerp, 1997, p. 369).

Lot 15. Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London) A States yacht under sail and a pont with sprit-sail hauled up and other ships in a calm signed 'W V V..de' (lower right, on the ship) oil on canvas 20 7/8 x 26¾ in. (53 x 68 cm.) Estimate: £400,000 – £600,000 ($640,800 - $961,200). Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 15. Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London)
A States yacht under sail and a pont with sprit-sail hauled up and other ships in a calm
signed ‘W V V..de’ (lower right, on the ship)
oil on canvas: 20 7/8 x 26¾ in. (53 x 68 cm.)
Estimate: £400,000 – £600,000 ($640,800 – $961,200). This lot sold for a hammer price of £400,000 (£482,500 with the buyer’s premium or $791,300). Click on image to enlarge.

Also in the rediscovery department is the van de Velde II maritime scene.  According to the lot notes:

[T]his picture has been untraced since it last appeared at auction in the Bernonville sale in Paris in 1881. Until now it has been known only by virtue of an engraving made by H. Toussaint which served as an illustration in the 1881 sale catalogue. On this basis, Robinson included the picture in his catalogue raisonné, surmising that: ‘Until the original picture has been found, it can only be assumed that it was an early work by the Younger painted for the Van de Velde studio, c.1655.’  M.S. Robinson, A catalogue of the paintings of the Elder and the Younger Willem van de Velde, London, 1990, I, p. 310, no. 840.

Lot 16. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam) and Studio Man with a Sword signed and dated 'Rembrandt·f. 1644' (lower right) oil on canvas 40¼ x 35 in. (102.3 x 88.5 cm.) Estimate: £2,000,000 – £3,000,000 ($3,204,000 - $4,806,000).

Lot 16. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam) and Studio
Man with a Sword
signed and dated ‘Rembrandt·f. 1644′ (lower right)
oil on canvas: 40¼ x 35 in. (102.3 x 88.5 cm.)
Estimate: £2,000,000 – £3,000,000 ($3,204,000 – $4,806,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.2 million (£2,546,500 with the buyer’s premium or $4,176,260).

Of this painting the lot notes include the following:

Traditionally regarded by connoisseurs as a masterpiece by the greatest of all Dutch artists, in recent years, along with many other Rembrandt paintings from the years 1643-45, the status of Man with a Sword has been disputed, with attributions made to various pupils of Rembrandt rather than to the master himself. Recently the subject of a thorough re-appraisal, this painting sheds fascinating new light on Rembrandt’s studio practice during one of the most enigmatic and least well-documented phases of his career. Through a process of scientific investigation, which had never before been conducted on the picture, the removal of an old obscuring varnish, and fresh scholarly analysis, Man with a Sword has now been acknowledged as a reliably signed and dated portrait which was conceived by Rembrandt and then fashioned into a historical portrait or tronie by another artist active in the Rembrandt workshop.

Lot 18. Lorenzo di Bicci (Florence c.1350-?1427) Saint John the Baptist and Saint Michael - left panel of the main tier of a polyptych inscribed 'ECCE· ANGN / DEI · QUI TO' (centre, on the scroll) on gold ground panel 31¾ x 23 in. (80.6 x 58.3 cm.) Estimate: £200,000 – £300,000 ($320,400 - $480,600).

Lot 18. Lorenzo di Bicci (Florence c.1350-?1427)
Saint John the Baptist and Saint Michael – left panel of the main tier of a polyptych
inscribed ‘ECCE· ANGN / DEI · QUI TO’ (centre, on the scroll)
on gold ground panel: 31¾ x 23 in. (80.6 x 58.3 cm.)
Estimate: £200,000 – £300,000 ($320,400 – $480,600). This lot sold for a hammer price of £200,000 (£242,500 with the buyer’s premium or $397,7000).

Perhaps this altarpiece fragment will be reunited with its related panels, then we’ll know more about the iconography and intent.  It”s an intriguing picture and the punch work haloes are wonderful. The lot notes contain the following about the artist’s life:

Lorenzo was a painter-businessman who established a practice which lasted for three generations: he worked closely with his son, Bicci di Lorenzo, who inherited the workshop that he in turn passed on to his own son, Neri di Bicci, in the mid-15th century. So cohesive was the workshop practice that it is often difficult to distinguish the hand of Lorenzo from that of the precociously talented Bicci di Lorenzo.

What’s unclear from the catalogue notes is whether there is agreement about the authorship.  The only bibliographic reference, Bernard Berenson’s Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Florentine School (1963) lists the work as by Spinello Aretino. No other scholars are cited.

Lot 30. Jan Breughel I (Brussels 1568-1625 Antwerp) The Temptation of Saint Anthony oil on copper 8¼ x 11 3/8 in. (21 x 28.8 cm.) Estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,281,600 - $1,922,400). Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 30. Jan Breughel I (Brussels 1568-1625 Antwerp)
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
oil on copper: 8¼ x 11 3/8 in. (21 x 28.8 cm.)
Estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,281,600 – $1,922,400). Click on image to enlarge. Bidding on this lot stopped at £650,000 and it failed to sell.

Jan Breughel the Elder – the Velvet Brueghel – authored this small and entertaining Temptation of St. Anthony. According to the lot notes:

This Temptation of Saint Anthony is a rare example of the subject by Jan Brueghel, who despite a prolific oeuvre comprising nearly 400 works is only known to have turned to this theme on eight occasions (other examples are now in Kassel, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel; New Haven, Yale University Museum; Munich, Alte Pinakothek; Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum; Italy, private collection; and France, private collection). This picture is closest in overall composition to a slightly larger copper dated 1604 now in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden.

Lot 32. Pieter Brueghel II The Payment of the Tithes signed and dated ‘P. BREVGHEL. 1626’ (lower left) oil on panel 29 x 49 in. (75 x 124.5 cm) Estimate: £700,000 – £1,000,000 ($1,121,400 - $1,602,000). Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 32. Pieter Brueghel II
The Payment of the Tithes
signed and dated ‘P. BREVGHEL. 1626’ (lower left)
oil on panel: 29 x 49 in. (75 x 124.5 cm)
Estimate: £700,000 – £1,000,000 ($1,121,400 – $1,602,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £850,000 (£1,022,500 with the buyer’s premium of $1,676,900). Click on image to enlarge.

How will the Christie’s Payment of Tithes fare following the November 13, 2103 sale at Artcurial of an earlier version of the work (below), which carried an estimate of €300,000-400,000 and sold for €1,660,362?  Of that painting, Artcurial’s press release noted:

This Payment of the Tithe, in exceptional condition, is considered the earliest version of this famous subject among the score known. Its signature is also of particular interest: around 1616 the artist altered the spelling of his name from BRVEGHEL to BREVGHEL, and this panel is unique among versions of the Payment of the Tithes as the only one to be signed BRVEGHEL.

Ot the present lot, the catalogue notes:

CONSERVED FOR MORE THAN 200 YEARS in the private collection of a single family, until the death of the 8th comte de Gouvion Saint-Cyr in 2012, this fine version of the Payment of the Tithes, sometimes also known as theCountry Lawyer, first came to the attention of scholars of the artist in 2003 … At this time parts of the painted surface were obscured by old overpainting and a dulled varnish, preventing full appreciation of its merits. A recent restoration has unveiled an exceptionally well-preserved original paint layer.

Lot 40. Pieter BRUEGHEL LE JEUNE (1564 - 1637/38) PAYMENT OF THE TITHES or THE VILLAGE LAWYER  oil on parquet panel 74 x 123cm, signed & dated 1615, Estimate: €300,000-400,000. This lot sold for €1,660,362.

Artcurial, November 13, 2013, Lot 40. Pieter BRUEGHEL LE JEUNE (1564 – 1637/38)
PAYMENT OF THE TITHES or THE VILLAGE LAWYER
oil on parquet panel 74 x 123cm, signed & dated 1615
Estimate: €300,000-400,000. This lot sold for €1,660,362.

Lot 34. Bernardo Strozzi (Genoa 1581-1644 Venice) The Supper at Emmaus oil on canvas, unframed 52¼ x 74¼ in. (132.7 x 188.5 cm.) Estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,281,600 - $1,922,400). Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 34. Bernardo Strozzi (Genoa 1581-1644 Venice)
The Supper at Emmaus
oil on canvas, unframed
52¼ x 74¼ in. (132.7 x 188.5 cm.)
Estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,281,600 – $1,922,400). This lot sold for a hammer price of £760,000 (£914,5000 with the buyer’s premium or $1,499,780). Click on image to enlarge.

UPDATE: This lot was sold to NY-based dealer Otto Naumann who had the work cleaned by London restorer Henry Gentle in time for TEFAF 2014 in Maastricht, according to the New York Times.  Asking price: $3.5 million. A subsequent New York Times story says the work did sell to “an unidentified collector said to be American.”

Bernardo Strozzi (Genoa 1581-1644 Venice) The Supper at Emmaus oil on canvas, unframed 52¼ x 74¼ in. (132.7 x 188.5 cm.) Following restoration.

Bernardo Strozzi (Genoa 1581-1644 Venice)
The Supper at Emmaus
oil on canvas, unframed
52¼ x 74¼ in. (132.7 x 188.5 cm.)
Following restoration.

The cataloguers for this lot were very enthusiastic:

THIS PREVIOUSLY UNRECORDED WORK CONSTITUTES a major rediscovery for the oeuvre of Bernardo Strozzi, and is one of the best examples of a favourite subject for the artist.

[…]

In the most recent edition of her catalogue raisonné for Strozzi (Rome, 1995, pp. 136-9, nos. 243-260), Luisa Mortari identifies two separate compositional types used by the artist, for whom the subject seems to have held a special appeal throughout his career. The first type is identifiable with the present composition, while the second is of a condensed format, focusing even more closely on the three figures, the tabletop and the emotionally charged space between them … The first type, matching the present composition, is represented by no fewer than 15 works, many of which must be studio works or later copies (‘sicuramente non tutte autografe’, op. cit., under no. 243), and attest to the powerful interest that collectors of the seventeenth and later centuries must have had for this depiction of the subject.

[…]

This newly discovered work is a candidate for … the long-lost prime version …”

In an Art World Coup, the National Gallery of Art Acquires a Spectacular Dutch Masterpiece

November 21, 2013
The National Gallery of Art has acquired “The Concert,” a 1623oil by Gerrit van Honthorst, to bolster its Baroque holdings.

Gerrit van Honthorst, Dutch, 1590 – 1656
The Concert, 1623
oil on canvas. unframed: 123 × 206 cm (48 7/16 × 81 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington. Patrons’ Permanent Fund and Florian Carr Fund
2013.38.1

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, according to the New York Times, has scored a major art world coup by acquiring Gerrit van Honthorst’s The Concert, an enormous painting by one of the leading Dutch Caravaggisti. The painting, which measures four by seven feet, has been in a chateau in Burgundy, France, since the early 1800′s.

According to article, “The Concert was first mentioned in a 1632 inventory of a palace in The Hague, one of several presided over by Frederick Henry, the Prince of Orange.” It was purchased from Adam Williams of the eponymous, New York-based fine art firm:

“It’s not often in your career you can say that something is the best picture ever painted by an artist, but in this case I can,” said Mr. Williams, who said he had jointly purchased the work with Anthony Speelman, a London dealer, after Mr. Speelman saw it in Paris.

The purchase price is reportedly in the neighborhood of $20 million.  The painting will go on view tomorrow.  Here’s the text of the National Gallery of Art’s announcement:

Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art announces the acquisition of a Dutch masterpiece by Gerrit van Honthorst (1592–1656), considered one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.The Concert, dated 1623, is an important and historic painting that has not been seen publicly since 1795. The acquisition is made possible by the Patrons’ Permanent Fund and Florian Carr Fund.

Honthorst was one of the Utrecht “Caravaggisti,” and like many other European artists of his generation, he traveled to Rome, where he was inspired by the radical stylistic and thematic ideas of Italian baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

The Concert, the Gallery’s first painting by Honthorst, is a vital addition to its collection of Caravaggist work. Visitors will have a rare opportunity to experience a painting so significant in terms of scale, skill, and its place in art history. Measuring more than six-feet wide, this festive scene depicts a group of brightly dressed musicians and singers cheerfully following the lead of a concertmaster.

“Until recently, the influence of Caravaggio on the art of Northern Europe had not been represented in the Gallery’s otherwise rich collection of Dutch art,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “The acquisition in 2009 of Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Bagpipe Player, 1624, was a first step in addressing this gap. Together with the Gallery’s Italian, French, and Spanish Caravaggist paintings, the works by these two Dutch masters convey the enormous impact of Caravaggio’s style in the 17th century.”

The Concert is on view in a special installation on the main floor of the Gallery’s West Building for six months prior to its permanent placement in the Dutch and Flemish galleries.

“The painting is in remarkable condition considering its size and history, and conservation treatment at the Gallery has fully restored it to its former glory. Old layers of varnish were removed, a seam was flattened, and careful inpainting was applied to damaged or abraded areas of the composition,” said Arthur Wheelock, curator of northern baroque paintings.

About the Artist

After training in his native Utrecht, Honthorst traveled to Italy around 1615, where he embraced Caravaggio’s theatrical style, characterized by dramatic gestures and pronounced contrasts of light and dark. As did Caravaggio, the Caravaggisti generally worked directly from posed models and brought their scenes close to the picture plane to suggest that they were an extension of everyday experiences. “Honthorst, in particular, painted with spirit and assurance, employing bright colors and strong chiaroscuro effects, painting scenes illuminated by a single light source,” said Wheelock.

When Honthorst returned to Utrecht in 1620 he was already a famous artist, and he was honored with a sumptuous feast in his native city. His enthusiastic embrace of Caravaggism had a great impact on other Dutch artists, among them Jan Lievens and Rembrandt van Rijn. His international renown also appealed to the court of Prince Maurits of Nassau in The Hague. In the early 1620s the Prince of Orange, as Maurits was known, was trying to broaden the reputation of the court by improving his residences, building gardens, presenting musical soirées, and acquiring paintings. After Maurits died in 1625, the subsequent Prince of Orange, Frederick Hendrick, continued to add to the collection to enhance the court’s international prestige.

Honthorst’s The Concert is first mentioned in a 1632 inventory of one of Frederick Hendrick’s palaces in The Hague. Although the painting may have been purchased by Prince Maurits in 1623, it may also have been a diplomatic gift to him or to Prince Frederick Hendrick from the exiled king of Bohemia, Frederick I, and his wife Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I of England. The exiled royals had moved to The Hague in 1621 after Frederick’s Protestant troops were defeated by Catholic forces. Even in exile, the king and queen of Bohemia actively collected works of art and lived an extravagant lifestyle with funds partially provided by the Princes of Orange. They were great admirers of Honthorst, and he eventually became their court artist. They may have commissioned the painting and then presented it to the Dutch court in appreciation of its financial support.

The Concert was much more than a decorative element in a courtly setting. It also had an underlying political message: harmony in society, as well as in music, exists when the guidance of its leader is followed. This adage would have been appropriate for either the Prince of Orange or King Frederick I of Bohemia,” Wheelock said.

The Concert remained in the possession of the House of Orange until it was seized by Napoleonic troops in 1795. This masterpiece, along with some 200 other Dutch paintings, was taken to France. It then entered a French private collection where it remained until acquired by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

About the Dutch Collection

The large scale and festive character of The Concert captures the essence of Honthorst’s artistic genius, but it also reinforces the importance of Caravaggism within the Dutch collection at the National Gallery. The Concert wonderfully complements Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Bagpipe Player. Although these two masterpieces are sympathetic in subject and similar in date (1623 and 1624), they represent the differing personalities of these two great masters. Ter Brugghen’s painting is quiet and reflective and subdued in its palette, whereas Honthorst’s large multifigured composition is bright and dynamic, has powerful contrasts of light and dark, and is filled with figures engaged in momentary actions.

Silvery $105.4 Million Warhol Car Crash leads Sotheby’s Nov. 2013 Contemporary Art sale in New York

November 13, 2013
Lot 16. ANDY WARHOL 1928 - 1987 SILVER CAR CRASH (DOUBLE DISASTER) left: signed twice and dated 63 on the overlap right: signed and dated 63 on the overlap silkscreen ink and silver spray paint on canvas, in two parts overall: 105 x 164 1/8 in. 267.4 x 417.1 cm. Executed in Summer 1963. Estimate: In the region of $60 million.

Lot 16. ANDY WARHOL, 1928 – 1987, SILVER CAR CRASH (DOUBLE DISASTER)
left: signed twice and dated 63 on the overlap
right: signed and dated 63 on the overlap
silkscreen ink and silver spray paint on canvas, in two parts, overall: 105 x 164 1/8 in. 267.4 x 417.1 cm.
Executed in Summer 1963.
Estimate: In the region of $60 million. (click on image to enlarge). This lot sold for $94 million ($105,445,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Sotheby’s November 13, 2013 evening sale of Post War and Contemporary art in New York has no chance of besting Christie’s record setting $691.5 million sale of the previous evening, but it did bring in $380,642,000 led by Warhol’s Silver Car Crash, which sold for more than $105.4 million ($94 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium), a new auction record for the artist.

The evening got off to a solid start, with strong results for Lot 2 Untitled by Rudolph Stingle, which hammered at $1.1 million ($1,325,000 with the buyer’s premium) against a $500,000-700,000 estimate, followed by Lot 3 Mark Bradford’s Mithra, estimated at $600,000-800,000, which pulled down $2.2 million ($2,629,000 with the buyer’s premium), a new auction record for the artist.  [Complete sale results]. The first lot to test the eight figure range was Jean Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Yellow Tar and Feathers), carrying an estimate of $15-20 million, hammered at $23 Million ($25,925,000 with the buyer’s premium). The first of the Steven Cohen (SAC) pictures, Brice Marden’s The Attended, drew $9.6 million ($10,917,000 with the buyer’s premium), against a $7-10 million estimate. The New York Times has more about what Cohen sold.

The major lot of the evening, the Warhol car crash, estimated at $60 million, opened at $50 million then jumped to $60 million, stalled briefly before progressing at $1 million increments to a hammer price of $94 million ($105,445,000 with the buyer’s premium).

The Dia Foundation off loaded a sizable number of works including Lot 20. Cy Twombly’s incredibly important Poems to the Sea, a glorious collection of 24 works on paper, estimated at $6-8 million.  Bidding was brisk and quickly broke through the $8 million high estimate with 7 buyers vying for the work – it finally hammered for $19.2 million ($21,669,000 with the buyer’s premium). Let’s hope this doesn’t disappear into a private collection and not be seen again. It’s one of the most consequential works of Twombly’s career.

The giant Richter (below), the second work being sold by Steven Cohen, crept along but managed to surpass its $20 million high estimate and hammer for $23.5 million ($26,485,000 with the buyer’s premium). The next Cohen lot, Joan Mitchell’s Atlantic Side, from 1960-61, with a $5-7 million estimate, pulled down $6 million ($6,885 with the buyer’s premium). Then came the Cohen-owned Warhol Liz #1 (Early Colored Liz), estimated at $20-30 million, that hammered for $18 million ($20,325,000 with the buyer’s premium).

The Barnett Newman (bel0w) went slightly above its $18 million low estimate to dealer David Zwirner for a hammer price of $18,250,000 ($20,605,000 with the buyer’s premium). The de Kooning Untitled V (below), which carried an irrevocable bid and a $25-35 million estimate, sold below estimate for a hammer price of $22 million ($24,805,000 with the buyer’s premium).

The Twombly sculpture Untitled (The Mathematical Dream of Ashurbanipal) (below), estimated at $2-3 million, sold just below its low estimate for a hammer price of $1.9 million ($2,285,000 with the buyer’s premium).

The withdrawal of the last work with a seven figure estimate, the Clyfford Still 1960-F meant there would be no more uber-$$$ dramatic moments and the crowd steadily departed to make their dinner reservations.  Auctioneer Tobias Meyer sped up the pace to get the auction to its conclusion.

Lot 20. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, POEMS TO THE SEA (i), (vii) and (xxiv) signed and dated Sperlonga July 1959 on the reverse oil-based house paint, pencil and wax crayon on paper, in twenty-four parts each: dimensions variable: 12 x 12 1/8 in. to 13 5/8 x 12 1/8 in. 30.3 x 31 cm. to 34.6 x 31 cm. Estimate: $6-8 million

Lot 20. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, POEMS TO THE SEA
(i), (vii) and (xxiv) signed and dated Sperlonga July 1959 on the reverse
oil-based house paint, pencil and wax crayon on paper, in twenty-four parts
each: dimensions variable: 12 x 12 1/8 in. to 13 5/8 x 12 1/8 in. 30.3 x 31 cm. to 34.6 x 31 cm.
Estimate: $6-8 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $19.2 million ($21,669,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 30. WILLEM DE KOONING 1904-1997 UNTITLED V signed on the reverse oil on canvas 70 x 80 in. 177.8 x 203.2 cm. Executed in 1975.  Estimate: $25-35 million.

Lot 30. WILLEM DE KOONING, 1904-1997, UNTITLED V
signed on the reverse
oil on canvas: 70 x 80 in. 177.8 x 203.2 cm.
Executed in 1975.
Estimate: $25-35 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $22 million ($24,805,00 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 26. ANDY WARHOL, 1928 - 1987, LIZ #1 (EARLY COLORED LIZ) signed on the stretcher acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas: 40 x 40 in. 101.6 x 101.6 cm. Executed in October - November 1963. Estimate: $20-30 million.

Lot 26. ANDY WARHOL, 1928 – 1987, LIZ #1 (EARLY COLORED LIZ)
signed on the stretcher
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas: 40 x 40 in. 101.6 x 101.6 cm.
Executed in October – November 1963.
Estimate: $20-30 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $18 million ($20,325,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 18. BARNETT NEWMAN, 1905 - 1970, BY TWOS signed with initials; signed, titled and dated 1949 on the reverse oil on canvas 66 1/4 x 16 in. 168.3 x 40.6 cm. Estimate: $18-25 million.

Lot 18. BARNETT NEWMAN, 1905 – 1970, BY TWOS
signed with initials; signed, titled and dated 1949 on the reverse
oil on canvas
66 1/4 x 16 in. 168.3 x 40.6 cm.
Estimate: $18-25 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $18,250,000 ($20,605,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 10. JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, 1960 - 1988, UNTITLED (YELLOW TAR AND FEATHERS) acrylic, oilstick, crayon, paper collage and feathers on joined wood panels: 96 1/2 x 90 1/4 in. 245.1 x 229.2 cm. Executed in 1982. Estimate: $15-20 million.

Lot 10. JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, 1960 – 1988, UNTITLED (YELLOW TAR AND FEATHERS)
acrylic, oilstick, crayon, paper collage and feathers on joined wood panels: 96 1/2 x 90 1/4 in. 245.1 x 229.2 cm.
Executed in 1982.
Estimate: $15-20 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $23 million ($25,925,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 22. GERHARD RICHTER, B.1932 A.B. COURBET signed, dated 1986 and numbered 616 on the reverse oil on canvas: 118 1/8 x 98 3/8 in. 300 x 250 cm. Estimate: $15-20 million.

Lot 22. GERHARD RICHTER, B.1932
A.B. COURBET
signed, dated 1986 and numbered 616 on the reverse
oil on canvas: 118 1/8 x 98 3/8 in. 300 x 250 cm.
Estimate: $15-20 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $23.5 million ($26,485,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 33. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, UNTITLED (THE MATHEMATICAL DREAM OF ASHURBANIPAL) initialed CT, numbered 2/3 and inscribed Gerbrüder Jäger, Pfäffikon SZ bronze: 41 1/2 x 20 3/4 x 20 3/4 in. 105.5 x 52.7 x 52.7 cm. Executed in 2009, this work is number two from an edition of three. Estimate: $2-3 million.

Lot 33. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, UNTITLED (THE MATHEMATICAL DREAM OF ASHURBANIPAL)
initialed CT, numbered 2/3 and inscribed Gerbrüder Jäger, Pfäffikon SZ
bronze: 41 1/2 x 20 3/4 x 20 3/4 in. 105.5 x 52.7 x 52.7 cm.
Executed in 2009, this work is number two from an edition of three.
Estimate: $2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $1.9 million ($2,285,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 44. CLYFFORD STILL, 1904 - 1980, 1960-F signed Clyfford, titled and dated 1960-F on the reverse oil on canvas: 112 x 144 1/2 in. 285.5 x 367 cm. Estimate: $15-20 million.

Lot 44. CLYFFORD STILL, 1904 – 1980, 1960-F
signed Clyfford, titled and dated 1960-F on the reverse
oil on canvas: 112 x 144 1/2 in. 285.5 x 367 cm.
Estimate: $15-20 million. (click on image to enlarge). This lot was withdrawn from the sale.

Record Breaking $142.4 million Bacon Triptych Leads Christie’s $691.5 Million Nov. 2013 Contemporary Art Sale in New York

November 12, 2013
The scene at Christie's.

The scene at Christie’s.

What a wild evening! It virtually rained money. The new record for the most expensive work at auction was established with the sale at Christie’s November 12, 2013 evening sale of Post War and Contemporary art in New York of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which sold for $142,405,000 ($127 million hammer price plus the buyer’s premium).  The triptych got a late, third party guarantee, so it was certain to sell, but at what price? Bidding opened at $80 million and quickly shot past the $100 million mark in $5 million increments. When the hammer finally came down after six minutes of bidding by seven bidders, and a bit of teasing by the auctioneer, the winning phone bid was taken by Lock Kresler at Christie’s London on behalf of New York’s Acquavella Galleries resulting in much applause, even from the auctioneer.  (Christie’s press release arrived at 7:59PM). [ The sale brought in a huge $691,583,000 - here are the complete results]. Adding in the results of the Nov. 13 morning and afternoon sales, and the total for the fall Post War & Contemporary sales at Christie’s exceed $750 million.

Lot 32. Francis Bacon (1909-1992)  Three Studies of Lucian Freud  titled and dated '3 studies for portrait Lucian Freud 1969' (on the reverse of the center panel) oil on canvas, in 3 parts  each: 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm.)  Painted in 1969.  Estimate: In the region of $86 million.

Lot 32. Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Three Studies of Lucian Freud
titled and dated ’3 studies for portrait Lucian Freud 1969′ (on the reverse of the center panel)
oil on canvas, in 3 parts
each: 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm.)
Painted in 1969.
Estimate: In the region of $86 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $127 million ($142,405,000 with the buyer’s premium). click on image to enlarge

As Artinfo’s Judd Tully summed it up: “Sixteen lots sold for more than $10 million, and of those, eleven made over $20 million, while three exceeded $50 million. Additionally, ten artist records were set. The results smashed last November’s $412.2 million result for 67 lots sold; and when you include the hefty buyer’s premium to each of the 63 lots that sold, the average lot price comes out to $10,977,508.”

The highly anticipated  sale gained an additional boost from a front page New York Times story about hard sell the auction houses employ to move multi-million dollar pieces of art.  Then word started flying around on twitter that Christie’s had moved the signature lot of their sale, the Francis Bacon triptych, up into an earlier spot, from lot 32 to lot 8a, right after the Christopher Wool  APOCALYPSE NOW. Brisk bidding opened the first seven lots leading into lot 8, the Wool, which easily blew through it’s $20 million high estimate to selling to New York dealer Christophe van de Weghe for a hammer price of $23.5 million ($26,485,000).

The Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Orange), estimated at $35 – 55 million, opened at $35 million and for a moment appeared about to sell at the low estimate.  Bidding picked up and it appeared dealer New York dealer dealer David Zwirner would get the work for $51 million, but another bidder swooped in to get it for a hammer price of $52 million ($58,405,000 with the buyer’s premium), the most expensive work at auction by a living artist. (Christie’s press release about this lot arrived at 8:08PM). The evening’s first couple of buy-ins ensued, with works by Luc Tuymans and Mauricio Cattelan falling flat.  The large orange Rothko (below) enlivened the audience drawing at winning hammer price of $41 million ($46,085,000 with the buyer’s premium) and, somewhat remarkably, tepid applause.  Hard group to please.

The Warhol Coca-Cola (3) chugged along from $32 to $50 million and seemed ready to sell at that number, then Amy Cappallazzo of Christie’s taking a phone bid grabbed it for $51 million ($57,285,000 with the buyer’s premium). Lot 35, the Richter  Abstraktes Bild (809-1), being sold by Eric Clapton, almost got bought in at $18 million (against an estimate of approximately $25 million), but managed to get one real bid and sell for a hammer price of $18.5 million ($20,885,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 27. Andy Warhol (1928-1987)  Coca-Cola [3]  signed 'Andy Warhol' (on the turning edge)  casein on cotton  69 3/8 x 54 in. (176.2 x 137.2 cm.)  Painted in 1962.  Estimate: $40-60 million.

Lot 27. Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Coca-Cola [3]
signed ‘Andy Warhol’ (on the turning edge)
casein on cotton
69 3/8 x 54 in. (176.2 x 137.2 cm.)
Painted in 1962.
Estimate: $40-60 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $51 million ($57,285,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 12. Jeff Koons (B. 1955)  Balloon Dog (Orange)  signed and dated 'Jeff Koons 1994-2000' (on the underside)  mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating  121 x 143 x 45 in. (307.3 x 363.2 x 114.3 cm)  Executed in 1994-2000. This work is one of five unique versions (Blue, Magenta, Orange, Red, Yellow).  Estimate: $35-55 million.

Lot 12. Jeff Koons (B. 1955)
Balloon Dog (Orange)
signed and dated ‘Jeff Koons 1994-2000′ (on the underside)
mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating
121 x 143 x 45 in. (307.3 x 363.2 x 114.3 cm)
Executed in 1994-2000. This work is one of five unique versions (Blue, Magenta, Orange, Red, Yellow).
Estimate: $35-55 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for a hammer price of $52 million ($58,405,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 15. Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)  Untitled  acrylic and oilstick on wood panel  72 x 48 in. (182.8 x 121.9 cm.)  Painted in 1982.  Estimate: $25-35 million.

Lot 15. Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
Untitled
acrylic and oilstick on wood panel
72 x 48 in. (182.8 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1982.
Estimate: $25-35 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $26 million ($29,285,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 21. Mark Rothko (1903-1970)  No. 11 (Untitled)  signed and dated 'MARK ROTHKO 1957' (on the reverse)  oil on canvas  79½ x 69¾ in. (201.9 x 177.2 cm.)  Painted in 1957.  Estimate: $25-35 million.

Lot 21. Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
No. 11 (Untitled)
signed and dated ‘MARK ROTHKO 1957′ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
79½ x 69¾ in. (201.9 x 177.2 cm.)
Painted in 1957.
Estimate: $25-35 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $41 million ($46,085, 000 with the buyer’s premium)

Lot 39. Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)  Number 16, 1949  signed and dated 'Jackson Pollock 49' (lower edge)  oil and enamel on paper mounted on masonite  30¾ x 22¼ in. (78.1 x 56.5 cm.)  Painted in 1949.  Estimate: $25-35 million.

Lot 39. Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Number 16, 1949
signed and dated ‘Jackson Pollock 49′ (lower edge)
oil and enamel on paper mounted on masonite
30¾ x 22¼ in. (78.1 x 56.5 cm.)
Painted in 1949.
Estimate: $25-35 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $29 million ($32,645,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 35. Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)  Abstraktes Bild (809-1)  signed, numbered and dated '809-1 Richter 1994' (on the reverse); numbered again '809-1' (on the turning edge) oil on canvas  88¾ x 78 7/8 in. (225 x 200 cm.)  Painted in 1994.  Estimate: In the region of $25 million.

Lot 35. Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
Abstraktes Bild (809-1)
signed, numbered and dated ’809-1 Richter 1994′ (on the reverse); numbered again ’809-1′ (on the turning edge)
oil on canvas
88¾ x 78 7/8 in. (225 x 200 cm.)
Painted in 1994.
Estimate: In the region of $25 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $18.5 million ($20,885,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 34. Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)  Seductive Girl  signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '96' (on the reverse)  oil and Magna on canvas : 50 x 72 in. (127 x 182.8 cm.)  Painted in 1996. Estimate: $22 - 28 million.

Lot 34. Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Seductive Girl
signed and dated ‘rf Lichtenstein ’96′ (on the reverse)
oil and Magna on canvas : 50 x 72 in. (127 x 182.8 cm.)
Painted in 1996.
Estimate: $22 – 28 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $28 million ($31,525,000 with the buyer’s Premium).

Lot 8. Christopher Wool (B. 1955)  Apocalypse Now  signed, titled, numbered and dated 'APOCALYPSE NOW (P.50) WOOL 1988' (on the reverse) alkyd and flashe on aluminum and steel  84 x 72 in. (213.4 x 182.9 cm.)  Painted in 1988.  Estimate: $15-20 million.

Lot 8. Christopher Wool (B. 1955)
Apocalypse Now
signed, titled, numbered and dated ‘APOCALYPSE NOW (P.50) WOOL 1988′ (on the reverse)
alkyd and flashe on aluminum and steel
84 x 72 in. (213.4 x 182.9 cm.)
Painted in 1988.
Estimate: $15-20 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $23.5 million ($26,485,000 with the buyer’s premium). 

Lichtenstein Squeaks by while Rothko tanks at Phillips Nov. 2013 Contemporary art sale in NY

November 11, 2013
Lot 22. ROY LICHTENSTEIN, Woman with Peanuts, 1962 oil and graphite on canvas: 69 x 45 3/4 in. (175.3 x 116.2 cm.) Signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein '62" on the reverse. Estimate $10,000,000 - 15,000,000

Lot 22. ROY LICHTENSTEIN, Woman with Peanuts, 1962
oil and graphite on canvas: 69 x 45 3/4 in. (175.3 x 116.2 cm.)
Signed and dated “rf Lichtenstein ’62″ on the reverse.
Estimate $10,000,000 – 15,000,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $9.5 million ($10,805,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Phillips inaugurated the Post War & Contemporary art with 40 lots and proceeded smoothly until lot 17, when an untitled work by Cy Twombly, became the first casualty of the evening, followed immediately by one of the top estimated lots, a late Rothko, lot 18 (below).  Dealer David Zwirner picked up two of the top estimated works, the David Hammons and the Jeff Koons (below). Bidding picked up steam again until it hit a speed bump at Lot 29, Wayne Thiebaud’s Traffic Lanes, which failed, as did the next two lots.

In all, only five lots unsold, a solid performance, and a decent start to the week (complete results).  Artinfo’s Judd Tully has a more detailed blow by blow.

Now onto the big guns. On Tuesday, Christie’s tests the market with a Francis Bacon triptych of Lucien Freud with an estimate in the range of $86 million, and Jeef Koons balloon dog estimated at $35-55 million.

Lot 18. MARK ROTHKO, Untitled (Black on Gray), 1969-70 acrylic on canvas: 68 x 64 in (172.7 x 162.6 cm.) Estimate $10,000,000 - 15,000,000

Lot 18. MARK ROTHKO, Untitled (Black on Gray), 1969-70
acrylic on canvas: 68 x 64 in (172.7 x 162.6 cm.)
Estimate $10,000,000 – 15,000,000. Bidding on this lot stopped at $9 million and it failed to sell.

Lot 8. ANDY WARHOL, Nine Gold Marilyns (Reversal Series), 1980 silkscreen and acrylic on canvas: 54 1/8 x 41 3/4 in. (137.5 x 106 cm.) Signed, titled and dated "9 Gold Marilyns, Andy Warhol, 1980 Reversal Series" along the overlap. Estimate $8,000,000 - 12,000,000

Lot 8. ANDY WARHOL, Nine Gold Marilyns (Reversal Series), 1980
silkscreen and acrylic on canvas: 54 1/8 x 41 3/4 in. (137.5 x 106 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated “9 Gold Marilyns, Andy Warhol, 1980 Reversal Series” along the overlap.
Estimate $8,000,000 – 12,000,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $8 million ($9,125,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 7. DAVID HAMMONS, Untitled, 2000 crystal, brass, frosted glass, light fixtures, hardware and steel: 77 x 87 x 25 in. (195.6 x 221 x 63.5 cm.) Executed in 2000. This work is unique from a series of 3. Estimate $5,000,000 - 7,000,000

Lot 7. DAVID HAMMONS, Untitled, 2000
crystal, brass, frosted glass, light fixtures, hardware and steel: 77 x 87 x 25 in. (195.6 x 221 x 63.5 cm.)
Executed in 2000. This work is unique from a series of 3.
Estimate $5,000,000 – 7,000,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $7 million dollars ($8,005,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Lot 5. JEFF KOONS, Buster Keaton, 1988 polychromed wood: 66 x 48 x 27 in. (167.6 x 121.9 x 68.6 cm.) This work is numbered and dated "1/3 '88" on the underside. This work is number 1 from an edition of 3 plu ... Estimate $4,000,000 - 6,000,000.

Lot 5. JEFF KOONS, Buster Keaton, 1988
polychromed wood: 66 x 48 x 27 in. (167.6 x 121.9 x 68.6 cm.)
This work is numbered and dated “1/3 ’88″ on the underside. This work is number 1 from an edition of 3 plu …
Estimate $4,000,000 – 6,000,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $3.8 million (4,421,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Cornell Returning 10,000 Ancient Cuneiform Tablets to Iraq

November 3, 2013

One of the 10,000 ancient tablets Cornell University has agreed to return to Iraq. They were donated by the family of antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen. (Elizabeth Stone / February 1, 2011)

One of the 10,000 ancient tablets Cornell University has agreed to return to Iraq. They were donated by the family of antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen. (Elizabeth Stone / February 1, 2011)

An amazing story in today’s Los Angeles Times, Cornell University is preparing to return some 10,000 ancient cuneiform tablets to Iraq.  The hoard, which dates back 6,000 years, came from, “New York antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen and his family [who] began donating and lending the tablets to Cornell in 2000.” [The article is authored by Jason Felch, co-author of the book Chasing Aphrodite and Web site of the same name, where additional coverage appears.]

Why? “Many scholars … [suspect] the tablets were looted in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which unleashed a wave of plundering in the archaeologically rich expanse of southern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.”

According to the article, no accusations of wrong doing are being made by US officials:

The Iraqi government requested the return of the tablets last year, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Binghamton, N.Y., is brokering the transfer.

“We’re not accusing anyone of a crime, but we believe they should be returned,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Miro Lovric.

Moreover:

Harold Grunfeld, attorney for Jonathan Rosen, said all of the tablets “were legally acquired” and that the federal investigation found “no evidence of wrongdoing.” He said the tablets at issue were donated by Rosen’s late mother, Miriam.

“It has always been the Rosen family’s intent that these tablets reside permanently in a public institution for scholarly research and for the benefit of the public as a vast informational tool in explaining life in the ancient world,” Grunfeld said.

The article includes the following:

Rosen, a benefactor to several American museums and universities, was for years a business partner with antiquities dealer Robert Hecht, who sold the J. Paul Getty Museum several antiquities that have been returned to Italy.

Cornell’s acceptance of the cuneiform tablets from Rosen has stirred controversy among scholars who contend that publishing studies of antiquities that were possibly looted increases their value on the art market and fuels the illegal digging seen across the region in recent years.

Damage from illegal excavations in Iraq has far exceeded the more notorious thefts from the Iraqi museum in 2003, experts say. At the ancient Sumerian city of Umma, for example, thousands of tablets like those at Cornell have been found by looters who have dug pits over an area the size of 3,000 soccer fields in search of new finds. At the height of the looting, an estimated 150,000 cuneiform tablets were being stolen from Iraq every year.

OK … but that’s no smoking gun.

cusas_6_52-04-054reverse

On the other side of the debate are scholars such as [David] Owen, the Cornell Assyriologist who has led the research of the Rosen tablets. Owen has argued that ancient texts should be studied regardless of how they were excavated. To do otherwise, he said, would be to forsake valuable information about the ancient world.

Thanks to funding provided by Rosen, Owen and a team of international scholars have worked with experts at UCLA to carefully conserve, photograph and study the tablets, publishing their work in more than 16 volumes over six years.

“Study of these cuneiform tablets is providing much new data on the history, literature, religion, language and culture of ancient Iraq that is filling major gaps in our knowledge of Mesopotamian civilization,” Owen said in a statement released by Cornell.

Some have questioned whether Iraq is stable enough to care for the delicate tablets once they are returned. About 600 antiquities that the U.S. returned to Iraq in 2009 later disappeared.

“We know there are problems there, but the Iraq museum seems to be secure at this point,” said Richard Zettler, a curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, which will soon return tablets borrowed from Iraq decades ago. “The real thing is, they belong to Iraq.”

Six Twombly’s From Dia Among Nine at Sotheby’s Nov. 2013 Evening Contemporary Sale in New York-UPDATED

October 31, 2013
Lot 20. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, POEMS TO THE SEA (i), (vii) and (xxiv) signed and dated Sperlonga July 1959 on the reverse oil-based house paint, pencil and wax crayon on paper, in twenty-four parts each: dimensions variable: 12 x 12 1/8 in. to 13 5/8 x 12 1/8 in. 30.3 x 31 cm. to 34.6 x 31 cm. Estimate: $6-8 million

Lot 20. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, POEMS TO THE SEA
(i), (vii) and (xxiv) signed and dated Sperlonga July 1959 on the reverse
oil-based house paint, pencil and wax crayon on paper, in twenty-four parts
each: dimensions variable: 12 x 12 1/8 in. to 13 5/8 x 12 1/8 in. 30.3 x 31 cm. to 34.6 x 31 cm.
Estimate: $6-8 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for $21,669,000 (price inclusive of buyer’s premium).

UPDATE 1: The New York Times reports that a lawsuit filed by to DIA founders Heiner Friedrich and Fariha de Menil Friedrich to prevent the sale of the Twombly’s and other artwork from DIA’s collection has been dropped:

Two founders of the Dia Art Foundation who have been vehemently opposed to the organization’s decision to raise money by selling several notable pieces from its collection have decided to withdraw a lawsuit filed last week to block the sale. The founders, Heiner Friedrich and Fariha de Menil Friedrich, said in a statement through their lawyers Tuesday morning that while they consider the sale “utterly wrong” and “against Dia’s mission,” the foundation is “our precious child, and we do not wish to continue to oppose it through legal action.”

ORIGINAL POST: Sotheby’s Nov. 13, 2013 evening sale of Post War and Contemporary art in New York includes nine works by Cy Twombly, six of which are being sold by the Dia Foundation.  The most significant lot is Poems to the Sea, a twenty-four part work on paper.  This comes seventeen years after the sale of Twombly’s other epic series on paper, Letter of Resignation, sold by Christie’s in London for £430,500 ($705,460) against an estimate of £200,000 – £300,000. Poems to the Sea and Letter of Resignation are works of great consequence and import in Twombly’s career.  They are also mythical and intoxicating. As the Christie’s catalogue noted of the work in that earlier sale:

Completed in Rome in 1967, Letter of Resignation is generally considered to be one of the most sustained and ambitious series on paper undertaken by Twombly. It ranks alongside his earlier Poems to the Sea in its supreme blending of senuous painterly nuance and a poetic visual dialogue expressed in a violent whirlwind of scribbles and scratched-out phrases.

Of the present lot, the Sotheby’s catalogue notes:

Widely exhibited internationally for almost half a century, Poems to the Sea has long been recognized as among the artist’s foremost triumphs, and is respected as a critical early touchstone for the subsequent evolution of his entire career. Executed at the beginning of a new chapter in the artist’s life, immersed in the prospect of a permanent existence in his newly adopted Italy, this revered masterpiece sits at the head of Twombly’s lifelong dialogue with the classical past, legends of the gods and the myths of ancient civilization. Permeated with the artist’s utterly inimitable, tremulous handwriting and exigent mark making, Poems to the Sea combines a transcription of immediate lived experience with a fresh reinterpretation of ancient history. Here, immersed in the Mediterranean land and seascapes, Twombly masterfully scribes an epic paean to the Sea itself, extending the spirit of Homeric and Ovidian legend yet by the means of an entirely unprecedented vocabulary.

Lot 20. Detail.

Lot 20. Detail. (click on image to enlarge)

Lot 20. Detail.

Lot 20. Detail. (click on image to enlarge)

The next five works are also be sold by the Dia Foundation and the three thereafter come from various collections:

Lot 32. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, IDILLI signed with initials and dated 7 Aug 76 on left sheet, titled on right sheet collage, oil and wax crayon, pencil and tape on paper, in three parts left: 58 1/2 x 51 5/8 in. 155.5 x 137.5 cm. center: 29 7/8 x 22 1/4 in. 75.9 x 56.5 cm. right: 29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. 75.6 x 56.5 cm. Estimate: $1.5-2 million.

Lot 32. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, IDILLI
signed with initials and dated 7 Aug 76 on left sheet, titled on right sheet
collage, oil and wax crayon, pencil and tape on paper, in three parts, left: 58 1/2 x 51 5/8 in. 155.5 x 137.5 cm. center: 29 7/8 x 22 1/4 in. 75.9 x 56.5 cm. right: 29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. 75.6 x 56.5 cm.
Estimate: $1.5-2 million. This lot sold for $2,517,000 (price inclusive of buyer’s premium).

Lot 18. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, UNTITLED signed with initials and dated 76 on the right sheet collage, oil and wax crayon, pencil and tape on paper, in two parts left: 59 7/8 x 52 3/8 in. right: 32 1/4 x 24 3/8 in. left: 152 x 133 cm. right: 82 x 62 cm. Estimate: $650,000-850,000.

Lot 18. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, UNTITLED
signed with initials and dated 76 on the right sheet
collage, oil and wax crayon, pencil and tape on paper, in two parts
left: 59 7/8 x 52 3/8 in. right: 32 1/4 x 24 3/8 in.
left: 152 x 133 cm. right: 82 x 62 cm.
Estimate: $650,000-850,000. This lot sold for $629,000 (price inclusive of buyer’s premium).

Lot 23. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, SEGUSO signed with initials, titled and dated 76 twice watercolor, crayon and pencil on paper  40 3/4 x 52 1/2 in. 103.5 x 133.4 cm. Estimate: $600,000-800,000.

Lot 23. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, SEGUSO
signed with initials, titled and dated 76 twice
watercolor, crayon and pencil on paper
40 3/4 x 52 1/2 in. 103.5 x 133.4 cm.
Estimate: $600,000-800,000. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for $1,061,000 (price inclusive of buyer’s premium).

Lot 57. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, VENUS titled; signed and dated Rome 1962 on the reverse pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper: 27 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. 70 x 50 cm. Estimate: $350,000-450,000.

Lot 57. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, VENUS
titled; signed and dated Rome 1962 on the reverse
pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper: 27 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. 70 x 50 cm.
Estimate: $350,000-450,000. This lot sold for $317,000 (price inclusive of buyer’s premium).

Lot 53. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, UNTITLED signed and dated 1963; signed and dedicated on the reverse pencil and crayon on paper: 19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in. 50 x 70 cm. Estimate: $300,000-400,000.

Lot 53. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, UNTITLED
signed and dated 1963; signed and dedicated on the reverse
pencil and crayon on paper: 19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in. 50 x 70 cm.
Estimate: $300,000-400,000. (click on image to enlarge) This lot sold for $281,000 (price inclusive of buyer’s premium).

Lot 42. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, UNTITLED oil, graphite and colored crayon on paper laid on canvas: 27 1/2 x 34 5/8 in. 70 x 88 cm. Executed in 1971. Estimate: $2.5-3.5 million.

Lot 42. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, UNTITLED
oil, graphite and colored crayon on paper laid on canvas: 27 1/2 x 34 5/8 in. 70 x 88 cm.
Executed in 1971.
Estimate: $2.5-3.5 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot was withdrawn.

Lot 56. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS TRANSFIXED BY A ROMAN PIAZZA titled oil paint, wax crayon and lead pencil on canvas: 58 1/2 x 71 in. 148.6 x 180.3 cm. Executed in 1962. Estimate: $2.5-3.5 million.

Lot 56. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS TRANSFIXED BY A ROMAN PIAZZA
titled, oil paint, wax crayon and lead pencil on canvas: 58 1/2 x 71 in. 148.6 x 180.3 cm.
Executed in 1962.
Estimate: $2.5-3.5 million. (click on image to enlarge) This lot failed to sell.

Lot 33. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 - 2011, UNTITLED (THE MATHEMATICAL DREAM OF ASHURBANIPAL) initialed CT, numbered 2/3 and inscribed Gerbrüder Jäger, Pfäffikon SZ bronze: 41 1/2 x 20 3/4 x 20 3/4 in. 105.5 x 52.7 x 52.7 cm. Executed in 2009, this work is number two from an edition of three. Estimate: $2-3 million.

Lot 33. CY TWOMBLY, 1928 – 2011, UNTITLED (THE MATHEMATICAL DREAM OF ASHURBANIPAL)
initialed CT, numbered 2/3 and inscribed Gerbrüder Jäger, Pfäffikon SZ
bronze: 41 1/2 x 20 3/4 x 20 3/4 in. 105.5 x 52.7 x 52.7 cm.
Executed in 2009, this work is number two from an edition of three.
Estimate: $2-3 million. This lot sold for $2,285,000 (price inclusive of buyer’s premium).

BREAKING: “Dutch Museums Identify 139 Likely Nazi Looted Art” – AP

October 29, 2013
Van Abbemuseum/Associated Press -  This photo provided by Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, shows the 1921 painting Odalisque by Henri Matisse. Dutch museums have identified 139 pieces of art, including dozens of paintings, one by Matisse and many by Dutch painters of varying renown such as Impressionist Isaac Israels, as likely having been taken forcibly from Jewish owners.

Van Abbemuseum/Associated Press – This photo provided by Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, shows the 1921 painting Odalisque by Henri Matisse. Dutch museums have identified 139 pieces of art, including dozens of paintings, one by Matisse and many by Dutch painters of varying renown such as Impressionist Isaac Israels, as likely having been taken forcibly from Jewish owners.

Efforts to restitute artwork taken by the Nazis during World War II took on a new dimension today, according to Toby Sterling at the Associated Press.  Dutch museum officials have identified dozens of works of art likely taken by the Nazis.  The complete article:

Dutch museums announced Tuesday they have found 139 artworks that may have been looted during the Nazi era, including paintings from masters such as Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky.

The major review of all museum collections in the country found art that had either dubious or definitely suspect origins.

“These objects are either thought or known to have been looted, confiscated or sold under duress,” said Siebe Weide, director of the Netherlands Museums Association. He said returning them is “both a moral obligation and one that we have taken upon ourselves.”

The review also listed the names of 20 people whom the museums said definitely had 61 pieces of art taken from them. The museums said they were getting in contact with or seeking their heirs, including the heirs of Jewish art dealer Albert Stern, the deceased owner of the Matisse.

The museum purchased the painting from Lieuwe Bangma family in 1941, but Stern was its owner before the war and the Bangma family is known to have given shelter to his granddaughter during the war.

A previous Dutch review that concluded in 2006 focused on art obtained during World War II. This time all Dutch museums reviewed the chain of possession for all their artwork created any time before the end of the war in 1945, with a special focus on detecting pieces that had any gap in their ownership record after the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933.

The Dutch are not the first to undertake such a review since a major conference in Washington D.C. on looted art in 1998 that found previous attempt to restore looted art to rightful heirs had been badly flawed. American and British museums have already conducted investigations similar to the Dutch one. In Germany and many other countries, similar investigations are still underway.

“We’re not the first with this investigation, but thanks to this investigation we’re not far behind,” said Rudi Ekkart, a professor at the University of Utrecht who headed the investigating commission.

Among the objects found were 69 paintings, including French painter Henri Matisse’s 1921 “Odalisque”painting of a half-nude reclining woman at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk museum, one of the country’s top tourist draws.

Other paintings included works by old Dutch masters such as Jacob Gerkitsz Cuyp, Impressionist Isaac Israels and modernists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Other objects uncovered in the investigation included drawings, sculptures, antiquities and Jewish ceremonial objects.

In a first, the Museums Association was also launching a website Tuesday to publish its findings so far, solicit more information about looted artwork and assist heirs in filing claims. The website will initially only be available in Dutch, but an English translation is expected by the end of 2013, Weide said.

Ekkart said it is still possible that more looted artwork will be uncovered in the Netherlands. He said the museums’ investigations were not exhaustive and there are likely pieces held in individual’s homes that will be eventually detected.

But “you’ll never again have a hundred at once,” he said.

—————

On the Internet: http://www.musealeverwervingen.nl

An intriguing 15th century Italian Panel Painting surfaces at a Paris Auction – UPDATED

October 27, 2013
Lot 22. "St. Thomas Aquinas at the table of King St. Louis."

Lot 22. Bartolomeo degli Erri, Active in Modena 1430-1479,
“St. Thomas Aquinas at the table of King St. Louis.”
Tempera on panel: 44.5 cm x 31.5 cm.
Estimate: €250,000-350,000. This lot sold for €235,000.

One of the needles in the haystack at the November 15, 2013, Audap-Mirabaud/Drouot auction in Paris, which is littered with école italienne, école française, école flamande, école vénitienne,  école milanaise, école bolonaise, école allemande and école européenne works is Lot 22, a 15th century panel depicting “St. Thomas Aquinas at the table of King St. Louis” by Bartolomeo degli Erri, active in Modena 1430-1479.  The catalogue entry says the panel was part of an altarpiece dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the four hagiographic altarpieces painted by Angelo brothers and Bartolomeo degli Erri for the church of San Domenico in Modena and dedicated to the four major figures Dominican:  Saints Dominic, Peter Martyr , Thomas Aquinas and Vincent Ferrer. Other panels from the altarpiece can be found in the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), the De Young Memorial Museum (San Francisco, CA), and possibly others including a work at the Moravská Galerie (Brno, Czech Republic).

Bartolomeo degli Erri (Italian, Modena, active 1460–79), Saint Thomas Aquinas Aided by Saints Peter and Paul Tempera on wood: 17 x 12 in. (43.2 x 30.5 cm) Metropolitan Museum of Art: Fletcher Fund, 1923, Accession Number: 23.140

Bartolomeo degli Erri (Italian, Modena, active 1460–79),
“Saint Thomas Aquinas Aided by Saints Peter and Paul”
Tempera on wood: 17 x 12 in. (43.2 x 30.5 cm)
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Fletcher Fund, 1923, Accession Number: 23.140

According to the Metropolitan’s Web site:

The picure depicts Saint Thomas twice: on the left he takes a book from a shelf, and on the right he is seated between Saints Paul and Peter, who have appeared to him in order to explain a passage in Isaiah. The monk shown at the upper left is probably Brother Rinaldo, to whom Saint Thomas dictated the exposition [see Acta Sanctorum, Martii, vol. 1, 1865, p. 668].

The panel is one of a group of perhaps nine scenes that originally surrounded an image of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The altarpiece was painted for a chapel in the church of San Domenico, Modena. The central panel is lost, but at least five other scenes depicting the life of Saint Thomas are known:

The Birth of Saint Thomas (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven)

Saint Thomas at the Court of King Louis (private collection)

The Debate with the Heretic and Christ Approving Saint Thomas’s Work (M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco)

The Vision of Fra Paolino dell’Aquila (M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco)

The Preaching of Saint Thomas (National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Two more scenes may be part of this group:

The Childhood of Saint Thomas (formerly Schweitzer collection; sold, Christie’s, New York, January 11, 1979, no. 53)

The Death of Saint Thomas (Moravská Galerie, Brno)

San Domenico once contained three altarpieces by Bartolomeo, dedicated to Saints Dominic, Thomas Aquinas, and Vincent Ferrer; a fourth altarpiece dedicated to Peter Martyr (signed and dated by Simone Lamberti, 1450) is now in the Galleria Nazionale, Parma (no. 499).

Erri, Agnolo degli (painter), Emilian, active 1440s - 1497 A Dominican Preaching c. 1470 tempera on panel overall: 43 x 34 cm (16 15/16 x 13 3/8 in.) framed: 65.1 x 55.6 x 7.6 cm (25 5/8 x 21 7/8 x 3 in.) Gift of Frieda Schiff Warburg in memory of her husband, Felix M. Warburg1941.5.2

Erri, Agnolo degli (painter), Emilian, active 1440s – 1497
“A Dominican Preaching” c. 1470
tempera on panel – overall: 43 x 34 cm (16 15/16 x 13 3/8 in.)
framed: 65.1 x 55.6 x 7.6 cm (25 5/8 x 21 7/8 x 3 in.)
Gift of Frieda Schiff Warburg in memory of her husband, Felix M. Warburg1941.5.2

The Gallery’s Web site includes the following provenance:

Commissioned c. 1470 for the old church of San Domenico, Modena; church demolished and rebuilt 1708, and its paintings perhaps dispersed at that time.[1] Baron Michele Lazzaroni, Rome, by 1925.[2] Mrs. Felix Warburg, New York, by 1936;[3] gift 1941 to NGA.

[1] L. Vedriani, in Raccolta de’ pittori modonesi più celebri, Modena, 1662: 23, noted that the St. Thomas Aquinas altarpiece was in a chapel on the rood screen of San Domenico.

[2] It was first noted in the Lazzaroni collection by Bernard Berenson, “Nove pitture in cerca di un’ attribuzione,”Dedalo 5 (1925): 607.

[3] Bernard Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento, Milan, 1936: 323.

Giacometti, Picasso & Balla (yes Balla) lead Sotheby’s Fall 2013 Imp & Mod sale in NY – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS

October 26, 2013
Lot 15. ALBERTO GIACOMETTI 1901 - 1966 GRANDE TÊTE MINCE (GRANDE TÊTE DE DIEGO) Inscribed with the signature Alberto Giacometti, with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur Paris and numbered 6/6 Bronze, Height: 25 1/2 in., 65 cm Conceived in 1954 and cast in bronze in 1955. Estimate: $35 - 50 Million.

Lot 15. ALBERTO GIACOMETTI, 1901 – 1966, GRANDE TÊTE MINCE (GRANDE TÊTE DE DIEGO)
Inscribed with the signature Alberto Giacometti, with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur Paris and numbered 6/6
Bronze, Height: 25 1/2 in., 65 cm
Conceived in 1954 and cast in bronze in 1955.
Estimate: $35 – 50 Million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $44.5 million ($50,005,000 with the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE: A far more lively evening at Sotheby’s with several lots soaring well past their high estimates.  According to the New York Times, the evening’s top lot, a Giacometti bust (above) was sold to Acquavella Galleries via  telephone bid, adding: “Desmond Corcoran, the London dealer, had owned the sculpture for more than 30 years.”  Art advisor Nancy Whyte picked up the Balla and art dealer David Nahmad paid nearly $31 million for the crazy, late Picasso (below). Of the late Picasso, Judd Tuddy at Artinfo reported:  “At least half a dozen bidders chased the 77-by-51-inch canvas, including underbidder Jose Mugrabi. It came to market from a private collector who bought the painting in 1988 from the late and noted Beverly Hills dealer Paul Cantor. Perhaps more importantly, it had been included in the storied “Avignon, Palais des Papes, Pablo Picasso: 1969-1970” exhibition in 1970.”

ORIGINAL POST: The “carpet bombing” of Giacometti’s during the Fall 2013 Impressionist and Modern art auctions continues November 6, 2013, with the Evening Sale at Sotheby’s. If the market hasn’t absorbed enough works by the artist at that point, then another $35 – 50 million could be laid out for the evening’s top lot, a sculptural portrait of Diego.

From the lot notes:

“To me,” Giacometti once stated, “sculpture is not an object of beauty but a way for me to try to understand a bit better what I see in a given head, to understand a bit better what appeals to me about it and what I admire in it” (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space [(exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg & Museum der Moderne Monchsberg, Salzburg, 2010-2011.

Lot 22. PABLO PICASSO, 1881 - 1973 TÊTE DE FEMME, Signed Picasso (lower left) Oil on canvas: 25 5/8 by 21 3/8 in., 65 by 54 cm Painted on March 12, 1935. Estimate: $20 - 30 million.

Lot 22. PABLO PICASSO, 1881 – 1973, TÊTE DE FEMME, Signed Picasso (lower left)
Oil on canvas: 25 5/8 by 21 3/8 in., 65 by 54 cm
Painted on March 12, 1935.
Estimate: $20 – 30 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $35.5 million ($39,925,000 with the buyer’s premium).

From the lot notes:

Picasso’s radiant composition belongs to the extraordinary group of canvases depicting Marie-Thérèse Walter, his beloved mistress during the early 1930s.  The present painting is one of the most geometrically complex renderings of his lover, depicted as a bust on a pedestal and reminiscent of the large plaster sculptures of her that he created nearly a decade earlier.  Picasso completed this canvas at the height of the Surrealist movement in March 1935, when his palette was at its most vibrant and Freudian psycho-sexual symbolism played a defining role in the imagery of the avant-garde.

Lot 9. GIACOMO BALLA, 1871 - 1958, AUTOMOBILE IN CORSA, Signed Futur Balla (lower left); signed Futur Balla and titled on the reverse Oil and ink on paper laid down on board: 29 by 41 in., 74 by 104 cm Painted in 1913.

Lot 9. GIACOMO BALLA, 1871 – 1958, AUTOMOBILE IN CORSA, Signed Futur Balla (lower left); signed Futur Balla and titled on the reverse
Oil and ink on paper laid down on board: 29 by 41 in., 74 by 104 cm
Painted in 1913. This lot sold for a hammer price of $10.1 million ($11,477,000 with the buyer’s premium).

This is a painting to be excited about. From the lot notes:

Giacomo Balla’s remarkable images of racing automobiles emerged in 1913 in the wake of the artist’s “rebirth” as a Futurist.  Although he had signed the “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting” in April 1910, his work did not respond to the manifesto’s demand for paintings that focused on modern dynamism, the triumphs of technology, or sensations of speed until late in 1911.

Racing Automobile is one of the series of paintings and large-scale works on paper that Balla executed in 1913 and 1914 … Poised between figuration and abstraction, the painting retains the repeated image of the Fiat Type 3, with a driver seated before its steering column and wheel as it speeds from right to left across the horizon, even as the rotating wheels and angular blasts of air expand in intersecting waves that eventually fly free of any descriptive purpose.  Balla calls attention to his photographic prototype through a subtle palette of grays, blacks, and whites, as well as through the cropping of the image, which seems to explode beyond its rectangular limits.

Lot 29. PABLO PICASSO, 1881 - 1973 MOUSQUETAIRE À LA PIPE; Signed Picasso (upper left); dated 5.3.69 II on the reverse Oil on canvas: 76 7/8 by 51 1/4 in., 195 by 130 cm Painted on March 5, 1969. Estimate: $12 - 18 million.

Lot 29. PABLO PICASSO, 1881 – 1973
MOUSQUETAIRE À LA PIPE; Signed Picasso (upper left); dated 5.3.69 II on the reverse
Oil on canvas: 76 7/8 by 51 1/4 in., 195 by 130 cm
Painted on March 5, 1969.
Estimate: $12 – 18 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $27.5 million ($30,965,000 with the buyer’s premium). Sold to dealer David Nahmad.

Heaven forfend.  As mentioned in the previous posting about the Christie’s sale, if you’re fated to own a large, late and lugubrious Picasso, this might be the one for you.  And, good luck to you.

Lot 13. JOAN MIRÓ, 1893 - 1983, BONHEUR D'AIMER MA BRUNE Signed Miró and dated 1925 (lower right) Oil on canvas: 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 in., 73 by 92 cm Painted in 1925. Estimate: $9 - 12 million.

Lot 13. JOAN MIRÓ, 1893 – 1983, BONHEUR D’AIMER MA BRUNE
Signed Miró and dated 1925 (lower right)
Oil on canvas: 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 in., 73 by 92 cm
Painted in 1925.
Estimate: $9 – 12 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $5.25 million and it failed to sell.

From the lot notes:

Bonheur d’aimer ma brune belongs to a series of paintings from 1925 known as “poem-paintings,” in which poetic allusions, graphic signs, and painterly expression were presented within a single composition.  His choice usage of imaginative titles, or in the case of the present work, colorful inscriptions, invested his pictures with a narrative that shaped the viewer’s understanding.  With this tactic, Miró’s ambigious forms took shape in the imagination of his audience.  In the present work, for example, the figures are understood to be a kissing couple, perhaps serenaded by the stringed instrument to their left.

“The discovery of Surrealism coincided for me with a crisis in my own painting and the decisive turning that … caused me to abandon realism for the imaginary,” Miró would later write.  “I spent a great deal of time with poets, because I thought you had to go beyond the plastic thing to reach poetry.  Surrealism freed the unconscious, exalted desire, endowed art with additional powers… I painted as if in a dream, with the most total freedom” (quoted in Joan Miró(exhibition catalogue), Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1993, pp. 180 and 194).

Lot 32. CLAUDE MONET, 1840 - 1926 GLAÇONS, EFFET BLANC, Signed and dated Claude Monet 94 (lower right) Oil on canvas: 25 ¾ by 39 3/8 in., 65.5 by 100 cm Painted in 1893. Estimate: $9 - 14 million.

Lot 32. CLAUDE MONET, 1840 – 1926
GLAÇONS, EFFET BLANC, Signed and dated Claude Monet 94 (lower right)
Oil on canvas: 25 ¾ by 39 3/8 in., 65.5 by 100 cm
Painted in 1893.
Estimate: $9 – 14 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $14,250,000 ($16,125,000 with the buyer’s premium).

Impressionism … remember that? Finding Impressionist works among the top estimated lots in these sales is getting increasingly rare.

Pricey Portraits Lead Christie’s 2013 Fall Impressionist & Modern art auction in New York – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS

October 25, 2013
Lot 9. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)  Diego en chemise écossaise  signed and dated 'Alberto Giacometti 1954' (lower right)  oil on canvas  31 7/8 x 25½ in. (81.1 x 64.9 cm.)  Painted in 1954  Estimate: $30 - 50 million

Lot 9. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Diego en chemise écossaise
signed and dated ‘Alberto Giacometti 1954′ (lower right)
oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 25½ in. (81.1 x 64.9 cm.)
Painted in 1954
Estimate: $30 – 50 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $29 million ($32,645,000 with the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE: Were it not for a third party guarantee on the evening’s highest estimated lot – the Giacometti above – the event would have been even gloomier.  The Giacometti sold for a hammer price of $29 million ($32,645,000 with the buyer’s premium), but only barely.  There was not bidding in the room.  The Modigilani portrait Monsieur Baranowski bombed (estimate: $25-35 million) as did the giant, late Picasso (lot 31, below).  Despite all this, the evening’s tally was $144,299,000 (results inclusive of buyers’ premiums), well below the low estimate of $188 million (a figure that does NOT include the buyers’ premiums), and there were a couple of battles for some lots, including Lot 16, a van Gogh drawing, and Lot 39, a Kandinsky painting.  Complete results.

ORIGINAL POST: Portraits by Giacometti, Modigilani and Picasso lead Christie’s November 5, 2013 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern art auction in New York, with an Alberto Giacometti oil on canvas portrait of his brother Diego poised by bring in an estimated $30 – 50 million.  How high will that lead lot go? Hard to know, but it will sell. As Christie’s notes on its Web site: “On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale, which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property.”

With Giacometti sculptures setting record prices, it seems auction prices for the paintings could follow – the artist did want to be recognized equally for both his two dimensional and three dimensional works and auction prices are one determinant (though its critical value is questionable).

From the lot notes:

The present work which was executed in 1954 is, perhaps, one of the most fully worked and deeply realized of all Giacometti’s portraits. He knew Diego intimately; he knew him almost as well as he knew himself. He already captured him many times on canvas and he would continue to do so until the very end of his life but never before or after did Alberto paint Diego with quite the same energy or fervor as he did in the present work. The surface of the painting is deeply rich in texture showing how Alberto compulsively worked and re-worked his material. Moreover, the essentially monochromatic palette of blacks and grays and whites has been significantly enhanced in this portrait of Diego wearing a tartan shirt.

Color was not deliberately eliminated from Giacometti’s paintings although it does, however, play a subsidiary role to line.

Lot 19. Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)  Monsieur Baranowski  signed 'Modigliani' (lower left)  oil on canvas  43¾ x 21 5/8 in. (112 x 56 cm.)  Painted in 1918  Estimate: $25 - 5 million.

Lot 19. Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Monsieur Baranowski
signed ‘Modigliani’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
43¾ x 21 5/8 in. (112 x 56 cm.)
Painted in 1918
Estimate: $25 – 35 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $19 million and it failed to sell.

This slender portrait is not quite the sinuous and iconic Modigliani painting I’d wish to own.  There’s a certain clunkiness to the treatment of the figure and the painting’s lower half.

From the lot notes:

The portrait of [Pierre-Edouard] Baranowski [a Polish émigré to Montparnasse] takes its place in the peerless visual history of Left Bank culture that Modigliani produced during the second decade of the twentieth century. Werner Schmalenbach has written, “In his portraits, without ever setting out to be so, Modigliani was a chronicler of the vie bohème of Montparnasse, the district where in his time the artistic life of the French capital was being transformed. He painted so many people from this world that one is almost impelled to ask whom he did not paint. Modigliani was part of this bohème in a highly personal and indeed an exemplary way. In the eyes of his contemporaries, he was–as he has remained–its epitome” (Modigliani and the Artists of Montparnasse, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2002, p. 33).

“Who was Monsieur Baranowski?” Alfred Werner has written. “One of the hundreds of artists and intellectuals who flocked to Paris from Eastern Europe, most of whose talents were to remain unrecognized, their dreams unfulfilled.”

Lot 31. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)  Le peintre et son modèle dans un paysage  signed 'Picasso' (lower right); dated '15.6.63. 24.7. 25.26.31. 7.8.63. 12.8. 19.8. 27. 19.9.63.' (on the reverse) oil on canvas  51 1/8 x 76¾ in. (130 x 194.8 cm.)  Painted on 15 June-19 September 1963  Estimate: $25 - 35 million.

Lot 31. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Le peintre et son modèle dans un paysage
signed ‘Picasso’ (lower right); dated ’15.6.63. 24.7. 25.26.31. 7.8.63. 12.8. 19.8. 27. 19.9.63.’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
51 1/8 x 76¾ in. (130 x 194.8 cm.)
Painted on 15 June-19 September 1963
Estimate: $25 – 35 million. [click on image to enlarge] Bidding on this lot stopped at $23 million and it failed to sell.

If you’re fated to own a large, late and lugubrious Picasso, this may be the one. And, good luck to you.

Lot 11. Juan Gris (1887-1927)  Guitare sur une table  signed and dated 'Juan Gris 1-1916' (lower left)  oil on canvas  36¼ x 23 3/8 in. (92.1 x 59.4 cm.)  Painted in January 1916  Estimate: $10 - 15 million.

Lot 11. Juan Gris (1887-1927)
Guitare sur une table
signed and dated ‘Juan Gris 1-1916′ (lower left)
oil on canvas
36¼ x 23 3/8 in. (92.1 x 59.4 cm.)
Painted in January 1916
Estimate: $10 – 15 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $8 million ($9,125,000 with the buyer’s premium).

From the lot notes:

True to synthetic cubist practice, manifest here is Gris’ method of composing with tilted and angled translucent color planes, stacked one atop another like panes and shards of tinted glass, glowing with both brilliant and deeply resonant chroma. “The only technique,” Gris declared, “is a sort of flat, colored architecture” (quoted in D.-H. Kahnweiler, Juan Gris: His Life and Work, London, 1969, p. 197). In an otherwise darkened room, a shaft of light as if streaming through an opened door has struck the face of the guitar, also illuminating two sheets of staved music paper and a section of molding on the wall behind. Gris has dovetailed these various elements into a grandly conceived but entirely lucid composition–the poet-critic Apollinaire dubbed him “the demon of logic” (L.C. Breunig, ed., Apollinaire on Art, New York, 1972, p. 254). Here is a recent development in the artist’s painting, which commenced in his canvases during the spring 1915 and lasted about a year thereafter: Gris has contrasted imitation textures and solid color planes with passages of pointillist dots, stippled in regular rows, functioning by way of contrast with adjacent planar elements as if to aerate the geometry and lighten the density of his conception, while sensuously animating the overall effect of the composition.

Lot 5. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)  Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie-Thérèse)  dated '4 D 37' (upper right)  oil on canvas  24 1/8 x 18 1/8 in. (61.1 x 46 cm.)  Painted on 4 December 1937  Estimate: $8 - 12 million.

Lot 5. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie-Thérèse)
dated ’4 D 37′ (upper right)
oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 18 1/8 in. (61.1 x 46 cm.)
Painted on 4 December 1937
Estimate: $8 – 12 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $10.7 million $12,149,000 with the buyer’s premium).

From the lot notes:

The young blonde woman in this painting is unmistakably Marie-Thérèse Walter, since 1927 Picasso’s mostly hidden mistress and the mother of his second child, their daughter Maya, who was a toddler when this was painted in December 1937.

[O]n the evening of 8 January 1927 … Picasso walked up to Marie-Thérèse, then only seventeen-and-a-half years old, as she stood outside the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. “You have an interesting face. I would like to do a portrait of you,” he told her. “I feel we are going to do great things together.” It should have been the greatest pick-up line in the history of courtship when he then announced: “I am Picasso” (quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, New York, 2007, p. 323). She did not know who he was, however, and Picasso later took her to a bookstore and showed her a book with his name on the cover.

$35 Million Picasso Sculpture Starts 2013 Fall Impressionist & Modern Art Auctions in New York – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS

October 25, 2013
Lot. 21 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)  Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center) cut and welded steel  height: 41½ in. (105.5 cm.); width: 27½ in. (70 cm.); depth: 17¾ in. (45 cm.) conceived in Mougins, 1962-1964 and executed in 1964; unique  Provenance Estate of the artist. Marina Picasso (by descent from the above). Jan Krugier, acquired from the above. Estimate: $25 - 35 million.

Lot. 21 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center)
cut and welded steel
height: 41½ in. (105.5 cm.); width: 27½ in. (70 cm.); depth: 17¾ in. (45 cm.)
conceived in Mougins, 1962-1964 and executed in 1964; unique
Provenance
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso (by descent from the above).
Jan Krugier, acquired from the above.
Estimate: $25 – 35 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $19 million and it failed to sell.

UPDATE: What a train wreck of a sale. The sale, subtitled “A Dialogue Through Art” was largely a one-way conversation with buyer’s frequently saying: “No thanks.” Exaggerated estimates for works, many of which have been on the market for a while according to the New York Times, resulted in a steep buy in rate for many of the top lots in the sale.  The final result, $92,533,000 (including buyers’ premiums) was no where near the low estimate of $147 million (which does not include the buyers’ premiums). The complete list of results.  According to Bloomberg News, “China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, bought Picasso’s painting of his young children, Claude and Paloma, for $28.2 million” (below).

ORIGINAL POST: The 2103 Fall season of Impressionist and Modern art auctions in New York will kick off November 4, 2013 at Christie’s with the sale of works owned by art dealer Jan Krugier, and the top lot in the sale is a 41½ in. tall steel maquette for Picasso’s Tête in the Chicago Civic Center. According to the lot notes, this is one of two maquettes for the finished sculpture:

The completed freestanding sculpture measures 65 feet (20 m) in height, and occupies today, as it did when it was unveiled 15 August 1967, the plaza in front of the Civic Center building, since 1976 known as the Richard J. Daley Center in honor of the late mayor, in downtown Chicago. Picasso made a gift of the maquette sent to America to the Art Institute of Chicago. The present maquette remained in Picasso’s possession during his lifetime; following his death in 1973 the sculpture was bequeathed to his grand-daughter Marina, and subsequently entered the collection of Mr. Krugier.

Lot. 21 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center)

Lot. 21 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center)

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)  Herbstlandschaft  signed and dated 'KANDINSKY 1911.' (lower right)  oil on canvas  28 1/8 x 39 1/8 in. (71.6 x 99.3 cm.)  painted on 31 January 1911  Provenance Nierendorf Gallery, New York. Mies van der Rohe, Chicago (acquired from the above, 1941). Lora F. Marx, Chicago (gift from the above, circa 1942); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 9 May 1989, lot 33. Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale. Estimate: $20 - 25 million.

Lot 41. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Herbstlandschaft
signed and dated ‘KANDINSKY 1911.’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
28 1/8 x 39 1/8 in. (71.6 x 99.3 cm.)
painted on 31 January 1911
Provenance
Nierendorf Gallery, New York.
Mies van der Rohe, Chicago (acquired from the above, 1941).
Lora F. Marx, Chicago (gift from the above, circa 1942); sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 9 May 1989, lot 33.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.
Estimate: $20 – 25 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $14 million and it failed to sell.

This Kandinsky was at one time owned by the architect Mies van der Rohe.  From the lot notes:

According to Kandinsky’s personal handlist, he painted this canvas on 31 January 1911. Several weeks earlier, on 2 January, the artist attended in Munich a concert of the music of the Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg, to whom he wrote on the 18th: “what we are striving for and our whole manner of thought and feeling have so much in common… In your works you have realized what I have so greatly longed for in music” (quoted inSchoenberg, Kandinsky and the Blue Rider, exh. cat., The Jewish Museum, New York, 2003, p. 79).

Lot 45. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)  Femme de Venise I  signed and numbered 'Alberto Giacometti 2/6' (on the left side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark 'SUSSE FONDEUR PARIS' (on the back of the base) bronze with dark brown patina  height: 41¼ in. (104.8 cm.)  conceived in 1956 and cast in 1957  Estimate: $9 - 12 million

Lot 45. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Femme de Venise I
signed and numbered ‘Alberto Giacometti 2/6′ (on the left side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark ‘SUSSE FONDEUR PARIS’ (on the back of the base)
bronze with dark brown patina
height: 41¼ in. (104.8 cm.)
conceived in 1956 and cast in 1957
Estimate: $9 – 12 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $6.8 million and it failed to sell.

From the lot notes:

The sculptures known as the Femmes de Venise, a series comprising nine individual but closely related figures executed in plaster during 1956 and subsequently cast in bronze, are probably Giacometti’s best-known works, and are generally regarded as having significantly contributed to his reputation and fame as the most important sculptor of the postwar era. “The Women of Venice mark the halfway point in Giacometti’s mature work,” Christian Klemm has stated, “they bring together the different characteristics of his figures. The evocative name, which binds the individual figures into one group despite their differences, had an enhancing effect: as the figures became legendary, they came to be regarded as the epitome of his art. The extremely small, distant heads and the innovatively sloping pedestals, from which the over-size feet grow, still make them seem like revelatory, illusionistic visions. The tension in the mingling of goddess and concubine, of Egyptian cult image and decomposing corpse, is seen nowhere as vividly as in this group” (Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p. 218).

Lot 17. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)  Claude et Paloma  dated and inscribed 'vendredi 20.1.50. Vallauris' (on the reverse)  oil and ripolin on panel  45 5/8 x 35 in. (116 x 89 cm.)  painted in Vallauris, 20 January 1950  Estimate: $ 9 - 12 million

Lot 17. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Claude et Paloma
dated and inscribed ‘vendredi 20.1.50. Vallauris’ (on the reverse)
oil and ripolin on panel
45 5/8 x 35 in. (116 x 89 cm.)
painted in Vallauris, 20 January 1950
Estimate: $ 9 – 12 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $25 million ($28,165,000 with the buyer’s premium).

From the lot notes:

Kirk Varnedoe has written, “Whether in recognition of a new age of permissive thinking about early childhood or out of a greater concern to absorb for himself some of the budding vitality of their youth, Picasso in the early 1950s doted on the childishness of Paloma and Claude; rather than imposing premature adulthood on them in his work, he often let their games, their toys, their own creations–as well as the mercurial intensity of their emotional life–inform his art” (Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 160).

Lot 23. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)  Nu debout  signed and dated 'Alberto Giacometti 1958' (lower right)  oil on canvas  61 x 27½ in. (155 x 69.7 cm.)  painted in 1958  Estimate: $8 - 12 million

Lot 23. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Nu debout
signed and dated ‘Alberto Giacometti 1958′ (lower right)
oil on canvas
61 x 27½ in. (155 x 69.7 cm.)
painted in 1958
Estimate: $8 – 12 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $4.8 million and it failed to sell.

From the lot notes:

Giacometti painted this large Nu debout in 1958, as he was consolidating his efforts following a crisis he had experienced in his painting while working, over a period of two years, on a portrait which the Japanese professor Isaku Yanaihara had commissioned from him. The artist had been previously painting to his satisfaction and with great success since the late 1940s, when he turned away from the visionary, attenuated and weightless figure sculptures that had won him world-wide acclaim. He thereafter decided to resume painting and to place this component in his work on an equal footing with his sculpture.

The 1958 series of painted standing nudes have as their immediate sculptural antecedents the celebrated Femmes de Venise of 1956, and they in turn prefigure the Grande femme debout sculptures that would occupy Giacometti during 1959-1960, after he received the nod to submit designs for monumental works to be installed at the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza in lower Manhattan. Giacometti always desired that his achievement in painting should be recognized as commensurate with his reputation as a sculptor.

Lot 31. Joan Miró (1893-1983)  Peinture--L'Oiseau  signed and dated 'Miró. 1926.' (lower right); signed and dated again 'Joan Miró 1926' (on the reverse) oil on canvas  28¾ x 36¼ in. (73.2 x 92.2 cm.)  painted in 1926  Estimate: $8 - 12 million

Lot 31. Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Peinture–L’Oiseau
signed and dated ‘Miró. 1926.’ (lower right); signed and dated again ‘Joan Miró 1926′ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
28¾ x 36¼ in. (73.2 x 92.2 cm.)
painted in 1926
Estimate: $8 – 12 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $6.2 million and it failed to sell.

The catalogue begins by saying: “Audaciously spare in its motifs … ” but not in its estimate. Then again, what might be called audacious now will be chump change in just a few years.

The Nerve! Art Thief May Sue Museum for Making Heist Too Easy – Says Museum is Negligent

October 24, 2013
Radu Dogaru msn

Accused thief Radu Dogaru claims museum he allegedly robbed was negligent for having too “little security.”
msn

Artfix Daily has a story that is a new twist on “blaming the victim”:

Accused thief Radu Dogaru says he’s a victim in the $24-million art heist that he perpetrated. Dogaru says the crime was too easy and that the Kunsthal Museum should be sued for negligence .

Dogaru and six other Romanians stole paintings by Picasso, Monet, and Gauguin from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum in only three minutes last October.

“I could not imagine that a museum would exhibit such valuable works with so little security,” said Dogaru during a Tuesday court hearing.

Dogaru faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. He confessed his crime to the Dutch police.

His lawyer, Catalin Dancu, says the Kunsthal is responsible for the poor security given to the loaned artworks. If the museum is found guilty, contend Dogaru’s lawyers, it may have to pay some of the claims, the AFP reports. Dogaru’s mother stated that she burned the paintings, but later retracted her claim.

“We can clearly speak of negligence with serious consequences,” said Dancu. ”If we do not receive answers about who is guilty, we are considering hiring Dutch lawyers to start a legal case in The Netherlands or in Romania.”

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