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Sumptuous and Salacious – Numerous Masterpieces at Christie’s July London Old Masters Sale – UPDATED with sale results

June 15, 2012

Lot 2. Attributed to Jan van Amstel, the Brunswick Monogrammist (Amsterdam c. 1500-c. 1542 Antwerp), The Deluge, oil on panel 25¼ x 31 7/8 in. (64.1 x 78.4 cm.). Estimate: £70,000 – £100,000 ($108,220 – $154,600). HAMMER PRICE £250,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £301,250  ($471,456)

Christie’s July 3 Old Master evening sale contains some wonderful still lifes (including three by Adriaen Coorte), a Rembrandt portrait of a rather foppish fellow (plus intriguing portraits by two contemporaries), a deliciously salacious Wtewael, two very minor Saenradams (you’re only buying a name in these cases), some nice “gold grounds” (including a Pietro Lorenzetti fragment), and the Thyssen Bornemisza Constable (a separate post is dedicated to all of the Brueghels at Sotheby’s and Christie’s Old Master evening sales).

The Deluge (above) contains the rich and chaotic visual narrative one associates with Hieronymus Bosch and Herri met de Bles, and Joachim Patinir’s landscape treatment. Figures are racing about, swimming and climbing. The catalogue notes: “Of particular interest is the figure of a ruddy-faced friar, who finds undignified safety at the top of a blasted, leafless oak – a jibe at men of the cloth counted amongst the sinners damned to drowning reflective of a latent sixteenth-century sympathy with the Protestant Reformation.”

Additionally:

[T]he figural types resemble those attributed to Jan van Amstel (Amsterdam c. 1500-c. 1542 Antwerp), now generally identified with the so-called Brunswick Monogramist, suggesting that they may be by a late-sixteenth-century follower of that artist. A certain similarity exists to a large, many-figured Deluge of different composition, formerly given to Jan van Amstel or to Herri met de Bles, but now simply called South Netherlandish School (Antwerp), first half of the sixteenth century, in Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts (inventory no. 9167). The composition of the latter work is almost entirely filled with angrily swirling waves, but has similarly stripped, isolated tree trunks with figures scrambling to escape the great flood, and a distant view to a city and Noah’s Ark being filled by the animals, analogous in position to the Ark shown under construction in the background of the present work.

Lot 3. Hans Maler (Ulm c. 1480-c. 1526/9 ?Schwaz, Tyrol), Portrait of a gentleman, bust-length, in a fur hat and a fur-trimmed coat, oil on panel 13½ x 10 1/8 in. (34.3 x 25.7 cm.). Estimate: £120,000 – £180,000 ($185,520 – $278,280) BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £95,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

The Maler portrait (above) is solid, competent and beautifully rendered — though not sufficiently revealing of the sitter’s psychological make up (at least viewed in this electronic format).

Lot 5. The Master of the Pottendorf Votive Panel, The Virgin and Child enthroned with angels, with Saints Dorothea and Barbara, on gold ground panel, with Stuckgold decoration 51 3/8 x 32¼ in. (130.5 x 81.8 cm.) the reverse painted with floral brocade ornament. Estimate: £500,000 – £800,000 ($773,000 – $1,236,800). HAMMER PRICE £600,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £713,250  ($1,116,236)

From the catalogue about lot 5:

One of the earliest painted examples of a sacra conversazione in Austrian art, this finely-preserved panel has been dated to circa 1470. First noted by modern scholarship in 1926 … it was catalogued as ‘Upper German’ (i.e. South German), and dated to the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Four years later, in 1930, it was correctly placed within the corpus of the Master of the Jörg von Pottendorf Votive Panel by the fondly-remembered Vienna School art historian and Rembrandt connoisseur Otto Benesch.

Lot 6. Jacob Adriaensz. Backer (Harlingen 1608-1651 Amsterdam), Portrait of Abraham Velters (1603-1690), half-length, in a grey cloak and lace collar, wearing a hat, signed in monogram ‘JAB.’ (‘JAB’ linked, upper right), oil on canvas 26¼ x 23½ in. (66.6 x 59.6 cm.). Estimate: £150,000 – £250,000 ($231,900 – $386,500) HAMMER PRICE £400,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £481,250 ($753,156)

This Backer portrait of Abraham Velters (above), is captivating in its immediacy. The glint in the eyes makes the confrontation with the viewer all the more acute, and the detailing of the collar and metallic embellishments offsets the broad swath of the cloak and background.

Lot 7. Karel van der Pluym (Leiden 1625-1672), A man, bust-length, holding a cane and his spectacles, by a wooden ledge, oil on panel, 22¼ x 17 in. (56.5 x 43.2 cm.). Estimate: £70,000 – £100,000 ($108,220 – $154,600) HAMMER PRICE £420,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £505,250  ($790,716)

Lot 7, the van der Pluym (above) is stunning in its humanity, and according to the catalogue notes was once attributed to Rembrandt — it goes on, “The artist was the son of a Leiden master craftsman whose wife (Karel’s mother) was the first cousin of Rembrandt, which was to earn Van der Pluym lasting notoriety as the ‘second cousin’ of the great Dutch painter.” The handling of paint and treatment of the subject is bold and declarative.

Lot 8. Joachim Anthonisz. Wtewael (Utrecht 1566-1638), Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, signed and dated ‘Jo.Wte.wael.fecit 1610′ (lower left, on the step), oil on copper, the reverse stamped with an as yet unidentified mark bearing the initials ‘WW’, 7¼ x 5 3/8 in. (18.2 x 13.5 cm.). Estimate: £2,000,000 – £4,000,000 ($3,092,000 – $6,184,000) HAMMER PRICE £4,100,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £4,633,250  ($7,251,037). Here’s a video recording of bidding on this lot.

The Wtewael Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan (above), according to the lot notes, is unpublished and a previously unknown work. The note goes on:

Meticulously signed and dated 1610, the present painting appears to be at least the third occasion on which Wtewael took up the subject of Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan on a small-scale copper executed with a miniaturist level of finish. Wtewael’s first attempt at telling the ancient story may have been in a painting that is signed and dated 1601 in the Mauritshuis, The Hague [below, left]. However, another equally fine example, signed by Wtewael but not dated, is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles [below, right]. Based on its style, the Getty painting has been dated by Anne W. Lowenthal to circa 1606-1610.

Joachim Wtewael. Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, 1601. Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Joachim Wtewael, Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, c.1606-1610. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Lot 12. Jan Steen (Leiden 1626-1679), A tavern interior, signed ‘j · STEEN’ (lower right), oil on panel 14¼ x 18½ in. (36.3 x 47 cm.). Estimate: £700,000 – £1,000,000 ($1,082,200 – $1,546,000) BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £550,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

If the bell curve of subjects in Jan Steen’s oeuvre ranges from bawdy to bucolic, Lot 2 (above) is clearly among the former.  Along with the carousing, groping and drinking, the painting contains a assortment of beautifully depicted everyday objects from crockery to furniture and even a loaf of bread.

Lot 14. Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (Assendelft 1597-1665 Haarlem), A view of Assendelft, signed and dated ‘Ao. 1634 P. Sanredam f’ (lower right, on the boulder), oil on panel 14¼ x 19 3/8 in. (36.2 x 49.2 cm.). Estimate: £400,000 – £600,000 ($618,400 – $927,600) HAMMER PRICE £3,300,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £3,737,250 ($5,848,797)

There are not many outdoor scenes by Saenradam and this is amongst the least interesting (and the estimate reflects its status). It might perk up a bit following a gentle cleaning (the varnish is very dirty).

Lot 17. Balthasar van der Ast (Middelburg ?1593/4-1657 Delft), Flowers, shells and insects on a stone ledge, signed ‘B. van der. Ast..’ (lower left), oil on panel 9 3/8 x 13 5/8 in. (23.8 x 34.5 cm.). Estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,236,800 – $1,855,200) HAMMER PRICE £2,300,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £2,617,250 ($4,095,997)

Lot 18. Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London), A Calm – A smalschip and a kaag at anchor with an English man-o’-war beyond, signed with initials ‘W.V.V’ (lower right, on the barrel), oil on panel 20 x 17 7/8 in. (50.8 x 45.4 cm.). Estimate: £2,500,000 – £3,500,000 ($3,865,000 – $5,411,000) HAMMER PRICE £3,600,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £4,073,250  ($6,374,637)

This van de Velde (above) is beautifully executed.

Lot 19. Hendrick Avercamp (Amsterdam 1585-1634 Kampen), A winter landscape with figures on the ice by a koek-en-zopie tent, oil on panel 9½ x 15½ in. (24 x 39.2 cm.). Estimate: £1,000,000 – £1,500,000 ($1,546,000 – $2,319,000) HAMMER PRICE £1,100,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £1,273,250  ($1,992,636)

Among my favorite Dutch painters is Hendrick Avercamp and this modest panel (above) has all the hallmarks of his more ambitious work — there’s an overall serenity amidst the activity; there’s humor, compassion and a compelling narrative that invites investigation.

The next three lots by Adriaen Coorte (below), all nearly identical in size, are marvels of 17th century Dutch still life painting, particularly Lot 20, Asparagus and Red Currants on a Stone Ledge, which has everything one wants in a Coorte — deftly rendered and contrasting textures, compositional and tonal theatricality, and a remarkable sense of balance.

Lot 20. Adriaen Coorte (?Middelburg ?1660-after 1707), Asparagus and red currants on a stone ledge, signed ‘A, Coorte’ (lower left, on the stone ledge), oil on paper, laid down on board 13¼ x 9 3/8 in. (33.6 x 23.9 cm.). Estimate: £1,400,000 – £2,000,000 ($2,164,400 – $3,092,000) HAMMER PRICE £2,000,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £2,281,250  ($3,570,156)

Lot 21. Adriaen Coorte (?Middelburg ?1660-after 1707), A bowl of strawberries with gooseberries on a stone ledge, signed ‘A, Coorte’ (lower right, on the stone ledge), oil on paper, laid down on board 13 1/8 x 9 3/8 in. (33.4 x 23.8 cm.). Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000 ($1,855,200 – $2,782,800) HAMMER PRICE £1,500,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £1,721,250 ($2,693,756)

Lot 22. Adriaen Coorte (?Middelburg ?1660-after 1707), Peaches and apricots on a stone ledge, signed ‘A, Coorte’ (lower right, on the stone ledge), oil on paper, laid down on board 13¼ x 9½ in. (33.8 x 24 cm.). Estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,236,800 – $1,855,200) HAMMER PRICE £1,550,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £1,777,250 ($2,781,396)

Lot 24. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam), A man in a gorget and cap, with traces of an added signature ‘RH v Rin’ (‘RH’ linked, centre right), oil on panel, 15 1/8 x 11 5/8 in. (39.8 x 29.4 cm.). Estimate: £8,000,000 – £12,000,000 ($12,368,000 – $18,552,000) HAMMER PRICE (AND I THINK THE ONLY LEGITIMATE BID) £7,500,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £8,441,250  ($13,210,557) Here’s a video recording of bidding on this lot.

If Rembrandt had painted Bert Lahr, depicted in 17th century Dutch garb but channeling the Cowardly Lion, this might be the result.  Yes, I know it’s Rembrandt, but to pay that much to have this fellow stare back at you in this way for all eternity (or until the painting is again sold), is more than I could handle.

Lot 25. Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (Assendelft 1597-1665 Haarlem), The interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Haarlem, seen from the south-west, signed and dated ‘Pieter Saenredam fe Ao 1658.’ (lower left, on the base of the pillar), oil on panel, 12 x 12¼ in. (30.5 x 31 cm.). Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000 ($1,855,200 – $2,782,800) HAMMER PRICE (AND I THINK THE ONLY LEGITIMATE BID) £600,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £713,250 ($1,116,236)

Again, with this Saenradam (above) you’re just buying the name.

Lot 26. Attributed to Gerard ter Borch (Zwolle 1617-1681 Deventer), The Glass of Lemonade, oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 22 1/8 in. (68.4 x 56.2 cm.). Estimate: £1,000,000 – £1,500,000 ($1,546,000 – $2,319,000) HAMMER PRICE £1,100,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £1,273,250 ($1,992,636)

Lot 27. Sano di Pietro (Siena 1406-1481), The Madonna and Child with Saint Bernardino of Siena, a male saint and two angels, on gold ground panel, in an integral frame, 19¾ x 15 3/8 in. (50.2 x 39 cm.). Estimate: £100,000 – £150,000 ($154,600 – $231,900) BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £95,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

Sano di Pietro is an important figure in world of 15th century Sienese painting, but I’ve never cared for the egg-headed Madonnas (one reason I’m not convinced he’s the Osservanza Master, despite what Maria Falcone says). The depiction of San Bernadino (over the Madonna’s left shoulder – right side of the composition) is based on his death mask.  He’s almost always seen with those sunken cheeks and drooping mouth.

Lot 28. Pietro Lorenzetti (active Siena, circa 1306-45), Christ between Saints Paul and Peter, on gold ground panel 12¾ x 27¾ in. (32.2 x 70.4 cm.). Estimate: £1,000,000 – £1,500,000 ($1,546,000 – $2,319,000) HAMMER PRICE £4,500,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £5,081,250 ($7,952,157) [A startling result given the reported condition problems].

Pietro Lorenzetti is one of the lions of Sienese Trecento Italian painting, so the presence of any work at auction is noteworthy. According to the catalogue notes, this “hitherto unpublished panel was recognised as a mature work by Pietro Lorenzetti some years ago.”  Moreover, “Professor Mauro Lucco (correspondence of 1 April 2012) endorses the attribution and suggests that the panel is of about 1315, pointing out that the agemina treatment of the robes seems to anticipate that of the Seattle polyptych … He subsequently endorsed the suggestion that the panel was the predella below the Madonna and Child enthroned with a Donor at [the] Philadelphia [Museum of Art] (illustrated at left).” Here’s the video recording of the bidding on this lotUPDATE: According to ArtDaily, this painting has been acquired by the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull Museums in Hull, England.

Lot 29. Pietro di Giovanni d’Ambrogio (Siena 1410-1449), The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist, Lucy, Catherine of Alexandria and Paul, and two angels, with The Crucifixion above, on gold ground panel, shaped top, in an integral frame 23¾ x 11 1/8 in. (60.3 x 28.3 cm.), the reverse painted with trompe-l’oeil architectural detailing. Estimate: £200,000 – £300,000 ($309,200 – $463,800) HAMMER PRICE £190,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £229,250 ($358,776)

Lot 30. Giovanni di Paolo (Siena c. 1399-1442), The Madonna of Humility on gold ground panel, arched top 31¼ x 21½ in. (79.3 x 54.6 cm.), with the old inscription ‘guido Da siena 1221′ (on the reverse of the panel). Estimate: £200,000 – £300,000 ($309,200 – $463,800) HAMMER PRICE £180,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £217,250 ($339,996)

Giovanni di Paolo is another favorite artist, but not this painting.

Lot 34. Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. (Plympton, Devon 1723-1792 London), Portrait of the artist, half-length, in a lilac coat, oil on canvas 30 x 24¾ in. (76.2 x 62.9 cm.). Estimate: £60,000 – £100,000 ($92,760 – $154,600) HAMMER PRICE £270,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £325,250 ($509,016)

Lot 36. John Constable, R.A. (East Bergholt, Suffolk 1776-1837 London), The Lock, oil on canvas 56 x 47½ in. (142.2 x 120.7 cm.). Estimate: £20,000,000 – £25,000,000 ($30,920,000 – $38,650,000) HAMMER PRICE £20,000,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £22,441,250 ($35,120,558) Here’s a video recording of this bidding on this lot.

Lot 43. Jan Davidsz. de Heem (Utrecht 1606-1684 Antwerp), Flowers in a glass vase on a draped table, with a silver tazza, fruit, insects and birds, signed ‘J.D De Heem R’ (lower left), oil on canvas 45 x 36 in. (114.3 x 91.4 cm.). Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000 ($1,855,200 – $2,782,800) HAMMER PRICE £2,650,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £3,009,250 ($4,709,477)

Lot 43, is absolutely outrageous; de Heem was never one for understatement, but this is riotous.

Lot 50. Carlo Dolci (Florence 1616-1687), Saint Mark, oil on canvas, octagonal, 40 x 32¾ in. (101.5. x 83 cm.), with a red wax seal bearing the Royal Arms of the House of Orange, and another bearing unidentifed arms, possibly those of Carpanti (on the reverse of the stretcher). Estimate: £450,000 – £650,000 ($695,700 – $1,004,900) HAMMER PRICE £380,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £457,250 ($715,596)

Lot 55. Juan de Zurbarán (Llerena 1620-1649 Seville), Apples in a wicker basket, an opened pomegranate on a silver plate and roses, irises and other flowers in a glass vase, on a stone ledge, oil on canvas 32 x 43 in. (81.3 x 109.2 cm.). Estimate: £2,500,000 – £3,500,000 ($3,865,000 – $5,411,000) HAMMER PRICE £2,400,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £2,729,250 ($4,271,277)

About Lot 55 in the catalogue:

Juan de Zurbarán’s oeuvre was rediscovered only in 1938, when a still-life in the Khanenko Museum of Western and Oriental Art in Kiev, previously considered a work of his father and teacher Francisco, was cleaned to reveal Juan’s signature and the date 1640 … Although Juan was commissioned in 1644 by the Confraternity of the Rosary at Carmona near Seville to paint two large religious canvases (196 x 280 cm.) of Miracles of the Virgin of the Rosary, none of his figurative work is known today and unlike his father — and no doubt inspired by the latter’s peerless example — he was to concentrate on still-life throughout his career.

Lot 57. Charles-Antoine Coypel (Paris 1694-1752), The Destruction of the Palace of Armida, signed and dated ‘CH. COYPEL. 1737′ (lower right), oil on canvas 50 3/8 x 76 in. (128 x 193 cm.). Estimate: £500,000 – £700,000 ($773,000 – $1,082,200) BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £400,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

Were he alive today, Coypel might be creating elaborate video games. This painting is big (four by six feet), outlandishly theatrical and hilarious.

UPDATE-Post sale analysis from the Daily Telegraph.

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