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Old Masters … New Discoveries … Coorte’s Glorious Peaches and a Velázquez Portrait

November 22, 2011


In about two weeks the two powerhouse auctioneers — Christie’s and Sotheby’s — will hold their Old Master painting sales … more on those two shortly … but, first, a couple of selections from Bonham’s December 7 sale.  Here are two previously unknown paintings, one by Adriaen Coorte, a lesser known Dutch painter of sublime still lifes (and subject in 2003 of the first US monographic exhibition at the National Gallery of Art — exhibition brochure), and the other by Diego Velázquez, one of the premier painters of 17th century Europe.

Coorte’s works are rare and Quentin Buvelot’s 2008 oeuvre catalogue lists a total of 64 pictures.  Buvelot has authenticated the painting and it should do substantially better than estimated base on the performances to two similar works shown below sold by Sotheby’s in Amsterdam (2009) and London (2006).  The catalogue essay notes that the peach motif appears in only three other Coorte paintings.

Lot 58. THREE PEACHES ON A STONE LEDGE WITH A PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY, signed with monogram ‘AC’ (in ligature, on stone ledge, lower centre) oil on paper, laid down on panel 31.3 x 23.3cm (12 5/16 x 9 3/16in). Estimate: £300,000 – 500,000, € 350,000 – 590,000, US$ 480,000 – 800,000. UPDATE – This lot sold for £2,057,250 including the buyer’s premium.
Sotheby’s Amsterdam, December 1, 2009, Lot 55. STILL LIFE WITH A PEACH AND TWO APRICOTS ON A STONE LEDGE, TOGETHER WITH TWO BUTTERFLIES signed and dated lower right: A , Coorte , i692 , oil on paper laid down on panel 26.1 by 20.8 cm. Estimate: €100,000-150,000. Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium: €1,576,750.
Sotheby’s London, July 5, 2006, Lot 36. STILL LIFE WITH TWO PEACHES AND A FRITILLARY BUTTERFLY ON A SOTNE LEDGE, signed with monogram lower right: AC, oil on paper, laid down on oak panel, 27 by 18.9 cm (10-5/8 x 7-1/2 in.), Estimate £80,000 – 120,000, € 115,000 – 173,000, US$ 139,000 – 208,000. Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium £500,800.

The catalogue entry for the Velasquez opens with this intriguing story:

Velázquez’s hitherto unknown portrait first came to light amongst a consignment of works by the nineteenth century British artist, Matthew Shepperson, which came for sale at Bonhams’ Oxford salerooms in August 2010. The subsequent extensive research that was conducted culminated in an article by Dr. Peter Cherry in this year’s October edition of Ars Magazine, entitled ‘Face to face to a new Velázquez portrait’. In this article Cherry writes: ‘The particularized likeness and recognizably lifelike texture, weight and colours of the fleshy face speak of the actual encounter between subject and painter; while the style and technical brilliance of the representation itself betrays its author.’ This opinion is compellingly supported by a thorough analysis of the painting’s technique and materials, which together with an X-Radiograph all served to confirm the attribution.

Here’s the complete entry.

Lot 63. Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Seville 1599-1660 Madrid) Portrait of a gentleman, bust-length, in a black tunic and white golilla collar oil on canvas 47 x 39cm (18 1/2 x 15 3/8in). unframed Estimate: £2,000,000 – 3,000,000, € 2,300,000 – 3,500,000, US$ 3,200,000 – 4,800,000. UPDATE – This lot sold for £2,953,250 including the buyer’s premium. 
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