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Reni’s David gets a head and other Old Masters at Sotheby’s – UPDATED with sale results & additional commentary

June 27, 2012

Lot 1. GIOVANNI DEL BIONDO AND WORKSHOP, DOCUMENTED IN FLORENCE 1356 – 1399, FIVE PANELS FROM A DISMEMBERED POLYPTYCH: MAIN PANELS: THE MADONNA AND CHILD FLANKED BY AN EVANGELIST, PROBABLY JOHN, AND SAINTS PETER, GREGORY AND BARTHOLOMEW;SPANDRELS: CHRIST THE REDEEMER FLANKED BY SAINTS MARGARET, URSULA, LUCY AND CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA. remains of an inscription, and probably a date, along the lower edge of the panels a set of five, tempera on poplar panel, gold ground, with pointed tops, unframed (presented as five separate panels), central panel: 133 by 45 cm.; 52 3/8 by 17 3/4 in., side panels: 123 by 42 cm.; 48 3/8 by 16 1/2 in. Estimate: £100,000-150,000. HAMMER PRICE £190,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £229,250.

The final hurrah of the current auction season comes next week in London with the evening sales of Old Master paintings.  Previous postings covered works at Christies and the bevy of Brueghels on offer.  This post focuses on Sotheby’s, which leads off with an unusual assortment of Italian gold ground paintings. Among the really intriguing works is the Workshop of Giotto Crucified Christ (below), which first came to scholarly attention in 1967.

Lot 2. WORKSHOP OF GIOTTO (FRANCESCO DI GIOTTO?), FLORENCE 1266 – 1337, THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST BETWEEN THE MOURNING MADONNA AND SAINT JOHN, tempera on marouflaged panel, gold ground 41 by 33 cm.; 16 1/8 by 13 in. Estimate: £400,000-600,000. HAMMER PRICE £480,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £577,250.

Partial lot notes for Lot 2:

This important and beautifully preserved Crucifixion was painted circa 1320 by a close associate of Giotto, possibly his son Francesco, based on a design which is very likely to have originated from the Master himself. The condition of the paint surface is remarkable, particularly for such an early work, and allows us to appreciate the full subtlety of the intact glazes of the pink highlights of the faces, the gold edges of the robes and the blood which pours from Christ’s wounds.

Several elements of the panel betray an intimate knowledge of Giotto’s work executed in different places – in Assisi, in Padua, and later in Florence – and at different moments of his career, making explicit the continuous and necessarily close link between the author of the present panel and Giotto. The disposition of the grieving angels and the small clouds on which they hover and into which they dissolve recall the design of the fresco of the Crucifixion in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua from circa 1305. In particular the idea of the angel to the right of the cross who in grief pulls back his clothing to reveal his chest, is lifted straight out of Giotto’s fresco. The angels also recall those found beneath the arms of the cross in Giotto’s Crucifixion in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Strasbourg which dates from circa 1315-20. The physiognomy of Christ mirrors the Scrovegni fresco too, as do several of Giotto’s painted crosses such as the ones in Rimini (1317), in Santa Maria Novella, Florence (1300?), and in the Museo Civico in Padua (1317). Iconographically the present work shares with these crosses in Padua and Florence, as well as other crosses, a theological reminder of the earthly aspect of this devotional image – of Christ’s human manifestation as the historical Jesus of Nazareth – by the presence of the skull on the mound which rises at the foot of the cross. Far from representing a proto-vanitas element, it is a simple reminder of the locus of the scene, Golgotha, or the place of the skull, the hill outside the walls of Jerusalem where the episode is reported to have taken place.

The most thorough analysis of the panel was undertaken by Boskovits in 2000 [“Il Maestro della Croce del Refettorio di Santa Maria Novella: un parente più probabile di Giotto”, in Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, XLIV, no. 1, 2000, pp. 74-75, 77, footnotes 21-25, reproduced p. 72, fig. 8 (as by the Master of the Santa Maria Novella Refectory Crucifix, possibly identifiable as Francesco or Donato di Giotto, datable to 1315-25)]. Re-assessing the body of works traditionally given to the elusive member of Giotto’s workshop known by scholars as “Parente di Giotto”, Boskovits proposes that those works are not by a talented youthful collaborator but by Giotto himself between the years 1315-25. However, he proposes that there was indeed a young collaborator active in the studio whose work should be gathered under the label ‘Master of the Santa Maria Novella Refectory Crucifix’. This was very possibly one of Giotto’s two sons, Francesco or Donato, leading Boskovits to distinguish in his article between the ‘Parente di Giotto’ of previous scholarship and a new artistic figure who was in all likelihood a relative of Giotto.

Lot 3. BATTISTA DI BIAGIO SANGUIGNI, FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE MASTER OF 1419, FLORENCE 1393 – 1451, THE LEFT WING OF THE SANTA MARIA A LATERA ALTARPIECE: SAINTS JULIAN AND JAMES THE GREATER IN THE TREFOIL ABOVE, THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL, tempera on panel, gold ground, triangular top, in an engaged frame, overall: 173.4 by 70.6 cm.; 68 1/4 by 27 3/4 in., painted surface: 96.5 by 59.1 cm.; 38 by 23 1/4 in. Estimate: £250,000-350,000. BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £190,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

Lot 6. HANS BALDUNG, CALLED GRIEN, SCHWÄBISCH GMUND 1484/5 – 1545 STRASBURG, THE VIRGIN AS QUEEN OF HEAVEN SUCKLING THE INFANT CHRIST, oil on lime wood panel, 34.5 by 25.5 cm.; 13 1/2 by 10 in. Estimate: £1,000,000-1,500,000. HAMMER PRICE £1,850,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £2,113,250.

Hans Baldung was Albrecht Durer’s leading student and a member of Durer’s studio from 1503-1507. Like his Master, Baldung is not only known as an important painter, but also as a gifted print maker.  According to the lot notes:

This painting is the earliest of a series of seven half-length depictions of The Virgin and Child that Baldung painted up until the early 1540s, as well as the only one remaining in private hands. Several of these are, like this picture Maria lactans, with the Virgin suckling the Holy Infant. This subject is of course well-known before Baldung’s time, but becomes much more widespread around 1500.

Lot 7.  LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, KRONACH 1472 – 1553 WEIMAR, THE FEILITZSCH ALTARPIECE: CENTRAL PANEL: SAINT ANNE WITH THE VIRGIN AND CHRIST CHILD; LEFT INTERNAL WING: SAINT PETER WITH JOBST FEILITZSCH AS A DONOR; RIGHT INTERNAL WING: SAINT PAUL; LEFT OUTER WINGS: SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; RIGHT OUTER WING: SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA, oil on panel, central panel: 88 by 71.5 cm.; 34 3/4 by 28 1/4 in. wings: 91 by 32.5 cm.; 35 3/4 by 12 3/4 in. Estimate £4,000,000-6,000,000. HAMMER PRICE £3,800,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £4,297,250.

Cranach’s sexy Lucretias seems to pop up frequently, so the presence of this very somber triptych is a welcome relief.  The painting also has a very intriguing provenance.  The lot notes begin with this statement:

This is the last surviving intact multi-panelled altarpiece by Lucas Cranach the Elder remaining in private ownership, its extraordinary survival due to its having remained for almost four hundred and forty years in the family church of the patrons who commissioned it. It was almost certainly commissioned by the sons of Jobst von Feilitzsch in their father’s memory in 1511, the year of his death. The altarpiece remained in the family collection until after the Second World War. In 1947 it was acquired directly from the Von Feilitzsch family by Heinz Kisters who later sold it to his friend, the great post-war Chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer. After Adenauer’s death it was re-acquired by Kisters along with the large majority of Adenauer’s collection.

Lot 8. THE MASTER OF THE DREUX BUDÉ TRIPTYCH (?ANDRÉ D’YPRES)AMIENS, DATE UNKNOWN – 1450 MONS, JEANNE PESCHARD (D. 1468) AND HER DAUGHTERS, JACQUETTE AND CATHERINE BUDÉ, AS DONORS, oil on oak panel, en grisaille, 35 by 28 cm.; 13 3/4 by 11 1/2 in. Estimate: £80,000-120,000. THIS LOT WAS WITHDRAWN.

This panel, in which severity equals piety, is a splendid example of en grisaille. The lot notes say it was part of a dismembered triptych – and unfortunately, this panel was also reduced in size (note the decapitated angels at the top).  Nevertheless, the quirkiness of the three bug-eyed women in super starched drapery is very appealing.  From the lot notes:

This remarkable little panel, discovered and published for the first time by Charles Sterling, the great scholar of early French painting, only twenty years ago, is a key piece in our understanding of patronage of painting in mid-15th century Paris. It enables us not only to identify the members of one of the wealthiest mercantile Parisian families of this date, but also through their patronage to allow the tentative attribution to an artist who was in the very vanguard of the introduction of the ars nova of the Netherlands into France and responsible for at least one of the greatest works of art produced in this period in the French capital.

This panel would originally have formed the right hand wing of a diptych, or more probably, a triptych. The left hand wing, which has not survived, would have depicted the sitters’ husband and father, together with his son or sons, while the central panel would have displayed a suitable devotional subject, quite possibly a sculpture, in keeping with the monochrome nature of the wings. This too is untraced.

Lot 17. HENDRIK VAN STEENWIJCK THE YOUNGER, ANTWERP 1580 – 1649 LONDON, SAINT JEROME IN HIS STUDY, signed and dated lower left: HENRI V STEINWICK 1630., oil on oak panel, 40 by 56.2 cm.; 15 3/4 by 22 in. Estimate: £100,000-150,000. HAMMER PRICE £280,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £337,250.

The Steenwijck (above) is peculiar – the religiosity of the subject matter is overwhelmed by dedication to perspectival fidelity (anatomical verisimilitude is another matter as the lion is rather poorly drawn).   However, delicate touches such as the shelf of books above Jerome and the fabric valence on the fireplace soften the painting just enough. The catalogue says the artist is known for painting church interiors, but also executed, “highly detailed religious scenes, of which this painting is a superb example.” I think that goes a bit far.

Lot 18. SALOMON VAN RUYSDAEL, NAARDEN 1600/3 – 1670 HAARLEM, A RIVER LANDSCAPE WITH A FERRY BOAT, signed and dated lower left on the ferry: SvRuysdael 1653, oil on oak panel, 55.6 by 83.2 cm.; 21 7/8 by 32 3/4 in. Estimate: £250,000-350,000. BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £220,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

This is a solid if relatively unremarkable work by Salomon van Ruysdael – and a theme he depicted on many occasions.

Lot 19. JACOB ISAACKSZ. VAN RUISDAEL, HAARLEM 1628/9 – 1682 AMSTERDAM, A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH A VIEW OF THE RIVER AMSTEL AND AMSTERDAM IN THE DISTANCE, signed lower left: ..vRuisdael, oil on canvas, 44.5 by 55 cm.; 17 1/2 by 21 3/4 in. Estimate: £500,000-700,000. HAMMER PRICE £500,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £601,250.

This work is included because the artist has used smoke from the chimney as a dramatic device.  The use of cloud structure to animate depictions of the flat Netherlandish landscape is well known.  The bulbous chimney smoke here emerges like a genie from an dilapidated angular container. From the lot notes:

About thirty winter landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael have been identified, all of them works on canvas and of modest scale. None of them are dated, but he probably started to paint them shortly after his move from Haarlem to Amsterdam in 1655. The earlier ones, from the second part of the 1650s have what Seymour Slive described as “a fine airy, gray manner.” This painting however belongs to a later phase, and is more sombre and moodily atmospheric in character. Apart from an intensely brooding upright painting incorporating a distant view of Haarlem, done in the 1670s, the present picture is one of only two winter landscapes by Ruisdael that incorporate a topographical view. Both these paintings take Amsterdam as their subject.

Lot 21. ADRIAEN JANSZ. VAN OSTADEHAARLEM 1610 – 1685, AND ISACK VAN, OSTADEHAARLEM 1621-1649, TRAVELLERS HALTED AT A COUNTRY INN, signed lower left: AV Ostade (AV in monogram), oil on oak panel, single plank, 80.5 by 125 cm.; 31 3/4 by 49 1/4 in. Estimate: £1,800,000-2,500,000. HAMMER PRICE £1,900,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £2,169,250.

This is a rare, and probably unique, collaborative work between the Ostade brothers, Adriaen and Isack. The overall composition, the landscape and most of the architecture, and the figures in the left-hand half of the picture are by Isack van Ostade, and the multiple figure-group outside the nearer of the two inn buildings to the right is by Adriaen.

The style of the figure-group to the right is … typical of Adriaen van Ostade’s work of the 1650s, although it would be fair to say that after his early work, when his figures are more raucous and roughly drawn, his figural style evolved relatively slowly.

Detail. Lot 21

Lot 24. WILLEM VAN DE VELDE THE YOUNGER, LEIDEN 1633 – 1707 LONDON, THE SURRENDER OF THE ROYAL PRINCE DURING THE FOUR DAYS’ BATTLE, 1ST-4TH JUNE 1666, signed with initials on the barrel lower centre: W/VV, oil on canvas, 75 1/2 by 106 cm.; 29 3/4 by 41 3/4 in. Estimate: £1,500,000-2,500,000. HAMMER PRICE £4,700,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £5,305,250.

UPDATE: This was the top lot in the sale; according to Bloomberg: The London-based dealer Johnny van Haeften pursued the lot to 3.6 million pounds. After a 9-minute battle the painting was won by a Dutch collector, represented by the dealer William Noortman, for 5.3 million pounds.

The Four Days’ Battle was fought off the coast of Flanders and in the southern North Sea between the Dutch and English fleets on the 11th to 14th June 1666, during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. It was the first test of the newly refitted Dutch fleet under Lieut. Admiral Michiel de Ruyter following the severe defeat of the Dutch by the English at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665. In this picture, Van de Velde has recorded the most significant episode of the battle which occurred during the 3rd day, when the English fleet commanded by George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle was attempting to withdraw to the Thames. Ignoring warnings, Albemarle ordered his fleet to set a course across the infamous Galloper Shoal at low tide.

Lot 30. ORAZIO BORGIANNI, ROME 1574 – 1616, CHRIST AMONGST THE DOCTORS, oil on canvas, 78.2 by 104.6 cm.; 30 3/4 by 41 1/4 in. Estimate: £400,000-600,000. HAMER PRICE £3,000,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £3,401,250.

Compositionally this Caravaggesque work is both tightly and somewhat loosely structured.  The heads clustered together should be the focal point, but Christ’s gesturing draws the eye away from the cluster of heads creating a sense of animation amongst the protagonists.

UPDATE: According to Bloomberg:

Another surprise of the evening was the five-times-estimate price paid for “Christ Among the Doctors” by the Italian Baroque painter Orazio Borgianni.

The auction result database Artnet records fewer than 10 authenticated works by the Roman follower of Caravaggio appearing at public sales.

This early composition, dating from about 1610 and never offered before at auction, sold for a record 3.4 million pounds after being valued at 400,000 pounds to 600,000 pounds. The previous auction high for the artist was just 133,500 pounds in 1998.

Alexander Bell, worldwide co-chairman of Old Master paintings, gave the winning bid on behalf of a private client. He fought off competition from at least four under bidders, including the London-based agent Robert Holden and the dealer Fabrizio Moretti.

Lot 32. GUIDO RENI, CALVENZANO DI VERGATO 1575 – 1642 BOLOGNA, DAVID WITH THE HEAD OF GOLIATH, oil on canvas, 215.7 by 145 cm.; 84 7/8 by 57 1/8 in. Estimate: £3,000,000-5,000,000. BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £2,800,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

This remarkable painting by the Divine Guido was featured in the great exhibition from the late 1980’s, The Age of Correggio and the Carracci. According to the catalogue notes, it was found in a private Scottish collection in 1985 and sold in London shortly thereafter.  Reni painted one other version, now in the Louvre, though it is generally considered to be from earlier in his career.  This picture has many captivating details – including David’s dirty feet and the regal/foppish plume in his hat.

UPDATE: The work is not universally accepted as being by Reni.  At least one scholar/Reni expert says the work is “studio of”, which may explain why this flopped.

Lot 34. GIOVANNI BENEDETTO CASTIGLIONE CALLED IL GRECHETTO, GENOA 1609 – 1664 MANTUA, THE ANIMALS ENTERING NOAH’S ARK, oil on canvas, 169.5 by 130.5 cm.; 66 3/4 by 51 3/8 in. Estimate: £120,000-180,000. BIDDING ON THIS LOT STOPPED AT £110,000 AND IT FAILED TO SELL.

Lot 44. one of two. FRANCESCO GUARDI, VENICE 1712 – 1793, VENICE, A VIEW OF THE ENTRANCE TO THE GRAND CANAL WITH THE CHURCH OF, SANTA MARIA DELLA SALUTE AND THE PUNTA DELLA DOGANA;, VENICE, A VIEW OF THE CHURCH OF SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE WITH THE END OF THE, GIUDECCA, a pair, both oil on canvas, each: 34.5 by 52.5 cm.; 13 5/8 by 20 3/4 in. Estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000. HAMMER PRICE £1,200,000 FINAL PRICE INCLUDING BUYER’S PREMIUM £1,385,250.

Lot 44, two of two.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 4, 2012 5:01 PM

    Nord, thank you for keeping us informed!

    Elliott (elliottingotham.wordpress.com)

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