Brueghel, the Old Masters workhorse, leads Sotheby’s June 2013 sale – UPDATED with sale results.
ORIGINAL POST:Pieter Brueghel the Younger, as I’ve written before, was the Warhol of his day, but his “Factory” differed in that it pumped out hundreds of paintings based on (copied from) the work of his more talented and original father. Parables, the four seasons, fights and marriages are among the images that repeatedly show up. Sotheby’s has a couple of works by Younger in their June 2013 Old Masters sale in New York. Neither is particularly compelling (and the estimates reflect that).
The first, and the top estimated lot in the sale is Lot 29 (above), depicting spring. From the lot notes:
Although many versions of this subject by Pieter Breughel the Younger are recorded, this previously unpublished picture appears to be one of the finest to re-emerge on the market in years. Extant versions are known from as early as 1621, and it seems he continued to produce the composition on a consistent basis, as four further examples are dated from 1622, 1624, 1633, and 1635. As with so many of Pieter Breughel the Younger’s pictures, the design originates with his father, in the form of a finished drawing, now in the Albertina, Vienna.
This is one of those rare compositions from Younger that he actually created instead of cribbing from his father – and there are only two other autograph versions. According to the lot notes:
One signed picture was formerly in the Metropolitan Museum Art (sold New York, Christie’s, 6 June 2012, lot 74, for $686,500); and the other, also signed, is in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie, Dessau. [Brueghel scholar Klaus] Ertz lists ten further versions for which he reserves judgement or doubts.
This version of The Whitsun Bride is absent from the relevant Brueghel literature, a fact which can be explained by the fact that it has remained in private hands since 1974, and because of its misattribution during its entire modern history.
Rounding out the top five are a French picture and two by artists from Antwerp.
These four paintings by Vrancx, datable to circa 1618 and all clearly depicting different times of the year, appear to represent the Four Seasons. These types of allegorical pictures, where each month or season is characterized by the varying phases of the landscape and the associated human activities, were very popular in Flemish painting in the late 16th and early 17thcenturies and were clearly in demand. Series of twelve panels of individual months, of six panels each representing two months, as well as sets of the four seasons were produced by a number of artists.
This is a very pleasant and evocative oil sketch. From the lot notes:
Les Baisers maternels, also known as Les Jalousies de l’enfance, was painted during a period in Fragonard’s career when he had turned away from hedonistic depictions of courtly dalliances and embraced rustic scenes of domestic harmony. This shift was inspired by Fragonard’s own familial bliss: the artist married Marie-Ann Gérard in 1769 and the couple had a daughter, Rosalie, who later became one of her father’s favourite models.
The catalogue notes say this work shows the artist at the “height of his powers” – I’m not so sure about that. The workmanship is capable an competent, but also workman-like:
Previously unknown, it can be dated to the 1650s, a period of great productivity and prosperity for the artist. In 1652 he painted a series of eleven magnificent floral still lifes on copper, presumably for a Spanish patron, which are generally considered his greatest achievements in this genre. Three years later he was doing well enough to buy De Witte en de Rode Roos, a house near the Sint-Joris cemetary in Antwerp.
Tulips, roses, peonies and other flowers in a roemer is one of Van Kessel’s largest flower paintings apart from those in the 1652 series, an indication of its value and importance at the time. It was most probably conceived as one of pair, for a painting of roughly the same size (52.4 by 35.6 cm.), also showing the flowers in a roemer rather than a vase, was included in a sale at Christie’s, London, 10 December 2003, lot 12. It also had additions at the left and right and, except for two pictures from the 1652 series, they are the only paintings we know of in which Van Kessel uses a roemer rather than a vase. The size and elegance of Tulips and roses in a roemer and its pendant would suggest it was an important commission for Van Kessel.
Here’s a detail:
Finally, though not in the top five (by estimate), there is a delightful oddity (below) by Herri Met De Bles, a 16th century Netherlandish painter known for combining religious subjects with atmospheric landscapes. Other notable painters in this genre include Joachim Patinir (who may have been his uncle), Hieronymus Bosch, Jan Mandyn, Pieter Huys and Jan Wellens de Cock. This is not a terribly large or compositionally ambitious picture, but I find it entertaining nonetheless.