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Tiepolo, Vernet, Meléndez and El Greco lead Sotheby’s July 2013 Old Masters sale – UPDATED with sale results.

June 25, 2013
Lot 39. CLAUDE-JOSEPH VERNET AVIGNON 1714 - 1789 PARIS A VIEW OF AVIGNON, FROM THE RIGHT BANK OF THE RHÔNE NEAR VILLENEUVE signed and dated lower left: Joseph Vernet f/ 1757 oil on canvas 99 by 182.7 cm.; 39 by 72 in. Estimate: 3-5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 39. CLAUDE-JOSEPH VERNET
AVIGNON 1714 – 1789 PARIS
A VIEW OF AVIGNON, FROM THE RIGHT BANK OF THE RHÔNE NEAR VILLENEUVE
signed and dated lower left: Joseph Vernet f/ 1757
oil on canvas
99 by 182.7 cm.; 39 by 72 in.
Estimate: £3-5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £4.7 million (or £5,346,500 with the buyer’s premium)
Click on image to enlarge.

UPDATE: Complete list of sale results.

ORIGINAL POST: Sotheby’s July 3, 2013 London sale of Old Master paintings includes this splendid panoramic landscape by the French 18th century artist Claude-Joseph Vernet. According to the catalogue notes, the work has been rarely offered on the market or displayed:

This magnificent painting is Claude-Joseph Vernet’s only recorded view of his birthplace, the city of Avignon … Rarely seen in public and, subsequently, little studied, it was described by Giuliano Briganti in 1970 as “one of Vernet’s finest views.”  The painting was last offered at auction more than 200 years ago and since then has appeared in public only once when exhibited by Arthur Tooth & Sons of London in 1954. Until that time it had been known to scholars only through Pietro Antonio Martini’s engraving of 1782. The reappearance of this important painting is not just of great significance to scholars of Vernet himself, but also to the study of 18th century view painting at large. It is, too, an important document detailing the appearance of the rarely depicted city of Avignon in the mid-18thcentury, seat of the Papacy in the 14th century, and little changed to this day.

Lot 20. JOACHIM ANTHONISZ. WTEWAEL UTRECHT 1566 - 1638 MARS AND VENUS SURPRISED BY VULCAN signed and dated lower left: j. wte wael fe t/ Anno 16..1 oil on copper, in a Dutch 17th-century carved and gilded frame 40.4 by 55.5 cm.; 15 7/8  by 21 3/4  in. Estimate: 400,000-600,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 20. JOACHIM ANTHONISZ. WTEWAEL
UTRECHT 1566 – 1638
MARS AND VENUS SURPRISED BY VULCAN
signed and dated lower left: j. wte wael fe t/ Anno 16..1
oil on copper, in a Dutch 17th-century carved and gilded frame
40.4 by 55.5 cm.; 15 7/8 by 21 3/4 in.
Estimate: £400,000-600,000. This lot failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

Wtewael painted several versions of Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan and this one, according to the catalogue notes, is the largest on copper.  Another version appeared last year at Christie’s (other know versions are also shown in this blog’s posting). Compositionally, it’s not as tight as other versions and the physiognomy is a little off in some passages.  Nevertheless, the painting does delight:

Four other versions of the subject on copper are known: one in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, is dated 1601 [below]; another in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, is datable circa 1606-10 [below]; another sold  London, Christie’s, 3 July 2012, lot 8 (for £4,100,000) is dated 1610 [below]; and a small oval is recorded in 1933 but not otherwise known.

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

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

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

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

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)

Christie’s, London, July 2, 2012. 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).

The subject is treated very similarly in all versions. In a prior and separate scene Vulcan is seen through a door in the back fashioning a fine metal mesh. In the foreground Mercury, who envied Mars his relationship with Venus, reveals the two of them interrupted from their union under an elaborate canopy while Cupid, who had instigated the affair, hovers above. Vulcan, wearing the same hat in the Getty and ex-Christie’s version, readies his mesh. Other gods, not always the same from version to version, jostle for a view. Here Ceres pulls back the rearmost drape and Apollo swoops down from above to peel back another.

Lot 42. GIANDOMENICO TIEPOLO VENICE 1727 - 1804 THE CELEBRATED DEEDS OF THE PORTO FAMILY OF VICENZA: JACOPO PORTO APPOINTED GOVERNOR OF VICENZA IN 1022; DONATO PORTO APPOINTED A PATRICIAN OF VENICE IN 1379; GEROLAMO PORTO APPOINTED PREFECT OF PIEDMONT IN 1508; FRANCESCO PORTO APPOINTED GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF VENICE  IN 1554; IPPOLITO PORTO COMMENDED BY CHARLES V IN 1572; GIOVANNI BATTISTA PORTO APPOINTED COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN 1661 Quantity: 6 each dated and extensively inscribed with a description of the event they portray a set of six, each detached fresco transferred to canvas, in a trompe l'oeil frame, gold ground, unframed the trompe l'oeil frame in the scene with Francesco Porto is an addition each approximately: 271 by 185 cm.; 106 3/4  by 72 7/8  in. Estimate: 3-5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 42. GIANDOMENICO TIEPOLO
VENICE 1727 – 1804
THE CELEBRATED DEEDS OF THE PORTO FAMILY OF VICENZA: JACOPO PORTO APPOINTED GOVERNOR OF VICENZA IN 1022; DONATO PORTO APPOINTED A PATRICIAN OF VENICE IN 1379; GEROLAMO PORTO APPOINTED PREFECT OF PIEDMONT IN 1508; FRANCESCO PORTO APPOINTED GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF VENICE IN 1554; IPPOLITO PORTO COMMENDED BY CHARLES V IN 1572; GIOVANNI BATTISTA PORTO APPOINTED COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN 1661
Quantity: 6
each dated and extensively inscribed with a description of the event they portray
a set of six, each detached fresco transferred to canvas, in a trompe l’oeil frame, gold ground, unframed
the trompe l’oeil frame in the scene with Francesco Porto is an addition
each approximately: 271 by 185 cm.; 106 3/4 by 72 7/8 in.
Estimate: £3-5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.8 million (or £3,218,500 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

According to the catalogue notes about these six very large works:

These magnificent monochrome frescoes commemorating the glories and achievements of the Porto family from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries were painted around 1760 by Giandomenico Tiepolo for the Palazzo da Porto Festa in Vicenza which had been built by Andrea Palladio. The scion of a wealthy patrician family, Giambattista Orazio Porto (1730-1816) commissioned the artist and his father Giambattista to collaborate in the decoration of three of the palazzo’s main rooms.

Lot 36. LUIS MELÉNDEZ NAPLES 1716 - 1780 MADRID STILL LIFE WITH APRICOTS AND CHERRIES oil on canvas 38 by 49.6 cm.; 15 by 19 1/2  in. Estimate: 1-1.5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 36. LUIS MELÉNDEZ
NAPLES 1716 – 1780 MADRID
STILL LIFE WITH APRICOTS AND CHERRIES
oil on canvas
38 by 49.6 cm.; 15 by 19 1/2 in.
Estimate: £1-1.5 million. This lot failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

This handsome and beautifully articulated still life by Meléndez was featured in the National Gallery of Art’s excellent 2009 monograph exhibition. According to the catalogue notes:

Fig. 1 Luis Egidio Meléndez, Still Life with a Bowl of Apricots and Cherries, Madrid, Museo del Prado © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

Fig. 1
Luis Egidio Meléndez, Still Life with a Bowl of Apricots and Cherries, Madrid, Museo del Prado © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

The picture is a reduced variant of a painting (see Fig. 1) from the artist’s celebrated commission of some 44 still lifes produced for the Prince of Asturias (the future Charles IV of Spain) to adorn his cabinet of national history, a private museum in his quarters in the Royal Palace, Madrid, the majority of which are today in the Prado Museum.

Technical analysis carried out to the present work prior to its inclusion in the 2009/10 Meléndez exhibition revealed that, in keeping with other pictures in the artist’s oeuvre, the canvas was prepared with a double priming, each layer of a slightly different reddish hue and the top one made up of finer particles. The artist seems to have painted the still life elements first, leaving the background in reserve, as attested by areas of ground that can be seen around the contours of some of the fruit. A lighter, more greyish colour was then applied over the darker background to create a variable atmospheric effect.

Lot 15. SALOMON VAN RUYSDAEL NAARDEN 1600/3 - 1670 HAARLEM A VIEW OF THE VALKHOF AT NIJMEGEN SEEN FROM THE WEST, WITH A FERRY CROSSING THE RIVER WAAL signed in monogram and dated on the ferry lower centre:  SvR. 1647 oil on oak panel 64.5 by 89.4 cm.; 25 3/8  by 35 in. Estimate: 1-1.5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 15. SALOMON VAN RUYSDAEL
NAARDEN 1600/3 – 1670 HAARLEM
A VIEW OF THE VALKHOF AT NIJMEGEN SEEN FROM THE WEST, WITH A FERRY CROSSING THE RIVER WAAL
signed in monogram and dated on the ferry lower centre: SvR. 1647
oil on oak panel
64.5 by 89.4 cm.; 25 3/8 by 35 in.
Estimate: £1-1.5 million. This lot sold for £1,202,500 inclusive of buyer’s premium.
Click on image to enlarge.

The Ruysdael of Nymegen is a classic and provided it has recently been on the market it should do well.  From the catalogue:

Like his near contemporary Jan van Goyen, Salomon van Ruysdael’s landscapes present a unified view of land, water and sky, often as here with a town.  Ruysdael’s art had, like Van Goyen’s, evolved through stages of tonal landscape painting with different strictly muted colours predominating, but by the late 1640s they were travelling in different directions: Van Goyen towards a more textural and expressive tonality in his last works; Ruysdael towards a more settled style that was to endure for several decades, in which stronger light animates his scenes allowing a much greater range of colours.

Lot 16. GIOVANNI DA MILANO ACTIVE IN FLORENCE AND SIENA CIRCA 1346-1369 THE CRUCIFIXION tempera on panel, gold ground, with leaves from an Italian 15th-century choirbook on vellum attached to the reverse 47 by 32.8 cm.; 18 1/2  by 13 in. Estimate: 250,000-350,000.

Lot 16. GIOVANNI DA MILANO
ACTIVE IN FLORENCE AND SIENA CIRCA 1346-1369
THE CRUCIFIXION
tempera on panel, gold ground, with leaves from an Italian 15th-century choirbook on vellum attached to the reverse
47 by 32.8 cm.; 18 1/2 by 13 in.
Estimate: £250,000-350,000. This lot was unsold.

This is a very orthodox handling by Giovanni da Milano of a very orthodox composition, but solid and deftly wrought. As the catalogues notes: “Typical of Giovanni’s style are the elegant forms of the present Crucifixion and the relative absence of extravagant decoration found in many of his contemporaries’ work.”

A native of Lombardy, born in the town of Caversaccio near Como, it is not clear why Giovanni styled himself as being from Milan. He spent most of his career in Tuscany and in 1366 was granted Florentine citizenship, though the first recorded evidence places him there by 1346 when he is listed as a member of the colony of foreign painters living in Florence as “Johannes Jacobi de Commo”. Despite his origins as an outsider, his success in Florence was significant, as demonstrated by the important commissions he won in 1366, which included the great altar of the Ognissanti, today in the Uffizi, and later that year he was called upon to complete the frescoes in the Rinuccini Chapel in the sacristy of Santa Croce in Florence.

Finally, we have these two cloying works by El Greco (have I betrayed a bias?).   The Saint Dominic in Prayer comes from the collection of Gustav Rau (as does the suite of six Tiepolos above) and sale proceeds will benefit the German Committee for UNICEF.  The paintings are included in this post because they featured works in the sale, but the less said about them the better.

Lot 19. DOMENIKOS THEOTOKOPOULOS, CALLED EL GRECO CANDIA (HERAKLEION), CRETE CIRCA 1541 - 1614 TOLEDO SAINT DOMINIC IN PRAYER indistinctly signed lower left: domén. ...kopol....  oil on canvas 75 by 58 cm.; 29 1/2  by 22 7/8  in. Estimate: 3-5 million.

Lot 19. DOMENIKOS THEOTOKOPOULOS, CALLED EL GRECO
CANDIA (HERAKLEION), CRETE CIRCA 1541 – 1614 TOLEDO
SAINT DOMINIC IN PRAYER
indistinctly signed lower left: domén. …kopol….
oil on canvas
75 by 58 cm.; 29 1/2 by 22 7/8 in.
Estimate: £3-5 million. this lot sold for £9,154,500 with the buyer’s premium.

Lot 34. DOMENIKOS THEOTOKOPOULOS, CALLED EL GRECO CANDIA (HERAKLEION), CRETE CIRCA 1541 - 1614 TOLEDO CHRIST ON THE CROSS oil on canvas 177 by 105 cm.; 69 ¾ by 41 ¼ in. Estimate: 3-5 million.

Lot 34. DOMENIKOS THEOTOKOPOULOS, CALLED EL GRECO
CANDIA (HERAKLEION), CRETE CIRCA 1541 – 1614 TOLEDO
CHRIST ON THE CROSS
oil on canvas
177 by 105 cm.; 69 ¾ by 41 ¼ in.
Estimate: £3-5 million. This lot sold for £3,442,500 inclusive of the buyer’s premium.

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