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$15.7 million Pair of Canalettos leads Sotheby’s December 2013 Evening Sale of Old Masters in London

November 27, 2013
Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO VENICE 1697 - 1768 VENICE, A VIEW OF PIAZZA SAN MARCO LOOKING EAST TOWARDS THE BASILICA; VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING NORTH-EAST FROM THE PALAZZO DOLFIN-MANIN TO THE RIALTO BRIDGE One of a pair, both oil on canvas each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4  by 30 3/8  in. Estimate: 8-12 Million.

Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO, VENICE 1697 – 1768
VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING NORTH-EAST FROM THE PALAZZO DOLFIN-MANIN TO THE RIALTO BRIDGE
One of a pair, both oil on canvas
each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4 by 30 3/8 in.
Estimate: £8-12 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £8.5 million (£9,602,500 with the buyer’s premium or $15,732,736 ).click on image to enlarge

Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO VENICE 1697 - 1768 VENICE, A VIEW OF PIAZZA SAN MARCO LOOKING EAST TOWARDS THE BASILICA; VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING NORTH-EAST FROM THE PALAZZO DOLFIN-MANIN TO THE RIALTO BRIDGE One of a pair, both oil on canvas each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4  by 30 3/8  in. Estimate: 8-12 million.

Lot 39. GIOVANNI ANTONIO CANAL, CALLED CANALETTO, VENICE 1697 – 1768
VENICE, A VIEW OF PIAZZA SAN MARCO LOOKING EAST TOWARDS THE BASILICA; 
One of a pair, both oil on canvas
each: 46.5 by 77.1 cm.; 18 1/4 by 30 3/8 in.
Estimate: £8-12 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £8.5 million (£9,602,500 with the buyer’s premium of $15,732,736). click on image to enlarge

POST SALE UPDATE: 

The just concluded Evening Sale, which saw the star lot – a pair of Canaletto’s sell for a hammer price of £8.5 million (£9,602,500 with the buyer’s premium or $15,732,736 ) – started with a sprint. The Pietà by the van der Weyden in brisk bidding shot well past its £300,000 high estimate and sold to a determined telephone bidder for a hammer price of £800,000 (£962,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,576,960).  Of the 49 lots offered, one was withdrawn and thirteen failed to sell. The tiny Cranach of Lucretia, as predicted, was also very popular, surpassing its £500,000 top estimate to make an £850,000 hammer price (£1,022,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,675,264). The Aert van der Neer and Cranach the Younger Virgin and Child sold on the lower side of their respective estimates while the Frans Hals portrait did slightly better. And, two of the three Leverhulme paintings bombed – the one that sold – the Rossetti – struggled to make its low estimate.

ORIGINAL POST: The Evening Sale of Old Masters at Sotheby’s December 4, 2013 in London, leads with a pair of “sofa size” oils by Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, a group of Cranachs (both Lucas the Elder and the Younger), Dutch pictures including a Hals portrait and an Aert van der Neer winter scene, and concludes with three Victorian works from the Leverhulme Collection.  Also tucked into the sale is a splendid work based on a Pietà by the great 15th century Rogier van der Weyden.

The Canalettos (above) come from the HSBC corporate collection, formerly know as Safra Republic Holdings.  The paintings depict  quintessentially Venetian views – the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, and Piazza San Marco, as Sotheby’s specialist Alexander Bell tells us in a two-minute video. The pictures capture the city’s great and iconic architecture, the hustle of daily life on the canal and in the piazza, all in lively brushwork and loving attention to detail. The price, however, strikes me as a bit steep, all the more so if they’ve been offered privately.

Lot 1. FOLLOWER OF ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN THE PIETÀ, WITH SAINTS JOHN AND MARY MAGDELENE oil on oak panel 21 by 31.8 cm.; 8 1/4  by 12 1/2  in. Estimate: 200,000-300,000. click on image to enlarge

Lot 1. FOLLOWER OF ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN
THE PIETÀ, WITH SAINTS JOHN AND MARY MAGDELENE
oil on oak panel
21 by 31.8 cm.; 8 1/4 by 12 1/2 in.
Estimate: £200,000-300,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £800,000 (£962,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,576,960). click on image to enlarge

This Pietà by a follower of Rogier van der Weyden (above) is one of a number of known variants. Another in the National Gallery in London (below), was considered autograph, though in recent years it has been assigned to his workshop.  The only accepted autograph version (further below) is in the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium. The picture at Sotheby’s is closer in composition to the Brussels version, though substantially smaller. The handling of St. John’s face in the picture at auction is not as refined as the Brussels picture, though the treatment of the faces of Christ, the Virgin and the Magdelene are of better quality and closer to the Brussels work. Other differences from the autograph panel include the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdelene, the treatment of the background landscape, and the lack of the skull in the work at auction.   Nevertheless, this appears to be a beautiful panel that could reveal some more secrets and details following proper restoration.

Pietà, c. 1464, workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, National Gallery , London. Oil on panel: 14 x 17.7 inches.

Pietà, c. 1464, workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, National Gallery , London.
Oil on panel: 14 x 17.7 inches. click on image to enlarge

Pietà, 1436-1446, Rogier van der Weyden, Musées royaux des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belbium. Oil on panel: 12.8 x 18 inches. click on image to enlarge

Pietà, 1436-1446, Rogier van der Weyden, Musées royaux des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belgium.
Oil on panel: 12.8 x 18 inches. click on image to enlarge

Lot 22. AERT VAN DER NEER AMSTERDAM CIRCA 1603/4 - 1677 A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH SKATERS AND KOLF PLAYERS ON A FROZEN RIVER BY A VILLAGE signed with the artist's double monogram lower left: AV DN oil on oak panel 40 by 55 cm.; 15 3/4  by 21 3/4  in. Estimate: 2-3 million. click on image to enlarge

Lot 22. AERT VAN DER NEER
AMSTERDAM CIRCA 1603/4 – 1677
A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH SKATERS AND KOLF PLAYERS ON A FROZEN RIVER BY A VILLAGE
signed with the artist’s double monogram lower left: AV DN
oil on oak panel
40 by 55 cm.; 15 3/4 by 21 3/4 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. This work sold for a hammer price of £2.3 million (£2,658,500 with the buyer’s premium or $4,355,686). click on image to enlarge

According to the lot notes, this painting “was completely unknown to scholars until its appearance at auction at Sotheby’s in 1975 … [where]  it caused a sensation, fetching the then unprecedented price of £110,000.” It has gotten a little more expensive since then. It may or may not be “one of [the artist’s]  finest works left in private hands,” as Sotheby’s claims, but it is impressive, intricate and a thoroughly delightful example of 17th Dutch winter scenes.

Lot 3. LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER KRONACH 1472 - 1553 WEIMAR LUCRETIA signed with the winged serpent lower centre oil on hardwood (probably beech) panel, circular diameter: 14.9 cm.; 5 7/8  in. Estimate: 300,000-500,000.

Lot 3. LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER
KRONACH 1472 – 1553 WEIMAR
LUCRETIA
signed with the winged serpent lower centre
oil on hardwood (probably beech) panel, circular
diameter: 14.9 cm.; 5 7/8 in.
Estimate: £300,000-500,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £850,000 (£1,022,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,675,264).

This tiny Lucretia is the sort of little jewel of restrained eroticism that old school dealers and collectors adore. Provided it’s fresh to the market, it should do well. It’s the first of sale’s three Cranachs, about which there is a video.

Lot 25. LUCAS CRANACH THE YOUNGER WITTENBERG 1515 - 1586 VIRGIN AND CHILD WITH A BUNCH OF GRAPES signed centre right with the artist's device of a winged serpent, in the style used after 1537, and inscribed on a label on the reverse in an old hand: Tabla original de Luca Cranach./ Lla... Muller/ Nacio en Cranach cliosesi...e barnberg nEn 1472, Nacio Murio/ en Weimar en 1552 Escu...Alemana/La firma del autur...convales y/ pintor del Duque de Savolla...de 1509. oil on beechwood panel 77.7 by 57.1 cm. : 30 5/8  by 22 1/2  in. Estimate: 800,000-1,200,000.

Lot 25. LUCAS CRANACH THE YOUNGER
WITTENBERG 1515 – 1586
VIRGIN AND CHILD WITH A BUNCH OF GRAPES
signed centre right with the artist’s device of a winged serpent, in the style used after 1537, and inscribed on a label on the reverse in an old hand: Tabla original de Luca Cranach./ Lla… Muller/ Nacio en Cranach cliosesi…e barnberg nEn 1472, Nacio Murio/ en Weimar en 1552 Escu…Alemana/La firma del autur…convales y/ pintor del Duque de Savolla…de 1509.
oil on beechwood panel
77.7 by 57.1 cm. : 30 5/8 by 22 1/2 in.
Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £800,000 (£962,500 with the buyer’s premium or $1,576,960).

Lot 35. FRANS HALS ANTWERP 1581/5 - 1666 HAARLEM PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, HALF-LENGTH IN BLACK WITH LACE COLLAR AND CUFFS, AND WEARING A BROAD-BRIMMED BLACK HAT oil on canvas, in a magnificent German or Netherlandish boxwood mirror frame  79.5 by 58.5 cm.; 31 1/4  by 23 in. Estimate: 2-3 million.

Lot 35. FRANS HALS
ANTWERP 1581/5 – 1666 HAARLEM
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, HALF-LENGTH IN BLACK WITH LACE COLLAR AND CUFFS, AND WEARING A BROAD-BRIMMED BLACK HAT
oil on canvas, in a magnificent German or Netherlandish boxwood mirror frame
79.5 by 58.5 cm.; 31 1/4 by 23 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.6 million (£2,994,500 with the buyer’s premium or $4,906,189).

I’m not particularly impressed with this Hals – there’s a certain lack of vibrancy.  As the catalogue says: “Much has been written about Frans Hals’ bravura brushwork, which is the overriding hallmark of his style.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t come through for me.  [I’m also suspicious of catalogue entries that include language about the “magnificent” frame – who cares?]

The following in the Day Sale caught my eye, a pair of panels for a polyptych by Puccio di Simone:

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365 SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST one of a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4  by 13 5/8  in. Estimate: 100,000-150,000.

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE
ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365
SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST one of
a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground
each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4 by 13 5/8 in.
Estimate: £100,000-150,000. This lot sold for £254,500, inclusive of buyer’s premium.

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365 SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST one of a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4  by 13 5/8  in. Estimate: 100,000-150,000.

Lot 157. PUCCIO DI SIMONE
ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1345-1365
SAINT JAMES THE LESSER; SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
one of a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground
each: 99.7 by 34.6 cm.; 39 1/4 by 13 5/8 in.
Estimate: £100,000-150,000. This lot sold for £254,500, inclusive of buyer’s premium.

From the lot notes:

Puccio di Simone was active in Florence around the middle of the fourteenth century and was heavily influenced both by Maso di Banco and Bernardo Daddi. One of his early works, an Annunciation with two saints in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, also betrays the influence of Giovanni da Milano. Puccio is first recorded as a painter in 1346 when his name was included in the records of the Arte dei Medici de Speziali, the guild of doctors, druggists and painters but he is known to have been active before 522L13036_73JF5_comp.jpg.thumb.319.319then since his damaged frescoes in the Strozzi Chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence once bore the date of 1340.
These youthful works, probably datable to the late 1340s, formed part of the same dismembered polyptych as the Saint James the Greater in the Seattle Art Museum. Boskovits associated the latter with a Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine last recorded in Berlin with Paul Bottenweiser. In the original configuration, the Mystic Marriage would have formed the central component; along the left would have stood the present Saint James the Lesser and a fifth, as-yet unknown panel; on the right flank would have stood the Seattle Saint James the Greater and the present Saint John the Baptist [above]. All the extant panels except the Saint John the Baptist stand out for their lavish use of the same decorative arabesque motif which is also present in several late works by Bernardo Daddi and his shop and it is likely that the two artists were collaborating regularly by the early 1340s.2

As noted above, the Evening Sale’s final three works, all Victorian pictures, come from the Leverhulme Collection. I happen not to care for a single one.

Lot 47. JAMES TISSOT 1836 - 1902 A VISIT TO THE YACHT (LA VISITE AU NAVIRE) signed l.l.: J.J Tissot oil on canvas 86.5 by 54cm.; 34 by 21¼in. Estimate: 2-3 million.

Lot 47. JAMES TISSOT
1836 – 1902
A VISIT TO THE YACHT (LA VISITE AU NAVIRE)
signed l.l.: J.J Tissot
oil on canvas
86.5 by 54cm.; 34 by 21¼in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at £1.9 million and it failed to sell.

Lot 48. DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 1828 - 1882 A CHRISTMAS CAROL signed with monogram and dated 1867 l.r., inscribed, signed and dated on the reverse: A Christmas Carol/ D.G. Rossetti 1867/ (oil) oil on panel 45.5 by 38cm., 18 by 15in. Estimate: 4-6 million.

Lot 48. DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI
1828 – 1882
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
signed with monogram and dated 1867 l.r., inscribed, signed and dated on the reverse: A Christmas Carol/ D.G. Rossetti 1867/ (oil)
oil on panel
45.5 by 38cm., 18 by 15in.
Estimate: £4-6 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £4.0 million (£4,562,500 with the buyer’s premium or $7,475,200).

Lot 49. WILLIAM HOLMAN HUNT, O.M., R.W.S., A.R.S.A. 1827 - 1910 TUSCAN GIRL PLAITING STRAW signed with monogram and dated 69 l.l. oil on canvas, in a simplified cassetta frame with medallions decorated with daisies, designed by the artist and executed by Green & Co. 53.5 by 43.5cm., 21 by 17in. Estimate: 3-5 million.

Lot 49. WILLIAM HOLMAN HUNT, O.M., R.W.S., A.R.S.A.
1827 – 1910
TUSCAN GIRL PLAITING STRAW
signed with monogram and dated 69 l.l.
oil on canvas, in a simplified cassetta frame with medallions decorated with daisies, designed by the artist and executed by Green & Co.
53.5 by 43.5cm., 21 by 17in.
Estimate: £3-5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at £2.9 million and it failed to sell.

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