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National Gallery of Art Acquires Multi-million dollar Portrait featured in Christie’s Old Masters June 2014 New York Sale

May 27, 2014
Lot 16. Caspar Netscher (?Heidelberg 1639-1684 The Hague) Woman feeding a parrot signed and dated 'CNetscher. Ao. 16.66.' (CN linked) (lower left) oil on panel 18 1/8 x 14 5/8 in. (46 x 37 cm.) Estimate: $2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 16. Caspar Netscher (?Heidelberg 1639-1684 The Hague) Woman feeding a parrot
signed and dated ‘CNetscher. Ao. 16.66.’ (CN linked) (lower left)
oil on panel: 18 1/8 x 14 5/8 in. (46 x 37 cm.)
Estimate: $2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $4.4 million ($5,093,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

ANOTHER POST SALE UPDATE: The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has acquired the Casper Netscher featured in this sale, according to the Washington Post

POST SALE UPDATE: Today’s sale brought in $17,932,000 (this total includes the buyer’s fees), with 83 of 111 lots selling. A decent opening for the group of paintings restituted to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen with eight of the eleven selling – bidding in the room, the buyer of lot 6 (below) the van Goyen skating scene also picked up lot 3, a Wouvermann landscape, and lot 4, a Berchem landscape. The star lot, the Caspar Netscher, opened at $1 million, moved steadily to $3 million, then progressed at a slightly slower pace selling to an “Anonymous” bidder, as the sale results noted, for a hammer price of $4.4 million ($5,093,000), a world record for the artist. One telephone bidder (listed on the sale results as a “European Institution”) picked up lot 1, a Teniers peasant scene, lot 5, the small Brueghel (below), lot 8, the van Orley (below), lot 9, the Master of the Antwerp Adoration (below), lot 12, a Teniers Adam and Eve that soared past its $300,000 high estimate to hammer at $700,000 ($845,000 with the buyer’s premium), lot 13, another Teniers, lot 15, a Pieter Brueghel the Younger Payment of Tithes, that easily surpassed its $800,000 high estimate to hammer at $1.4 million ($1,685,000 with the buyer’s premium), and lot 22, a Studio of Rubens portrait.

Other notable sales include  lot 38, a Ruisdael Dunes by the Sea, which sold for 2-1/2 times its $600,000 high estimate to hammer at $1.5 million ($1,805,000 with fees), and lot 69, a Frans Francken II Temptation of Saint Anthony that went for five times its $30,000 high estimate to hammer at $150,000 ($185,000 with fees).

ORIGINAL POST: This elegant “Woman feeding a parrot was, until recently, among the most celebrated treasures of the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal, recognized for decades as one of Caspar Netscher’s greatest paintings and one of the undisputed icons of Dutch genre painting of the Golden Age,” according to the catalogue notes for this lot in Christie’s June 4, 2014, sale of Old Master Paintings in NewYork.  Restitution of works looted by the Nazis during World War II is an ongoing process and has brought to sale many works previously thought permanently off the market.  No doubt there will be more.  This work was restituted to the heirs of Hugo and Elisabeth Andriesse.

Of this lot, Christie’s notes:

Best-known today as a painter of exquisite, highly finished domestic interiors, Caspar Netscher in fact produced surprisingly few before abandoning the genre altogether around 1670 for the more lucrative field of portraiture. A Dutch painter of German origin, Netscher was probably born in Heidelberg in 1639. He trained first in Arnhem under Hendrik Coster, a little known still-life and portrait painter, before moving in 1654 to Deventer, where he entered the workshop of the greatest genre painter of the day, Gerard ter Borch. Netscher quickly learned Ter Borch’s technique of rendering the texture of costly materials, and he is known to have made very successful copies of his master’s most recent works: a signed copy of Ter Borch’s Parental Admonition (1654; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), dated 1655, is in Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha, for example. That such works were allowed to be fully signed by Netscher suggests the special place he held in his master’s studio.

[…]

As [Marjorie] Wieseman [author of the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings] observes, the birds were often associated with luxury and sensuality, and “their central role in scenes of women holding or feeding parrots hints at amorous or erotic elements.” Moreover, she adds, “a bird freed from its cage – in Netscher’s painting, lured away with a bit of sweet – was often a symbol of lost virginity, and was associated with an invitation to amorous dalliance,” a reading that seems hard to dispute in light of our young lady’s coquettish but bold and inviting gaze. Interestingly, Wayne Franits has cited instances in which “the presence of parrots…signifies the proper training of their mistresses.”

A superb preparatory drawing for the painting, in pen and bistre wash over black chalk underdrawing, is in the British Museum … The drawing, which was in the collection of Gabriel Huquier in Paris in the 18th century, is fully signed and dated 1666. Like his teacher Ter Borch, Netscher was an active draftsman and about 45 sheets from his hand survive. As with the study for Woman feeding a parrot, most of his drawings are modelli or compositional designs.

Lot 5. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) Peasants in an open wagon oil on panel 4½ x 9½ in. (11.5 x 24 cm.) Estimate: $300,000-500,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 5. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) Peasants in an open wagon
oil on panel: 4½ x 9½ in. (11.5 x 24 cm.)
Estimate: $300,000-500,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $550,000 ($665,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

This delightful rendering of a raucous carriage ride was also recently restituted, in this case to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen, having been in the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, since January 15, 1946.  From the lot notes:

This charming scene, showing a group of rowdy peasants en route to a wedding celebration, exemplifies the lighthearted and often humorous observations of everyday life for which Pieter Brueghel II was – and remains – renowned. Even in its small size, this vignette reveals a wealth of anecdotal detail: seven peasants have crowded into the rickety carriage, pressed together so that one at the front has to wrap his arms around his knees to fit inside, while the two nearest the viewer seem poised to fall backwards over the edge. At center, a particularly boisterous woman raises a wine jug high in the air, perhaps to keep it away from her obviously eager companion, who may have already had too much. Stumbling around the back of the cart, a man in a red cap with his back to the viewer rearranges the bridal gifts, aided by another fellow who moves a three-legged stool – a common motif in Brueghel’s paintings – out of the way. The cart, which might more usually have been drawn by a driver in an enclosed cab, is pulled by two sturdy horses that seem just to have felt the sting of their rider’s whip.

Lot 6. Jan Josefsz. van Goyen (Leiden 1596-1656 The Hague) A winter scene with skaters and a village beyond signed and dated 'I V GOIEN 1626' (lower right) oil on panel 12 5/8 x 19 7/8 in. (32 x 50.5 cm.) Estimate: $400,000-600,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 6. Jan Josefsz. van Goyen (Leiden 1596-1656 The Hague) A winter scene with skaters and a village beyond
signed and dated ‘I V GOIEN 1626’ (lower right), oil on panel: 12 5/8 x 19 7/8 in. (32 x 50.5 cm.)
Estimate: $400,000-600,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $320,000 ($389,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

As with the previous lot, this work too was recently restituted to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen, having also been in the collection of the the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, since July 8, 1946.  From the catalogue:

Beginning in the mid-14th century and lasting through the mid-19th century, Northern Europe experienced extraordinarily cold and long winters, and relatively cool summers, a period of climatic change known as the “Little Ice Age”. The resulting snows and frozen waterways had a significant effect on everyday life. The Dutch quickly adapted, inventing a variety of winter activities which could provide outdoor amusement despite the bitter cold. By the 17th century, winter landscapes filled with frolicking figures such as the present panel had become a beloved staple of Dutch Golden Age painting.

Here, Van Goyen represents villagers skating on a frozen river beside a group of thatched houses. The town church is visible in the background, and charming vignettes abound. At far left, two children chase one another behind an elegantly dressed couple who may be their parents. Just to their right, four passengers huddle together for warmth inside a sleigh while the driver sits on the edge, watching his horse delicately negotiate its way across the ice. At right, another man bends over to adjust the straps on his skates, while at center, four men skate toward the viewer with varying levels of grace and skill. One of them rests a long, thin poll on his shoulder, which he could use both to keep his balance and to help himself out of the water if he should fall through the ice, a relatively common occurrence.

Llot 8. Studio of Bernard van Orley (Brussels c. 1488-1541) Christ on the Road to Calvary oil on panel 25¾ x 22 7/8 in. (65.5 x 58 cm.) Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Llot 8. Studio of Bernard van Orley (Brussels c. 1488-1541) Christ on the Road to Calvary
oil on panel: 25¾ x 22 7/8 in. (65.5 x 58 cm.)
Estimate: $100,000-150,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $260,000 ($317,00 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

This, too, was restituted to the Larsen heirs, having been in the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, since January 15, 1946; it was confiscated by the German authorities following the occupation of The Netherlands, after May 1940.  

The painting’s authorship is in dispute, Max Friedländer considers it autograph, as did Ludwig Baldass in 1930.  However, JD Farmer:

considered this painting to be the work of a clearly identifiable hand distinct from Van Orley, yet very close to him. This artist, whom he christened “The Brussels Master of 1520,” tends to paint his figures with idiosyncratic, at times awkward poses and may have led a small, independent workshop that produced paintings most reminiscent of Van Orley’s style of the late teens, while demonstrating a familiarity with the master’s work through the thirties. Farmer hypothesized that The Brussels Master of 1520 may have even been related to Van Orley, suggesting the artist’s brother, Evrard, as a plausible candidate.

Raphael’s Spasimo di Sicilia (Prado, Madrid) serves as the chief form of inspiration:

Indeed, there are strong parallels between this painting and Raphael’s design, which Van Orley would have encountered when its cartoon was sent to Brussels to be woven as a tapestry for Cardinal Bibbiana between 1516 and 1520. The most immediate source for the present painting, however, was surely Van Orley’s own interpretation of Raphael’s design as it appears in the Northern artist’s Christ Carrying the Cross cartoon, which he created for Margaret of Austria’s “square” Passion tapestries of c. 1520-1522 (Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid), and which was later rewoven for the Alba Passion tapestries of c. 1525-1528 (Museé Jacquemart-André, Paris). Van Orley also took inspiration from the work of Albrecht Dürer, with whom he was personally acquainted: in 1520, Van Orley hosted a dinner party with Dürer as his guest. As in Dürer’s Christ Carrying the Cross from the Large Passion prints of c. 1497-1500, in the present panel the main focus is not Christ’s interaction with the swooning Virgin, but rather the miracle of the Sudarium, the holy cloth held by St. Veronica.

Lot 9. The Master of the Antwerp Adoration (active Antwerp c. 1505-1530) The Holy Family in a garden oil on panel, circular 23 5/8 in. (60 cm.) diameter, an approximately 1/8 in. (0.4 cm.) addition to the upper edge Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 9. The Master of the Antwerp Adoration (active Antwerp c. 1505-1530), The Holy Family in a garden
oil on panel, circular: 23 5/8 in. (60 cm.) diameter, an approximately 1/8 in. (0.4 cm.) addition to the upper edge
Estimate: $250,000-350,000. The estimate for this lot was revised down to $200,000-300,000.  This lot sold for a hammer price of $140,000 ($173,000 with the buyer’s premium)
Click on image to enlarge.

Yet another work restituted to the Larsen heirs, having entered the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, The Netherlands, on the same day as the previous lot, this painting was originally part of an altarpiece that was divided, with this panel cut down from it original rectangular format.

When conceiving this composition, The Master of the Antwerp Adoration was likely inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s print of The Sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt … from the Life of the Virgin series, begun in 1500. As in Dürer’s woodcut, the Virgin sits in the foreground attended by angels and embroidering a garment on her lap. Also similar is the bearded Saint Joseph at her left, carving out a long piece of wood. In Dürer’s print, Joseph is surrounded by jovial putti who frolic about, picking up the shavings and placing them into a basket. In the Larsen painting, it is the Christ Child himself who assumes this role. 

The Master of the Antwerp Adoration has incorporated symbolic imagery in the painting in a manner typical of Netherlandish art of this period. The fanciful architecture in the background, together with the dense wood and columned structure on the right, suggest that the Holy Family resides within a hortus conclusus, that is, an enclosed, sacred precinct dedicated to the Virgin. Two angels fill silver pitchers with water from an elegant fountain in the courtyard, which together with the garden itself symbolize the immaculate purity of the Virgin. This imagery derives from the Song of Solomon as interpreted by Saint Bernard, who read the biblical love poem as an ode to the Virgin as the Bride of Christ. By the time panel was painted, the juxtaposition of the fountain, or “well of living waters”, the enclosed garden, and the Virgin was well-established in Netherlandish art. Indeed, it appears in Jan van Eyck’s famousMadonna at the Fountain of 1439 (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp). In the present Holy Family in a garden, a peacock appears in front of the fountain. An exotic bird of paradise, it would have been understood in the artist’s time as a symbol of Christ’s immortality and the Resurrection. The cross formed by Saint Joseph’s plank and the wooden board beneath it is in no way accidental, but rather deliberately refers to Christ’s Passion. Likewise, the pincer in the foreground alludes to the tool that was used to remove the nails from the Cross after Christ’s death. Thus, within this everyday scene of familial tranquility and harmony, The Master of the Antwerp Adoration subtly alludes to Christ’s future sacrifice, creating a beautiful composition that rewards prolonged contemplation.

Lot 17. The Master of the Dominican Effigies (Florence, c. 1310-1350) A triptych: central panel: The Madonna and Child Enthroned, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria and another Saint; the wings: The Flagellation of Christ; and The Crucifixion, with The Annunciation tempera and gold on panel, in an integral tabernacle frame open: 23 x 18 7/8 in. (59 x 47.9 cm.); closed: 23 x 10 7/8 in. (59 x 27.7 cm.) Estimate: $200,000-300,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 17. The Master of the Dominican Effigies (Florence, c. 1310-1350)
A triptych: central panel: The Madonna and Child Enthroned, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria and another Saint; the wings: The Flagellation of Christ; and The Crucifixion, with The Annunciation
tempera and gold on panel, in an integral tabernacle frame
open: 23 x 18 7/8 in. (59 x 47.9 cm.); closed: 23 x 10 7/8 in. (59 x 27.7 cm.)
Estimate: $200,000-300,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $200,000 ($245,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

From the lot notes:

The anonymous artist known as the Master of the Dominican Effigies is named for a panel showing Christ and the Virgin with seventeen Dominican saints and beati, or “blessed ones”, now in the Archivio di Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Recent scholarship has improved our understanding of this previously understudied painter, who appears to have been one of the most important figures in Florentine manuscript illumination in the second quarter of the 14th century. The Master’s style, which blends the influences of artists from the prior generation – such as Lippo di Benivieni and the Master of San Martino alla Palma – also looks to the work of some of his slightly older contemporaries, such as Bernardo Daddi and Jacopo del Casentino, resulting in what Professor Laurence Kanter describes as “an animated and highly personal expression of his own” (see L. Kanter et al., Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, New York, 1994, pp. 56-57).

[…]

The Master’s eponymous work can be dated to just after 1336 based on its inclusion of Maurice of Hungary, who had died that year, though the artist was certainly active well before then, probably from c. 1310. His last securely dated work is inscribed 1345, but a double-sided altarpiece in the Accademia, Florence (inv. 4633/4) may date to somewhat later. The present intimately-sized, portable triptych is a marvelous example of the miniaturist precision and narrative expression that characterizes the Master’s style. Datable to c. 1330, the triptych is a remarkable survival from an important phase of the artist’s career, showcasing his understanding of the achievements of Giotto and the founders of Tuscan painting.

Lot 29. Gerard ter Borch (Zwolle 1617-1681 Deventer) A guardroom interior with a soldier blowing smoke in the face of his sleeping companion, a third looking on oil on panel 18½ x 14½ in. (47 x 36.8 cm.) Estimate: $60,000-80,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 29. Gerard ter Borch (Zwolle 1617-1681 Deventer)
A guardroom interior with a soldier blowing smoke in the face of his sleeping companion, a third looking on
oil on panel: 18½ x 14½ in. (47 x 36.8 cm.)
Estimate: $60,000-80,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $170,000 ($209,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.

This is a very entertaining genre picture is by the talented Gerard ter Borch.  From the catalogue:

Likely originating in the work of Jacob Duck, the theme of a soldier being tickled awake was treated once more by Ter Borch in a composition dated to around 1656-1657 and now in the Taft Museum, Cincinnati … although in that instance the culprit takes the form of an attractive young woman. While such amusing scenes were intended to delight viewers, they were probably also meant as cautionary reminders of the importance of maintaining military vigilance. Indeed, despite the peace with Spain, the Netherlands remained vulnerable in the 1650s, especially along the German border, where forces spreading Counter-Reformation doctrine needed to be kept in check.

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