Rare Unpublished Goffredo Wals Painting at Dorotheum
POST SALE UPDATE: This lot sold for €29,243, which doesn’t strike me as much.
ORIGINAL POST: There are perhaps three dozen or so known works by Goffredo Wals, so this heretofore unknown work coming up for sale on October 21, 2014 at Dorotheum is an intriguing addition, particularly because it depicts a maritime scene, when most of the accepted works record landscapes, such as the one below in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The small size and circular format are consistent with other Wals paintings.
He was very popular in his day then fell into obscurity only to be rediscovered in the 1969 by Marcel Roethlisberger who, according to the Dorotheum sale catalogue, “confirmed the present painting as a work by Wals following first hand inspection (written communication).”
This biographical information comes for the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Born in Cologne, Germany, probably between 1590 and 1595, Gottfried (known as Goffredo) Wals made his career as a landscape painter in Italy. Aside from an interlude in Rome from 1616 to about 1619, he spent his early years in Naples. The excellence of Wals’s landscapes drew the attention of the young Claude Lorrain, who trained under the German for two years (1620–22). From 1623 to about 1630–31 Wals worked in Genoa, and, after a yearlong stay in Savona (1631–32), he again took up residence in Naples. Wals perished in an earthquake about 1638–40, probably in the Calabria region of southern Italy. He counts among the northerners who popularized landscape as an independent and highly collectible genre in Italy in the first third of seventeenth century. As a specialist in small pictures notable for their subtle handling and tranquil mood, Wals continued the legacy of poetic landscape painting inaugurated in Rome by his compatriot Adam Elsheimer.
The painting’s maritime theme, as the catalogue states, is unique amongst the known Wals paintings:
Wals’s most important patron was the Flemish merchant and ship-owner in Naples, Gaspare Roomer, who by 1634 owned no less than sixty of his paintings and forty gouaches. In the centuries that followed, however, his art was largely forgotten and only came to the attention of art historians in the 1960s, when first Roethlisberger, and then other scholars, began the careful reconstruction of his oeuvre. Even today, his known corpus of works comprises no more than three dozen small rectangular or circular works on copper or panel, a handful of drawings and an etching. Given the importance of seascapes and coastal landscapes in Claude´s, his most famous pupil, early oeuvre, and taken into account that his patron Gaspare Roomer was a shipowner, it is astonishing that this small circular panel is the first marine painting to have been rediscovered.
Wals worked only on a small scale, often using a circular format. His luminous landscapes are profoundly indebted to the German painter Adam Elsheimer, who was active in Rome from 1600 to 1610. Some of Wals´s paintings are very similar to those of Filippo Napoletano, but the precise relationship between the two artists is unclear, since none of Wals’s paintings are signed or dated. Wals favoured simple, naturalistic motifs, such as a cluster of trees beside water, a group of farm buildings, or overgrown ruins in the Roman Campagna. His scenes are populated by small figures and animals that seem very much at one with their environment. His style is distinguished by his sensitivity to the effects of light and his interest in perspective and the devices that contribute to the impression of depth in pictorial space. Examples of Wals’s work can be seen at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the National Gallery, London, the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth and the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
While the work is not as refined as many in his oeuvre, the estimate is surprisingly low. We’ll see how it does. A squarish-format Wals was sold at Sotheby’s on December 5, 2013:
By contrast, another work, also recently at Sotheby’s (June 5, 2014, New York), failed to sell: