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$27.88 Million for A Long Lost Sculpture at Christie’s Extraordinary Sale

November 18, 2014

COVER

 

UPDATE: The de Vries sold for $27,885,000, a world record price at auction for the artist – and the work sold to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. According to an emailed statement:

[T]he magnificent Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe by Adrien de Vries was bought by the Rijksmuseum with the support of the Rembrandt Society, the BankGiro Loterij, VSB fund, Mondriaan fund and private donors. The Mannerist sculpture, which is widely recognized as a masterpiece by the 17th century artist known as the “Dutch Michaelangelo”, was won by the museum after a tense three-way phone bidding battle that lasted four minutes and captivated the audience at Christie’s Rockefeller Center saleroom in New York. The final price with premium of $27,885,000 (£17,743,735/ €22,503,724) marks a new world auction record for any work by de Vries.

Following the sale, Taco Dibbits, Director of Collections for the Rijksmuseum remarked: “We are thrilled to have acquired this exceptional work of art by the Dutch Michelangelo, Adriaen de Vries. Until today there was no sculpture by him in the Netherlands.”

ORIGINAL POST: Nested within Christie’s December 11, 2014 Exceptional Sale  is a 368-year-old bronze by one of the most important European sculptors of the 16th/17th century, Adrian de Vries – a work that has been missing for more than 300 years – now A Bronze Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe created in 1626, the artist’s final year of life, is estimated at a hefty $15-25 million. Iconographically, the statue is somewhat enigmatic, as the excerpt from the catalogue entry (below) notes.  In addition, the globe is a later addition (though it was present by 1700), and may obscure the true narrative.

Lot 10. A BRONZE BACCHIC FIGURE SUPPORTING THE GLOBE BY ADRIAEN DE VRIES (DIED 1626), 1626 Depicted wearing vine leaves in his hair, standing with his legs astride and hunched forward; with his arms upraised and supporting the globe; a tree trunk support by his proper left leg entwined with grapevines and with pan pipes hanging from it; all on an integrally cast square plinth decorated in shallow relief with leaves and fowers; signed and dated on the edge of the plinth ‘ADRIANVS FRIES 1626’; areas of oxidisation; minor repairs; the globe probably a 17th century replacement 43 in. (109 cm) high. Estimate: $15-25 million.

Lot 10. A BRONZE BACCHIC FIGURE SUPPORTING THE GLOBE
BY ADRIAEN DE VRIES (DIED 1626), 1626
Depicted wearing vine leaves in his hair, standing with his legs astride and hunched forward; with his arms upraised and supporting the globe; a tree trunk support by his proper left leg entwined with grapevines and with pan pipes hanging from it; all on an integrally cast square plinth decorated in shallow relief with leaves and fowers; signed and dated on the edge of the plinth ‘ADRIANVS FRIES 1626’; areas of oxidisation; minor repairs; the globe probably a 17th century replacement
43 in. (109 cm) high.
Estimate: $15-25 million.

According to the sale catalogue:

The recent discovery of this Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe is a hugely signifcant event, bringing to light, as it does, a major, unrecorded bronze executed in the fnal year of the life of its creator, Adriaen de Vries. The bronze stood unrecognised atop a column in the centre of a pool in a schloss courtyard for at least 300 years where it is recorded in an engraving of circa 1700. Although, in his maturity, Adriaen de Vries was considered to be the most important sculptor working in bronze in all of Europe, his celebrity rapidly declined after his death.

Lot 10.

Lot 10.

Of the iconography, the catalogue notes:

The iconography of this bronze group is unusual in that it appears to include elements from more than one mythological narrative. A male fgure carrying a globe immediately suggests Atlas or Hercules, although both these fgures are normally represented as more mature men with beards. The grapevines on the tree stump and the pan pipes are associated with Bacchus and his cult, but there is nothing among the stories of Bacchus that includes a globe. One could argue that it represents an unusual confation of the stories of Hercules Supporting the Globe and Hercules at the Crossroads. In this interpretation the pan pipes and grapes represent the path of sin and indulgence, while the wreath in the fgure’s hair could be a victor’s wreath, having chosen the path of righteousness.

Lot 10. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 10. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.

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