Record Breaking £30.3 Million Turner of Rome leads Sotheby’s December 2014 Old Masters Sale
UPDATE 2: Artnet points to an article in The Independent, which claims that Turner’s Rome, from Mount Aventine was sold by the father of Lord Dalmeny, chairman of Sotheby’s UK and a father of five who is getting divorced from his wife of 20years: ‘Hinting at the reason for his 85-year-old father’s decision to sell the painting, Lord Dalmeny is said to have dubbed it “Rome, from Mount Alimony”.’
According to The Independent:
He has a reputation as a larger-than-life character – helped by his willingness to act the comic. At an event to mark what would have been the late Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday in 2011, Lord Dalmeny wore a grey suit, cut away at the back to reveal the suspenders, PVC shorts and fishnet stockings he was wearing underneath.
UPDATE 1: The energy in the room was palpable starting from the first lot through to the record breaking £30,332,500 (or $47,430,455) for the Turner. Of 43 lots offered seven works failed to sell, with the sale bringing in £53,972,000 (inclusive of the buyers fees or $84,423,002).
The first lot, a Teniers shot past it’s £150,000 high estimate to hammer t £350,000 (£422,500 with fees or $660,875), followed by a Joos de Momper that more than doubled it’s £150,000 high estimate to make £320,000 (£386,500 with fees or $604,563). Aggressive bidding for a Pieter Brueghel the Younger pushed the work to £2.25 million (£2,602,500 with fees or $4,070,831), to the same buyer as the Teniers.
The Asselijn (below) opened at £220,000 and hammered at a comfortable £500,000 (£602,500 with fees or $942,431), followed by a Jan van der Heyden, that hammered £60,000 below it’s £250,000 low estimate at £190,000 (£230,500 with fees or $360,548) to the same buyer as the Teniers and Brueghel.
Canaletto’s view of the Piazza San Marco hammered below its low estimate for £4.8 million (£5,458,500 with fees or $8,538,186). However, in a post-sale announcement, the Sotheby’s Web site currently says:
This is not true – the pre-sale estimate does not include the buyer’s premium. This lot missed its low estimate by £200,000. They are certainly justified in promoting the success of the sale, but as a publicly traded company, they should know better than to make this false assertion.
While both the Cranach Faun Family and the Bruyn failed to sell, the underestimated Gentileschi sold for £500,000 (£602,500 with fees or $942,431), and the tiny Brueghel river scene made a substantial hammer price of £450,000 (£542,500 with fees or $848,579). A Crossiers Prodigal Son saw very spirited bidding that took to nearly four times it £150,000 highest estimate, hammering at £550,000 (£662,500 with fees or $1,036,283).
The Coorte still life of peaches (below) that last sold for £2 million, opened at £1.1 million managed to make a respectable hammer price of £3.0 million, its high estimate (£3,442,500 with fees or $5,384,759). The Turner opened at £12 million and crept timidly at first, but picked up steam to hammer for a record breaking £27 million (£30,332,500 with fees or $47,430,455).
ORIGINAL POST: A large, richly detailed Turner painting of early 19th century Rome, estimated at £15-20 million, leads Sotheby’s 43-lot December 3, 2014 Old Masters evening sale in London. Other highlights include a classic Canaletto view of the Piazza San Marco, a peculiar Lucas Cranach the Elder – The Faun Family – and an Adriaen Coorte still life that last appeared at Bonham’s on December 7, 2011.
Turner’s panoramic view of the Eternal City, which last changed hands in 1878 (for a then record of £6,142), was a “direct commission from his close friend and patron, Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864),” according to the sale catalogue, which dedicates more than 40 pages to describing the history, condition and even the frame of this lot – there’s also a short video. According to the Telegraph: “The only comparable work, commissioned by the same patron, was acquired by the Getty Museum from Sotheby’s in July 2010 for £29.7 million” – the current auction record for the artist. Will this work break the record?
The work’s light palette gives a sense of exuberance to the city, which contrasts the catalogue’s description of Rome at the time: “The city that Turner visited in the 1820s and 1830s was … a city in decline, its buildings in generally poor state of repair and its streets badly maintained.” Rome was part of the Papal States, which had interesting theories about urban development and general welfare: “[T]he papal regime regarded street lighting as the work of the devil. Similar obscurantism ruled out vaccination and railways: Gregory VIII, the pope of the 1830s … banned railway construction in his territories.”
The painting’s exceptional condition is to having never been relined (a process that would flatten the impasto), there’s no evidence it has ever been cleaned, and has remained framed and under glass for most of its existence.
The Asselijn is an unpublished and intriguing work in his oeuvre, which is largely Italianate, as it covers an historic event. According to the sale catalogue:
In the late winter of 1651, stormy weather and tidal surges caused extensive flooding in the Dutch province of North Holland, the areas exposed to the Diemerdijk east of Amsterdam being particularly affected. Finally, on the night of 5–6 March, strong north-westerly winds and a high spring tide caused the Sint Anthonisdijk to rupture in two places, flooding much of the city of Amsterdam. There were numerous eye-witness accounts of the tragedy, and as soon as the waters had subsided sufficiently, artists flooded out of Amsterdam and beyond to record the event. … Asselijn also painted the reconstruction of the Sint Anthonisdijk which took place in the summer of 1652, in a work in Berlin, although the two pictures are of different proportions and were probably not conceived as pendants.2 The Reconstruction is a rather more conventional painting by Asselijn, being bathed in a warm almost Italianate light and peopled by peasants familiar from his Bambocciate, although billowing clouds to the left allude to the disaster of the year before.
There is an extensive catalogue entry and video for this painting. From the lot notes:
From the beginning of the 1730s, the decade that would establish Canaletto as the greatest of all exponents of the Italianveduta, this quintessential view of Venice has enjoyed a particularly distinguished English provenance and is here shown in public for the first time since the ground-breaking Manchester Art Treasures exhibition back in 1857. The Piazza of San Marco in Venice, with the Basilica di San Marco and the famous Campanile has always been recognised as one of the most famous of all European settings, and has come to occupy a central place in the work of Canaletto, the city’s most famous view painter. … The number of variants of this scene that Canaletto painted throughout his career is evidence of the popularity that it enjoyed with eighteenth-century visitors to Venice. The earliest of these, and at over two metres in width, much the largest, is the painting [from 1723] now in the Museo Thyssen in Madrid, generally acknowledged as the masterpiece of Canaletto’s early career [below]. The Madrid painting can be dated to around 1723, for it clearly shows the new pavement of the Piazza, with its white geometrical design by Andrea Tirali, being laid, which is documented to that year.
Although there has been general agreement in assigning the present canvas to Canaletto’s early period, there does not seem to have been any scholarly unanimity as to an exact date of execution … Most recently Charles Beddington has kindly suggested a potential dating to around 1730.7 By this date Canaletto had eschewed the use of the dark brown grounds employed in his earlier canvases such as that in Madrid, favouring instead a lighter ground as here. The tonality is cool and clear, notably around the Basilica and the adjoining buildings. The loose and animated handling of the brushwork in the clouds around the Basilica in the present canvas recalls Canaletto’s treatment in the New York painting of the late 1720s. The neatly ruled perspective lines and the closely observed detail are also similar in both pictures. Taken together, these factors would seem to support a dating to around 1730, perhaps just prior to the Fogg and Woburn paintings. Although it is constantly asserted that Canaletto always subordinated topographical accuracy for pictorial concerns, that is not particularly the case in the present canvas. Unlike his later capricci the scene is mostly an accurate transcription of reality; only the omission of one window on the Campanile is an obvious change.
From the lot notes:
Painted at the height of the artist’s career, in 1531, this is an outstanding work by Lucas Cranach the Elder, commissioned no doubt by a member of the courtly circle in Wittenberg, where the artist was in the employ of the Electors of Saxony. The subject represents the mythological depiction of wild people, forest dwellers or demigods, which had long fascinated Cranach and first appeared in his works in prints and drawings, but culminated in a series of panel paintings from the second half of the 1520s onwards. … The subject of the Faun Family relates to the romantic topos of the ‘wild people who live in the forest’, which can be found in the Metamorphoses, a mythological moralizing poem by the ancient writer Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD), and in De Rerum Natura by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (circa 99 BC- 55 AD). Both texts were widely known during the Middle Ages, but they enjoyed increased popularity following their reintroduction during the Renaissance. At the beginning of the 16th century scholars contemplated the original state of mankind before civilization, a notion triggered in part by the accounts of travellers who witnessed the ancient tribes in the newly discovered Americas, as well as the idealization of ideas of ancient pagan traditions during the religious turmoil during the Reformation.
The Bruyn Coronation of about 1515 is a brilliant, radiant and beguiling work. A winning mix of the corporeal and the mystical. According to the lot notes:
This luminous representation of the Coronation of the Virgin is a major early work by Bartholornaus Bruyn the Elder, the dominant figure in the Cologne School in the first half of the 16th Century. The picture is important not only for providing a synthesis of the late Gothic tradition with more contemporary, Renaissance elements, but also for demonstrating the assimilation of strong early Netherlandish influences within the context of contemporary Rhenish art. With it, Bruyn brings inventions of the art of the Netherlands into the Rhenish vernacular. The hierarchical composition and the placing of the figures upon a traditional paved floor is influenced by late Gothic prototypes, which can be found in works by artists active in Cologne in the mid to late 15th Century. The treatment of the firmament of angels, however, shows an awareness of new modes of pictorial representation, which developed as the influence of the Renaissance was felt more widely in Northern Europe. Bruyn’s early development as an artist took place in the workshop of Jan Joest van Kalkar, which he entered in 1505. Although Jan Joest was German, he was profoundly influenced by the art of the Low Countries and in particular by the artists Gerard David and Geertgen tot sint Jans. The dramatic use of light employed by Bruyn in the Coronation of the Virgin clearly demonstrates Jan Joest’s influence, but the composition is entirely of Bruyn’s own devising. Although this is one of the artist’s first independent works, his unique artistic personality was already well developed.
The catalogue says this painting, a late work by the artist, is offered for sale at auction for the first time. I am surprised at the low estimate.
From the catalogue:
Paintings such as this, in which the spiritual sufferings of the ascetic hermit Saint Anthony could be depicted in the most vivid pictorial terms, were enormously popular in the Southern Netherlands throughout the first half of the 16th century. Their inspiration was undoubtedly the work of the Flemish painter Hieronymous Bosch (1453–1516) who was the first to explore the theme of the hermit saints in landscapes filled with symbolic imagery. The saint is here seated beneath a hollow tree, the traditional medieval symbol of evil-doing or alchemy. At its base a rat pours ale into a jug which will then be passed to monks and other figures who sit in the tent at the top of the tree, symbolic of both gluttony and lust. A grylle or demon tugs at the saint’s cloak, pulling him towards two reclining figures, a man and a devil disguised as a woman, who together with the apple and jug floating next to them signify the temptation of lust. Behind them more demons drag a tumbril with another naked sinner towards an Infernal head and ‘Hell’ mouth beyond. In front of them a spectacled owl, normally a symbol of wisdom, trudges disconsolately with a crossbow slung across his shoulders. In the far distance, upon a river, pigs – themselves unclean and symbolic of greed and lust – are seen manning a ship, undoubtedly a parody of the late medieval depictions of the Ship of Fools and its representation of Human Folly. This is one of a group of paintings that have been associated in the past with Bosch’s two principal followers, Pieter Huys (1519–84) and Jan Mandijn (c.1500–60), to whom this picture was attributed by M.J. Friedländer at the time of the 1952 sale.
This painting is coming back to auction after only three years when it last sold for slightly more than £2 million, the lot’s current low estimate.
From the catalogue: “Painted in 1662, this is likely the earliest topographical birds-eye view of a British estate, a genre that would become hugely popular over the ensuing decades.”