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£2.88 million Van Dyck Portrait Leads Christie’s December 2014 Old Masters Sale

November 29, 2014
Lot 13. Sir Anthony van Dyck (Antwerp 1599-1641 London) Portrait of Hendrick Liberti (c. 1600-1669), half-length, in black, with three gold chains, holding a sheet of music, by a column oil on canvas 45 x 34¾ in. (114.3 x 88.3 cm.) Estimate: £2.5-3.5 million.

Lot 13. Sir Anthony van Dyck (Antwerp 1599-1641 London) Portrait of Hendrick Liberti (c. 1600-1669), half-length, in black, with three gold chains, holding a sheet of music, by a column
oil on canvas: 45 x 34¾ in. (114.3 x 88.3 cm.)
Estimate: £2.5-3.5 million ($3,910,000 – $5,474,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.5 million (£2,882,500 with fees or $4,502,465).

UPDATE: A lethargic sale that saw the lead lot (above) sell for the low estimate and 25% of the sale – or nine lots – fail to sell. The sale totaled £13,951,500 inclusive of buyer’s fees.

ORIGINAL POST: Christie’s December 2, 2014 Old Masters Evening Sale in London doesn’t have as much sizzle as rival Sotheby’s the following night.  The top lot, a van Dyck portrait of musician Hendrick Liberti (above) who appears to be in the midst of a major “What-everrr” and throwing a bit of shade,  is estimated at £2.5-3.5 million, a fraction of the estimate for Sotheby’s top lot, a Turner view of Rome that could sell for £15-20 million.  The work, according to the sale catalogue, was originally owned by King Charles I and has not been seen, not even by scholars, since it was last at auction in 1923.

Like Sotheby’s Christie’s also has a video associated with the sale in which “Alexis Ashot, Specialist in the Old Masters department, selects the single work he would most like to own.”  What’s weird is that, unlike the Sotheby’s videos, which are about works in the sale, this video is about the Adoration of the Magi in the Snow, circa 1600, by Peter Brueghel the Younger, which is not on offer. Am I missing something here?

There are a handful of other pictures worthy of attention.

Lot 2. The Master of the Misericordia (active Florence, second half of the 14th Century) The Madonna and Child enthroned, with Saints John the Baptist, Paul, Peter and Thomas, and musical angels; the predella: Christ as the Man of Sorrows, flanked by the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and two female martyr saints on gold ground panel, in an integral frame 34½ x 17 in. (87.7 x 43 cm.) Estimate: £150,000-250,000.

Lot 2. The Master of the Misericordia (active Florence, second half of the 14th Century) The Madonna and Child enthroned, with Saints John the Baptist, Paul, Peter and Thomas, and musical angels; the predella: Christ as the Man of Sorrows, flanked by the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and two female martyr saints
on gold ground panel, in an integral frame: 34½ x 17 in. (87.7 x 43 cm.)
Estimate: £150,000-250,000 ($234,600 – $391,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £170,000 (£206,500 with fees or $322,553).

From the sale notes:

The Master of the Misericordia was a key figure in later trecento Florentine painting. Influenced by Andrea di Cione, called Orcagna, and Bernardo Daddi, his body of work has been steadily recovered, ever since Richard Offner identifed his hand in the 1920s in two particular works: in compartments relating the Stories of Saint Eligius, formerly in the Cambò collection, Barcelona, and in the panel held in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, the Madonna della Misericordia with Kneeling Nuns, the latter previously given to the circle of Agnolo Gaddi.

Lot 3. The Master of Attel (active Landshut, 1474-1505) Panels from an altarpiece: The Ascension; and Pentecost oil on panel 46½ x 50½ in. (118.4 x 128.3 cm.) First of two panels Estimate: £200,000-300,000.

Lot 3. The Master of Attel (active Landshut, 1474-1505) Panels from an altarpiece: The Ascension; and Pentecost
oil on panel: 46½ x 50½ in. (118.4 x 128.3 cm.)
First of two panels
Estimate: £200,000-300,000 ($312,800 – $469,200). This lot sold for a hammer price of £180,000 (£218,500 with fees or $341,297).

The two works in Lot 3 are Gothic-style German works that pre-date Durer. From the catalogue:

These panels were part of a magnificent Passion altarpiece with two sets of wings formerly in the Canonical Augustinian monastery of Rottenbuch, as established by Ludwig Meyer (letter of expertise, 2002) … Consistent with the practice of the day, the central shrine, now lost, would have been sculpted, while the outer and inner wings showed, when opened completely, scenes from the Life of the Virgin in relief. When the inner set of wings was closed, eight panels depicting scenes from the Passion were visible, and when completely closed four additional scenes could be seen, including the present Ascension and Pentecost, forming the conclusion of the iconographic programme.

The Master of Attel (active Landshut, 1474-1505) Panels from an altarpiece: The Ascension; and Pentecost oil on panel 46½ x 50½ in. (118.4 x 128.3 cm.) Second of two panels.

The Master of Attel (active Landshut, 1474-1505)
Panels from an altarpiece: The Ascension; and Pentecost
oil on panel
46½ x 50½ in. (118.4 x 128.3 cm.)
Second of two panels.

Lot 8. Antwerp School, circa 1530 An extensive landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt with a coat-of-arms (lower right) oil on panel 32¼ x 49½ in. (81.8 x 125.9 cm.) Estimate: £400,000-600,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 8. Antwerp School, circa 1530, An extensive landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt
with a coat-of-arms (lower right)
oil on panel: 32¼ x 49½ in. (81.8 x 125.9 cm.)
Estimate: £400,000-600,000 ($625,600 – $938,400). This lot sold for a hammer price of £350,000 (£422,500 with fees or $659,945).
Click on image to enlarge.

This is an impressive panel rich in detail and was previously attributed to Herri met de Bles.  From the catalogue:

The master behind this intriguing painting was working in the tradition established by Joachim Patinir in early sixteenth-century Antwerp. Using the pretext of a biblical narrative, Patinir created vast and richly detailed panoramas, inventing a genre that has been called the Weltlandschaften or ‘world landscape’. Patinir himself frequently treated the theme of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, one of the most accomplished examples being that now in the Prado Museum, Madrid, to which the present panel seems to owe a degree of debt: for instance in the placement of the Virgin and Child on a centrally elevated mound, and in the careful depiction of the staff and white saddlebag in the foreground. Also following Patinir, the artist has incorporated several extraneous narrative details relating to the biblical story of the Flight, including the Massacre of the Innocents in the far right background and the Miracle of the Wheatfield in the left middle distance. Of the myriad of carefully rendered details others are more incidental, such as the figures bathing in a pond adjacent to a farm in the distance.

Lot 8. Detail.

Lot 8. Detail.

Lot 10. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) A country brawl signed and dated '•P•BRVEGHEL•1610' (lower right) oil on panel 15½ x 22½ in. (39 x 57 cm.) Estimate: £700,000-1,000,000 ($1,094,800 - $1,564,000). Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 10. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) A country brawl
signed and dated ‘•P•BRVEGHEL•1610’ (lower right)
oil on panel: 15½ x 22½ in. (39 x 57 cm.)
Estimate: £700,000-1,000,000 ($1,094,800 – $1,564,000). This lot sold for a hammer price of £700,000 (£842,500 with fees or $1,315,985).
Click on image to enlarge.

The Brueghel Dynasty is represented by several works including these two by Pieter the Younger. A Country Brawl (above) is the earliest know version of this subject, which may or may not be an original composition and not based on a work by Pieter the Elder, as are most of the Younger’s paintings. It may also have been owned by the painter Govaert Flinck and comes from the collection of the industrialist Baron Evence III Coppée (1882-1945), formed in Brussels between 1920 and 1939.

Of The Good Shepherd (below), which last sold at Pierre Bergé, Paris, 11 June 2012, lot 15, as by ‘Jan II Brueghel’, the catalogue states:

Long believed by many scholars to be a work in whole or in part by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Good Shepherd is one of the rarest subjects in the oeuvre of his son, Pieter Brueghel the Younger. No drawn or painted prototype for the composition by the Elder exists, suggesting that this is an original invention by Pieter the Younger, doubtless conceived in relation to The Bad Shepherd, which exists in a unique version by Pieter the Younger (sold in these Rooms, 8 July 2008, lot 38, £2,505,250). Together the two compositions can be considered one of the personal masterpieces of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s art; their outstanding compositional and philosophical excellence eloquently accounts for the desire of so many past experts to see in them the authorship of the artist’s illustrious father. The Good Shepherdexists in only three versions, making it a great rarity in a body of work which often comprises prolific repetition of ‘iconic’ compositions (for example, no fewer than 20 autograph versions of Spring, 45 of The Birdtrap and 25 of The Country Lawyer: The Payment of the Tithes). Of the two other versions of The Good Shepherd, one work, signed and dated 1616, is in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels (donated by Dr. and Mme. Frans Heulens-van der Meiren in 1988); the other, restituted to the heirs of Ernst and Gisella Pollack of Vienna in 2001, is now in a private collection.

Lot 17. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) The Good Shepherd oil on panel, stamped with the hands of the city of Antwerp and the cloverleaf panel-maker’s mark of Michiel Claessens (active Antwerp 1590-1637) 15¾ x 21½ in. (40 x 54.6 cm.) with an unidentifed red wax collector’s seal: a lion rampant regardant supporting a cartouche with a monogram (‘FAC’ or ‘GAC’?), thereon a Phrygian cap as crest; and with the accession number of the Princeton University Art Museum, ‘30-1’ (both on the reverse) Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000 ($1,251,200 - $1,876,800). Click on image to en;rage.

Lot 17. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp) The Good Shepherd
oil on panel, stamped with the hands of the city of Antwerp and the cloverleaf panel-maker’s mark of Michiel Claessens (active Antwerp 1590-1637): 15¾ x 21½ in. (40 x 54.6 cm.)
with an unidentifed red wax collector’s seal: a lion rampant regardant supporting a cartouche with a monogram (‘FAC’ or ‘GAC’?), thereon a Phrygian cap as crest; and with the accession number of the Princeton University Art Museum, ‘30-1’ (both on the reverse)
Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000 ($1,251,200 – $1,876,800). This lot failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 24. Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London) A kaag and other vessels off an inlet on the Dutch coast signed with monogram and dated 'WvV 1661’ (lower centre, on the spar) oil on canvas 15 x 19½ in. (38.3 x 49.7 cm.) Estimate: £1.2-1.8 million ($1,876,800 - $2,815,200) Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 24. Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London) A kaag and other vessels off an inlet on the Dutch coast
signed with monogram and dated ‘WvV 1661’ (lower centre, on the spar)
oil on canvas: 15 x 19½ in. (38.3 x 49.7 cm.)
Estimate: £1.2-1.8 million ($1,876,800 – $2,815,200) This lot sold for a hammer price of £1.9 million (£2,210,500 with fees or $3,452,801).
Click on image to enlarge.

The van de Velde comes from a private collection and has not been seen publicly for 60 years. The catalogue notes:

This work belongs with a small group of paintings on this theme from the early 1660s in which, as George Keyes attested: ‘Van de Velde brings his concept of the calm to perfection’ (Mirror of Empire, exhibition catalogue, Cambridge, 1990, p. 162). It is very closely comparable with the celebrated picture in the National Gallery, London, also dated 1661, which is widely recognised as the outstanding example from this group.

It has been suggested that van de Velde based his view on an actual location in Den Helder, the northernmost tip of the north Holland peninsula, by a break in the seawall. It may have been that van de Velde was particularly struck by the beauty of the coastline at Den Helder, where he made plein air drawings for later use in his paintings. A few other works were painted from the same spot, most notably the aforementioned picture in the National Gallery, London, and a picture in the Staatliche Gemäldegalerie, Kassel, which, perhaps painted slightly earlier, displays a similar arrangement of vessels.

Lot 25. Hendrick Bloemaert (Utrecht c. 1601-1672) An Allegory of Winter oil on canvas 41 5/8 x 33 3/8 in. (105.7 x 84.7 cm.) signed with initials and dated 'HB. fe: A. 1631' (upper left) Estimate: £300,000-500,000 ($469,200 - $782,000)

Lot 25. Hendrick Bloemaert (Utrecht c. 1601-1672) An Allegory of Winter
oil on canvas: 41 5/8 x 33 3/8 in. (105.7 x 84.7 cm.)
signed with initials and dated ‘HB. fe: A. 1631’ (upper left)
Estimate: £300,000-500,000 ($469,200 – $782,000) This lot sold for a hammer price of £720,000 (£866,500 with fees or $1,353,473).

The corpus of the Dutch Caravaggisti, especially those from Utrecht like the author of An Allegory of Winter, is distinct and fascinating.  The sale catalogue states:

Signed and dated 1631, An Allegory of Winter is one of the earliest known paintings by Hendrick Bloemaert, son of Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651), and represents the culmination of all that he had learnt in his father’s studio during the 1620s, and absorbed on a recent sojourn to Italy (1627-30). This picture is one of only a small number of genre subjects that the artist executed in the early 1630s, before specialising in portraits and religious subjects, for which he is now best known. The figure types, scale and lighting recall the work of his father’s most celebrated pupils, Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629) and Gerrit van Honthorst (1592-1656).

Lot 36. Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto (Venice 1697-1768) Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, on the Grand Canal, Venice oil on canvas 15½ x 19 in. (39.5 x 48.4 cm.) Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000 ($1,251,200 - $1,876,800) Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 36. Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto (Venice 1697-1768) Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, on the Grand Canal, Venice
oil on canvas: 15½ x 19 in. (39.5 x 48.4 cm.)
Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000 ($1,251,200 – $1,876,800) This lot sold for a hammer price of £1.1 million (£1,314,500 with fees or $2,053,249).
Click on image to enlarge.

This is a modest, respectable painting by Canaletto that depicts the Grand Canal palazzo Ca’ Vendramin-Calergi, where Wagner died in 1883.

 

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