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POSTPONED – Christie’s offers Old Masters from a distinguished Irish collection

May 1, 2015
David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690) A village inn with peasants dancing and merry making to the music of a hurdy-gurdy signed 'DAVID. TENIERS F' (lower right) oil on copper 22.3/8 x 30.1/2 in. (56.9 x 77.5 cm.) Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000. Click in image to enlarge.

David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690) A village inn with peasants dancing and merry making to the music of a hurdy-gurdy – signed ‘DAVID. TENIERS F’ (lower right)
oil on copper: 22.3/8 x 30.1/2 in. (56.9 x 77.5 cm.)
Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000.
Click in image to enlarge.

UPDATE 2: The sale of the Russborough House paintings has been postponed according to the publication Business & Leandership and quoted Alfred Beit Foundation (ABF) chairman, Judith Woodworth:

[T]he foundation had received “a generous proposal on behalf of some private Irish donors for the possible purchase of artworks”.

“In order to explore this promising offer and conscious of the request of the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys for a postponement, I have taken the decision to propose to the ABF board that the sale is postponed, that the foundation enters into negotiations with Christie’s to arrange that and remove the artworks from the July sale.”

She said the foundation has been “acutely conscious” of the concern of the public and comments made since the sale was announced. And she added that it had also remained open to considering any new proposals or options.

“We continue to work to identify any proposal which could produce a funding source for the future maintenance and upkeep of Russborough and also meet the public’s understandable desire to keep the works in Ireland.

“As we have explained to Government, our stakeholders and in our statements, Russborough has run out of resources.  The foundation had to take the regrettable decision to sell assets, as Sir Alfred and Lady Beit had to before us.

“The perilous financial status of Russborough and the growing need to fund repairs, restoration and improvements to the fabric of the building and surrounding grounds make it imperative to raise substantial funds.”

According to Woodworth, Russborough needs up to €15m to ensure its long-term financial stability, as well as continuous capital investment.

She added that if the current proposal or other proposals do not reach a satisfactory conclusion by October 2015 and Russborough is unable to raise the required funds, the only option in order to avoid a financial crisis at the house may be to resume the proposed sales.

UPDATE 1: The forthcoming sale of Old Masters from Russborough House has become controversial and that has led to the removal of a Rubens oil sketch from the sale, according to the Irish Times

ORIGINAL POST: Early July in London means Old Master sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and the former has just announced they’re selling a fine collection of pictures from The Alfred Beit Foundation to benefit Russborough House, “one of the greatest Georgian houses in Ireland, which was gifted by the Beit family to The Alfred Beit Foundation in 1976.”

According to the Christie’s release: “Built almost 300 years ago, Russborough is in continuing need of restoration and improvements to the main house, wings & colonnades; outbuildings; estate grounds; walkways; water features; historical features; and visitors facilities.” Death, divorce, disease, and in the case of stately homes, roof repairs, often force works on to the market. Some years back, Chatsworth off-loaded a Raphael for some home repairs. That’s the way it goes.

The sale is not without controversy, reports the Independent:

Owners of Russborough House, the Alfred Beit Foundation (ABF), have been criticised by board members for auctioning the nine old master paintings from the Alfred Beit collection, with the Irish Georgian Society (IGS) removing its member from the board in protest.

The IGS, the Royal Dublin Society and an Táisce have called on the Government to intervene in order to prevent the sale of the paintings, which are to be auctioned at Christie’s in London on July 9.

“As it has supported Russborough in the past through the central involvement of the National Gallery of Ireland, and through grant aid from the Heritage Council and from Fáilte Ireland, the State has a stake in the future of the house and its magnificent collection,” read a joint statement.

The IGS, the Royal Dublin Society and an Táisce have called on the Government to intervene in order to prevent the sale of the paintings, which are to be auctioned at Christie’s in London on July 9.

“As it has supported Russborough in the past through the central involvement of the National Gallery of Ireland, and through grant aid from the Heritage Council and from Fáilte Ireland, the State has a stake in the future of the house and its magnificent collection,” read a joint statement.

The paintings, some of which have been the subject of infamous heists, are expected to raise up to €12m for the upkeep of Russborough House.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys was not informed of the decision to auction the works until after the export licence was granted by the National Gallery of Ireland, according to her spokesperson.

However, even if they were consulted, the department does not have the funds to buy the old masters.

“The department does not have the discretionary funding which would be required to buy the paintings,” said the spokesperson.

Russborough House. Click on image to enlarge.

Russborough House.
Click on image to enlarge.

For collectors, connoisseurs, art market watchers and Old Masters fans, this will be an opportunity to see choice Dutch, Flemish and Italian pictures, including a richly detailed and very pleasing Teniers village festival scene (above).  The works will be on view at Christie’s New York office May 2-12.

From the announcement:

The Beit Kermesse by David Teniers the Younger has long been heralded as one of the jewels in his oeuvre (estimate: £1.2-1.8 million, illustrated left). Dating to the 1640s, when he was at the peak of his fame, it is one of the most successful treatments of the artist’s most popular subject, and the only one to be painted on copper. Populated with a great array of characters, it excels in its depiction of anecdotal detail and incident. Its enormous appeal is evident in its stellar provenance, passing successively through some of the greatest French Old Master collections of the 18th and early 19th century, from the Marquis de Brunoy, to Antoine Dutarte, Lucien Bonaparte and the Comte de Pourtales, prior to being acquired by Alfred Beit (1853-1906) in 1895.

The remaining works include a pair of Guardis, a pair of Reubens oil sketches and an Adriaen van Ostade.

Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) A pair of Venetian views - the first: The Piazza San Marco looking towards the Basilica. Estimate for the pair: £300,000-500,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) A pair of Venetian views – the first:
The Piazza San Marco looking towards the Basilica.
Estimate for the pair: £300,000-500,000.
Click on image to enlarge.

Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) A pair of Venetian views - the second: The Piazzetta, flanked by two of the great secular buildings of the city the medieval Doges’ Palace on the left and Sansovino's Libreria on the right. Estimate for the pair: £300,000-500,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) A pair of Venetian views – the second: The Piazzetta, flanked by two of the great secular buildings of the city the medieval Doges’ Palace on the left and Sansovino’s Libreria on the right.
Estimate for the pair: £300,000-500,000.
Click on image to enlarge.

From the press release:

Dating to Francesco Guardi’s full maturity, the pair of Venetian views are a spirited and characteristically atmospheric treatment of one of Guardi’s most popular and enduring pairings, showing two of the most celebrated sights of Venice: the Piazza San Marco looking towards the Basilica, and the Piazzetta, flanked by two of the great secular buildings of the city, the medieval Doges’ Palace on the left and Sansovino’s Libreria on the right … Painted in afternoon light, on a small format, they are fine examples of Guardi’s late work.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Portrait of a bearded man, in three-quarter profile, bust-length, with a white collar and gold chains oil on oak panel, unframed 20.1/8 x 16.1/4 in. (50.9 x 41.2 cm.) Estimate: £2,000,000 - £3,000,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Portrait of a bearded man, in three-quarter profile, bust-length, with a white collar and gold chains
oil on oak panel, unframed: 20.1/8 x 16.1/4 in. (50.9 x 41.2 cm.)
Estimate: £2,000,000 – £3,000,000.
Click on image to enlarge.

From the announcement:

The works being offered are led by two superb studies by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, one of the greatest geniuses of the Baroque. Executed with exceptional verve and sensitivity, the Head of a bearded man, in three-quarter-profile, is an outstanding example of Rubens’s ad vivum portraits (estimate: £2-3 million, illustrated left). Painted circa 1620 on a composite panel, which was typical for studies of this type, it shows the artist’s remarkable skill in modelling features and expressing character with a singular spontaneity and bravura.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Venus and Jupiter oil on oak panel, unframed 20 x 14.3/4 in. (50.8 x 37.5 cm.), including a 5 cm. addition on the left Estimate: £1,200,000 - £1,800,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Venus and Jupiter
oil on oak panel, unframed: 20 x 14.3/4 in. (50.8 x 37.5 cm.), including a 5 cm. addition on the left
Estimate: £1,200,000 – £1,800,000.
Click on image to enlarge.

From the announcement:

The second of the studies, painted on a similar scale but completed at a slightly earlier date, is a beautiful modello for Venus and Jupiter, demonstrating Rubens’s masterful delicacy of touch and fluency in execution (estimate: £1.2-1.8 million, illustrated right). Illustrating a story from the first book of the Aeneid, it forms part of a series on the story of Aeneas that Rubens began at some point after 1602. The picture has a particularly distinguished provenance prior to entering the Beit Collection: it formed part of the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds, before being sold in the Reynolds sale at Christie’s in March 1795, and later passing to the Earls of Darnley at Cobham Hall, who owned masterpieces by Titian and Veronese.

Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) Adoration of the Shepherds 1667 Estimate: £600,000-800,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) Adoration of the Shepherds 1667
Estimate: £600,000-800,000.
Click on image to enlarge.

From the press release:

Adriaen van Ostade’s small scale and wonderfully intimate Adoration of the Shepherds was executed at the very height of his career in 1667 (estimate: £600,000-800,000, illustrated right). It is exceptional in the oeuvre of the artist, being a rare staging of a religious subject, where genre scenes otherwise dominate. It was exhibited in the renowned Art Treasures exhibition in Manchester in 1857, and it too has fine provenance, having once been part of the collection of the Hesse-Kassels, one of Germany’s most prominent families, before being owned by Empress Josephine. This work, like that by Teniers the Younger, was purchased by Alfred Beit (1853- 1906) in 1895.

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