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At Sotheby’s Old Master sale in London, a river of bliss and a harrowing of hell

July 8, 2015
Lot 3. Corneille de Lyon THE HAGUE 1500/10 - 1575 LYON PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, PRESUMED TO BE RENÉ DE BATARNAY, COMTE DU BOUCHAGE oil on panel 17.4 by 14.4 cm.; 6 7/8  by 5 5/8  in. Estimate: 120,000-180,000.

Lot 3. Corneille de Lyon THE HAGUE 1500/10 – 1575 LYON
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, PRESUMED TO BE RENÉ DE BATARNAY, COMTE DU BOUCHAGE
oil on panel: 17.4 by 14.4 cm.; 6 7/8 by 5 5/8 in.
Estimate: £120,000-180,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £190,000 (£233,000 with fees).

Sotheby’s 57-lot sale of Old Master & British paintings sale in July, which pulled in more than £39.3 million, saw a record-breaking price for a work by Lucas Cranach the Elder, but a whopping 20 of the lots failed to sell.

The sale opened with a Harrowing of Hell that had been given to the delightfully idiosyncratic Herri Met de Bles, but is now Leiden School, circa 1530 – an augury of the evening, it fell flat at £65,000 against a £70,000-90,000 estimate.  The Corneille de Lyon Portrait of a Gentleman (above), which according to the catalogue “is the prime version of Corneille’s three portraits of a gentleman identified as René de Batarnay, Comte du Bouchage,” saw considerable interest and made a healthy £190,000 (£233,000 with fees), against a £120,000-180,000 estimate.  Pre-sale estimates do not include the fees/buyer’s premiums that are added to the winning bids/hammer prices.

Lot 6. Pieter Brueghel the Younger BRUSSELS 1564 - 1637/8 ANTWERP A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH SKATERS signed lower right: P · BREVGHEL · oil on oak panel 40 by 57 cm.; 15 3/4  by 22 1/2  in. Estimate: $1-1.5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 6. Pieter Brueghel the Younger BRUSSELS 1564 – 1637/8 ANTWERP
A WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH SKATERS signed lower right: P · BREVGHEL ·
oil on oak panel: 40 by 57 cm.; 15 3/4 by 22 1/2 in.
Estimate: £1-1.5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £900,000 (£1,085,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

The Brueghel Winter Landscape with Skaters sold for $2.9 million at Sotheby’s in New York in January 2007; it’s one of ten to twelve known versions, but despite being “beautifully preserved,” it hammered below it £1 million low estimate for £900,000 (£1,085,000 with fees or $1,674,264 – a substantial devaluation over the past eight years). This was followed by  a Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger stiff half-length portrait of Henry VIII, one of nine works from Castle Howard (the photogenic country house featured in Brideshead Revisited), estimated at £800,000-1,200,000, it hammered at £800,000 (£965,000 with fees).

Lot 8. Lucas Cranach the Elder KRONACH 1472 - 1553 WEIMAR THE BOCCA DELLA VERITÀ (THE MOUTH OF TRUTH) oil on red beechwood panel 111 by 100 cm.; 43 3/4  by 39 3/8  in. Estimate: 6-8 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 8. Lucas Cranach the Elder KRONACH 1472 – 1553 WEIMAR
THE BOCCA DELLA VERITÀ (THE MOUTH OF TRUTH)
oil on red beechwood panel: 111 by 100 cm.; 43 3/4 by 39 3/8 in.
Estimate: £6-8 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £8.2 million (£9,333,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Next up, Cranach’s The Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) (above), subject of a pre-sale video and said to be “amongst his most important works remaining in private hands today,” saw healthy bidding that took it to a hammer just over its £8 million high estimate for £8.2 million (£9,333,000 with fees).

Lot 11. Ferdinand Bol DORDRECHT 1616 - 1680 AMSTERDAM PORTRAIT OF A BOY, SAID TO BE THE ARTIST'S SON, AGED 8 signed and dated lower left: bol.1652. and inscribed: ætatis 8. sua oil on canvas 170 by 150 cm.; 67 by 59 in. Estimate: 2-3 million. Click in image to enlarge.

Lot 11. Ferdinand Bol DORDRECHT 1616 – 1680 AMSTERDAM PORTRAIT OF A BOY, SAID TO BE THE ARTIST’S SON, AGED 8 signed and dated lower left: bol.1652. and inscribed: ætatis 8. sua
oil on canvas: 170 by 150 cm.; 67 by 59 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million.This lot sold for a hammer price of £4.5 million (£5,189,000 with fees).
Click in image to enlarge.

One telephone bidder energized the sale room and captured the Bol portrait (above) and the Heda still life (below).  Each was estimated at £2-3 million and bidding for each started at £1.3 million.  The Bol, another Castle Howard painting “only ever seen on the open market once before in its history,” was the subject of great interest and saw bidding soar over it’s £3 million to hammer for £4.5 million (£5,189,000 with fees).  The Heda hammered smack in the middle of its estimate, making £2.5 million (£2,949,000 with fees).

Lot 12. Willem Claesz. Heda HAARLEM CIRCA 1596 - 1680 A STILL LIFE OF A ROEMER, AN OVERTURNED ROEMER, A FAÇON-DE-VENISE WINEGLASS, A SILVER BEAKER AND A SILVER AND PEWTER PLATE, WITH A SHEATHED KNIFE, LEMONS, OLIVES, HAZELNUTS, WALNUTS AND A PAPER TWIST OF TOBACCO, ALL ON A TABLE PARTLY DRAPED WITH A GREEN CLOTH signed and dated lower right on the table-edge: .HEDA. / .1633. oil on oak panel 59 by 80 cm.; 23 1/4  by 31 1/2  in. Estimate: 2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 12. Willem Claesz. Heda
HAARLEM CIRCA 1596 – 1680
A STILL LIFE OF A ROEMER, AN OVERTURNED ROEMER, A FAÇON-DE-VENISE WINEGLASS, A SILVER BEAKER AND A SILVER AND PEWTER PLATE, WITH A SHEATHED KNIFE, LEMONS, OLIVES, HAZELNUTS, WALNUTS AND A PAPER TWIST OF TOBACCO, ALL ON A TABLE PARTLY DRAPED WITH A GREEN CLOTH
signed and dated lower right on the table-edge: .HEDA. / .1633.
oil on oak panel: 59 by 80 cm.; 23 1/4 by 31 1/2 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.5 million (£2,949,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 19. Jean-Honoré Fragonard GRASSE 1732 - 1806 PARIS DANS LES BLÉS Inscribed on the stretcher: ce Tableau peint par Fragonard était comprit / dans le Legs laisse par Mr De Marsollier à son ami Sewrin oil on canvas 33.3 by 45.7 cm.; 13 1/8  by 17 7/8  in. Estimate: 2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 19. Jean-Honoré Fragonard GRASSE 1732 – 1806 PARIS DANS LES BLÉS
Inscribed on the stretcher: ce Tableau peint par Fragonard était comprit / dans le Legs laisse par Mr De Marsollier à son ami Sewrin
oil on canvas: 33.3 by 45.7 cm.; 13 1/8 by 17 7/8 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at £1.7 million and it failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

After several more lots tanked, including the Fragonard (above), the Bellotto did find a new home, though the hammer price of £2.15 million (£2,557,000 with fees), was below the low estimate (and amazingly, the painting almost hammered for only £1.8 million).

Lot 21. Bernardo Bellotto VENICE 1722 - 1780 WARSAW VENICE, A VIEW OF THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING SOUTH FROM THE PALAZZO FOSCARI AND PALAZZO MORO-LIN TOWARDS THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DELLA CARITÀ, WITH NUMEROUS GONDOLAS AND BARGES oil on canvas, in the original carved and gilt wood frame 59.7 by 89.5 cm; 23 1/2  by 35 1/4  in. Estimate: 2.5-3.5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 21. Bernardo Bellotto VENICE 1722 – 1780 WARSAW
VENICE, A VIEW OF THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING SOUTH FROM THE PALAZZO FOSCARI AND PALAZZO MORO-LIN TOWARDS THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DELLA CARITÀ, WITH NUMEROUS GONDOLAS AND BARGES
oil on canvas, in the original carved and gilt wood frame: 59.7 by 89.5 cm; 23 1/2 by 35 1/4 in.
Estimate: £2.5-3.5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.15 million (£2,557,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 22. Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo VENICE 1727 - 1804 THE TIEPOLO FAMILY inscribed on the dog's collar: B.T. oil on canvas 67 by 96 cm.; 26 3/8  by 37 3/4  in. Estimate: 2.5-3.5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 22. Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo VENICE 1727 – 1804 THE TIEPOLO FAMILY
inscribed on the dog’s collar: B.T.
oil on canvas: 67 by 96 cm.; 26 3/8 by 37 3/4 in.
Estimate: £2.5-3.5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £2.4 million (£2,837,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Interest in the Tiepolo family portrait (above) was also less than enthusiastic with the painting finally hammering at £2.4 million (£2,837,000 with fees), a hair under the pre-sale estimate.  This was followed by Workshop of Gentile Bellini double portrait (which I find uninteresting) that whipped past its £500,000 high estimate to make £800,000 (£965,000 with fees), and a handsome, previously unpublished Domenico Beccafumi Holy Family, which had been in the same family collection for more than 150 years.  It easily surpassed its £700,000 high estimate to make £900,000 (£1,085,000 with fees).

Lot 29. Fede Galizia MILAN 1578 - 1630 A CRYSTAL FRUIT STAND WITH PEACHES, QUINCES, AND JASMINE FLOWERS signed with monogram lower left: · FG · and dated lower right: 1607 oil on poplar panel 31.2 by 42.5 cm.; 12 1/4  by 16 3/4  in. Estimate: 1.2-1.8 MILLION. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

Lot 29. Fede Galizia MILAN 1578 – 1630
A CRYSTAL FRUIT STAND WITH PEACHES, QUINCES, AND JASMINE FLOWERS
signed with monogram lower left: · FG · and dated lower right: 1607
oil on poplar panel: 31.2 by 42.5 cm.; 12 1/4 by 16 3/4 in.
Estimate: £1.2-1.8 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £1.3 million (£1,565,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

The Fede Galizia (above) of 1607, “the earliest extant Italian still life that can be securely dated,” according to the catalogue entry, was also a salesroom favorite, hammering for £1.3 million (£1,565,000 with fees). The painting is notable for being the artist’s “only signed and dated still life and the likely prototype for a series of replicas and versions.”

Several other works followed and failed including Ambrosius Benson’s Crucifixion and Adriaen Isenbrant’s triptych of The Adoration of the Magi – this did not impact the dampen the enthusiasm for another early 16th century work by the Nuremburg Master (below), which managed to hit its low estimate of £250,000 (£305,000 with fees); but the following work from the same period, a Cranach-like Lucretia by the Monogramist I.W., which sold for $425,000 at Sotehby’s Old Master sale in New York in January 2013, fell flat.

Lot 35. Nüremburg Master circa 1518 AN EPITAPH FOR KATHARINA HELD OF NUREMBURG: THE CRUCIFIXION WITH THE DONOR SIGMUND HELD AND HIS FAMILY BELOW oil and gold on panel 120.5 by 97 cm.; 47 3/8  by 38 1/4  in. Estimate: 250,000-350,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 35. Nüremburg Master circa 1518
AN EPITAPH FOR KATHARINA HELD OF NUREMBURG: THE CRUCIFIXION WITH THE DONOR SIGMUND HELD AND HIS FAMILY BELOW
oil and gold on panel: 120.5 by 97 cm.; 47 3/8 by 38 1/4 in.
Estimate: £250,000-350,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £250,000 (£305,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

With the current exhibition of works by Joachim Wtewael at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, I was particularly curious to see how this small and pleasing Mars, Venus and Cupid would do.  The oil on copper opened at £500,000 and settled at the low end of its £800,000-1,200,000 estimate, netting £800,000 ($965,000 with fees), making it perhaps the most expensive work per centimeter in the sale.

Lot 38. Joachim Anthonisz. Wtewael UTRECHT 1566 - 1638 MARS, VENUS AND CUPID oil on copper, oval 13 by 10 cm.; 5 1/8  by 3 7/8  in. Estimate: 800,000-1,200,000. Click pom image to enlarge.

Lot 38. Joachim Anthonisz. Wtewael UTRECHT 1566 – 1638
MARS, VENUS AND CUPID
oil on copper, oval: 13 by 10 cm.; 5 1/8 by 3 7/8 in.
Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of £800,000 ($965,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot. Pompeo Girolamo Batoni LUCCA 1708 - 1787 ROME PORTRAIT OF JOHN, 3RD BARON MONSON OF BURTON (1753–1806), WITH A STATUE OF ROMA BEHIND AND A SPANIEL AT HIS FEET signed and dated lower right: POMPEO DE BATONI PINX ROMAE MDCCLXXIV oil on canvas, held in its original period gilt wood frame 249 by 175.2 cm.; 98 by 69 in. Estimate: £2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 50. Pompeo Girolamo Batoni LUCCA 1708 – 1787 ROME PORTRAIT OF JOHN, 3RD BARON MONSON OF BURTON (1753–1806), WITH A STATUE OF ROMA BEHIND AND A SPANIEL AT HIS FEET
signed and dated lower right: POMPEO DE BATONI PINX ROMAE MDCCLXXIV
oil on canvas, held in its original period gilt wood frame: 249 by 175.2 cm.; 98 by 69 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at £1.4 million and it failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

The large-scale, full-length portraits of John, the 3rd Baron Monson and his wife Elizabeth Capell, lady Monson were being sold by the Monson family.  The 3rd Baron commissioned his portrait from Italian painter Pompeo Batoni mid-way through the Baron’s four-year-long Grand Tour, according to the auction house’s video.  The portrait of Lady Monson was executed four years later by the noted English painter George Romney when the newly married Lady Capell was 25.  Both portraits have been in the family for more than 240 years the video tells us.  And neither sold.

Lot 51. George Romney DALTON 1734 - 1802 KENDAL PORTRAIT OF LADY ELIZABETH CAPELL, LADY MONSON (1755–1834) oil on canvas, held in its original period gilt wood frame  249 by 175.3 cm.; 98 by 69 in. Estimate: £1-1.5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 51. George Romney DALTON 1734 – 1802 KENDAL
 PORTRAIT OF LADY ELIZABETH CAPELL, LADY MONSON (1755–1834)
oil on canvas, held in its original period gilt wood frame: 249 by 175.3 cm.; 98 by 69 in.
Estimate: £1-1.5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at £620,000 and it failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

The sale did end on a high note with the final lot, John Martin’s cinematic 1841 painting The Celestial City and the River of Blisssold within its £2-3 million estimate for £2.3 million (£2,725,000 with fees), but Sotheby’s had to go through what the aptly titled opening lot called the Harrowing on Hell to get there.

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