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Masterpieces at Maastricht – Highlights from 2016

March 19, 2016
Roelandt Savery (Kortrijk, 1576 – Utrecht, 1639), A still life of flowers in a vase with lizards, a rhinoceros-horn beetle and other insects in a niche with a trompe l’oeil gilt frame Signed and dated lower left: R. SAVERY. FE. 1615 Oil on panel: 63.5 x 45.1 cm. (25 x 173⁄4 in.)

Roelandt Savery (Kortrijk, 1576 – Utrecht, 1639), A still life of flowers in a vase with lizards, a rhinoceros-horn beetle and other insects in a niche with a trompe l’oeil gilt frame
Signed and dated lower left: R. SAVERY. FE. 1615
Oil on panel: 63.5 x 45.1 cm. (25 x 173⁄4 in.)

The venerable art fair TEFAF – The European Fine Art Fair – held annually in the southern Dutch town of Maastricht, wraps up this weekend. Some 10,000 people attended the first day and more than 75,000 were expected over the course of the fair’s ten day run.  The fair, established in 1975 and principally known for its focus on Old Master paintings and for its scrupulous vetting, has grown over the decades to include decorative arts, antiquities, and more recently, postwar and contemporary artwork.  This year, as chronicled in daily YouTube postings, more than 270 dealers presented approximately 35,000 objects covering 7,000 years of art history. Nevertheless, dealers in Old Masters are still the dominant force and the line many often use is that they save their best material for the fair.

This year there were several standouts, including a spectacular still life by Roelandt Savery (above) at Colnaghi’s, which sold to the Mauritshuis in The Hague for €6.5 million, thanks to the generous support of the sponsors BankGiro Lottery, the Rembrandt Association and a private individual.  A press release from the museum quoted Emilie Gordenker, Director of Mauritshuis:

‘Floral still-lifes painted by Savery are very rare, and don’t come on the market very often, definitely not an artwork of such high quality. The painting Vase of Flowers in a Stone Niche is without any doubt among the best work of the master and it will enrich both the collection of Mauritshuis and the Dutch national art collection. It comes from a private collection and has not been exhibited in public for many years. The Mauritshuis was able to acquire the work thanks to the support of the BankGiro Lottery, the Rembrandt Association and a private individual.’

Luca Giordano (Naples, 1634 – 1705), The Calling of Peter and Andrew Signed lower right: L. Jordanus / etat sue 55 /1690 Oil on canvas: 230 x 410 cm. (901⁄2 x 1611⁄2 in.) Click on image to enlarge.

Luca Giordano (Naples, 1634 – 1705), The Calling of Peter and Andrew
Signed lower right: L. Jordanus / etat sue 55 /1690
Oil on canvas: 230 x 410 cm. (901⁄2 x 1611⁄2 in.)
Click on image to enlarge.

Another winner at Colnaghi’s booth with this enormous painting (above) by the 17th-century Italian painter Luca Giordano, which sold on opening night to a private collector for €2 million.  The artist, known as “fa presto” (“paints quickly”), worked in Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice, and also spent 10 years late in his career as a court painter in Spain.  Another great Italian work was a gold-ground depiction of the crucifixion by the 15th-century Florentine artist Paolo Uccello, who by the age of ten was apprenticed to the great sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, designer of Florence’s famous Baptistry Doors.  According to the New York Times: ‘Paintings by this important Florentine artist are all but unheard-of on the open market. Acquired by Agnew’s from a private collection, the circa 1423 panel has been recently identified by scholars as an early work by Uccello painted in a medieval style before (as Giorgio Vasari put it) he “drove himself mad” with the study of perspective.’  Agnew’s of London was offering the painting for €5.5 million.

Paolo di Dono, called Paolo Uccello (Florence, 1397 – 1475), The Crucifixion Tempera and gold on panel: 23 5/8 x 13 3/8 inches (60 x 34 cm.) Painted circa 1423

Paolo di Dono, called Paolo Uccello (Florence, 1397 – 1475), The Crucifixion
Tempera and gold on panel: 23 5/8 x 13 3/8 inches (60 x 34 cm.)
Painted circa 1423

Art fairs like TEFAF have become a major source of revenue and a significant way to meet clients for many of the participating dealers, but it will have to continue to evolve.  So, what next?  The New York Times reports:

In response to the growing dominance of American collectors and museums, Tefaf announced last month that it would be holding two “mini Maastrichts” in New York at the Park Avenue Armory.

Tefaf New York Fall, devoted to more historic works, will open in October, while Tefaf New York Spring, focusing on modern art and design, is scheduled for May 2017. Both events will include about 80 to 90 exhibitors.

Tefaf’s enterprise has been widely applauded, but will the presence of these fairs obviate the need for Americans — 2,500 of whom attended last year, of the fair’s 75,000 visitors — to go to Maastricht?

“It will be good for the New York market,” the Tefaf exhibitor Otto Naumann, an old-master specialist there, said of the October event. “New York is the center of competition and dealers who can’t get into the fair will be exhibiting in the galleries. But it could possibly have an erosive effect on Maastricht. There are fewer Europeans buying.”

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