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High priced Raphael and Steen lead Sotheby’s Dec. 2012 Old Masters sale – UPDATED with sale results

December 4, 2012
Lot 52. RAFFAELLO SANZIO, CALLED RAPHAELURBINO 1483 - 1520 ROME HEAD OF A YOUNG APOSTLE Estimate: 10,000,000 - 15,000,000 GBP  Black chalk over pounced, dotted outlines 375 by 278 mm

Lot 52. RAFFAELLO SANZIO, CALLED RAPHAEL
URBINO 1483 – 1520 ROME
HEAD OF A YOUNG APOSTLE
Estimate: 10,000,000 – 15,000,000 GBP
Black chalk over pounced, dotted outlines
375 by 278 mm This lot sold for £29,721,250 (including the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE – The Raphael drawing was the highlight of Sotheby’s £58,061,500 evening sale of Old Masters, soaring past its £10-15 million estimate to reach  £29,721,250 (including the buyer’s premium – nearly $47.9 million),  following 17 minutes of bidding according to the New York Times. Bloomberg has additional information about the sale. Sotheby’s has also released a video with highlights from the sale. The Telegraph’s Colin Gleadell has a very good write up of the Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales.

ORIGINAL POST – Sotheby’s Dec. 2012 Old Masters sale has plenty of lots with multi-million pound estimates (unlike arch rival Christie’s). The sale’s big get is the final lot of this 51-lot sale, a Raphael drawing of the head of an apostle from the collection at the venerable and archetypal English Country House, Chatsworth.  Other Chatsworth lots include sets of 15th century Netherlandish illuminated manuscripts.

Sale highlights include this Pieter Brueghel the Younger wedding procession.

Lot 12. PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGERBRUSSELS 1564 - 1637/8 ANTWERP A WEDDING PROCESSION Estimate: 2,000,000 - 3,000,000 GBP  signed and dated lower right: .P.BREVGHEL.1627. oil on oak panel 75 by 120.7 cm.; 29 1/2 by 47 1/2 ins.

Lot 12. PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER
BRUSSELS 1564 – 1637/8 ANTWERP
A WEDDING PROCESSION
Estimate: 2,000,000 – 3,000,000 GBP
signed and dated lower right: .P.BREVGHEL.1627.
oil on oak panel
75 by 120.7 cm.; 29 1/2 by 47 1/2 ins. This lot failed to sell.

The very severe Steen carries a rather bombastic estimate:

Lot 9. JAN HAVICKSZ. STEENLEIDEN 1626 - 1679 THE PRAYER BEFORE THE MEAL Estimate:     5,000,000 - 7,000,000 GBP  signed and dated on the placard on the back wall below the inscription: JAN STEEN 1660 inscribed on the placard:- Drie dingen wensch ick en niet meer. Voor al te minnen Godt den heer, Maar wens om tgeen de wijste badt Een eerlyck leven op dit dal- In deze drie bestaet het al. oil on oak panel 52.7 by 44.5 cm.; 20 1/4  by 17 1/2  in.

Lot 9. JAN HAVICKSZ. STEEN
LEIDEN 1626 – 1679
THE PRAYER BEFORE THE MEAL
Estimate: 5,000,000 – 7,000,000 GBP
signed and dated on the placard on the back wall below the inscription: JAN STEEN 1660
inscribed on the placard:-
Drie dingen wensch ick en niet meer.
Voor al te minnen Godt den heer,
Maar wens om tgeen de wijste badt
Een eerlyck leven op dit dal-
In deze drie bestaet het al.
oil on oak panel
52.7 by 44.5 cm.; 20 1/4 by 17 1/2 in. This lot sold for £5,641,250 (£5 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium).

According to the lot notes, the saying on the placard translates as the following: “Three things I desire and no more/ Above all to love God the Father/ Not to covet an abundance of riches/ But to desire what the wisest prayed for/ An honest life in this vale/ In these three all is based”  There is a video about the picture (if you’re so inclined).

Also on deck are four paintings from a passion cycle by the peripatetic 14th century Italian artist Niccolo di Pietro Gerini.  They’re large (each about 3 by 3 feet), on linen (a rarity according to the catalogue), and intricately detailed.

Lot 16. NICCOLÒ DI PIETRO GERINIACTIVE IN FLORENCE, PISA AND PRATO BETWEEN 1366 - CIRCA 1414/15 SCENES FROM THE PASSION OF CHRIST: PETER PROTESTING AT CHRIST WASHING THE FEET OF THE DISCIPLES; THE BETRAYAL OF CHRIST IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE (OR THE KISS OF JUDAS); THE MOCKING OF CHRIST; THE FLAGELLATION Estimate: 800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP  Quantity: 4 a set of four, all tempera with gold and (degraded) silver leaf on linen canvas (in order) 95.5 by 101 cm.; 37 5/8  by 39 3/4  in.; 95.5 by 100 cm.; 37 5/8  by 39 3/8  in.; 89.5 by 92 cm.; 35 1/4  by 36 1/4  in.; 89.5 by 91.5 cm.; 35 1/4  by 36 in.

Lot 16. NICCOLÒ DI PIETRO GERINI
ACTIVE IN FLORENCE, PISA AND PRATO BETWEEN 1366 – CIRCA 1414/15
SCENES FROM THE PASSION OF CHRIST: PETER PROTESTING AT CHRIST WASHING THE FEET OF THE DISCIPLES; THE BETRAYAL OF CHRIST IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE (OR THE KISS OF JUDAS); THE MOCKING OF CHRIST; THE FLAGELLATION
Estimate: 800,000 – 1,200,000 GBP
Quantity: 4
a set of four, all tempera with gold and (degraded) silver leaf on linen canvas
(in order) 95.5 by 101 cm.; 37 5/8 by 39 3/4 in.; 95.5 by 100 cm.; 37 5/8 by 39 3/8 in.; 89.5 by 92 cm.; 35 1/4 by 36 1/4 in.; 89.5 by 91.5 cm.; 35 1/4 by 36 in. This lot sold for £1,105,250 (including the buyer’s premium).

According to the catalogue:

These four paintings are the only known surviving examples of an Italian 14th-century narrative cycle painted on a linen fabric support. They almost certainly formed part of a larger series representing The Passion of Christ. The scenes from the Passion were normally depicted either as single, separate subjects or as cycles of consecutive scenes; their portrayal made popular in the 13th century by the Franciscan and Dominican orders. The Passion is thought to begin with The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem and to end with The Descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, with interim scenes consisting of any of the following; The Last Supper, Christ Washing the Feet, The Agony in the Garden, The Betrayal of Christ, The Denial of Saint Peter, The Trial of Christ, The Mocking of Christ, The Flagellation, The Crowning with Thorns, Ecce Homo, Christ on the Road to Calvary, The Stations of the Cross, Christ stripped of His Garments, The Raising of the Cross, The Crucifixion, The Descent from the Cross, The Pietà, Bearing the Body of Christ, The Entombment, The Descent of Christ into Limbo, The Resurrection, The Holy Women at the Sepulchre, Christ appearing to His mother, Noli me tangere, the Road to Emmaus, The Supper at Emmaus, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, and The Ascension. Since the number of episodes varies greatly from one cycle to another, it is difficult to ascertain how many paintings there may have been in the series to which these four canvases originally belonged and no other canvases from the series have come to light. Although individually they are four of the most frequently depicted subjects – Christ washing the Feet of the DisciplesThe Betrayal of Christ (or The Kiss of Judas)The Mocking of Christ and The Flagellation – the proximity in the chronology of the last two scenes would suggest that it is unlikely that the canvases stood alone, without being part of a larger decorative and iconographic scheme.

For those needing a buccolic image of pre-embankment Rome, Vanvitelli has just the image:

Lot 29. GASPAR VAN WITTEL, CALLED VANVITELLIAMERSFOORT 1652/3 - 1736 ROME ROME, A VIEW OF THE RIVER TIBER AT THE PORTO DELLA LEGNA LOOKING TOWARDS CASTEL SANT’ANGELO, WITH SAINT PETER’S BASILICA IN THE DISTANCE Estimate: 1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP  oil on canvas 52 by 102 cm.; 20 1/2  by 40 1/8  in.

Lot 29. GASPAR VAN WITTEL, CALLED VANVITELLI
AMERSFOORT 1652/3 – 1736 ROME
ROME, A VIEW OF THE RIVER TIBER AT THE PORTO DELLA LEGNA LOOKING TOWARDS CASTEL SANT’ANGELO, WITH SAINT PETER’S BASILICA IN THE DISTANCE
Estimate: 1,200,000 – 1,800,000 GBP
oil on canvas
52 by 102 cm.; 20 1/2 by 40 1/8 in. Bidding on this lot stopped at £950,000 and it failed to sell.

Also of interest:

Lot 33. HERRI MET DE BLESBOUVINES CIRCA 1510 - AFTER 1550 ANTWERP (?) AN EXTENSIVE ROCKY LANDSCAPE WITH THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT Estimate: 300,000 - 500,000 GBP  signed with the owl device lower centre oil on oak panel 44 by 74.3 cm.; 17 ¼ by 19 ¼ in.

Lot 33. HERRI MET DE BLES
BOUVINES CIRCA 1510 – AFTER 1550 ANTWERP (?)
AN EXTENSIVE ROCKY LANDSCAPE WITH THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT
Estimate: 300,000 – 500,000 GBP
signed with the owl device lower centre
oil on oak panel
44 by 74.3 cm.; 17 ¼ by 19 ¼ in. This lot sold for £361,250 (including the buyer’s premium).

Lot 47. BERNARDO BELLOTTOVENICE 1722 - 1780 WARSAW VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL: LOOKING SOUTH-WEST, FROM THE RIALTO BRIDGE TO THE PALAZZO FOSCARI Estimate: 1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP  oil on canvas 60 by 91.5 cm.; 23 5/8  by 36 in.

Lot 47. BERNARDO BELLOTTO
VENICE 1722 – 1780 WARSAW
VENICE, THE GRAND CANAL: LOOKING SOUTH-WEST, FROM THE RIALTO BRIDGE TO THE PALAZZO FOSCARI
Estimate: 1,200,000 – 1,800,000 GBP
oil on canvas
60 by 91.5 cm.; 23 5/8 by 36 in. This lot sold for £3,289,250 (hammer price of £2.9 million plus buyer’s premium).

Lot 7. BALTHASAR VAN DER ASTMIDDELBURG 1593/94 - 1657 DELFT A STILL LIFE OF FRUIT AND SHELLS WITH A ROSE AND VARIOUS INSECTS UPON A STONE LEDGE Estimate:   300,000 - 400,000 GBP  signed lower right: .B.vander.Ast oil on oak panel 36.5 by 50.5 cm.; 14 3/8  by 19 7/8  in.

Lot 7. BALTHASAR VAN DER AST
MIDDELBURG 1593/94 – 1657 DELFT
A STILL LIFE OF FRUIT AND SHELLS WITH A ROSE AND VARIOUS INSECTS UPON A STONE LEDGE
Estimate: 300,000 – 400,000 GBP
signed lower right: .B.vander.Ast
oil on oak panel
36.5 by 50.5 cm.; 14 3/8 by 19 7/8 in. This lot sold to £1,496,250 (including the buyer’s premium).

Lot 49. JOSEPH NICKOLLSBRITISH ACTIVE 1726 - 1755 VIEW OF THE STOCKS MARKET, LONDON Estimate: 150,000 - 250,000 GBP  indistinctly dated, centre left: 17... oil on canvas 63.5 by 76 cm.; 25 by 30 in.

Lot 49. JOSEPH NICKOLLS
BRITISH ACTIVE 1726 – 1755
VIEW OF THE STOCKS MARKET, LONDON
Estimate: 150,000 – 250,000 GBP
indistinctly dated, centre left: 17…
oil on canvas
63.5 by 76 cm.; 25 by 30 in. This lot failed to sell.

According to the lot notes:

The view depicted shows the old Stocks Market, on the site of modern day Mansion House and the Bank of England. Originally established for the sale of meat and fish during the reign of Edward I, prior to which a pair of stocks had stood on the site which gave the marketplace its name, by the early eighteenth century the market had mainly been given over to the sale of herbs. In the background can be seen the spire of St. Stephen’s Walbrook, whilst the centre foreground is dominated by the impressive marble equestrian statue which was originally intended as a monument to John Sobieski, the Polish king who saved Vienna from the Turks. The statue was altered soon after the Restoration by Jasper Latham, Sir Christopher Wren’s master mason, to depict Charles II trampling on the defeated Cromwell, and the Royal arms can be seen engraved in an escutcheon on the base. The market and the jumble of buildings surrounding it to the east of Poultry were cleared in 1738 to make way for the construction of Mansion House, designed by the architect George Dance. The market was moved to Farringdon Street, where it became known as Fleet Market, and the statue of Charles II, which had been donated to the parish of St. Stephen’s Walbrook by Sir Robert Viner, Lord Mayor of London, in 1672, was presented by the city to his descendant Robert Viner, and later removed to Newby Hall in Yorkshire. Below the mounted figure of the King the busy street life of London, with its coffee shops, food sellers, street hawkers and all the panoply of the city life is painted in minute and compelling detail. The figures give an idea of the whole spectrum of London society, from gentlemen of fashion and noblemen in their carriages, to the urban poor, domestic servants and street sellers, all depicted with a realism and characterisation that suggests Nickolls was inspired by the work of William Hogarth, with its complex interaction between high and low culture.

A Gold Ground Jewel and others at Christie’s Dec. 2012 Old Master sale – UPDATED with sale results

December 3, 2012
Lot 32. Paolo di Giovanni Fei (San Quirico, Castelvecchio, or Siena c. 1340/5-c. 1411)The Madonna and Child  tempera on panel, in an engaged frame  30½ x 20¼ in. (77.5 x 51.4 cm.)  Estimate: £700,000 - £1,000,000

Lot 32. Paolo di Giovanni Fei (San Quirico, Castelvecchio, or Siena c. 1340/5-c. 1411)
The Madonna and Child
tempera on panel, in an engaged frame
30½ x 20¼ in. (77.5 x 51.4 cm.)
Estimate: £700,000 – £1,000,000 This lot failed to sell

UPDATE – The top lot of the sale was the Jacob Jordaens The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausicaa, which sold to London-based Old Master dealer Johnny van Haeften, according to Bloomberg.

ORIGINAL POST – The December 2012 Old Masters sale at Christie’s doesn’t have nearly same number of high wattage (read highly priced) works as Sotheby’s, but it does have this beautiful Paolo di Giovanni Fei Madonna and Child.  The splendid coloration, beautiful treatment of the faces and glorious punch work more than makes up for some very weird physiognomy (the Christ child’s distorted right foot, for example).  This is a beautifully composed work by a respectable painter and should make a good number.

Another picture to watch is this Jacob Jordaens The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausicaa  – once the painting’s yellowed varnish is removed this painting should really glow.

Lot 18. Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678) The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausicaa  signed 'JOR·' (lower left)  oil on canvas  46¼ x 76 3/8 in. (117.5 x 194 cm.), including a 15 in. (38 cm.) original extension on the left  Estimate: £500,000 - £800,000

Lot 18. Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678)
The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausicaa
signed ‘JOR·’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
46¼ x 76 3/8 in. (117.5 x 194 cm.), including a 15 in. (38 cm.) original extension on the left
Estimate: £500,000 – £800,000. This lot sold for £2,057,250 ($3,297,772), inclusive of buyer’s premium.  

The sale catalogue includes the following information:

This alluring, unpublished painting by Jacob Jordaens depicts the meeting of Odysseus and Nausicaa on the island of Phaeacia as told by Homer in book 6 of the Odyssey. It is to be connected with the tapestry cycle of the Life of Odysseus designed by Jordaens about the middle of the 1630s. Nothing is known about the circumstances that gave rise to the series, of which nine designs — in one form or another — are known. Not all of these may have actually been woven, for only seven pieces have survived.

Coincidentally, Jean-Luc Baroni is currently offering Jordaens’ large scale cartoon of the same composition.

dup Screen Shot 2012-11-12 at 2.14.38 PM

Among the intriguing (weird) paintings is this oddity from the Herri Met de Bles/Joachim Patinir department.

Lot 2. Attributed to the Master of the Liège Disciples at Emmaus, Jan van Amstel? (active Antwerp, mid-16th century)A mountainous landscape with Leda and her hatchlings, Saint Antony Abbot and the Centaur beyond with the Herri Met de Bles owl device (lower centre) and inventory number '707' (lower left) oil on panel  16¼ x 22 1/8 in. (41 x 56.1 cm.)  Estimate: £70,000 - £100,000

Lot 2. Attributed to the Master of the Liège Disciples at Emmaus, Jan van Amstel? (active Antwerp, mid-16th century)
A mountainous landscape with Leda and her hatchlings, Saint Antony Abbot and the Centaur beyond
with the Herri Met de Bles owl device (lower centre) and inventory number ‘707’ (lower left)
oil on panel
16¼ x 22 1/8 in. (41 x 56.1 cm.)
Estimate: £70,000 – £100,000. This lot failed to sell.

A large scale Jan Brueghel II still life carries the sale’s highest estimate (which isn’t very high).

Lot 20. Jan Brueghel II (Antwerp 1601-1678) Lilies, irises, tulips, roses, orchids, primroses, peonies and other flowers in a sculpted vase decorated with the figures of Amphitrite and Ceres, with a branch of flowers, a stag beetle and other insects oil on panel  48½ x 37 in. (123.2 x 94 cm.)  Estimate: £1,000,000 - £1,500,000

Lot 20. Jan Brueghel II (Antwerp 1601-1678)
Lilies, irises, tulips, roses, orchids, primroses, peonies and other flowers in a sculpted vase decorated with the figures of Amphitrite and Ceres, with a branch of flowers, a stag beetle and other insects
oil on panel
48½ x 37 in. (123.2 x 94 cm.)
Estimate: £1,000,000 – £1,500,000. This lot sold for £1,049,250 ($1,681,948) inclusive of buyer’s premium.

I’m not sure how this Cignani will do – it clearly needs some TLC – but it’s the sort of oversized peculiarity that might attract some attention.

Lot 37. Carlo Cignani (Bologna 1628-1719 Forli) Hercules and Omphale  oil on canvas  55 7/8 x 81¼ in. (141.7 x 206.4 cm.)  Estimate: £120,000 - £180,000

Lot 37. Carlo Cignani (Bologna 1628-1719 Forli)
Hercules and Omphale
oil on canvas
55 7/8 x 81¼ in. (141.7 x 206.4 cm.)
Estimate: £120,000 – £180,000. This lot sold for £145,250 ($232,836) inclusive of buyer’s premium.

The cover lot is a modest work by Joseph Wright of Derby replete with his hot yellow lighting.

Lot 47. Joseph Wright of Derby (Derby 1734-1797) A Blacksmith's Shop  oil on canvas  30¼ x 25 3/8 in. (76.8 x 64.4 cm.)  Estimate: £400,000 - £600,000

Lot 47. Joseph Wright of Derby (Derby 1734-1797)
A Blacksmith’s Shop
oil on canvas
30¼ x 25 3/8 in. (76.8 x 64.4 cm.)
Estimate: £400,000 – £600,000. This lot sold for £914,850 ($1,466,505) inclusive of buyer’s premium.

Complete sale results here. The sale made a dismal £11,562,250.

The other Chatsworth gems at Sotheby’s Dec. 2012 Old Master sale – UPDATED with sale results

December 3, 2012

UPDATE 2 – According to the Los Angeles Times, the manuscript will go on view at the Getty this Sunday after British authorities finally lifted the export ban that had been imposed in an attempt to keep the work in the UK.

UPDATE 1 – According to the New York Times, superb quality and historical significance was no guarantee of a sale.  Lot 50 failed to break through its £4 million low estimate and tanked at a phantom bid of £3.9 million, while Lot 51 hammered down at £3.4 million, on the low side of its £3-5 million estimate (the final price including buyer’s premium was £3,849,250), and according to Bloomberg it was sold to “the Basel-based manuscript dealer Joern Guenther … bidding on behalf of the J. Paul Getty Museum.” The Getty issued a press release about the acquisition (courtesy ArtDaily).

ORIGINAL POST – There are some choice and deliciously weird old masters coming to auction in London this week at Sotheby’s and Christie’s including a significant Raphael drawing (Sotheby’s) and theatrical Jordans (Christie’s).  The Sotheby’s sale on December 5, 2012, is a lean 52 lots topped by the Raphael and a Jan Steen, but it also includes work by that Old Master sale stalwart, Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Sotheby’s has bragging rights for having secured three works from Chatsworth, the venerable English country house with a remarkable collection of art (and a daunting maintenance agenda – you thought your roof repairs were pricey?), including the Raphael. However, the other multi-million pound lots from Chatsworth are brilliantly executed 15th century Netherlandish illuminated manuscripts.

Lot 50. PHILIP THE GOOD'S COPY OF THE MYSTÈRE DE LA VENGEANCE BY EUSTACHE MARCADÉ, A DRAMA ON THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM BY THE ROMANS, IN FRENCH VERSE, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [SOUTHERN NETHERLANDS (HESDIN AND BRUGES), C. 1465]Estimate: 4,000,000 - 6,000,000 GBP

Lot 50. PHILIP THE GOOD’S COPY OF THE MYSTÈRE DE LA VENGEANCE BY EUSTACHE MARCADÉ, A DRAMA ON THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM BY THE ROMANS, IN FRENCH VERSE, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [SOUTHERN NETHERLANDS (HESDIN AND BRUGES), C. 1465]
Estimate: 4,000,000 – 6,000,000 GBP Bidding on this lot stopped at £3.9 million and it failed to sell.

According to the sale catalogue, this is: “One of the finest extant literary manuscripts of the fifteenth century, and by far the greatest volume from the library of the Dukes of Burgundy in private hands. (emphasis in the original)” Considering the general level of hoary rhetoric endemic to auction catalogues, the underling was probably necessary to distinguish this claim from the norm.  That said, the quality level of these manuscripts (at least viewed online) is impressive.  Here are some other leaves from the manuscript:

Lot 50. Detail.

Lot 50. Detail.

Lot 50. Detail.

Lot 50. Detail.

The second of the two manuscripts focuses on chivalry:

Like many medieval romans, this fictional text of chivalry is set in an imagined period of history.  Although the narrative supposedly took place in the time of “le noble roy childebert”, who died in 558, it recounts the adventures of a crusading knight based on two members of an important noble family from Hainault, Gilles I (1134-1161), the first lord of a united Trazegnies, and Gilles le Brun (1199-1276), the champion of the first Crusade of Saint Louis.

As with the previous lot, the sale catalogue underlines the claims of the works importance: “An outstanding medieval romance, entirely secular in subject, and the greatest volume from the library of the celebrated bibliophile Louis de Gruuthuse ever to come to the open market.”

Here are several images from the manuscript.

Lot 51. LOUIS DE GRUUTHUSE'S COPY OF THE DEEDS OF SIR GILLION DE TRAZEGNIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, IN FRENCH, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [SOUTHERN NETHERLANDS (ANTWERP OR PERHAPS BRUGES), DATED 1464]Estimate: 3,000,000 - 5,000,000 GBP

Lot 51. LOUIS DE GRUUTHUSE’S COPY OF THE DEEDS OF SIR GILLION DE TRAZEGNIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, IN FRENCH, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [SOUTHERN NETHERLANDS (ANTWERP OR PERHAPS BRUGES), DATED 1464]
Estimate: 3,000,000 – 5,000,000 GBP This lot sold for £3,849,250 (£3.4 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium).

Lot 51. Detail.

Lot 51. Detail.

Lot 51. Detail.

Lot 51. Detail.

Lot 51. Detail.

Lot 51. Detail.

Bührle Collection Monet claimed by Chilean family

November 16, 2012

French painter Claude Monet’s “Poppy Field near Vetheuil”. The grandson of a wealthy Jewish businessman is demanding that a Swiss foundation return a Monet masterpiece that the family was forced to sell for a fraction of its value as they fled Europe during World War II, a Swiss newspaper reported. Juan Carlos Emden, the Chilean grandson of Max Emden who bought French master Claude Monet’s “Poppy Field near Vetheuil” in the 1920s, is seeking to recover the painting from the Swiss Buehlre collection, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) reported. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI/ BUEHLRE COLLECTION FOUNDATION.

Bad news for the Bührle Collection, the grandson of a Jewish businessman says this Monet painting belongs to his family.  According to an article in Agence France Press (via ArtDaily):

GENEVA (AFP).- The grandson of a wealthy Jewish businessman is demanding that a Swiss foundation return a Monet masterpiece that the family was forced to sell for a fraction of its value as they fled Europe during World War II, a Swiss newspaper reported Wednesday.

Juan Carlos Emden, the Chilean grandson of Max Emden who bought French master Claude Monet’s “Poppy Field near Vetheuil” in the 1920s, is seeking to recover the painting from the Swiss Buehlre collection, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) reported.

Max Emden was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1933 for Ticino in Switzerland, where he built the Villa Emden to house his large art collection, including “Poppy Field near Vetheuil”, one of Monet’s most famous paintings.

After his death in 1940, his only son Hans Erich Emden was forced to sell his father’s art collection in haste to finance his trip fleeing Europe for South America.

He sold the Monet for just 30,000 Swiss francs to a Jewish German merchant, who in turn sold it to Swiss citizen Emil Buehrle for 35,000 francs.

According to NZZ, the painting is today valued at around 25 million francs ($27 million, 21 million euros).

Juan Carlos Emden, who has reportedly been fighting for years to regain ownership of his grandfather’s painting, is planning to travel to Zurich to discuss with his lawyers how to recover the masterpiece, the paper said.

The Buehrle foundation, which houses a renowned collection that also includes other works by Monet, as well works by Manet, Renoir and Van Gogh among others, could not be immediately reached for comment.

“Poppy Field near Vetheuil” was stolen during a spectacular heist at the Buehrle museum in Zurich in 2008 with three other works of art, but it was found several days later in the boot of a car in a Zurich parking lot.

Pollock, Rothko, Richter and other brand names for Big Prices at Sotheby’s – UPDATED with sale results

November 12, 2012

Lot 10. JACKSON POLLOCK, 1912 – 1956, NUMBER 4, 1951, signed on the reverse, oil, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas, 30 1/8 x 25 in. 76.5 x 63.5 cm., Executed in 1951.
Estimate: $25-35 million This lot sold for $40,402, 500 ($36 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

The November 13, 2012 evening sale of post War and contemporary art at Sotheby’s features eight Abstract Expressionist works owned by Sidney and Dorothy Kohl – all bold faced names from the period: Pollock, De Kooning, Mitchell, Gorky, Gottlieb, Hoffman, Still and Kline.  Collectively, they represent the artistic energy, innovation and rebellion of the time. The sale also features a somewhat severe Rothko, some Bacons, a bevy of Warhols and Richters, a smattering of Twomblys and many others.

Here are the top ten works by estimate, inclusive of the Pollock (above):

Lot. 19. MARK ROTHK, 1903 – 1970, NO. 1 (ROYAL RED AND BLUE), signed, titled #1 and dated 1954 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 113 3/4 x 67 1/2 in. 288.9 x 171.5 cm.
Estimate: $35-50 million.  This lot sold for $75,122,500 ($67 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Lot 26. FRANCIS BACON, 1909 – 1992, UNTITLED (POPE), oil on canvas, 59 7/8 x 37 in. 152 x 94 cm. Executed circa 1954.
Estimate: $18-25 million.  This lot sold for $29,762,500 ($26.5 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Lot 4. GERHARD RICHTER, B.1932, ABSTRAKTES BILD, signed, dated 1990 and numbered 712 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 102 3/8 x 78 3/4 in. 260 x 200 cm.
Estimate: approximately $16 million.  This lot sold for $17,442,500 ($15.5 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Lot 13. WILLEM DE KOONING, 1904 – 1997, ABSTRACTION, signed, oil, enamel and charcoal on card laid down on composition board, 24 3/8 x 32 1/2 in. 61.9 x 82.6 cm. Executed circa 1949.
Estimate: $15-20 million.  This lot sold for $19,682,500 ($17.5 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Lot 14. CLYFFORD STILL, 1904 – 1980, 1948-H, signed and dated Clyfford 1948; signed, titled and inscribed on the reverse, oil on canvas, 75 x 69 5/8 in. 190.5 x 176.8 cm.
Estimate: $15-20 million.  This lot sold for $9,882,500 ($8.75 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Lot 37. ANDY WARHOL, 1928 – 1987, TROY, signed and dated 1962 on the reverse, acrylic, silkscreen ink and pencil on canvas, 80 3/4 x 60 1/4 in. 205.1 x 153 cm. Executed in August 1962.
Estimate: $15-20 million. This lot was withdrawn.

Lot 22. ANDY WARHOL, 1928 – 1987, GREEN DISASTER (GREEN DISASTER TWICE), acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 48 x 41 3/4 in. 121.9 x 106 cm. Executed in January – February 1963.
Estimate: approximately $12 million.  This lot sold for $15,202,500 ($13.5 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Lot 27. FRANCIS BACON, 1909 – 1992, STUDY FOR HEAD OF ISABEL RAWSTHORNE, titled and dated 1967 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 14 x 12 in. 35.5 x 30.5 cm.
Estimate: $9-12 million.  This lot sold for $9,322,500 ($8.25 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Lot 42. JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, 1960 – 1988, ONION GUM, titled on the reverse, acrylic and oilstick on canvas, 78 x 80 in. 198.1 x 203.2 cm. Executed in 1983.
Estimate: $7-9 million.  This lot sold for $7,365,500 ($6.5 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium)

Complete results here.

The funniest holiday-themed hat this year

November 8, 2012

 

I am not a fan of holiday-themed clothing – but this is hilarious.  Is there clothing for the rest of the meal?

$50 million Monet “Waterlilies”? – Nah – It sold for $39 million – not your average “sofa-sized oil” – UPDATED with sale results

November 4, 2012

Lot 41. Claude Monet (1840-1926), Nymphéas, signed and dated ‘Claude Monet 1905’ (lower right), oil on canvas 34¾ x 38¾ in. (88.3 x 99.5 cm.), Painted in 1905.
Estimate: $30-50 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $39 million.

There are “sofa-sized oils” and there are “sofa-sized oils”  – the Monet waterlilies painting coming up at Christie’s November 7 Impressionist and Modern Art auction is definitely in the latter category.  The image is iconic, beautiful and perfectly scaled for your pied-à-terre.  It also carries the highest pre-sale estimate, $30-50 million.   Among the other highest estimated lots is a lovely and iconic plaster by Brancusi, Muse (lot 36, estimated at $10-15 million), and Wassily Kandinsky’s Studie für Improvisation 8 (lot 47, estimated at $20-30 million).  Two odd sculptures are among the top lots, Picasso’s arrogant/strutting Coq (lot 13, estimated at $10-15 million) and Alberto Giacometti La Jambe (The Leg, lot 53, estimated at 10-15 million).  The latter reminds me of chicken king Frank Perdue’s old marketing line: “Parts is parts.”  So here are the top five by estimate (a total of seven shown since three have the same estimate):

Lot 47. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Studie für Improvisation 8, oil on card mounted on canvas 38 5/8 x 27½ in. (98 x 70 cm.) Painted in 1909.
Estimate: $20-30 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $20.5 million.

Lot 19. Joan Miro (1893-1983) Peinture (Femme, Journal, Chien), signed and dated ‘Miró. 1925.’ (lower left); signed and dated again ‘Joan Miró. 1925.’ (on the reverse), oil on canvas 36¼ x 28¾ in. (92 x 73 cm.) Painted in 1925.
Estimate: $12-18 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $12.2 million.

Lot 13. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Coq, numbered and stamped with foundry mark ‘4/6 C.VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE’ (on the side of the base), bronze with brown patina, Height: 25½ in. (64.8 cm.) Conceived in 1932 and cast in the 1950s.
Estimate: $10-15 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $9.2 million and it failed to sell.

Lot 36. Constantin Brancusi (1867-1957) Une muse, plaster, Height: 18 in. (45.7 cm.) Executed in 1912.
Estimate: $10-15 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $11.0 million.

Lot 53. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) La Jambe, signed and numbered ‘Alberto Giacometti 3/6’ (on the top of the base); inscribed with foundry mark ‘Susse Fondeur. Paris’ (on the side of the base), bronze with brown and green patina, Height (including base): 85 13/16 in. (218 cm.) Conceived in 1947 and cast in 1958.
Estimate: $10-15 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $10 million. 

Lot 20. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Buste de femme, dated ‘8.D.37.’ (lower right), oil on canvas 21¾ x 18 in. (55 x 46 cm.) Painted in Paris, 8 December 1937.
Estimate: $8-12 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $11.6 million.

Hurricane Sandy devastates Chelsea – center of the contemporary art world

November 3, 2012

Drywall pulled from flooded galleries filling trash bins in Chelsea. The neighborhood’s art dealers, some in tears, are salvaging what they can in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Marcus Yam for The New York Times.

The reports about the fate of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, the international home of the contemporary art world, started coming out shortly after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast of the United States earlier this week.  Flood levels of several feet in many of the street level and below street level galleries had destroyed untold numbers of works of art, eradicated archives and ruined gallery infrastructure.  Magda Sawon, co-owner of Postmasters Gallery tweeted on Friday Nov. 2 about one of the artists she represents: “Diana Cooper’s Canal st storage under 5 feet. Major works 1996-2007 from her MOCA Cleveland show GONE.” She followed up later that day with this: “There is a large feature on Diana Cooper’s work scheduled for December Artnews. Many of the works illustrating the article no longer exist.” This horrific news was repeated about many other artists and galleries.

Odds are, if a Chelsea gallery had basement storage, the basement was flooded and works were either destroyed or a rushed to a conservator.  The New York Times’ Roberta Smith penned a heartbreaking article about what has happened. One thing she doesn’t speculate about is the affect this will have on Art Basel Miami Beach, which is a month away.  How many Chelsea galleries currently scheduled to participate will be forced out because artwork has been destroyed and they face the financial strains of rebuilding (if they can afford to)?

Ms. Smith’s article begins with a reflection on the joys of gallery going in Chelsea and evolves into war reporting about a gruesome, lop-sidded defeat – nothing left but carnage, destruction and refugees:

There are many pleasures to being an art critic in New York. One, in my view, is definitely the late Saturday afternoon crunch in Chelsea, that day’s-end rush through a last few galleries, seeing shows and squirreling away experiences and ideas just before they all close for the weekend.

I had a great final 60 minutes in Chelsea last Saturday and, consequently, one of the last looks at what would suddenly become, on Tuesday, the old, pre-Sandy Chelsea gallery scene. That day, as I started hearing reports of flooding in the neighborhood, some of the art I had seen on Saturday became increasingly vivid in my mind, as did the weird thought that I might be one of the last people who would ever see it.

Rome’s Largo Argentina, site where Julius Caesar was killed, reeks of history … and cat pee – UPDATED

November 3, 2012

One of the approximately 250 cats that call Rome’s Largo Argentina, the site where Caesar was killed in 44 BC, home.

UPDATE – According to Agence France Presse (via the Singapore Straits Times), the cat sanctuary is staying put. Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno said: “These cats are not up for debate, they are part of the history of Rome.” And he added this for good measure: “Woe to those who lay a finger on the cats.”

ORIGINAL POST – Every Ides of March (the 15th), you’re likely to find some people congregating around Rome’s Largo Argentina, the site in 44 BC where Julius Caesar was assassinated, to honor that historic moment.  I joined a group of about 15 friends there eight years ago to mark the occasion. One group member read aloud from Shakespeare and there were other commemorations.  The archaeological site itself is below grade, surrounded by a metal fence and populated by hundreds of cats.  On that day in 2004, we were nearly overcome by the sense of history … and the stench cat pee.

The City of Rome has A LOT of stray cats (not unlike Tel Aviv) and the nearly 20-year old semi-permanent/makeshift cat sanctuary has become an unusual institution.  As reports in the Telegraph and elsewhere have indicated, municipal officials have decided the cats and their sanctuary have got to go.

City heritage officials say that the sanctuary, which lies just on a pedestal just a few yards from where Caesar was hacked down, must close because it is unhygienic, was built without proper planning permission and compromises one of Italy’s most important archaeological sites.

“How was it possible that these cat lovers were able to construct their refuge on an ancient monument?” asked Andrea Carandini, a former president of the national cultural heritage council.

“From what the authorities are saying, you would think we were occupying the Parthenon,” said Silvia Viviani, co-founder of the refuge. “I’m a Roman and I’m very proud of our ancient heritage but we are not damaging anything here.” The refuge attracts tens of thousands of tourists a year, who descend the metal steps leading down from street level to stroke the cats and buy cat-related t-shirts, fridge magnets and other souvenirs, the money from which helps keep the place going.

Inertia has great power in Italian affairs, so I’ll be surprised if the City gets its way.  And if they do manage to close the refuge down, I hope that Carabinieri are dispatched to round up the felines.  That will be a very entertaining sight, indeed.

The Dead Sea is really dying

October 28, 2012

The Dead Sea, due north of Ein Gedi, December 2011. Jordan is visible in the background. Click to enlarge.

A new AP report says “the Dead Sea is shrinking at a record rate.” Actually the problem is not new, but the shrinkage is accelerating.  Signs along a pathway from the Ein Gedi Spa to the Dead Sea’s shoreline chronicles the steady decline.  What once was saline rich sea is now only dry salt bed.

At the Ein Gedi spa on the Dead Sea, signs along the path to the sea indicate the sea’s earlier shorelines. The 1985 sign (left) is the same small rectangular sign visible in the left mid-point of the center image. Click to enlarge.

According to the AP article:

The salty inland lake bordering the nations dropped a record 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) over the last 12 months because of industry use and evaporation, the Hydrological Service of Israel said. That’s the steepest Dead Sea decline since data-keeping started in the 1950s. Half the drop was caused by Israel Chemicals Ltd. and Jordan’s Arab Potash Co., said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of the Friends of Earth Middle East.

Dead Sea, Ein Gedi Spa, marker showing 1991 shoreline of the sea (left) and close up of the exposed sea bed (right). Click to enlarge.

Again, from the Ap article:

The makers of potash, a raw material for fertilizer, are competing for water with a centuries-old tourism industry on the Dead Sea, Israel’s most crowded leisure destination last year with 857,000 visitors. That’s more packed than Tel Aviv and Eilat’s beach resorts, the Tourism Ministry said.

It isn’t only pumping causing the degradation of the Dead Sea, a biblical refuge for King David. Agriculture diverts water for crops from the Jordan River that feeds into the Dead Sea, adding to a decline that’s created potentially life-threatening sinkholes by the shore.

Dead Sea, Ein Gedi Spa. At the sea’s 2000 shoreline is a boardwalk leading to the lowest point on earth. It was once surrounded by the saline rich sea. Click to enlarge.

Dead Sea, Ein Gedi Spa. These three people are crossing the sea’s 2000 shoreline border. They still have a way to go before reaching the shore. Click to enlarge.

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