Caravaggio, Boy peeling a fruit, oil on canva,s 25¾ x 20⅞ in. (65.4 x 52.9 cm.) Estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.
NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announces Old Masters Week in New York, which will take place from 27-29 January 2015. The sales begin on January 27 with The Abbott-Guggenheim Collection: A New York Kunstkammer, featuring a renowned collection of 120 lots of Renaissance and Baroque sculptures and clocks. On January 28, Old Master Paintings: Part I features the earliest known work by Caravaggio, Boy peeling a fruit, which leads a superb selection of Italian Baroque art. Also on January 28, the Renaissance sale features a rare portrait by Bronzino, which is the top lot of the week and heads an exceptional group of Renaissance portraiture. On 29 January, Old Master and British Drawings includes star lots by David and Rubens, and Old Master Paintings: Part II will round out the series of sales. The five sales in Old Masters Week will offer works with exceptional provenance and freshness, discoveries and new attributions and are expected to realize in excess of $ 60 million.
“We are proud to be bringing to market a remarkable group of Old Master paintings spanning four centuries of artistic achievement. For the third successive year we will be presenting the popular Renaissance sale, which will include manuscripts, sculpture as well as paintings. To present this sale alongside the extraordinary Abbott-Guggenheim collection of clocks and sculptures will be a remarkable event. The Renaissance sale this year has an unusually strong representation of portraits, led by the magnificent early Bronzino and also including important examples by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Corneille de Lyon. Part I of the sale includes an unusually strong group of baroque paintings including a frequently exhibited painting by Caravaggio (perhaps his earliest work) as well as examples by Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni, Salvator Rosa and a highly important new discovery by the Utrecht Caravaggesque painter, Mattias Stomer,” remarks Nicholas H.J. Hall, Co-Chairman, Old Master & 19th Century Art.
Painted just after his arrival in Rome in 1591, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s Boy peeling a fruit may be the artist’s earliest known work (estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000). The painting maintains the hallmark elements that would revolutionize the art world and make Caravaggio one of the most innovative and recognizable artists in history. It exemplifies the early style of the artist, a visionary, whose interpretations of deceptively simple subjects continue to shape the course of art history. A young boy, seemingly painted from life, sits at a table peeling a Seville or Bergamot orange that he has selected from a bunch of fruit and shafts of wheat laid out before him. The composition is conceived with the dramatic chiaroscuro that is one of the defining characteristics of Caravaggio’s style, which would fascinate and inspire generations of painters from Giuseppe Ribera, Artemisia Gentileschi and Gerard van Honthorst to contemporary artists such as Frank Stella, Cindy Sherman and Vik Muniz. Rich in evocative lighting and meditative mood, Boy peeling a fruit conveys with quiet power a seemingly mundane moment that is moving in its intimacy. Caravaggio’s forceful naturalism was one of the most revolutionary qualities of his style, as can be seen in his lavish attention to rendering the still-life elements. Boy peeling a fruit has an illustrious provenance, having belonged to Sir Joshua Reynolds in the late 18th century. Additionally, the painting has significant exhibition history, having been included in the definitive 1985 show The Age of Caravaggio at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Naples’ Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, and the 2001 The Genius of Rome exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and Rome’s Palazzo Venezia. Works by Caravaggio are extraordinarily rare to the market and this painting was last on the auction block in 1976 in London.
Other highlights in the superb section of Italian Baroque art include a painting by Caravaggio’s rival, Annibale Carracci, showing The Madonna at prayer (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000), as well as Guido Reni’s The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia (estimate: $1,200,000-1,800,000), Carlo Maratti’s Tobias and the Angel (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000), and new discovery by Matthias Stomer’s The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew (estimate: $400,000-600,000).
Leading the examples of the Northern Baroque works offered is A Merry Company by Theodoor Rombouts (Antwerp 15971637) (illustrated page 1, estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000). Rombouts’ splendid and sumptuous, thirteen-figure A Merry Company is one of the finest and most ambitious examples of Caravaggesque painting in Flanders to have appeared on the market in many years. A Merry Company is distinguished not only by its large-scale, but by the great care and captivating vitality with which Rombouts portrays the particular facial characteristics, gestures, manners and personalities of each of his figures and clearly elucidates their relationships and intentions. The painting is one of the best examples of a series of monumental compositions by Rombouts in horizontal format, with many lively figures socializing, and rendered with dramatic chiaroscuro, appropriated from Caravaggio, an almost tangible rendering of fashionable clothing and a palette inspired by the colors of Rubens and Janssen.
A broad and excellent selection of view paintings, or vedute, from artists across Europe are offered in the sale, led by exquisite works by Canaletto and Giuseppe Zocchi. Other view scenes include A coastal scene by Giovanni Paolo Panini (estimate: $100,000-150,000), a pair of paintings called The Canal and The Cascade by Hubert Robert (estimate: $2,000,0003,000,000), Amsterdam, a view of the Westerkerk by Isaac Ouwater (estimate: $250,000-350,000), Skaters on the frozen river Lek, the town of Vianen beyond by Salomon van Ruysdael (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000) and a View of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, c. 1600, by an anonymous Spanish painter (estimate: $120,000-160,000).
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (Venice 1697 -1768) The Piazza San Marco: the Northeast Corner, and The Piazzetta: looking East, with the Ducal Palace oil on canvas 8 x 16 in. (20 x 41 cm.) each a pair (2) $3,000,000-5,000,000
These elegant and animated Venetian views on an intimate scale by Canaletto exemplify both the refinement and the originality of the painter’s work in his latter years, and are one of only two such pairs on this scale to be recorded.
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, BEVERLY HILLS
Giuseppe Zocchi (near Florence 1711/7-1767 Florence) Florence, a view of the Arno from the Porta San Niccolò oil on canvas 22½ x 34½ in. (57.1 x 87.6 cm.) $1,000,000-1,500,000
Masterfully painted with special attention to the ephemeral light illuminating the reflections in the foreground, Zocchi has endowed the view with a feeling of movement and transience in a vista which otherwise remains much the same today.
RENAISSANCE | JANUARY 28
The top lot of the week leading an excellent grouping of portraiture, is premier Florentine portraitist Agnolo Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man with a Book, one of the most important Renaissance portraits remaining in private hands (estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000). The arresting portrait constitutes a remarkable new addition to the oeuvre of Agnolo Bronzino, and is among the artist’s earliest known portraits, datable to the time he was most closely associated with his teacher, Jacopo Pontormo, whose stylistic influence is clearly visible here. While the sitter’s identity cannot be confirmed, his social status and profession are alluded to. Elegantly attired and shown writing in a manuscript with a quill pen, he is clearly a cultivated man of letters. The seeming spontaneity of the sitter’s pose and direct gaze toward the viewer suggest that he may have been a close friend of the artist.
Lucas Cranach I (Kronach 1472-1553 Weimar) Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg as Saint Jerome in a landscape oil on panel 19½ x 14.5/8 in. (49.5 x 37.1 cm.) $1,000,000-1,500,000
Cranach’s Portrait of Albrecht von Brandenburg as Saint Jerome in a landscape is an icon of Northern Renaissance art. The picture is rare surviving evidence of the relationship between Albrecht von Brandenburg, the supreme Catholic dignitary of the age, and Lucas Cranach, an artist often described as Martin Luther’s foremost propagandist. This portrait brings together three titans of the Reformation whose inextricably entwined destinies shaped this period of European history. There are four surviving portraits of Albrecht in the guise of Saint Jerome painted by Cranach, of which only the present picture remains in private hands.
Corneille de La Haye, called Corneille de Lyon (The Hague 1500/10-1575 Lyon) Portrait of a gentleman, half-length oil on panel 8¾ x 6⅞ in. (22.2 x 17.5 cm.) $150,000-200,000
In this previously unpublished portrait, the vigorous modeling of the face, nearlyfrontal pose, as well as the heavy shadows that fall on his left jaw, suggest that Corneille painted this portrait in the second half of the 1530s, during the very earliest phase of his career.
Superior examples of the European Renaissance by Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French artists are highlights in the sale.
Thuringian School, c. 1400 The Passion of Christ; The Arrest; The Flagellation; Christ on the road to Calvary; The Crucifixion; The Descent; The Entombment; The Mercy tempera and gold on panel 32.1/3 x 41.1/8 in. (82.5 x 104.5 cm.); the central panel: 32.1/3 x 20½ in. (82.5 x 52.2cm.); the wings: 32.1/3 x 10.1/8 in. (82.5 x 25.7 cm.) each inscribed ‘vere filius dei erat iste’ (upper center, on the scroll) $1,200,000-1,800,000
Brilliantly colored and ornamented with refined, calligraphic goldwork, this triptych is remarkably well-preserved and an exceptional example of devotional artwork from early 15th-century Thuringia, a region in the Southeast of lower Germany.
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Pieter Coecke van Aelst I (Aelst 1502-1550 Brussels) Saint Jerome in his study oil on panel 32 x 25 1/4 in. (81.2 x 64.1 cm.) $300,000-500,000
The subject of a dramatic exhibition currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Pieter Coecke van Aelst is one of the most fascinating and celebrated artists of the 16th-century Netherlands, who served as court painter to both Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Mary of Hungary.
Additional Renaissance Highlights
• Studio of Alessandro Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli (Florence 1444/5-1510) The Madonna of the Eucharist oil, tempera and gold on panel 36¾ x 26¼ in. (93.4 x 66.7 cm.) $400,000-600,000
• The Master of the Legend of Saint Ursula (active Bruges c. 1470-1500) Angels supporting the Veil of Saint Veronica oil and gold on panel, in an engaged frame 24¼ x 17¼ in. (61.6 x 43.8 cm.) $250,000-350,000
• Leonardo Grazia, called Leonardo da Pistoia (Pistoia 1505-? Naples) The Madonna and Child with the young Saint John the Baptist and Saint Elizabeth oil on panel 59½ x 49.5/8 in. (151.1 x 126 cm.) $200,000-300,000
OLD MASTER and British DRAWINGS | JANUARY 29
Christie’s Old Master and British Drawings sale is one of the strongest in recent years and includes exceptional works by some of the greatest draughtsmen in European art, such as Cavaliere d’Arpino, Peter Paul Rubens, Anton Möller, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Frans van Mieris, Canaletto, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Jacques-Louis David and Johann Heinrich Füssli. Nearly every major work in the sale is from a private collection, and some works have not been on the market in decades.
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp) Two naked Men pulled downwards by Demons and lifted upwards be three robed Figures, after Michelangelo black and red chalk, stumping, on two sheets of paper, watermark pilgrim 18¼ x 27 in. (46.3 x 68.6 cm.) $400,000-600,000
Rubens’ large and impressive drawing copies two groups of figures from Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. This drawing was executed during the artist’s first visit in Rome in 1601–1602. Eight further copies after the Prophets and Sybils painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Chapel using the same technique on the same kind of paper are now in the Louvre.
Jacques-Louis David (Paris 1748-1825 Brussels) Study for the death of Socratus pencil, compass, ruler, brush and brown ink, pen and black ink, partially squared for transfer 11 x 16⅜ in. (27.8 x 41.6 cm.) $200,000-300,000
Executed in 1786–1787, this study for David’s celebrated picture shows Socrates, accused by the Athenian government of denying the gods and corrupting the young through his teachings, offered the choice of renouncing his beliefs or death. Following two earlier drawings in black chalk and grey wash, this sheet – only known until now through a mention in a 1889 sale catalogue – must have been executed soon before the painting as the latter follows faithfully its composition except for minor differences.
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
John Henry Fuseli, Johann Heinrich Füssli, R.A. (Zurich 1741-1825 London) `Psychostasia’ (recto); and A seated woman in an interior and A study of a man with arms outstretched, possibly David and Bathsheba (verso) pencil, grey, brown and pink wash (recto); pencil, pen and brown ink and brown wash (verso) 23.3/4 x 19 in. (60.3 x 48.2 cm.); the sheet folded $120,000-$180,000
The sale includes a remarkable group of drawings by Johann Heinrich Füssli (Zurich 1741-1825 London). They have not been previously published or exhibited until now and they explore complex psychological themes and mythological subjects. ‘Psychostasia’ of Achilles and Memnon (recto); and A seated young woman, nude, with elaborately coiffed hair, in an interior, and a man with arms outstretched, possibly David and Bathsheba (verso) is a fully worked-up double-sided sheet. The recto derives from a play by Aeschylus and the verso combines the artist’s fixation with elaborate coiffures with a possibly Biblical narrative. Powerful, enigmatic and complex, this drawing is an important addition to the artist’s oeuvre.