Gallery assistants position a painting by British artist Joseph Mallord William (JMW) Turner entitled « Rome, from Mount Aventine » at Sotheby’s auction house in London, on November 28, 2014. The painting is expected to fetch around GBP 15m-20m, (18.9m-25.2m euros/23.5m-31.4m USD) when put up for auction at the Old Master Paintings Evening Sale on December 3. AFP PHOTO/JUSTIN TALLIS.
Gallery assistants position a painting by Italian artist Canaletto entitled « A Quintessential View of Venice » at Sotheby’s auction house in London, on November 28, 2014. The painting is expected to fetch around GBP 5m-7m, (6.3m-8.8m euros/7.8m-11m USD) when put up for auction at the Old Master Paintings Evening Sale on December 3. AFP PHOTO/JUSTIN TALLIS.
LONDON.- Sotheby’s London 3rd December 2014 Evening sale of Old Master & British Paintings is set to be a major highlight of the international auction calendar this winter. The sale is spearheaded by J.M.W. Turner’s Rome, from Mount Aventine, one of the last great masterpieces of British art left in private hands and one of the artist’s supreme achievements (est. £15-20 million). The sale is further distinguished by another masterful Italian view, a quintessential depiction of Venice by Canaletto, as well as unique compositions by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Sir Peter Paul Rubens. Estimated in excess of £32 million, the 43 lots also comprise pioneering works in the history of art, including one of the earliest examples of Dutch flower painting and one of the first British bird’s-eye views.
Discussing the forthcoming sale, Alex Bell, Joint International Head and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department said: “It is hard to overstate the importance of Rome, from Mount Aventine. There are no more than half a dozen major works by Turner left in private hand and none is of such exceptional provenance or in better condition. The picture is so well preserved that every fingerprint of the artist, every flick of his brush, every scrape of his palette knife can still be clearly seen. The groundbreaking exhibition of “Late Turner” at the Tate and Mike Leigh’s sensational “Mr Turner” have reasserted the powerful modernity of the British painter and this work is another poignant example of the timelessness of his oeuvre. Turner perpetually engaged with the art of both the past and the present and it is a rare privilege to present this sensational picture alongside the works of some of his most illustrious predecessors. Last July, we saw the market at its best and we are confident that collectors will respond with great enthusiasm to this exceptional sale.”
Two Masterful Italian Views by Turner and Canaletto
Turner’s late works – the pictures he produced from the late 1820s and 1830s until his death in 1851 – are considered by many to be the artist’s supreme achievement. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836, when Turner was 61 years old, Rome, from Mount Aventine is arguably the greatest and most important view of the Italian city ever painted. Rome captivated Turner for over twenty years and this subtle and atmospheric depiction of the city is a brilliant technical feat demonstrating his virtuosity as a landscape painter. In 1836, The Morning Post described the work as “one of those amazing pictures by which Mr Turner dazzles the imagination and confounds all criticism: it is beyond praise.” Based on detailed sketches Turner made during his second trip to Rome in 1828, this magnificent picture was commissioned by the major patron and the artist’s close friend and executor Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864). The painting was later acquired in 1878, following Munro’s death, by the 5th Earl of Rosebery, later Prime Minister of Great Britain. It has since remained undisturbed in the Rosebery collection to this day (lot 44, est. £15-20 million / €18,980,000-25,310,000 / $24,070,000-32,090,000).
Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A. (London 1775 – 1851), Rome, from Mount Aventine, oil on canvas, unlined, 92.7 by 125.7 cm.; 36 1/2 by 49 1/2 in. Estimate 15,000,000 — 20,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: Commissioned by Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864);
By family descent until sold (‘The Novar Collection formed by that distinguished amateur, the late Hugh A.J. Munro, Esq. The intimate friend and Executor of JMW Turner RA.’), London, Christie’s, 6 April 1878, lot 98, to Davis for 5850 guineas (on behalf of the 5th Earl of Rosebery and his wife Hannah Rothschild);
Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929), Prime Minister of Great Britain (1894-1895);
Thence by family descent.
EXHIBITED: London, Royal Academy, 1836, no. 144;
London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1896, no. 8 (lent by the 5th Earl of Rosebery);
London, Whitechapel, JMW Turner, RA., 1953, no. 89;
London, Tate Gallery and Royal Academy, Turner, 1974-5, no. 515;
Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Turner e l’Italia, 16 November 2008 – 22 February 2009, no. 93;
Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, Turner and Italy, 27 March – 7 June 2009, no. 93;
Budapest, Museum of Fine Art, Turner and Italy, 15 July – 15 August 2009, no. 93;
On long term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1978 – 2013 .
LITERATURE: J. Ruskin, Modern Painters, vol. I, 1843;
‘The Collection of H. A. J. Munro, Esq., of Novar, No. 113, Park-Street, Grosvenor Square,’ in Art Union, vol. 9, London July 1847, p. 253;
J. Ruskin, Praeterita, 1886-9;
J. Burnet and P. Cunningham, Turner and his Works, London 1852, pp. 29 & 117, no. 188;
W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2 vols., London 1862, vol. I, pp. 231-2;
W. Frost, A.R.A. (revised by H. Reeve), A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Water-Colour Drawings, Drawings and Prints in the Collection of the late Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro Esq of Novar, at the time of his Death deposited in his House No. 6 Hamilton Place London with some Additional Paintings at Novar, privately printed 1865, p. 95, no. 121;
W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., second ed., 2 vols., London 1877, pp. 105 & 578;
C. F. Bell, A List of the Works contributed to Public Exhibitions by J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1901, p. 130, no. 201;
Sir W. Armstrong, Turner, London and New York 1902, pp. 120 & 228;
E. T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, The Works of John Ruskin, Library Edition in thirty nine volumes, 1903-12, vol. III, pp. xviii, 636 n.; xxxv, p. 217; i, p. xxxiii;
A. J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2nd ed. revised by H.F. Finberg, Oxford 1961, pp. 359 & 400, no. 469;
J. Lindsay, J.M.W. Turner, His Life and Work: A Critical Biography, New York 1966, p. 182;
J. Gage, ‘Turner’s Academic Friendships: C.L. Eastlake’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. cx, 1968, p. 682;
G. Reynolds, Turner, London 1969, pp. 150 & 168;
M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, New Haven and London 1977, text vol., p. 217, no. 366, plates vol., reproduced in colour pl. 344;
A. Wilton, The Life and Work of JMW Turner, London 1979, p. 282, no. P366;
M. Kitson, ‘Turner and Claude’, in Turner Studies, vol. II, no. 2, Winter 1983, pp. 10 & 14;
E. Joll, M. Butlin and G. Verchi, l’opera complete di Turner 1820-1851, Milan 1982, p. 198, no 402, reproduced;
M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, Revised Edition, New Haven and London 1984, text vol., p. 217, no. 366, plates vol., reproduced in colour pl. 370;
A. Wilton, Turner in his Time, London 1987, pp. 187 & 206;
C. Powell, Turner in the South. Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, pp. 7, 37, 106, 160, 164 & 165, reproduced fig. 159;
J. Holloway, ‘H A J Munro of Novar’, in Review of Scottish Culture, no. 7, Edinburgh 1991, pp. 10-11, reproduced, fig. 1;
J. Hamilton, Turner, A Life, London 1997, p. 271;
I. Warrell et al., J. M. W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, London 2008, p. 152;
J. Hamilton, et al., Turner & Italy, Edinburgh 2009, pp. 87, 89 & 129-134, reproduced in colour, pl. 93, and details pls. 143-148, and p. 78;
I. Warrell, Turner’s Sketchbooks, London 2014, p. 146.
by Julian Gascoigne
Turner is one of those conspicuous figures that mark the pages of history – like da Vinci, Darwin, Picasso or Einstein – who changed the way we see and think about the world. An artist rooted in the aesthetic philosophy and culture of his time, who perpetually engaged with the art of both his predecessors and contemporaries, he was at the same time possibly the first ‘modern’ painter; who directly inspired the impressionism of the nineteenth century, and presaged the abstract expressionism of the twentieth. Turner had no pupils; he left no school of followers. He was, in many ways, a highly individual artist, seemingly running against the current of the artistic taste of his age. Yet the development of his art, particularly in the last fifteen years of his life, with its bold application of colour, its treatment of light and the deconstruction of form, revolutionised the way we perceive the painted image, and the way we think about what a painting is, or should be. By applying the techniques of a water-colourist to the use of oils, with successive layering of translucent colour thinly applied to the surface, that imbues his canvases with rich, hazy light, he gave his works a poignancy and power that had never been achieved before, and has seldom since. Every artist who has held a brush in the last 160 years owes a debt to Turner. His influence is immeasurable.
Turner’s late works – the pictures he produced from the late 1820s and 30s until his death in 1851 – are considered by many to be the artist’s supreme achievement. It is upon these pictures, particularly in the eyes of the modern era, that his artistic significance ultimately rests. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836, when Turner was 61 years old, this magnificent painting is one of the few remaining major works by Turner left in private hands. Of that group, which numbers no more than half a dozen at most, none can be said to be in better condition that this picture. Based on detailed sketches he made during his second trip to Rome in 1828 it was commissioned by one of his most important patrons, the artist’s close friend and executor Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864). An amateur artist himself, who travelled on sketching tours with Turner, Munro was one of the greatest collectors of his generation. The painting was later acquired in 1878, following Munro’s death, by the 5th Earl of Rosebery, later Prime Minister of Great Britain, to celebrate his marriage to Hannah Rothschild, the greatest heiress of her generation. It has since remained undisturbed in the Rosebery collection to this day. This exceptional and distinguished provenance also accounts for its excellent condition, with every flick of the artist’s brush, every scrape of his palette knife preserved in immaculate detail. So well preserved is the picture, in fact, that the artist’s fingerprints can still clearly be seen in the paint along the canvas edges. Moreover, it is arguably the greatest and most important view of Rome ever painted. It is hard to overstate the importance of this picture.
The subject of the work – the city of Rome – is one that held a particularly personal resonance for Turner. Rome in Turner’s day was the cradle of western civilisation and the centre of the European art world from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. It was the Holy Grail for artists in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and, as both a subject and source of inspiration, the city captivated him for over twenty years. As early as the 1790s, when he was in his early twenties, Turner had copied views of Rome by John Robert Cozens in the collection of his early patron Dr Thomas Monro (see fig. 1).
J. M. W. Turner, R.A., after John Robert Cozens, Rome: The Tiber with the Aventine on the left © National Galleries of Scotland
His interest in the landscape of Italy had been fired by his study of the great works by Claude which were to be seen in many British collections. In 1818-19 he had worked on illustrations for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, which included many of Italy’s most famous sites, based on sketches made by the author, as well as producing views from drawings made in Rome by another early patron, Sir Richard Colt Hoare. Despite this Turner was only able to visit the city twice during the course of his life. He had glimpsed Italy briefly in 1802 during the short-lived Peace of Amiens, but was forced to turn back following the resumption of hostilities between Britain and France, and it was not until 1819 that he finally made it to the Eternal City – firmly labelling his sketchbook for the journey ‘Route to Rome’. On his return to England Turner produced a number of topographical watercolours of the city, such as the luminous Rome from Monte Mario (Private Collection, fig. 2), based on the many sketches he had made on his journey. These works constitute his first production of Roman subjects based on actual, first-hand experience of the city, and significantly they eschew the obvious views along the Tiber and vignettes of the Forum. Instead Turner re-invents the topography of Rome, with sweeping panoramas of the city.
J.M.W. Turner, R.A., Rome from Monte Mario © Sotheby’s
This picture is based on a series of five detailed sketches made on consecutive pages in Turner’s sketchbook during his second trip to Rome in 1828 (see figs 5, 6 and 7).
J.M.W. Turner, R.A., from Rimini to Rome Sketchbook [Finberg CLXXVIII], Rome, from Mount Aventine, 1828-9, Graphite on paper, 97 x 132 mm © Tate, London 2014
J.M.W. Turner, R.A., from Rimini to Rome Sketchbook [Finberg CLXXVIII], Rome, from Mount Aventine, 1828-9, Graphite on paper, 97 x 132 mm © Tate, London 2014
J.M.W. Turner, R.A.,from Rimini to Rome Sketchbook [Finberg CLXXVIII], Rome, from Mount Aventine, 1828-9, Graphite on paper, 97 x 132 mm © Tate, London 2014
Few paintings by his hand capture the city so precisely or magically as this picture – indeed it is unique in his œuvre. Recalling the sweeping panoramas of his earlier watercolours, the view depicts the city as seen from the Aventine Hill, looking north across the ancient ruins towards the distant Vatican. It is without question Turner’s most serene and beguiling vision of the Eternal City, composed with a Claudian grandeur and nobility that is powerfully evocative. Like Claude, an artist with whom Turner maintained a dialogue in his work throughout his career, the brilliancy of the view is ‘blended and subdued by an almost visible atmosphere’1 that heightens the splendour of the whole. With infinite subtlety he captures the first cool rays of morning light as they dispel the rising mist from the Tiber and bathe the architecture in a soft golden glow. With thin, wetly applied glazes of translucent paint he blurs the boundaries of river, bank and city, bleeding the forms together in the haze of light and air. It is an enduring, timeless image, as if something from a dream, and yet every detail of the city is meticulously and accurately portrayed. The soft sunlight picks out a column here, a portico there, rounded domes shimmering above the haze and the glow of innumerable marbled facades. In the foreground the view is dominated on the left by the busy waterfront of Trastevere – the Ripa Grande – animated by the bustling comings and goings of the dockyards in the early morning and backed by the imposing façade of the Ospizio di San Michele, which gleams white in the soft sunlight. In Turner’s day this whole area was an important and busy port. Known as the Porto di Ripa it was one of the main arteries of the city, servicing the shipping and goods which came up from the port of Ostia on the Mediterranean. Behind the hospice rises the Janiculum Hill and the colossal mass of St Peter’s Basilica silhouetted against the skyline; a monumental symbol of Christianity casting its shadow across the ruins of pagan antiquity. As the eye sweeps to the right across the picture the view takes in the Villa Madama, with its loggia by Raphael twinkling in the distance atop Monte Mario. Closer to the viewer the domes of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo can clearly be seen standing proud of the densely packed city, whilst the centre of the composition is dominated by the Ponte Emilio, today known as the Ponte Rotto, jutting out into the river, its broken span blending into the mist and the reflections on the water as it disappears like an eerie ghost of glories past (see fig. 9).
Claude Joseph Vernet, The Ponte Rotto, Rome, oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris, France, Giraudon / Bridgeman Images
To the right of the bridge the Capitoline Hill and the Campidoglio pierce the horizon, whilst the view sweeps round with the curve of the river to incorporate the ruins of the ancient Forum Romanum, with the distinctive twelfth–century Romanesque campanile of Santa Francesca Romana in its midst, the Palatine Hill and the Circus Maximus. Close to the bank the circular Temple of Hercules Victor is clearly defined, whilst on the far right, faintly outlined through shards of light piercing the mist, the arches of the Colosseum can just be seen peeking out from behind the dark foliage of the near foreground. From the lower right, close to the picture plane, soars a high rising umbrella pine, one of the classic sights of the Roman landscape. Breaking the skyline it gives added height to the composition and allows the viewer’s eye to rise with the aerial perspective. Found in their hundreds in the Borghese Gardens, and on both the Pincian and the Aventine hills, these ubiquitous symbols of the Roman Campagna feature heavily in Turner’s work from this period and are used to similar effect in works such asChilde Harold’s Pilgrimage – Italy, of 1832 (fig. 3), and Palastrina – Composition, painted in Italy in 1828 (fig. 4).
J.M.W. Turner, R.A., Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage – Italy, exhibited 1832, oil paint on canvas, 1422 x 2483 mm © Tate, London 2014
J.M.W. Turner, R.A., Palestrina – Composition, 1828, exhibited 1830, Oil paint on canvas, 1403 x 2489 mm © Tate, London 2014
Here the tree is given added significance, working as a subtle piece of misdirection, an artistic sleight of hand. Turner has elevated his viewpoint such that it is not the foreground figures, or even the line of the horizon, which are at the eye level of the viewer, but the small broken branch two-thirds of the way up the trunk of the pine. The tree also anchors the composition, counterbalancing the long line of the façade of the hospice which thrusts its way into the picture, leading the eye ‘to where it should go – the matchless distance’.2 Through all this sweeps the ethereal Tiber itself – the life force of Rome – with reflected dawn light dispelling the mist from the river and infusing the atmosphere with a hazy golden glow. It is as if the Eternal City itself is waking from slumber, coming to life and emerging, vibrant and alive, into the dawn of a new era. In the foreground Turner’s inclusion of a small figure group adds a humanity so typical of his work. A bustling priest hurrying to early morning service encounters a young girl, possibly a servant from one of the great palazzi in town who has risen early to bring in fresh produce from beyond the city limits; she drops to her knees as he passes. It is a small but beautiful little action, and lends a sense of reality to the pictorial metaphor.
This concept of an awakening, or rebirth, was important for Turner. Like Byron he was deeply concerned with the liberty of ancient civilizations and their emancipation from the tyranny of foreign oppression. It was a theme that he had explored in the pair of paintings he showed at the Royal Academy in 1816, The Temple of Jupiter Panellenius, with the Greek national dance of the Romaika (Northumberland Collection, Alnwick Castle) and The Temple of Jupiter Panellenius Restored (Private Collection), which addressed the rising contemporary concern over the occupation of Greece by the Ottoman Empire. During Turner’s own lifetime Rome had twice been invaded and subjugated by foreign rulers. First in 1798, during the French Revolutionary War, when the Papal States had been defeated by an invading French army and subjected to French Rule; and between 1808 and 1814 when the French had again invaded and this time annexed Rome as part of the French Empire. The Napoleonic Wars had cut off access to Italy for foreign travellers and restricted the flow of cultural tourism that was the city’s life blood. It was not until 1819 that Turner was finally able to travel there, and by the time of his second visit to Rome in 1828 the city once again hummed with the busy and lucrative activity of artisans, dealers and merchants. As David Gilmour explores below, artists from across Europe and Scandinavia flocked to the city, be they painters, sculptors, musicians, poets or writers. Turner was invigorated by the atmosphere he found there in the late 1820s, and it is this rejuvenation amidst the crumbling ruins of antiquity that he depicts so beautifully in this painting.
With this in mind Turner’s viewpoint in significant. The Aventine Hill had long held an association with liberty in ancient Roman history. According to Livy, it was on the Pons Sublicus, which bridged the Tiber at the base of the Aventine, that Horatius Cocles in the sixth century BC stood alone in defence of the city against the invading Etruscan army. It was also here, at the summit of the hill, that the first Roman temple to the goddess Libertas was constructed during the second century BC, following Rome’s victory over the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War. It is no coincidence therefore that the artist chose to portray the city seen from this particular spot, and it lends import to the account of Sir Charles Eastlake, Turner’s friend and fellow artist with whom he stayed in Rome, that he took such particular care to select the view.3
Commission and Critical Reception
Unusually for a late work by Turner this painting appears to have been a direct commission from his close friend and patron, Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864). An amateur artist himself, who travelled on sketching tours with Turner, Munro was one of the greatest collectors of his generation, and would later become Turner’s executor. Munro wanted a picture of ‘modern Rome from a fine point that included the Tiber and some of the chief antiquities’4 to add to his outstanding collection of Old Masters and contemporary British paintings. Exactly when the picture was painted is difficult to know. The general consensus among art historians, however, seems to be that the picture was at least conceived, mapped out and the design committed to canvas in Italy. Turner’s second trip to Rome was very different to his 1819 sketching tour, when he had filled his sketchbooks with quick topographical scenes and studies from the antique, and he returned to the city with the definite intention of painting oils. Leaving London in August 1828 he stopped in Paris, from where he wrote to Charles Eastlake requesting that he prepare several large canvases with ‘the best of all possible grounds and canvas’5 ahead of his arrival. Working from Eastlake’s studio at 12 Piazza Mignanelli, near the Spanish Steps, soon after his arrival Turner began work on a painting intended for Lord Egremont, believed to be Palestrina-Composition (Tate Britain, London, fig. 4). He also showed three oils executed in Rome at a small exhibition on the Quirinal Hill. Recent analysis of the stretcher of the present painting, as discussed below by Simon Howell, suggest that it is of Italian manufacture, supporting the theory that the picture was begun in Rome in 1828, and completed back in London some time later.
The canvas, however, appears to be of a finer weave than that normally associated with Italian paintings of this date and certainly very different from that found on a painting such as Regulus (Tate Britain, London), which is known definitely to have been produced in Rome in 1828 and was shown at the Quirinal exhibition. The same, never-the-less, can be said of the canvas support for Palestrina – Composition, previously discussed, which is equally on a relatively fine weave canvas but thought to have been painted in Rome. Perhaps Turner’s specific demand to Eastlake regarding the quality of canvas supplied might be significant. However, as Rome, from Mount Aventine was not exhibited at the Royal Academy until 1836, it seems clear that the gestation of the painting took several years. This method of working was not at all unusual for Turner, who often held onto pictures and re-worked them over extended periods of time. Between 1828 and 1836, working on and off on the picture in the studio alongside other masterpieces such as Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage – Italy (1832, Tate Britain, London, fig. 3) and Staffa, Fingal’s Cave (1832, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven), Turner worked gradually towards the picture’s glorious conclusion at the Academy, applying successive layers of colour and transforming what had been a fairly straightforward commission into something infinitely more sublime. Indeed these years produced some of the artist’s most celebrated works. Turner would have been actively working on this picture in his studio alongside paintings such as Ulysses deriding Polyphemus – Homer’s Odyssey (1829, National Gallery, London), Caligula’s Palace and Bridge (1831, Tate Britain, London), Venice: The Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore (1834, National Gallery of Art, Washington), Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight (1835, National Gallery of Art, Washington), Ehrenbreitstein (1835, Private Collection), Venice from the Porch of the Madonna della Salute (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and The Burning of the Houses of Parliament (1835, Philadelphia Museum of Art).
The Academy exhibition of 1836 was an important milestone in Turner’s career. It marks a crucial moment in the critical reception of his work and was to have significant repercussions. Turner exhibited three paintings at the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition that year – Rome, from Mount Aventine (the present picture), Mercury and Argus (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, fig. 8) and Juliet and her Nurse (Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, Buenos Aires, fig. 17).
James T. Willmore after J. M. W. Turner, Mercury and Argus, 1841, etching and engraving, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, USA / Bridgeman Images
J.M.W. Turner, R.A., Juliet and her Nurse © Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat
The exhibition divided opinion, and although some critics responded positively to what they saw, all three pictures, and the last in particular, came under scathing attack from the Rev. John Eagles in a review published by Blackwood’s Magazine. Of this picture Eagles commented; ‘A most unpleasant mixture, wherein white gambouge [sic] and raw sienna are, with childish execution, daubed together’.6 It was this attack, and the glib superficiality of Eagles’ response to the works, which fired the young John Ruskin’s impassioned defence of Turner’s art; a defence which would later be expanded into his great magnum opus, published in five volumes between 1843 and 1860 – Modern Painters. Although, at Turner’s request, Ruskin’s rebuttal was never published, his prose descriptions of Turner’s canvases were a tour de force that paralleled the pictures themselves, and were justification alone for the artist’s work. Praising Turner’s ‘many coloured mists… such as you might imagine to be aetherial spirits’, which ‘with the beauty of uncertain light… move and mingle’ upon the canvas, whilst ‘the spires of the glorious city rise indistinctly bright into those living mists like pyramids of pale fire… amidst the glory of the dream’7 Ruskin’s prose gave the lie to the common misconception among contemporary reviewers that Turner’s bravura handling of paint was the result of affectation rather than feeling; a tendency to ‘fly off into mere eccentricities’.8 To Turner’s admirers the exhibition was a triumph, and as well as this picture, Munro, who by this stage had become one of the most ardent collectors of his work, also bought Juliet and her Nurse – Turner’s dazzling view of Venice – and would have bought all three pictures if he had not been ‘ashamed of taking so large a haul’.9 Many of the critics responded favourably as well, and of this picture the Morning Post espoused on 3 May ‘this is one of those amazing pictures by which Mr Turner dazzles the imagination and confounds all criticism. It is beyond praise’; whilst the Athenaeum on 14 May called it ‘a gorgeous picture, full of air and sunshine’.
Though Turner’s late works were often misunderstood or unappreciated by contemporaries, and vilified by his detractors and critics during his lifetime, to later generations they have been recognised as the work of a visionary that presage the development of modern art in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And yet, as is currently being elucidated in the exhibition now on show at Tate Britain, Late Turner: Painting Set Free, though he may have been solitary in his style, Turner was not an artist who retreated from an engagement with contemporary events. Indeed he remained fully engaged with developments in aesthetic debate throughout his life, and his art should properly be understood not simply in the pejorative terms of the nineteenth century, as simply some whimsical fantasy, a mad experiment with abstraction, or ‘childish’ daubing, but as a sustained and active effort to communicate certain truths about the world in which we live. Neither are the subjects of his late paintings merely the pretext for some formal experimentation in abstraction, heedless of the demands of patrons or the reaction of critics. Quite the contrary, they were intimately grounded in the artist’s concern for concepts of painting that he had refined over the course of his career – the exploration of visual perception and natural phenomena, the depiction of modern life and the course of history, and the social and ethical contexts that determine the endeavours of mankind – as well as a commitment ‘to present these truths in a highly sophisticated way, handling paint freely and using the resources of light and colour to choreograph the pictorial structure of his work’.10 The astonishingly well preserved surface of this painting bears all the marks of Turner’s genius, and in very few other works can the techniques, honed over a lifetime of experience working both in oil and in watercolour, be seen to such dazzling effect. Turner’s inimitable technique is discussed below in greater detail by Ian Warrell, suffice to say here that the student hoping to understand the intricate subtleties and expansive range of his skill need look no further than the breathtakingly preserved surface of Rome, from Mount Aventine. A painting which remains as fresh as the day it left the artist’s easel.
Turner’s Late Paintings
As professor Sam Smiles has commented, Turner’s ‘setting free of paint’ should be seen not as some rash reaction to the decrepitude of old age, or the sudden vagaries of an increasingly eccentric visionary, but as a ‘continued development of ideas about painting that he had refined over the course of his career.’11 The significance of Turner’s achievement was in ‘elaborating a convincing way of representing natural phenomena in all their complexity’. What his critics ‘attacked as incomprehensible or fantastic should properly be understood as a further development of a credo he had adopted throughout his career when attempting to engage with the diversity of material substance and visual perception. Turner’s pictures are multifaceted and their meanings sometimes elusive primarily because he did not use painting to illustrate a subject (as was true of so many of his contemporaries), but instead made the best use of what painting can do as a means of distilling experience and conveying ideas’.12 The titles of his works and the iconography within them are merely there to prompt chains of thought and associations within the viewer’s mind, however they ‘do not exhaust a picture’s meaning; it is in the texture of the painting, the disposition of forms, the articulation of space, the orchestration of colour and the structures of the painted surface that the meaning is embodied and from which it will emerge when the viewer is fully engaged with the work’. What is apparent in all of Turner’s works is ‘the sense of a highly creative mind grappling with the problem of finding a more adequate way of representing what he knew, drawing on all his technical resources to develop an image rich enough to accommodate what he had discerned’.13
The world which Turner’s late works inhabit is above all dynamic. They present us with an environment that is mutable, ever changing, ‘where solid forms become tremulous in light, water turns into vapour, diurnal and seasonal rhythms of light transmogrify the landscape they illuminate. This ever-shifting world is the stage on which humanity plays out its destiny’. There is no sense in Turner’s final works that his brush was ‘free to be autonomous, such that subject matter was merely the excuse for a dazzling display of painterly invention’. Far from it, indeed it was his very understanding of what unrestricted practise would permit which gave him the scope to ‘tackle subjects whose complexity could not have been revealed in any other medium.’ If there is a modernist lineage in these last works, it is based not just on the virtuosity of his brushwork, but on the fact that subsequent generations have recognised in his work an unshakable commitment to the image ‘as an important contributor to the development of knowledge, articulating truths that were inexpressible in any other way’.14 As the eye travels back and forth over the rich impasto and loaded brushstrokes of this painting, which have been left undisturbed for nearly two hundred years, we are as close to this extraordinary genius as we can ever hope to be.
1. Quoted by P. Simpson in Turner Inspired in the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, London 2012, p. 15.
2. W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2 vols, London 1862, vol. 1, pp. 232.
3. Ibid., pp. 231–32.
5. Letter from Turner to Sir Charles Eastlake, quoted in M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner, New Haven and London 1984, p. 174.
6. Blackwood’s Magazine, July – December 1836, vol. XL, p. 551.
7. Quoted in Butlin and Joll, op. cit., p. 216.
8. Blackwood’s Magazine, July – December 1836, vol. XL, p. 551.
9. Butlin and Joll, op. cit., p. 218.
10. S. Smiles, ‘Turner In and Out of Time’, in Late Turner – Painting Set Free, exhibition catalogue, London 2014, p. 14.
11. Ibid., pp. 21–2.
Ibid., p. 21.
13. Ibid., p. 23.
14. Ibid., p. 22–3.
H. A. J. Munro of Novar
by Julian Gascoigne
A Scottish landowner, Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864) was the son of Sir Alexander Munro, one time Consul-General in Madrid, and his wife Margaret Penelope Johnstone. Born in London on 13 February 1797, in 1809 he succeeded to the vast Novar estates of his uncle, General Sir Hector Munro (1736-1805) who had been Commander-in-Chief of the Army in India, where he had won fame and fortune. Munro’s inheritance made him one of the chief land owners in Ross, Cromarty and Moray, and in 1814 he matriculated as a gentleman commoner at Christ Church College, Oxford. An amateur artist and distinguished collector, Munro first met Turner in 1826, probably during a tour of Northern France and Belgium in August and September of that year. Shy, diffident, and with a somewhat morbid temperament, his character was much like that of the equally morose but more forceful Turner. Despite the disparity in age (Munro was over twenty years Turner’s junior) and social status they mixed on intimate terms and a close friendship fast developed. Together with Elhanan Bicknell, Munro became one of Turner’s most important and influential patrons during the last twenty years of his life. In 1833 he financed Turner’s second journey to Venice, buying the magnificent Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) on the artist’s return, and in 1836 – the year he bought this painting – they travelling together through France, Switzerland and Italy on a sketching tour. Turner is said to have suggested the tour to help alleviate Munro’s depression, and the two painted alongside each other, with Turner assisting Munro by teaching him the technique of sketching in watercolours.
Ruskin records a rather charming incident from this expedition which reflects Turner’s kindness and the almost paternal nature of their relationship: ‘Drawing with one of his best friends [Munro], at the bridge of St Martin’s, the friend got into great difficulty over a coloured sketch. Turner looked over him a little while, then said, in a grumbling way – “I haven’t got any paper I like; let me try yours.” Receiving a block book, he disappeared for an hour and a half. Returning, he threw the book down, with a growl saying – “I can’t make anything of your paper.” There were three sketches on it, in three distinct states of progress, showing the process of colouring from beginning to end, and clearing up every difficulty which his friend had got into.’1
Although Turner would not sell Munro any of the Swiss watercolours he had made, he did give him a sketchbook made shortly before at Farnley, and Munro was later able to buy the large oil painting Snow-Storm, Avalanche and Inundation – A Scene in the Valley d’Aosta (Art Institute of Chicago, fig. 11), which was the main fruit of that tour and based on sketches he had made in Munro’s company. In 1844 Munro was made one of the four trustees of Turner’s Charity for the relief of decayed and indigent artists, and it may also have been at about this time that Turner made him one of the three executors of his will. It was in this capacity that, when Turner died in 1851, Munro, along with George Jones and Thomas Griffith was charged with the task of sorting out Turner’s huge collection and bequest to the nation.
J.M.W. Turner, Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm, Oil on canvas, 92.2 x 123 cm, Frederick T. Haskell Collection, 1947.513, The Art Institute of Chicago
Munro inherited just one painting from his father, a Murillo, which Sir Alexander had been given whilst Consul General in Madrid. With this single exception the rest of his wide-ranging and idiosyncratic collection was amassed entirely by himself. In 1838, when the great German art historian Dr Waagen first visited Munro, the collection was still embryonic and Waagen’s comments were cursory, almost dismissive, and made no mention of the Turners – an artist whose work the German doctor did not in any case admire. By 1854, however, Waagen made a second visit to Munro’s collection and was astounded by the transformation, and he praised it in the utmost terms. What impressed Waagen most was not only the quality of the work Munro had collected, which was of the very highest standard, but the obvious enthusiasm with which it had been assembled. ‘In these days, when pictures are too often collected from motives of vanity or ostentation’ he wrote, ‘it is refreshing to meet with an individual like Mr Munro, in whom the love of art alone is the inducement – a love which the present increase in artistic knowledge in England can only strengthen.’2 He even managed to pass favour on some of the Turners, comparing the artist favourably to Titian, and describing Munro’s collection of his watercolours and drawings as ‘a perfect treasury’.3
Munro’s collection was housed both at Novar House, overlooking the Cromarty Firth near Evanton in the north of Scotland, and at his London houses, 6 Hamilton Place, off Piccadilly, and 113 Park Street, near Grosvenor Square, where this picture was hung in the main parlour. His first recorded purchase of an oil painting by Turner was in 1830, when he bought Venus and Adonis (Private Collection, USA), originally painted circa 1803-5, for 85 guineas at the sale of the collection of John Green of Blackheath, held by Christie’s on 26 April 1830, lot 82. Further purchases soon followed, and in all he owned some dozen oil paintings by Turner, as well as twenty or so large scale watercolours and a further fifty-five vignettes. So extensive was the collection, and so highly regarded, that in 1847 the Art Union Magazine declared ‘Mr Munro possesses a considerable number of Turner’s finest works – indeed, to such an extent, that it is here, perhaps, he can best be studied, with the exception of his own gallery.’4 Singling out this picture for praise amongst the collection, the anonymous critic enthused ‘if we would sour [sic] into the regions of mystery, if we would involve ourselves in the radiations of esthetics [sic], if we would discard all the coarse clay and solid matter of humanity, let us enter the lists with this earthly giant, and seek to probe the ill-understood or uninvestigated motives of Turner’s art… to this marvellous achievement of chiaro’scuro, senzaseuro, he has united a knowledge of aerial perspective such as no previous painter ever imagined or dreamed of.’5 In addition to works by Turner, Munro was also an avid collector of other contemporary British artists and owned at least four paintings by Richard Parkes Bonington, six by John Constable, twelve by William Etty, four by Joshua Reynolds and five by Richard Wilson, among others. Landseer stayed with him at Novar, and painted in the deer forest, and Munro owned Stubbs’ Eclipse (Royal Veterinary College, London). Unlike Elhanan Bicknell, however, Munro also formed a large and important collection of Old Masters in addition to the work of Turner and his contemporary British artists. Primarily consisting of a distinguished group of sixteenth and seventeenth-century works, as well as French and Italian Rococo pictures, his collection included Raphael’s celebrated Madonna dei candelabra (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), which he acquired at the sale of the Duke of Lucca’s pictures after 1841; a personification of Charity by Andrea del Sarto (National Gallery of Art, Washington); Veronese’s Vision of St Helena (National Gallery, London); and Rembrandt’s Lucretia (National Gallery of Art, Washington). He also owned Tiepolo’s The Martydom of St Agatha (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) and Titian’s Adoration of the Magi (Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio), as well as works by, or attributed to Parmigianino, Giulio Romano, Guido Reni, Annibale Carracci, Claude Lorraine, Nicolas Poussin, Rubens, Jan Steen, and many others.
At his death the whole collection numbered some two and a half thousand works and seven sales held by Christie’s between 1860 and 1878 to disperse the pictures aroused great public interest. His collection of Turners were of paramount importance. The catalogue for the sale of his modern pictures on 6 April 1878 lists thirty two works on paper by Turner, as well as eight oil paintings, including: lot 96, Ancient Italy, Ovid banished from Rome, which he bought directly from the Royal Academy in 1838, and was purchased by Agnew’s for 5,200 guineas (Private Collection); lot 97, Modern Italy – The Pifferari, also exhibited at the Academy in 1838 and bought by Agnew’s for 5,000 guineas (Glasgow Art Gallery, fig. 12); lot 99, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, exhibited in 1839 and bought by Davis on behalf of the Earl of Rosebery for 4,450 guineas (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles); lot 100, Juliet and her Nurse, which Munro had bought along with this picture and also went to Agnew’s for 5,200 guineas (Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, Buenos Aires, fig. 17); lot 101, The Rotterdam Ferry Boat, exhibited at the Academy in 1831 and again bought by Agnew’s for 5,200 guineas (National Gallery of Art, Washington, fig. 10); lot 102, Snow-Storm, Avalanche and Inundation – A Scene in the Valley d’Aosta (previously mentioned), which was purchased by an unknown buyer for 910 guineas (Art Institute of Chicago, fig. 11); and lot 103, Venus and Adonis, bought by Fletcher for 3,400 guineas (Private Collection, USA). Of all the pictures in the sale the highest price achieved was the staggering 5,850 guineas paid for this picture: lot 98, Rome, from Mount Aventine, which was bought by Davis on behalf of Lord Rosebery. He and his new wife, Hannah Rothschild, had interrupted their honeymoon to be in London for the sale.
J. M. W. Turner, R. A., Rotterdam Ferry-Boat, oil on canvas, 92.3 x 122.5 cm, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, 1970.17.135
Annotated page from the 1878 Munro of Novar sale, showing Rome, from Mount Aventine as lot 98
1. E. T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, The Works of John Ruskin, Library Edition in thirty nine volumes, 1903-12, vol. VII, 1903-12, 446n.
2. G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 3 vols, London 1854, vol. II, p. 131.
3. G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 3 vols, London 1854, vol. II, p. 141.
4. ‘The Collection of H. A. J. Munro, Esq., of Novar, No. 113, Park-Street, Grosvenor Square,’ in Art Union, vol. 9, London July 1847, p. 253.
THE HISTORY OF THE PAINTING
by Richard Charlton Jones
The quite astonishing state of preservation of Rome from Mount Aventine – unharmed by the vicissitudes of time or infelicitous restoration – which permits us to look upon it almost as if we were ourselves visitors to the Royal academy exhibition of 1836, is fitting testament to its remarkable and unbroken provenance. For in its 186 year history, this painting has changed hands only once. This was in 1878 when it was sold by the heirs of the man who had originally commissioned it, Hugh Munro of Novar, one of Turner’s closest friends and patrons. It was then bought by Archibald Philip, 5th Earl of Rosebery, later Prime Minster of Great Britain, to celebrate his marriage with Hannah Rothschild, and it has remained in the possession of his descendants ever since. It would be hard indeed to find a more distinguished provenance than this, let alone one more intact.
Rome from Mount Aventine was originally commissioned from Turner by Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864). Munro was enormously wealthy, the heir to the vast Ross-shire estates and Indian fortune of his uncle General Sir Hector Munro, who had died in 1806. Although Turner was a famously difficult character, and Munro was over twenty years younger, the latter established a relationship with the painter that few if any contemporary patrons, save perhaps Lord Egremont at Petworth or Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall could match. The two men had certainly met by 1826, when Turner famously remarked in a letter that Munro had ‘lost a great deal of his hesitation in manner and speech and does not blush so often as heretofore’.1 By 1830 Turner had visited him at Novar in Scotland, and Munro was swiftly to become one of his most fervent patrons, buying many of the most important paintings Turner showed at the Royal Academy between 1836 and 1844, including the present canvas.
Although we do not know the precise date of the commission for this painting, Walter Thornbury in his Life of Turner, first published in 1862, records that ‘Mr. Munro gave Turner a commission for a view of modern Rome from a fine point that included the Tiber and some of the chief antiquities’. He (Turner) had been particularly anxious as to what Mr. Munro wanted – ‘a copy or an ideal picture. A ‘copy’ was asked for, and a copy he did’.2 By ‘copy’ Munro meant that he desired a view of Rome that was topographically true, rather than an idealised classical panorama in the tradition of Claude Lorrain. The commission no doubt dated from shortly before Turner’s second trip to Rome in 1828. When Turner was in Rome, the painter Sir Charles Eastlake noted the care which he took to find the correct spot from which to paint this view. Several sketches today in the Tate Gallery endorse Eastlake’s recollections, and indeed in the catalogue of Munro’s collection compiled later in 1865, it was written that the picture was ‘Painted for Mr. Munro on the spot’. Though not literally painted en plein air, the painting was probably conceived and begun in Italy, for its stretcher is of Italian make. The extraordinary survival of Turner’s fingerprints on the canvas show that he had carried it at times while the paint was still not quite dry.
If from Turner’s letter of 1826 we can glean that Munro was a shy man, then the long gap of eight years between sketches and the exhibited work of 1836 show that he was also a very patient one. His purchase of the Rome from Mount Aventine was finally secured following its exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. According to Thornbury, ‘…it was for this picture that Mr. Munro gave the artist his own price only £300; Turner refusing to raise the price beyond that of some other picture Mr. Munro had had. He was full of these punctilious notions of justice ’.3 From the same exhibition, Munro also purchased another of Turner’s undisputed masterpieces, Juliet and her Nurse (Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, Buenos Aires, fig. 17), and indeed he would have added a third – the Mercury and Argus now in Ottawa – had he not felt that he was acting too greedily. Both paintings were taken to Munro’s London house at 113 Park Street, near Grosvenor Square. Turner’s evocation of the Eternal City and the light of Italy must have moved him greatly, for only two years later he had acquired his Modern Italy and Ancient Italy from the 1838 Royal Academy exhibition, and a year later in 1839 Modern Rome, a group of Italian views unparalleled by any collector before or since.
By the end of his life Munro had owned no less than fifteen oils by Turner, and one hundred and nine watercolours, mostly of Swiss and German subjects and some Scottish views. By any standards such a collection was extraordinary, and although his patronage of contemporary painters, including Bonington and Constable, was remarkable and his collection of Old Masters famous, it was this core of the collection that has since come to define Munro’s life as a collector. When his sister Isabella and her son Henry consigned the collection for sale in a series of seven auctions at Christie’s between 1860 and 1878, Rome from Mount Aventine was among the group of Turners sold on the 8 April 1878. It had been famously difficult to acquire paintings from Turner while he was alive, so there was extraordinary public interest in the sale. It was viewed by an estimated twelve thousand people or more, and anticipation rivalled or even exceeded the interest shown in his equally famous collection of Old Masters. In the event, as detailed elsewhere in this catalogue, even Veronese’s Vision of the Cross, bought for the National Gallery when it was sold at Christie’s the following month, could not compete in price with the Turners. Rome from Mount Aventine, wrote the Times, ‘drew forth long and loud applause’ when it appeared in the room as lot 98, and it fetched the highest price of all at 5,850 guineas. The buyer was Frederick Davis, acting as agent for the painting’s new owner, Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929).
Davis stayed on his feet to secure the following lot, the canvas of Modern Rome (fig. 18), for which he successfully bid 4,450 guineas. Both paintings were bought by Rosebery to celebrate his recent marriage on 20th March to Hannah Rothschild. Remarkably, the young couple broke their honeymoon in order to come down from the family seat at Dalmeny in Scotland to London on 4th April in order to view the Turners prior to the auction. As Hannah wrote to her sister-in-law Constance, Lady Leconfield, four days after the sale:
‘Dearest Connie, No doubt you are surprised to hear of our return from the north; but Archie wanted to see the Turners & hear the debate, so I naturally preferred accompanying him to remaining in northern solitude & we came to London by the night mail on Thursday.’
The two paintings thus secured, the couple left for the Continent to renew their honeymoon. Rosebery’s motives for acquiring these magnificent paintings were probably varied. It may well be that their purchase had been in part inspired by the young couple beginning their honeymoon at Petworth House in Sussex, the home of Lord Rosebery’s sister, Lady Leconfield, where they would have seen one of the finest of all collections of Turner’s work. At a stroke Rosebery had acquired two Turners to match those in his brother-in-law’s collection. No doubt a love of Italy played an important part in this, for they had already planned to spend part of their honeymoon in Rome. Later, from their mooring aboard the yacht Czarina in the Bay of Naples, they admired the Villa Delahante at Posilippo, so much so that Rosebery would later acquire it in 1897 and rename it the Villa Rosebery.
It is said, probably apocryphally, that as an Eton schoolboy, Rosebery claimed that his three principal objectives in life were to become Prime Minster, to win the Derby and to marry an heiress. Whether true or not, there can be no doubt that his marriage in 1878 to Hannah, the orphan daughter and heiress of Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild, provided him with the material means to achieve his ambitions. At her father’s death Hannah became the wealthiest heiress of her generation, having been left a fortune estimated at 2 million pounds, including the spectacular house her father had built and lavishly furnished at Mentmore in Buckinghamshire. Although already wealthy in his own right, Rosebery was thus now possessed of an immense fortune – the greatest ever accumulated by a Prime Minster of this country – as well as one of the most outstanding art collections of its kind anywhere in the world at that time. As Lady Eastlake famously remarked after a visit to Mentmore, ‘I do not believe that the Medici were ever so lodged at the height of their glory’.
After the sale Rome from Mount Aventine was hung in the London residence of Lady Rosebery’s family at 107 Piccadilly, together with Modern Rome, their other purchase from the sale. Both this painting and Modern Rome were subsequently moved with the rest of the London collection in 1888 from Piccadilly to the Roseberys’ new residence at 38 Berkeley Square. Both paintings were among the nine works lent by Lord Rosebery to the exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and by deceased Masters of the British School held at the Royal Academy in 1896. In 1938 Rome, from Mount Aventine was moved to Mentmore, where together with Modern Rome, it was hung in the Green Drawing Room, the principal room on the ground floor. There the painting stayed until 1978, when it was placed on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh following the famous Mentmore sale of the previous year, and there it has remained until now.
Understandably Rosebery did not again purchase another Turner of such stature, although he did buy watercolours by the artist which remain in the family collection. A discerning collector of works of art and rare books in particular, much in the mould of J. Pierpont Morgan or Henry Frick, he added considerably to the works of art assembled at Mentmore by Baron Mayer de Rothschild, as well as to the family houses in Berkeley Square in London, at Dalmeny in Scotland and The Durdans in Surrey, and later at his villa near Naples. For the Dining Room in the former he bought a series of portraits of the Prime Ministers of England, and two fine views of London by Samuel Scott for the Drawing Room. The Durdans, close to Epsom, naturally housed his collection of sporting art, including notable works by Stubbs, Herring and Marshall. His interest in painting also followed or combined with his own historical and literary interests. This took the form, for example, of a remarkable series of portraits of famous men of history. In the winter of 1896 he had sent to the Royal Academy Gilbert Stuart’s celebrated full-length Portrait of George Washington (1796, Smithsonian Institute, Washington) and Jacques Louis David’s portrait of Napoleon in his study (1812, National Gallery of Art, Washington), which formed the centrepiece of a collection of Bonaparte family portraits and Napoleonic material today still kept at Dalmeny. He also owned Stubbs’Equestrian portrait of Warren Hastings (1791), and Thomas Philipps’ famous likeness of Lord Byron (1841), both also still in Scotland. He did not fail to support contemporary painters, notably Sir John Everett Millais, from whom he commissioned his own portrait. Rome, from Mount Aventine undoubtedly remains one of his most perceptive and distinguished acquisitions, but strangely, it was not the most expensive. This distinction belongs to his Portrait of Lord Newton by Sir Henry Raeburn at Dalmeny, for which he paid Wertheimer a staggering £7,854 in 1912.
Rosebery’s was a complex personality, never better reflected than by his political life. A Whig by background and upbringing, but perhaps not by inclination, as a politician he enjoyed a long and distinguished career on the Liberal benches. Although always considered ‘the man of the future’ under Gladstone, either out of vanity or calculation he refused a remarkable string of offers of office until he was finally appointed Foreign Minister in the administration of 1886. ‘Was there ever such a complex person?’ asked the perplexed Lord Crewe. It had been at the introduction of Disraeli in 1868 that he met his future wife, and though little inclined to politics, Hannah proved well suited to the role and provided him with a constant source of encouragement and support. This was timely, for rather like Munro of Novar, Rosebery suffered from melancholy and what has been described as ‘a haunting sense of transience’. When Hannah died of typhoid in 1890 at the age of only thirty nine, he was distraught and withdrew from public life for eighteen months. Although reluctant to return to office he became Foreign Secretary again in 1892, and finally Prime Minister in 1894. His failure to build on his earlier foreign policy successes, a weak Budget and the collapse of his initiative for the reform of what he described as ‘the gilded prison’ of the House of Lords meant that his premiership was largely ineffective and lasted only until 1895. It may have been of some consolation when, having achieved two of his youthful life’s ambitions, he added the third when he won the Derby twice in the same period with Ladas II in 1894 and Sir Visto in 1895.
Rome, from Mount Aventine, since its exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1896, was not seen again in public until the Coronation Exhibition of Turner’s works held in 1953. In 1974 it was exhibited again in the largest retrospective of Turner’s work yet held, both at the Tate Gallery and the Royal Academy in London. It has most recently been seen in the Turner in Italyexhibition held in Edinburgh, Ferrara and Budapest. Since 1978 it has been placed on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, a fitting tribute to its two remarkable Scottish owners.
1. Letter to James Holworthy, dated 4 December 1826.
2. W. Thornbury, The Life of JMW Turner RA, 2 vols, London 1862 ed., pp. 231-232.
3. W. Thornbury, op. cit., 1877 ed., p. 105.
ROME IN TURNER’S DAY
by David Gilmour
Few cities have experienced such fluctuating levels of fortune as Rome. Italian nationalists of the nineteenth century used to speak of successive eras of its glory: the Rome of the Consuls and the Caesars, the Rome of the Renaissance popes, and then the Rome of their day, capital of united Italy, an emerging Great Power. The city that Turner visited in the 1820s and 1830s was in contrast a city in decline, its buildings in generally poor state of repair and its streets badly maintained. However, even in its decadence Rome remained one of the most beautiful places in the world: a city still of villas and gardens, of undisturbed convents and rarely-pillaged ruins, a harmony of classical and Baroque in warm, lightly-ochred travertine stone. No wonder it entranced Shelley as well as Byron, for whom it was both the ‘city of the soul’ and ‘the Niobe of nations’. No wonder that Keats went there to die, or that his travelling companion, Joseph Severn, stayed on for decades and even became the British consul in 1861.
The great French writer Stendhal too could not keep away. Although in 1830 he was sent as French consul to Civitavecchia, a lustreless port in the Papal States, he contrived to spend much of his time in Rome, enjoying dinners and dances and admiring the beauty of the city’s women. Civitavecchia, he moaned, was such a ‘miserable hole’ – so cut off that he might as well be living in Borneo – that he felt justified in skiving in Rome and trying to hoodwink his superiors in Paris by heading his dispatches ‘Civitavecchia’.
Northern painters naturally flocked to the Eternal City in even greater numbers than the writers. Many had been influenced by Claude’s Virgilian landscapes of the Campagna; others had been inspired by David’s massive canvases of Lictors and Horatii. In 1810 a group of German Romantic painters known as the Nazarenes settled in Rome and received regular reinforcements from Germany over the following decades. In 1819, the year of Turner’s first visit, Thomas Lawrence arrived to paint Pope Pius VII and later to found the British Academy of Arts in Rome. Shortly afterwards Corot came to the city for three of his happiest and most productive years, painting the Coliseum and the surrounding landscape.
When Turner arrived in 1819 he found a city also full of English visitors. These included not only members of the aristocracy such as the celebrated William Cavendish 6th Duke of Devonshire busy amassing works of art for Chatsworth, but also painters such as Charles Eastlake and John Jackson, poets such as Thomas Moore and sculptors such as Francis Chantrey. By the time Turner visited Rome a second time Chantrey had left, but Turner kept in touch with his friend, giving him news and gossip about the artists in the city. The great sculptor Canova who lived in Rome had died in 1822, but his place had been taken by Bertel Thorvaldsen from Denmark. Thorvaldsen, now regarded as Rome’s finest sculptor, had a studio in Piazza Barberini. Other sculptors who had been attracted to Rome by Canova’s presence included Richard Westmacott and John Gibson.
The Congress of Vienna had restored much of the pre-Napoleonic Italian order, and the pope was now back not only as bishop of Rome but also as ruler of the Papal States, a wide band of central Italy that included Umbria, Bologna and much of the Adriatic littoral. Not all the states of Restoration Italy had returned to a reactionary ‘Dark Age’, but Rome had, literally at night because the papal regime regarded street lighting as the work of the devil. Similar obscurantism ruled out vaccination and railways: Gregory VIII, the pope of the 1830s, made the equation ‘Chemin de fer, chemin d’Enfer’ and banned railway construction in his territories.
Now divided into nine states Italy, as a whole, was going through a period of artistic decline. Massimo d’Azeglio, an artistic nobleman who later became prime minister of Piedmont, studied art in Rome and enjoyed sketching in the hill villages of the Castelli Romani. Yet like many of his contemporaries who felt ashamed to be Italian in that era of poverty and foreign occupation, he saw his primary artistic task in terms of propaganda and morale-boosting, specifically in the depiction of an heroic historical past on canvas. Much of Italian painting in this period thus consists of vast representations of events such as the Battle of Legnano (the Lombard League’s defeat of Frederick Barbarossa in 1176), the Sicilian Vespers (a massacre of French troops by Sicilians in 1282) and the Challenge of Barletta (a much mythologised event from the sixteenth century in which thirteen Italian knights challenged thirteen French knights to a duel and were victorious). These and similar incidents enthused writers and musicians as well. I lombardi alla prima crociata (‘The Lombards of the First Crusade’) was an epic poem by Tommaso Grossi, an early opera by Verdi and the subject of several pictures by the Milanese artist Francesco Hayez.
Giuseppe di Lampedusa, the Sicilian prince and author of The Leopard, ascribed the cultural wasteland of nineteenth century Italy to his countrymen’s obsessive pursuit of opera which, he claimed, ‘absorbed all the artistic energies of the nation’. Even painters ‘neglected their noble canvases to throw themselves headlong into designing the prisons of Don Carlos or the sacred groves of Norma’. Italy’s opera crowds presumably felt the sacrifice was worthwhile. In 1829 Rossini composed Guillaume Tell, in 1830 Donizetti triumphed with Anna Bolena, and in the following year Bellini produced the twin miracles ofNorma and La sonnambula. At the end of the decade Verdi’s first opera (Oberto) was performed at La Scala in Milan.
A first-night failure, known as a ’fiasco’, was quite common in a world where the fans of a rival composer often used to turn up and jeer. Rossini had experienced it in Rome with the première of Il barbiere di Siviglia (then known as Almaviva) at the Teatro Argentina. On 20 February 1816 a claque supporting Paisiello (who had written his own version of Il barbiere as far back as 1782) arrived, whistling and brawling and hooting with laughter so that nobody could hear Figaro’s famous cavatina ‘Largo al factotum’. Although the audience on the second night was more appreciative, Rossini was not mollified. From that time he preferred to have his premières at the San Carlo, the Bourbons’ beautiful opera house in Naples, until he achieved entry to the Mecca for all Italian composers, the Opéra in Paris.
Rome possessed three theatres for opera, but none of them attracted the fashionable composers with the exception of the prolific Donizetti, whose premières were held in the city’s Teatro Valle as well as in Naples, Venice, Florence and Milan (and later in Paris and Vienna). One reason was the squalor and discomfort of the theatres’ interiors; another was the ignorance of the Roman public. Visiting the city separately in 1830, both Berlioz and Mendelsohn were shocked by what they saw and heard: the former discovered that hardly anyone knew of Weber or Beethoven, while the latter was left stupefied by the poor quality of musicianship. ‘The orchestras,’ reported the young German composer, ‘are worse than anyone could believe’: the musicians had little idea of either timing or tuning or even ‘a proper feeling for music’.
Patriotic Italians of the period such as Azeglio – men whose ancestors had been for centuries the most prosperous and civilised people in Europe – were morbidly sensitive to the condescension of foreigners. They particularly disliked the way that northern Europeans loved their homeland for qualities which they in their new martial mood despised. Some even resented the French writer Stendhal for coming over the Alps with Napoleon’s army and simultaneously falling in love with Italy, opera and love itself. But one cannot tell foreigners what to like about one’s county, and many other visitors sought music, beauty and romance in a landscape where few armies marched and fewer factories roared.
No painter in Rome found himself at a loss for subjects. In the 1820s and 1830s the city may have been at its poorest and politically most benighted, but it was also at its most picturesque. Yet change was on the way. In the revolutionary turmoil of 1848-9, when the pope abandoned his dominions, Giuseppe Mazzini led a Roman republic that was defended with such valour by Garibaldi that Punch magazine hailed the soldier in Shakespeare’s words as ‘the noblest Roman of them all’. Although this enterprise was soon defeated by the combined armies of Austria, France and Naples, Rome remained the goal of patriotic ambitions, and in 1870 it became capital of the new kingdom of Italy. Alas its new rulers‘ determination to make it a rival of Paris and Vienna required the destruction of villas and convents and their replacement by spacious streets and grandiose public buildings. The Villa Ludovisi and its gardens disappeared under an avalanche of masonry, to be in due course reincarnated as the Via Veneto of Doney’s Caffè, Fellini’s films and the American Embassy. The travel writer Augustus Hare may have exaggerated when he compared these changes to the devastation wreaked by the Goths, but the city that Turner had known had been very violently transformed.
David Gilmour is author of The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples.
The Market for Turner
by David Moore-Gwyn
When Rome from Mount Aventine was offered for sale in 1878 it formed part of one of the most remarkable sales of works by Turner ever to have taken place. As the Times critic commented on 4th April “Since the memorable Bicknell sale in 1864 there has been no such display of Turner pictures”. His enthusiastic report on the sale itself ran to several columns and it is clear that the collection attracted quite exceptional interest – “It has been calculated that from twelve to fifteen thousand persons must have passed before the pictures…”. Rome, from Mount Aventine is particularly singled out – “Rome from Mount Aventine painted for Mr Munro and exhibited in 1836… when placed before the audience drew forth long and loud applause and its great beauty was testified by its bringing the highest price £6142.10s to Mr Davis”. This exceptional price had only been exceeded once, in April 1875, when The Grand Canal Venice (Metropolitan Museum, New York) was sold from the Manley Hall collection, formed by the cotton manufacturer Sam Mendel, for £7,350. This had also been a Munro of Novar picture, sold by him in March 1860 for £2,520, a clear indication of the increasing demand for Turner’s work. Munro’s sale also included 155 Old Master paintings offered on 10th June, not one of which came near the prices achieved for the six finest Turners in the collection. A striking example of this was the sale of Veronese’s Vision of the Cross, which was bought for the National Gallery for £3,465, whilst six oil paintings by Turner each sold for over £4,000. A number of paintings appeared at auction in Turner’s lifetime, and five sold for prices in excess of £500. However following his death the market improved significantly. James Wadmore had bought three important oils by Turner in 1828 for £700 and in his sale in May 1854 they sold for a total of £3,548, Cologne the Arrival of a Packet Boat (Frick Collection, New York) selling for £2,100, the first painting to exceed £2,000. It is interesting to note that this picture, together with Harbour of Dieppe, was eventually bought directly from Mrs Naylor, widow of the great collector, for £42,000 early in the twentieth century before being sold on to the Frick Collection in 1914.
In the 1860s and 1870s there had been a notable change in the type of collector of Turner’s work. Instead of his old friends Fawkes and Egremont he dealt increasingly with newly rich industrialists. Elhanan Bicknell from Herne Hill who had made a fortune in the whaling business was a typical example. He bought no fewer than eight paintings by Turner in 1844 and his sale in April 1863 created considerable interest. The Star of 28th April succinctly described this new breed of Turner collector – “a man not even pretending to resemble a Genoese or Florentine merchant prince but simply and absolutely a Londoner of the middle class actively occupied in business”. Another similar collector was Joseph Gillott, who had made a fortune with his invention of the steel pen. His sale in April 1872 included a number of paintings by Turner notably Walton Bridges (Loyd Collection) which sold for £5,250 (it had fetched £703.10 in a sale in June 1845), and The Junction of the Thames and Medway (National Gallery of Art, Washington) which sold for £4,567 – The Times commented in particular on the latter price, noting that 25 years earlier the same picture had sold for 1200 guineas “then an unheard-of price for any English painter’s work”. In fact the nineteenth century saw a marked increase in prices for major works by Turner and Turner’s dominance is emphasized by the fact that until the 1890s no work by his great contemporary John Constable had fetched in excess of £2,000 at auction. In May 1870 the Birmingham iron founder Edwin Bullock sold Venice, The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute (National Gallery of Art, Washington) for £2,688 having bought it at the Royal Academy in 1843 for 200 guineas, and the same picture was sold in May 1899 by the important coal engineer John Fowler for £8,610. In the early twentieth century there was enthusiastic buying for Turner’s work in America, and Venice, The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute was sold again in July 1927 from the estate of James Ross of Montreal for an astonishing £30,450. The buyer was the American collector Alvan Fuller, Governor of Massachusetts, in whose memory it was given to the National Gallery in Washington.
Pictures from the celebrated Bicknell sale of April 1863 proved excellent investments – Van Goyen, looking out for a subject(Frick Collection), which had sold then for £2,635 was sold from John Graham’s collection in April 1887 for £6,825,Helvoetsluys (Fuji Art Museum, Tokyo) which made £1,680 then was sold from the collection of the Devon collector James Price in June 1895 for £6,720 and Wreckers (Yale Centre for British Art) which made £1,984 was sold in May 1897 from the collection of the Scottish telegraph entrepreneur Sir John Pender for £7,980. The early years of the twentieth century saw further spectacular prices – Mortlake Terrace (Frick Collection) which had been sold from James Prices’s collection in June 1895 for £5,460 fetched £13,230 in the sale in June 1908 of the collection of Stephen Holland. The Lancashire chemical manufacturer Holbrook Gaskell had a remarkable collection of watercolours, but he also owned a remarkable painting by Turner, Burning of the House of Lords and Commons (Philadelphia Museum of Art) which had been sold back in May 1868 for £1,527 and in 1909 fetched an amazing £13,123, matching the record price from the previous year. The effect that the American market could have at this period was illustrated by two great sales. The first was the sale of Rockets and Blue Lights (Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown) in New York in April 1910 from the collection of Charles Yerkes. The picture had been included in Henry McConnell’s sale in March 1886 (together with Campo Santo, Venice) where it sold to Agnew for £745.10. It was now bought by Duveen for £25,800. The second was the sale of East Cowes Castle (Indianapolis Museum, Indiana) also in New York in February 1913 as part of the collection of Matthew C. B. Borden, ‘The Calico King’. In July 1835 it had been sold for £283.10, and in the E.W. Parker sale in July 1909 it fetched £6,825. Now only four years later it was sold for £21,700, an astonishing increase. These sales, and that in 1927 of Venice, The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute, moved the market for Turner paintings to a new level. In addition, in July 1912 the twelve day sale of the collection of the Newspaper proprietor J.E. Taylor established new records for Turner watercolours, including such great works as Blue Rigi.
It is not surprising that the period covering the two World Wars saw a dearth of great works by Turner appearing on the market. However there were some notable highlights, in particular the sale on July 8th 1927 of a remarkable group of 127 paintings from the collection of James Ross of Montreal. The Telegraph reported “the triumph… was shared by those paramount masters in the hierarchy of art Rembrandt and Turner’. The price of £30,450 for Venice, The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute achieved in that sale was not only a record price for Turner but also only very slightly lower that the price for the Rembrandt portrait and greatly in excess of prices for other Old Masters such as Rubens. The second Turner in the collection, Helvoetsluys, sold for £8,925, a reasonable increase over the price it had fetched in 1895 in the James Price sale. The price obtained for Venice, The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute remained the record until 1966. Another notable sale was the Yarborough sale on 12th July 1929. Festival of Macon (Sheffield City Art Gallery) had been bought directly from the artist in 1803 so when it was offered for sale by his descendent there was plenty of interest. The Telegraph referred to “the warmth of the auction welcome given to a magnificent early picture by Turner” and noted that Agnew won the picture “at the goodly bid of 8,600 guineas”.
Two pictures sold in the 1960s can be seen as heralding the spectacular resurgence in prices for Turner’s paintings. It is significant that the highest price by far was for a painting which had first been sold in one of the great nineteenth century sales, that of Elhanan Bicknell. The picture in question was Ehrenbreitstein (Private Collection) which was sold by Lord Allendale in July 1965 for £88,000, a price far in excess of the previous record established in 1927. The other high price was for the previously mentioned Helvoetsluys, another picture from the Bicknell sale, which was sold in November 1969 for £62,000. This lower price is explained by the picture’s appearance in 1954 when it was sold from the Coats collection for £9,240, though the price achieved fifteen years later does still show a very marked increase. It is generally considered that 1975 marks a watershed for the study of Turner’s work with the great exhibition at the Tate Gallery followed two years later by the publication of the catalogue raisoneé of his paintings. The Bridgewater Seapiece (Private Collection), painted for the Duke of Bridgewater in 1801 and sold by his descendants in June 1976 for £320,000 was further evidence that when a great work by the artist came onto the market there was a very strong market but compared with the nineteenth century such pictures appeared only rarely. It was a masterpiece originally from that great Munro sale in 1878 which suddenly transformed the market for Turner’s paintings. Juliet and Her Nurse (Coleccion de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, Buenos Aires, fig. 17) was sold in New York in May 1980 from the Whitney Collection for $6,400,000, a record for any painting at the time. Only four years later this price was overtaken by the appearance in July 1984 of Seascape: Folkstone (Private Collection) in the sale of works from Lord Clark’s collection. It was a great rarity, a very late work and one of only very few not forming part of the Turner Bequest, and it sold for £6,700,000 (Private Collection). It was these two sales which gave collectors the confidence to look out for the appearance of major works by Turner and two such opportunities have presented themselves in the last ten years. The two pictures in question were both late works of Italian subjects and significantly had originally appeared in great nineteenth century sales, one from Elhanan Bicknell and one from Munro of Novar. The first was the sale in April 2006 of Guidecca, la Donna della Salute and San Giorgio (Private Collection) for $32,000,000. It had originally been sold by Bicknell and was later owned by the great collector Sir Donald Currie. Even this price was overtaken four years later when Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, one of the highlights of the great Munro sale in 1878, was sold from the Rosebery collection in July 2010 to the Getty Museum for £26,500,000 ($45,101,996). Turner took a keen interest in the prices fetched for his paintings and in July 1827, when the first significant dispersal at auction took place of any of his pictures (Lord Tabley’s sale) he very publicly bought Sun Rising through Vapour himself for the significant price of £514.10.0, higher that any auction price for any of his paintings in his lifetime. He bequeathed to the National Gallery. He would certainly have been proud that two great pictures belonging to two of his loyalist collectors should have fetched such enormous prices and that Modern Rome remains the highest price achieved at auction for any painting by an English artist.
From Pencil to Paint: Turner’s Rome from Mount Aventine
by Ian Warrell
Turner’s paintings of Italy generally appealed to romantic ideas of the country, conflating its ancient history with the continuing charms of its verdant landscapes. In creating these works he produced an idealised version of Italy that was, in effect, an echo of the pastorals of the great seventeenth-century painter, Claude Lorrain. What makes Turner’s Rome from Mount Aventine so remarkable and exceptional is that it is a much more literal transcription of an area of central Rome as Turner saw it during his second stay in the city between October 1828 and January 1829.
His modus operandi on that occasion was quite unlike the intensive sketching activities that characterised his time in Rome in 1819, when he covered hundreds of pages in his sketchbooks with detailed pencil outlines of the buildings, monuments, paintings and sculptures he diligently surveyed across the city. His aim on that trip had been to compile a comprehensive body of reference material to utilize back in London. By contrast, in 1828 his topographical studies were at best perfunctory, and of secondary importance to the work he undertook in oil on canvas prior to an exhibition in hired rooms in the Palazzo Trulli on the Quirinal Hill. The display of just three paintings – now all at Tate Britain – was well attended, though many of the visitors were apparently shocked by Turner’s radical use of vivid colour and the unavoidable presence of tangible (as opposed to the academically sanctioned smooth) passages of paint on his canvases.
Analysis by Stephen Hackney and Dr Joyce Townsend of the canvases and stretchers that Turner adopted in Rome has revealed that they were relatively coarsely woven and of a heavier weight than those he habitually selected. Most of the pictures dating from the 1828 visit possess small metal pins known as sprigs that secure the canvas to its wooden stretcher. These distinctive sprigs are not otherwise a feature on Turner’s canvases, and were also found by Dr Jacqueline Ridge on the edges of Rome from Mount Aventine, when she was examining the painting for the exhibition Turner & Italy at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh in 2009. This is an important discovery, for it implies that Turner almost certainly began work on the picture while in Rome.
This theory is further supported by an anecdote proposing that the picture was commissioned by H.A.J. Munro of Novar, its first owner, who allegedly wanted a ‘view of modern Rome from a fine point that included the Tiber and some of the chief antiquities’. The wealthy Scott would subsequently become the most important collector of Turner’s later works, but is not otherwise known to have acquired anything prior to 1830. However, the existence of sketches specifically for the picture, a circumstance that is rare in itself during the 1828 tour, lends further weight to the idea of a commission.
There is also a comment in the catalogue of Munro’s collection, produced shortly after his death, claiming that Rome from Mount Aventine was ‘Painted for Mr Munro on the spot’. Although there may be substance to this point in the broader sense that the picture was probably among the group of canvases that Turner shipped home at the end of his Roman sojourn, it seems highly doubtful that he painted such a large work en plein air. Rome had long been host to the practice of making oil sketches directly from the motif, whether of picturesque fragments or studies of larger viewpoints. It is, furthermore, interesting to note that the top edge of the canvas retains fingerprints made by moving it while the paint was still wet. But these marks are more likely to have been made in the studio, because Turner had emphatically resisted the pressure to succumb to the norm of sketching out of doors in and around Rome.
Instead, as Cecilia Powell demonstrated in her book Turner in the South, the composition is actually derived from a series of pencil sketches in a notebook now entitled ‘Rome to Rimini’ (Tate: Turner Bequest CLXXVIII). These preliminary notes fall over several spreads of the book, and overlap to form a detailed panorama of the view north from the slopes above the present-day Piazzale d’Emporio. In her examination of the painting Dr Ridge used infrared reflectography which revealed slight adjustments to the placing of the composition, which must have taken place as Turner transposed the complicated observations in his very small pocketbook onto a piece of canvas cut to his preferred format of 3 by 4 feet. These dimensions were the same as those he adopted for Regulus and View of Orvieto, two of the Roman exhibits. As in the Aventine picture, the View of Orvieto was conceived as a ‘copy’, or transcription of a specific place, rather than an imagined or composite scene.
Having established the essence of the design on the white ground, that was the fundamental starting point for all his later pictures, Turner would have built up the image by applying areas of colour – blue for the sky and river, and a ruddy brown for the foreground. The process used thinned washes of oil colour and was similar to the way he experimented in watercolour from the 1820s onwards, where he define his ideas loosely through ‘colour beginnings’ before deciding which images merited further development. A sense of how the images evolved at a more advanced stage can be seen in an unfinished painting ofThe Arch of Constantine (Tate Britain, London) that Turner abandoned close to its full resolution. There the forms of architecture and trees are broadly established, along with a human presence; and it would not have involved a great deal more work by Turner to have transformed this blurred impression into something definite, more akin to a factual representation.
From the 1820s onwards Turner acquired the habit of finishing some of his pictures during the Varnishing Days at the Royal Academy, or the British Institution. While other artists merely adjusted details or applied a layer of varnish, Turner worked much more extensively, bringing details into focus. Most famously, in 1837, he dramatically reworked the sky of Regulus, one of those canvases first exhibited in 1828. Rome, from Mount Aventine was exhibited a year earlier, and may have been subject to very slight modification before the exhibition opened, though no coat of varnish was added. Dr Ridge has suggested that some of the very fine details, painted in brown using a fine brush, could have been done at this time. The pervasive warmth of the zesty sunrise would have been a fairly late addition, applied over white paint to give it greater luminosity. But this defining feature is very similar in character to the skies Turner painted in the later 1820s, such as the views of Mortlake Terrace on the Thames (now at the Frick Collection and the National Gallery of Art in Washington), when his use of yellow first became the subject of critical outrage. What such critics were not aware of was that Turner was making use of new pigments, such as Lemon Chrome, which extended his palette range, enabling him to intensify his effects and create the kind of ‘golden visions’ for which he is best known. Miraculously, these innovations in Turner’s techniques have been much better preserved in this picture than many celebrated works in museum collections because it has never been lined – a conservation technique that can flatten impasto and other details. It is, in fact, one of only a handful of Turner’s works to remain more or less as the artist left it.
By Lynn Roberts
The present frame is in revival Louis XV-Rococo style, dating from the mid-third of the 19th century, in the manner of frames chosen by Turner for his own work.
The painting of Rome, from Mount Aventine is held in the style of frame which conforms to one of the designs chosen by Turner to present his paintings, notably for those on a grand scale intended for exhibition in the Royal Academy (his ‘grand machines’). This revival Rococo style, with its swept rails and floral sprays, echoes the original Louis XV-style frame still in place on Admiral Van Tromp’s barge at the entrance of the Texel, 1645, RA 1831, (Sir John Soane’s Museum, London), and the revival Rococo frame on Modern Rome: Campo Vaccino, RA 1839 (Sotheby’s, 2010). The latter painting hung with Rome, from Mount Aventine in both the collections of Munro of Novar and the Earl of Rosebery. The present frame may similarly be Turner’s original exhibition choice – it shares decorative features such as the striated hollow and flaring asymmetric centres with the frame of Modern Rome – but may equally be a collector’s frame, commissioned either by Munro or by Rosebery in compliment to Turner’s own preference.
The ‘Rosbery Turners’ and their frames
The two views of Rome by J. M. W. Turner known to art historians as the ‘Rosebery Turners’, were painted roughly three years apart, and owned in tandem – first by Hugh Munro of Novar and later by the Earl and Countess of Rosebery. They are also natural pendants to each other in their subject and composition, and are almost identical size. It might be expected that, given their history, they would also have been framed identically; but the frames, although related, interestingly differ in their appearance and effect.
Whilst both are Rococo variants of Turner’s preferred choice of Louis XV-style frames for his grand exhibition subjects, the frame of Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino (J. Paul Getty Museum, San Marino) has a much simpler profile and lacks the wide slip at the sight edge seen on Rome, from Mount Aventine (this slip also appears on the painting of Admiral Van Tromp’s Barge in the Soane Museum, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1831). Both frames share a striated hollow frieze, asymmetric centre ornaments and trailing floral sprigs, but Rome, from Mount Aventine has a comparatively narrow hollow or scotia, filled with relatively deeply-modelled floral sprays which reach from centre to corner, whilst on Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino the shallow sprigs are sited on a much wider space. They are bounded at the sight edge by one small moulding, whilst the frame on Rome, from Mount Aventine, as well as the wide slip, has a small sanded frieze and a band of pressed leaf and strapwork ornament.
These differences are as puzzling as the similarities, and indicate various possibilities: first, that Turner chose both styles as exhibition frames, but went to a different frame maker for the later style; second, that he framed the earlier painting in the linear acanthus frame he also favoured, and it was reframed by Munro of Novar to match, as nearly as possible, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino when he acquired that picture three years later (or vice versa); third, that Rome, from Mount Aventine was reframed after 1878 when it was acquired by the Roseberys, and that the paintings did not hang as a pair in their house so that the differing frames were not noticeable.
Both frames being in the Louis XV-Rococo idiom which Turner used, and their histories being identically undisturbed, it is probable that these are indeed the original two exhibition frames; however, other possibilities should be borne in mind.
The other masterful Italian view in the sale is an exceptional Veduta by Canaletto, now to be shown in public for the first time since the ground-breaking Manchester Art Treasures exhibition back in 1857. From the beginning of the 1730s, the decade that would establish Canaletto as Venice’s greatest and most famous view painter, this picture depicts The Piazza San Marco on a typically sunny day. The number of variants of this scene painted by the artist throughout his career is evidence of the popularity that it enjoyed with 18th-century visitors to Venice. Other important variants are found in the Museo Thyssen in Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The present work enjoys a particularly distinguished English provenance and will be offered with an estimate of £5-7 million (lot 11, est. €6,340,000-8,880,000 / $8,050,000- 11,270,000)
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (Venice 1697 – 1768), Venice, The Piazza San Marco looking east towards the Basilica, oil on canvas, with an unidentified brushed inventory number 16 on the stretcher; 58.5 by 92 cm.; 23 by 36 1/4 in. Estimate 5,000,000 — 7,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: John Christopher Cankrien (d.1853), Hull;
His sale, London, Christie’s, 4 June 1853, lot 67 (‘an important work of high quality’) for 210 guineas to Farrer;
With Henry Farrer (1798–1866), London;
The Reverend Frederick Leicester (1803–73);
His sale, London, Christie’s, 19 May 1860, lot 155, (‘Canaletti – St Mark’s place looking towards the front of the church and the campanile; with numerous spirited figures. A work of the most brilliant quality’) for £367-10s to Farrer;
With Henry Farrer (1798–1866), London;
Col. the Hon. Edward Douglas Pennant, later 1st Baron Penrhyn of Llandegai (1800–86), Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, North Wales by 1860;
By descent to Hugh Napier Douglas-Pennant (1894–1949), 4th Baron Penrhyn, and subsequently to his niece the late Lady Janet Douglas Pennant (1923–97);
Acquired privately from the Penrhyn collection by the present owner in August 2009.
EXHIBITED: Manchester, Art Treasures Exhibition, 1857, no. 830.
LITERATURE: Probably G. Redford, Art Sales, London, 1888, vol. II, p. 222;
A. Douglas Pennant, Catalogue of the Pictures at Penrhyn Castle and Mortimer House in 1901, Bangor 1902, no. 76;
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, vol. II, Oxford 1962, p. 188, cat. no. 9 (where incorrectly listed as having been in the Higginson collection at Saltmarshe and unsold London, Christie’s, 4–6 June 1846);
L. Puppi, Canaletto, Milan 1968, p. 97, cat. no. 84 D;
A. Corboz, Canaletto, una Venezia immaginaria, vol. II, Milan 1985, p. 626, cat. no P 199, reproduced;
G. Berto, Canaletto, Milan, 1981, no. 84d;
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, revised by J.G. Links, Oxford 1989, vol. II, p. 190, cat. no. 9, reproduced vol. I, plate 186, fig. 9 (where incorrectly listed as having been in the Higginson collection at Saltmarshe and unsold London, Christie’s, 4–6 June 1846);
C. Beddington in the catalogue of the exhibition Bernardo Bellotto, Museo Correr, Venice, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2001, p. 78, under no. 11.
NOTE: From the beginning of the 1730s, the decade that would establish Canaletto as the greatest of all exponents of the Italianveduta, this quintessential view of Venice has enjoyed a particularly distinguished English provenance and is here shown in public for the first time since the ground-breaking Manchester Art Treasures exhibition back in 1857.
The Piazza of San Marco in Venice, with the Basilica di San Marco and the famous Campanile has always been recognised as one of the most famous of all European settings, and has come to occupy a central place in the work of Canaletto, the city’s most famous view painter. The Piazza, trapezoidal in plan and opening outward eastwards towards the Basilica, was the heart of Venice, the centre of its great empire and the place where its citizens and visitors congregated, and where they still do to this day. The viewpoint is from above, from the tower of the church of San Geminiano, since replaced by the Ala Napoleonica of the Palazzo Reale, home now to the Museo Correr. The Basilica itself, in the centre of the picture, was dedicated to the Evangelist Saint Mark, the city’s patron saint. Immediately to the south, to the right and just beyond the great bell tower of the Campanile is the Palazzo Ducale, the residence of the Doge and until the time of Napoleon the seat of Venetian government. The arcades of the Procuratie Vecchie and the Procuratie Nuove (completed in 1532 and 1640 respectively) enclose the square from the north and south. On the left, at the far (eastern) end of the former is the Torre dell’Orologia (clock tower), and beyond that the Merceria, which leads to the Rialto and the commercial centre of the city. The sunlight is bright and clear and the great piazza bustles with life.
The number of variants of this scene that Canaletto painted throughout his career is evidence of the popularity that it enjoyed with eighteenth-century visitors to Venice. The earliest of these, and at over two metres in width, much the largest, is the painting now in the Museo Thyssen in Madrid, generally acknowledged as the masterpiece of Canaletto’s early career (fig. 1).1 The Madrid painting can be dated to around 1723, for it clearly shows the new pavement of the Piazza, with its white geometrical design by Andrea Tirali, being laid, which is documented to that year.
Canaletto, Piazza San Marco: looking East along the Central Line © Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Art Resource/Scala, Florence
Canaletto’s next treatment of the subject from this viewpoint is probably that now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (fig. 2), which is generally thought to date from the late 1720s.2 Here a lighter and more colourful palette is already in evidence. The Penrhyn version is probably next earliest in date, and in both this and the New York canvas Tirali’s pavement is shown as it was completed in 1727, thus providing a terminus ante quem for both pictures. Close behind in date is the canvas among the series of views by Canaletto now at Woburn Abbey, which is documented to circa 1733–36.3 This is possibly preceded by or very close in date to another painting in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass., which has generally been dated to between 1730 and 1735.4
Canaletto, Piazza San Marco, possibly late c. 1720 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence
Subsequent versions all probably date from 1740 or later. These include that sold in these Rooms 4 December 2013, lot 39 (fig. 3), which is to be dated to around 1738–39, and that in the Fitzwilliam Collection at Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire, for which an engraving of 1742 provides a terminus post quem.5 Among other later views of the Piazza painted in England, one dating from the early 1750s was offered New York, Christie’s, 12 January 1996, lot 38. Constable records a replica of the present version sold London, Christie’s, 28 June 1974, lot 78.6
Canaletto, Venice, a view of Piazza San Marco looking east towards the basilica, sold Sotheby’s, London 4 December 2013, lot 39
Although there has been general agreement in assigning the present canvas to Canaletto’s early period, there does not seem to have been any scholarly unanimity as to an exact date of execution. Puppi, for example, describes it as version of the Woburn canvas, which he dates to 1730–31, when the Duke of Bedford was in Venice. Corboz situates the painting early in what he regarded as Canaletto’s second phase, between 1731 and 1746. Neither Constable nor Links suggest a precise date. Most recently Charles Beddington has kindly suggested a potential dating to around 1730.7 By this date Canaletto had eschewed the use of the dark brown grounds employed in his earlier canvases such as that in Madrid, favouring instead a lighter ground as here. The tonality is cool and clear, notably around the Basilica and the adjoining buildings. The loose and animated handling of the brushwork in the clouds around the Basilica in the present canvas recalls Canaletto’s treatment in the New York painting of the late 1720s. The neatly ruled perspective lines and the closely observed detail are also similar in both pictures. Taken together, these factors would seem to support a dating to around 1730, perhaps just prior to the Fogg and Woburn paintings. Although it is constantly asserted that Canaletto always subordinated topographical accuracy for pictorial concerns, that is not particularly the case in the present canvas. Unlike his later capricci the scene is mostly an accurate transcription of reality; only the omission of one window on the Campanile is an obvious change.
Whether true to life in a purely topgraphical sense or not, there can be little doubt as to how successfully Canaletto conveys the bustle of the Piazza on a typically sunny day. The air is clear, and the sunlight bright and even, with the base of the Campanile, the Procuratie Nuove and part of the square lying in shadow. The crowd in the piazza is warmly dressed with capes and hats, and the cool clear light suggest perhaps a crisp spring day. The theatricality of everyday life is displayed with gusto in this early work: washing lines hang out to dry from the windows and a the market stalls have been put up outside the Basilica. Canaletto never tires of such anecdotal detail. All walks of life are represented in the piazza: figures in capes and three-cornered hats; prominent citizens, some in wigs and others behind masks; paupers and stray dogs. Though dwarfed by their majestic surroundings, unlike the static figures Canaletto painted in his mature years, the small figures in the present work provide the main movement of the scene, bustling around the square with their brightly coloured clothing which provides a counterpoint to the almost misty light enveloping the Basilica and the surrounding buildings.
Little is as yet known about the life of John Christopher Cankrien, the earliest recorded owner of this painting. The catalogue of the sale of his collection in 1853 describes him only as the ‘Late Counsel for the Netherlands at Hull’. His collection – ‘collected with great taste and judgment’ – consisted almost entirely of works of the Dutch and English schools. The highest price at the sale was not the Canaletto, but Landseer’s ‘Intruding puppies’ which he had bought through Edward Merryweather at the Tabley House sale in July 1827, and which fetched 656 guineas. The majority of the Dutch paintings, as well as his collection of drawings of exotic birds, were probably purchased on his regular travels to the Low Countries, but he also owned paintings by or attributed to Stubbs, Hogarth, Gainsborough and Nasmyth. It is not known where Cankrien may have acquired his Canaletto, but this was in all probability in England. It is tempting to associate it with the one of the two views of the Piazza San Marco which were sold from the collection of Marshall Johan Mathias von der Schulenberg’s (1661–1774) at Christie’s in 1775, for these were of the correct date and size as the present canvas, and their present whereabouts remains unknown. Canaletto had received payment from Schulenberg of thirty-two and thirty zecchini respectively for theseprospettive from Schulenebrg on 10 March and 30 April 1731, and his records describe them as both 4 by 6 quadri in size – roughly around 23 to 25 by 36 to 38 inches.8
The Reverend Frederick Leicester, who owned this picture in the mid-19th century, was son of Charles Leicester (c.1767–1815), younger brother of John Fleming Leicester (1762–1827), 1st Baron de Tabley of Tabley House, Cheshire. In 1828 he married his uncle’s widow, Giorgiana-Maria, youngest daughter of Lt. Col. Cottin. Leicester assembled a small but high quality collection of Old Masters, principally of the Dutch and Italian schools; a painting by Jacob van Ruisdael depictingVessels in a Fresh Breeze, also included in the 1860 sale (lot 153), is now in the National Gallery, London (inv. 2567).
It is likely that the painting was acquired at Leicester’s sale in 1860 for Colonel Edward Douglas-Penant, later 1st Baron Penrhyn (1800–86), who was buying actively at this time, financed by huge profits made in the Welsh slate industry, for Penrhyn Castle, a neo-Norman construction built in the 1820s and ’30s for his father, George Dawkins-Pennant. The first Baron assembled one of the most remarkable collections of the nineteenth century which included other works by Canaletto and Bellotto as well as Jan Steen’s Burgher of Delft, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and Rembrandt’s Portrait of Catherine Hoogsaet. By the time the fourth baron had succeeded to the title, death duties had significantly reduced the estate. After his death in 1949, the title and estate were split and the late Lady Janet Douglas Pennant took over the estate and inherited the pictures.
Jan Havicksz. Steen, The Burgher of Delft and his Daughter, oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands / Bridgeman Images
1. Inv. No. 75. 140.5 by 204.5 cm.; see R. Contini, Seventeenth and Eighteenth century Italian painting in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, London 2002, pp. 256–59, reproduced in colour. See also the catalogue of the exhibition, Canaletto, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 30 October 1989 – 21 January 1990, no. 1.
2. Canvas, 68.6 by 112.4 cm. Exhibited, New York, Metropolitan Museum, Canaletto, 30 October 1989 – 21 January 1990, no. 27.
3. W.G. Constable, op. cit., revised by J.G. Links, 1989, vol. II, no. 4.
4. Ibid., vol. II, pp. 191–92, no. 14, reproduced vol. I, plate 14, fig. 14.5.
5. Ibid., vol. II, pp. 186 and 279, nos 3 and 7 respectively, the latter reproduced vol. I, plate 12. The engraving was made by Visentini for his Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum.
6. Ibid., vol. II, p. 190, under no. 9. Canvas, 31½ by 49½ in., present whereabouts unknown.
7. Private communication, October 2014.
8. The pictures were lots 49 and 50 on the second day’s sale, and the catalogue describes them as from ‘the best time of the master’. See A. Binion, ‘From Schulenberg’s Gallery and Records’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXII, no. 806 (May 1970), p. 303.
A Seminal Work by Cranach
The sale will also present The Faun Family, a major work by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). Not seen on the market for some 60 years, this composition, unique to the artist’s oeuvre, was painted in 1531, at the height of his career. It was commissioned no doubt by a member of the courtly circle in Wittenberg, where Cranach was in the employ of the Electors of Saxony. This outstanding work is remarkable for the precision with which every detail is rendered. It is part of a series of mythological depictions of wild people, forest dwellers or demigods. The subject had long fascinated the artist and culminated in a series of panel paintings from the second half of the 1520s onwards (lot 13, est. £1.2-1.8 million / €1,53-2.29 million / $1.94-2.9 million).
Lucas Cranach the Elder (Kronach 1472 – 1553 Weimar), The Faun Family, signed lower left with the artist’s winged serpent device and dated 1531, oil on panel, 44 by 34 cm.; 17 1/4 by 13 3/8 in. Estimate 1,200,000 — 1,800,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: In the collection of a Bavarian Noble Family;
Heinz Kisters, Kreuzlingen, acquired from the above;
EXHIBITED: D. Koepplin & T. Falk, Lukas Cranach; Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, vol. 2, Basel – Stuttgart 1976, p. 601, cat no. 501, reproduced p.591, plate 305a;
M. Friedländer & J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p.122, cat. no. 267A;
Lucas Cranach. Glaube, Mythologie und Moderne, exhibition catalogue, Hamburg 2003, p. 180, cat no.70, reproduced p.74;
F. Checa (ed.), Dürer and Cranach: art and humanism in Renaissance Germany, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 2007, pp. 212 and 252, cat. no. 75, reproduced;
B. Aikema and A. Coliva (ed.), Cranach – l’altro rinascimento, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2010, p. 156, cat. no. 9, reproduced p. 157.
NOTE: Not seen on the market for some sixty years, this is a quintessential and iconic mythological work by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The remarkable precision with which every detail is rendered serves to remind us that the picture was painted for the enjoyment of a private collector to marvel at Cranach’s artistic virtuosity; the very same reason for which it is to be so admired today.
Painted at the height of the artist’s career, in 1531, this is an outstanding work by Lucas Cranach the Elder, commissioned no doubt by a member of the courtly circle in Wittenberg, where the artist was in the employ of the Electors of Saxony. The subject represents the mythological depiction of wild people, forest dwellers or demigods, which had long fascinated Cranach and first appeared in his works in prints and drawings, but culminated in a series of panel paintings from the second half of the 1520s onwards.
The present composition is unique to Cranach’s oeuvre. The artist executed at least two other treatments of the subject however in variants of similar overall mise-en-scène, but with differing arrangements and dispositions of the figures and landscape details: a painting formerly in the collection of Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, today in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (fig. 1); and a painting listed as in the collection of Duke Fürstenberg, Donaueschingen, Germany.1
The subject of the Faun Family relates to the romantic topos of the ‘wild people who live in the forest’, which can be found in the Metamorphoses, a mythological moralizing poem by the ancient writer Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD), and in De Rerum Natura by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (circa 99 BC- 55 AD). Both texts were widely known during the Middle Ages, but they enjoyed increased popularity following their reintroduction during the Renaissance. At the beginning of the 16th century scholars contemplated the original state of mankind before civilization, a notion triggered in part by the accounts of travellers who witnessed the ancient tribes in the newly discovered Americas, as well as the idealization of ideas of ancient pagan traditions during the religious turmoil during the Reformation.
The motif of The Faun Family as a ‘wild family’ is close to a group of paintings in Cranach’s oeuvre illustrating the Silver Age, the most celebrated treatment of which is the artist’s painting of The End of the Silver Age, today in the National Gallery, London.2 Classical authors described the various Ages and lamented the decline of freedom since the origins of time. During the Golden Age men lived free of duties or hunger; seasons and agriculture were introduced during the Silver Age; the Bronze Age brought war; and the Iron Age led to more conflict through power and personal greed. The family in the present work could be interpreted as half gods from the Golden Age or more likely as Fauns who were living in untamed woodlands during the Silver Age, although clearly the figure of the male faun with his club, seated over a dead lion, alludes to Hercules and the remarkable cult following that the god had in Germany at that time. There is a striking similarity between the male faun here and the figure of Hercules in the panel from the late 1530s sold in these Rooms in 1998 (fig. 2),3 as well as with the counterpart faun in the Getty panel, particularly in terms of the facial likeness and the drawing and positioning of the feet and legs; the lower halves of the present and Getty fauns are effectively mirror images of the figure of Hercules in the ex-Sotheby’s panel.
It is clear that images of ‘wild people’ were very fashionable during Cranach’s lifetime and it seems that collectors enjoyed the playful contrast between the wild and uncivilized life depicted in Cranach’s paintings and their own sophisticated structured life, perhaps alluded to in the beautiful and ordered cityscape that we see through the opening in the dense, verdant thicket in both this and the Getty panels.
1. For the former (82.9 by 56.2 cm.) see the exhibition catalogue, Cranach, Frankfurt, Stadel Museum, 23 Nov 2007 – 17 Feb 2008 and London, Royal Academy of Arts, 8 March – 8 June 2008, pp. 340-41, no. 106, reproduced; for the latter (27 by 18 cm.) see M.J. Friedlander & J. Rosenberg, op. cit., p. 122, no. 266, reproduced.
2. See the exhibition catalogue, Cranach, Frankfurt, Stadel Museum, 23 Nov 2007 – 17 Feb 2008 and London, Royal Academy of Arts, 8 March – 8 June 2008, pp. 336-37, cat. no. 105, reproduced.
3. London, Sotheby’s, 17 December 1998, lot 15.
Two important Dutch Still-Lifes
At the heart of this winter’s auction will also be two important Dutch still- lifes. Adriaen Coorte’s Three peaches on a stone ledge, with a Red Admiral butterfly is one of the very finest works by an artist little known during his own lifetime, virtually forgotten in the 18th and 19th centuries but who, more latterly, has become one of the most sought after of all Dutch still life painters of the 17th century. Coorte’s highly distinctive pictures are instantly recognisable for their simplicity of treatment and restricted range of subject matter. Discovered in 2011, this tiny picture (31.3 by 23.3 cm.; 12. by 9. in.) from around 1693-1695/6 is without question one of the most beautiful recent additions to his known oeuvre and certainly one that confirms his still lifes to have struck a vital chord with the modern mind (lot 37, est. £2-3 million/ €2,540,000-3,810,000/ $3,220,000-4,830,000).
Adriaen Coorte (Middelburg (?) 1660 (?) – after 1707), Three peaches on a stone ledge, with a red admiral butterfly, signed with monogram lower centre: AC, oil on paper, laid down on panel, 31.3 by 23.3 cm.; 12 1/4 by 9 1/4 in. Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: Private collection, New Zealand, from circa 1860 until anonymously sold (‘The Property of a Gentleman’), London, Bonham’s, 7 December 2011, lot 58;
Acquired at the above sale on behalf of the present owner.
NOTE: Little known during his own lifetime, and virtually forgotten in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the still-lifes of Adriaen Coorte have nevertheless struck a vital chord with the modern mind. It was only in 1903 that a major museum – the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – finally acquired a work by him, but since then he has become one of the most sought after of all Dutch still life painters of the 17th century. His sparse but supremely balanced arrangements of the humblest of natural subjects, delicately picked out in light against austere black backgrounds, speak to us in a way similar to the astonishing bodegonesof the early Spanish painter Juan Sanchez Cotan. This tiny picture is one of his very finest works, and following its discovery in 2011 is without question one of the most beautiful recent additions to his known oeuvre.
Like his still lifes, Coorte’s life is marked by its relative isolation. Most probably a native of Middleburg in the province of Zeeland, he seems to have been active between 1683 and 1705, and his known work consists today of sixty four paintings. His earliest works feature birds and poultry and are sufficiently close in style and motif to those of Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695) to suggest that he may have been trained by him in Amsterdam. The only written record of his career is a mention in the yearbook of the Painters Guild of Saint Luke in Middleburg for 1695-6, in which he is criticised for selling works independently of the Guild, which may infer that he was an amateur or gentleman painter. It is certainly true that his mature works do not show the obvious influence of other artists, and in their turn they do not seem to have exerted any influence upon anybody else. Indeed, in stark contrast to the prevailing contemporary fashion for more lavish and exuberant still life pictures, in, say, the work of Abraham Mignon, Coorte’s own pictures are instantly recognisable for their simplicity of treatment and restricted range of subject matter. In a limited sense he can perhaps be seen as the spiritual heir of the great Haarlem still life painters Pieter Claesz.(c.1597-1660) and Willem Claesz. Heda (1594-1680) whose often simple subjects and close interest in, and examination of, the effects of light and texture he clearly shared, and indeed he may have encountered their style through the work of painters such as Karel Slabbaert, who brought it from Amsterdam to Middleburg.
Coorte’s still life paintings are certainly highly distinctive. In his simple designs, natural objects sit upon stone ledges against a dark background. His subject matter is restricted to limited themes: asparagus, wild strawberries, fruit, including peaches, medlars, apricots, black and redcurrants, cherries, gooseberries and grapes, and lastly nuts and shells. Their combinations were very probably determined by their seasonal availability, and are occasionally accompanied (as here) by a delicate butterfly. Coorte painted peaches on several occasions, but this is one of only five paintings in which they appear alone. The others are all now in private collections; two of these are dated to 1696, with one of 1705 on loan to the Mauritshuis in The Hague.1 Although the present work is not dated, it forms part of a small group of still-lifes which are signed with initials. A recently discovered work of 1693 in this group is probably the earliest of these examples,2 and thus we might tentatively advance a possible dating for around 1693-1695/6 for the group as a whole. In each work in the group the table is seen from a slightly lower viewpoint than is usual, and stretches the entire width of the composition. The only exception is the present painting in which it is cleverly brought just to edge of the picture, thus heightening the relationship of the peaches to its edge. The closest of the group in terms of design and feeling is the Still life with two peaches and a butterfly, sold in these Rooms, 5 July 2006, lot 36 (fig.1). In both cases the butterfly is introduced into the design to act as a balance; in the case of the other painting to hold a diagonal, but here in order to create and hold a triangle formed at its base by the three peaches. A rather similar equilibrium is apparent in another picture in this group, the Still life with three medlars and a butterfly in a Dutch private collection.3 It is a most delicate balance, held not by simple geometry alone but also by colour and light, and can only have been achieved with considerable forethought. Indeed the apparent simplicity of Coorte’s designs belie their technical refinement. The soft texture of the skin of the peaches is delicately explored by the brush, and both their bloom and imperfections most carefully portrayed.
Adriaen Coorte, Still life with two peaches and a fritillary butterfly on a stone ledge, Sold Sotheby’s London 5 July 2006, lot 36.
From this point, in the mid-1690s onwards, many of Coorte’s paintings were painted on paper laid down on canvas, or as here, on panel. It is not clear at what stage this transfer was made, and whether it was made by Coorte himself or by somebody else at a later date. As many of the panel supports are clearly old, it is quite probable that they were laid down before leaving his studio. It is possible that Coorte drew his basic design on paper first, and then worked in oils on top of this.4 The technique is certainly highly unusual in either the seventeenth or the eighteenth centuries and may very well have been personal to him.
1. Q. Buvelot, The still lifes of Adriaen Coorte (active c.1683-1707) with oeuvre catalogue, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle2008, pp. 92, cat. nos. 17 and 18, p. 99, cat. no. 27, and p. 118, cat. no. 62, all reproduced.
2. Still life with asparagus, cherries and a butterfly, now in a Swiss private collection. Buvelot, op. cit., p.90, cat. no. 14.
3. Ibid., p. 90, cat. no. 16, reproduced in colour plate 26.
4. In two cases Coorte is known to have re-used paper that had already been written on. The ex-Sotheby’s Still life of peaches and a butterfly, for example, was shown during restoration to have been painted over a page from the account book of merchant trading in Gdansk in the early 1600s.
Another important Dutch still life is found in the earliest extant flower painting by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621). Painted around 1605, Still life of flowers, including irises, narcissi, lily-of-the- valley and carnations, in a tall glass vase set on a stone ledge is amongst the very earliest examples of independent flower painting in the Netherlands. From 1606 onwards there was a sudden and considerable output in the genre by Bosschaert himself but also Jan Brueghel the Elder, Roelandt Savery and their increasing numbers of followers. However, the sophistication of the present work would suggest that Bosscheart may have had an earlier career in the genre of flower painting before 1605 (lot 35, est. £600,000-900,000 / €760,000- 1,140,000 / $965,000-1,450,000).
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (Antwerp 1573 – 1621 The Hague), A still life of flowers, including irises, narcissi, lily-of-the-valley and carnations, in a tall glass vase set on a stone ledge, oil on oak panel, 43.2 by 33 cm.; 17 by 13 in. Estimate 600,000 — 900,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: Klever collection, Leverkusen, 1990;
Sold, Cologne, Kunsthaus Lempertz, 10 December 1990, lot 25 (as German School, 16th century);
with Galerie Lingenauber, Dusseldorf and Paris, 1990–93 (exhibited at Maastricht in 1991 as attributed to Ludger tom Ring II);
Private collection, Italy, 1995;
Anonymous sale (‘Property from a European Private Collection’), New York, Christie’s, 4 October 2007, lot 106 (as Bosschaert), where acquired by the present owner.
LITERATURE: K. Wettengl, Georg Flegel. Stilleben, exhibition catalogue, Frankfurt 1993–94, p. 11, reproduced (as Ludger tom Ring II);
I. Bergstrom, ‘A flower-piece identified’, in Tableau 18, 1995, no. 1, p. 78–81 (as Ludger tom Ring II);
S. Segal, ‘Blumen, Tiere und Stilleben von Ludger tom Ring d.J.’, in Die Maler tom Ring, exhibition catalogue, Münster 1996, pp. 128–30 (unattributed);
S. Kemperdick in The Magic of Things. Still-Life Painting 1500–1800, exhibition catalogue, Basel 2008–09, p. 98, under cat. no. 23 (unattributed).
NOTE: This is the earliest extant flower painting by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder and thus amongst the very earliest examples of independent flower painting in the Netherlands.
The nature of Bosschaert’s early work has long been the subject of speculation. His earliest dated work is from 1605, and from then on a sequence of dated and undated works allows us to chart the progress of his career with some precision.1 By 1605 however he was already well over thirty years old, and he was recorded as a member of the Guild of Saint Luke from 1593 onwards, serving as its Dean on occasion. He must therefore have been active as a painter for at least twelve years before his earliest dated work, and although it is sometimes assumed that he did not turn his hand to flower painting until 1605 or shortly before, it seems more likely that he had an early career in the genre that predates 1605. Given the sophistication of his flower paintings from 1606 and onwards, it is most unlikely that they could be the works of an artist just embarking on a career in the genre of flower painting.
Perhaps one of the reasons why some have assumed this to be the case is the absence of much in the way of independent flower-still life painting in European art before this date. The earliest surviving dated flower-pieces in oils in Netherlandish art were painted by Roelandt Savery in 1603, possibly in Amsterdam, but more likely after his arrival in Prague. Jacques de Gheyn was probably painting flower pieces in oils before 1604, and possibly as early as 1600, but his earliest surviving dated flower piece is from 1612. The earliest documentary evidence for a flower-piece by Jan Brueghel the Elder is 1605, but given the sophistication of his still lifes of 1606–08, he may well have painted them before that. What is clear is that from 1606 onwards there was a sudden and considerable output in the genre by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Roelandt Savery and their increasing numbers of followers.
The causes for this explosion of interest in and production of flower painting from 1606 onwards are various. For Savery it was certainly the obsessive interest in the natural world of his patron in Prague, the Emperor Rudolf II, and the activities of a coterie of artists responding to it in media other than oil painting: for example in works on vellum by Jacques De Gheyn, Joris Hoefnagel and others, and in prints. For Jan Brueghel a key impetus came from his loyal patrons in Italy who had earlier promoted his career in the depiction of landscapes. In the work of these artists, and in that of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder in Middelburg, their developments as flower painters can be charted in a row of dated works from 1606 onwards.
It is generally accepted that Bosschaert is likely to have encountered Jan Brueghel and his work in 1606, because his flower pieces from that year onwards show an awareness of Brueghel’s style, and this contact must have been renewed in subsequent years, because as Bosschaert’s highly personal style develops, awareness of what Brueghel was doing is detectable in his work.2 That Bosschaert’s artistic personality was amenable to influence becomes clear from the works painted upon his arrival in Utrecht, which respond immediately to what Savery was doing there following his return from Prague.
A consideration of what Bosschaert was doing in the years before 1606 is therefore ill-served by examining the work of his peers of around that date and later. The production of images of floral art per se, and not as an adjunct to history painting, existed before the first decade of the seventeenth century, but it was highly sporadic, especially in oil painting. Although produced in relative isolation in Münster in Westphalia, the flower paintings made by Ludger tom Ring in the early 1560s were – at least on the basis of what is known today – revolutionary, and unprecedented in Western art. Two works are dated 1562, and none is likely to date from much after 1565.3 The artist was from a family of painters active in Westphalia, and the vast majority of their output consisted of portraits. He does not appear to have had any immediate followers in the still-life genre, and there is scant hard evidence for their particular popularity or for a traceable diaspora among collectors, for example in The Netherlands.
When the present work first appeared on the art market in 1990 it was considered to be German from the late sixteenth century and soon afterwards, because of its similar palette and rendering of some of the flowers, it was attributed to Ludger tom Ring by Ingvar Berstrom. In 1996 Sam Segal doubted the attribution, recognising it as more refined and less rigid in its composition than tom Ring’s known works and finding no matching elements amongst the German master’s flower paintings. Segal instead linked the painting with a group of floral still lifes that at the time he situated between tom Ring and the early works of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder. The group comprises five still life paintings of flowers in vases etc on pale stone ledges set against a dark background which are closely linked in style, subject matter and in the size and type of their panels. Until relatively recently, and indeed as they were in the 1996 tom Ring exhibition, these works have been generically catalogued, variously as Netherlandish or German and datable to the end of the sixteenth century or circa 1600.
The group comprises:
A. A still life of flowers in a tall glass vase (43.2 by 33 cm.), the present lot.
B. An adaptation of the above with a few larger flowers, and crudely painted objects on the ledge, perhaps later additions (53 x 39 cm.); Basel, Kunstmuseum.4
C. A still life of roses, marigolds and other flowers in a Wan-Li Kraak porcelain vase, sold London, Sotheby’s, 3 July 2013, lot 10 (43.5 by 32.3 cm.); see fig. 2.5
D. A still life of lilies and numerous other flowers in an earthenware jug (43.3 by 31 cm.), in a private collection.6
E. A still life of wildflowers in a Venetian glass vase (58.6 by 35.7 cm.), in a private collection in the U.S.A.7
C. Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Still life with flowers in a Wan-Li Kraak porcelain vase.
As we will see these paintings are not just interlinked with each other, but firmly linked to the first signed and dated works by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, such that a convincing chronology of his works up to 1605 can now be established.
Apart from the common compositional elements of the two variants A and B (of which more, see below), there are further shared motifs amongst the group. The yellow iris which appears in the upper right of the present work, A, occurs in identical form in the upper right of B and C. The white narcissus set on a diagonal in the lower right of the present work, A, occurs in a corresponding position in C, and it recurs, set in the jug in D. As Meijer and others have pointed out, this narcissus and other individual blooms were likely lifted from a pattern book in the artist’s ownership and not painted from life. In all of these works the flowers fill the upper two-thirds of the picture plane, extending into the corners and forming an approximate square. They are all lit from the left. E is less well-known than the other works, but is closest in style to D.
B, cruder in style and generally thought not to be by Bosschaert, uses the present work, A, as the basis of its composition but adds in recognisable flowers from later works by Bosschaert from circa 1608.8 It must therefore have been painted by a copyist some years after the rest of the group.
All four of the remaining paintings in the group were probably painted in Middelburg in between circa 1601 and 1605. They are particularly close to two early and little-studied signed works by Bosschaert, which almost certainly both predate 1606:
F. Still life of an iris and damask roses in a glass beaker; Fairhaven Collection, Angelsea Abbey, Cambs. (fig. 3).9
F. Ambrosius Bosscahert the Elder, Flowers in a glass, Fairhaven Collection, Anglesey Abbey, Cambs.
G. A still life with an open poppy and other flowers in a glass beaker, signed but undated, in the Stichting P & N de Boer in Amsterdam (fig. 4).10
G. Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Flowers in a glass, Collection P. & N. de Boer, Amsterdam.
In the signed Stichting De Boer work, G, is to be seen a Damask Rose similar to those in C and others. Moreover the handling of the trefoil columbine leaves rimmed with yellow highlights and the orange flowers is identical to those in C, as is the Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris Rapae). It has a glossy enamel-like handling which is quite unlike his own work from 1606 and later, but which is recognisable in each of the group A, C, D and E. These are characteristics which hark back to Ludger tom Ring. The composition of the De Boer Stichting flower piece is closer in type to Bosschaert’s earliest dated pictures than to any predecessor, but its style points backwards to the present group.
The other painting by Bosschaert, F, is less studied than the Stichting De Boer work. That painting, in the Fairhaven collection at Anglesea Abbey in Cambridgeshire (National Trust; see fig. 3), is of remarkably high quality and sophistication, but although very similar to it in style and in the enamel-like handling, is compositionally further removed than the Stichting De Boer work from the dated and datable output of Bosschaert from 1606 onwards, and likely comes before it and immediately after the group A, C, D, E. It has been linked with the present group of four, but it is on a smaller panel.11 Like the others in the group, the blooms fill the corners of the composition (although forming a rectangle rather than a rough square), and they are set against a black background, while resting in a vessel on a pale stone ledge. The tapering glass beaker decorated with prunts harks forward to Bosschaert’s more familiar later work: indeed it is identical to the one in the De Boer Stichting work; as does the density of the arrangement of blooms, but in other respects it is more closely related to the present group. The carnation, and the shadow that it casts from the light entering from the left, are virtually identical to the one in C: in both pictures it seems to hover above the ledge, though on different sides of the foreground. A group of yellow freesias, a large white rose, sprig of a pink flower, damask rose, sprig of carnation and other flowers are identical to those in C. Like in the present work and the others in the group, its creamy stone ledge setting and the shadow that it casts is a marked characteristic of Bosschaert’s early period.
Aside from the motifs shared between the original group of four, there are some that are shared between the present work and those slightly later in date. The fly or bluebottle, which would become something of a signature for Bosschaert and that we see in the lower left of the present work, occurs again in precisely the same form in the Fairhaven still life, F. The black-tailed skimmer in the lower right of the present work occurs again in one of Bosschaert’s earliest dated works, the still life of 1606 in the Cleveland Museum of Art (fig. 5).12
G. Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Flowers in a glass, 1606, oil on copper, Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, USA, Gift of Carrie Moss Halle in memory of Salmon Portland Halle / Bridgeman Images
In summary, all the above paintings A–G are linked by several shared motifs: A, the present lot, shares motifs with C and D; C shares different motifs with E and F; and the present lot also shares motifs with the signed and dated work in Cleveland from 1606. Besides this, the various stages of evolution from one to the next, beginning with the present work and finishing with the Cleveland example, are logical and easy to determine when viewed consecutively. The composition, starting with the present scattered explosion of smaller flowers, develops over the period of perhaps 3–4 years into a compositional type that Bosschaert would, largely speaking, stick to for the remainder of his career. Re-using particular blooms or sprigs or clumps of flowers in different compositions, sometimes in the same relative position, sometimes not, is a familiar characteristic of Bosschaert’s later career, but as is now abundantly clear, he was working in this way early in his career – or at least earlier than his first dated works.
The links that join the present work to the ex-Sotheby’s work, C, and that work to the signed Stichting De Boer and Fairhaven works, F and G, make it clear that it is an autograph work by Bosschaert, and the close connections between it and the other paintings in the group show that they too are from his hand. This view has been expressed by Fred G. Meijer. Sam Segal, whose initial work on the group at the time of the 1996 exhibition Die Maler tom Ring was instrumental in establishing what we now know, initially considered that the group of four should be located in The Netherlands before Bosschaert’s earliest works. He mentioned the little-known flower painter Lodewijck Jansz. van de Bosch as a possible author, but also advanced the idea that they may have formed part of the early œuvre of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder.
Each of the panels in question are of Baltic oak, and tree ring analysis (dendrochronology) done on several of them yields a typical likely use date from around 1601 onwards. Moreover, as Martin Bijl and others have observed, the size and the way they are cut is typical of panel production in Middelburg.13 However, recent dendrochronological analysis on the present panel has yielded surprising results with the last ring dating to 1543. Allowing for sapwood, which is present in the lower left, a date of first use between 1548 and 1564 is indicated. Remarkably, this does coincide with the dated flower pieces of Ludger tom Ring, but given that the painting itself is so intertwined with other early Bosschaerts in handling, style and motifs, we must simply assume that the artist used or re-used an existing panel, a view promoted and shared by Fred Meijer.14
In the absence of dated works, a chronology of the present painting and the other works under discussion can only be hypothesised. For the reasons stated above, it seems most likely that the present lot is the earliest, followed by C, D, E, F then G. However, reconstructing the œuvre of a painter before his earliest dated or securely documented work should only be undertaken with caution, and must be based on secure solid evidence, as the unmasking of Van Meegeren’s forging of an early career for Vermeer reminds us.
The group of paintings recall the works of Ludger tom Ring, and they were surely also influenced by artists working on vellum, and also, especially in their compositions, by engraved flower pieces by Adriaen Collaert and others. The close relationship between the works is undoubted. The relationship between them and the earliest signed works by Bosschaert, including the use of common motifs such as individual blooms and groups of flowers and leaves as part of a working method familiar to us from Bosschaert’s subsequent career, is so close that it is most unlikely that anyone other than Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder could have painted them.
1. Offered London, Christie’s, 3 December 1997, lot 12.
2. Fred Meijer noted this.
3. See A. Lorenz (ed.), Die Maler tom Ring, exhibition catalogue, Münster 1996, vol. II, pp. 390–99, 639, nos 76–80, 194, all reproduced; see also S. Kemperdick, in B. Brinkmann (ed.), The Magic of Things, exhibition catalogue, Basel 2008, pp. 34–36, no. 3, reproduced, also fig. 8.
4. Ibid., p. 98, no. 23, reproduced.
5. S. Segal in A. Lorenz (ed.), Die Maler tom Ring, exhibition catalogue, Munster 1996, vol. I, p. 130, vol. II, pp. 400–01, no. 81, reproduced.
6. Kemperdick, op. cit., p. 96, no. 22, reproduced.
7. A. Lorenz (ed.), op. cit., vol. II, p. 640, no. 195, reproduced.
8. Such as the pink rose and yellow flower immediately above the rim of the glass which are directly lifted from the still life on copper sold at Sotheby’s, London, 25 June 1969, lot 19.
9. National Trust Inventory Number 515452; see Segal, under Literature, vol. I, p. 130, reproduced fig. 28, as Umkreis [circle of] Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder; see also F.G. Meijer in the Christie’s catalogue entry, where the attribution to Bosschaert is confirmed following first-hand inspection. The painting is registered as by Bosschaert on the National Trust website. A possibly autograph variant of it is recorded in an old photograph kept at the R.K.D., The Hague (oil on panel, 35 by 25 cm.; see De Helsche en fluweelen Brueghel, exhibition catalogue, De Boer, Amsterdam, 1935, cat. no. 255, as by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder).
10. See N. Bakker et al., Masters of Middelburg, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam 1984, p. 122, no. 3, reproduced.
11. Fred G. Meijer has suggested that it may have been cut down from a Middelburg panel of a sort common to the present group, but its composition, with blooms filling the upper two-thirds of the composition but kept within the current picture plane, suggests otherwise.
12. See the catalogue to the exhibition Het Nederlandse stilleven 1550-1720, Amsterdam 1999, pp. 117–19, no. 5, reproduced.
13. See S. Kemperdick. op. cit., p. 96, under no. 22.
14. X-rays do not reveal the presence of any (earlier) painting underneath.
Flemish Painting: Two Unique Compositions by Rubens & Brueghel
The sale comprises a fine group of Flemish paintings led by an expressive modello by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), The Martyrdom of Saint Paul. Dating from circa 1637, the work is the only known, complete study for the artist’s large altarpiece painted for the High Altar of the Church of the Augustinian Priory of Rood Klooster (also Rooklooster) near Brussels, of which St. Paul was the patron saint. The altarpiece was destroyed during the French bombardment of Brussels in 1695, leaving the present sketch as the primary surviving visual record of this composition (lot 32, est. £600,000- 800,000 / €765,000-1,020,000 / $970,000-1,290,000).
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577 – 1640 Antwerp), The Martyrdom of Saint Paul, oil, with traces of graphite underdrawing on panel, within a painted arch: a modello, 38 by 22.9 cm.; 15 by 9 in. Estimate 600,000 — 800,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: Mr. Wallace;
From whom purchased in Florence in 1847 by;
Sir Robert Staynor Holford (1808-1892) and first housed at Russell Square and then from 1856 at Dorchester House, Park Lane, London;
Thence by descent to Holford’s son, Sir George Lindsay Holford (1860-1926), Dorchester House, London;
His sale, London, Christie’s, 17-18 May 1928, lot 38, to Knoedler’s;
With M. Knoedler & Co., London, 1930;
With Scott and Fowles, New York, 1937;
Joseph J. Kerrigan, New York, by 1947;
Charles E. Roseman, Cleveland Heights, Ohio;
With Frederic Mont, New York, circa 1963;
With Newhouse Galleries, New York;
From whom purchased by Thomas Mellon Evans, Greenwich, CT, 1963;
His sale, New York, Christie’s, 22 May 1998, lot 32, for $717,500;
Whereby purchased by a private collector by whom anonymously sold, (‘Property of a Private Collector’), New York, Sotheby’s, 27 January 2011, lot 161, where acquired shortly afterwards by the present owner.
EXHIBITED: Winston-Salem, Public Library, Collectors’ Opportunity, 1963 (lent by Newhouse Galleries);
Worcester, Worcester Art Museum, The Collectors’ Cabinet, 6 November 1983 – 29 January 1984, no. 29 (lent by Thomas Mellon Evans);
Berkeley, The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Cincinnati, The Cincinnati Art Museum, Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens, 2 March – 11 September 2005, no. 38.
LITERATURE: G.F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London 1854, vol. II, p. 200 (as by Anthony van Dyck, The Beheading of a Saint);
M. Rooses, L’Oeuvre de P.P. Rubens. Histoire et description de ses tableaux et dessins, Antwerp 1888, vol. II, pp. 333-5, no. 478;
A. Rosenberg, ed., PP. Rubens: des Meisters Gemälde, part of the series, Klassiker der Kunst, vol. V, Stuttgart 1906 (and subsequent editions), p. 418;
R. Benson, The Holford Collection, Dorchester House: With 200 Illustrations from the Twelfth to the end of the Nineteenth Century, Oxfor 1927, vol. II, no. 116, reproduced pl. 104;
W. Gibson, ‘The Holford Collection’, in Apollo, vol. VII, May 1928, pp. 198-9;
J.-A. Goris and J.S. Held, Rubens in America, New York 1947, p. 36, cat. no. 67;
E. Larsen, P.P. Rubens. With a Complete Catalogue of His Works in America, Antwerp 1952, p. 219, no. 92;
F. van Molle, ‘Nieuwe Noa’s bij een Verloren Werk van P.P. Rubens’, in Revue Belge d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de l’Art, vol. XXI, 1952, pp. 127-33;
H. Vlieghe, ‘De marteldood van der H. Petrus, en olieverfschets door Gaspar de Crayer’, in Bulletin Boymans-van Beuningen, vol. XVII, 1952, p. 18, reproduced fig. 12;
L. Burchard and R.-A. d’Hulst, Rubens Drawings, Brussels 1963, vol. I, p. 311;
Collectors’ Opportunity, exhibition catalogue, Winston-Salem 1963, pp. 38-9;
J.S. Held, ‘Jan van Boeckhorst as Draughtsman’, in Bulletin des Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, vol. XVI, 1967, p. 142;
H. Vlieghe, Saints I-II, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, Brussels 1972-3, pt. 8, vol. II, p. 133-4, no. 137a, reproduced pl. 91;
J. Rowlands, Rubens Drawings and Sketches, Catalogue of an exhibition at the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, London 1977, under no. 190;
J.S. Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens. A Critical Catalogue, Princeton 1980, vol. I, p. 582, no. 423, reproduced, vol. II, pl. 412, color pl. 23;
G. Langemeyer, ‘Kunsthistorische Nachbemerkkungen zum Katalog der Werke des Johann Bockhorst’, inWestfalen, vol. LX, 1982, p. 194, reproduced, fig. 13;
J. Welu, ed., The Collectors’ Cabinet, exhibition catalogue, Worcester 1983, no. 29;
P. Sutton, catalogue entry for the present painting in, Drawn by the Brush : Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens, P. Sutton, ed., exhibition catalogue, Greenwich, Berkeley, and Cincinnati 2005, pp. 244-247, no. 38, reproduced in color (with image reversed).
NOTE: This expressive modello is the only known, complete study for Rubens’ large altarpiece painted for the High Altar of the Church of the Augustinian Priory of Rood Klooster (also Rooklooster) near Brussels, of which St. Paul was the patron saint.
The story of St. Paul’s martyrdom is told in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend (Legenda Aurea) for June 30, the saint’s feast day. Condemned to death by Emperor Nero, Paul was taken outside the Ostia Gate in Rome to be beheaded. Rubens identified the location by depicting the Pyramid of Cestius in the background. On the road to his execution, Paul gained the sympathy of a Roman woman named Plautilla. In return for his promise to pray for her, she offered him her veil with which to cover his eyes. In gratitude for her compassion, Paul assured her that she would have the garment back, unbloodied, when the event was over. In depicting these events, Rubens condensed them into a single, dramatic, emotional moment: Paul kneels in the center of the composition, while the executioner holds him roughly by his cloak and Plautilla gently wraps the blindfold around his eyes. Paul raises his eyes to heaven where a genius and two putti await, ready to award the saint his martyr’s crown and palm frond. In the foreground, the artist has included a number of spectators, including the three Roman centurions whom Paul converted moments before his martyrdom. The figure in the lower left, with his tearful expression and folded hands is a dramatic embodiment of the emotion of the entire scene.
Although early documentary evidence for the Rood Klooster altarpiece has not survived, it was probably commissioned by Adriaan van der Reest (d. 1648), the twenty-fifth prior of the monastery and was likely installed in 1638, the year that Rubens is recorded as having received 1,500 Rhenish florins from Rood Klooster. It is probable, therefore, that this modello was completed circa 1637, a year also suggested by Julius Held, thus confirming it as one of the last oil sketches Rubens ever executed.1 Unfortunately, the altarpiece was destroyed during the French bombardment of Brussels in 1695, leaving the present sketch as the primary surviving visual record of its composition. The arched top in this work supports the idea that the altarpiece also had a similar construction. This idea is further maintained by the survival of its original frame, located today in Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ten-Poel in Tienen, Brabant, and acquired at auction in 1784 after the Rood Klooster was suppressed by Austrian Emperor, Joseph II.
Rubens’ large-scale altarpiece appears to have inspired another work of almost the same composition. First located in the Dominican church at Antwerp, and now in the church of the Madeleine at Aix-en-Provence, it is attributed to Theodor Boeyermans (1620-1678), although it was briefly given to Rubens by Ludwig Burchard and R.A. d’Hulst. Since then, however, Hans Vlieghe has returned the work to Boeyermans noting that it is a pastiche of the original, now lost Rood Klooster altarpiece.2 Also apparently related to both the present sketch and its lost altarpiece is a drawing in the British Museum, although its authorship remains somewhat uncertain. Held believes it to have been at least partially completed by Rubens, while Vlieghe argues that it, like the Aix composition, is by Boeyermans, and Rowlands argues that it can firmly be ascribed to Rubens.
This beautiful sketch is first recorded in the nineteenth century in the collection of Sir Robert Staynor Holford, one of the most illustrious collectors of his age, who acquired it in 1847 in Florence. Holford’s collection, which in a short period became one of the greatest collections of Old Master pictures in all of Great Britain, was described by Gustav Waagen as consisting of « above one hundred pictures, including first-rate specimens of the different Italian schools, a series of chefs-d’oeuvres of the Dutch and Flemish schools, and many excellent works of the Spanish, German and English Schools ».3 After Sir Robert’s death, the collection passed to his son, Sir George Lindsay Holford. When he died without direct heirs in 1926, the collection was sold in a series of sales in 1927 and 1928, and was at that time, one of the most successful auctions of the twentieth century, one of the sessions holding the record as the highest grossing single auction for more than two decades. Additionally, as Peter Sutton pointed out in his entry on this picture for the exhibition Drawn by the Brush, this picture came in for particular praise during the sale: « When the curator of the National Gallery of London, William Gibson, reviewed the sale in 1928 he was especially flattering in his praise of this work, commending the picture’s ‘very great pictorial idea’ and added that ‘in a study like this one sees what profundity, what subtlety Rubens was capable of, that he was not merely an amazingly powerful rhetorician, and perhaps the greatest executant [sic] in paint, but a very great artist.' »4 Prior to Holford’s acquisition of the picture, it was described as an early work by Van Dyck, and is catalogued as such in Waagen’s account of the Holford collection.5 This misattribution was rectified by Max Rooses in his comprehensive catalogue of Rubens’ work, where he also rightly recognized the subject as the martyrdom of St. Paul.6 Since Rooses’ 1888 catalogue, the attribution to Rubens has not been questioned.
1. Held 1980 op. cit., p. 582.
2. Vlieghe op. cit., p. 135
3. Waagen, op. cit, p. 193.
4. William Gibson, quoted in Sutton, op. cit., p. 246.
5. Waagen, op. cit.
6. Rooses, op. cit., p. 333.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1637/8) features with two pictures, including a late work, A Village Street with peasants dancing. This is a rare example of a unique composition in Brueghel’s oeuvre, and is entirely of his own devising. When sold from the Belper collection in 1973, it fetched the then huge sum of £157,500, and set an auction record for a work by Brueghel. Five years later, in 1978, it broke its own record when it was sold for £260,000. This winter, it will be offered for sale with an estimate of £700,000 to £1 million (lot 3, est. €890,000-1,270,000 / $1,130,000- 1,610,000).
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Brussels 1564 – 1637/8 Antwerp), A village street with peasants dancing, signed lower right: .P. BREVGHEL. oil on oak panel, 40.6 by 72.3 cm.; 16 by 28 1/2 in. Estimate 700,000 — 1,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: Lord Belper, Kingston Hall, Nottingham;
By whom sold (‘The Property of a Gentleman’), London, Christie’s, 23 March 1973, lot 90, for 150,000 guineas to Leonard Koetser;
Private Collection, South Africa, by 1974;
Anonymous sale (‘The Property of a South African Foundation’), London, Christie’s, 7 July 1978, lot 217, for £260,000;
With David M. Koetser, Zurich;
Acquired from the above by the late owners on 20 November 1978 for 1 million Deutschmarks.
EXHIBITED: Johannesburg, Carlton Centre, 1974;
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brueghel. Une dynastie de peintres, 1980, no. 98.
LITERATURE: J. Folie in P. Roberts-Jones (ed.), Bruegel. Une dynastie de peintres, exhibition catalogue, Brussels 1980, p. 158, no. 98, reproduced (as lent by David M. Koetser, Zurich);
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere (1564–1637/8). Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, 2 vols, Lingen 2000, vol. II, pp. 837, 849, 871, no. E 1196*, reproduced figs 676 and 678 (detail).
NOTE: This is a rare example of a unique composition in Brueghel’s oeuvre, and is entirely of his own devising. When sold from the Belper collection in 1973, it fetched the then huge sum of £157,500, and set an auction record for a work by Brueghel. Five years later, in 1978, it broke its own record when it was sold for £260,000.
Although loosely related to the composition known in seven versions depicting peasants feasting before a long village street with the Swan Inn to the left, the composition of the present picture is known in no other versions.1 Another unique composition, found in a painting dating from before 1616 recorded as in a Spanish private collection, showing peasants feasting outside an inn to the left, also has as here an allée of trees receding to the horizon, a motif otherwise unknown in Brueghel’s work.2
The principal figure group of a ring of dancers rotating counter-clockwise is also found in the centre of a much larger picture depicting the Kermesse of Saint George, dated 1628, sold at Sotheby’s in London on the 8 December 2004, lot 11 (see fig. 2).3 The width of the figure group is approximately 50 cm in each picture, which suggests that the design is likely to have been transferred by tracing, as was the usual practice in Brueghel’s atelier.
Detail from Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Kermesse of St. George, sold Sotheby’s, London, 8 December 2004, lot 11.
This is borne out by the underdrawing of the present picture, revealed by infra-red imaging (see fig. 1).4 The underdrawing of the central figure group appears to have been done in two stages. The first is a characteristic outline which looks as if it was traced, while the second is freer as if working up the transferred design. The underdrawing of the buildings, trees and subsidiary figures is looser still and for the most part is clearly done freehand.
Infra-red imaging of the present lot.
The present picture is a late work. In any event the form of its signature places it after 1626, and the close relationship of the principal figure group with the 1628 Kermesse of Saint George suggests a dating around the same time. Klaus Ertz dates it to the end of the 1620s.
The panel comprises two planks of oak of Western European, probably Netherlandish origin. A tree ring analysis conducted by Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd. shows that the last growth ring is of 1607, and the earliest plausible date of use is thus circa 1615. His report, number 722, is avaialble on request.
1. See Ertz under Literature, vol. 2, pp. 834–36, 845–46, nos. E1179–1186, all reproduced.
2. Ibid., p. 849, no. E1195*, reproduced p. 838, fig. 673.
3. Ibid., p. 909, no. E1239, reproduced p. 870, fig. 703. This work also set an auction record for Pieter Brueghel the Younger, selling for £3.7 million.
4. Conducted by Art Access Research.
The First Bird’s-eye View of a British Estate
The sale will also present one of the first British bird’s eye views ever painted. Painted circa 1665 by an anonymous English artist, this large scale View of Llanerch Park, Denbighshire is not only a very beautiful work of art but also an extremely important historical document. The picture’s very early date makes it the first in a great tradition of bird’s eye views of British country houses. Testament to the birth of landscape painting in the country, the work also gives a very rare and astonishingly detailed glimpse of Llanerch’s garden, a lost jewel in the Welsh cultural crown. The painting has remained in the same family since the creator of the garden, Mutton Davis commissioned it in 1665. It will be offered at auction for the first time, with an estimate of £400,000- 600,000.
English School, circa 1665, View of Llanerch Park, Denbighshire, oil on canvas, 160 by 231.8 cm.; 63 by 91 1/4 in. Estimate 400,000 — 600,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: Commissioned circa 1662 and thence by family descent.
EXHIBITED: London, Sotheby’s, The Glory of the Garden, 1987, no. 44;
Cardiff, Cardiff Castle, Welsh Treasures Exhibition, 11 November – 11 December 1987, no. 19.
LITERATURE: Country Life, 14 May 1943, reproduced fig. 5;
J. Steegman and D. Stroud, The Artist and the Country House, 1949, p. 35, no. 3, reproduced;
J. Harris, The Artist and the Country House, 1979, pp. 41 and 54;
A. M. Clevely, Topiary, 1988, p. 24;
E. Whittle, Historic Gardens of Wales, Cadw. HMSO, 1992, reproduced on the front cover.
NOTE: Painted in 1662, this is likely the earliest topographical birds-eye view of a British estate, a genre that would become hugely popular over the ensuing decades.
This is not only a very beautiful and decorative work of art but also a very important historical document. An early inscription, visible in the illustration in Country Life in 1943, but since apparently removed, suggests that it dates from 1662 but this is more likely to date when the garden started. This makes it the first in a great tradition of bird’s-eye views of country houses in Britain, and marks the beginning of large-scale topographical painting in this country, which would become celebrated in the work of artists such as Jan Sibrechts, Leonard Knyff and Jan Griffier. Most of these later works date from the end of the seventeenth and early into the eighteenth centuries and are by sophisticated foreign artists who visited England seeking aristocratic patronage. What makes the present picture of particular importance is not only the very early date but also the fact that it is evidence of a contemporary native tradition aware, through engravings, of earlier Dutch artists such as Hollar. The house as shown in this picture was probably built by Fulk Griffyth in the late sixteenth century, with a brick office range near the house added probably in the early seventeenth century by Sir Peter Mutton. Sir Peter’s daughter Anne married Robert Davies of Gwysaney, and it seems that it was their son, Mutton Davies, who was responsible for the splendid garden and who commissioned this picture. He was no doubt inspired by his trip to Italy between 1654 and 1658. The three-tier or terrace type of garden is immensely sophisticated and of a type advocated back in 1597 by William Lawson in A New Orchard and Garden. It should not be considered surprising that such a garden existed in what John Harris has described as ‘remote Wales’, as Denbighshire and Flint had a number of fine Jacobean houses, notably Plas-Teg, Nerquis Hall, Pentrehobyn, and Gwysaney. The proximity of the area to Chester and links between the North Wales coast and Lancashire helped to bring considerable prosperity to the region and explains the existence of so many fine houses.
The details shown of the garden are remarkable. A mounted figure is shown approaching a wooden front entrance from where he would dismount using the mounting-steps shown by the stables (probably contemporary with the garden). A gate to the right leads to the upper terrace with an impressive row of stone vases and red brick garden houses on each end. From there an elaborate semi-circular stairway leads to a flower garden with fruit trees growing against the wall. From a gazebo there is a view down to the third terrace with a central fountain and two summer houses. A slope flanked with specimen trees leads down to the Neptune pool and a further bridge in the bottom right corner leading to the river Clwyd. Philip Yorke, author of Royal Tribes of Wales, records that the garden contained a sundial with the inscription, ‘Alas my friend time soon will overtake you And if you do not cry, by God I’ll make you’, a reference to the fact that the sundial spouted water in your face. A seventeenth-century poem by Ffoulk Wynn describes the garden as follows: ‘Elegantly he diverted streams of cold water into his gardens and, praise he, he can wander in a great garden which he made, in the grounds about his mansion, and costly are his devices!’
There are two versions of the picture. A smaller painting, similar in most respects – with the exception of its inclusion of St Asaph’s Cathedral on the horizon – was acquired in 1968 by the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven from Leggatt Brothers, the London dealers. It had previously been owned by Mrs Patrick Hardman, and in the nineteenth century was lent by A. Whitehall Dod of Llanerch to an exhibition at Wrexham. Mr Whitehall Dod had succeeded to the estates of Llanerch in 1841 on the death of his grandmother, the last of the Davies family. This suggests that the larger version hung from an early stage at Gwysaney, another property of Mutton Davies.
A History of the Garden
By Elizabeth Whittle
Standing on the terrace in front of Llannerch Hall and looking eastwards down the steep, smooth grass slope to the valley floor and winding river Clwyd below it is hard to imagine that this rural scene was once the site of the most Italianate garden ever made in Wales. This is the garden laid out by Mutton Davies in the 1660s (probably finished in 1665) that is celebrated in the contemporary bird’s-eye view painting from Gwysaney, the Davies family home nearby.
Mutton Davies must have returned from Italy in 1658 with Italian gardens such as the Villa d’Este, Pratolino, and maybe even the great, terraced French garden of Saint-Germain-en-Laye fresh in his mind. In his new garden no Italianate element was left out and in particular water was harnessed so as to dominate the garden with pools, fountains, a formal cascade, hydraulic statues and water tricks. The last two were such novelties in north Wales that visitors went on remarking on them into the nineteenth century. Sadly, the garden met its end in the Victorian era.
Nothing as remotely Italian was created in Wales during this period, although many grand houses possessed formal, sometimes terraced, gardens, some dating back to the Tudor period. The great baroque gardens of Powis Castle and Chirk Castle were yet to come. Sketches by Thomas Dineley in The Beaufort Progress (1684) give glimpses of formal elements in gardens attached to the grand houses of the day: Powis Castle had a fountain, Margam Abbey pools, Ruperra Castle walled enclosures, all swept away. Chirk Castle’s terraced early garden, at Whitehurst, was made by Sir Thomas Myddleton in 1651. Its interest here lies in the ‘forreigne’ plants recorded as growing there, including orange and lemon trees. It is very likely that these would have been grown in the Llannerch garden not far away. The Gwysaney painting shows rows of fastigiated trees looking suspiciously like Italian cypresses.
One Welsh garden contemporary with that of Llannerch, Llanfihangel Court in Monmouthshire, is not only a remarkable survival from the period but is also celebrated in a similar bird’s-eye view painting. The terraced garden, summerhouses and axial avenues in the park were the creation of John Arnold, a Whig politician, in the 1670s. As with the Gwysaney painting, this layout, formal but not Italianate in the same way as Llannerch, is depicted in a large contemporary painting.
he Gwysaney painting gives a very rare and astonishingly detailed glimpse of a lost jewel in the Welsh cultural crown. Were the garden to exist today – and who knows what is buried beneath the turf? – it would be an extraordinarily unusual little piece of Italy transposed into the rural idyll of the Vale of Clwyd.
We are grateful to Elizabeth Whittle, author of Historic Gardens of Wales, for this additional note.
Further to the record set for a work by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1654) in Paris in June1, the Italian Baroque artist who was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence features in the sale with an impressive full-scale depiction of Bathsheba at her bath. Painted probably in the 1640s, at the height of Gentileschi’s maturity, the work is offered at auction for the first time in its history with an estimate of £200,000-300,000 (lot 20, est. €254,000-380,000 / $321,000-482,000).
Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593 – 1654 Naples), Bathsheba at her bath, oil on canvas, 204.5 by 155.5 cm.; 80 1/2 by 61 1/4 in. Estimate 200,000 — 300,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
PROVENANCE: Acquired in Italy circa 1865 by Baron Deichmann as by Alessandro Allori;
Thence by inheritance to Freifrau Ady von Rüxleben, Thuringia;
By whom lent in 1961 to the Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, until bequeathed in the mid-1990s to the present owners.
LITERATURE: H. Birringer, ‘Bathsheba im Bade, in Museum der bildenden Künste zu Leipzig’, in Erbe und Gegenwart: Festschrift Johannes Jahn zum 70. Geburstag, Leipzig 1963, pp. 393–97 (as Neapolitan, towards Artemisia);
A. Sutherland Harris in A. Sutherland Harris and L. Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550–1950, exhibition catalogue, New York 1976, p. 123, under cat. no. 15, and note 29 (here and henceforth as Artemisia);
M. D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi. The image of the female hero in Italian Baroque art, Princeton 1989, pp. 128-29, 517, note 230, reproduced p. 129, fig. 120;
R. Contini in R. Contini and G. Papi (eds), Artemisia, exhibition catalogue, Rome 1991, pp. 79, 80, 87, note 88, 179, reproduced p. 80, fig. 66;
D. R. Marshall, Viviano and Nicolò Codazzi and the Baroque Architechtural Fantasy, Milan 1993, pp. 154–55 (with the architectural setting possibly by Ascanio Luciani);
R. Ward Bissell, Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art, Pennsylvania 1999, pp. 269–71, cat. no. 40 (slight reservations are given over attributing the work in full due to only knowing it from photographs; a possible collaboration with Artemisia’s daughter is proposed);
R. Lattuada in K. Christiansen and J. W. Mann (eds), Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, exhibition catalogue, New York 2001, p. 416, under cat. no. 80, under ‘Related Pictures’;
R. Contini and F. Salinas, Artemisia Gentileschi, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2011, p. 114 and p. 228 under cat. no. 41.
NOTE: This impressive full-scale depiction of Bathsheba at her bath was painted by Artemisia Gentileschi, probably in the 1640s at the height of her maturity. The painting is offered here at auction for the first time in its history.
Sometimes presented by latter-day scholars as a proto-feminist, Artemisia revelled in depictions of female heroines such as Judith and Sisera, as well as more traditional subjects such as Cleopatra, Danae, and female personifications of allegories. In the present work the heroine is at her toilet, attended to by two maid-servants. It successfully combines two of Artemisia’s career-long interests: the magnificence of the female form and the voluminous depiction of sumptuous fabrics, particularly in evidence in Bathsheba’s yellow drapery.
Artemisia must have enjoyed the subject considerably – probably because it offered her a ready-made vehicle to explore the female nude and thus delight her patrons – and revisited it on numerous occasions, producing several very distinct treatments of the subject and a number of versions of each treatment, one of which is recorded in the inventories of Charles I of England, though is sadly untraced. That the differnet ‘types’ were carefully modified in each of the various versions lends further credence to the theory that the artist made use of preparatory cartoons.
The composition finds echoes in all the other treatments of the subject. While David is notably absent from the present work, which Ward Bissell dates to 1637/38, the closest variant is the painting in a UK private collection exhibited in Milan in 2011, which shows the three figures in identical poses but is considerably altered in the background.1 Another type, possibly earlier in date, is represented by the Bathsheba in the Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio, which can also be linked to the present work since it repeats the disposition of the three figures.2 In the pose of Bathsheba’s legs, the composition also makes use of features from another, later, scheme, whose best variant is probably the work in Potsdam, which has a much suffered version in the Uffizi (and a lost variant formerly at Gosford House, Scotland).3 This type can be extended to include the signed painting in the Haas Collection in Vienna, which is horizontal, and that sold at Sotheby’s Milan in 2011, which introduces a handsome red curtain running vertically along the right edge of the design.4 The kneeling figure of the present work has been removed in both the last two types, with the basin taking a prominent central position as the fully nude Bathsheba is shown seated on a tasseled pillow.
1. See Contini and Solinas, under Literature, pp. 228–31, cat. no. 41, reproduced in colour.
2. See Ward Bissell, under Literature, pp. 263–66, cat. no. 37, reproduced in colour plate XXIII.
3. For the Potsdam canvas see Ward Bissell, op. cit., pp. 284–85, cat. no. 48a, reproduced figs 188–89.
4. See, respectively, Contini and Solinas, op. cit., pp. 240–41, cat. no. 46, reproduced in colour, and pp. 246–47, cat. no. 49, reproduced in colour. The latter was sold anonymously Milan, Sotheby’s, 14 June 2011, lot 27, for 180,000 euros.