1500 Between Last Supper and Mona Lisa
2017 SOLD for $ 450M including premium
The picture shows Christ holding the orb of the world in his left hand and blessing with the raised fingers of his right hand. The mystical message without the divine attribute of the halo competes with the holy shrouds recognized as authentic at his time while adding attitude and gesture. The orb that prophesies the rescue of the world is a reflective crystal ball through which the viewer perceives the palm of the hand.
This painting had belonged to King Charles I of England. It was probably hanging in the private apartments of Queen Henriette who was born in the French royal family. Its previous whereabouts are unknown. A possible hypothesis is a French royal order during the Italian wars. King Louis XII was so impressed by the Last Supper that he wanted to take the wall to France.
The analyzes provided a lot of information on the realization and history of this painting. The perfection of the expression is concentrated in the lips and the gaze, anticipating the Mona Lisa. The mouth was drawn by the technique of pierced drawing used by other great masters of that time including Raphael and Andrea del Sarto. One of the eyes was softened by a spread of color pushed by the wrist of the artist.
Leonardo cared little for the supporting materials. The conservation woes of the Last Supper are famous. The original panel of Salvator Mundi was early split because of a knot in the wood. The accident caused awkward repainting on the face. Anonymous owners then extended these repaints to the point that only peripheral regions including the hands were still visible in their original quality.
All of that has been conscientiously repaired. Fortunately the sfumato remained in very good condition under the disagreeable layers that were removed. This signature Leonardo technique makes it possible to compare the Salvator Mundi with the Mona Lisa which is the culmination of his art. The perfectionist preparation of his paintings could last several years. A date around 1500 is plausible for the Salvator Mundi.
Christ the savior of the world by Leonardo, oil on panel 66 x 46 cm, will be sold by Christie's in New York on November 15, lot 9 B. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1500-1510 The Man of Sorrows by Botticelli
2022 SOLD for $ 45M by Sotheby's
Botticelli's art changed. The time of his signature theme of the Virgin of Tenderness was over. He possibly was not reluctant with the new trend. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1498, Botticelli's studio was sometimes used by his brother for secret meetings of Savonarola's sympathizers.
A mid length life size figure of Christ is typical of that new mood. Botticelli painted it in tempera and oil by canceling a Virgin of Tenderness on a panel 69 x 51 cm.
The main theme is a Man of Sorrows. The iconography of this specific piece goes far beyond up to a global representation of the Passion including Redemption and Resurrection.
The image is blending the human and the divine. The full frontal face has an expression of suffering temperated with a desire to confront and convince. The gaze goes straight to the viewer, just like Leonardo's Salvator Mundi and Dürer's self portrait made at that same period otherwise marked by the fear of a mid-millennium apocalypse.
The divine is represented by the bleeding wounds of the thorns and by the stigmata of the Crucifixion in the hands. The unprecedented move of this unique picture is the replacement of the halo by a circle of angels in grisaille that reluctantly display the instruments of his torture such as the ladder, the scourge and the lance.
There is no similar example known in Christian iconography. We will never know whether the master executed it for his own salvation or for proposing a new theme which still had no follow when he died in 1510.
The painting surfaced in the mid 19th century in a family of famous English actors and was authenticated as an autograph work by Botticelli when it was sold at Sotheby's in 1963. Further studies are now confirming that prestigious attribution. It was sold for $ 45M on January 27, 2022 by Sotheby's, lot 14. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1510 The Codex Leicester of Leonardo da Vinci
1994 SOLD for $ 31M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Leonardo is neither a scientist nor an engineer in the modern meaning of these terms. He does not waste his time analyzing the consequences of his theories or conceiving the realization of his inventions. In his swarming of ideas, he could be wonderfully right and naively wrong, and he was certainly unable to distinguish between these two extremes.
For this left-hander, the mirror writing is the way he has found so that his thinking is not slowed down by his hand. The use of numerous abbreviations, which makes these texts extremely difficult to decipher, is consistent with this hypothesis. We will never know how he desired exploiting such a unique mass of informations.
These writings were later assembled into notebooks, identified under the more technical term of codex. The Codex Leicester is the only one remaining in private hands. It was sold twice by Christie's, for $ 5.1M on December 12, 1980 and for $ 31M including premium on November 11, 1994. Between these two sales it was named the Codex Hammer. It was bought by Bill Gates at the last auction. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The Codex Leicester is made up of 18 double sheets of parchment for a total of 72 pages 22 x 30 cm. It brings together his notes written around 1510 on the theme of the water movements. The author imagines that his ideas could be used for the design of bridges.
His observation on the presence of fossils in the mountains brings an explanation far ahead of his time : they were originally in a seabed which was raised by a geophysical phenomenon. This hypothesis is all the more remarkable since the monotheistic religions of his time do not question the creationism.
In the same notebook, he explains the luminosity of the Moon by the reflection of sunlight on its surface entirely covered with water.
1508-1511 Raphael and the Vatican Muse
2009 SOLD 29.1 M£ including premium
The author of the work we are discussing today is Raphael, the youngest of the three. For five centuries, all the art critics have praised him and noted the perfection of his paintings. His works were the subject of preparatory drawings very sharp, detailed and contrasted, at the exact size he wanted for the final motif.
Knowing the above, we understand better why some drawings are composite, for example hand and head . But the black chalk drawing 30.5 x 22.2 cm that Christie's will sell in London on December 8 is more important.
This pretty young woman head with flying hair in full frame is a preparation for a character of a Muse. It still have the perforations made by the artist to project the outline through the paper on the frescoes of the Vatican (1508 to 1511). It is estimated 12 million pounds.
This sale passionates the press. Here are the articles shared by Bloomberg, by Guardian and by Telegraph.
POST SALE COMMENT
We were here in the presence of a real historical work, because of the role played by this drawing in the process of decoration of the Vatican.
The result is also historical from the point of view of auction.
Sold £ 29.1 million including premium, it is the world record for a work on paper, and the second highest price for a work of ancient art, according to the information provided by Christie's.
#Raphael was #BornOnThisDay in 1483. In 2009, we offered an auxiliary sketch by #Raphael. The drawing, one of the best of Raphael’s surviving sketches set a #WorldAuctionRecord for a work on paper at £29,161,250 https://t.co/GDloR0vDil pic.twitter.com/pfYMt2hbGe— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 6, 2019
1518 Portrait of Lorenzo II de' Medici by Raphael
2007 SOLD for £ 18.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Lorenzo must therefore be married. The pope promotes a French alliance and the choice falls on Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, a cousin of King François I, in 1517. This marriage was political and the future newlyweds had obviously never met. Portraits will be exchanged during the preparation of this union.
The portrait of Lorenzo was entrusted at the beginning of 1518 to Raphael, a native of Urbino. The matter is urgent. The artist chooses the oil on canvas, which allows a faster execution than the wooden panel. The prince is seen in three quarter length, slightly turned to his right, the gaze directed towards the spectator. He is sumptuously dressed in brocade, velvet and fur. He holds in his hand a gold box supposedly decorated with a miniature portrait of his future wife.
This commission is of great political importance and there is no doubt that this painting is autograph by Raphael. The portrait of Lorenzo reached Paris in March in a convoy of gifts carried by 36 horses. The reciprocal portrait of Madeleine had arrived in Florence in the previous month. The marriage is celebrated on May 2 at the Château d'Amboise.
The original autograph painting, 97 x 78 cm, authenticated by modifications revealed by infrared photography, was sold for £ 18.5M including premium by Christie's on July 5, 2007, lot 91. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The glory of this prince was overrated. He had not won the war against the Della Rovere. He died in 1519 of syphilis, possibly contracted during his wedding trip. Madeleine had died a few days before him, two weeks after the birth of their only daughter who will become the French queen Catherine de Médicis.
1520 Study for the Transfiguration
2012 SOLD 29.7 M£ including premium
Working directly for popes, cardinals and the powerful Medici family, Raphael manages a workshop of fifty artists whose production is prolific, but he himself designs the artworks, performs the preparation and executes the most important paintings.
The fashion of the time is for large-size frescoes and altar paintings prepared by innumerable drawings. Once the artist is satisfied with the composition, he pierces the latest drawings to transfer the lines into the final work. The pierced modello drawing of the head of a Vatican Muse was sold £ 29.1 million including premium at Christie's on December 8, 2009.
On December 5 in London, Sotheby's sells a drawing in black chalk, 38 x 28 cm, from the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire. It is illustrated in the article shared by Bloomberg.
This head of an apostle in meditation was made during the preparation of the Transfiguration, that huge oil on canvas, 405 x 278 cm, unfinished at the untimely death of the artist.
Completed by his studio, this monumental painting marks a turning point in Western art. The composition in two registers is bold. Above, Christ enters the light. The bright representation of the event is an iconographic challenge which anticipates Rembrandt.
Down on Earth, the apostles are attending a miracle by Christ, each one reacting in his own way. The care taken in the empathy between these men is announcing Mannerism and Baroque art.
The drawing for sale is not final and has not been pierced. This is a beautiful portrait of expression, with very nice thin line. It is estimated £ 10M.
POST SALE COMMENT
On December 8, 2009, a perforated drawing by Raphael showing the head of a Muse was sold £ 29.1 million including premium.
The head of a young apostle got an almost identical price: £ 29.7 million including premium. It is a great success for its owner, the Duke of Devonshire, possessor at Chatsworth of one of the best art collections in the world.
I invite you to play the videos shared by Sotheby's :
1529 Portrait of a Halberdier by Pontormo
1989 SOLD for $ 35 M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The Portrait of a Halberdier is an oil (or oil and tempera) on panel transferred to canvas 95 x 73 cm. This arrogant young man with a smooth and beardless face who is bulging his chest to the limit does not look like an infantry soldier. He is too richly dressed : he is an aristocrat.
By its military theme, this image enters into the context of the siege of Florence by the imperial armies in 1529. This date is all the more plausible as it corresponds to the period of greatest creativity of Pontormo, who will soon cease to resist his mental disorders.
Under these conditions, the young man is probably Francesco Guardi, aged fifteen. The wearing of the halberd would be a pun associated with the function of guardian evoked by his patronym.
The Portrait of a Halberdier was sold for $ 35M including premium by Christie's on May 31, 1989. It was purchased at this sale by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The image is shared by Wikimedia. Because of its great pictorial quality, experts want to recognize in this portrait a work that was specifically admired by Vasari.
Jiajing - The Carps of the Heavenly Pond
2017 SOLD for HK$ 214M including premium
The progress of Jingdezhen porcelain is restarting with the Jiajing emperor, an art lover and an adept of Taoism. Becoming emperor at the age of 14 in 1522, Jiajing reigned for 45 years. Large pieces are made under his rule, using the bright color palette identified as wucai. Wucai literally means five enamels, five having here a meaning of plurality adjusted to the five elements
This emperor liked to state that he was the fisherman of the heavenly pond. The pattern with fish swimming amidst aquatic plants enables a pleasing interweaving of the drawings on the walls of the jars and Jiajing himself promotes this theme by massive commissions. The details of the themes are related to homophonic rebuses bringing to the emperor the auspices that he so much enjoyed.
A 46 cm high jar with its cover is one of the biggest pieces of that type. It is animated by carps of two different sizes. The suspension of the fish in water allows various attitudes. The porcelain was first painted with the classical underglaze blue. The other colors were added over the glaze. Experts believe that three firings have been necessary.
Pieces which are still with their original cover are very rare in private hands. This one was sold for HK $ 44M including premium by Sotheby's on October 29, 2000, a very high price at that time for a Chinese porcelain. It will be sold by Christie's in Hong Kong on November 27, lot 8006. Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1560 Quiet Mysticism of Titian
2011 SOLD 16.9 M$ including premium
At the end of his life, his creativity is much alive, but he has nothing more to prove to increase his fame. Painter of sensuality and characters, he became the painter of the passions.
Circa 1560, he painted A Sacra Conversazione, also known as the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine. We really catch the intelligence being transferred between the Child Jesus, held by his mother, and Catherine of Alexandria. The Child is active and friendly, Catherine is serious and focused, the Madonna encourages the movement of Jesus. St Luke, standing, is carefully watching.
This large painting on canvas, 128 x 170 cm, is estimated $ 15M, for sale at Sotheby's in New York on January 27. It is illustrated on the press release shared by Artdaily.
There is no doubt about the importance of this work. Already in the 1620s, it had the honor to draw the attention of Van Dyck, who made a sketch of it in a notebook now preserved at the British Museum.
POST SALE COMMENT
As expected, this beautiful Titian dominated the week of ancient art sales in New York. Sold $ 16.9 million including premium, it does not, however, exceed its estimate.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Horseshoe Back Folding Armchair
2022 SOLD for HK$ 125M by Sotheby's
Highly appreciated by the Ming, the huanghuali is a tropical hardwood that enables to create furniture with bold shapes. Its color varies from reddish brown to golden yellow while its grains may display seductive pseudo-figurative patterns. Huanghuali literally means yellow pear tree flower.
It is believed that less that 10,000 pieces of furniture in huanghuali are still in existence. Its main source was in Hainan Island. The best pieces were made in the late Ming period and in the Ming-Qing transition. Most of them cannot be dated more precisely.
The use of folding seats, easily transformable into sedan chairs. is very convenient for garden or travel. The folding chair is named jiaoyi meaning chair with crossed legs.
The Han already used folding stools. Much later, the quality and beauty of the wood distinguish the elites of higher rank, the huanghuali being the high-end. Such brass mounted furniture is fragile and seats in soft wood did not survive.
In the Ming dynasty, jiaoyi were made in two main forms of the back, the horseshoe and the much rarer square with or without arms.
The very elegant quanyi form of armchair is characterized by its horseshoe-shaped rail that serves altogether as backrest and armrest. The quanyi is better suited than other forms of Chinese armchairs for the creation of folding models, its front rail fitting into the curved support of the arms.
The use of a jiaoyi as an occasional imperial throne is likely under the Ming but was not illustrated until the Qing. A painting by Castiglione features the Qianlong emperor sitting on a folding armchair during a negotiation with Kazakh emissaries.
A jiaoyi of comfortable proportions and simple forms was sold for HK $ 125M from a lower estimate by Sotheby's on October 8, 2022, lot 11. Its size is 71 x 67 x 103 cm.
Its damascened iron strengthening places it in the earliest examples of late Ming horseshoe back folding armchairs. Its elegant plain backrest flanked with carved geometrical borders is unique in that group while the five other surviving examples have dragon or floral carvings.
#AuctionUpdate This weekend, a rare Huanghuali Folding Horseshoe-Back Armchair- offered from the collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung- soared to $15.9 million. The price is not only a record for a Chinese chair, but is also the third highest sum paid for any chair at auction. pic.twitter.com/J8SNw0F5Gd— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) October 10, 2022