18th Century Painting
Chronology : 18th century 1710-1719 1730-1739 1740-1749 1750-1759 1760-1769 1770-1779
1718-1719 Christie's discovered a Watteau, what a Surprise!
2008 SOLD 12.3 M£ including premium
A little more than one month ago, Christie's had announced in a press release the reappearance of a painting of Watteau presumedly destroyed for two centuries. The press had seized this information, rightly. Let us not forget it, but it is necessary to wait two more months for the sale, which will be done in London on July 8.
Entitled "la Surprise", this painting was known through a copy, and the owner was unaware of being in possession of an original. If as it is probable Christie's manages to sell it, the pockets of this happy British countryman will then have filled from at least 3 M£.
Of small size, it is an outdoor scene, elegant and dynamic, with feverish movement, with images typified according to the so specific technique of Watteau: the player of guitar, the couple of lovers, the puppy.
A masterpiece? Yes. One of the great biddings of the year? Probably not. The painting, whose exact dimensions are not revealed in the official statement, appears to be not larger than a paper sheet.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price obtained is also a surprise: £ 12.3 million charge included.
This painting had been announced well in advance by Christie's as one of the highlights of the season. It had the advantage of never being viewed before on the market and disadvantage of being small: 36x28 cm.
The market has thus confirmed the view of Christie's that this painting is a masterpiece of Watteau, and that Watteau is a major painter in the history of art. There is no doubt that we will not soon see a similar one reappear in a sale. A masterpiece that can be considered as single on the market has no price, but I think nobody could reasonably predict that it would be so high.
1733 The Grand Canal by Canaletto
2005 SOLD for £ 18.6 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Around 1723, he paints two very large views, 141 x 204 cm and 144 x 207 cm, certainly as pendants for a single client.
He chooses the panoramic view of the Piazza San Marco with the basilica to illustrate the grandiose architecture, and the view of the Grand Canal between Palazzo Balbi and the Rialto bridge to show the life on the gondolas. The canal rotates at a right angle at that place. It is seen from full front when we look through a window from one of the three floors of the Palazzo Foscari.
On July 7, 2005, Sotheby's sold for £ 18.6M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 6M a view of the Grand Canal between Balbi and Rialto, in excellent condition, lot 47. This oil on canvas 86 x 138 cm is dated around 1733 by considerations of style, and is the very last large size example painted by Canaletto with this specific position. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The provenance of this painting was reconstructed before the sale. It had been listed as early as 1736 in the collection of Robert Walpole, who was the very first British statesman to exercise the function of a prime minister. Walpole belonged to the whig party opposed to royal absolutism and certainly considered Venice, which he had not visited, as a model of a republican regime.
1735 The Venetian Rosary
2020 SOLD for $ 17.3M including premium
On January 29 in New York, Sotheby's sells a monumental altarpiece painted by Tiepolo in 1735, oil on canvas 246 x 156 cm, lot 61. The article published on December 4 by the auction house announces an estimate in excess of $ 15M.
The theme is a Madonna of the Rosary with Angels. The simple and effective composition, unusual for the artist, and the liveliness of the colors remind Titian, and the attitude is mannerist.
The artist wanted this Madonna to appear with the utmost majesty. She is standing on a stone pedestal, for being worshiped like a statue. Her youth and elegance are enhanced by a hip position. The red cloak is a symbol of royalty.
The fully unfolded rosary is hanging from her outstretched hand like an offering for an out-of-field user. This artefact brings a modernism to the image : its use in Marian prayer was recommended by Pope Benedict XIII, a former Dominican who died in 1730.
The artist has constructed an interesting symmetry between the rosary held by the Mother and the cross held by the Child. The gaze of the Mother is introverted, while that of the Child is directed towards the hand holding the rosary.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1745-1747 Verona by Bellotto
2021 SOLD for £ 10.6M by Christie's
From 1740 the next phase was to conceive his own cityscapes. He then explored Italy southward to Rome and westward to Turin, probably to leave the business of Venice proper to Canaletto. He was using the same techniques as his uncle including sketching on the spot with the camera oscura and painting in the workshop.
A pair of views of Verona in oil on canvas has a very large size, 133 x 255 cm, probably made on commission ca 1745 for an unidentified patron.
One of them features the stone faced Ponte Navi with its medieval guethouse tower on the Adige river in the afternoon light. The well centered panorama displays both banks plus a ramp accessing a narrow river island. Bellotto observed in details the decay of that monumental bridge constructed in 1373. It was severely damaged by a flood in 1757 and the tower could not be reconstructed.
It was sold for £ 10.6M by Christie's on July 8, 2021, lot 9.
The pendant view is taken upstream from the Ponte Nuova with the Castel San Pietro. Bellotto painted simplified full size replicas of both views as specimens of his know how when he left Italy in the spring of 1747. The original view of the Ponte Navi was indeed the masterpiece that opened the rest of his career from Dresden to Warsaw.
#AuctionUpdate The supreme masterpiece of Bellotto's early career, 'View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi' achieved £10,575,000. The talented nephew of Canaletto, Bellotto is celebrated as one of the greatest topographical view painters.⠀ pic.twitter.com/kKnLHZ4fAL— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) July 8, 2021
1754 The Bucentaur by Canaletto
2005 SOLD for £ 11.4M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Unlike his predecessor Carlevarijs, Canaletto is not interested in official celebrations. He prefers to observe everyday life in all the variety of costumes and occupations of this cosmopolitan city. The ambiance of Ascension day is very specific and he does not disdain the subject, but the Bucentaur, while perfectly recognizable, is always far behind the bustling quay and the well-loaded gondolas.
On July 6, 2005 at lot 20, Christie's sold for £ 11.4M including premium from a lower estimate of £ 4M a view taken from the Riva degli Schiavoni, in the superb light of the end of the day, with the Bucentaur docked at the Molo.
This 152 x 138 cm oil on canvas was painted circa 1754. Canaletto, settled in London since 1746, certainly responded to a specific request from an English aristocrat who will be its first owner. The canvas is still in its period frame of English style, carved, pierced and gilded.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1765 Portrait of a Champion by Stubbs
2011 SOLD 22.4 M£ including premium
Made around 1765, the oil on canvas for sale by Christie's in London on July 5 is certainly more outstanding. It is estimated £ 20M. This is the portrait of a horse named Gimcrack, who was winning most of the races where he was engaged.
This broad composition, 102 x 196 cm, simple and effective, is divided into two parts. On the left, Gimcrack shows his beautiful profile, surrounded by a coach, a stable boy and a jockey.
A race is held on the horizon, on the right. A horse is far ahead of his three followers. He is also Gimcrack, of course. He is therefore shown twice on that image that had everything to flatter the sponsor of the work, Lord Bolingbroke, owner of the champion.
Stubbs is very accurate in anatomical detail, but still shows horses galloping with their four legs flying above the ground. This feature, which can be excused one century before the studies of Muybridge, applies here only in the background and provides this work with an undeniable poetic dimension.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold £ 22.4 million including premium, Gimcrack has once again won his race.
1768 A Venitian Masterpiece by Francesco Guardi
2011 SOLD 26.7 M£ including premium
In Venice indeed, in the late 1760s, the uncontested master of the genre, Canaletto, is aging. He died in 1768.
It is certainly no coincidence that the most achieved works of Francesco Guardi date from the same period: Canaletto's position on the market was to be taken.
In this time of greater maturity, Guardi executed very few large paintings. The view from the Rialto Bridge, an oil on canvas 120 x 204 cm, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 6, is exceptional. It is estimated £ 15M.
As ever, the architectures are much detailed. The dense and gentle animation is typical of Guardi, but the cloudy atmosphere and contrasting sunlight are worthy of Canaletto. This work was sold in 1768 : to an Englishman, of course.
It is shown in the press release shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENT
This exceptional painting was sold £ 26.7 million including premium, in the upper range of the estimates that had been ambitious yet.
1768 From Both Sides of the Rialto
2017 SOLD for £ 26M including premium
They show the commercial district of Venice, the Rialto, on the Grand Canal on both sides of its spectacular single arched covered bridge which housed shops. Through his picturesque animation and his luminosity, Guardi appears as a worthy continuator of Canaletto.
The sequence of monuments is correct but these panoramas are too wide to respect a unique perspective. The large format brings an abundance of details and an exceptional vision of the Venetian atmosphere.
Guardi worked from the collection of his autograph drawings and the modifications made to the monuments do not allow to date his paintings with accuracy. We will consider 1768 for this pair for two reasons. The death of Canaletto in April certainly generate great ambitions to Guardi suddenly becoming the best supplier of the tourists. The first owner was a young British aristocrat who had his tour in 1768, arriving in August in Venice.
The pair was separated in 2011. The view taken northward was sold by Sotheby's for £ 26.7M including premium on July 6, 2011. The view in the reverse direction is for sale on July 6, 2017 in London by Christie's, lot 25. The press release of 5 April announces that it is expected to exceed £ 25M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1769 Fragonard out of his Time
2013 SOLD 17 M£ including premium
Fragonard made a small series of oils on canvas known under the generic title of Portraits de fantaisie. Only one of these artworks is dated : 1769, the year of his marriage. It is not by chance.
Close to the aristocracy, Fragonard endeavours at that time to demonstrate that he may revolutionize the art of portrait. These paintings are comparable to the tronies made by Rembrandt. The likeness to the sitter is not the most important.
The movement of shoulders and head brings energy and even violence. Strong colors evoke passion. Fancy costumes "à l'Espagnole" provide a theatrical dimension that also positions the work out of its time.
Influenced by Chardin, Fragonard understood the importance of color. This series of fantasy portraits is an essential link in the history of art between Rembrandt and Manet. He will be the great-granduncle of Berthe Morisot.
Few models have been identified with certainty. Brilliant intellectual, François-Henri d' Harcourt enjoyed his portrait to the point that his family kept it until 1971.
This oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm was then purchased at auction by Dr. Rau. Coming now from this prestigious collection, it is for sale to the benefit of UNICEF by Bonhams in London on December 5.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting has some exceptional qualities reinforced by the fact that it was one of the top masterpieces of the Rau collection and was sold for the benefit of UNICEF. It was sold for £ 17M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Bonhams on YouTube. The image is shared on Wikimedia.
1779 George Washington at Princeton by Charles Willson Peale
2006 SOLD 21.3 M$ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Washington is towering by his tall stature and by his phlegm, and surprises his assistants by his abnegation and his virtues. It is not enough. He had never exercised a command on the battlefield and his weak and inexperienced army has everything to learn.
Everything seems easy for the British in December 1776, to the point that they decide to take up their winter quarters in New Jersey, waiting for the sunny days to capture Philadelphia. George Washington will soon be unable to pay his exhausted troops. In a heroic burst, he surprises the British garrisons in Trenton and Princeton. These were the first ever victories of the American army.
The war remains undecided, and they must continue to set an example. On January 18, 1779, the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania commissions a portrait of General Washington to Charles Willson Peale.
The young artist had made an early portrait of the hero at Mount Vernon in 1772. He had been part of the reinforcements from the militias of Pennsylvania who had contributed to the victories of Trenton and Princeton, and had been appreciated by the soldiers for the miniature portraits painted on the field of battle.
The work which responds to the order from Pennsylvania is a full-length standing portrait of Washington after the Battle of Princeton. The hero is displayed in his signature attitude of modesty, without the face or the clothing having been embellished. He puts his hand on a cannon. Symbols of victory include a column of British prisoners with their red coats. This oil on canvas 246 x 149 cm is kept at the museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The strengthening of the young nation also includes an international propaganda to its new French and Spanish allies. Autograph replicas are made by the artist. One of them, oil on canvas 244 x 156 cm dated 1779, was conveyed to Spain by an American diplomat. The political message gradually lost its force and the painting ended up being bequeathed to a Capuchin school in the Basque region, where it was bought around 1918 by an antiquarian dealer from New York.
This portrait of Washington at Princeton was sold for $ 21.3M including premium by Christie's on January 21, 2006, lot 547, over a lower estimate of $ 10M. Please watch the video prepared in 2015 by the auction house to remind the sale of this outstanding painting, the last of its type in private hands.