Ancient Painting by Women
Chronology : 1780-1789
Glass Compote by Fede Galizia
2019 SOLD for $ 2.4M by Sotheby's
Federico Borromeo becomes archbishop of Milan in 1595. He is one of the greatest helpers in the history of art, for whom Jan Brueghel the Elder creates in 1606 the theme of the still life of flowers. In 1607 he lays the foundation of the Ambrosian Library, inaugurated in 1609, for promoting the humanist values.
The cardinal presents to his new library the Canestra di frutta painted by Caravaggio. This undated painting is a very rare example for its time of a still life without figure, probably designed by the artist as a modello for some details in his vanity scenes.
The Milanese influence is indisputable but the still lifes by Fede Galizia express her tendency to an extreme realism, unrelated to vanities. It is possible that she chose this unprecedented theme to escape the competition that should occur with male artists on more classical subjects. She opens the way to Clara Peeters and Louyse Moillon. Apart from her clients, she receives little attention and the rest of her work is not datable. She died unmarried in 1630.
On July 8, 2015, Sotheby's sold at lot 29 for £ 1.57M a still life of fruit monogrammed FG, by Fede Galizia, oil on panel 31 x 43 cm dated 1607. It is the only known still life that has been dated by the artist, certainly a prototype and perhaps even the earliest of them.
This dated painting offers a symmetrical composition, broken only by the arrangement of some quinces placed directly on the table while peaches are raised in a crystal stemmed stand. The highest care is given to the texture of the fruits. One of the quinces is sliced. A few jasmine flowers are added to the composition.
The lighting is frontal, unlike the light studies that will soon be done by Claesz and Heda in their breakfast paintings. The light is reflected on the skin of a quince.
A very similar painting significantly differentiated by the appearance of a grasshopper was sold for $ 1.64M by Christie's on April 6, 2006. The catalog of the auction house indicated a pristine state bringing a crystalline sharpness. This oil on panel 31 x 43 cm was sold for $ 2.4M by Sotheby's on January 30, 2019, lot 42. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
On February 1, 2018, Sotheby's sold for $ 2.06M a pair of oils on panels by Fede Galizia, 27 x 39 cm each, lot 20.
The composition is broadly similar to the examples above, with on each picture the fruits in a porcelain basket and on a stone ledge. The greater variety of fruit dominated by opulent clusters of grapes and the introduction of a wasp demonstrate that this pair is an evolution from the seminal modello dated 1607.
The high quality of these two paintings suggests that they also were modelli, and they were designed by the artist to stay together : an identical pair on canvas in the same dimension dissociated by Sotheby's on December 12, 1984 was certainly a replica.
1614 Self Portrait as a Saint Catherine
2017 SOLD for € 2.36M by Joron-Derem
She is in her own right a major artist of the post-Caravaggesque period. Like the other women painters of her time, she needs for being able to exercise her job to offer themes where she does not compete with men. She chooses heroic women and allegorical self-portraits with the attributes of humiliated women. Very early she also dares the female nude.
In 1611, aged between 18 and 21, she is raped by a collaborator of her father. This crime reinforces her desire to feature the violent heroism of the women of the Bible against the abuses of men.
Living in Rome is too dangerous for a honest young woman. Ca 1612 the newlywed Artemisia leaves for Florence.
A 76 x 62 cm self portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria is preserved in the Gallerie delle Uffizzi. Painted in 1614-1616 it displays the proud young woman at around 22 years old holding the attributes of that Egyptian virgin, the martyr's palm and the spiked wheel of her torture.
Another version of same theme and period, oil on canvas 71 x 71 cm, was sold for € 2.36M from a lower estimate of € 300K by Joron-Derem on November 19, 2017, lot 69. The contrasted light is Caravaggian, with beautiful colors in thick paint and a challenging gaze. This painting had been sold as is under its dull varnish after several generations in a family. Please watch the video shared by Renault Alexandre.
She shows her strength in Florence with the terrible theme of Judith. The fashion in painting is then to allegories for which the patrons especially enjoy the self-portraits, and music is a favorite Caravaggian theme.
Her artistic skills are recognized by the Medici Grand Duke and she becomes in 1616 the first woman accepted in the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno.
1620 Allegory of Sculpture
2023 SOLD for £ 1.85M by Christie's
This oil on canvas 67 x 49 cm was sold for £ 1.86M from a lower estimate of £ 300K by Christie's on July 6, 2023, lot 28.
1620 Seated Lady
2022 SOLD for $ 2.7M by Sotheby's
Real portraits are highly rare in the corpus of Artemisia. A female artist of her time could probably not make them openly against the business of male artists.
A portrait of a seated Lady in three quarter length could match that referred work. This unsigned oil on canvas 130 x 98 cm is an achievement by a highly talented artist, displaying a resplendent gold embroidered dress. The reflexion of the sitter in profile in the tiny chair's finial is in the taste of Artemisia. An Albano princess named Caterina, aged 31 in 1620, is a perfect match for the identification of that Lady. The clothing is consistent with the court fashion of that year.
This painting was sold for $ 2.7M by Sotheby's on January 27, 2022, lot 31.
2019 SOLD for € 4.8M by Artcurial
Lucretia is the raped lady who refused the defilement and whose exemplary suicide led to the fall of the Roman monarchy and the creation of the republic. This legend is painted throughout Artemisia's career. Feminists of our time like to suggest a parallel between the Roman woman and the life of the artist, but this assimilation is not confirmed by in period documents.
Artemisia certainly does not identify her fate with Lucretia shown as a matron in an oil on canvas painted around 1620.
Artemisia had very early painted the female nudes. Her style reaches its greatest maturity from 1630 when she works in Naples. The bodies become more carnal, less schematized. In the case of Lucretia, she makes the spectator regret that such a beautiful lady has chosen to die.
An oil on canvas 133 x 106 cm on the theme of Lucretia is formally attributed to Artemisia in 2015 after being kept since the mid-nineteenth century in an Italian collection. The best connoisseurs of the artist propose a date circa 1640-1645 or slightly earlier. It was sold for € 1.9M by Dorotheum on October 23, 2018, lot 56. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
That Lucretia is much younger than the earliest version and dressed in brightly colored drapery. Her extremely dynamic Baroque attitude is very similar to a painting on the same theme made around 1625 by Simon Vouet whom Artemisia had met when they were both in Rome. The dagger is held at arm's length, directed straight to the bare chest in a gesture that leaves no doubt about its fatal outcome.
Another variant, 97 x 75 cm, was sold for € 4.8M from a lower estimate of € 600K by Artcurial on November 13, 2019, lot 36.
These two paintings have many similarities. The model is probably the same woman. The diagonal composition with a well-lit body in front of a black background gives a Caravaggesque impetus to this dramatic action. The head which is turned to prevent that a perception disrupts the sacrifice is classic in the imagery of Lucretia.
There are also differences. The rich garment that covers the lower body is characterized by its bright colors on the Dorotheum example and by the fineness of the white embroidery on the Artcurial example. The movement of the Dorotheum Lucretia is theatrical : the blade is still far away, held by a horizontally stretched arm. The attitude of the Artcurial Lucretia is more natural, with a bent arm that directs the dagger toward the skin just before the fatal piercing.
The oil on canvas sold by Artcurial is in an exceptional state of preservation. In the video shared by the auction house, the expert Eric Turquin shows that the emotion wets the eyelashes of the heroine, a very rare effect that is worthy of Rubens in my opinion.
1638 Susanna and the Elders
2022 SOLD for $ 2.14M by Sotheby's
A pendant pair featuring Susanna and the Elders and Davis and Bathsheba was possibly painted around 1638 just before the artist left Naples for London. Her attendants are identified.
That Susanna, oil on canvas 265 x 210 cm, was sold for $ 2.14M by Sotheby's on January 27, 2022, lot 40. A similar large size pair was painted in 1652. The proud Susanna rejecting the men while in the nude for her bath is an everlasting symbol of woman's strength.
A large size Triumph of Galatea was re-attributed in 2016 as a work by Artemisia Gentileschi and Onofrio Palumbo, known to have collaborated with her in Naples. It may indeed match the posthumous inventory in 1703 of a patron who had around 1649 a correspondence with Artemisia about that myth.
The etymologically milk white skinned Nereid is raising in an ecstatic apotheosis in a shell pulled by dolphins. She is in full frontal nudity excepted for a veil on the hips. She is surrounded by a group of male tritons in a tumultuous Baroque unbalance. The ambitious composition probably required an assistant for the background and some lesser parts.
This oil on canvas 197 x 255 cm was sold for $ 2.13M by Christie's on October 15, 2020, lot 50.
Venus and Cupid
2021 SOLD for £ 2.4M by Christie's
A Venus embracing Cupid could be the painting by "Gentilesca" listed in 1644 in the collection of Cardinal Barberini. Times change. The nude of perfect female proportions wonderfully reclining with outstretched legs had been overpainted with a drapery. Restored in its original splendor after 2002, this oil on canvas 115 x 160 cm was sold for £ 2.4M from a lower estimate of £ 600K by Christie's on July 8, 2021, lot 41.
Experts do not concur about the date of its execution, in the 1620s or 1630s.
#AuctionUpdate Artemisia Gentileschi's 'Venus and Cupid' achieved £2,422,500 in the Old Masters Evening Sale. The superbly drawn figure of Venus in this painting shows a commanding understanding of the female form:https://t.co/thOFeyscWt □ pic.twitter.com/JrOfTPUHjD— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) July 8, 2021
1629 Genre Subject by Judith Leyster
2018 SOLD for £ 1.8M by Christie's
This quote shows that the rigorous Protestant also had a broad mind : Leyster was specialized in genre scenes with adolescent revelers who dance to the sound of the violin. They are still young enough to laugh and have fun.
Earlier in the same decade, the Caravaggisti of Utrecht had returned from Rome and celebrated the scenes of low life, often with musicians. While promoting Leyster, Ampzing also highlighted her nice characters closer to carnival and to Commedia dell'Arte.
On December 6, 2018, Christie's sold for £ 1.8M an oil on canvas 75 x 63 cm painted circa 1629, lot 12. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Three boys in colorful clothes, including a violinist and a toast drinker, laugh out loud. In the corner of the window, two very young children and an adult enjoy with them. Leyster's art is spontaneous, without a preliminary drawing, as Frans Hals and Rembrandt were doing.
The young violinist is one of her favorite characters. In 1633, probably for her reception at the local guild, she painted a self-portrait with an image of this performer on her easel.
Getting then the right to open a workshop with apprentices, she appears as a rival to Hals. The traditional attribution to Hals of many works painted by Leyster has blurred the appreciation of these two artists very different from each other. The creative activity of Leyster almost completely ceases when she marries Molenaer in 1636.
1698 Still Life by Rachel Ruysch
2021 SOLD for $ 2.2M by Sotheby's
Rachel Ruysch, his daughter, had a fine talent as a painter, working from studies of real flowers with a scientific precision. She was trained in her teens by the still life painter Willem van Aelst. Her bouquets gather flowers that bloom in various seasons, in the traditional practice of Jan Brueghel.
All along her life, in parallel to her duties as a wife and a mother of ten children, she devoted herself to still lifes of flowers with nice and varied colors. Her professional abilities were recognized in 1701 when she was admitted to the painters' guild in The Hague.
An oil on canvas 43 x 40 cm dated 1698 is a still life of a variety of flowers in a glass vase, including poppies, marigolds, daisies, irises, and forget-me-nots. It is animated by a dragonfly, a caterpillar and an open winged butterfly climbing the ledge, symbolizing the frailty of life and the resurrection. The bright colors over a dark background are in the style of de Heem.
In an impeccable condition, it was sold for $ 2.2M from a lower estimate of $ 1M by Sotheby's on January 28, 2021, lot 32.
This piece had a pendant of same dimensions, now kept at the Swiss embassy in Vienna, featuring peaches, grapes, hazelnuts, plums, and a half cantaloupe on a marble table.
An oil on canvas 110 x 90 cm dated 1700 was sold for $ 1.7M by Butterscotch on February 12, 2012, lot 315 here linked on the auction platform LiveAuctioneers. It shows an opulent bouquet in a vase on a stone ledge, with a few insects.
#AuctionUpdate: This exquisite still life painted in 1698 by Rachel Ruysch, one of the most successful still-life artists of the Dutch Golden Age and the first female Netherlandish artist to win international recognition, sells for $2.2 million pic.twitter.com/Horcmmx340— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) January 28, 2021
1788 The Ambassador by Vigée Le Brun
2019 SOLD for $ 7.2M by Sotheby's
The arrival in Paris in July 1788 of three ambassadors from Mysore with a suite of about thirty people is a sensational and picturesque event. Great enemy of the English, the Sultan of Mysore was preparing a new war and hoped to be helped by France. The sumptuous Muslim clothes of his diplomats ensure their credibility.
Elisabeth remembers opportunely that one of her earliest ambitions had been to be a history painter. With the indispensable support of King Louis XVI, she obtains the authorization to paint the portraits of these exotic lords.
On January 30, 2019, Sotheby's sold for $ 7.2M from a lower estimate of $ 4M the full length portrait of the leader of the delegation, lot 48.
This oil on canvas 226 x 136 cm shows the white bearded man holding an oriental sword with curved blade. This composition is reminiscent of the portrait of the young Polynesian prince Omai by Reynolds in 1776. The exotic traveler is shown life-size, standing in front of a landscape in a counter-dive view that increases his dignity.
The image shared by Wikimedia is trimmed on the left and lower edges.