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Chronology : 1430-1459 16th century 1500-1519 1520-1539 1540-1569 1760-1769
1455 Gutenberg Bible
1987 SOLD for $ 5.4M including premium by Christie's
1510 Cranach, Precursor of the Reformation
2012 SOLD 5.1 M$ including premium
Lucretia is the perfect synthesis of two opposite qualities designed to bring the best of the virtuosity of Cranach. She must be physically erotic, as her beauty has fueled the frenzy of the king's son. She must also be psychologically pure, since she could not survive the stain.
The oil on panel, 60 x 49 cm, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 26 is exceptional. The catalog describes two arguments for dating it circa 1510, so making it the earliest of the many Lucretias of Cranach.
On technical side, the support is a special assembly of strips of lime wood that has been produced during a very short period.
On image side, it is a very neat portrait with a flexible line, which anticipates the commercial versions executed on order. The heroine has a sad and stoic face at the precise moment when she drives the tip of the knife to her bare breast and when the first drop of blood flows almost imperceptibly.
This masterpiece is estimated $ 4M. Here is the link to the catalog.
Luther enters history in 1517. One can imagine that he was sensitive to the approach of this painter who glorified the virtues without referencing to the saints. Cranach became the best artist of the first generation of Lutheran reformers.
POST SALE COMMENT
The catalog was convincing: Sotheby's has assessed the importance of this painting in the work of Cranach the Elder. The result, $ 5.1 million including premium, is deserved.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1510-1513 Poor Lucretia
2018 SOLD for $ 2.9M including premium
Not far from Nürnberg, Lucas Cranach is necessarily influenced by Dürer with whom he competes for commissions. He is working since 1504 at the Saxon court in Wittenberg.
Cranach's vision of Lucretia follows Dürer as he is interested in her suicide instead of the rape. With a portrait quality that matches Dürer's art, Cranach imagines the very beginning of the mortal action, when the exemplary virtue has not been cancelled by the physical pain.
Lucretia is not Eve. In Livy's story, she is a totally innocent victim who reacts in an admirable action. The Lucretia of Livy opens the way for the Republic which annihilates the tyranny. Cranach's Lucretia opens the way for the reformation of the mores by Luther.
The first two representations of Lucretia's suicide by Cranach are oils on wood of the same size and composition, 60 x 49 cm and 60 x 47 cm, and showing the same seater. She is plump for being desirable by the son of the king, with sumptuous clothes and jewels which assess that her aristocratic affiliation was ineffective to avoid the drama.
The earlier painting has a terminus ante quem at 1511 linked to a parqueted preparation of its wood support, a short lived technique that was no longer proposed after that date. The gaze is straight but resigned. The tip of the blade reaches the skin just at the edge of the coat as if the woman still wanted to hide her act. It was sold for $ 5.1M including premium by Sotheby's on January 26, 2012.
The second painting brings subtle changes of attitude more in line with the heroic purpose of the allegory. The hand holding the dagger is firm. The tip of the blade under the bare breasts becomes the focus of the composition. The expression of the face is determined. Its terminus ante quem is 1514 based on a workshop copy that has been dated. It is estimated $ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on February 1, lot 10.
Compared to these two paintings whose intense psychology follows Dürer and anticipates Titian, the many Lucretia later painted by Cranach are commercial works where the poor Roman heroine looks more and more like his Venus.
1511 The Altarpiece of a Saxon Donor
2012 SOLD 4.3 M£ including premium
The central panel, 88 x72 cm, shows St. Anne with the Virgin and Child. The external and internal panels of the wings, 91 x 33 cm, are showing saints along with a postmortem portrait of the donor.
These portraits are beautiful. All these characters have a strong psychological dimension, as we perfectly appreciate when revealing the artist: Lucas Cranach the elder, himself, perhaps without the participation of his studio. At that time, the master had doubtless already assimilated the influence of Raphael.
The arrangement of these five works in a folding triptych seems natural, yet it is unclear what was the original presentation. In the seventeenth century, they had been reframed as a single row. It is remarkable that they were never separated. The set is estimated £ 4M.
POST SALE COMMENT
Atypical lots are difficult to sell. Sold £ 4.3M including premium, this one remained just below its lower estimate.
I invite you to play the video in which Sotheby's has grouped this lot with a painting by Hans Baldung Grien.
Baldung Grien's painting presented in this video was sold £ 2.1 million including premium.
later 1520s The Ordeal of the Lion
2015 SOLD for £ 9.3M including premium
The artist transposes a medieval ordeal with characters in clothes of his time. The mouth of truth is a lie detecting test to convict or release the adulteress. Included in the legends of Tristan and Iseult and Merlin, this story was previously used by illustrators including Altdorfer and Lucas van Leyden.
Each character has a role. The woman puts a hand in the mouth of the lion raised on a pedestal to be at her level. She is held at the waist by her supposed lover disguised as a fool. Two men wait to establish the minutes of justice.
The alleged cuckolded husband is on the far right of the picture, opposite to the lion. He is accompanied by two lovely ladies who are his witnesses. At his side, a last character sends a wink of complicity towards the viewer of the painting.
This is not a comic book and the verdict of the lion is not known. The lack of fear in the attitude of the woman tells that she wants to win the ordeal. The scene becomes a funny symbol of feminine cunning.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1525-1530 The Funerary Angels of Fugger the Rich
2019 SOLD for € 2.35M including premium
With one of his brothers and also in the name of another brother recently deceased, Jakob the Rich has built in Augsburg from 1509 to 1512 a chapel in the style of Italian funerary architecture, which is an innovation for that time in Germany. For the decoration of this grandiose monument, he calls on the best German artists : Dürer, Burgkmaier, Breu, Hans Daucher. He dies in 1525.
The furnishing of this chapel is scattered between 1817 and 1821 under a pretext of modernization. It included an alignment of beige limestone putti about 30 cm high carved by Daucher, grouped in pairs on a marble balustrade. The total number of original putti is not identified.
Each statuette shows a baby-faced angel leaning on a sphere that symbolizes the vanity of earthly occupations. They are different one another in terms of facial expression, hairstyle, leg position, allegorical meaning.
In 1921 the Fugger family decides to restore the chapel. An active search leads to five putti distributed in several neighboring gardens. They are now kept at the Maximilian Museum in Augsburg.
Two other putti have just been found in the château de Beaurepaire at Martinvast near Cherbourg, where their presence had never been identified. The provenance is however understandable : the castle was bought in 1867 by the banker Arthur de Schickler for his project of an extravagant neo-Gothic residence with a Moorish park.
The Martinvast putti do not form a pair together but separately with two specimens of the Maximilian Museum. Having escaped in their attic the degradations of an outdoor storage, they keep intact the sharpness of the carving by the master. They remain together as lot 35 for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on May 16. The catalog proposes a date around 1525-1530.
#AuctionUpdate Les magnifiques putti, chefs-d’œuvre de la Renaissance allemande atteignent 2.3 millions €. Oeuvres de Hans Daucher, vers 1525-1530, ils ornaient autrefois la chapelle de la prestigieuse famille Fugger à Augsbourg #SothebysDecArts pic.twitter.com/V3l2mFQro2— Sotheby's France (@SothebysFr) May 16, 2019
1532 The Elector of the Reformation
2018 SOLD for $ 7.7M including premium
The first of his three Saxon patrons, Friedrich the Wise, is famous for his tolerance concerning Luther. Cranach is enthusiastic about the Reformation and then becomes a close friend of Luther.
The family events of the Saxon court are celebrated with half-length portraits in resplendent attire. In 1525 Friedrich is succeeded by his brother Johann who intensifies his pro-Lutheran policy. In the following year he manages the engagement of his son and heir Johann-Friedrich with Sibylle of Cleves. The wedding takes place in 1527. Cranach's portrait of the then 15-year-old princess was sold for $ 7.7M including premium by Christie's on April 15, 2008.
Johann-Friedrich succeeds Johann in 1532 and confirms his commitment to the Reformation. He commissions Cranach and his workshop for a large quantity of posthumous portraits of his two predecessors to serve as diplomatic gifts.
On April 19 in New York, Christie's sells a portrait of Johann-Friedrich, oil on panel 63 x 40 cm, lot 7 estimated $ 1M. The painting is neither dated nor signed and an underdrawing reveals that some details of the face were modified for perfecting the likeness or the dignity. It is probably a modello painted by the master after the accession to power of the new Elector to prepare the realization of copies by the workshop.
This artwork disappeared during the Nazi persecutions. It has just resurfaced and was restituted to the spoiled family with the support of Christie's.
Please watch the video shared by auction house (full video below the video tweet, including a portrait of Alessandro Farnese by another artist). POST SALE COMMENT : the Farnese portrait was sold for $ 2.6M including premium.
1537 Shame and Pain onto the Honey Thief
2013 SOLD 2.2 M£ including premium
Cranach the Elder reuses this fable from 1527 with more subtlety. He is the master of the use of the female nude in moralizing allegories. Not far from displeasing his patron Luther, his sensual nudes leave some doubt between erotic expression and resistance to temptation. The quiet stag often in the background invites to the latter religious interpretation.
The three oils on panel that I discuss below have the same size, 51 x 35 cm, assessing that this theme was during more than ten years one of the most regular productions from this artist.
The earliest is dated 1532. It was sold for 16 MF including premium (€ 2.4M) by Rouillac on June 10, 2001. The attitudes are mannerist, although the bees have already begun to attack. Venus is not interested in the child. The epigram, however, leaves no doubt about the interpretation.
Dated 1537, the painting for sale by Bonhams in London on December 4, is more dramatic. It is estimated £ 1.5 M. Cupid is anguished by a dozen bees stinging his naked body and asks for help. Venus reaches out over the child's head but looks in another direction, as if to convince the viewer that the scoundrel is receiving what he deserved.
In 1538, Venus looks at Cupid. Her attitude is didactic, and the child tries to understand. Curiously, this ultimate stage of the story has no inscription. It was sold for 17.2 MF before fees (€ 2.6 M) by Rieunier et Bailly-Pommery on December 4, 2000.
POST SALE COMMENT
Good result for Venus and the young thief : £ 2.2M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Bonhams :
1545 The Painter and the Burger
2010 SOLD 5.6 M£ including premium
The artist, Georg Pencz, was known at Nuremberg as the best pupil of Dürer. At that time the German art was imbued with the Italian influence. Pencz is also (and mostly) famous as a printmaker. The painting is signed with his monogram.
The model, Sigismund Baldinger, is a typical member of the commercial bourgeoisie. Based in Nuremberg where he joined the council, he worked for a merchant family of Augsburg.
In 1545, Baldinger was 35 years old. He is a bearded man with short hair, well dressed, very modern-looking. Solid and confident, he gazes with authority and courtesy. If he believes that this artwork forwards the image of his glory to his descendants, he is right. He will be knighted soon after and this oil on panel, 135 x 118 cm, will remain in his family for nearly four centuries.
POST SALE COMMENT
This portrait of a civilian is altogether rare, large size and of high quality. It is not easy to find an auction history for this pupil of Dürer. The market understood: £ 5.6 million including premium.
1740 Improvisation for Lautenwerk
2016 SOLD for £ 2.5M including premium
This document is a masterpiece of spontaneity that brings us into the creative process of the most gifted musician. It was probably written in improvisation on the two sides of a reused sheet music. The sheet was later separated into two parts, presumably to facilitate its use.
The musical writing is easy but the creative impulse just missed to overflow the surface of the paper. The sheet is signed and titled in a poor French "Prelude (Fuga, Allegro) pour la Luth ô Cembal". The manuscript is complete of its three movements.
This music was composed for a solo instrument. The BWV classes it amidst the works for lute but Christie's catalog observes that this opus was not fully compatible with the lutes of its time.
It was probably intended for a Lautenwerk, an instrument similar to a harpsichord whose metal strings were replaced with gut strings plucked by quills. The mellow tone of a Lautenwerk supports a fast and playful music. The allegro of BWV998 can be danced.
BWV998 may be dated around 1740, at a time when Bach confronted the Lautenwerk with the lute for his friends. He owned two Lautenwerk. Besides his skilled hands, this instrument was never popular and disappeared almost completely. TheLautenwerck page in Wikipedia offers a recording of BWV998 on a recreated Lautenwerk.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's:
1762 Conversation with Garrick
2011 SOLD 6.8 M£ including premium
In 1754, Garrick bought a luxurious villa on the banks of the Thames in Hampton. He had built by Robert Adam a temple to Shakespeare in neo-Greek style. This building is now a museum dedicated to Garrick.
At that time in England, the fashion in painting is the conversation piece. Influenced by the Dutch genre scenes, this style shows the sponsor of the painting surrounded by family and friends. The faces are clearly identifiable, and attitudes are active and friendly.
Garrick was introduced to all the great English painters of his time. Yet in 1762, he entrusted to a young German artist recently arrived in England the task of executing a pair of conversation pieces in Hampton. After this first success, Johann Zoffany became the best painter in this theme.
This pair of oils on canvas, 100 x 125 cm each, is estimated £ 6M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 7.
One of them, showing the afternoon tea on the lawn along the river, is illustrated in the press release shared by AuctionPublicity. The other, showing Mr. and Mrs. Garrick in front of Shakespeare temple, is illustrated in the Wikipedia.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot apparently atypical was in fact quite representative of the art of its time. The sale could be considered difficult, but it is successful: £ 6.8 million including premium.
Here is the Wikipedia image :