Chronology : 15th century 1480-1499 16th century 1500-1519 1520-1529 17th century 1620-1629 18th century 1760-1769
1480 The Image Holder
2021 SOLD for $ 92M including premium
The earliest is a 58 x 44 cm tempera painted around 1474, kept in the Uffizi Gallery. The added element is a gilded gesso medal bearing the effigy of Cosimo de Medici. The second, 58 x 39 cm tempera painted around 1480, will be sold by Sotheby's in New York on January 28, lot 15. Its added element is an icon of an elderly bearded saint painted on a gold background.
In both cases, there is no doubt that Botticelli designed and made the recess in the wood to place the insert. The position of the fingers around the added object is very precise. However, we can legitimately question if the currently inserted piece is original.
Cosimo's medal probably meets the artist's original intention. The Quattrocento portraits are painted with great care in the physiognomy, but also with elements that symbolize the social position, character or life of the model. The Lady with an Ermine painted by Leonardo in 1489 is a perfect example. The medal inserted in Botticelli's painting is a tribute of the model to the founder of the political power of the Medici.
The image of the bearded saint is an authentic fragment of a Sienese painting from the Trecento. The absence of an attribute to identify the saint is an anomaly if we consider the importance given to it by its holder. It may have been inserted later to replace another detached or damaged image.
Beyond these doubts, both paintings are direct witnesses of the iconographic inventiveness of one of the greatest masters of the Quattrocento.
The portrait of the young man holding the icon is in an exceptional state of conservation. This unidentified prince is sympathetic by his desire to have his medallion admired. His attitude is straight. The dark mauve pigment of the tunic is luxurious and rare. The December 4 press release reveals an estimate in excess of $ 80M. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Madonna of the Magnificat by BOTTICELLI
Tondi were a fashion of the time for a private devotion and contemplation above eye level. Botticelli managed to have the lines modified to match a perfect view in that position.
The Madonna and Child are surrounded by five angels, two of them holding a crown over Mary's head. The Child raises his head to look at the crown and puts his hand on an illuminated book. The text of the book is identified as two canticles from the Gospel of Luke.
The Madonna holds a quill to write the left page which is the opening of the Magnificat also referred as the Song of Mary. The left hands of Mother and Child join to hold a pomegranate, the heart shaped symbol of the Passion. That co-ordinated movement of the two hands of the two leading characters is beautiful.
later 1480s Replica
2022 SOLD for $ 48M by Christie's
This tempera, oil and gold on a 63 cm tondo panel is largely autograph as evidenced by underdrawings and pentimenti revealed by infrared and x-ray inspection. The style of the lines argues for a date in the later 1480s.
The composition is simplified to match with the smaller format. The two angels and the crown have been removed, making more mystical the raised gaze of the Child. The three remaining angels are now winged.
A selection of works from the collection of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen—including a work by Cézanne with an estimate in excess of $120m—are on show at @ChristiesInc London this weekend prior to their sale in New York next month. https://t.co/jcI3Jaz2n9— The Art Newspaper (@TheArtNewspaper) October 15, 2022
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.
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.
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
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.
1621 Mystical Loves in Genova
2016 SOLD for $ 30.5M including premium
In 1621, he is invited by the wealthy Genovese merchant Giovanni Antonio Sauli, son of a former Doge of that city, to work in his palazzo as a painter and as an artistic adviser. Gentileschi executes three monumental paintings on the theme of mystical love, an excuse for displaying sensual nudes.
Sublimating the religions, the artist chooses his stories in the Old Testament, Christian parables and Greek myths. Lot's daughters symbolize the expectation, Danae the annunciation and Magdalene the repentance. Success is immediate and in the practice of his time the artist himself will paint a few copies.
The three original paintings of the Palazzo Sauli have long remained in the descendance of the patron. Danae, oil on canvas 161 x 227 cm, is estimated $ 25M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 28, lot 41.
The princess lies on her unmade bed. She is nude excepted a veil of chastity. Cupid opens the curtains to let going the lightning of Jupiter in the form of a shower of golden coins and ribbons. The gesture of the young woman is peaceful and welcoming, with her arm raised in the same oblique direction as the movement of the fertilizing god disguised as gold.
Gentileschi had been too often described as a Caravaggian but his Danae is a masterpiece of late profane mannerism. I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's where the monumental nature of the artwork is highlighted. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1768 The Rialto by Guardi
2011 SOLD for £ 26.7M by Sotheby's
A pair of oils on canvases is unique in the history of the vedutas by the conjunction of their monumental dimension, 120 x 204 cm each, with the maturity of Guardi. The canvases are wider than the looms in use at that time and a nearly invisible seam had been needed in the lower part of the image.
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. The dense and gentle animation is typical of Guardi but the cloudy atmosphere and contrasting sunlight are worthy 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.
The first owner was a young British aristocrat who had his tour in 1768, arriving in August in Venice. Guardi worked from the collection of his autograph drawings and the configuration of the monuments does not provide a terminus post quem.
The pair was separated. The view taken northward was sold by Sotheby's for £ 26.7M on July 6, 2011. The view in the reverse direction with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi was sold for £ 26M from a lower estimate of £ 15M on July 6, 2017 by Christie's, lot 25.