See also : Spain II Spain III Blue diamond Jewels II Cartier 1972 Early still life
Chronology : 16th century 1570-1599 17th century 1610-1619 1620-1629 1630-1639 1650-1659 1660-1679
1582-1972 Peregrination of a Pearl
2011 SOLD 11.8 M$ including premium
It entered in 1582 into the Spanish royal collection, where it was considered as the biggest pearl in the world. Pear-shaped, it was then weighing 223 grains.
Mary I of England, wife of Philip II of Spain, used it very elegantly as a pendant to a brooch. Philip IV of Spain preferred it as a hat pin. It went to France during the Spanish war of Joseph Bonaparte, and Napoleon III sold it to the English aristocracy.
This wandering pearl has been known for two centuries under the name La Peregrina. It lost twenty grains when it was reworked to improve the security of its setting.
Richard Burton bought it in 1969 at Sotheby's auction as a gift to Elizabeth Taylor.
It was mounted as pendant in a pearl necklace that did not please its new owners. Burton and Taylor then made designed by Cartier in 1972 the magnificent necklace of pearls, rubies and diamonds, where it is again hanging as pendant.
This necklace, estimated $ 2M, is for sale on December 13 in New York by Christie's., lot 12.
POST SALE COMMENT
This is a new successful step in the fabulous history of the pearl. Sold $ 11.8 million including premium, its necklace achieved the highest result in one of the best jewelry sales in auction history: total $ 116M including premium for only 80 lots.
1618 A Little Praying Girl
2017 SOLD for € 9.7M including premium
It is a beautiful portrait of a little girl in half-length, her hands joined for prayer, her eyes wide open in a rather sad expression. The chiaroscuro on a black background and the realism of this child's portrait without any moving intent plead for an autograph work by Velazquez.
During the X-Ray inspection several white dots forming a halo were discovered, in conformance with a traditional iconography of Mary's childhood. This painting could have been conceived as an Inmaculada before being transformed by the artist in a modello portrait.
If this is the case it is probably prior to an Inmaculada preserved at the Fundacion Focus Abengoa in Sevilla, dated around 1618 and attributed by some experts to Velazquez and by others to Alonso Cano. Velazquez and his younger colleague Cano were both students in Sevilla to Francisco Pacheco, a painter and theoretician who had met El Greco and specialized in religious art for the local ecclesiastical clientele.
The high skill of Velazquez was precocious : barely 18 years old in 1617, he was received in the corporation of the painters of Sevilla and his first masterpiece mixing genre and still life, Vieja friendo hiejos, was painted in the following year. He was remaining at that time in the entourage of Pacheco whose daughter he married in 1618.
1629 The Art of Bodegon
2019 SOLD for $ 6.5M including premium
Sanchez Cotan wished to reproduce with the greatest pictorial accuracy some elements of nature that he positions in a balanced composition. Vegetables, fruit and game fowls are laying or hanging in a uniformly gray window frame against a black background. He had invented the bodegon, an unprecedented style in modern painting that anticipates Chardin and Cézanne.
Several originals survive. One of them is dated 1602. Another one, oil on canvas re-sized at 73 x 62 cm after removal of the central part, was sold for £ 4M including premium by Christie's on December 8, 2004.
The growing interest in botanical gardens and cabinets of curiosity led to the still life paintings of flowers and fruit in Flanders and Milan from 1606. In the 1620s the best Spanish continuator to Sanchez Cotan, Juan van der Hamen y Leon, inserts flowers in the bodegones.
In 1626 van der Hamen finds a trick to display complex arrangements in very large formats : he replaces Sanchez Cotan's window by three stone bases of varying heights and widths.
On May 1 in New York, Christie's sells a bodegon of fruit with a large vase of flowers, oil on canvas 86 x 132 cm painted by van der Hamen in 1629, lot 109 estimated $ 6M. Painted in the same year and style by the same artist, a bodegon of fruit with an artichoke, 79 x 100 cm, was sold for € 900K including premium by Christie's on October 6, 2004.
1631 A Portrait at the Court of Philip IV
2011 SOLD 2.95 M£ including premium
Matthew Shepperson, an unknown English artist who died in 1874, owned soe mediocre paintings that his heirs never handled. They still had to get rid of that and entrusted this operation to the local office of Bonhams in Oxford in August 2010.
A portrait seemed earlier. The Department of Ancient painting of Bonhams alerted a specialist of Velazquez, Dr.Cherry, who confirmed that this oil on canvas, 47 x 39 cm, had all the characteristics of an authentic work of the master.
It is a gentleman in bust length with a high collar behind the neck after the fashion of the courtiers of Philip IV. The face is in bright contrast with the very dark background and the black cloth. Only Velazquez, after his 1631 trip to Italy, was able to achieve such sumptuous shades with a very thin layer of paint.
This attribution to one of the top masters is an event, especially as the works of Velazquez still in private hands are very rare.
The sale takes place on December 7 in London. The painting is estimated £ 2M.
POST SALE COMMENT
It is not easy to directly put into auction an unknown work of an outstanding master. Bonhams has led this operation to success : £ 2.6 million before fees, 2.95 million including premium.
Their attribution was convincing and was not opposed.
I invite you to play the video, well-researched and convincing, shared by Bonhams. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1637 Enjoyment of Senses by Ribera
2019 SOLD for £ 5.7M including premium
In 1616 Ribera, aged 25, arrives in Naples which is then a Spanish possession. He will never return to his country but wishes to state his origin by signing his works Jusepe de Ribera español. He is also nicknamed Lo Spagnoletto.
He paints other Senses in 1637 with allegories completely different from his earlier series. Hearing is a girl who plays the tambourine with an expression of deep happiness, personifying the pleasure of the senses. This oil on canvas 60 x 46 cm is estimated £ 5M for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3, lot 24.
This figure was painted by Ribera at the end of his tenebrist phase, with a black background in the style of his friend Velazquez. In the series of popular types, she thus appears in the continuity of his picturesque bearded milking woman (Mujer barbuda) painted in 1631.
Clearly a pendant of similar size with the Tambourine girl, Taste is a hilarious drunkard. Candidates have been proposed for Smell and Touch, but Sight remains unidentified, without evidence that this series has ever been complete.
1650 Juan de Pareja by Velazquez
1970 SOLD for £ 2.3M including premium by Christie's (worth US$ 5.5M at that time)
narrated in 2020
He is accompanied by his slave Juan de Pareja, who is his preparer of colors. Aged about 44, Juan de Pareja is a mestizo with a Moorish dominance.
Velazquez has a great intuition. To assess that his expertise meets his reputation, he paints a portrait of his slave, to whom he commissions the demonstration of the result to a few selected friends. The truth of the portrait is breathtaking. The painting is exhibited in the Pantheon on March 19, 1650 for the feast of Saint Joseph, an extraordinary honor when considering that the work had just been completed.
Velazquez was not only a painter of worldly portraits. He knew to give dignity to men whatever their social condition. Juan's gaze is proud and straight. He will have his reward : freed a few months later with a probation period, he will use his own painting skills to become one of Velazquez's best assistants.
The portrait of Juan de Pareja, oil on canvas 81 x 70 cm, was sold on November 27, 1970 by Christie's for £ 2.3M including premium, worth US $ 5.5M at that time. It was purchased at that sale by Wildenstein acting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met raises the necessary funds after a call for donations to the Friends of the Museum and acquires this masterpiece in 1971. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The portrait of the slave opened for the artist all the doors of the Vatican. The "troppo vero" portrait of Pope Innocent X, painted in August 1650, is one of the most important works in art history.
1650 Velazquez in Rome
2018 SOLD for $ 4.1M including premium
His first stay in Italy in 1629-1630 had much contributed to his artistic training but he was still unknown in that country when he arrived in Rome in 1649. He immediately portrayed his assistant, the mulatto slave Juan de Pareja. The Romans were dazzled by the physical and psychological resemblance between man and painting. Velazquez is the best portraitist of his time, or even of all time.
The doors open wide for Velazquez. In August 1650 Pope Innocent X sits for him. The artist wants to do better than Titian and takes a great care in the attitude and in the colors. Admiring the masterpiece, the pope famously says : "Troppo vero".
Major prelates now desire a similar portrait of them. At that time Velazquez works slowly. If he accepts, he endangers the mission for his king while his return is awaited with an impatience soon to be officially notified. If he refuses, he loses his best protectors for the acquisition of the works of art promised to the king.
The portrait of Monsignor Cristoforo Segni reveals the clever solution found by Velazquez. This outstanding person sits in an armchair and holds a paper in his hand, on the model of the portrait of the pope. The paper has the same role of identifying the artist and the prelate. For Segni the name of another artist, Pietro Martire Neri, is also indicated near that text.
This double authentication has puzzled all art historians, especially since no collaboration between Velazquez and Neri has ever been documented. The sharpness and expression of the face could however not have been achieved by Neri whose personal known work is rather mediocre. Segni's head is an autograph painting by Velazquez. Neri completed the rest, possibly after the departure of Velazquez from Rome.
This oil on canvas 114 x 92 cm is estimated $ 3M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on February 1, lot 48. The image is shared by Wikimedia. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
1650 Olimpia in the Vatican
2019 SOLD for £ 2.5M including premium
Throughout the pontificate of Innocent X from 1644 to 1655, the Vatican was managed by a greedy and corrupt woman. Donna Olimpia is the widow of the older brother of the pope. She takes all the decisions, constantly seeking to increase her financial gains and practicing a shameless nepotism. Her power is unlimited : Innocent X never disavowed her.
She is nicknamed La Papessa or more tastelessly La Pimpaccia, a pun on Olim Pia (once pious) suggesting that religion no longer mattered to her. This hyperactive woman also worked for assisting women prostitutes in Rome and commissioned Bernini with the fountains of the Piazza Navona.
The Papessa sits to Velazquez in July 1650. This image was engraved as early as 1653. The original art has been authenticated after nearly three centuries in anonymity. This oil painting 77 x 61 cm still on its original canvas is not in pristine condition. It is estimated £ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3, lot 28.
This 59-year-old woman appears austere and unconstrained just as her brother-in-law is weak and devious, completing the image of the masters of the world on whom Velazquez mercilessly applied his objective vision. This painting is a signature example of Velazquez's mastering of black color.
#AuctionUpdate Lost for nearly 300 years, Velázquez’s missing portrait of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj - sister-in-law, reputed lover and puppet master of Pope Innocent X – commands the saleroom, hammering down at a formidable £2,495,000. #SothebysOldMasters pic.twitter.com/UVtk1OiTAu— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 3, 2019
1664 A Diamond for the Infanta
2008 SOLD 16.4 M£ including premium
This Indian greyish-blue diamond weighing 35.56 carat of VS2 clarity is chosen in 1664 by King Philip IV of Spain to enter the dowry of his daughter, the Infanta Margarita Teresa. The princess is well known for being in 1656 the main character of the Meninas of Velazquez. So this diamond is a contemporary of the royal glory of the Koh-I-Noor, the Regent and the Orlov. Entered in the Bavarian royal family by a marriage in 1722, it was then known as Blaue Wittelsbacher.
It is found twice at Christie's: in 1931 at the sale of the crown jewellery of Bavaria, and now in preparation for the sale of December 10 in London.
Christie's does not give a price in its release, but the Telegraph of Nov. 2 indicates that experts believe it could fetch £ 10 million.
POST SALE COMMENTS
An outstanding result for the most exciting lot of the year.
The Wittelsbach diamond was sold £ 16.4 million including buyer's premium.
Christie's announced that it is the highest recorded auction price for a jewel.
My opinion is that this changes nothing in my previous remarks on the new challenge, at the end of the year, for selling color diamonds. Those that are both unique and prestigious continue to make excellent performance.
Unlike my usual practice, I put a link to the catalog page of this historic lot.
Question raised by a WORLDAUCTION member :
I wonder how the value was assigned based on weight, size, clarity, color, etc. I am also interested if a breakdown is possible with the art and skill that went into finishing. It would seem this diamond with it's history would be valued even higher. A terrific gift to a special person.
Do you think timing in the offer so near the holidays may have driven up the price for the diamond? Or was this essentially assured without much competition?
Proposed answer :
I have no doubt that the royal history made the price. The fact that only one other diamond of same colour and size is known in the world helped much.
I do not think that the cut and clarity had a role in this result.
It is a historic piece, contemporary to the Koh-I-Noor. I am sure that the price was not affected by the auction date, excepted the fact that top jewelry auctions in London and New York come generally in December (after Geneva and Hong Kong sales).
Christie's had not published their estimate, but the market had told about 10 M£. For sure, reaching 16.4 M£ (including fees) was the result of much competition.
We have some additional information through the press today.
Christie's spokeswoman said the price nearly doubled its pre-sale estimate (Christie's had not published that estimate).
The previous top price for a diamond at auction was $16.5 million for a 100-carat diamond in 1995 in Switzerland. Converted into US currency, the price of the Wittelsbach diamond is 24.3 M$.
Christie's provided the buyer's name in a press release : Graff Diamonds.
Its image before being recut by Graff is shared by Wikimedia :
1670 The Man of Sorrows
2017 SOLD for £ 2.75M including premium
On July 5 in London, Sotheby's sells an Ecce Homo, oil on canvas 64 x 53 cm painted by Murillo around 1670 or a little earlier, lot 32 estimated £ 2M. This artwork had been sold for £ 2,47M including premium by Christie's on December 8, 2005.
Christ is seen half-length on a black background, in a composition very close to the Ecco Homo of similar dimensions painted by Titian in 1547, now at the Museo del Prado. He is alone with no narrative surrounding to face his physical and moral pains with the attributes of mockery : the rope binding his hands, the red robe that does not cover the body, the crown of thorns and the scepter of reed.
The feeling is however completely different. The head of the man of sorrows by Titian is turned almost in profile with a too thick beard. On the contrary the attitude shown by Murillo is facing. His lowered eyes and his meditating mouth reveal that this man is strong enough in his mind to overcome all sufferings and challenges.
1794 Goya inspired by Velazquez
2009 SOLD 2.6 M£ including premium
Having come to power through the bed of the queen, Don Manuel Godoy became the strongman of the regime, with the title and functions of prime minister.
Sotheby's is selling in London on July 8 an equestrian portrait of Godoy by Goya. The design follows the portrait of Philip IV by Velazquez, with the animal slightly standing like for greeting. Details of the uniform and orders of the rider can assign a precise date on the work: 1794.
It is a small painting, 55 x 45 cm, probably preparing for a monumental work which was not performed. The rarity of the composition in Goya's work, the care taken for the painting and such a tribute to Velazquez justify the estimated £ 2.5 million.
POST SALE COMMENT
£ 2.6 million including expenses, just below the estimate. It is not so bad, finally, for this small painting a bit too serious to be a major Goya.