European Ceramic before 1760
1425-1450 Terracotta from the Florentine Renaissance
2021 SOLD for $ 580K including premium by Sotheby's
narrated post sale
Ghiberti was applying a new style for the decoration of the doors of the Baptistery which had been entrusted to him by the competition of 1401. He knew how to reconcile form and action in the bronze panels whose thickness was necessarily limited. He had many assistants and pupils who will have a major role in the development of the perspective theories.
The original models of the figures were designed as early as 1405 by Ghiberti or by Brunelleschi. They have been replicated by molding in fired clay and in stucco. Finishing included coloring, gilding and reworks by hand.
The emotional attitudes of both Madonna and Child escape the late Gothic. The Virgin is pretty and quiet. The Child, often authoritarian, is caught between his need to be protected in his mother's arm and his desire to discover the world, like all children.
The terracotta sold by Sotheby's is a high-relief 73 cm high and 18 cm deep with a superb and rare conservation of the polychromy. The catalog suggests a make around 1425 to 1450 by Ghiberti and his workshop. Its prototype in terracotta carved in the clay without mold was recently discovered in the episcopal palace of Fiesole.
1450 Relief Images
2021 SOLD for $ 2M including premium
On January 28 in New York, Sotheby's sells a terracotta made by Luca around 1450, lot 2 estimated $ 700K. The Madonna in half length holds the Child in her arms. The 10 cm deep relief is boxed in a 47 x 40 cm false frame.
The figures are beautiful, with a sympathetic exchange of glances and a caress by the Child. The characters are white on a sky blue background. The frame imitates marble. Another example from the same mold is known.
On January 25, 2017, Sotheby's sold for $ 550K including premium from a lower estimate of $ 150K a 52 x 42 cm relief. The naked Child is standing on the frame and puts a hand around his mother's neck, but they do not look at each other.
The origin of this image is a painting by Fra Filippo Lippi. The relief was created by Luca around 1460. This version is a replica around 1490-1500 by his nephew Andrea, with white figures on a blue background as in the example above.
This treatment of terracotta was exclusive to the della Robbia family and ensured its prosperity for a century. The details of the technique have not been disclosed.
#AuctionUpdate: And we're off! This charming mid-15th century relief of the Madonna and Child by Luca della Robbia, one of the very rare autograph works by the artist to have come onto the market in recent times achieves $2 million, a new auction record for the artist pic.twitter.com/Bx8QDX0rBB— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) January 28, 2021
Terracotta Group of Virgin and Child
2008 SOLD for $ 5.6M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2021
Three high reliefs in painted terracotta of the Virgin and Child have some features in common although the scenes are different. The Child is energetic and authoritarian. The loving and thoughtful Mother seeks more to protect him from dangers than to maintain empathy. The clothes are the subject of a rich polychromy mixed with gilding.
These pigmented reliefs are not similar to the glazed terracotta supplied by the della Robbias for private devotion. They are original artworks of which no period copy has been identified. Two of them have an early Florentine provenance. If Donatello is their author, they were produced in his last Florentine period, after 1450.
The Virgin and Child in front of a curtain, 102 x 74 cm, is preserved in the Louvre. The Virgin and Child with four Cherubs, 100 x 70 x 20 cm, preserved in the Bode Museum in Berlin, lost its polychromy in a war fire.
The other image, 86 x 68 cm, is unusual in its composition and strong expressions, including the presence in the background of two hilarious cherubs. The polychromy has been well preserved despite some overpainting. Considered as an authentic Donatello work by Pope-Hennessy, it was sold by Sotheby's on January 24, 2008 for $ 5.6M including premium from a lower estimate of $ 2M, lot 75. It is illustrated in the auction report shared by Artnet.
1487-1494 The Laureate of the Lost Villa
2017 SOLD for $ 900K including premium
The art of Andrea is very recognizable with most often a realistic white figure in high relief centered over a flat sky blue background in a tondo. The figure of a laureate identifiable with two lateral ribbons perfectly matches that description. It is estimated over $ 200K for sale by Christie's in New York on April 28, lot 9.
This bust 41 cm in diameter is inspired from the antiques with its curly hair, its beard, its proud attitude and its reddish-brown upper toga. It is mounted in a frame also in terracotta 62 cm in diameter adorned with fruits, vegetables and pine cones and attributed to the Della Robbia workshops. The antiquity of both elements is confirmed by a thermoluminescence test.
The theme of the laureate is rare and correlates this work with the project of the Poggio Reale villa for which a Neapolitan archive indicates that the Della Robbias provided four crates of glazed heads in circular frames.
Alfonso of Aragon duke of Calabria, heir to the kingdom of Naples, is unpopular because he loves too much pleasure and luxury. With the help of Lorenzo de' Medici who delegated his best architect to him, he starts in 1487 on a knoll near Naples the Poggio Reale villa destined to be for his own use the symbol of paradise on earth.
Events are rushing. The weak Alfonso now King of Naples since January 1494 is an easy prey for the French King Charles VIII heir to the fallen competing dynasty of Anjou. In autumn of the same year the French troops destroy the still unfinished Poggio Reale. Nothing remains of the villa except the memory of its extreme luxury and of its gardens which will inspire the French Renaissance.
The laureate surfaced at Christie's in 1902. Is it the ultimate witness of Poggio Reale or an additional copy that had not been delivered (and had been later framed in the studio) ? It does not matter : it is altogether a remarkable example of the work of Andrea della Robbia, one of the most original artists of the Italian Renaissance, and a sensational direct or indirect witness of the lost villa.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1525 Tondino by Nicola da Urbino
2009 SOLD for € 1.2M including premium by Christie's
1528-1532 The Stories told in Urbino
2012 SOLD 460 K£ including premium
On December 17, 2009, Christie's sold € 1.2 million including premium a tondino 27 cm in diameter made around 1525 in the workshop of Nicola da Urbino. This unexpected result rewarded the very likely belonging of this armoried maiolica to the service of Isabella d'Este.
On July 5 in London, Christie's sells a plate 26 cm in diameter inscribed by Nicola da Urbino ca 1530-1533. This piece with the coat of arms of the Marquesses of Montferrat is a joint tribute to architecture and sculpture personified by the ancient Vitruvius and the modern Michael interpreted as Michelangelo. It is estimated £ 200K.
On the same day in the same venue, Christie's devotes a separate catalog to a collection of 41 lots of maiolica. The top lots are istoriato pieces.
A charger 39 cm in diameter, made ca 1528-1532 probably in Urbino, is estimated £ 300K. It is finely illustrated with the scene of the birth of St John the Baptist in a sumptuous Renaissance surrounding. Here is the link to the catalog.
This sale also includes a dish 27 cm in diameter, estimated £ 250K, on the theme of the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul, made around 1530 by another outstanding master of this technique in Urbino, Francesco Xanto Avelli. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Buyers have followed the prioritization of works announced by the estimates.
The highest price, £ 460K, applied to the large dish or charger of the birth of St John the Baptist. In maiolica as in early painting, experts are endeavouring to compare the works of unknown artists. This one is attributed to the "Painter of the Apollo Basin".
St Peter and St Paul was sold £ 240K, and Vitruvius and Michael £ 230K.
These prices include premium.
1570-1580 Porcelain Charger from Medici Workshop
1994 SOLD for FF 8.8M before fees by Ferri
1732 Couple of Lions in Meissen Porcelain
2006 SOLD for £ 2.8M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The alchemist Böttger was looking for the Philosopher's Stone in the service of Augustus and of course he could not find it. He experimented with very high temperatures to which he subjected kaolin-based pastes. He thus created for the first time in Europe a hard porcelain comparable to the Chinese porcelain.
Augustus immediately understood the interest of this invention for his own prestige. In 1710, he founded the Meissen porcelain factory, near Dresden. He had then collected ceramics from all sources in order to demonstrate the superiority of his new Saxon porcelain.
Animal metaphors are in the fashion. Augustus conceives around 1730 a porcelain menagerie in which the smaller animals would be life-size, the birds often in groups of four or eight. Entire rooms will have to be devoted to their exhibition in his Japanese Palace in Dresden. Meissen artists begin to prepare hundreds of subjects.
This new technique is particularly difficult for large figures. Glaze cannot be applied by dipping. The heat treatment creates shrinkages and cracks, to such an extent that their coloring, illusory in terms of yield, is not developed.
The death of Augustus in February 1733 put an end to the commission of the specific menagerie, but his successor continued to protect Meissen, whose commercial edition of small figures in brilliant colors became the specialty.
A pair of 50 cm high and 80 cm wide sculptures showing recumbent lion and lioness was sold for £ 2.8M including premium by Christie's on December 18, 2006, lot 51. Designed in 1732, they were made in white Meissen porcelain, with some examples of the inevitable firing faults of that period. They had remained with the descendants of Augustus.
1732 The Bustard of the Porcelain Palace
2016 SOLD for £ 840K including premium
Augustus the Strong shelters in Dresden the very young alchemist Böttger who had acquired the reputation of knowing to transmute metals into gold. This is not possible and the elector is upset. The study of earthenware saved the scientist. Thus was born the Meissen porcelain factory. The elector then requested to do better than the Chinese porcelain.
The menagerie of porcelains made for Augustus is the most spectacular achievement of the early Meissen. It is part of a larger project of Porzellanschloss centered on a porcelain throne. The elector has maintained in the taste of his time a menagerie of live animals that served as models for the Meissen artists. His active and enthusiastic participation in the biggest animal tossing contest of his time nevertheless disqualifies him as a friend of the beasts.
The originality of Meissen lies in the realization of real sculptures, in the opposite to the Chinese porcelain that has a utilitarian purpose. The modeller J. G. Kirchner produced original clay statues of birds and other small animals in life size. He was assisted from 1731 by J.J. Kändler.
It is illusory to catch up in a few years the multi-centennial Chinese experience. The first pieces of the menagerie make obvious that the process is still in its development phase, with a high risk of firing cracks. They should have been colored but the enamel does not adhere to that porcelain.
Augustus dies in 1733 before the population of the porcelain menagerie is sufficient to perform a group exhibition that will never be realized. Fortunately his successor does not stop the production. The stabilization of techniques and colors and the diversification of themes will be the work of Kändler who will devote to it the last forty years of his life.
The bustard, 84 cm high standing against a stump, is one of the largest birds in the porcelain menagerie of Augustus the Strong. It is very elegant with its folded neck to preen the back. The model designed in 1732 is attributed to Kirchner. It was executed in six porcelain units of which only one remains in private hands. This piece is estimated £ 700K for sale by Christie's in London on July 7, lot 305.
1733 The Menageries of the Saxon Elector
2011 SOLD 1.08 M€ including premium
Not far away, the city of Meissen operated a kaolin mine. The skill of Meissen chemists had finally enabled Europe to imitate the hard porcelain of China. Frederick Augustus greatly helped the development of this factory.
The Elector was passionate about animals, and maintained in parallel a menagerie of live animals and a menagerie of porcelains that were created for him by the Meissen manufacture. Famous for his colossal strength and his virility, he particularly admired the lions.
A couple of lying lions made in white porcelain circa 1732 on a model by Kirchner had been provided to the collection of the Elector. This pair of porcelains 80 cm long was sold £ 2.8 million including premium by Christie's on 18 December 2006.
A sitting lioness 74 cm high, also from a model by Kirchner, is for sale by Lempertz in Cologne on November 17. Made in January 1733, it was initially kept at the factory, probably due to the death of the prince. Coming now from a private collection, this unpublished specimen is estimated € 800K.
POST SALE COMMENT
Excellent result for this curious and historical piece that was recently discovered: € 1.08 million including premium.
1747 A Pair of Meissen Porcelain Swans
2008 SOLD 660 K€ including premium
This source is always appreciated in porcelain sales, especially as the model of these birds is the work of one of the most famous masters of Meissen, Johann Joachim Kaendler. Both porcelains are mounted on a base of Louis XV gilded bronze, specifically 1747 or 1748. The whole is estimated 250 K €.
Meissen porcelain is a veritable bestiary, with dogs, cocks, where the price depends a lot on the size and the rarity of the model. Some are mounted in candelabra.
Among other animals after Kaendler, Sotheby's London sold a pair of interesting pug dogs, male and female at 360 K£ costs included on July 8, starting from a low estimate of 70 K£. The explanation for this increase in value due from the passion of the fans is perhaps because this model was a favorite of Madame de Pompadour, and because they had kept their original golden bronze base. One of them, the right front leg up, is an excellent example of the naturalism and art of movement of Kaendler.
From another master of Meissen, JG Kirchner, a pair of lions, male and female, had been sold £ 2.8 million including costs by Christie's in London on December 18, 2006. They came directly from property in a branch of the royal family of Saxony.
POST SALE COMMENT
Here is an excellent result: 660 K € fees included. Meissen porcelain has fans beyond estimates for animal characters, and this is even more true when they are in pairs.
1753-1755 Hercules in Florence
2011 SOLD 660 K£ including premium
In 1737, the Florentine aristocrat Carlo Ginori had indeed established a factory in his home, the villa Doccia. Copies of masterpieces of ancient sculpture were created from casts taken from smaller versions in marble or bronze.
These large porcelain pieces are technical feats. In addition, they have certainly served as efficiently as bronzes to republish the best of ancient art.
82 cm high and made in Doccia circa 1753-1755, a Farnese Hercules in porcelain is for sale on December 7 in London by Bonhams. Estimated £ 300K, it is illustrated in the press release shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was too low for a piece of such a rarity. It was sold £ 550K before fees, 660K including premium.