Safavid - The Carpet of Senator Clark
2013 SOLD 34 M$ including premium
One of them created one of the most exciting surprises in the history of auctions. Surfacing in Germany in October 2009, it was estimated € 900 by a local auctioneer. Christie's had a small intuition about the importance of the piece by providing an estimate of £ 200K. They sold it for £ 6.2 million including premium on April 15, 2010.
Now known as the carpet of the comtesse de Béhague, this Kirman in wool 339 x 153 cm was made with one of the more complex techniques identified as the 'vase' technique. This name is unrelated to the decorative pattern.
The carpet of Senator Clark will not create the same surprise as it has already been described for nearly a century as a masterpiece of Persian textile art. It was exhibited after the death of its owner in 1925 in a museum that de-accessions it now. It is estimated $ 5M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on June 5. Here is the link to the catalog.
Its red background is rare and perhaps unique in its class, the sickle-leaf pattern variant of the 'vase' technique. Its fine floral motifs and its palmettes make it a vibrant and sumptuous artwork in 267 x 196 cm size.
It is always difficult to date and locate an old carpet, if not by considerations of its technical characteristics. The Clark carpet is Safavid and probably Kirman. It is comparable to the best known pieces woven during the reign of Shah Abbas 400 years ago.
POST SALE COMMENT
There is no price limit for the most outstanding art pieces. This extraordinary carpet was sold for $ 34M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's.
It is also shared by Wikimedia.
1600 A Prayer of Saint Dominic
2013 SOLD 9.2 M£ including premium
Mannerism is disputed because the elongated body is uneasy to understand. El Greco does not choose between Mannerism and the Baroque which is the new apology of motion. The originality of his art is to be a strong and unique synthesis of the two trends.
On July 3 in London, Sotheby's sells an image of Saint Dominic by El Greco, estimated £ 3M. It is a rare theme, although the saint was Spanish. The founder of the Order of Preachers is a teacher whose hagiography is not miraculous.
Dominic prays with the habit of his order. His tall elongated body is moving towards a crucifix that he had positioned on a rock. His contemplation is internal as his eyes are almost closed.
The scene is located outdoor probably to glorify a hermit life then considered as deviant for a Dominican. The sky is ready for storm, contrasting with the quiet attitude of the saint.
This oil on canvas, made circa 1600 from an earlier model, is small, 75 x 58 cm, indicating that it was intended for private devotion. Coming from the Rau collection, it is sold for the benefit of UNICEF. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The works of El Greco in such a quality are exceptional on the art market. St. Dominic was sold for £ 9.2 million including premium.
The sale also included a large Christ on the Cross by the same artist, sold for £ 3.4 million including premium.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1600 Franciscan Contemplation
2017 SOLD for £ 6.9M including premium
Francis is not a saint like the others. His conversion to poverty is a revolution in medieval monasticism. St. Francis and St. Dominic are independently of one another the greatest reformers of Christian life.
Francis practices a mystical prayer far away from the interpretations of the Gospels which facilitates his appreciation by El Greco. On December 7 in London, Christie's sells a scene showing Saint Francis and Brother Leo in meditation, autograph oil on canvas 110 x 65 cm estimated £ 5M, lot 14.
This work is typical of the maturity of the artist in Toledo. The expressiveness of the faces is counterbalanced by the elongated body of the saint which reinforces the impression of presence. The mystic light of the day enters the cave. The saint holds in his hands a human skull, a symbol promoted in 1548 by Ignatius of Loyola as the best incentive to contemplation.
The painting 168 x 103 cm kept at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is considered as its original version. Made around 1600, it is comparable to the Saint Dominic in prayer of which a 75 x 58 cm autograph copy was sold for £ 9.2M including premium by Sotheby's on July 3, 2013.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's about the Saint Francis of the next sale.
#AuctionUpdate A highlight of the sale, #ElGreco’s captivating painting, ‘Saint Francis and Brother Leo in Meditation’, sells for £6,871,250 https://t.co/hJXs0ok6OI pic.twitter.com/1hquAKXCnW— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 7, 2017
1604-(1610) The Coronation of Marie de Médicis
2012 SOLD 9 MCHF including premium
His pale yellow diamond of 55 carats took his name: the Sancy. In 1604 it was bought by James I of England. It joined the Régent in the Louvre.
Henri IV and Marie are a dissimilar couple. The Bearnese peasant seeks to counteract the trends to luxury of his Florentine wife. Perhaps to comfort her after missing the Sancy, Henri buys for Marie the other prestigious gem, also in 1604. This 35-carat white diamond of pear double rose cut was later called the Beau Sancy.
Marie, married in 1600 long after the beginning of Henri's reign, had not yet been crowned, to her dismay. The king finally gave away, again. During the coronation ceremony, on May 13, 1610, the Beau Sancy adorns the crown of the queen. The next day, Henri IV is assassinated.
The Beau Sancy has always remained in royal European families. It is estimated CHF 2M, for sale by Sotheby's in Geneva on May 15.
It is illustrated in the article shared by La Tribune de Genève. Its ancient cut with bulky shapes is outdated, just like the complicated cut of the yellow Sancy based on a shield shape.
POST SALE COMMENT
The Beau Sancy was sold CHF 9M including premium, well above its estimate. Its price per carat, CHF 250K, is remarkable.
Such enthusiasm for a historical gem is not common. Hopefully its success will attract to the market other exceptional historical pieces.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
The Battle between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel the younger
2011 SOLD for £ 6.9M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2010 before the sale of another example by Christie's (see below)
Pieter Bruegel chose the theme of peasant life. Their occupations are indeed symbols more or less easy to decode of the struggle between vices and virtues.
The difficulty in deciphering his message, which is explained by the political context, allows the modern viewer to focus his admiration on the anecdote. Bruegel's characters enchant us by their picturesque features and by the exceptional reference to the lifestyle of another time.
Pieter Bruegel painted the original version of the Combat Between Carnival and Lent in 1559. This work, currently preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, is teeming with life and colorful, in the best manner of an artist who was the best picture maker of popular scenes of all time.
Carnival is perched on a barrel and encouraged by his followers who leave the tavern. Lent is an unpleasant nun whose friends leave the church. On the Flemish village square, away from the main story, a crowd of people is busy with everyday occupations.
To our delight, the Brueghel workshop outlived its founder. For several decades, his sons made faithful copies of his works, probably executed as and when ordered from customers. Luckily, Pieter II and Jan I were also excellent painters who, each in his own way, have significantly inflated the Brueghel catalog.
Although being copies, the five known examples of the Combat between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel the younger are masterpieces.
An oil on canvas, 119 x 171 cm was sold by Christie's for £ 3.25M on December 7, 2006 and for £ 6.9M on December 6, 2011, lot 17.
On December 7, 2010 Christie's sold for £ 2M an oil on panel of almost the same size, 118 x 166 cm but in lesser condition. It has been established by dendrochronology that two of its planks came from a Baltic oak also used for another work by this artist dated 1603.
On similar size and in very good condition, the only canvas of the group was sold twice by Christie's: £ 3.25M on 7 December 2006, and £ 6.9M on 6 December 2011, demonstrating the growing enthusiasm of the market.
Also in similar dimensions, the best preserved of the four panels was sold for £ 4.5M by Sotheby's on July 4, 2012, lot 11.
1607 Picturesque Ethnology by Bruegel
2018 SOLD for £ 6.3M including premium
These two works have a sensational and unprecedented ethnological value, showing the variety of occupations in a Flemish village as well as behaviour and clothing.
Inspired by an engraving made shortly before by Hogenberg, Bruegel's Proverbs are a juxtaposition of nearly one hundred secular sayings played in the village. God and the Devil appear only three times in all, only in ridiculous situations, while priests and saints are absent. Among the most amusing scenes are the peasant who shears a pig, the bell attached to the cat and the cuckold clothed in a gaudy cloak by his unfaithful wife.
From the literary point of view, Erasmus and Rabelais had explored this theme : everyone mocks his neighbors while ignoring his own faults, constituting the syndrome of the ordinary madness. A moralizing interpretation is inevitable, especially in those times of religious tension.
The specialty of Pieter Brueghel the younger is to copy for his clients the compositions of his father. At his time the artworks had been scattered. The copy is prepared in conformance with Pieter the elder's original underdrawing. It means that a working model kept by the father was used nearly forty years after his death by the son. The underdrawings are now reconstituted by non-destructive inspection as a deep layer in the paintings.
During the 1600s decade Pieter the younger made copies on wood and canvas in the original format. On December 6, 2011, Christie's sold for £ 6.9M including premium the only surviving large size canvas of the Battle between Carnival and Lent, 119 x 171 cm.
On December 6 in London, Christie's sells The Proverbs, oil on canvas 121 x 167 cm painted around 1607, lot 7 estimated £ 3.5M.
#AuctionUpdate 'The Netherlandish Proverbs', an epic visualisation of over one hundred proverbs, painted by #PieterBruegheltheYounger, has sold for £6,308,750. #Christies #OldMasters pic.twitter.com/muT3QLQ6ZS— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 6, 2018
1607 The Stations of the Brueghels
2014 SOLD 5.5 M£ including premium
Bruegel painted the procession to Calvary in 1564. The dense and diverse crowd almost hides the relatively distant Christ carrying his cross. The religious dimension is mainly provided by the holy women in the foreground. This oil on panel is one of his largest works, 124 x 170 cm.
Pieter Brueghel the younger has not only copied the catalog of his father. His works in large format are often original compositions.
From 1599 he also treats the road to Calvary. In the 1607 version, oil on panel 122 x 170 cm, Christ is more visible and the crowd is less dense. In the distance, the city of Jerusalem looks immense.
This painting was sold for £ 5.2 million including premium by Sotheby's on July 5, 2006. It is estimated £ 5M for sale by Christie's in London on July 8.
On July 9 in London, Sotheby's sells a 1615 painting of the Crucifixion. The scene is located in a wide landscape, with a stylized Jerusalem just above the cross of Christ. The artist has chosen an anecdotal moment when the soldiers are busy raising the cross of the second thief.
This oil on panel 100 x 148 cm is estimated £ 3M.
POST SALE COMMENTS
At Christie's, the result for the Road to Calvary, £ 5.5 million including premium, is slightly above the 2006 price.
At Sotheby's, the Calvary was not sold. Here are the results including premium for the other two important paintings by Pieter Brueghel II: £ 3.9 million for the bird trap and £ 1.54 million for the village feast.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's introducing three Brueghel paintings including the Calvary.
1608 Winter Landscape by Avercamp
2014 SOLD for £ 5M including premium by Sotheby's
1608 Flowers in an Oil on Copper by Bosschaert
2008 SOLD 5.8 MCHF including premium
Its author, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, is so named today to distinguish him from his son Ambrosius. The latter, and the Elder's two other sons Abraham and Johannes, also painted still lifes, but the best known of the family is perhaps Balthasar van der Ast, brother-in-law and pupil of the elder Ambrosius.
On 10 July 2002, Sotheby's achieved good results on works by these painters. A bouquet in a window, oil on copper of 28 x 23 cm by Ambrosius the Elder and typical of his work, had been sold £ 2.1 million charge included. The same day, an oval oil on copper of 1624 by Balthasar has almost reached 950 K £.
With a composition very similar as the copper to be sold by Koller, another oil on copper, by Ambrosius the Elder, 30 x 20 cm, was sold £ 1.75 million by Sotheby's in London in July 2000. It was on my taste more interesting than the Koller's, because the flowers were more numerous and less dispersed. In both works, the glass is almost identical.
It derives from these figures that the estimate given by Koller, 2.5 MCHF, is ambitious, but the auction house announced that the painting is in exceptional condition, after being kept for 150 years in the same collection.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Koller got a good result on these flowers by Bosschaert: 5 MCHF excluding charges, twice the low estimate.
This article will have a following:
A bouquet in a niche by Balthasar van der Ast, 48 x 36 cm, is the lot 16 of the sale of Zürichsee Auktionen in Erlenbach on September 24 (estimated 500 KCHF). As I said in the article above, Balthasar was the brother in law of Ambrosius Bosschaert.
Balthasar's painting was not sold.
1608 Intimate Coppers by Wtewael
2019 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium
The available iconography is abundant, including the risque engravings of Goltzius often copied from Spranger. A fashion is to intimate closets, predecessors to the boudoirs. Until about 1612, Wtewael provides his clients with small copper paintings that are not intended to be displayed in public and could even be hidden in the binding of a book. In parallel his larger formats on canvas or wood are more suitable.
Nude groups are inspired by mythology. The Mannerist eroticism that lengthens the bodies of the women suits his purpose. He often reworks the same themes, seeking to improve the readability. For his most complex miniatures, he organizes the action in several fields with differences in brightness.
Wtewael takes care that each god of the Olympus is identifiable by an attribute, even within the crowd of a banquet. With characters ranging from the lustful Venus to the chaste Diana, he is definitely more of an entertainer than a moralist. He spent his entire career in his hometown where he became a rich flax fiber merchant. He did not manage a workshop and did not have an apprentice.
On July 3 in London, Sotheby's sells Diana and Actaeon, oil on copper 16 x 21 cm painted in 1608, lot 14 estimated £ 4M. Please watch the video in which Sotheby's compares its workmanship with the monumental Magdalene by Johann Liss previously discussed in this column.
This extremely narrative scene shows the moment when Diana had just sent her spell to the hunter. She is identified by the crescent moon above her head. Now that the risk is neutralized, these ladies resume their activities as if nothing had happened, displaying in full light their quiet nudity.
For Actaeon, nothing works anymore. His tall silhouette in the dim light is already head dressed with stag antlers. His dogs are agitated. A few moments later, when the metamorphosis will be complete, they will devour him.
#AuctionUpdate The Thrill of the Hunt □: Another auction record! Joachim Anthonisz. Wtewael’s exquisite little copper panel, reviving the most dramatic moment in the myth of Diana and Actaeon, hits a bullseye at £4,634,000. #SothebysOldMasters pic.twitter.com/EJULAAQz8r— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 3, 2019
He was bringing to his home country the new Baroque trends in Italian art. Highly influenced by the art of Caravaggio, he features heavily emotional scenes, with dynamic and complex compositions, violent lights, bodies twisted by hatred or despair. He uses skinned figures as models for his scary naked soldiers.
He had come back to Antwerp for family reasons, but political circumstances were particularly favorable for the start of his business. In April 1609, the Antwerp treaty is ending the war between Spain and the United Provinces.
In July, Rubens is appointed court painter to the Archduke. He exercises his art for the very important commissions from the churches of Antwerp finally liberated from the wars of religion, and also for private clients.
The Italian influence on Rubens is attested by the Italianisation of his first name from Peter Paul to Pietro Paolo just before his hurried leave from Rome to Antwerp.
2023 SOLD for $ 27M by Sotheby's
Rubens had in mind to picture the most horrifying scenes of Bible and of Greco-Roman mythology, in the follow of Titian and Caravaggio.
He brought from Italy to Antwerp a lot of preparation drawings for this big bang of his career. The figures of over-muscular men had their inspiration in Michelangelo's sculptures and van Tetrode"s écorchés. The artist reused his drawings for his finished compositions and did not use chalk or graphite underdrawings. He also made outlinings during his process of painting.
In this breakthrough series, the psychologically complex scenes provide a full contrast between brute men and merciless women. Secondary characters such as maid women may provide intermediate feelings including a repulsion from what is happening.
The decision to decapitate the Baptist was his speaking against the royal incest of Herod with Salome's mother Herodias. A highly shocking detail of Rubens's picture is the old maid pulling the offending tongue while presenting the cut off head on a charger to a sententious Salome. That head is gliding on its blood. Another disturbing detail is the foot of the executioner on the naked back of the martyred saint. Bluish tones are added to the still bleeding corpse.
The Salome, oil on oak panel 94 x 102 cm, surfaced in 1666 in an inventory of the Royal Spanish collection. It is believed that it had been commissioned by a Spanish patron taking the advantage of the end of the Flemish war for enjoying the new art.
It was sold for $ 27M by Sotheby's on January 26, 2023, lot 5. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
En janvier prochain, Sotheby’s mettra en vente à New York, la collection Fisch Davidson incluant un chef-d'œuvre de Rubens,— Sotheby's France (@SothebysFr) October 25, 2022
´Salomé présentant la tête de Saint Jean Baptisté, estimé 25 à 35 millions $. pic.twitter.com/xBpuQKDGKO
1609 Samson and Delilah by Rubens
Samson et Delilah is an oil on wood 185 x 205 cm. The theme of the colossus neutralized by the ingenuity of women, staged at the fatal moment, may be compared with the Judith by Caravaggio. The original version was authenticated in 1929 and sold by Christie's on July 11, 1980 for £ 2.53M. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The Samson by Rubens, as also his Holofernes in the same period, is strongly influenced by the too muscular male bodies by Michelangelo. The twist of the body is baroque, and the lighting of the scene with candles shows that Rubens also appreciated the modernism of Caravaggio.
Before starting the job for the painting, Rubens was testing in drawings the emotions of the tragic group of four characters : the giant, the wife, the barber and the maid. The analysis of the sketch invited him to increase the dramatic tension when he made the modello and the final painting on panel, in which the group is tighter and the main characters more personalized and more erotic.
The only known preparation drawing for the Samson and Delilah of the mayor was sold for £ 3.2M by Christie's on July 10, 2014, lot 9.