1700-1720 Cassettes by André-Charles Boulle
2014 SOLD for € 1.67M including premium
Around 1700, André-Charles Boulle develops new models of furniture for small items: jewelry, medals, collections, bathroom accessories. The cabinet with drawers becomes the precursor of the commode designed by himself circa 1706.
The cassette or coffre de toilette is a small coffer mounted on a base of same area. Sixty years later, when the storage box becomes narrower than the tablet, this model of furniture will become the bonheur-du-jour.
These innovations also precede the flat desk, which should be mentioned here as a reminder that Boulle was the designer of all modern forms of French furniture. The luxury of his inlays in première partie and contrepartie and of his gilded bronzes is also unprecedented.
From 1700 until the fire of 1720 and perhaps a little beyond, the cassette sur piétement was one of Boulle's regular product lines. The coffer and its ornamentation were prepared independently and assembled when the workshop received an order.
A pair of cassettes sur piétement was sold for £ 1.55M including premium at Christie's on December 8, 1994.
Another pair also attributed to Boulle is estimated € 1.5M, for sale by Christie's in Paris on November 5, lot 53. The base with four covered feet is topped with a drawer and equipped with a spacer plate centered by a bronze vase.
1705-1715 Invention of the Commode
2015 SOLD for € 1.2M including premium
The flat desk allows the installation of wide drawers. It is a success. The drawers were soon adapted into the coffres in the form of small cabinets mounted on high legs. This furniture in turn becomes wider and lower with larger drawers in a strict vertical alignment.
The novelty is so ahead of its time that the name is hard to coin. Named table en bureau in the 1690s, it becomes in 1705 the bureau en commode characterizing its practical use (commode meaning convenient) and simply the commode from about 1708.
Boulle experimented the shapes for his new type of furniture. A commode en tambour (drum shaped dresser) 89 x 126 x 54 cm executed between 1705 and 1715 is estimated € 800K for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on November 5, lot 305.
Its oval design is ephemeral. It is too complicated with its two groups of three feet each at the ends and its detached montants en fuseaux. It is soon superseded by a simpler rectangular design which will remain the ideal storage furniture throughout the eighteenth century and beyond.
The commode for sale is richly decorated in contre-partie in copper, tortoiseshell, pewter and ebony. It has been improved and consolidated in the 1770s by Etienne Levasseur who stamped it. Like many French luxury furniture from that time, it was an element in a pair and its twin in première partie is also known.
> 1711 The Workshop of the Jesuits
2018 SOLD for HK$ 240M including premium
The activity is developed in a workshop of the Forbidden City under the direct control of the emperor. A new glassmaker arrived in 1695 brings with him the enamels invented by Glauber to create splendid colors with colloidal gold. The glass pieces colored with the enamel of the foreigners (in Chinese: falangcai) serve as diplomatic gifts.
The potters of Jingdezhen were working with the limited color range of the wucai for a purpose of productivity. It was tempting to apply the new colors to the porcelain for bringing more luxury to the pieces for the personal use (yuzhi) of the emperor. Chinese craftsmen joined the Jesuits of the imperial workshop around 1711 to develop a mixed technology.
Chinese porcelain was unknown in Europe and the Jesuits considered it impossible to affix the enamel over the glaze. They were supplied from Jingdezhen with incompletely glazed pieces to paint the outside wall and the base with the colors unavailable at Jingdezhen. A second heating completed the process.
One of the rarest ground colors of the falangcai is a pink with colloidal gold. Two 14.7 cm diameter bowls, each one decorated with four lobed cartridges showing flowers in front of a blue sky, were probably made side by side. They carry the yuzhi mark of Kangxi. The floral themes are however different, attesting to a close cooperation between Chinese and European artists. The bowl kept at the National Palace Museum in Taipei follows the traditional Chinese auspices of the four seasons.
The other bowl is of European decoration, displaying flowers without symbolic meaning and a perspective effect that is not usual in traditional Chinese art. It will be sold by Sotheby's on April 3 in Hong Kong, lot 1. Please watch the short video shared by the auction house.
The yangcai will be the complete mastery of the falangcai process at Jingdezhen around the sixth year of the Yongzheng emperor, 1729 CE. The participation of foreigners will no longer be necessary.
1713 An Imperial Team of Craftsmen
2015 SOLD for HK$ 28.7M including premium
Its size, technique, themes and period meet the description of the screen that went unsold in the same auction room on June 1, 2011. In both cases the closer pieces taken as references for that highly rare style are the pair of screens presented to the Kangxi emperor for his 60th birthday.
Here is my 2011 pre-sale discussion that fairly applies also to the the screen of the next sale. I am pretty convinced that it is the same piece.
Furniture, calligraphy, graphic arts: the Qing emperors had a refined approach to luxury and art and were delighted by a gathering of all of them within a unique piece.
This screen is indeed an amazing compendium of techniques for which the most skilled craftsmen have been invited to contribute, each one in his area of know how, achieving together a really collective artwork.
It is a suite of ten hardwood panels 2.90 m high and 61 cm wide, richly polychromed on both sides with a wide variety of imperial themes such as dragons in the clouds, many flowers, bats.
The techniques used therein are painting on paper and on silk, lacquer, gilding, bamboo veneer and kesi. This screen includes no less than nine colors of kesi, this traditional silk embroidery that is prepared in individual colors before sewing the elements.
The reverse of both panels at the ends of the screens includes sixty different characters, all of them signifying longevity. Christie's compares this lot with a pair of screens which were made for the 60th birthday of the Kangxi emperor, 1713 AD in our calendar.
I was excited to appreciate from the catalog that the eyebrows of the dragons and their short hair are typical of that period when the expression of these fabulous creatures was the subject of a specific care.
1714 The Da Vinci Stradivarius Violin
2022 SOLD for $ 15.3M by Tarisio
The know how acquired in that period led the master to design in 1709 other changes that still increased the sound while coming back to the classic size. Flatness and arching reached an unprecedented perfection. In that so called Golden Age that lasted until the mid 1720s, the stradivarius went to be the all time finest violins.
An example was the Soil of 1714, so named from an owner from the early 29th century. Its "cathedral" sound was so powerful that it did not match the requests of Menuhin, who owned it from 1950 and transferred it to Perlman in 1986.
The Da Vinci is also dated 1714 in its Stradivari label. Its back is made of a single maple piece, rarer than a two piece back for a stradivarius violin of the Golden Age. The varnish is of a bright and golden amber color polychromatic when varying the light.
It first surfaced in 1881 in a deceased estate sale. Its French name Le Léonard de Vinci is a tribute to genius granted in the 1920s by the French dealer Albert Caressa who also nicknamed Michelangelo and Titian two stradivarius from the same period.
It was purchased in 1923 by the recently emigrated Russian born virtuoso Toscha Seidel after a meticulous quest of the perfect violin. That new ownership made a front page of the New York Times in 1924.
Seidel used it extensively in concert and then in radio hosting and studio recording including for the soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz, Intermezzo and Melody for Three.
The da Vinci ex Seidel was sold for $ 15.3M by Tarisio on June 9, 2022, lot 136. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1714 A Tie Pin
2018 SOLD for CHF 6.7M including premium
This pin was created to use a pear-shaped blue diamond that is easily detachable from it. It weighs 6.16 carats, its hue is fancy dark grey-blue in SI1 clarity.
The plaque indicates the origin and provenance of the diamond. It was given by the Philippine Islands to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, wife of Philip V of whom the author of the inscription was a great-grandson, the Comte de Villafranca.
This colonial provenance appears to be certainly a wedding present. In 1714 Elisabeth from the reigning family of Parma marries the newly widowed king. Gifts are needed and the colonies are solicited. The American cargo is lost in the Atlantic in August 1715 with fabulous emeralds.
At that date Golconda is still the only source for diamonds. The Farnese Blue has in common with the Wittelsbacher Blue that it does not fall into the most usual categories such as fancy vivid, fancy intense or fancy dark blue.
Comte de Villafranca is the title used by Duke Charles II of Parma after his abdication. He seems to be the first of his line to be interested in this diamond and it is certainly he who had created the pin.
His grandson Robert integrated the Farnese Blue within a diadem composed of diamonds coming according to family tradition from the French queen Marie-Antoinette. This use in the diadem is confirmed later in an inventory of the jewelry owned by his daughter-in-law the archduchess Maria Anna of Austria. It was later reunited with the pin.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
Golconda... Uncover the unique magic of diamonds discovered in this fabled region of India, once the only place in the world where the stones were found. This month in #Geneva, another historic gem joins this rarefied group: The Farnese Blue https://t.co/1smQ3Pviuj pic.twitter.com/jSk2CQuJSL— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) May 3, 2018
1715 pair of Kangxi Dragon ritual bells
2009 SOLD for HK$ 45.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2019 before the sale of another bell by Tessier et Sarrou (see below)
Music is the supreme art that offers a perfect interpretation of all elements of nature including yin and yang. The imperial bianzhong are dated, as are the guqin.
In the Qing era, an imperial carillon is composed of sixteen bells including four repeated tones in high and low octaves. The gilt bronze bells are decorated with dragons in high relief.
On May 27, 2009, Christie's sold for HK $ 45.5M including premium from a lower estimate of HK $ 10M a pair of 30 cm high bells giving the 4th and 11th notes, dated Kangxi wushisi nian shi corresponding to 1715 CE, lot 1818.
On December 16, 2019, Tessier et Sarrou sold for € 670K including premium a 21 cm high bell dated Kangxi bing shen nian zhi corresponding to 1716 CE. It is set for the huang zhong which is the basic tone of the scale. The dragons are imperial, with five claws per paw.
1718 Perspective in Venice
2011 SOLD 4 M$ including premium
At the time of Vermeer, Dutch artists had the fertile idea to paint realistic views of the cities. When later the British for their pleasure will tour Italy, they meet with local artists who specialize in such luxurious memories.
So it is no coincidence that the pioneer of this new art in Italy was a Dutchman, Gaspar van Wittel who Italianized hisname as Vanvitelli and worked in Rome and Naples.
In Venice, the first master of the vedute was an Italian who, unlike his colleague, used a Dutch-sounding name: Luca Carlevarijs.
Carlevarijs favorite topic was the Molo, this very prestigious wharf access to the Venetian splendor. The monumental group is a textbook case for the practice of perspective, used with utmost care for accentuating the realism.
A view of the Molo looking west, with the side of the Doge's Palace and the Church of the Salute in the distance, is for sale by Christie's in New York on January 26. The animation is both intense (although a little stereotypical) and distant, making it particularly pleasant.
This large oil on canvas, 102 x 175 cm, sold in 1718 to an English traveler, is estimated $ 3.5 M.
POST SALE COMMENT
It was bold to try to sell a painting by Carlevarijs for the price of a good Canaletto, but this work had the required qualities and the sale is successful: $ 4M including premium.
This view of Venice is shown in the article shared by WorthPoint before the sale.
1718-1719 Christie's discovered a Watteau, what a Surprise!
2008 SOLD 12.3 M£ including premium
A little more than one month ago, Christie's had announced in a press release the reappearance of a painting of Watteau presumedly destroyed for two centuries. The press had seized this information, rightly. Let us not forget it, but it is necessary to wait two more months for the sale, which will be done in London on July 8.
Entitled "la Surprise", this painting was known through a copy, and the owner was unaware of being in possession of an original. If as it is probable Christie's manages to sell it, the pockets of this happy British countryman will then have filled from at least 3 M£.
Of small size, it is an outdoor scene, elegant and dynamic, with feverish movement, with images typified according to the so specific technique of Watteau: the player of guitar, the couple of lovers, the puppy.
A masterpiece? Yes. One of the great biddings of the year? Probably not. The painting, whose exact dimensions are not revealed in the official statement, appears to be not larger than a paper sheet.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price obtained is also a surprise: £ 12.3 million charge included.
This painting had been announced well in advance by Christie's as one of the highlights of the season. It had the advantage of never being viewed before on the market and disadvantage of being small: 36x28 cm.
The market has thus confirmed the view of Christie's that this painting is a masterpiece of Watteau, and that Watteau is a major painter in the history of art. There is no doubt that we will not soon see a similar one reappear in a sale. A masterpiece that can be considered as single on the market has no price, but I think nobody could reasonably predict that it would be so high.
1718-1722 Fruits and Flowers by Jan van Huysum
2006 SOLD for £ 3.26M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2021
Justus dies in 1716. Jan van Huysum tries the oil on copper and adds the fruits. His quest for realism includes a great attention to botany, of which his brother will soon become one of the best illustrators. Naturalism prevails over symbolism. Jan thus demonstrates his talent and soon has an international clientele.
An oil on panel 80 x 60 cm was sold for £ 3.26M including premium by Sotheby's on July 5, 2006, lot 37. It was painted between 1718 and 1722, a period of transition in Jan's art before he breaks with tradition by opting for lighter backgrounds.
Fruits in a wide variety of types and colors are placed on a ledge next to a nest filled with eggs. This very dense composition is completed by flowers and leaves in the upper part.