1772-1785 Desk-and-Bookcase from Rhode Island
1989 SOLD for $ 12M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The Chippendale style succeeds the Queen Anne. John Goddard is probably the first to make the desk-and-bookcase which is an adaptation of the Block and Shell to the Chippendale. These pieces of furniture are not signed and very difficult to attribute to one or another master in that family. Nine examples in the six-shell design have survived, all of them in mahogany.
The Brown brothers were wealthy merchants and statesmen of Providence RI, involved in slave trade and smuggling. A Newport-style desk-and-bookcase that belonged to John Brown, 272 × 113 × 64 cm, is kept at Yale University. The piece that belonged to Nicholas Brown, 287 × 108 × 64 cm, is very similar. It had remained in the direct descent of its first owner and was sold for $ 12M including premium by Christie's on June 3, 1989.
For the attribution of these two pieces of furniture, it was noticed that Daniel Spencer, a nephew of John Goddard, had left Newport and established a workshop for the making of cabinets and chairs in Providence in 1772. The terminus ante quem is his imprisonment for debt in 1785. He ended his career in Kentucky.
1773 Poem of the White Baita by Qianlong
2014 SOLD for RMB 116M including premium by Poly
narrated in 2021
In 1773 CE the Qianlong emperor, great-grandson and third successor of Shunzhi, climbs the enchanted hill. As in all circumstances, he records his feelings. The poem is composed of five parts : a general description and an observed view from each of the four cardinal points.
The autograph scrolls calligraphed by the emperor are 27 cm high and 80 to 118 cm long. Each scroll is divided into two parts, the poem in tight pictograms on the left and four full-height characters on the right for the title. Several imperial seals have been printed, including the Qianlong Chen Han ("written by the emperor's brush") and the Tai Shang Huang Di.
The eastern scroll is not located. The other four were re-united and were sold together for RMB 116M including premium by Poly on December 2, 2014, lot 3030. The image is shared by China Daily in the post sale report.
1773 Gainsborough in Bath
2019 SOLD for £ 8M including premium
From 1758 to 1774 he lives and works in Bath where he finds a new clientele and gets closer to nature. The English society is undergoing a transformation at that time, at the expense of the poorer classes. This easily irritable artist is a sentimental who manages to bring charity.
On July 3 in London, Sotheby's sells Going to market, early morning, lot 22 estimated £ 7M.
This oil on canvas of large size, 122 x 147 cm, is a perfect balance between the landscape and the staging of characters and animals. A group on horseback reaches the top of a hill above the plain in the beautiful cold light of dawn.
This work is not narrative but social, showing the occupations of poor people. The group is led by a pretty young woman with big baskets of goods. She is admired by a young peasant. They are followed by three colliers who go to the mine for their daily hiring. Sitting on the side of the path, a woman with two very young children is hoping for charity.
Going to market was sold in 1773 by Gainsborough to the banker Henry Hoare. A patron of the arts, Hoare was nicknamed Henry the Magnificent. With this masterpiece, Gainsborough certainly desired to share his social sensitivity with his influential client.
This attention brought by Gainsborough to the rural transformations is contemporary with the paintings of the English industrial revolution by Wright of Derby.
#AuctionUpdate One of #Gainsborough’s finest masterpieces in private hands, and one of the finest 18th century British landscapes by any artist ever likely to be offered. ‘Going to Market, Early Morning’ breaks the artist’s record at £7,961,000. #SothebysOldMasters pic.twitter.com/Vhj593rOr0— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 3, 2019
1775 Gainsborough, the Master of the English Portrait
2011 SOLD 6.5 M£ including premium
Each of these oils on canvas is a full-length portrait, standing, life size or so. The Lady sitted circa 1775. The painting measures 226 x 147 cm. The Colonel is typical of the art of the master around 1780. Its format, 227 x 152 cm, is almost identical.
Both models look towards the artist. The masquerade dress of the young woman and the military uniform are illustrated with great realism, like the faces of the sitters.
Estimates give the advantage to the Lady, with £ 4M. Colonel expects £ 3.5 M.
POST SALE COMMENT
Honor to the Lady, sold £ 6.5 million including premium.
In June 2002 at Sotheby's, the Colonel was worth £ 2.4 million hammer. The expected added value was too high. Unsold.
1776 Portrait of Omai by Joshua Reynolds
2001 SOLD 10.3 M£ including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
His arrival in London in October 1774 was a social event. Omai is handsome. He has a quick wit and good looks which remain exotic. Celebrated like a prince by the aristocracy, this son of a Polynesian peasant is in England the first living symbol of the myth of the "noble savage" which echoes Rousseau's "bon sauvage".
Joshua Reynolds, the founding president of the Royal Academy, is a painter of worldly portraits. In 1776 at the exhibition of the Academy, he displays among other paintings a portrait of Omai, oil on canvas 230 x 140 cm. The young man is standing in a proud attitude. The clothes are luxurious.
This portrait somehow inaugurates the orientalist painting and its idealism. Reynolds achieves a spectacular effect, without seeking realism. The flowing robe is inspired by the Roman toga and the oriental turban is nothing Polynesian. The landscape behind him is Greek, with a few palm trees.
This artwork is unique in the art of Reynolds, who probably created it especially without commission for the exhibition of 1776 and kept it in his studio until his death. It was sold for £ 10.3M including premium by Sotheby's on November 29, 2001. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Omai returned to Polynesia with Cook's third voyage.
1776 Exotic Tygers
2014 SOLD 7.7 M£ including premium
Images of horses were welcomed by the English aristocracy. Stubbs was a gifted painter. He was the only artist capable of applying the theme of the animal as a specialty of major art.
In London, menageries are in the trend. Visitors dream of the distant lands from where the wild beasts have come. As early as 1762 Stubbs painted a lion attacking a horse. Lions and those other big cats designated at that time under the generic term of tygers soon occupy the top place in his art.
On July 9 in London, Sotheby's sells Tygers at play, oil on canvas 102 x 127 cm estimated £ 4M.
Two leopard kittens play with great vivacity in an imaginary exotic landscape certainly inspired by the passion of the contemporaries for Cook's discoveries. These friendly animals respond positively to the postulate of Rousseau on natural goodness at birth.
This undated painting was exhibited for the first time in 1776. Carefully preserved with discretion for almost two centuries by a British aristocratic family, it remains in a very exciting condition.
POST SALE COMMENT
This great example of animal orientalism was sold for £ 7.7M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's:
1776 The Dunlap Broadside
2000 SOLD for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
On July 4, 1776 the original manuscript of the Declaration was signed by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress and especially of this memorable session, and by Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress. From then they had to act in a hurry to propagate the information in the thirteen colonies and to the army. They had no time left for preparing a clean copy of that draft amended during the debates or a fortiori to have it signed by the delegates who have just approved its text.
The manuscript is forwarded to John Dunlap, a printer operating in Philadelphia who is the usual contractor for official Congress documents. The broadside is printed during the night of July 4 to 5. The manuscript no longer matters : it is lost in this operation. Hancock organizes the distribution of the document while urging each recipient to disclose the text by any appropriate means.
The quantity of copies of the Dunlap broadside is not known although the figure of 200 seems fair. 25 copies survive. Almost all are in US institutions or museums.
One of them was found in 1989 by a bargain hunter in the backside of the frame of a torn painting that he had just bought. It was sold for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 29, 2000, a record at the time for an Internet auction.
The buyer was the television producer Norman Lear supported by Internet entrepreneur David Hayden. Lear is not a collector. He immediately organized the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a non-profit organization committed for displaying this historic document to as many people as possible through tours from city to city.
1776 An English Commission for Vernet
2011 SOLD 7 M$ including premium
When he returned to France, King Louis XV commissioned him a series of monumental paintings showing life in the ports of France. He worked to it during ten years, from 1753 to 1762, and realized fourteen large size paintings, 263 x 165 cm.
The compositions are similar to those of his contemporary of Venice, Francesco Guardi. The ports are realistic and recognizable. In the foreground, on the waterfront, a crowd of small figures brings the atmosphere of the time.
The English aristocrats were lovers of art and tourism. In 1774, one of them ordered to the artist a pair of paintings of a similar size as those of the royal commission. One of them is estimated $ 1.5 million, for sale at Sotheby's in New York on January 27.
Dated 1776, it shows a quiet sea shore at sunset. Small characters are unloading some merchandise from a tall ship that can be seen offshore. Buildings on the left are certainly part of a port facility. It is not located and is probably a work of imagination, as many of the unofficial paintings by Vernet.
Vernet's art is a realistic witnessing of his time, much interesting and also unexpected as it comes between the mythological imagination of le Lorrain (Claude Gellée) and the sentimental excesses of the Romantics.
POST SALE COMMENT
It is a very good day for the lovers of marine views by Vernet.
As I understood it, the painting described in my article could be compared to the most famous masterpieces of Vernet. It was sold $ 7M including premium.
A marine of smaller dimensions, 57 x 74 cm, was sold for $ 2.4 million including premium.
1778 Commode Royale by Riesener
1999 SOLD for £ 7M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2019 before the sale of another commode by Christie's (see below)
Premises are dedicated to these operations. In 1757 King Louis XV decides to build a hotel specially conceived for storing the furniture. Operational in 1772 and completed in 1774, this masterpiece by Ange-Jacques Gabriel is today the Hôtel de la Marine, on Place Louis XV completed by the same architect in 1772 and later Place de la Concorde.
Successor to Oeben whose widow he married, Jean-Henri Riesener specializes in luxury furniture. In 1774 he is appointed Ebéniste ordinaire du mobilier de la couronne.
The top luxury is obviously reserved for the king. Two commodes are made respectively in 1776 and 1778 by Riesener for the cabinet of King Louis XVI in Fontainebleau. The price paid by the king for the earlier commode had been 6,870 livres. The total amount of sales by Riesener for the court from 1774 to 1784 exceeded one million livres.
The 1778 Fontainebleau commode was sold for £ 7M including premium by Christie's on July 8, 1999 over a lower estimate of £ 1.5M, lot 201. This à ressaut shaped piece 95 cm high, 165 cm wide, 63 cm deep is in ormolu-mounted amaranth, sycamore, mahogany, parquetry and marquetry.
On April 30, 2019, Christie's sold for $ 1.16M including premium a commode of similar size, shape and materials made in 1774 by Riesener for the chief officer of the Garde-Meuble. This piece had possibly been a prototype for the commodes royales.
1779 George Washington at Princeton by Charles Willson Peale
2006 SOLD 21.3 M$ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Washington is towering by his tall stature and by his phlegm, and surprises his assistants by his abnegation and his virtues. It is not enough. He had never exercised a command on the battlefield and his weak and inexperienced army has everything to learn.
Everything seems easy for the British in December 1776, to the point that they decide to take up their winter quarters in New Jersey, waiting for the sunny days to capture Philadelphia. George Washington will soon be unable to pay his exhausted troops. In a heroic burst, he surprises the British garrisons in Trenton and Princeton. These were the first ever victories of the American army.
The war remains undecided, and they must continue to set an example. On January 18, 1779, the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania commissions a portrait of General Washington to Charles Willson Peale.
The young artist had made an early portrait of the hero at Mount Vernon in 1772. He had been part of the reinforcements from the militias of Pennsylvania who had contributed to the victories of Trenton and Princeton, and had been appreciated by the soldiers for the miniature portraits painted on the field of battle.
The work which responds to the order from Pennsylvania is a full-length standing portrait of Washington after the Battle of Princeton. The hero is displayed in his signature attitude of modesty, without the face or the clothing having been embellished. He puts his hand on a cannon. Symbols of victory include a column of British prisoners with their red coats. This oil on canvas 246 x 149 cm is kept at the museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The strengthening of the young nation also includes an international propaganda to its new French and Spanish allies. Autograph replicas are made by the artist. One of them, oil on canvas 244 x 156 cm dated 1779, was conveyed to Spain by an American diplomat. The political message gradually lost its force and the painting ended up being bequeathed to a Capuchin school in the Basque region, where it was bought around 1918 by an antiquarian dealer from New York.
This portrait of Washington at Princeton was sold for $ 21.3M including premium by Christie's on January 21, 2006, lot 547, over a lower estimate of $ 10M. Please watch the video prepared in 2015 by the auction house to remind the sale of this outstanding painting, the last of its type in private hands.