1830 The Sketch of Democracy
2017 SOLD for £ 3.1M including premium
The path he chooses is difficult : without any figure of famous personality in the opposite of David and Gros, Delacroix will have to demonstrate his own genius to find patrons. The contemporaries do not like the dirt of his war characters. His realism anticipates Courbet.
In 1830 violent events also happen in Paris. The barricades of the Trois Glorieuses (three glorious days) transfer the French monarchy from the Bourbons to the Orléans. Delacroix had no reason to participate in this new revolution : both branches of the royal family were his clients.
Overcome in the usual competitions of that time on predetermined historical themes, Delacroix feels that he can be the first to express the heroic atmosphere of the Trois Glorieuses to please the new regime.
Already about the Greek war Delacroix had shown fighting and harmed people, and also a feminine Victory inspired by ancient art as a separate artwork. For the Trois Glorieuses he has the very innovative idea of mixing the two themes in a single heroic painting of very large size. He immediately begins to prepare drawings.
Success is mixed. Exhibited in 1831 at the Salon de Paris under the slightly bland title Scènes de Barricades, the oil painting 260 x 325 cm also known as 28 Juillet is bought by the king and then retracted by a minister after a few months with the very understandable excuse that it was an incitement to riot. Accepted by the Louvre at the beginning of the Troisième République, this Liberté guidant le peuple becomes the symbol of democracy.
On December 14 in London, Christie's sells a 64 x 85 cm canvas which is certainly the very first oil sketch made by Delacroix for his Liberté. It is estimated £ 700K, lot 8. Remaining traces of a change of orientation of the canvas allow to state that this painting is autograph. It is a precious testimony of the creative process for one of the most universally admired masterpieces of French art.
1831 Dao Guang seal
2011 SOLD for RMB 91M including premium by Poly
1831 Stormy Sky over Salisbury
2015 SOLD for $ 5.2M including premium
The artist began by executing outdoor drawings. The sketches in oil on canvas enabled him afterward to experiment with color, balance and mood before a full-scale sketch which preceded the ultimate painting. The gradual observation of his own sketches superseded his sensorial memory of the original scenery.
On January 29 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 46 x 61 cm which was an important step in the composition of the view of Salisbury. It is estimated $ 2M, lot 96.
In a sale at Christie's in 2013, this artwork remained unnoticed except, fortunately, by its winning bidder. It was tarnished by a coating that its owner withdrew, revealing the beautiful sky of an extreme thunderstorm with sunshine illuminating the cathedral.
The achieved version will retain the threatening clouds, now with a rainbow announcing the end of the storm. In a lesser contrast of light than our sketch, it is one of the most successful atmosphere effects in the English countryside by the best specialist in the subject, at the time of romanticism.
1834 Choc de Cavaliers Arabes by Delacroix
1998 SOLD for FF 51M including premium by Piasa
narrated in 2020
In 1834 the oil on canvas Femmes d'Alger dans leur Appartement is the masterpiece of this new exoticism. It recreates the living room of a harem by featuring women from Paris dressed in Algiers fashion. The painting which indirectly addresses the taboo theme of prostitution is accepted at the Salon and immediately purchased by the Louvre. Picasso will compare this mixture of genres to his own Demoiselles d'Avignon.
In the same year, Choc de Cavaliers Arabes is a memory of a military celebration. The artist shows the moment of heightened energy when two riders stop their galloping horses after having fired the rifle shot required by the fantasia. The theme did not appeal to the Parisian jury : this piece was rejected by the Salon. Influenced directly by Géricault and Gros, Delacroix excelled in the representation of horses.
This oil on canvas 80 x 100 cm was sold by Piasa on June 19, 1998 for FF 51M, equivalent to € 7.7M, including premium, from a lower estimate of FF 8M.
The rejection by the Salon did not discourage the artist : two autograph drawings were made in 1834 in reverse composition to prepare the lithographic edition. One of them, 18 x 25 cm, was sold for € 39K including premium by Artcurial on June 16, 2020.
1834 The Muscat Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 5.3M including premium
The diplomat Edmund Roberts had convinced the Sultan of Muscat and Oman in 1833 of the interest of signing a treaty of friendship and commerce with the United States. In 1834 President Jackson asks Roberts to prepare for this mission, to which he adds a visit to the King of Siam.
Among the diplomatic gifts, the Americans define a box that will contain an example of each of the coin denominations in circulation. The cumulative face value of the ten samples is derisory : $ 19.415. The double eagle did not yet exist.
The target is indeed to demonstrate the quality of proof coins produced in the United States. This prestige finish had been used sparingly since 1801 for silver, 1817 for copper and 1820 for gold. A 1821 quarter eagle graded PR64 Cameo by PCGS was sold for $ 240K including premium by Heritage in January 2007.
For the largest silver and gold coins, $ 1 and $ 10 respectively, President Jefferson suspended production in 1804 to curb speculation, while maintaining their circulation. For these two denominations, the factory decides to supply coins inscribed 1804 rather than 1834 which would be illegal. These coins will necessarily be a new build, to display the proof finish in mint condition.
Two dollars and two eagles were thus produced at the end of 1834. The eagles used for the obverse a spare die from the 1800s decade on which the engraving of the last digit of the year still had to be done. This 4 designed in the style of the 1830s makes it possible to distinguish between the Crosslet 4 variety produced in period and the Plain 4 variety produced for the Roberts mission.
In March 1835 two other destinations are added to the mission at the last moment. Two new 1804 eagles and two new 1804 dollars are minted. A tiny defect in the eagle die has been repaired in the mean time. There will be no further 1804 Plain 4 eagles, confirming the recent hypothesis that the four 1804 Class I supernumerary dollars are patterns unrelated to the Roberts mission.
The eagles prepared for Muscat and Siam are the two pieces from the first batch. No test eagle having been identified, they are the first two eagles to have been processed as proofs.
The Muscat specimens are the best in both varieties. The dollar is graded PR68 by PCGS. The eagle, graded PR65+ Deep Cameo by PCGS, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 20, lot 3049.
NEW RECORD: The finest of just three known examples of the 1804 $10 Plain 4, BD-2, JD-1, Judd-33, High R.7, PR65+ Deep Cameo PCGS. CAC brings $5,280,000 at the FUN US Coins Signature Auction – the most ever paid at auction for a coin! https://t.co/6sLPD6FYbz#AuctionUpdate pic.twitter.com/aD2ohJauuy— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 21, 2021
1834 The Dollar of the Kings
1999 SOLD 4.1 M$ including premium by Bowers and Merena
The dollar dated 1804 is an extraordinary coinage whose story is worthy of an oriental tale.
The first specimen identified as Sultan of Muscat-Watters-Brand-Childs-Pogue 1804 dollar class I is really fabulous. It was sold for $ 4.1 million including premium by Bowers and Merena in August 1999, the highest recorded price for any coin at that time. It is for sale by Stack's Bowers, successor to Bowers and Merena, in cooperation with Sotheby's on May 24 in New York, lot 4020.
The Sultan of Oman is an important Arabian monarch who controls the trade in the Horn of Africa which is a major passage to the Orient. His capital is Muscat. An American dealer named Edmund Roberts manages to meet the Sultan in Zanzibar in 1827, opening the possibility to create an American influence in Asia.
Roberts is naturally designated in 1832 by the government of President Jackson to finalize the trade agreement with Muscat. The tradition is to support the negotiations in the East with gifts. Americans are not familiar with this practice: there will be no investment for this operation which, if successful, will however bring huge sources of revenues for the United States.
Roberts does not wish being commissioned to offer a ridiculous gift to the Sultan. He imagines a morocco box containing a sample of each legal coins of the United States. The order is sent to the Philadelphia Mint to run this special operation.
The silver dollar is a legal coin but President Jefferson suspended its production in 1804. Its face value is the symbol of the American currency and this piece should be the focus of the gift. New dies are created from the punches that began to rust after three decades of storage. The date 1804 is selected because it is the latest that is credible.
The first class I 1804 dollar is struck in November or December 1834 with great care so that this brand new piece of silver shall dazzle the Sultan of Muscat when he opens the box. The government is enthusiastic about the idea of Roberts and a similar gift is simultaneously prepared for the King of Siam. Six other class I coins will be struck including at least two before Roberts left for the East.
Roberts presented the box to the Sultan on October 1, 1835, the day following the signing of the treaty of friendship between both countries. This exceptional coin has been kept in mint condition. It is graded Proof 68 by PCGS. The image below has been downloaded a few years ago from Wikimedia.
The prestige of this piece with coin collectors is further increased by the fact that it is the first silver dollar on the date of 1804. At the time of Jefferson's decision the dollars produced earlier in that year were still using the dies dated from the previous year.
Please watch the video shared by Stack's Bowers in 2018.
1835 Turner over the Tiber
2014 SOLD for £ 30.3M including premium
Turner had a friend as difficult as himself in his temper : Hugh Munro of Novar. It was the time of the watercolorist travelers and Munro would have liked to become an artist. Turner tried to help him but the younger man was not skilled. He was to become one of the greatest art collectors of his time.
When Turner returned from Rome, Munro commissioned him with a painting on which the city was to be shown with the greatest topographic truth. Turner reinspected his drawings. The oil on canvas showing the view of Rome from Mount Aventine, 93 x 126 cm, was completed in 1835.
In the morning light, this view is a masterpiece from that period of great maturity of the artist. The blurring by mist above the Tiber is a pre-impressionist feat. The drawing of the urban texture is of high detail all over the huge extent of the city and the animation is nice.
This work could be a pendant with a view from Capitoline hill purchased in 1839 by Munro. Passed in 1878 in the collection of the Earls of Rosebery, both paintings have remained in a fabulous condition. The view from the Capitol was sold for £ 29,7M including premium by Sotheby's on July 7, 2010.
The view over the Tiber is estimated £ 15M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 3, lot 44. I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1835 Romantic Pilgrimage in Rhineland
2017 SOLD for £ 18.5M including premium
He is also a keen traveler. When touring all over Europe he deliberately walked in the fictional footsteps of Childe Harold, the disillusioned young man of Byron's poem who visited the sites wrought by wars to satisfy his need for freedom.
In 1835 Turner finishes his sublime view showing Rome from the Aventine, oil on canvas 93 x 126 cm. Extending to the oil the traditional technique of watercolor, the superposition of very thin layers of paint brings a transparency that simulates the sunny mist without weakening the details of the drawing. This painting was sold for £ 30.3M including premium by Sotheby's on December 3, 2014.
The artist has reached an agreement for an image of Germany with the engraver John Pye after he had appreciated the quality of the effects of light in his prints. When he receives the promised work, Pye is frightened but it is too late to give up : Turner did not execute a watercolor but an oil on canvas of large size, 93 x 123 cm, with the same subtle hues as in the Roman view. Meeting the requirements of the patron is virtually impossible.
This painting is a view of Ehrenbreitstein, subtitled The Bright Stone of Honour and the Tomb of Marceau from Byron's Childe Harold. The ruined fortress of Ehrenbreitstein which still dominates Koblenz is a symbol of the vanity of the old wars. Marceau is that young French general killed at the age of 27 near Koblenz who had deserved such a reputation for chivalrous bravery that the two hostile armies participated together in his funeral.
Contrary to the Roman view, the view of Rhineland does not seek an overall topographical truth. It is a set of scenes where peasant girls cohabit peacefully with soldiers of both armies.
The painting was finished in 1835. Nine years later Turner became impatient with Pye who succeeded in convincing him that his work was not abandoned. The engraving was printed in 1845 under the pressure of a collector who wanted to buy the original painting to Turner.
The Ehrenbreitstein view is estimated £ 15M for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 5, lot 21. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1835 The Clock of the Duc d'Orléans
2012 SOLD 6.8 M$ including premium
In 1795, Abraham-Louis Breguet imagines the combination of a clock and a watch. This outstanding inventor manages later to achieve this stupendous set known as Breguet Sympathique.
After being used during the day, the watch is repositioned in a cradle at the top of the clock. At midnight, the clock triggers a mechanism that enters the watch, measures and rectifies the error. After a few days, the value of the error is integrated into the beat of the watch and its adjustment becomes automatic.
When Breguet died in 1823, five copies have been made. Only kings can afford to own such an expensive mechanism.
Being an extremely remote cousin of Charles X, Louis Philippe I becomes King of France after a revolution. His eldest son, the duc d'Orléans, is a brilliant prince who would like to live again in the luxury of the Ancien Régime. He commissions his sympathique clock to the Breguet workshop. It is completed in 1835.
Luxury adds to technical feat. 58 cm high, the piece is made in the imitation of Boulle style which is so fashionable in that time, in a cabinet by Bellangé and with Denière bronzes on a design by Questel.
The clock and the watch of this set have not been separated. Having been restored to operation by George Daniels, it provides an exceptional demonstration of one of the most advanced ideas of automatism.
POST SALE COMMENT
Again a great and deserved price for this fabulous clock: $ 6.8 million including premium.
1838 The Birds of the Duke of Portland
2018 SOLD for $ 9.7M including premium
It is now estimated $ 8M for sale in the same auction room on June 14 as lot 1, as a charity to benefit the conservation of the natural environment.
I narrated it as follows in 2012 :
The complete version of Audubon's The Birds of America, published in London, includes 435 plates engraved from 1827 to 1838, hand-colored from the watercolors of the author and bound in four volumes. Made in a quite large 'double elephant' folio format 98 x 65 cm, it is the masterpiece of illustrated books. All birds were carefully illustrated in life size.
The introduction at auction of a full version in good condition is an event. Two of these prestigious copies came from original deliveries by subscription. They were respectively sold for $ 8.8 million including premium at Christie's on March 10, 2000 and for £ 7.3 million including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 2010.
At the end of the operation, Audubon's list included 161 subscribers. Its printers, Lizars and Havell, had planned it slightly wider, and it is likely that a few remaining copies have been assembled in volumes in 1838 for new customers while retaining the chronological order of publication.
The copy from the library of the Dukes of Portland is probably one of those assembled without subscription, and it remained in exceptionally fine condition. It may be considered like an original edition by the bibliophiles as most of the first plates are in first state, as evidenced by watermarks and through the variants in the legends. The five octavo volumes of texts are included in the lot.
1839 Turner on the Roman Hills
2010 SOLD 29.7 M£ including premium
The artist has placed the easel of his memory at the top of Capitoline Hill. The city lies before him, fully bathed in a wonderful light that enhances the perspective. The foreground is animated with efficiency and discretion by goatherds and peasants.
Do not look for photographic truth in this image. According to the style of that time, the position of the buildings owes more to art than to reality. But it is no longer a capriccio, and ancient and pontifical monuments are finely drawn.
Such a piece on the art market is by itself an event. Its exceptional condition makes it one the most important auction lots of the year. The painting has kept its original freshness and frame. It had been previously only once on the art market, in 1878. The Earl of Rosebery paid 4,450 guineas for it, on the occasion of his honeymoon.
On July 7 in London, Sotheby's announce this masterpiece at 12 million pounds.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate had been underestimated but not the importance of this painting, well relayed by the press releases.
Result: £ 29.7 million including premium.
See below the video shared by Sotheby's and the image shared by Wikimedia :