See also : Ancient French painting Stamps World stamps UK II British Royals George IV to Victoria Turner Watercolor by Turner Louis XVIII to 2nd Empire Venice
1841 Giudecca (Venice)
2006 SOLD for $ 36M by Christie's
Turner had an unlimited confidence in the correctness of his vision. Annoyed by the posthumous influence of Bonington, he exhibited new views of Venice during the summer of 1833 at the Royal Academy, to serve as models of the expression of atmosphere and poetry in painting, without having seen again the City of the Doges. He made his second stay there at the end of the same year and finally considered including Venice in his regular work.
An identical sequence of events took place in 1840, with two views of Venice exhibited at the Royal Academy before his departure for his third and final visit, which lasted two weeks only. This time the ethereal charm of Venice has operated.
In the following years, Turner was making a distinction between the watercolor sketches and the views in larger format which he considered as his finished works, the only ones worthy of being exhibited and sold. His finished views of Switzerland are large watercolors and his finished views of Venice are oils on canvas.
Painted in his studio after his come back, the panoramic views of Venice deserved a larger format than the watercolors. In order not to lose anything in the luminosity and the freshness of the colors, he paints Venice in oil with the same pigments as his watercolors. The pre-impressionist atmosphere also suggests that he had transferred the wet in wet technique of his watercolors onto his canvases, before adding the more realistic narrative drawing of the gondolas.
On April 6, 2006, Christie's sold as lot 97 for $ 36M a view of the Giudecca with La Donna della Salute and San Giorgio. This oil on canvas 61 x 92 cm was prepared by Turner for the 1841 exhibition of the Royal Academy. As often with this artist, the perfection of the composition and the color balance prevail over the topographic reality.
A 24 x 30 cm watercolor showing the Dogana under the new moon was sold for £ 960K by Christie's on July 10, 2014, lot 209. The evanescent clarity may be compared with the atmosphere of the oil on canvas discussed above.
1841 Bellini's Three Pictures (Venice)
2022 SOLD for $ 33.6M by Christie's
A view of Venice painted in 1841 in Turner's pre-impressionist brush work of the period is a tribute to his earliest great predecessor in the city, Giovanni Bellini. Titled Depositing of John Bellini's Three Pictures in La Chiesa Redentore, it depicts a flowing procession forwarding three pictures in the leading gondola, in the follow of Canaletto's successful theme of festivities.
Although it was exhibited in the same year at the Royal Academy beside two views inspired by its 1840 trip, it is a unique example in the larger 74 x 116 cm format and the only one with a narration.
The three pictures from the title are visible but so tiny that they cannot be identified. Probably Turner himself did not try it. It is pure fancy : no date has been forwarded for that special solemnity. It is even missing the usual bird's eye view of Canaletto's paintings.
This oil on canvas was sold for $ 33.6M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 46.
Another entry in the same 1841 exhibition was the view of La Giudecca, oil on canvas 61 x 92 cm sold for $ 36M by Christie's on April 6, 2006, lot 97.
2013 SOLD for $ 4.6M by Sotheby's
At 65, Turner is at the top of his art. He expresses in his watercolors the exceptional light and iridescence from poor weather conditions. The landscape is always identifiable and improved with small characters engaged in their daily tasks.
To respond to the order, he sketches Heidelberg when the rain has stopped and the rainbow is just beginning to rise. This large watercolor, 35 x 53 cm, was probably made in 1841. It will be published in 1846 by Prior.
The artwork presents a curiosity that is not a fantasy. Several characters are in medieval costume. Turner remains a witness of his time : in Heidelberg, university students used to dress in that way.
It was sold by Sotheby's for $ 4.6M on January 31, 2013, lot 101. The image is sourced from Sotheby's in Wikimedia.
1842 The Blue Rigi
2006 SOLD for £ 5.8 M by Christie's
He is a great innovator of color pictures. He succeeds in applying to oil painting the technique of overlapping wet colors that he had previously developed for watercolor. On his return from his 1840 trip to Venice, he achieves in both techniques the hues halfway between mist and dream for which he is rightly regarded as a precursor of impressionism.
The mountains appeal this idealist by their paradox between the aesthetic beauty of a calm day and the unstoppable power of its storms. From 1841 to 1844 he travels Switzerland in four successive trips. Murray's travel handbook does not leave his pocket : the legends created by the interaction between men and mountains nourish the creativity of the artist.
During the first of these four trips, Turner radically changed his business strategy. Previously he aimed at editing his images by printers. He now considers that watercolor can become a high quality product, providing the customer with an illusion of presence that exceeds that of oil painting. The large format allows him to add with his subtle touch and fine line the details that animate the scenery.
Back in his workshop after his 1841 trip, Turner prepares fifteen 24 x 30 cm views of Lucerne and its surroundings for demonstrating the light effect to his clients, with the project of copying each sketch in a larger 30 x 45 cm as a single piece. This uniqueness enables him to raise the price of these "finished" watercolors to 80 guineas each, a very high figure at that time.
In the spring of 1842 his commercial agent Thomas Griffith organizes in London the sale of ten artworks of which only four were completed at that time. The other eleven sketches enabled to appreciate in advance the effect of the final work.
Three of the exhibited scenery show the Rigi beyond the Lake of Lucerne at different hours of the day. The mountain is dark before dawn, blue at sunrise and red at twilight. These pictures precede Monet's variations of light on the Poplars and on the Cathedral of Rouen by half a century, although Turner did not conceive them as a series.
Griffith selects four clients for this operation. Three of them are great collectors of modern art. The very young John Ruskin whose reputation as an art critic is already established is the fourth. He will later rightly recognize that this series of watercolors is the best of Turner in his entire career in that technique.
The most ancient collector does not accept the invitation. The most motivated is Munro of Novar who in 1836 had the rare honor of being accepted as Turner's traveling companion. He leaves with three finished watercolors and buys two of the future works. Ruskin also chooses two future works.
The other customer is the whaling tycoon Bicknell who had bought in 1841 the view of the Giudecca. He had a good taste : his oil on canvas was sold for $ 36M by Christie's in 2006.
In the sharing of the Swiss views, Bicknell takes the Blue Rigi, one of the four immediately available watercolors 30 x 45 cm.
This picture of the mountain against the light at dawn is a masterpiece of pre-impressionist art with the clarity and luminosity of a watercolor on paper. Warm and varied colors cancel the drawing, in the admirable blur of a sunrise. In the foreground, sharp tiny characters observe the landscape from the shores of the Lake of Lucerne.
It was sold for £ 5.8M by Christie's on June 5, 2006, lot 53. This stunning drawing is now owned by Tate Britain. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1845 Seaside at Folkestone
1984 SOLD for £ 7.4M by Sotheby's
mid 1840s The Bridge
2019 SOLD for £ 8.2M by Sotheby's
He admires the Liber Veritatis of Le Lorrain. A series of 71 images engraved between 1807 and 1819 under the title Liber Studiorum brings together Turner's landscape studies that can indeed be used by clients to commission "finished works".
Time passes. Turner is famous despite his eccentric temperament. His artistic creativity remains intact. He is aware that his art is unprecedented and decides to bequeath hundreds of pieces to the British nation. Eager for a posthumous recognition, he nevertheless flees his lifetime celebrity, spending his last years in Chelsea under the name of Mr Booth which was the surname of his companion Sophia.
In his later works the landscapes are literally wrapped in light, with a gradual vanishing of figurative details. He retrieves his dear old themes of the Liber Studiorum, which he reissues in 1845 in fifteen additional copies printed from the original plates under the influence of Ruskin.
The corpus of these late paintings made by Turner in direct relationship with the Liber includes nine large size artworks. Only one is still in private hands. This oil on canvas 88 x 118 cm was sold for £ 8.2M from a lower estimate of £ 4M by Sotheby's on July 3, 2019, lot 11.
This painting is inspired by an image of the Liber titled The Bridge in the Middle Distance. A confusion with the views of Italy, perhaps due to the light of the Venice views painted after his 1840 trip, has long masked the topographical theme of this image, the double Walton Bridge on the Thames, one of his favorite sites. The landscapes of J.M.W. Turner are universal.
2022 SOLD for $ 4.6M by Christie's
A view of the twilight on the Lungernsee painted ca 1848 was sold for £ 3.6M by Sotheby's on July 4, 2007, lot 4, and for $ 4.6M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 56.
It is painted in watercolor over dipped pencil with stopping out heightened with watercolor and with touches of gum arabic, The 38 x 56 cm wove paper is watermarked J. Whatman 1846.
The Wellhorn is snow covered in the distance. The cloudy sky is centered by a moon crescent which is also reflecting through the mist in the lake. While a natural lake, the water level of the Lungernsee had been lowered by 6 m by engineering in 1836. Cattle are walking on that new drainage.
Unknown in Turner's lifetime, this view had long been mistaken for an Italian lake. In 2001 an expert reconciled it with a couple of line drawings of the Lungern See in Turner's 1844 Lucerne to Thun sketchbook.
1844-1847 The Peace of Isaiah
2020 SOLD for $ 4.6M by Christie's
Each opus shows the holy land of the messianic prophecies of Isaiah. In the background William Penn negotiates peace with the Delaware Indians. Founder of Bucks County, Penn is the local hero and an example to follow. First Quaker in America, he knew by his good will to obtain this lasting agreement between two communities which were considered as irreconcilable.
Early examples of the Peaceable Kingdom frequently include an eight-verse sermon directly inspired by Isaiah 11: 6-7 which establishes the spiritual relationship between the two stories :
When the great Penn his famous treaty made
With indian chiefs beneath the Elm tree's shade
The wolf did with the lambkin dwell in peace
His grim carnivorous nature there did cease
The leopard with the harmless kid laid down
And not one savage beast was seen to frown
The lion with the fatling on did move
A little child was leading them in love
In 1827 a cousin of the artist named Elias Hicks generated the first great split in the community, in a rural reaction against the bourgeois trend of the Philadelphia Quakers. Banners and poems disappear from Edward's paintings, presumably for protection against factious interpretations.
The detail of the composition changes. The Messianic child with an adult head and wisdom is relegated to the background, leaving the place of honor to the reclining leopard. Suddenly in an image created in 1844 the leopard rises on his four legs, arches his back and howls to encourage his female to action.
On January 24, 2020, Christie's sold for $ 4.6M a Peaceable Kingdom painted between 1844 and 1847 with the same militant attitude of the leopard. This oil on canvas 60 x 80 cm had been estimated $ 1.5M, lot 211.
This feline energy is not irremediable. A Peaceable Kingdom 66 x 75 cm painted between 1846 and 1848 with again the leopard of serenity was sold in 2010 by Sotheby's in a private sale for $ 7M after the cancellation for non-payment of the bidding of May 22, 2008 which had reached $ 9.7M including premium.
At the end of his life, Edward Hicks may have had metaphysical doubts. Dated circa 1849, Washington at the Delaware indeed tells a glorious episode in local history, but this resolutely militaristic theme seems to be in total opposition to the Quaker pacifism.
The Important American Furniture, Folk Art and Silver sale in #AmericanaWeek #NewYork is led by a magnificent Edward Hicks, ‘Peaceable Kingdom’ - a “Late Kingdom” masterpiece made at the height of the artist’s career and one of the most successful examples of his famous subject. pic.twitter.com/TFr3dixsjZ— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 21, 2019
1846-1848 The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity by Edward Hicks
2008 SOLD for $ 9.7M by Sotheby's (UNPAID 4 months later)
The image is shared by WikiGallery.
1845 Corot above the Fireplace
2018 SOLD for $ 9M by Christie's
Nobody is really convinced by the art of Corot until the young Baudelaire, in 1845, observes that the simplicity of his landscapes is not naive but is instead a supreme harmony. As a result Corot's art is forever unclassifiable, between classicism and modernism. Despite his pleasure in open-air painting, he cannot be considered as a forerunner of the Impressionnistes, in the opposite of Boudin and Courbet slightly later.
Throughout his life Corot has a lot of friends. He supplies paintings to a magistrate of Mantes whom he met from 1840 and decorates in his own hand the walls of the bathroom with Italian views.
Corot had visited Venice in 1828 and 1834. For the same friend he painted in 1845 an enlarged version in the format 48 x 82 cm of a view of the quay of the Schiavoni towards Santa Maria della Salute.
In 1957 this painting caught the attention of David Rockefeller. It is not a Canaletto : the animation is poor. It is not a Guardi : the sky is too blue. It is neither a Turner nor a Monet : the line is too sharp to offer an atmosphere. Despite the confusing perspective on the Piazzetta, it is not a wide-angle photo. The erroneous shadows of earlier versions of this image have fortunately been rectified.
This bright painting has two other qualities : it exudes a great serenity and its width is in harmony with the fireplace of the library in the country house at Hudson Pines. It superseded at this place a Jas de Bouffan by Cézanne of which Rockefeller was bored and was to remain there until his death. It was sold for $ 9M from a lower estimate of $ 5M by Christie's in New York on May 8, 2018, lot 4.
1847 Mauritius Stamps
The Invitation Cover
2021 SOLD for € 8.1M before fees by Gärtner
The stamps are inscribed POST OFFICE on the left edge, which corresponds to the marks previously used by this post, and also to the first US stamps issued in the same year.
The issue of 500 stamps of each denomination is ready just in time to be used for an invitation to a costume ball at Government House. The postal rate is 1 penny for a delivery in Port Louis and 2 pence for the rest of the island.
This first release is unique. A few months later, new plaques are prepared for multiple printing. The two editions differ in the text, which becomes POST PAID.
One of four surviving covers mailed for the invitation to the ball was sold for € 8.1M before fees by Gärtner on June 26, 2021, lot 1. It is illustrated with also the Bordeaux cover on the post sale release shared by Barnebys. It had been sold for CHF 1.4M before fees by David Feldman on November 3, 1993, lot 452.
This cover was circulated with the One Penny stamp. The recipient, "H. Adam Esq Junr", was locally best known : no address has been written. He remembered fifty years later having attended the ball.
The stamp is clean with clear margins. The mark PAID cancels the stamp and a mark PENNY POST is on the top left side of the cover. The reverse is stamped by the Mauritius Post Office at a date, September 27, 1847, which is the 7th day of the issue. Its provenance is unbroken from its first addressee to now. It was once in the collection of King Carol of Romania.
The Bordeaux Cover
1993 SOLD for CHF 6.1M by David Feldman (worth US $ 4.1M at that time)
The only known unused copy of the 1 penny was sold for CHF 1.4M before fees. One of the four unused copies of the 2 pence was sold for CHF 1.5M before fees. A cover mailed for the invitation to the ball was sold for CHF 1.4M before fees.
A cover sent from Port Louis to a wine merchant in Bordeaux has been stamped at the overseas rate and includes a copy of both denominations. Discovered in 1902 by a schoolboy who was consulting the recipient's archives, it is kept with its letter. It was sold for CHF 5M before fees, CHF 6.1M including premium, lot 155.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.