Ancient Flemish Art
Chronology : 1460-1479 16th century 1500-1519 1520-1539 17th Century 1600-1609 1610-1619 1620-1629 1630-1639 1640-1649
early 1470s Unveiling a Renaissance Virgin and Child
2017 SOLD for $ 9M including premium
The great collector Horace Walpole had acquired it for 80 guineas in 1752 in an auction, as a scene of the marriage of Henry VII with Elizabeth of York in 1486. A difference in technique between the characters and the architectural elements suggests that the composition is hybrid but Walpole is very proud to possess this painting considered as typically Tudor. The provenance is known : it had belonged to William Sykes half a century earlier.
It is exhibited in 1890. An acute observer tells in the Gazette des Beaux Arts that he perceives a classic Virgin and Child through the central part which is a church interior without figures.
The work was acquired in 1977 by the art dealer Edward Speelman. Convinced that only the architectural elements and three of the four saints were contemporaries of the Flemish Renaissance, he entrusted the restoration to the specialist David Bull of the Norton Simon Museum.
In a patient work that spans almost ten years, Bull removes with his knife the 18th century paintings, certainly made by or for Sykes who had a reputation as a faker and knew how to transform works when it pleased his clients. Bull's work brings to light a superb drawing of the Virgin and Child in the central part, supersedes Elizabeth of York with an ill-preserved drawing of St John the Baptist and restitutes to the false Tudor the attributes of St. Louis.
The expertise continued. Radiographic inspection and infrared reflectography demonstrate that the quality of the under-drawing is homogeneous throughout the surface. All the composite elements resulting from the painstaking work of Bull come from a Renaissance work. The beauty of drawing, painting and colors indicates that this panel is the autograph work of a master.
The comparison of expressive details, such as the face of the Virgin or the study of feet, with works indisputably attributed to Hugo van der Goes is convincing and a dating in the early 1470s is consistent with the dendrochronology of the panel. Hugo was a perfectionist until he fell into madness. He worked in Ghent where he admired the polyptych painted half a century earlier by the van Eyck brothers for the altar of St. Bavon's cathedral.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's :
1505 The Best Artists from Ghent and Bruges
2014 SOLD 13.6 M$ including premium
One of these masterpieces is known as the Rothschild Prayerbook. It was sold for £ 8.6 million including premium at Christie's on July 8, 1999. It is estimated $ 12M, for sale by Christie 's in New York on January 29.
It is a book of hours for the use of Rome (meaning that is based on Roman liturgy), made around 1505 in Ghent or Bruges. In a small format 23 x 16 cm, this book with 252 leaves in luxurious vellum includes 67 large illustrations.
From an iconographic point of view, it is a fabulous collection of religious and liturgical scenes, showing in very fresh colors the life and customs of its time. Decorative borders offer an extended variety of topics.
The styles of these images clearly show that several workshops have co-operated, and comparison with other manuscripts and paintings can identify that it was made by the most renowned artists of their time. Their co-operation in such collective artworks was an extraordinary and unique business of which no direct witnessing has surfaced.
The main illustrators of the Rothschild Prayerbook were Gerard Horenbout who worked at Ghent and Alexander Bening, a member of the guilds of Bruges and Ghent. Simon Bening, son of Alexander, to whom a few images are attributed, will be the last great Flemish illuminator. The style of Gerard David, the leading painter in Bruges at that time, is recognized on several images.
POST SALE COMMENT
This masterpiece reaches once again a great price : $ 13.6M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's :
1532 Game of Life in Antwerp
2019 SOLD for $ 10M including premium
Jan Sanders van Hemessen was received in 1524 at the Guild of Saint Luke of Antwerp where he joined Quentin Massys. A friend of Erasmus, Massys had introduced the grotesque into his religious and secular scenes. Much ahead of its time, the Lender and his wife, painted in 1511 by Massys, shows two characters captured in a moment of their professional activity.
Van Hemessen's creativity is very innovative. He is the first to practice what was later called the Mannerist inversion, which consisted of relegating the religious scene to the background for devoting the foreground to a scene of daily life with the clothes of his time.
Often the religious action disappears, replaced by an accumulation of symbols that are no longer comprehensible to the observer of today but allows all fantasies, such as to apply to an angel the very colorful wings of a butterfly. By his frequent use of an instant narrative, van Hemessen is the founder of the Flemish genre painting and anticipates Bruegel's proverbs.
On May 1 in New York, Christie's sells a 111 x 128 cm oil on panel painted by van Hemessen in 1532, lot 7 estimated $ 4M.
This life-size half-length double portrait shows a man and a woman in a cozy interior. Richly dressed, they certainly belong to the Antwerp bourgeoisie. They are seated at a table centered by the board of a game which is a precursor to the backgammon.
These two characters discuss an element of the on-going game. The forefinger of the woman is pointing to two dice that have just revealed their number. They look at each other with a loving smile. Several elements, including the rings on the fingers and a quince freshly cut for sharing, evoke their marriage. Some other symbols are religious.
Please watch the video prepared by Christie's in which this painting is discussed by its consignor the minimalist artist Frank Stella.
The Battle between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel the younger
2011 SOLD for £ 6.9M including premium by Christie's
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.
1609-1612 Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens
2002 SOLD 49.5 M£ including premium by Sotheby's
1610 The Weight of the Cross
2019 SOLD for $ 8.2M including premium
The truce of Antwerp, signed in April 1609, puts an end to warfare for twelve years but religious tensions remain. The St. Walburga's church in Antwerp commissions to Rubens for its altar a monumental triptych on the theme of the elevation of the cross, conducive to distinguish the Catholic dogma from the Protestant.
This triptych prepared in 1610 is a masterpiece of baroque art. The soldiers who raise the cross are facing a superhuman weight that proves the real presence of Christ. The diagonal composition of the central panel and the dazzling chiaroscuro are inspired by Caravaggio's style. The almost nude or armored soldiers who handle the cross are strong men for whom Rubens remembers the Laocoon and Hercules Farnese, of which he had made drawings in Rome.
The painting is positioned in height above 19 steps. He finishes in 1611 in situ this work, 4.60 x 6.40 m overall in open position, which will be later transferred to the cathedral of Antwerp.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells a large drawing 49 x 32 cm made in preparation to the Elevation of the Cross, lot 15estimated $ 2.5M. Both right corners were cut for an undetermined reason, perhaps by the artist himself.
This drawing shows a soldier raising his arm to push the cross. He is naked while he will have an armor in the painting. In accordance with the practice of the Italian Renaissance, the study of the nude makes it possible to avoid anatomical errors in the painting of attitudes.
It was prepared by the artist to compare in a single drawing two possible positions of the left leg, more or less bent. The closer position is more convincing to express the effort. Rubens draws a stronger line on this version that he will use in the final work.
1612-1614 Rubens inspired by Titian
2010 SOLD 9 M£ including premium
Represented in three quarter length, the man embodies the power of an officer who goes into battle. He pays little attention to two young pages busy adjusting his equipment. The press release with an illustration of this painting is shared by AuctionPublicity.
This oil on panel, 123 x 98 cm, made around 1612 to 1614, looks like a Titian by the quality of its composition and also the liveliness of its animation.
Rubens had visited Italy between 1600 and 1608 to study the great masters, and had fallen under the spell of the work of his Venetian predecessor. He could not ignore the room of the Caesars in the Palace in Mantua, where were gathered twelve portraits by Titian of men in armor. Another military allegory of Rubens, seeming close to this Titian series that disappeared in a fire in 1734, was sold £ 4.4 million including premium by Sotheby's on July 10, 2002.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1614 Rubens in front of Sodom
2016 SOLD for £ 45M including premium
In Italy, Rubens had admired Titian. In the north, he sees the increasingly risqué themes by Goltzius and Wtewael. Taboos fall : Bible and mythology offer erotic stories through moral excuses.
On July 7 in London, Christie's sells as lot 12 Lot and his daughters, oil on canvas 190 x 225 cm painted by Rubens circa 1614. This painting is a rediscovery : it had not been seen since a failed attempt of sale in 1904 and 1905 and its re-inspection pushes it among the masterpieces of the artist.
Rubens offers here a three character scene of high psychological complexity. In 1608, François de Sales judged that the story of Lot was not an incest but a forgivable sin. Lot is a nice old drunkard, like Noah.
In his great compositions from this phase of his career, Rubens wisely mixes nude and clothing. Although the bare flesh is the main target of the work, such a mingled attire brings presence and actuality to his antique theme. Samson and Delilah, the Massacre of the Innocents and the Drunken Silenus are other famous examples.
The abundant flesh is processed in an impasto that allows subtle variations of light and texture and promotes the sensual effect despite the advanced age of the man. Lot and his daughters remained in excellent condition in which only an aging varnish may be slightly blamed.
The artist had carefully read the Genesis : the two women were not made pregnant in the same day and only one is naked, ready but also worrying for the act. Her sister is closer to the father, with the charming smile of a woman who is achieving her conspiracy. The attitude and indeed the splendidly haggard gaze of the man express his full intoxication that encourages the nude girl to pour the wine once again. The Silenus will reuse similar characters in 1616.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1624 full set of the Four Seasons by Pieter Brueghel the Younger
2016 SOLD for £ 6.5M including premium by Christie's
1633-1635 Francken between Vice and Virtue
2010 SOLD 7 M€ including premium
On April 21 in Vienna, Dorotheum sells as lot 5 an outstanding oil on panel 142 x 211 cm by Francken on the moralizing theme of human choice between vices and virtues.
The composition is in two superimposed registers, according to the practice which had been so common in medieval iconography, long before this painting dated 1633 or 1635.
Upstairs, in an architectural environment, a pilgrim is surrounded by the virtues, on the left of the image, and vices and sins, on the right. Above him, a cloud is housing the Paradise. The lower register shows Hell with Satan and his pleasures.
POST SALE COMMENT
I think that nothing similar went on the market since a long time. The result, € 7 million including premium, confirms the importance of this painting. A great result for a great work, from all points of view.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1641 Van Dyck painted by Himself
2009 SOLD 8.3 M£ including premium
In 1641, a few months before his death, he made the self-portrait on canvas that Sotheby's is selling in London on December 9. He is a typical gentleman of the mid-seventeenth century, with long hair pulled back to clear the forehead, and abundant whiskers. He was shown almost in profile, in an oval format that is highlighted by a splendid frame.
The lower estimate announced by Sotheby's is £ 2 million, but the press retains only the higher estimate, £ 3 million. Recent results for paintings by Van Dyck can actually give hope that this price is reached.
In the same family for three centuries, this portrait was one of the stars of the Van Dyck exhibition at Tate Britain in London last spring.
Here are links to information provided by other sites that encourage sharing. You will access to the photo of the artwork, with in one of these pages the presence of an assistant who gives the scale. I wish you a pleasant visit.
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POST SALE COMMENT
This outstanding and attractive painting get one of the best results of this London sale session: £ 8.3 million including premium.
1641 Royal Children by van Dyck
2018 SOLD for £ 5.9M including premium
When van Dyck began this new mission in 1632, the royal couple had two children, Charles and Mary. James, Elizabeth and Anne will be born later. The artist watches them grow.
The mother, Henriette, brought to the Stuart court her French elegance with luxurious fabrics. A portrait kept in the Boston Museum shows Mary in 1637. The six-year-old princess wears a long silk dress to which the artist's skill brings a lustrous appearance.
On May 2, 1641 Mary marries a prince of Orange. In the days that followed, van Dyck paints a new portrait similar to the previous one, on which the little girl now wears her wedding ring and the brooch offered by her newlywed.
Making autograph copies is a common practice of van Dyck. By the quality of dress and jewels and the transparency of the embroidery, the 158 x 109 cm autograph oil on canvas for sale by Christie's in London on December 6 is perhaps the original painting of 1641. It is estimated £ 5M, lot 15.
On December 5 in London, Sotheby's sells another example of same size, lot 30 estimated £ 600K. The figure of the child is identical but the ambience background has nearly vanished, and the spectacular coral pink gown worn at the wedding has become a saturated orange, probably to please the new Orange in-laws of the princess. A participation of the studio is possible.
A portrait of the same format and same year shows the Prince of Wales later King Charles II, aged 11, in armor. It was probably since its creation a pendant with Mary's picture in orange and is estimated £ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in the same sale, lot 29.
Please watch the videos shared by the auction houses.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Christie's (Princess Mary) : SOLD for £ 5.9M
Sotheby's (Prince Charles) : SOLD for £ 2.6M
Sotheby's (Princess Mary) : SOLD for £ 790K
These portraits of an 11 year-old Charles II, when Prince of Wales, and his 9 year-old sister Mary, Princess Royal, were among the last works #VanDyck painted for his royal patron, Charles I. #SothebysMasters https://t.co/cGm7aFEAvb pic.twitter.com/lYbs1RzTEW— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) September 13, 2018