Ancient Flemish Art
See also : Oil on copper Madonna and Child Manuscript Illuminated Christian manuscript Religious texts
Chronology : 1460-1479 1500-1519 1530-1539 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 :
1490 Pentecost by a follower of Memling
2023 SOLD for £ 7.9M by Sotheby's
Mary is looking down at the open book on her lap. The gaze of the men is more or less turned upwards while a haloed dove is flying down. A couple of donors has been added. The composition is complex with a large fireplace, a door opening to a corridor and a yard through the windows.
A German painter working in Bruges from 1465 to his death in 1494, Hans Memling had begun his career in Brussels as an assistant to Rogier van der Weyden. A Madonna and Child surrounded by a praying crowd had been painted by Memling around 1488-1490.
The Rapaert Pentecost could be a prototype of the Pentecost theme painted in Bruges ca 1490 by a follower of Memling. Scholars consider a parallel with the half length donor portraits of Baroncelli husband and wife, painted in the 1490s by an unidentified master, possibly a son of Petrus Christus. Baroncelli was the operator of the Medici bank in Bruges.
This oil on panel 126 x 102 cm was sold for £ 4.2M by Christie's on December 7, 2010, lot 8, and for £ 7.9M by Sotheby's on July 5, 2023, lot 7. Its condition is exceptional. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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.
Combat between Carnival and Lent
1559 by Bruegel
Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
Pieter Bruegel chose the theme of peasant life. Their occupations are indeed symbols more or less easy to decode of the struggle between vices and virtues.
The difficulty in deciphering his message, which is explained by the political context, allows the modern viewer to focus his admiration on the anecdote. Bruegel's characters enchant us by their picturesque features and by the exceptional reference to the lifestyle of another time.
Pieter Bruegel painted the original version of the Combat Between Carnival and Lent in 1559. This work, currently preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, is teeming with life and colorful, in the best manner of an artist who was the best picture maker of popular scenes of all time. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Carnival is perched on a barrel and encouraged by his followers who leave the tavern. Lent is an unpleasant nun whose friends leave the church. On the Flemish village square, away from the main story, a crowd of people is busy with everyday occupations.
by Pieter Brueghel the younger
2011 SOLD for £ 6.9M by Christie's
Pieter II made five known replicas of the Combat Between Carnival and Lent. The only oil on canvas of the group, 119 x 171 cm, was sold by Christie's for £ 3.25M on December 7, 2006 and for £ 6.9M on December 6, 2011, lot 17.
On December 7, 2010 Christie's sold for £ 2M an oil on panel of almost the same size, 118 x 166 cm but in lesser condition. It has been established by dendrochronology that two of its planks came from a Baltic oak also used for another work by this artist dated 1603.
Also in similar dimensions, the best preserved of the four panels was sold for £ 4.5M by Sotheby's on July 4, 2012, lot 11.
See dedicated page :
1613 Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel
2014 SOLD for £ 6.8M by Sotheby's
One of his sponsors is the young cardinal Federico Borromeo. He is inspired by Filippo Neri, the apostle of the Counter-Reformation who advocates a joyful Christianity and sees the glory of God in the diversity of nature. Jan Brueghel's scenes of Paradise combine a wide variety of animals in an idyllic landscape with direct reference to Genesis.
Such a mystical perception of nature also inspires botanists and zoologists, who publish catalogs of species. Jan's invention around 1608 of painting bouquets with a wide variety of flowers was an epistolary suggestion from his friend the cardinal.
From 1612 to 1615, Jan takes up the theme of Paradise, with a more pleasant distribution of the elements. He saw the exotic animals of the Archduke's menagerie and compared his observations with the very innovative Rubens, with whom he was collaborating occasionally since 1598.
On July 9, 2014, Sotheby's sold at lot 19 for £ 6.8M including premium from a lower estimate of £ 2M a Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man, oil on copper 24 x 37 cm painted in 1613.
The left part is animated in the foreground by the royal animals, a pair of lions and a magnificent gray horse. Domestic and exotic quadrupeds and birds are distributed throughout the rest of the image. The Fall of Man, which justifies the Biblical context, is the picking of the apple. Adam and Eve are two tiny figures in the distance, painted in great fineness at a strong point of the image between the head of the horse and the beak of an ostrich.
1624 Cycle of the Seasons by Pieter Brueghel the younger
2016 SOLD for £ 6.5M by Christie's
The next cycle is a set of four prints on the seasons. The edition, in 1570, includes two works prepared by Hans Bol after Bruegel's death.
Pieter the Younger reuses most of the iconography left by his father. He makes complete sets of the cycle of the seasons, most of which have been dissociated.
Much to the frustration of experts, the only complete example in private hands had not been seen since an auction in Switzerland in 1927. It was sold by Christie's on July 7, 2016 for £ 6.5M including premium from a lower estimate of £ 3M, lot 6, after having been kept aside in a collection for nine decades.
The set consists of four oils on panel 42 x 57 cm each. Two are dated 1624. The four are signed P. Breughel, according to the alteration of his name which he was using since 1616. The arrangement of the signatures and dates suggests that this group was designed to be hung as a 2 x 2 square. The careful and homogeneous workmanship of these four paintings and the identification of the date, very rare for Pieter the Younger, attest to the importance the artist attached to this specific set.
1633 The Five Senses by Jan Breughel the younger
2022 SOLD for $ 8.6M by Christie's
Jan Brueghel the elder and Peter Paul Rubens executed together in 1617 and 1618 a series of the Five Senses which joined before 1636 the collections of the Alcazar. This set of five panels around 65 x 110 cm is currently kept at the Prado. In the same period a set of two painting displaying respectively two and three senses was made by Brueghel for presentation to the Archduke and Archduchess of Austria, joint sovereigns of the Netherlands.
Each sense is a female allegory surrounded by musical, scientific and military equipment along with flowers, game and fish. A putto is superseded by a wine-pouring satyr for the Taste.
Jan the elder died from cholera in January 1625 while his son Jan the younger was in Italy. When the younger returns to Antwerp a few months later, he is the only one able to maintain the family business. His siblings have been decimated and his half-brother Ambrosius is still a child. He sold the finished works of his father and completed some unfinished paintings.
The elder left an original corpus of a great variety. The younger continues in the same themes. He changes the spelling of his name to Breughel for differentiation.
An unsigned and undated set of five panels around 70 x 110 cm of the Senses was sold by Christie's for $ 3.9M on October 3, 2001, lot 98, and for $ 8.6M on November 9, 2022, lot 36. It had belonged to the Holy Roman emperors during the 18th century.
They are nearly identical to the original set of five and in the same size. A female semi-nude is now clothed, possibly for a cleric patron. Some slight differences in style led the experts to attribute them to Jan the younger when he went to manage the business of his late father. The personification and putti may be by another artist.
The set of originals was possibly copied in 1633 when moved via Antwerp to Spain for presentation by the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand to his brother King Felipe IV.
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.
Shared by Guardian
Shared by Bloomberg
Shared by Art Market Monitor
POST SALE COMMENT
This outstanding and attractive painting get one of the best results of this London sale session: £ 8.3 million including premium.
1646-1649 Artist Studio by Sweerts
2023 SOLD for £ 12.6M by Christie's
His followers are joined from 1646 to 1652 or slightly later by the Brussels born Michael Sweerts. Nothing is known about the training of this elusive but eclectic artist.
The Artist Studio is one of the most popular scenes by Sweerts while in Rome. Several in period replicas are known, some of them probably partly autograph. In this complex image, the artist at his easel in the dark is looking at his model, a seamstress at work in full light. In the foreground an assistant looks at a huge accumulation of plaster busts.
A previously unknown Artist Studio is considered as the original. It is signed and located by Sweerts and is tentatively dated from his Roman beginnings between 1646 and 1649 for pre-dating the examples kept at the Rijksmuseum and at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
This oil on canvas 80 x 108 cm was sold for £ 12.6M from a lower estimate of £ 2M by Christie's on July 6, 2023, lot 6.
The sewing woman devoting her attention to her work anticipates Vermeer's lacemaker by two decades. Fallen like Vermeer in oblivion, Sweerts was rediscovered in 1907.
#AuctionUpdate #MichaelSweerts's 'The Artist's Studio with a Seamstress' sold for £12,615,000 (x6 its low estimate) achieving a #WorldAuctionRecord for the artist. In a large studio, a painter sits at an easel with his back to the viewer turning in profile to observe his subject. pic.twitter.com/wfVQ72UbGs— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) July 6, 2023