Italian Painting 1280-1700
Chronology : 1150-1300 15th century 1460-1479 1480-1499 16th century 1500-1519 1520-1529 1540-1569 17th century 1620-1629
1280 Devotion with Cimabue
2019 SOLD for € 24M including premium
In 1272 in Rome, a notarial act mentions as a witness a Florentine painter identified as "Cimabove". It is a nickname, meaning Head of Ox. This allusion to his obstinacy indicates that his maturity was already recognized. In his corpus which was certainly important, only one painting was documented during his lifetime. It was in February 1302, just before his death.
Two elements from a devotional work are formally attributed to Cimabue and dated around 1280 by Wikipedia. They are painted with egg tempera and gold background on a thick poplar board. The analysis of the edges made it possible to position the Madonna and Child as the top left of a panel and the Flagellation as the bottom right.
The Passion of Christ cannot end with the flagellation. Both paintings were part of the left panel of a diptych whose elements were cut long time ago as singles for a mercantile purpose. The whole hypothetical right panel is lost. Diptychs and polyptychs were common practice. Small in size, they were folded to be easily carried from one place of worship to another.
A third opus has just surfaced, on the theme of the Mocking of Christ. This piece of wood 25.8 x 20.3 cm with a pictorial surface of 24.6 x 19.6 cm is the element at the bottom left of the left panel. The edges perfectly match the other two elements, including the tunnels of the woodworms that had been severed during the separation.
This work is a fine example of a composition from the very beginning of the Italian Renaissance. The characters are human and the drapes are flexible. Christ is serene, contrasting with the emotion of the other characters. He is a little taller and his clothes are darker. The perspective is clumsy, with the inversion of a roof : at that time, engineers have not yet developed the relevant geometry.
The crowd is dense on both sides of Christ, with an undeniable although very subtle coordinated movement. The characters on the right, who include the thorn-crown setter, are pushing together while the fellows on the left resist this pressure for maintaining the standing Christ.
There is no auction history for any authentic artwork by Cimabue. The Mocked Christ is estimated between € 4M and 6M for sale on October 27 in Senlis by Actéon, an auction house that operates mainly in Compiègne. Please read the article prepared by the Interenchères bidding platform and watch the video shared by Artcento. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1470-1475 Descent into Limbo, by Mantegna
2003 SOLD for $ 28.6M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
On January 23, 2003, Sotheby's sold for $ 28.6M including premium a Descent of Christ into Limbo, tempera and gold on canvas 39 x 42 cm painted circa 1470-1475. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
This theme is rare because it is only told in apocryphal scriptures. Between the Passion and the Resurrection, Christ makes a visit to Limbo where the virtuous patriarchs wait for the Messiah to open to them the gates of Paradise, closed since the fault of Adam.
The figures are standing on two floors as if by an ingenious theater machinery. Christ is seen from the back, bent over to comfort a patriarch who comes out at mid length from the abyss. At the same level as Christ in this world of the dead, five characters pray, four on the left and one on the right. They are naked except for a modest cloth around the belt.
The composition is designed with a remarkable balance divided in its center by the stick of Christ, creating a strong narrative tension although the main character, Christ, is not recognizable. Mantegna was possibly influenced by Donatello's formal studies for the interaction between the characters. Once again his independence from the traditional Christian iconography is extraordinary for his time.
1480 The Image Holder
2021 SOLD for $ 92M including premium
The earliest is a 58 x 44 cm tempera painted around 1474, kept in the Uffizi Gallery. The added element is a gilded gesso medal bearing the effigy of Cosimo de Medici. The second, 58 x 39 cm tempera painted around 1480, will be sold by Sotheby's in New York on January 28, lot 15. Its added element is an icon of an elderly bearded saint painted on a gold background.
In both cases, there is no doubt that Botticelli designed and made the recess in the wood to place the insert. The position of the fingers around the added object is very precise. However, we can legitimately question if the currently inserted piece is original.
Cosimo's medal probably meets the artist's original intention. The Quattrocento portraits are painted with great care in the physiognomy, but also with elements that symbolize the social position, character or life of the model. The Lady with an Ermine painted by Leonardo in 1489 is a perfect example. The medal inserted in Botticelli's painting is a tribute of the model to the founder of the political power of the Medici.
The image of the bearded saint is an authentic fragment of a Sienese painting from the Trecento. The absence of an attribute to identify the saint is an anomaly if we consider the importance given to it by its holder. It may have been inserted later to replace another detached or damaged image.
Beyond these doubts, both paintings are direct witnesses of the iconographic inventiveness of one of the greatest masters of the Quattrocento.
The portrait of the young man holding the icon is in an exceptional state of conservation. This unidentified prince is sympathetic by his desire to have his medallion admired. His attitude is straight. The dark mauve pigment of the tunic is luxurious and rare. The December 4 press release reveals an estimate in excess of $ 80M. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Madonna of the Magnificat by BOTTICELLI
Tondi were a fashion of the time for a private devotion and contemplation above eye level. Botticelli managed to have the lines modified to match a perfect view in that position.
The Madonna and Child are surrounded by five angels, two of them holding a crown over Mary's head. The Child raises his head to look at the crown and puts his hand on an illuminated book. The text of the book is identified as two canticles from the Gospel of Luke.
The Madonna holds a quill to write the left page which is the opening of the Magnificat also referred as the Song of Mary. The left hands of Mother and Child join to hold a pomegranate, the heart shaped symbol of the Passion. That co-ordinated movement of the two hands of the two leading characters is beautiful.
later 1480s Replica
2022 SOLD for $ 48M by Christie's
This tempera, oil and gold on a 63 cm tondo panel is largely autograph as evidenced by underdrawings and pentimenti revealed by infrared and x-ray inspection. The style of the lines argues for a date in the later 1480s.
The composition is simplified to match with the smaller format. The two angels and the crown have been removed, making more mystical the raised gaze of the Child. The three remaining angels are now winged.
A selection of works from the collection of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen—including a work by Cézanne with an estimate in excess of $120m—are on show at @ChristiesInc London this weekend prior to their sale in New York next month. https://t.co/jcI3Jaz2n9— The Art Newspaper (@TheArtNewspaper) October 15, 2022
1500 Between Last Supper and Mona Lisa
2017 SOLD for $ 450M including premium
The picture shows Christ holding the orb of the world in his left hand and blessing with the raised fingers of his right hand. The mystical message without the divine attribute of the halo competes with the holy shrouds recognized as authentic at his time while adding attitude and gesture. The orb that prophesies the rescue of the world is a reflective crystal ball through which the viewer perceives the palm of the hand.
This painting had belonged to King Charles I of England. It was probably hanging in the private apartments of Queen Henriette who was born in the French royal family. Its previous whereabouts are unknown. A possible hypothesis is a French royal order during the Italian wars. King Louis XII was so impressed by the Last Supper that he wanted to take the wall to France.
The analyzes provided a lot of information on the realization and history of this painting. The perfection of the expression is concentrated in the lips and the gaze, anticipating the Mona Lisa. The mouth was drawn by the technique of pierced drawing used by other great masters of that time including Raphael and Andrea del Sarto. One of the eyes was softened by a spread of color pushed by the wrist of the artist.
Leonardo cared little for the supporting materials. The conservation woes of the Last Supper are famous. The original panel of Salvator Mundi was early split because of a knot in the wood. The accident caused awkward repainting on the face. Anonymous owners then extended these repaints to the point that only peripheral regions including the hands were still visible in their original quality.
All of that has been conscientiously repaired. Fortunately the sfumato remained in very good condition under the disagreeable layers that were removed. This signature Leonardo technique makes it possible to compare the Salvator Mundi with the Mona Lisa which is the culmination of his art. The perfectionist preparation of his paintings could last several years. A date around 1500 is plausible for the Salvator Mundi.
Christ the savior of the world by Leonardo, oil on panel 66 x 46 cm, will be sold by Christie's in New York on November 15, lot 9 B. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1500-1510 The Man of Sorrows by Botticelli
2022 SOLD for $ 45M by Sotheby's
Botticelli's art changed. The time of his signature theme of the Virgin of Tenderness was over. He possibly was not reluctant with the new trend. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1498, Botticelli's studio was sometimes used by his brother for secret meetings of Savonarola's sympathizers.
A mid length life size figure of Christ is typical of that new mood. Botticelli painted it in tempera and oil by canceling a Virgin of Tenderness on a panel 69 x 51 cm.
The main theme is a Man of Sorrows. The iconography of this specific piece goes far beyond up to a global representation of the Passion including Redemption and Resurrection.
The image is blending the human and the divine. The full frontal face has an expression of suffering temperated with a desire to confront and convince. The gaze goes straight to the viewer, just like Leonardo's Salvator Mundi and Dürer's self portrait made at that same period otherwise marked by the fear of a mid-millennium apocalypse.
The divine is represented by the bleeding wounds of the thorns and by the stigmata of the Crucifixion in the hands. The unprecedented move of this unique picture is the replacement of the halo by a circle of angels in grisaille that reluctantly display the instruments of his torture such as the ladder, the scourge and the lance.
There is no similar example known in Christian iconography. We will never know whether the master executed it for his own salvation or for proposing a new theme which still had no follow when he died in 1510.
The painting surfaced in the mid 19th century in a family of famous English actors and was authenticated as an autograph work by Botticelli when it was sold at Sotheby's in 1963. Further studies are now confirming that prestigious attribution. It was sold for $ 45M on January 27, 2022 by Sotheby's, lot 14. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1518 Portrait of Lorenzo II de' Medici by Raphael
2007 SOLD for £ 18.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Lorenzo must therefore be married. The pope promotes a French alliance and the choice falls on Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, a cousin of King François I, in 1517. This marriage was political and the future newlyweds had obviously never met. Portraits will be exchanged during the preparation of this union.
The portrait of Lorenzo was entrusted at the beginning of 1518 to Raphael, a native of Urbino. The matter is urgent. The artist chooses the oil on canvas, which allows a faster execution than the wooden panel. The prince is seen in three quarter length, slightly turned to his right, the gaze directed towards the spectator. He is sumptuously dressed in brocade, velvet and fur. He holds in his hand a gold box supposedly decorated with a miniature portrait of his future wife.
This commission is of great political importance and there is no doubt that this painting is autograph by Raphael. The portrait of Lorenzo reached Paris in March in a convoy of gifts carried by 36 horses. The reciprocal portrait of Madeleine had arrived in Florence in the previous month. The marriage is celebrated on May 2 at the Château d'Amboise.
The original autograph painting, 97 x 78 cm, authenticated by modifications revealed by infrared photography, was sold for £ 18.5M including premium by Christie's on July 5, 2007, lot 91. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The glory of this prince was overrated. He had not won the war against the Della Rovere. He died in 1519 of syphilis, possibly contracted during his wedding trip. Madeleine had died a few days before him, two weeks after the birth of their only daughter who will become the French queen Catherine de Médicis.
1529 Portrait of a Halberdier by Pontormo
1989 SOLD for $ 35 M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The Portrait of a Halberdier is an oil (or oil and tempera) on panel transferred to canvas 95 x 73 cm. This arrogant young man with a smooth and beardless face who is bulging his chest to the limit does not look like an infantry soldier. He is too richly dressed : he is an aristocrat.
By its military theme, this image enters into the context of the siege of Florence by the imperial armies in 1529. This date is all the more plausible as it corresponds to the period of greatest creativity of Pontormo, who will soon cease to resist his mental disorders.
Under these conditions, the young man is probably Francesco Guardi, aged fifteen. The wearing of the halberd would be a pun associated with the function of guardian evoked by his patronym.
The Portrait of a Halberdier was sold for $ 35M including premium by Christie's on May 31, 1989. It was purchased at this sale by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The image is shared by Wikimedia. Because of its great pictorial quality, experts want to recognize in this portrait a work that was specifically admired by Vasari.
1560 Quiet Mysticism of Titian
2011 SOLD 16.9 M$ including premium
At the end of his life, his creativity is much alive, but he has nothing more to prove to increase his fame. Painter of sensuality and characters, he became the painter of the passions.
Circa 1560, he painted A Sacra Conversazione, also known as the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine. We really catch the intelligence being transferred between the Child Jesus, held by his mother, and Catherine of Alexandria. The Child is active and friendly, Catherine is serious and focused, the Madonna encourages the movement of Jesus. St Luke, standing, is carefully watching.
This large painting on canvas, 128 x 170 cm, is estimated $ 15M, for sale at Sotheby's in New York on January 27. It is illustrated on the press release shared by Artdaily.
There is no doubt about the importance of this work. Already in the 1620s, it had the honor to draw the attention of Van Dyck, who made a sketch of it in a notebook now preserved at the British Museum.
POST SALE COMMENT
As expected, this beautiful Titian dominated the week of ancient art sales in New York. Sold $ 16.9 million including premium, it does not, however, exceed its estimate.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1621 Mystical Loves in Genova
2016 SOLD for $ 30.5M including premium
In 1621, he is invited by the wealthy Genovese merchant Giovanni Antonio Sauli, son of a former Doge of that city, to work in his palazzo as a painter and as an artistic adviser. Gentileschi executes three monumental paintings on the theme of mystical love, an excuse for displaying sensual nudes.
Sublimating the religions, the artist chooses his stories in the Old Testament, Christian parables and Greek myths. Lot's daughters symbolize the expectation, Danae the annunciation and Magdalene the repentance. Success is immediate and in the practice of his time the artist himself will paint a few copies.
The three original paintings of the Palazzo Sauli have long remained in the descendance of the patron. Danae, oil on canvas 161 x 227 cm, is estimated $ 25M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 28, lot 41.
The princess lies on her unmade bed. She is nude excepted a veil of chastity. Cupid opens the curtains to let going the lightning of Jupiter in the form of a shower of golden coins and ribbons. The gesture of the young woman is peaceful and welcoming, with her arm raised in the same oblique direction as the movement of the fertilizing god disguised as gold.
Gentileschi had been too often described as a Caravaggian but his Danae is a masterpiece of late profane mannerism. I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's where the monumental nature of the artwork is highlighted. The image is shared by Wikimedia.