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See also : Top 10 Painting Italy Italian painting 1280-1700 Renaissance Ancient painting 18th century painting Ancient drawing Modern Italian art Venice The Man Children Christianity Autograph Sciences Ancient science
Chronology : 15th century 1460-1479 16th century 1500-1519 1520-1529 17th century 1620-1629 18th century 1760-1769 1964
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.
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.
1510 The Codex Leicester of Leonardo da Vinci
1994 SOLD for $ 31M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Leonardo is neither a scientist nor an engineer in the modern meaning of these terms. He does not waste his time analyzing the consequences of his theories or conceiving the realization of his inventions. In his swarming of ideas, he could be wonderfully right and naively wrong, and he was certainly unable to distinguish between these two extremes.
For this left-hander, the mirror writing is the way he has found so that his thinking is not slowed down by his hand. The use of numerous abbreviations, which makes these texts extremely difficult to decipher, is consistent with this hypothesis. We will never know how he desired exploiting such a unique mass of informations.
These writings were later assembled into notebooks, identified under the more technical term of codex. The Codex Leicester is the only one remaining in private hands. It was sold twice by Christie's, for $ 5.1M on December 12, 1980 and for $ 31M including premium on November 11, 1994. Between these two sales it was named the Codex Hammer. It was bought by Bill Gates at the last auction. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The Codex Leicester is made up of 18 double sheets of parchment for a total of 72 pages 22 x 30 cm. It brings together his notes written around 1510 on the theme of the water movements. The author imagines that his ideas could be used for the design of bridges.
His observation on the presence of fossils in the mountains brings an explanation far ahead of his time : they were originally in a seabed which was raised by a geophysical phenomenon. This hypothesis is all the more remarkable since the monotheistic religions of his time do not question the creationism.
In the same notebook, he explains the luminosity of the Moon by the reflection of sunlight on its surface entirely covered with water.
1508-1511 Raphael and the Vatican Muse
2009 SOLD 29.1 M£ including premium
The author of the work we are discussing today is Raphael, the youngest of the three. For five centuries, all the art critics have praised him and noted the perfection of his paintings. His works were the subject of preparatory drawings very sharp, detailed and contrasted, at the exact size he wanted for the final motif.
Knowing the above, we understand better why some drawings are composite, for example hand and head . But the black chalk drawing 30.5 x 22.2 cm that Christie's will sell in London on December 8 is more important.
This pretty young woman head with flying hair in full frame is a preparation for a character of a Muse. It still have the perforations made by the artist to project the outline through the paper on the frescoes of the Vatican (1508 to 1511). It is estimated 12 million pounds.
This sale passionates the press. Here are the articles shared by Bloomberg, by Guardian and by Telegraph.
POST SALE COMMENT
We were here in the presence of a real historical work, because of the role played by this drawing in the process of decoration of the Vatican.
The result is also historical from the point of view of auction.
Sold £ 29.1 million including premium, it is the world record for a work on paper, and the second highest price for a work of ancient art, according to the information provided by Christie's.
#Raphael was #BornOnThisDay in 1483. In 2009, we offered an auxiliary sketch by #Raphael. The drawing, one of the best of Raphael’s surviving sketches set a #WorldAuctionRecord for a work on paper at £29,161,250 https://t.co/GDloR0vDil pic.twitter.com/pfYMt2hbGe— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 6, 2019
1520 Study for the Transfiguration
2012 SOLD 29.7 M£ including premium
Working directly for popes, cardinals and the powerful Medici family, Raphael manages a workshop of fifty artists whose production is prolific, but he himself designs the artworks, performs the preparation and executes the most important paintings.
The fashion of the time is for large-size frescoes and altar paintings prepared by innumerable drawings. Once the artist is satisfied with the composition, he pierces the latest drawings to transfer the lines into the final work. The pierced modello drawing of the head of a Vatican Muse was sold £ 29.1 million including premium at Christie's on December 8, 2009.
On December 5 in London, Sotheby's sells a drawing in black chalk, 38 x 28 cm, from the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire. It is illustrated in the article shared by Bloomberg.
This head of an apostle in meditation was made during the preparation of the Transfiguration, that huge oil on canvas, 405 x 278 cm, unfinished at the untimely death of the artist.
Completed by his studio, this monumental painting marks a turning point in Western art. The composition in two registers is bold. Above, Christ enters the light. The bright representation of the event is an iconographic challenge which anticipates Rembrandt.
Down on Earth, the apostles are attending a miracle by Christ, each one reacting in his own way. The care taken in the empathy between these men is announcing Mannerism and Baroque art.
The drawing for sale is not final and has not been pierced. This is a beautiful portrait of expression, with very nice thin line. It is estimated £ 10M.
POST SALE COMMENT
On December 8, 2009, a perforated drawing by Raphael showing the head of a Muse was sold £ 29.1 million including premium.
The head of a young apostle got an almost identical price: £ 29.7 million including premium. It is a great success for its owner, the Duke of Devonshire, possessor at Chatsworth of one of the best art collections in the world.
I invite you to play the videos shared by Sotheby's.
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.
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.
1768 A Venitian Masterpiece by Francesco Guardi
2011 SOLD 26.7 M£ including premium
In Venice indeed, in the late 1760s, the uncontested master of the genre, Canaletto, is aging. He died in 1768.
It is certainly no coincidence that the most achieved works of Francesco Guardi date from the same period: Canaletto's position on the market was to be taken.
In this time of greater maturity, Guardi executed very few large paintings. The view from the Rialto Bridge, an oil on canvas 120 x 204 cm, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 6, is exceptional. It is estimated £ 15M.
As ever, the architectures are much detailed. The dense and gentle animation is typical of Guardi, but the cloudy atmosphere and contrasting sunlight are worthy of Canaletto. This work was sold in 1768 : to an Englishman, of course.
It is shown in the press release shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENT
This exceptional painting was sold £ 26.7 million including premium, in the upper range of the estimates that had been ambitious yet.
1768 From Both Sides of the Rialto
2017 SOLD for £ 26M including premium
They show the commercial district of Venice, the Rialto, on the Grand Canal on both sides of its spectacular single arched covered bridge which housed shops. Through his picturesque animation and his luminosity, Guardi appears as a worthy continuator of Canaletto.
The sequence of monuments is correct but these panoramas are too wide to respect a unique perspective. The large format brings an abundance of details and an exceptional vision of the Venetian atmosphere.
Guardi worked from the collection of his autograph drawings and the modifications made to the monuments do not allow to date his paintings with accuracy. We will consider 1768 for this pair for two reasons. The death of Canaletto in April certainly generate great ambitions to Guardi suddenly becoming the best supplier of the tourists. The first owner was a young British aristocrat who had his tour in 1768, arriving in August in Venice.
The pair was separated in 2011. The view taken northward was sold by Sotheby's for £ 26.7M including premium on July 6, 2011. The view in the reverse direction is for sale on July 6, 2017 in London by Christie's, lot 25. The press release of 5 April announces that it is expected to exceed £ 25M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1964 The New Total Art of Lucio Fontana
2015 SOLD for $ 29M including premium
Modern art must be total, encompassing altogether painting and sculpture. La Fine di Dio, which is a subset started in 1963 within the Concetto Spaziale series, offers a new format to the mystic message of the artist throughout its diversity.
The canvas is cut in an oval shape whose standardized dimension of 178 x 123 cm is comparable to humans in its height. The monochrome surface is pierced with holes of various diameters whose disposition guides the imagination to a spiral galaxy or to the craters on a dry planet.
The color helps to support the extent of knowledge from egg to cosmos. The egg is a symbol of birth and a perfect form that already influenced Brancusi. The bright yellow examples of the Fine di Dio are among the latest in the series, in 1964. The artist explores and maintains the splashes of his still wet paint when he introduces his piercing tool to expand the craters.
This dual symbol of life, through shape and color, is a sumptuous achievement. A painting with a nearly homogeneous distribution of the holes was sold for £ 1,38M including premium by Sotheby's on June 25, 2003, long before the art market discovered the importance of Fontana.
The ultimate synthesis is achieved in the artwork for sale as lot 15B by Christie's on November 10 in New York, combining spiral or swirling patterns with a golden look of the surface. An indiscretion from Bloomberg reveals an estimate in the region of $ 30M.