from Louis XIV to Louis XVI
See also : 18th century painting Ancient French painting Furniture Ancient French furniture 18th century furniture European ceramics Man and woman Music and dance Pink diamond Textiles
Chronology : 17th century 1640-1659 1660-1679 18th Century 1700-1719 1750-1759 1760-1769 1770-1779
The Divine Boy
2018 SOLD for € 3.6M including premium
It shows the young Christ in his age of awareness, kneeling in front of the symbols of the Passion. He is dressed in a wide white tunic, symbol of purity. The evening light is mystical.
This previously unknown image adds a new theme to the Christian iconography. The engraver Wierix who died in 1619 had published the image of a young adult saint in the same attitude. No image of Christ at that age in that role was known up to now. A little later Murillo will be one of the very few artists to consider the pre-adolescence of Christ but in less mystical attitudes. We also knew a newborn Christ sleeping on the cross.
The role of Christ is played on this Le Nain painting by a young boy of about twelve or thirteen with a beautiful childish face, fair skin and blond hair. This very recognizable healthy child appears at various ages in works by Le Nain, as an angel and then as a young peasant.
The small size of this painting indicates that it was made for a private devotional use. It is difficult to appreciate why no similar example is known, especially since it is well matching the new trends of the Counter-Reformation considering that the life of Christ must be analyzed as a whole. On this point the presentiment of sad Madonnas by Botticelli is a precedent.
Le Nain has treated here the age of wisdom when Christ understands and accepts his destiny for the first time. The same passage is important for the kings of France who are assisted by a regency until the age of 13 years. From 1643 to 1651 King Louis XIV is a minor. Once the king has begun his personal reign, it is possible that the boy Christ had a decreasing appeal to the customers of the only survivor of the Le Nain brothers.
This painting of l'Enfant Jésus méditant sur les instruments de la Passion is estimated € 1M to be sold by Rouillac at the annual Garden Party auction at Château d'Artigny on June 10, lot 60. Higher expectations had been announced in March before this work was classified as French Trésor National.
I invite you to read the essay prepared by Rouillac which contains many convincing illustrations to demonstrate the importance of the artwork.
Découverte : Commissaires-priseurs dénicheurs de trésors dans les caves et les greniers de France, les @RouillacSas ont mis la main sur la toile "Le Christ enfant méditant sur la Croix" des frères Le Nain ! Vente prévue le 10 juin au château d’Artigny.— Quotidien de l'Art (@Quotidiendelart) March 16, 2018
Courtesy: Rouillac pic.twitter.com/iZ8bjj03vf
1650 Sunrise on a Roman Seaport
2013 SOLD 5 M£ including premium
On December 3 in London, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 101 x 135 cm, estimated £ 3M, recently rediscovered after having remained out of sight for more than a century.
This painting was done in 1650 on order of a cardinal. The artist honors a local saint: during the reign of the pious emperor Theodosius, a woman named Paula left Rome to live the hermit adventure under the direction of Jerome who is indeed the only recorder of her hagiography.
From the perspective of Christian iconography this action is not spectacular, but the sunrise on a fancy Mediterranean seaport is sumptuous. Much later, Turner complacently recognized the considerable influence of Lorrain on his own vision.
The antique columns that close the left edge of the picture anticipate by more than half a century the fashion of the Roman capricci and the tall ships are worthy of a van de Velde.
POST SALE COMMENT
The quality and rarity of this painting led it to £ 5M including premium.
1661 The Jewels of the French Crown
2017 SOLD for CHF 14.4M including premium
Cardinal Mazarin was an avid collector of art and jewelry. When he died in 1661 he left 18 diamonds to the Crown as a dation in payment that allowed him to pass on the rest of his huge inheritance to his family. This group includes the Sancy which was considered as the most beautiful diamond known in Europe until the discovery of the Régent.
At that time all the major diamonds had been extracted from Golconda mines. It was not until 1725 that a Brazilian source came to compete with that Indian provenance.
Note that the Beau Sancy which adorned the crown of the coronation of Marie de Médicis was a personal gift to her by King Henri IV and was not inalienable. It left France in 1641 and was sold for CHF 9M including premium by Sotheby's on May 15, 2012.
On November 14 in Geneva, Christie's sells as lot 600 Le Grand Mazarin which had been a major piece of the cardinal's bequest. Analyzed by the GIA before the auction, this brilliant cut diamond weighing 19.07 carats is of type IIa. Its VS2 clarity is sensational for a historic diamond. Its light pink color is extremely rare.
Le Grand Mazarin was worn by Queen Marie-Thérèse wife of Louis XIV, then by King Louis XIV himself in a chain and later by Empress Marie-Louise wife of Napoléon I in a diadem made by Nitot.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's and read the instructive featured post that accompanies it.
1665-1675 The Italian Influence at the Gobelins
2009 SOLD 4.5 M£ including premium
The minister of Louis XIV was Mazarin, the Italian, a great lover of art. The Superintendent of Finance was Fouquet, patron of artists including Le Brun. In 1661, Mazarin dies. His close associate, the very active Colbert, excites the rage of the king against the luxurious château de Vaux, Fouquet's personal property.
Now, Colbert's hands are free. In 1662 he creates the Manufacture des Meubles de la Couronne in the then suburbs of the Gobelins. The idea is to provide the king with luxurious furniture by protecting the best cabinetmakers and tapestry makers so that their art is reserved for royal commissions. The management of the Manufacture is entrusted to Le Brun.
Having come from Italy, Domenico Cucci made several luxury furniture at the Gobelins, including a pair of large cabinets for Versailles in 1664. The similarity of design allows Christie's to date between 1665 and 1675 another cabinet, for sale in London on December 10, which was probably done on an order of the Queen of Sweden.
This high furniture of Flemish style is perched on a stand of stone caryatids, and adorned with gilded bronze and with Pietre Dure from Florence. The caryatids may be the work of another Italian, Philippe Caffieri, husband of the sister of Le Brun and cousin of Cucci. A family business that would have pleased Mazarin!
Christie's estimates the piece of furniture around 4 million pounds.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result meets the expectations and expertise of the auction house: £ 4.5 million including premium.
Here is the image of this lot shared post sale by AuctionPublicity.
1718-1719 Christie's discovered a Watteau, what a surprise !
2008 SOLD 12.3 M£ including premium
A little more than one month ago, Christie's had announced in a press release the reappearance of a painting of Watteau presumedly destroyed for two centuries. The press had seized this information, rightly. Let us not forget it, but it is necessary to wait two more months for the sale, which will be done in London on July 8.
Entitled "la Surprise", this painting was known through a copy, and the owner was unaware of being in possession of an original. If as it is probable Christie's manages to sell it, the pockets of this happy British countryman will then have filled from at least 3 M£.
Of small size, it is an outdoor scene, elegant and dynamic, with feverish movement, with images typified according to the so specific technique of Watteau: the player of guitar, the couple of lovers, the puppy.
A masterpiece? Yes. One of the great biddings of the year? Probably not. The painting, whose exact dimensions are not revealed in the official statement, appears to be not larger than a paper sheet.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price obtained is also a surprise: £ 12.3 million charge included.
This painting had been announced well in advance by Christie's as one of the highlights of the season. It had the advantage of never being viewed before on the market and disadvantage of being small: 36x28 cm.
The market has thus confirmed the view of Christie's that this painting is a masterpiece of Watteau, and that Watteau is a major painter in the history of art. There is no doubt that we will not soon see a similar one reappear in a sale. A masterpiece that can be considered as single on the market has no price, but I think nobody could reasonably predict that it would be so high.
1736 Edmé Bouchardon, Precursor of the Antique
2012 SOLD 3.75 M€ including premium
After making beautiful busts of Popes and of Roman dignitaries, he was commissioned in France for a bust of the Marquis de Gouvernet. Dated 1736, this marble 78 cm high had remained since that time in the family of the model. It is for sale on June 11 in Paris by Aguttes.
The Marquis, 42 year old, bare chest, head up, is proud as a Roman emperor. He is however also a man of his time through the thick hair falling over the shoulders. The result is remarkably realistic, as the artist intended.
The original sculptures signed by Bouchardon are very rare on the art market. Too rare: we know that scarce pieces usually get some difficulties to find a collector. Despite its prominent place in the history of French sculpture, the estimate of this bust of a governor of Montélimar, € 3.5 million, is too ambitious.
POST SALE COMMENT
This bust outstanding in art history becomes a museum piece. Sold € 3.75 million including premium, it was preempted by the Musée du Louvre, exercising the right which is granted to the government by French law to supersede a private purchaser in an auction.
I invite you to play the video shared on YouTube by the auction house :
1757 Vernet came back to Avignon
2013 SOLD 5.4 M£ including premium
The port is seen as a very elongated panorama with great care given to the truth of the details. The foreground is animated by characters in their local daily activities, adding the study of manners to the topographic realism.
Vernet does not crush the view in a narrow format and leaves a large place to sky, treated with abundant clouds in a beautiful sunset light. Only Francesco Guardi in his best period has reached such a balance between topographic realism and artistic imagination.
In 1757, Vernet gets permission from the marquis to spend a few months in his hometown of Avignon where he executes an ancient commission for a local dignitary.
Completed in 1757 as a 99 x 183 cm oil on canvas, the view of Avignon from the right bank of the Rhône is smaller than the royal paintings but has otherwise identical characteristics, with a similar topographic detail. Of course, private works made by Vernet during the period of the Ports of France are very rare.
The Avignon view is estimated £ 3M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting dates from the best period of Vernet. It deserved £ 5.4 million including premium.
The image is shared on Wikimedia:
1757 The Pompadour Style
2012 SOLD 3.2 M£ including premium
Louis XV likes to have fun, especially if it contradicts the étiquette. In 1745, his new mistress is young and pretty. She was not born in the aristocracy, and the king once again shocked the courtiers in naming her Marquise de Pompadour.
Irregular husband and lover, the king had gone to further female conquests, but the vast cultural intelligence of Pompadour still makes her the best referee of the great French style. The hôtel d'Evreux, offered by Louis to the Marquise in 1754 and which was to become much later the palais de l'Elysée, is furnished in a splendour that can well compete with Versailles.
The Parisian craft is fabulously encouraged. After a tumultuous career, Cressent closes his business in 1756. His best successor to the court, who signs BVRB, is a discreet man whose biographical details are largely unknown.
On December 6 in London, Christie's sells a secrétaire à abattant stamped by BVRB. This piece 1.30 m high is not a single model, but only two examples are known with Japanese lacquer, the supreme refinement of the time, and only this one is complete.
Christie's states that it is almost certainly the piece of furniture sold to Pompadour on February 19, 1757 by the important marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux, and the catalog tells that it would be the most expensive supply made by Duvaux to the Marquise.
This secrétaire has all the qualities of a masterpiece and formerly belonged to the prestigious Riahi collection. It is estimated £ 3M. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
This very elegant piece of furniture did not exceed its lower estimate. It was sold £ 3.2M including premium.
1740-1770 A Carpet from La Savonnerie, under Louis XV
2000 SOLD for $ 4.4M including premium by Christie's
2008 SOLD 2.5 M€ including premium
Lot 68 of Sotheby's sale in Paris on October 22 is typical of the taste in the eighteenth century for some decorative overload. The center of this very large carpet (5.67 x 6.03 m) is a cartouche of royal attributes including fleurs de lys and crown. Around, you see some bouquets of flowers emerging from cornes d'abondance and surrounded of acanthus and fruit. The press release speaks of intricate tangle. Taking into account the expected price (€ 2.5 million) it is not exactly the same as "clutter". This rocaille style is a bit outdated today. The blue of France contrasts with the dark brown background.
It is a pure product of the Manufacture Royale de la Savonnerie, since its cartoon was designed there by Pierre-Josse Perrot, and this copy was woven therein between 1760 and 1770 (according to Sotheby's), or between 1740 and 1750 (according to Christie's). It is not one of the three examples that were woven for the royal furniture, in 1735, 1740 and 1769, one of which is currently in Fontainebleau. Perrot was the titular designer of the Savonnerie, and his style of decoration was particularly appreciated by King Louis XV.
On 2 November 2000, at the sale the very prestigious Riahi collection at Christie's, it was sold $ 4.4 million including expenses, doubling the price that Christie's had obtained in London in 1994. It is the catalog in Sotheby's, as always very detailed in the origins and dates, which invited me to find these historic sales made by its competitor.
POST SALE COMMENT
The sale of that lot, which seemed difficult to me, is successful: € 2.5 million including expenses.
This result is especially interesting to note when so many French furniture are no longer able to sell. Both Riesener furniture that I included in my weekly preview for the same sale have not found a buyer.
1763 Bureau plat by Joseph with Sèvres porcelain plaques
2005 SOLD 6.9 M€ including premium by Artcurial
1769 Fragonard out of his Time
2013 SOLD 17 M£ including premium
Fragonard made a small series of oils on canvas known under the generic title of Portraits de fantaisie. Only one of these artworks is dated : 1769, the year of his marriage. It is not by chance.
Close to the aristocracy, Fragonard endeavours at that time to demonstrate that he may revolutionize the art of portrait. These paintings are comparable to the tronies made by Rembrandt. The likeness to the sitter is not the most important.
The movement of shoulders and head brings energy and even violence. Strong colors evoke passion. Fancy costumes "à l'Espagnole" provide a theatrical dimension that also positions the work out of its time.
Influenced by Chardin, Fragonard understood the importance of color. This series of fantasy portraits is an essential link in the history of art between Rembrandt and Manet. He will be the great-granduncle of Berthe Morisot.
Few models have been identified with certainty. Brilliant intellectual, François-Henri d' Harcourt enjoyed his portrait to the point that his family kept it until 1971.
This oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm was then purchased at auction by Dr. Rau. Coming now from this prestigious collection, it is for sale to the benefit of UNICEF by Bonhams in London on December 5.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting has some exceptional qualities reinforced by the fact that it was one of the top masterpieces of the Rau collection and was sold for the benefit of UNICEF. It was sold for £ 17M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Bonhams on YouTube. The image is shared on Wikimedia.
1776 An English Commission for Vernet
2011 SOLD 7 M$ including premium
When he returned to France, King Louis XV commissioned him a series of monumental paintings showing life in the ports of France. He worked to it during ten years, from 1753 to 1762, and realized fourteen large size paintings, 263 x 165 cm.
The compositions are similar to those of his contemporary of Venice, Francesco Guardi. The ports are realistic and recognizable. In the foreground, on the waterfront, a crowd of small figures brings the atmosphere of the time.
The English aristocrats were lovers of art and tourism. In 1774, one of them ordered to the artist a pair of paintings of a similar size as those of the royal commission. One of them is estimated $ 1.5 million, for sale at Sotheby's in New York on January 27.
Dated 1776, it shows a quiet sea shore at sunset. Small characters are unloading some merchandise from a tall ship that can be seen offshore. Buildings on the left are certainly part of a port facility. It is not located and is probably a work of imagination, as many of the unofficial paintings by Vernet.
Vernet's art is a realistic witnessing of his time, much interesting and also unexpected as it comes between the mythological imagination of le Lorrain (Claude Gellée) and the sentimental excesses of the Romantics.
POST SALE COMMENT
It is a very good day for the lovers of marine views by Vernet.
As I understood it, the painting described in my article could be compared to the most famous masterpieces of Vernet. It was sold $ 7M including premium.
A marine of smaller dimensions, 57 x 74 cm, was sold for $ 2.4 million including premium.