Old Dutch Masters
Chronology : 16th century 1520-1539 17th century 1620-1629 1630-1639 1640-1649 1650-1659 1660-1679
ca 1520s A Child Prodigy in Leiden
2018 SOLD for £ 11.5M including premium
A pupil of Cornelis, Lucas Hugensz is skilled for graphic arts. From his adolescence, he shows a great maturity. Beginning in 1508, his engraved work is important, with an abundance and sharpness of details and a beauty of contrasts that have enthralled Dürer. The colors of his paintings are the brightest of his time. He is known as Lucas van Leyden.
Lucas was born in Leiden. It is believed that his father was a painter. His date of birth is questioned. We do not know how he learned engraving or after whom he specialized in his genre scenes animated by crowds of characters. He married in Leiden in 1515 and died in 1533 at about 40 years old.
His biography is blurred by his praise by van Mander, born fifteen years after the death of Lucas, who could however have collected the memories of direct witnesses. Lucas appears passionate about his art from his childhood, working day and night until the exhaustion that will shorten his life.
The autograph works by Lucas van Leyden are extremely rare at auction. On December 4 in London, Christie's sells as lot 60 a 28 x 13 cm black chalk drawing of a richly dressed young man standing, probably a study for a detail of a composition that has not been identified. The watermark is known in Netherlands and Germany in the 1520s and 1530s.
This drawing belonged to the Rugby School and is sold for the benefit of its educational program. The September 10 press release announces an estimate in the region of £ 1.5M.
On 4 December Christie’s will present 'Old Masters/New Scholars: Works of Art to Benefit Rugby School,' led by a rare drawing by the Dutch Old Master painter and printmaker Lucas van Leyden.— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) October 7, 2018
Find out more about the sale here:https://t.co/AYcX38U2C7 pic.twitter.com/qNFrXbi61L
1624 Peasant Music at the time of ter Brugghen
2009 SOLD 10 M$ including premium
The cover of the catalog, however, is entrusted to a master who is not among the best known to the public: Hendrick ter Brugghen.
His oil on canvas 101 x 83 cm, signed and dated 1624, shows a bagpipe player. The auction house said that it was once the pendant of a lute player. Opening the Wikipedia, the artist offers us a flute player. The common characteristics between them is that they show popular instruments far from the luxurious subjects of many other artists.
Each of these musicians is represented alone with his instrument, against a neutral background. The simple beret, the badly cut beard and the naked shoulder of the bagpiper describe a musician of the peasant class. The effects of shadows and light give him presence and even psychology.
Indeed ter Brugghen, who worked in Utrecht, may have known Caravaggio on a trip to Rome and was one of his first followers. The ancient paintings of Caravagesque style are rare in the market, and prices are always high. It is estimated $ 4 million.
POST SALE COMMENT
It was the masterpiece of this great sale. It sold $ 10 million including premium, well above its high estimate.
It was worth the honors of the cover of the catalog.
1624 A Dutch Artist in the Roman Night
2014 SOLD 7.6 M$ including premium
Back in Holland, they remembered the exuberant musical atmosphere, the erotic proximity of performers with visitors, the brightly colored clothes and the wide open necklines.
On June 5, 2013, Christie's sold for $ 3.4 million including premium an oil on canvas 78 x 95 cm painted by Gerrit in 1624. A couple sings enthusiastically while reading their text under candlelight.
The oil on canvas 99 x 139 cm for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 30 was painted around the same year by the same artist. The theme is musical : the man plays the violin and the woman is playing the lute, separated from the public by a balustrade. The atmosphere of this night club observed four centuries ago is entertaining and friendly.
The subtlety of the lighting is post-Caravaggian. In full light, the woman's face expresses a radiant merriness with an intensity rarely seen in a painting. The violinist, lesser lit, sings with passion while looking at the other side. A young drinker completes the group, much less visible in the shadow, or in the smoke.
The estimate, $ 2M, is the same price as originally expected by Christie's for the painting sold last year, but the largest size and the interesting lighting justify still further the conclusion of my previous discussion : Caravaggism can trigger higher bidding. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
I was hoping for a result well above the estimate. Done: $ 7.6 million including premium.
1626 A Mannerist Bronze atop a Fountain
2014 SOLD for $ 28M including premium
It is now listed by Christie's for sale in New York on December 11, lot 10 estimated $ 15M.
Here is my 2011 discussion (slightly reworded) introducing this lot:
During a routine visit to a castle in 2010, the expert from Christie's takes a look at the fountain in the middle of the yard. Thus a previously unknown masterpiece enters the art history.
The bronze 109 cm high adorning the top of the fountain had been in that place for at least 300 years. It is signed by Adriaen de Vries and dated 1626, the year of the artist's death.
Influenced by Giambologna, De Vries was spreading the new fashion for mannerism. Their bronzes give life to muscular bodies twisted in expressive attitudes inspired by antiquity, and which will be much later admired by Rodin.
The theme of the artwork is a naked standing mythological figure carrying a globe. This statue is shown on the article shared in 2011 by Antique Trader.
De Vries is particularly known for his statues for gardens and fountains. Working in Prague for the Emperor Rudolf II, he remained in that city after the death of his patron and accepted private commissions.
The arrival of such a lot on the art market is exceptional. We must go back over twenty years ago to find another authentic bronze by this artist. On 7 December 1989, the Getty bought at Sotheby's for £ 6.8 million including premium a Dancing faun 76 cm high.
1626-1627 A Youthful Master in Leiden
2012 SOLD 8.4 M£ including premium
Rembrandt wants to show his skills as a portraitist and specializes in tronies, these anonymous figures of characters showing varied human types. To win clients, he endeavours to show that he is mastering the technique of painting, the composition, and of course these contrasts of light and shadow made popular by Caravaggio and his followers.
On July 3 in London, Christie's sells the bust portrait of a soldier, a small panel 40 x 29 cm estimated £ 8M. Of course, the character is not identifiable, nor the origin of his uniform.
The chiaroscuro is particularly marked in this work, where half of the face is in the shadow of the wide hat. The realism of this heavy face is pretty neat. Whether you are beautiful or ugly, your best portrait will be done by the specialist, Harmensz Rembrandt van Rijn.
POST SALE COMMENT
Good price slightly below the lower estimate for this early work by Rembrandt: £ 8.4 million including premium.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's.
The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
mid 1630s An Arrogant Merchant of Haarlem
2008 SOLD 7.1 M£ including premium
This is the portrait of a merchant, whose name is identified, in the mid 1630s. He sits, a little toppled backward on a chair in unstable position. His attitude and his eyes express insolence, arrogance. To confirm this fact, he is shown with a whip in hands, which he bends. Not really nice, man ...
The painting is perfectly realistic, which is all the more remarkable because in his unbalanced position he could not have acted as a model.
Sotheby's is well aware of Frans Hals, since they have obtained all the best results on paintings of this artist, but I have not seen in the archives of sales another work that has a similar psychological strength. Sotheby's suppose that this painting was made for a strictly private use.
The catalogue does not hesitate to give us the last sale price obtained by this painting: 570 K € by ImKinsky in Vienna in 2004. It was then described as a work of a follower of Hals. Sotheby's gives many details about their remarkable study for authentication of the work, and its complete traceability since 1817.
The two major auction houses have decidedly nothing to fear from their rivals. The best connoisseurs of art are named Sotheby's and Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sotheby's was incredibly self-confident. I hope I have correctly described in my article such an impression given to me when reading the catalogue.
Experts from Sotheby's perfectly mastered it. Clearly assessing that a painting had been sold 570 K € in 2004 and bringing it up to £ 7.1 million charge included, is one of the best successes that I know in terms of auction.
The analysis that led to this result reveals an exceptional capacity for expertise.
It is likely, and even desirable, that Sotheby's has been paid by seller charges for this expertise.
Regarding the seller, I did the calculation. All expenses deducted (of which I can not know the exact rate), there is an increase in value by a factor of 5 to 6 between the purchase of Vienna and the sale of London.
There are still treasures which are moving in front of our eyes, but seeing them requires much increasing skills.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1637 Purist Portraits by Frans Hals
2018 SOLD for £ 10M including premium
Hals did not leave Haarlem and his art reflects the very specific ambience wanted by Ampzing. Portraitist of bourgeois and merchants, he does not confuse wealth and luxury. His sitters wear dark clothes only embellished with a white collar.
The faces have the same pictorial quality as the portraits made by Rembrandt but the monotony of his theme bored the following generations. The importance of his work was restored in the mid-nineteenth century by Thoré-Bürger who was also the discoverer of Vermeer.
In the early 1630s, Hals reduces his palette to gray, brown and black with an infinite variety of shades in these three colors. He is by that way reaching the high end of purism without losing the pictorial quality. His palette of blacks will be admired by van Gogh.
On December 6 in London, Christie's sells a pair of oils on canvas forming pendants, 93 x 68 cm each, lot 10 estimated £ 8M, in an exceptional state of preservation.
This pair is the three-quarter length portrait of a couple, dated 1637, possibly commissioned for their wedding anniversary. The man and the woman each hold a pair of deerskin gloves that symbolize their union. They are not identified but their age is recorded : 37 years old for the man and 36 for the woman.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's showing four masterpieces from the Eric Albada Jelgersma collection.
1648 Humility of Christ
2018 SOLD for £ 9.5M including premium
The scenes from the Gospels are part of his offer. In 1648 he paints The Pilgrims of Emmaus, oil on wood 68 x 65 cm preserved in the Musée du Louvre. Christ, who is of course the central character, responds to his traditional figuration, with waving hair covering his shoulders and with a short beard.
Rembrandt is more interested in the realism and psychology of faces than in mysticism. The young man who posed for the Emmaus scene is recognizable in a group of portraiture studies with various positions of the head that express the concentration of prayer and the humility, without a halo.
Two of these portraits were considered as autographs by the Rembrandt Research Project. The four or five other paintings in this group are copies of lost originals or imitations.
One of the two authentic portraits, oil on wood 25 x 21 cm, is kept at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. The other one, in same technique and dimensions, is estimated £ 6M for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 5, lot 18. Please watch the video prepared by the auction house. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1655 Vermeer's Pigments
2014 SOLD 6.2 M£ including premium
His early works are copies: Diana and her companions from Jacob van Loo, and Christ in the House of Martha and Mary from Erasmus Quellin. The young artist exercised his skills in mythological and Christian themes.
In 1969, the discovery of the ancient unretouched inscription 'Meer 1655' in a copy of a Florentine painting starts a long series of analyzes and assumptions. This oil on canvas 102 x 82 cm on the theme of Saint Praxedis is accepted since 1986 as a genuine Vermeer. The isotopic analysis of lead white pigment later confirmed this attribution.
Lead white enables to compare the location. This color was common and artists did not carry it in their travels. Particles collected in the white of Diana and Praxedis reveal a strictly identical composition.
The ultramarine blue paint in the sky of Praxedis is also interesting because it was a very expensive pigment. Its use by a novice painter is a proof of his commitment to perfection and of his ambition.
The image shows Praxedis wringing a sponge soaked with the blood of a beheaded martyr visible in the background. Her hands clasped in that action also hold a crucifix. This rare and poignant scene has certainly moved Vermeer who had converted to Catholicism when he married two years earlier.
The three works mentioned above are the whole of the known work of Vermeer before he specialized in the contemporary themes that will ensure his glory.
The Saint Praxedis by Vermeer is estimated £ 6M for sale by Christie's in London on July 8.
POST SALE COMMENT
This very interesting and extremely rare example from the formative years of Vermeer was sold for £ 6.2 million including premium.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1658 Rembrandt and Experts
2009 SOLD 20.2 M£ including premium
It is a half-length portrait of a man, painted in 1658. It had not been seen publicly since 1970 and has not participated in the major exhibition made by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 2006 to celebrate the 400 th anniversary of the birth of the artist. It is estimated £ 18 million.
Rembrandt is the best studied artist in the world. Under the name of Rembrandt Research Project, a multidisciplinary team has been working since 1968 to authenticate or refute all the works that could be attributed to the master. This team, which was renewed several times, includes art historians and scientists.
Among the scientific methods used, we first think of the X-ray, of course. Do not neglect the dendrochronology, which allows to date the felling of the oak trees whose panels were used by the master. Historians, meanwhile, compared the artworks together by considering a consistency of style in order to separate the works of the master from those of his employees.
This work sponsored by the University of Amsterdam is extremely important. Thanks to these pioneers the ancient art has become the most exciting area of artistic expertise.
Small precision now that the official press release from Christie's is available on the web: the artwork for sale is on canvas, 107 x 87 cm.
My comments on dendrochronology do not apply to this work.
POST SALE COMMENT
The release by Christie's on Twitter expresses the essential: Rembrandt sells for £ 20.2M : the world auction record for a Rembrandt and the 4th highest price for an old master painting at auction.
The quoted price includes the premium.
I would add that this Rembrandt was important but not to the point of being described as historic. It is therefore quite understandable that it has not exceeded its estimate.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1661 Saint James the Greater by Rembrandt
2007 SOLD for $ 26M including premium by Sotheby's
Shared on Wikimedia :
1670 Young Woman seated at the Virginals by Vermeer
2004 SOLD 16.2 M£ including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
It can form a pendant with The Lacemaker. The two works have the same format, one of the smallest used by the artist, and may have been painted on pieces of canvas from the same cloth, too raw to be intended for commercial purpose. It is possible that each of them is the portrait of one of the artist's daughters, Maria and Elizabeth.
Both girls have a bright yellow shawl. That of the Young woman seated at the virginals was not convincing. Analysis has shown that this color was painted in two overlapping layers, probably several years apart, perhaps to repair a degradation. The removal of the upper layer gives this picture the three-dimensional intimacy of a real Vermeer.
The ultramarine blue was the most expensive pigment of its time, made from lapis lazuli. Vermeer appears to be the only artist who has made an intensive use of it, not only for the visible blue in his compositions but also to contribute subliminally to the hue of the background wall.
Present in these two functions in the Young woman seated at the virginals, this blue is also one of the arguments to authenticate the Saint Praxedis painted by Vermeer at the very beginning of his career. The fact that Vermeer never declared an apprentice to the Delft guild undoubtedly facilitates such considerations. Saint Praxedis, oil on canvas 102 x 82 cm, was sold for £ 6.2M including premium by Christie's on July 8, 2014.
Each year brought its fashion changes. The date of 1670 is plausible for both The Lacemaker and the Young woman seated at the virginals, with the curls falling on both sides of the bun.