Chronology : 1150-1300 14th century 15th century 1460-1479 1480-1499
1188 The Gospels of Henry the Lion
1983 SOLD for £ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Henry was a benefactor of Brunswick Cathedral, which he had built from 1173 and where he is buried. His gospel book is a very luxurious manuscript prepared for the consecration of the altar of the Virgin Mary in 1188 in that cathedral.
This book is a codex of 266 sheets of parchment 34 x 25 cm, including 50 full-page illustrations as well as historiated initials. It shows in a logical sequence the career of the duke protected by Christ and the saints, including for example his wedding and his coronation. Phylactery explanations complement the images, making it possible to identify the highly important imperial and ducal characters of his family.
The work was prepared at the Benedictine Abbey in Helmarshausen and the scribe identified his name. The script is a modified Caroline minuscule that anticipates the Gothic. The illustrations in bright colors are composed on the principle of the rejection of blank (horror vacui) while keeping a great readability. The image shared by Wikimedia gives the example of a page.
This masterpiece of the Romanesque illumination has remained intact. It was sold on December 6, 1983 by Sotheby's for £ 8.1M including premium, an all-categories record at that time for an artwork at auction. Considered in Germany as a national treasure, it was bought at that sale by a consortium including the government, the provinces of Lower Saxony and Bavaria and public and private donors.
1250-1280 The Enthroned Virgin and Child
2011 SOLD 6.3 M€ including premium
Carefully carved around 1250 to 1280, it is an exquisite work, 38 cm high. Seated on a throne and crowned, the mother holds the child on her lap, and an apple in her right hand. The young child with an abundant curly hair has a realistic face, which is a rare feature in medieval art. The ivory has acquired a nice patina. Here is the link to the catalog.
This work has much in common with the Virgin and Child from the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, dating from the reign of Louis IX (St. Louis) and now in the Louvre. Traditionally, the group for sale originated in a Provençal monastery. The link between Paris and the Mediterranea was strong in that reign as Queen Marguerite was the daughter of the comte de Provence.
The ancient pieces often have a history. The child's head, which had belonged to a separate collection, was adjusted again on the group in 1883.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price of real masterpieces can hardly be anticipated. This ivory statuette was sold € 6.3 million including premium.
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.
1297 The Magna Carta
2007 SOLD for $ 21.3 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
In 1215 the English barons revolted against King John. Financial and military demands had not prevented the scathing failures. In a situation of civil war, the king is forced to accept the Magna Carta by which the barons take control of the taxes.
The Magna Carta undergoes several modifications, because the political circumstances change. De facto rejected by King John, the Council of Barons, which was the forerunner of a parliamentary regime, was canceled in 1216 when the child Henry III acceded to the throne. In 1225 Henry III simplified the Magna Carta to facilitate its legal application.
The idea of a Parliament is gaining ground. Edward I takes the habit of summoning his advisers to make decisions concerning taxes and their collection. The operating rules are defined from 1283. It only remained to give force of law to the Magna Carta, which the king assisted by the Parliament solemnly does on October 12, 1297. It is stipulated in 1300 that a copy will be available in each county to be read four times a year.
17 manuscript copies from the 13th century have survived. 15 of them are in British institutions and one in the Australian Parliament.
The 17th document is a copy from 1297. It was bought in 1984 by the US billionaire Ross Perot, who entrusted it for display at the National Archives in Washington DC. It was sold for $ 21.3M including premium by Sotheby's on December 18, 2007. Its new owner, David M. Rubenstein, returned it to the Archives for a new long-term loan. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1366 Two Lions at the Feet of the King
2017 SOLD for £ 9.4M including premium
The divine authority claimed by the legitimate heir is not sufficient to preserve and protect his power. Upon his accession Charles V multiplies the symbols of his superiority and of his prosperity. The lion is his emblem.
To maintain the chain of legitimacy they must also rehabilitate the ineffective Jean II. In the very first year of his reign Charles V decides to build the funerary monuments of Jean and of Jean's parents in the traditional necropolis of the Capétiens at Saint-Denis. He adds the commission for his own tomb, which is a considerable innovation for the time.
The contractor of the four monuments is the best sculptor of that period, known from a royal document as Andreu Bauneveu, André Beauneveu in modern French. The king is powerful and must be honored as a priority : his gisant (recumbent) is the best of the four with a beautiful polishing of the white marble. Beauneveu worked until 1366 on that site.
The royal monuments of Saint-Denis were dismantled in 1793. The outstanding pieces were recovered by the archaeologist Alexandre Lenoir, founder at the request of the government in 1791 of the Musée des Monuments Français for collecting artworks confiscated to the clergy by the Révolution. During the Restauration in 1816 King Louis XVIII obliged Lenoir to relocate to Saint-Denis what remained from the monuments of the necropolis including the gisant of Charles V by Beauneveu.
The monument of Charles V included a group of two addorsed lions which was placed at the feet of the king. This group was only known from one sketch drawing made by an antiquarian scholar. It has just been rediscovered in the descendance of an English collector who had acquired it in 1802, certainly bought to Lenoir whose financial backing was low at that time.
This group of lions is a marble of the same quality as its gisant and certainly executed by the same artist. The fixing points of this statue match exactly the distance of the associated points on the feet of the gisant.
The Beauneveu lions, 45 x 29 x 12 cm, will be sold as lot 10 by Christie's in London on July 6. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
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 :
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.
1486 The Triumphs of Mantua
2020 SOLD for $ 11.7M including premium
One of his most important achievements is the series of the Triumphs of Caesar. Nine tempera paintings were made in a unique format 268 x 278 cm. A tenth image is known from an engraving. The realization lasted several years. It was sufficiently advanced in 1486 to be praised by the Duke of Ferrara.
These paintings were conceived as a narrative suite, with a homogeneity in the position of the light. We do not know however in what chronology they were painted. Acquired by King Charles I, this monumental set is exhibited in a row at Hampton Court.
A preparatory drawing for the second opus has just surfaced. Measuring 26.6 x 26.6 cm, it is an exact 1:10 scale. The hero on horseback passes between two monumental statues which are an Aesculapius standing on a carriage and a head of Cybele.
This drawing has a role of demonstration before the realization of the painting. The inscriptions identifying Aesculapius at the top of the carriage and Alexandria under the round tower were not copied in the final work. The banner texts have changed. Divo Iulio Aug ... became Imp Iulio Caesari ob Galliam devict in a reference to the First Italian War. A competent condottiero, the marchese Francesco II Gonzaga was in 1495 the governor general of the armies of the League of Venice against the new 'Gallic' invader.
The infrared inspection of the drawing, carried out by Sotheby's, revealed important reworks skillfully masked in the line, confirming that the work is autograph. The tall Aesculapius thus hides a previous Apollo whose much smaller dimension could be mingled with the characters of the action. The invocation of Aesculapius in a triumph, maintained in the painting, is a fancy.
This drawing is estimated in excess of $ 12M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 29, lot 19. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's in which the artwork is commented by the specialist Cristiana Romalli who was the discoverer of the hidden figures.
#AuctionUpdate: Andrea Mantegna’s only preparatory drawing for one of the canvases in the Triumphs of Caesar, realizes $11.7 million - a new record for a drawing by the artist at auction, and the 5th highest price for a drawing ever at auction pic.twitter.com/p6e3THFEU6— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) January 29, 2020
1493-1495 The Florentine Grace of Sandro Botticelli
2013 SOLD 10.5 M$ including premium
Botticelli's life is poorly documented, but his passion for his city, Florence, is the thread.
On January 30 in New York, Christie's sells a Madonna and Child with the young St John. This tempera on panel is estimated $ 5M. Waiting for the catalog, here is the link to the article shared by Artdaily when this painting was offered for sale at Maastricht in 2010. Of small size, 48 x 38 cm, it was designed for private devotion.
Botticelli's art is not narrative. The scene is by evidence located in Florence, and is not a Biblical story. The presence of John is only meaning that he is the patron saint of Florence. The three characters are graceful and communicate together with ardor. The faces are beautiful.
This work is dated around 1493-1495, the period of transition between the principate of Lorenzo de' Medici and the theocracy of Savonarola. The legend that he had himself brought his secular works in the Bonfire of the Vanities is not confirmed by Vasari, but it seems certain that his career as an artist became difficult afterwards.
POST SALE COMMENT
This small painting typical of the emotional art of Botticelli was sold $ 10.5 million including premium.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
mid 1490s Virgin and Child at the Time of Savonarola
2013 SOLD 13 M$ including premium
The likely date proposed by the auction house, the mid-1490s, is the era of the iconoclastic dictatorship of Savonarola, the preacher of repentance.
The relationship between art and Christianity were already an intense concern in Florence at the end of the glorious principate of Lorenzo de' Medici. The dying Lorenzo had doubts about the merits of his work, and chose (but unsuccessfully) Savonarola as his last confessor.
Savonarola, whose memory of his bonfires horrifies the art lovers of today, was chasing the vanities. Botticelli's mythological works have sunk therein. But he did not reject art when it glorified the Christian virtues.
Baccio della Porta, born in 1472, is a young artist whose skills are already recognized. Becoming an avid follower of Savonarola, he directs his art in accordance with the theocratic vision of his guru of whom he will also execute a very famous portrait.
It was only in 1500, when Baccio became the Dominican friar Fra Bartolomeo (or Fra Bartolommeo), that he will abandon his activity as an artist for a long period, before brilliantly resuming his brushes at the time of Raphael.
The tondo for sale is a very charming example of Christian art. The naked child rises to the mother's neck for a kiss. Empathy is intense between mother and child. The tondo format, as circular as a halo, contributes to the perfection of this nicely composed image.
POST SALE COMMENT
Deserved result for this very attractive painting by Fra Bartolommeo: $ 13M including premium.
Size of the tondo : 65 cm diameter.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.