Switzerland before 1940
See also : Time pieces Mechanical craft ca 1800 Jaquet-Droz and followers Patek Philippe Development of Patek Philippe
Chronology : 1750-1759 1820-1829 1889 1904 1927 1933 1939
1755-1756 Beau Fini by Liotard
2016 SOLD for £ 4.4M including premium
Liotard was also a theorist. From the beginning, he practiced pastel rather than oil to ensure a "beau fini" (good finish), meaning a smooth picture without a visible trace from a brushstroke.
With the help from his patron Lord Duncannon later 2nd Earl of Bessborough whom he had accompanied in the Levant, the career of the "Turkish painter" was a lasting success, allowing the artist to gather a large collection of Dutch paintings of the seventeenth century.
It was tempting for the artist to imitate these masters. On July 6 in London, Sotheby's sells a genre scene in Holland, oil on canvas 47 x 39 cm painted by Liotard, lot 36 estimated £ 4M, which is certainly the most successful example of his "très beau fini".
The scene of great tranquility shows a young woman in apron busy pouring coffee (not chocolate despite a title later given to this work by comparison with one of his most famous pastels). The breakfast on the table is a miniature still life and the painting on the wall is a direct reference to the lighting effects in Dutch art.
Liotard probably made this painting for his personal use as a culmination of his know how. Undated, it appears at Christie's in 1774 in a sale of his collection. It was purchased by the Earl of Bessborough in whose family it remained until the death of the 10th Earl.
A contemporary of Chardin, Liotard wants to be a modern artist. The clothes and accessories of the Dutch woman and the decorative elements are contemporary. It is taken for sure that the work was painted during a trip in Holland, probably the stay of 1755-1756 which ended with his marriage and with the loss of his fifteen years beard that was a direct consequence.
The image is shared by Sotheby's on Wikimedia :
1820 The Singing Birds of Geneva
2011 SOLD 45.5 MHK$ including premium
These automata are pistol shaped and their barrels house the hundreds of mechanical components. The decor is exquisite and the materials are precious: gold, enamel, agate, pearl, diamond. They are shown on the release shared by Artdaily.
When the trigger is pulled, the colorful bird leaves at the end of the barrel, turns, opens and closes its wings and beak, sings. After such a work, it returns home.
They are in exceptional condition, as demonstrated by a video on the website of Christie's. Singing bird pistol automaton are very rare, and these are the only remaining specimens that have been kept as a pair. The auction house admits that it is difficult to predict the price of such an absolutely unique lot, and advances a very open estimate range: HK $ 20 to 40M.
POST SALE COMMENT
The prices of lots that are unique of their kind have no limit. Excellent result for this one: HK $ 45.5 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Christie's :
1879 Turnstunde in Ins by Albert Anker
2013 SOLD for CHF 7.5M including premium by Koller
The image is shared by Wikimedia :
1889 Happy Children of Albert Anker
2011 SOLD 7.4 MCHF including premium
He has no equal for portraits of children and of elderly people because he never falls into the sentimentality of a Bouguereau, for example. And even if the clothes are old-fashioned, the art of Anker has a timeless appeal.
The children, always serious, learn to become young Swiss. The theme of the baby and the older sister is one of his favorites. The day before yesterday, November 28, Sotheby's sold CHF 6.1 million including premium in Zurich an oil on canvas of 1885, 54 x 70 cm. The baby sleeps in his cradle in the garden. Sister, attentive, watches quietly while knitting.
On December 9 in Zurich, Koller sells an oil on canvas, 66 x 46 cm, painted circa 1889, estimated CHF 1.5 million. Baby is standing on the desk, trying to stay straight. The sister watches, with an enveloping movement of the arms to prevent a fall.
A young schoolgirl of 1879, 65 x 50 cm, busy writing on her slate board, had been sold CHF 5.6 million including premium by Beurret & Bailly in Basel on June 18, a price quite remarkable as it was the opening sale of this auction house.
POST SALE COMMENT
Anker moves permanently among the top masters of Swiss art. This very nice painting has earned an exceptional price, CHF 7.4 million including premium.
Shared by Wikimedia :
1895-1928 The Sound of Minutes
2019 SOLD for CHF 4.6M including premium
Along three decades from 1922, Henry Graves Jr bought 39 special watches from Patek Philippe. In 1928 he came in person to Geneva to approve the drawing of the watch with 25 complications which will be delivered to him in 1933.
During this trip, Graves buys a wristwatch incorporating a movement from 1895, which today appears to be Patek Philippe's oldest example of minute repeater. Its 40 mm long tonneau-shaped case made in 1927 was specially adapted to incorporate this very early mechanism and to optimize the repeating sound. The engraving of Graves's coat of arms is added on the yellow gold case for that purchase.
This watch surfaced for the first time in 2012 in the deceased estate of Graves's grandson. It was sold by Sotheby's for $ 3M on June 14, 2012 over a lower estimate of $ 600K. It is estimated CHF 3M for sale by Christie's in Geneva on November 11, lot 154.
On 11 November, the Geneva Important Watches auction will be highlighted by Henry Graves Jr.’s unique yellow gold tonneau minute repeater of 1927, the first and earliest wristwatch in his outstanding collection of approximately 30 watches by Patek Philippe https://t.co/rLWkgoS7HB pic.twitter.com/OaD3PBOoSI— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) September 25, 2019
1904 Art and Tourism in Grisons
2016 SOLD for CHF 4.05M including premium
Tourism is developing rapidly in the Swiss mountains, with hotels, spas and swimming baths. Giacometti receives in 1904 a major order from the Waldhaus Hotel in Flims.
According to a usual theme in tourism at the Belle Epoque, he shows the immediate vicinity of the hotel with mountains and lakes. The work is a triptych. The curved central panel and the stylized lines are close to the graphic style of the posters, very popular at that time.
The large size is suitable to its decorative use: 180 x 200 cm for the central view and 150 x 100 cm for both side views. It had been specially ordered for the inauguration of the hotel's casino and a permanent display was not considered. This important work executed by the father of Alberto and Diego fell into oblivion for eight decades.
The triptych is estimated CHF 3M for sale by Koller in Zurich on June 24, lot 3057.
Giovanni Giacometti develops soon afterward his more personal style inspired by Hodler reinforcing by aggressive colors the geometric structure of his landscapes. A view near his native village, dominated by a very blue river, tempera 120 x 120 cm, was sold for CHF 3M including premium by Sotheby's on June 14, 2010.
1912 The Purity of Spring
2014 SOLD 4.7 MCHF including premium
The theme of spring (Der Frühling) occupied him for several years. The boy totally in the nude is sitting on his knee. The barefoot girl is dressed in a long almost white antique tunic confirming her virginity.
The two characters do not know each other. They are side by side but facing into different directions. The half-closed eyed girl is occupied in a pantheistic prayer. The clever gaze of the boy goes far away as if he were seeking for the truth in the mountains.
Four paintings were done from 1899. The last of these oils on canvas, Der Frühling IV, 106 x 128 cm, completed around 1912, is estimated CHF 4M for sale by Koller in Zurich on June 27.
The traditional interpretation of Frühling as an allegory to sexual awakening may be wrong. The nudity of the boy can also be the hope set by Hodler in his brilliant son Hektor, twelve years old when this theme was started and very active from 1906 in the organization of the Esperanto movement.
The drama awaits the Hodlers. In 1915, when the son is cared in a sanatorium, the father expresses his anguish by an overwhelming and timeless vision of the infinity of the mountains which provides the most emotional part in his important career of landscape painter.
POST SALE COMMENT
This symbolist painting was sold for CHF 4.1 million before fees.
1915 The Infinity of the Swiss Mountains
2013 SOLD 8 MCHF including premium
Over time, however, landscape will become his most original and most emotional theme. Hodler destroys perspective to better reach infinity. The meadow in the foreground is insignificant and the vast surface of the lake repels the mountain far away.
This transformation is slow, but the mystical intent is more and more obvious. 1915 is a terrible year for Hodler. His young mistress died of cancer in January and his son battles tuberculosis in a sanatorium at Crans Montana.
On June 4 in Zurich, Sotheby's sells a 1915 landscape of Montana. Hodler no longer needs to observe the mountains. They are nothing more than an excuse to express his angst. The lake is extremely exaggerated or purely imaginary.
The mountain in the distance will never change. It is eternity, as opposed to the fragility of human works that are totally absent from this composition. Its symmetry increases its strength. The blue of the lake echoes the sky, and the ochres that dot the hill and its reflection mark the hope of a future life in this landscape at the creation of the world.
This oil on canvas, 66 x 80 cm, is estimated CHF 3.8 M. Here is the link to the catalog.
The mystical questioning of the mountains has not relieved Hodler. His life is broken. He died three years later.
POST SALE COMMENT
The catalog was convincing when presenting this landscape of the later career of Hodler as a masterpiece. It was sold CHF 8M including premium.
1927 Patek Philippe 130 in Stainless Steel
2015 SOLD for CHF 4.6M including premium by Phillips
1932 Way of Life by Le Corbusier
2015 SOLD for $ 4.6M including premium
In the late 1920s, his business in architecture, urban planning and furniture is prosperous and painting serves him primarily as a support to the expression of his concepts mixing geometry and poetry. He now accepts a complex juxtaposition of objects, opposed to the views of Ozenfant and close to the cubism by Gris, and perhaps compensating his own lack of binocular vision.
On November 8 in New York, Phillips sells Femme rouge et pelote verte, oil on canvas 130 x 97 cm painted in 1932, lot 21estimated $ 4M.
The one eyed woman in an intense red has resolutely surrealist features. She does not exist by herself and her role is to occupy the living space offered by the architect. Her nakedness appeals the intimacy of an interior and the knitting accessories evoke the everyday life.
Her surrounding is a window above a wrought iron gate whose incoming shadow confirms that the scene is viewed from inside the apartment, so joining a favorite theme by Matisse.
This painting had been bought by his collaborator Heidi Weber and remained in her collection. Heidi Weber will be the promoter of the last work designed by Le Corbusier, the Maison de l'Homme in Zurich incorporating the Heidi Weber Museum-Center Le Corbusier.
I invite you to watch the video shared by the auction house.
1933 Supercomplication for the Use of New York
2014 SOLD for CHF 23.2M including premium
By 1900, the Palmer specimen was a pocket watch with minute repeater, months, days of the week, split-second chronograph, grande and petite sonnerie and the phases of the moon.
James Ward Packard, the car industrialist, was one of the most demanding customers of Patek Philippe. In 1916, he obtained a pocket watch with sixteen complications, and in 1927 he had a celestial chart added to nine other complications in a single watch.
When Packard died in 1928, the New York banker Henry Graves Jr. had already ordered the world's most complicated pocket watch, with 24 complications divided into two dials including the night time sky from New York City.
Completed in 1932, the Supercomplication is a unique piece for which Patek Philippe had mobilized their best specialists. The assembly of its 920 components in a case 74 mm in diameter and 36 mm thick is a technical feat that will remain unmatched until the era of computer-aided design.
The Supercomplication was delivered to Graves on 19 January 1933 for CHF 60K, nearly five times the price of the ultimate Packard watch. It was sold for $ 11M including premium by Sotheby's on December 2, 1999. It is for sale by Sotheby's in Geneva on November 11, lot 345.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's.
1939 Platinum Patek Philippe 1415 HU World Time
2002 SOLD for CHF 6.6M (worth at that time US $ 4M) including premium by Antiquorum
narrated in 2020 before the sale of another watch by Phillips (see below)
Patek Philippe, which had delivered their Supercomplication watch to Graves in 1933, are eager for any invention. Their first integration tests of the Heures Universelles (HU) are carried out in 1937 with the support of the inventor.
These early units are experimental. They re-use old movements, perhaps chosen from their availability in the warehouse. The 96 HU is known in two units and the 515 HU in three units. Both 96 HU Calatrava and at least one of the rectangular 515 HU are assembled with cases in the same range of serial numbers. Both types refer to 28 cities.
The 96 HU has long been considered as a unique piece. It was sold for CHF 410K including premium by Christie's on November 14, 2011. The second watch surfaced in 2011. Unrestored, it was sold as is by Sotheby's on December 6, 2011 for $ 480K including premium and for CHF 390K including premium by Phillips on June 27, 2020.
The rotation of the city ring was not compatible with the 515 but Patek Philippe did not give up. The 542 HU, assembled in five units, is the last model of prototypes before the marketing begins in 1939 under the references 1416 HU and 1415 HU. A 1415 HU was sold by Antiquorum on April 13, 2002 for CHF 6.6M including premium, worth $ 4M on that date. It is the only known example in platinum for that reference.