1495-1505 Adoration of the Magi by Mantegna
1985 SOLD for £ 8M (worth $ 10.5M at that time) including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2021
On April 18, 1985, Christie's sold for £ 8M worth at the time $ 10.5M, including premium, a similarly composed Adoration of the Magi. This distemper on linen 49 x 66 cm is a technique used by the artist at the end of his career and can be dated 1495-1505.
The three kings bring gifts to the Child, whom his mother lifts in her arms so that he can see better. Joseph assists. The three saints each have a halo made of a thin golden circle in the Byzantine style. The kings are lavishly dressed, possibly under Venetian influence. The gifts are cosmopolitan : a Chinese porcelain cup filled with gold, a Turkish censer, a covered agate cup.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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.
1500-1510 The Man of Sorrows by Botticelli
2022 SOLD for $ 45M by Sotheby's
Botticelli's art changed. The time of his signature theme of the Virgin of Tenderness was over. He possibly was not reluctant with the new trend. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1498, Botticelli's studio was sometimes used by his brother for secret meetings of Savonarola's sympathizers.
A mid length life size figure of Christ is typical of that new mood. Botticelli painted it in tempera and oil by canceling a Virgin of Tenderness on a panel 69 x 51 cm.
The main theme is a Man of Sorrows. The iconography of this specific piece goes far beyond up to a global representation of the Passion including Redemption and Resurrection.
The image is blending the human and the divine. The full frontal face has an expression of suffering temperated with a desire to confront and convince. The gaze goes straight to the viewer, just like Leonardo's Salvator Mundi and Dürer's self portrait made at that same period otherwise marked by the fear of a mid-millennium apocalypse.
The divine is represented by the bleeding wounds of the thorns and by the stigmata of the Crucifixion in the hands. The unprecedented move of this unique picture is the replacement of the halo by a circle of angels in grisaille that reluctantly display the instruments of his torture such as the ladder, the scourge and the lance.
There is no similar example known in Christian iconography. We will never know whether the master executed it for his own salvation or for proposing a new theme which still had no follow when he died in 1510.
The painting surfaced in the mid 19th century in a family of famous English actors and was authenticated as an autograph work by Botticelli when it was sold at Sotheby's in 1963. Further studies are now confirming that prestigious attribution. It was sold for $ 45M on January 27, 2022 by Sotheby's, lot 14. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1505 The Best Artists from Ghent and Bruges
2014 SOLD 13.6 M$ uncluding premium
One of these masterpieces is known as the Rothschild Prayerbook. It was sold for £ 8.6 million including premium at Christie's on July 8, 1999. It is estimated $ 12M, for sale by Christie 's in New York on January 29.
It is a book of hours for the use of Rome (meaning that is based on Roman liturgy), made around 1505 in Ghent or Bruges. In a small format 23 x 16 cm, this book with 252 leaves in luxurious vellum includes 67 large illustrations.
From an iconographic point of view, it is a fabulous collection of religious and liturgical scenes, showing in very fresh colors the life and customs of its time. Decorative borders offer an extended variety of topics.
The styles of these images clearly show that several workshops have co-operated, and comparison with other manuscripts and paintings can identify that it was made by the most renowned artists of their time. Their co-operation in such collective artworks was an extraordinary and unique business of which no direct witnessing has surfaced.
The main illustrators of the Rothschild Prayerbook were Gerard Horenbout who worked at Ghent and Alexander Bening, a member of the guilds of Bruges and Ghent. Simon Bening, son of Alexander, to whom a few images are attributed, will be the last great Flemish illuminator. The style of Gerard David, the leading painter in Bruges at that time, is recognized on several images.
POST SALE COMMENT
This masterpiece reaches once again a great price : $ 13.6M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's :
1505 Saint Catherine by Riemenschneider
2008 SOLD for $ 6.3M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
In 1998 a pair of lime wood hollowed statues enter on temporary loan in the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they are analyzed in detail. The finely carved texture make them rare examples of figures designed to remain monochrome. The study assumes that they come from the same altar, which does not mean that they were made at the same time. The very busy master was processing many commissions in parallel.
One of them, 105 cm high, is inscribed Katheri on the garment. The other, of similar size, has lost its identification. She is probably Saint Barbara, often associated with Saint Catherine in the devotion to martyr virgins. They are standing with the same flexible attitude, slightly swaying. Both carry a book. Right hands are missing. The Saint Elizabeth of Hungary from the Nuremberg Museum may have completed this set.
The unidentified figure was sold for $ 2.97M including premium by Sotheby's on May 22, 2001. The catalog of this lot is suggesting three dates : circa 1505 for Catherine, around 1510-1515 for Elizabeth and around 1520-1525 for the supposed Barbara.
Catherine was sold for $ 6.3M including premium by Sotheby's on January 24, 2008, lot 31. The catalog omits the date for Catherine but indicates that the production of the three pieces probably extended over fifteen years, to be understood as 1505- 1520.
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
1514 Cristo della Minerva by Michelangelo
2000 SOLD for £ 8.1M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
From 1505, Michelangelo is in Rome. His patron, with whom relations are often difficult, is Pope Julius II, who is reconstructing Saint Peter's Basilica around the project of his monumental tomb, the execution of which is entrusted to Michelangelo. It was also during this period that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.
Julius II died in 1513. While waiting for instructions from his heirs to continue or not working on the funerary monument, Michelangelo accepted commitments from other clients.
In 1514 he receives an order for a life-size Redeemer Christ for adorning a funeral altar in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. This Christ will be standing, passionately holding the cross in a total nudity which will attest to his purity.
Michelangelo is very enthusiastic, understandably, for this project which is perfectly matching his fervent but somewhat risque conception of Christian piety. According to his usual practice, he begins to prepare drawings of high graphic accuracy to anticipate shapes and lights. Many of these sketches were destroyed by the artist himself because they disclosed too much information about his know-how.
A 24 x 21 cm double-sided preparatory drawing intermingling figures for the Cristo della Minerva has survived. The side commonly considered as the back is certainly the first. It includes a study of legs and feet. On the other side, the body serves as a support for a crosshatched study of the textures of the abdomen. This drawing was sold for £ 8.1M including premium by Christie's on July 4, 2000, lot 83.
Two marble statues of this vigorous Christ were made. The first, autograph, was abandoned after the chiseling of the left cheek revealed a black vein in the marble. The second, damaged by clumsy apprentices, ended up being guaranteed as authentic by Michelangelo, not without reluctance. It was described as mirabilissima by Vasari. At the time of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholics will add the stigmata, as well as a bronze loincloth to hide the sexual organs.
1515-1519 The Holy Family by Gerard David
2018 SOLD for £ 4.8M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
He is the last major artist from Bruges. In 1515 he was most probably the artist who joined the guild of painters in Antwerp under the name of Meester Gheraert van Brugghe. His workshop remains in Bruges but a new period opens for technique and themes. A legal conflict in 1519 with one of his assistants seems to mark the terminus ante quem of his major works.
The Holy Family, oil on panel 41 x 33 cm, is typical of his period under the influence of Antwerp. The family group is shown in a close framing. The cheek-to-cheek attitude of the mother and child is tender and natural. The drawing is realistic and well proportioned, the painting is as soft as a sfumato. The dendrochronology gives a terminus post quem in 1511. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The future drama of the Child is symbolized in an unusual way, by apples. He is holding a fresh apple in his hand while Saint Joseph brings two rotten apples on the lid of a bowl. A composition in a very similar style, the Virgin and Child with milk soup, includes also a fresh apple, on the table next to the bread.
The Holy Family was sold for $ 1M including premium by Christie's on January 24, 2003. As often with old painting, it was disadvantaged by a yellow varnish. Its restoration has brought back the splendid colors as well as the transparency of the veil, in an excellent state of conservation. It was sold for £ 4.8M including premium by Christie's on July 5, 2018, lot 31.
1518 Portrait of Lorenzo II de' Medici by Raphael
2007 SOLD for £ 18.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Lorenzo must therefore be married. The pope promotes a French alliance and the choice falls on Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, a cousin of King François I, in 1517. This marriage was political and the future newlyweds had obviously never met. Portraits will be exchanged during the preparation of this union.
The portrait of Lorenzo was entrusted at the beginning of 1518 to Raphael, a native of Urbino. The matter is urgent. The artist chooses the oil on canvas, which allows a faster execution than the wooden panel. The prince is seen in three quarter length, slightly turned to his right, the gaze directed towards the spectator. He is sumptuously dressed in brocade, velvet and fur. He holds in his hand a gold box supposedly decorated with a miniature portrait of his future wife.
This commission is of great political importance and there is no doubt that this painting is autograph by Raphael. The portrait of Lorenzo reached Paris in March in a convoy of gifts carried by 36 horses. The reciprocal portrait of Madeleine had arrived in Florence in the previous month. The marriage is celebrated on May 2 at the Château d'Amboise.
The original autograph painting, 97 x 78 cm, authenticated by modifications revealed by infrared photography, was sold for £ 18.5M including premium by Christie's on July 5, 2007, lot 91. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The glory of this prince was overrated. He had not won the war against the Della Rovere. He died in 1519 of syphilis, possibly contracted during his wedding trip. Madeleine had died a few days before him, two weeks after the birth of their only daughter who will become the French queen Catherine de Médicis.