1520 Study for the Transfiguration
2012 SOLD 29.7 M£ including premium
Working directly for popes, cardinals and the powerful Medici family, Raphael manages a workshop of fifty artists whose production is prolific, but he himself designs the artworks, performs the preparation and executes the most important paintings.
The fashion of the time is for large-size frescoes and altar paintings prepared by innumerable drawings. Once the artist is satisfied with the composition, he pierces the latest drawings to transfer the lines into the final work. The pierced modello drawing of the head of a Vatican Muse was sold £ 29.1 million including premium at Christie's on December 8, 2009.
On December 5 in London, Sotheby's sells a drawing in black chalk, 38 x 28 cm, from the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire. It is illustrated in the article shared by Bloomberg.
This head of an apostle in meditation was made during the preparation of the Transfiguration, that huge oil on canvas, 405 x 278 cm, unfinished at the untimely death of the artist.
Completed by his studio, this monumental painting marks a turning point in Western art. The composition in two registers is bold. Above, Christ enters the light. The bright representation of the event is an iconographic challenge which anticipates Rembrandt.
Down on Earth, the apostles are attending a miracle by Christ, each one reacting in his own way. The care taken in the empathy between these men is announcing Mannerism and Baroque art.
The drawing for sale is not final and has not been pierced. This is a beautiful portrait of expression, with very nice thin line. It is estimated £ 10M.
POST SALE COMMENT
On December 8, 2009, a perforated drawing by Raphael showing the head of a Muse was sold £ 29.1 million including premium.
The head of a young apostle got an almost identical price: £ 29.7 million including premium. It is a great success for its owner, the Duke of Devonshire, possessor at Chatsworth of one of the best art collections in the world.
I invite you to play the videos shared by Sotheby's :
1520 Virgin and Child by Gossaert
2015 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium by Sotheby's
1520-1539 The Princeps Edition of the Talmud
2015 SOLD for $ 9.3M including premium
The invention of printing was not immediately applied to Hebrew types. In Italy, some Christian illuminators were able to continue their business during the last decades of the fifteenth century by adapting their expertise to the copy of Hebrew books.
The first books printed in Hebrew also appeared in Italy. A Mishneh Torah printed in Bologna in 1482 was sold for € 2.8 million including premium by Christie's on April 30, 2014. The texts are cleverly arranged in blocks for an easy comparison within the page between the basic text and its commentaries. There is nothing similar in the Christian culture as far as I know.
Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer in Venice, obtained in 1515 the permission to print in Hebrew. His princeps editions of the Talmud are a major project carried out in three phases : the Babylonian Talmud from 1520 to 1523, the Talmud of Jerusalem in 1522 and 1523 and additional tractates from 1525 to 1539 that went to complete his Babylonian Talmud.
The result is an achievement. The composition continues the tradition of confrontational blocks with such skill that they will serve for centuries as a prototype for further printed editions of the Talmud. The rabbinical sources are carefully selected and considered as indisputable. The book is printed on a beautiful heavy paper.
Westminster Abbey once owned the finest surviving copy of the Babylonian Talmud of Bomberg, complete of its 3472 leaves of great freshness, in nine volumes 39 x 27 cm in a period binding. When he was assembling his Valmadonna Trust Library, the collector Jack Lunzer managed to acquire this set by providing in exchange a valuable old charter of the abbey.
The Bomberg Talmud of the Valmadonna Trust Library is estimated $ 5M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 22, lot 12.
The Valmadonna collection was exhibited at Sotheby's in February 2009. The video below, which is an introduction to the 11000 pieces displayed in this exhibition, demonstrates convincingly why the Bomberg Talmud is the most important jewel in this stunning library.
mid 1520s The Cheeks of St Joseph
2016 SOLD for € 3.9M including premium
Some copies are pierced to ensure an exact reproduction of the lines when executing the final painting. A black chalk drawing by Raphael, perforated for an application on the Vatican frescoes, was sold for £ 29.1M including premium by Christie's on December 8, 2009.
The red chalk or sanguine is also in use. The earliest artist who mixed the two chalks on a same drawing was probably Piero Pollaiuolo around 1470. Fra Bartolommeo followed this technique when he prepared a group of portraits around 1515.
In the abundant work of Andrea del Sarto, only three drawings in two chalks have survived. All three are studies of an old man's head for St. Joseph. Their applications for paintings made by this master in the 1520s have been identified with certainty.
In the following of Fra Bartolommeo, Andrea draws the main lines in black and inserts the sanguine to bring a fleshy effect on cheeks, lips and ears. The drawing is then providing a realistic impression that foresees the actual look of the painting.
One of the three drawings of St. Joseph is preserved at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Another one, 37 x 23 cm with a leg study in the sanguine on the back side, was sold for £ 6.5M including premium by Christie's on July 5, 2005.
The third drawing, 23 x 18 cm with the study of an eye on the back side, is the most friendly by the straight gaze and cared hair of the old man. It had disappeared after being sold in July 1833 in an auction and was therefore not referred in the essay prepared by Christie's in 2005.
It is estimated over € 500K for sale by Gestas et Carrère in Pau on December 17. Here is the link to the website of the auction house.
The link in the tweet below leads to an essay in French and English published by Interenchères with the collaboration of Gestas et Carrère and of the Cabinet de Bayser, leader in France for the expertise of old master drawings.
1525-1527 The Young Writer in the Palazzo Corsini
2015 SOLD for $ 9.1M including premium
Here is my post from 2013 :
Pontormo had a dual role in the history of art.
On one hand, his mythological and biblical works are at the origin of the mannerism with which the expression of the feelings supersede the realism of the attitudes.
On the other hand, he was lucky to be the most appreciated portrait painter to the court of Florence at a brilliant intellectual time when customers requiring for art were expanding beyond the ruling family.
In 1989 at Christie's, J. Paul Getty Museum purchased for $ 35M including premium the portrait of a halberdier, realized between 1528 and 1530 by Pontormo, which is still one of the highest prices recorded at auction for an ancient painting.
The portrait of a young writer has just resurfaced. This oil on panel, 94 x 78 cm, was described in 1842 in the collections of Palazzo Corsini. Its importance was not identified at that time and it was later known through a copy which was sufficient to state that it was not a work by Pontormo.
Its direct scrutiny now attributes it firmly to Agnolo Bronzino when he was a pupil of Pontormo. Vasari had already acknowledged the difficulty of separating the works of both artists and the fast and neat skill of the pupil. This observation is in good agreement with the very thin painting layer of our portrait of a writer.
The experts were able to identify the probable date of the work in comparison with other paintings by Bronzino : between 1525 and 1527.
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
1527 Portrait of Sibylle of Cleves by Cranach
2008 SOLD for $ 7.7M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
A marriage seals the alliance between these two dynasties. The engagement was celebrated in September 1526. Johann Friedrich, 23, the eldest son of the elector of Saxony, was one of Luther's most ardent supporters. Sibylle, 14, is the eldest daughter of the Duke of Cleves. The marriage took place in June 1527.
Cranach has been a court painter for the Saxon Electors in Wittenberg since 1504. Much linked to Luther, he was in 1525 the godfather of his first child.
Two portraits by Cranach of Sibylle during the engagement phase are known. She wears the crown of virgins which guarantees her virtue until her marriage. She is standing in three quarter length, her hands gently joined on the waist. The face is still juvenile. The 57 x 39 cm painting kept at Weimar Castle is dated 1526.
The other painting is an oil on panel 53 x 38 cm. The lively gaze and the smile display a better presence. The symbols of the two families are woven within the dress. It is signed by the serpent, used by Cranach instead of a monogram for his official paintings.
The portrait of Sibylle of Cleves was sold for $ 7.7M including premium by Christie's on April 15, 2008, lot 12. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
later 1520s The Ordeal of the Lion
2015 SOLD for £ 9.3M including premium
The artist transposes a medieval ordeal with characters in clothes of his time. The mouth of truth is a lie detecting test to convict or release the adulteress. Included in the legends of Tristan and Iseult and Merlin, this story was previously used by illustrators including Altdorfer and Lucas van Leyden.
Each character has a role. The woman puts a hand in the mouth of the lion raised on a pedestal to be at her level. She is held at the waist by her supposed lover disguised as a fool. Two men wait to establish the minutes of justice.
The alleged cuckolded husband is on the far right of the picture, opposite to the lion. He is accompanied by two lovely ladies who are his witnesses. At his side, a last character sends a wink of complicity towards the viewer of the painting.
This is not a comic book and the verdict of the lion is not known. The lack of fear in the attitude of the woman tells that she wants to win the ordeal. The scene becomes a funny symbol of feminine cunning.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1525-1535 The King disguised as a Dragon
2011 SOLD 7.4 M£ including premium
The Persian poet Firdausi wrote the Shahnameh 1000 years ago. This Book of Kings collects the epic and heroic stories of his country since the creation of the world until the advent of Islam.
He was misunderstood in his lifetime, like all geniuses, but the Persian kings realized later that this text could be used as an apologia for royal power. Ismail, founder of the Safavid dynasty, encouraged artists to illustrate the Shahnameh, but the great work was an illuminated manuscript created in the early reign of his son and successor Tahmasp.
This highly important manuscript has been dismantled. One can, or even have to, regret it but the corollary is that each folio coming on the market is considered as a work of art in its own right.
On April 6 in London, Sotheby's sells a gouache heightened with gold, 47 x 32 cm. Made in Tabriz between 1525 and 1535 of our calendar, it is attributable to Aqa Mirak who was one of the best artists of this collection. It is estimated £ 2M.
It shows the king Faridun who disguises himself as a fierce dragon to test the courage and loyalty of his three sons. He could rejoice in the result and particularly appreciate the haughty answer made by the youngest: Go your way, dragon, we are the sons of the powerful Faridun.
This work will soon be exhibited in Doha. On this occasion, it is illustrated in the upper left of the article shared by The Peninsula Qatar.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sotheby's had announced this lot for a very long time and knew its value, of course.
The result, £ 7.4 million including premium, is very high, but the above discussion indicated the trend: each sheet of Shahnameh of Tahmasp is a work of art in its own right.
I have no doubt that this price will incite other sheets to come in future sales.
1529 Portrait of a Halberdier by Pontormo
1989 SOLD for $ 35 M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The Portrait of a Halberdier is an oil (or oil and tempera) on panel transferred to canvas 95 x 73 cm. This arrogant young man with a smooth and beardless face who is bulging his chest to the limit does not look like an infantry soldier. He is too richly dressed : he is an aristocrat.
By its military theme, this image enters into the context of the siege of Florence by the imperial armies in 1529. This date is all the more plausible as it corresponds to the period of greatest creativity of Pontormo, who will soon cease to resist his mental disorders.
Under these conditions, the young man is probably Francesco Guardi, aged fifteen. The wearing of the halberd would be a pun associated with the function of guardian evoked by his patronym.
The Portrait of a Halberdier was sold for $ 35M including premium by Christie's on May 31, 1989. It was purchased at this sale by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The image is shared by Wikimedia. Because of its great pictorial quality, experts want to recognize in this portrait a work that was specifically admired by Vasari.
1530 Early Preaching
2018 SOLD for $ 3.4M including premium
He then settled in Middelburg and spread Mannerist tastes in Holland and Flanders. His mythological nudes are daring for the time. He paints many portraits.
On December 9, 2015, Sotheby's sold for £ 4.6M including premium a Virgin and Child painted around 1520 on 39 x 27 cm panel.
Mary is a young woman in an attitude of quiet adoration. All the Mannerism is in the attitude of the naked child ready to escape from the hands of his mother for convincing the world. The child's hand catching the chin of his mother creates an emotional link although he does not look at her.
Later the child becomes exuberant. He is displayed at the same early age but his attitude has become a preaching with a speaking mouth and a raised arm. His skills exceeding his apparent age are confirmed by the aging of his musculature and hair. The thoughtful mother is no longer smiling.
This oil on panel 45 x 34 cm painted around 1530 was sold for CHF 2.37M including premium by Koller on March 28, 2014. It had been discussed in this column before the sale. It is estimated $ 3M for sale by Christie's in New York on April 19, lot 48.
1532 Game of Life in Antwerp
2019 SOLD for $ 10M including premium
Jan Sanders van Hemessen was received in 1524 at the Guild of Saint Luke of Antwerp where he joined Quentin Massys. A friend of Erasmus, Massys had introduced the grotesque into his religious and secular scenes. Much ahead of its time, the Lender and his wife, painted in 1511 by Massys, shows two characters captured in a moment of their professional activity.
Van Hemessen's creativity is very innovative. He is the first to practice what was later called the Mannerist inversion, which consisted of relegating the religious scene to the background for devoting the foreground to a scene of daily life with the clothes of his time.
Often the religious action disappears, replaced by an accumulation of symbols that are no longer comprehensible to the observer of today but allows all fantasies, such as to apply to an angel the very colorful wings of a butterfly. By his frequent use of an instant narrative, van Hemessen is the founder of the Flemish genre painting and anticipates Bruegel's proverbs.
On May 1 in New York, Christie's sells a 111 x 128 cm oil on panel painted by van Hemessen in 1532, lot 7 estimated $ 4M.
This life-size half-length double portrait shows a man and a woman in a cozy interior. Richly dressed, they certainly belong to the Antwerp bourgeoisie. They are seated at a table centered by the board of a game which is a precursor to the backgammon.
These two characters discuss an element of the on-going game. The forefinger of the woman is pointing to two dice that have just revealed their number. They look at each other with a loving smile. Several elements, including the rings on the fingers and a quince freshly cut for sharing, evoke their marriage. Some other symbols are religious.
Please watch the video prepared by Christie's in which this painting is discussed by its consignor the minimalist artist Frank Stella.
1532 The Elector of the Reformation
2018 SOLD for $ 7.7M including premium
The first of his three Saxon patrons, Friedrich the Wise, is famous for his tolerance concerning Luther. Cranach is enthusiastic about the Reformation and then becomes a close friend of Luther.
The family events of the Saxon court are celebrated with half-length portraits in resplendent attire. In 1525 Friedrich is succeeded by his brother Johann who intensifies his pro-Lutheran policy. In the following year he manages the engagement of his son and heir Johann-Friedrich with Sibylle of Cleves. The wedding takes place in 1527. Cranach's portrait of the then 15-year-old princess was sold for $ 7.7M including premium by Christie's on April 15, 2008.
Johann-Friedrich succeeds Johann in 1532 and confirms his commitment to the Reformation. He commissions Cranach and his workshop for a large quantity of posthumous portraits of his two predecessors to serve as diplomatic gifts.
On April 19 in New York, Christie's sells a portrait of Johann-Friedrich, oil on panel 63 x 40 cm, lot 7 estimated $ 1M. The painting is neither dated nor signed and an underdrawing reveals that some details of the face were modified for perfecting the likeness or the dignity. It is probably a modello painted by the master after the accession to power of the new Elector to prepare the realization of copies by the workshop.
This artwork disappeared during the Nazi persecutions. It has just resurfaced and was restituted to the spoiled family with the support of Christie's.
Please watch the video shared by auction house (full video below the video tweet, including a portrait of Alessandro Farnese by another artist). POST SALE COMMENT : the Farnese portrait was sold for $ 2.6M including premium.
1532 The Sixteen Boys of the Jiajing Emperor
2007 SOLD for HK$ 30.6M including premium by Christie's
The Zhengde emperor of the Ming died in 1521 CE in scandalous circumstances, before reaching 30 years old, with no surviving child. His cousin who succeeded him was obviously not ready. His reign name will be Jiajing meaning 'admirable tranquility'. He will never be interested in the exercise of power.
During the 11th year of his reign, 1532 CE, the Jiajing emperor is worried. At 25, he still has no descendants. His first empress had died of his brutality while she was pregnant. He abandons the second because she is pushed by a clan. He organizes a Taoist ritual in the imperial garden to encourage the birth of imperial boys. It is not clear what happened in this ceremony but a first prince was born to a concubine in the following year.
The prince dies at the age of six weeks. The emperor finally finds the solution. Over a period of five years beginning in the 15th year of the reign, nine concubines give him seven sons and four daughters.
As for porcelain, the novelty of this period is the covered jar of large size, offering an increased surface for the illustration.
A blue and white jar of the largest model, 47 cm high including its original cover, was sold for HK $ 30.6M including premium by Christie's in Hong Kong on November 27, 2007. It is back in the same auction house on November 27, 2019, lot 3007. It was part of a pair of identical jars that was separated in 1985.
Its iconographic theme of the hundred boys is traditional. It comes from the legend of an emperor of the Zhou who, unable to have his hundredth son, adopted an orphan.
In a continuity throughout the circumference, sixteen boys play various games in a garden. They are all alike, with shaved heads. One group represents education, with the oldest child playing the schoolmaster while the smallest one does not yet walk but is already trying to catch the book.
All these occupations form several rebuses, according to the traditional game of homophonies. Their meaning is in line with wishes for the imminent birth of one or more boys along with longevity auspices.
A smaller jar showing exactly the same plays passed at Bonhams on November 10, 2011. A 26 cm high jar with another composition of plays was sold for HK $ 11.8M including premium by Christie's on May 27, 2009. These two examples do not have a lid.