December Art Auctions in London

6/12/11 - Art Market - London - Although most of the auctions appear to be less attractive than usual, the December sales in London are nonetheless a good opportunity to see some fine paintings and sculptures and will no doubt provide museums the chance to make some interesting acquisitions.

Unlike last July (see article), this time Christie’s seems to be a step ahead of Sotheby’s. However Bonham’s, though its selection is smaller and of slightly lesser quality than its two major competitors, has definitely made the headlines this year with its Portrait of a Gentleman (ill. 1) by Velázquez, a painting which resurfaced recently and had been presented in an article appearing in the Spanish journal, Ars Magazine last October. We should also point out a beautiful still-life in this same auction, Three peaches on a stone ledge with a Red Admiral butterfly, oil on marouflé paper on panel, signed by Adriaen Coorte.

1. Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)
Portrait of a Gentleman
Oil on canvas - 47 x 39 cm
Bonham’s London, 7/12/11
Photo : Bonham’s

2. Francisco Goya (1746-1828)
Portrait of Don Juan López de Robredo
Oil on canvas - 108,3 x 82.3 cm
Christie’s London, 6/12/11
Photo : Christie’s

Following this Northern European interlude, we return to Spain with, at Christie’s, another portrait, that of Don Juan López de Robredo, embroiderer for King Charles IV, by Goya (ill. 2). The work is of very fine quality though it may perhaps not be everyone’s choice for their living room. The treatment of the costume, richly embroidered as expected, considering the model in question, is particularly remarkable.
Also at this Christie’s auction, there is a tapestry project, probably never completed, by David Teniers (ill. 3), part of a series of four modelli, one of which resided at the Musée du Louvre (but was returned to the Jaffé heirs in 2005), a large Portrait of the Carnarvon Family by Peter Lely and a fine figure of an old man by Govaert Flinck with a provenance from the collection of Catherine II. These works will be auctioned off on 6 December in the evening, but the sale on Wednesday 7 December, usually reserved for less important works, is also offering some truly remarkable paintings such as a Saint Jerome [1] (ill. 4) by Giuseppe Antonio Petrini, with a modest estimate of 10 to 15,000 pounds (with a provenance from the Cardinal Fesch collection), which seems to be very little for a canvas of this quality and an artist of this stature.

3. David Teniers (1610-1690)
The Embarkation of Don Juan of Austria
Oil on canvas - 67 x 81 cm
Christie’s London, 6/12/11
Photo : Christie’s

4. Giuseppe Antonio Petrini (1677-1755/1759)
Saint Jerome (?)
Oil on canvas - 91.4 x 106.8 cm
Christie’s London, 7/12/11
Photo : Christie’s

5. Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797)
Virgil’s Tomb by Moonlight, 1779
Oil on canvas - 101.5 x 127 cm
Sotheby’s London, 7/12/11
Photo : Sotheby’s

At Sotheby’s, on 7 December, the masterpiece, spotlighted at the entrance to the sales rooms, is a work by Joseph Wright of Derby representing Virgil’s Tomb by Moonlight (ill. 5). Buyers will also find an interior scene by Jan Steen and a typical piece by Mattia Preti, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, unpublished, and very soiled but which should recover its original splendor after its restoration. In the second auction on 8 December, there are several very attractive paintings, also estimated at very reasonable prices such as a Saint John the Baptist typical of Matteo Rosselli (only 20 to 30,000 pounds) and a Franceso Solimena with a rare subject (ill. 6), which shows the Virgin after the Assumption, welcomed in heaven by her Son (25 to 35,000 pounds) which proves, as we saw earlier for the Petrini at Christie’s that old master paintings of museum quality remain relatively affordable, especially when compared to the speculative heights attained for contemporary art.
We conclude with a 17th century painting from southern France by Reynaud Levieux, an artist whose works do not often appear at auction, representing a The Rest during the Flight into Egypt (ill. 7).

6. Francesco Solimena (1747-1757)
The Ascension of the Virgin
Oil on canvas - 85.5 x 113.4 cm
Sotheby’s London, 8/12/11
Photo : Sotheby’s

7. Reynaud Levieux (1613-1699)
The Rest during the Flight into Egypt
Oil on canvas - 73.5 x 99 cm
Sotheby’s London, 8/12/11
Photo : Sotheby’s

However, at Sotheby’s, as at Christie’s, the most striking paintings came from a selection works exhibited in London, to be offered in January in New York, notably a Fra Bartolommeo (Saint Jerome in the Desert) and a Bartolomeo Schedoni at the first auction house ; a study of The Assumption of the Virgin by Rubens and a Fragonard at the second.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 6 décembre 2011


[1] The work is entitled Saint Jerome Reading in a Landscape but, besides the fact that the central figure is not reading since the book is closed (he appears to be meditating instead), is this really Saint Jerome since he is not accompanied by any of his usual attributes ?

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