July Auctions of Old Master and 19th Century Paintings and Drawings in London

3/7/12 - Art Market - London - Last July 2011 Sotheby’s London offered more interesting works at auction than Christie’s. This year, the second is undeniably more attractive than its leading competitor thanks to an extraordinary ensemble of Dutch paintings from the Pieter and Olga Dressmann collection, most of them acquired from Noortman’s.

1. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669)
Portrait of a Man
Oil on Panel - 39.8 x 29.4 cm
Christie’s London Auction 3/7/12
Photo : Christie’s

2. Giovanni Battista Salvi, known as Sassoferrato
Virgin with Child and Saint Joseph
Oil on Canvas - 136.7 x 99.8 cm
Christie’s London Auction 3/7/12
Photo : Christie’s

3. Charles Coypel (1694-1752)
Destruction of Armide’s Palace, 1737
Oil on Canvas - 128 x 193 cm
Christie’s London Auction 3/7/12
Photo : Christie’s

Potential buyers can thus discover a Portrait of a Man (ill. 1) painted by the young Rembrandt in Leyden while he was still working alongside Jan Lievens, as well as three beautiful still-lifes by Adrian Coorte, a church interior by Pieter Saenredam and also seascapes by Willem van de Velde II and Salomon van Ruysdael.
But the Christie’s offerings do not stop there. There is also a fine copper by Joachim Wtewael representing Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, several Seicento Italian paintings (Spada, Sassoferratto - ill. 2, Luca Giordano, Carlo Dolci, Valerio Castello...) of great quality, and a canvas by Charles Coypel (ill. 3) preparatory for the tapestry of the Destruction of Armide’s Palace, part of the Tapestry of the Opera Fragments woven by the Gobelins factory. The large cartoon resides at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy.
Visitors were particularly struck by a Constable landscape, indeed superb. However, we should point out it comes from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza collection and was, not long ago, on view in the museum galleries in Madrid. This raises the question of its status and the future of this private collection exhibited in a public museum and of the building additions carried out by the Spanish government (see article, in French).

4. Camillo Procaccini (c. 1555-1629)
Christ and the Samaritan Woman
Oil on Canvas - 146 x 116 cm
Christie’s London Auction 4/7/12
Photo : Christie’s

We also found some remarkable paintings at these London auctions offered at (relatively) low prices which would constitute excellent acquisitions for museums with restricted budgets. For example, we would point out, at the Christie’s sale, a very beautiful painting by Camillo Procaccini representing Christ and the Samaritan Woman (ill. 4), estimated at only 20 to 30,000 pounds.

5. John Martin (1789-1854)
The Destruction of Pharao’s Army, 1836
Pen, Watercolor with Gum Arabic and
Gouache Heightening - 58.4 x 85.7 cm
Christie’s London Auction 3/7/12
Photo : Christie’s

6. William Turner of Oxford (17892-1862)
Before the Sunup, 1847
Pen, Watercolor with Gouache Heightening - 27.3 x 42.5 cm
Christie’s London Auction 3/7/12
Photo : Christie’s

Among the drawings offered at auction, also at Christie’s, of special interest is notably a very large watercolor by John Martin representing The Destruction of Pharao’s Army (ill. 5), a magnificent sheet by this visionary artist highlighted in a recent exhibition, and a small tempera on vellum by Jean-Etienne Liotard, a veritable miniature representing a Thoughtful Young Woman on her Sofa.
Other very high quality and affordable works include for instance a watercolor gouache by William Turner (ill. 6) estimated at only 3,000 to 5,000 pounds. Obviously, for this price, we are talking about Turner of Oxford, not to be mistaken with the other, but this drawing, dated 1847, is both very beautiful and very surprising for this period, evoking rather Symbolist art at the end of the century.

7. Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (1697-1768)
View of Campo San Giacomo di Rialto in Venice
Pen, Brown Ink, Grey Wash - 24.6 x 37.2 cm
Sotheby’s London Auction 4/7/12
Photo : Sotheby’s

8. Giuseppe Cesari, known as Cavaliere d’Arpino (1568-1640)
Prophet Holding a Book
Black and Red Chalk with White Chalk Heightening
22.4 x 18.1 cm
Sotheby’s London 4/7/12
Photo : Sotheby’s

9. Orazio Borgianni (1574-1616)
Christ with the Doctors of the Church
Oil on Canvas - 78.2 x 104.6 cm
Sotheby’s London Auction 4/7/12
Photo : Sotheby’s

At Sotheby’s, drawing sales are also endowed with beautiful sheets including notably a View of Campo San Giacomo di Rialto in Venice (ill. 7), a drawing by Charles Natoire representing Diana and Actaeon as well as a pastel by Maurice-Quentin de la Tour portraying Monsignor Vintimille du Luc, Archbishop of Paris. Readers should also note interesting Italian sheets by Sebastiano Conca, Antonio Campi and Cavaliere d’Arpino (ill. 8).
Among the paintings offered by this auction house, we particularly remarked the following three : Christ with the Doctors of the Church by Orazio Borgianni (ill. 9), a large Caravaggesque canvas of exceptional quality, a grisaille panel by the Master of Dreux-Budé and a Virgin, Queen of Paradise, Nursing the Baby Jesus by Hans Baldung-Grien. However, we must say we were not at all convinced by "the only known portrait of Louis XI painted while alive" mentioned recently in the media...

10. Lorenzo Lippi (1606-1656)
Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist
Oil on Canvas - 109 x 72.5 cm
London, Moretti
Photo : Moretti

Early July has now become the occasion for London galleries to present several exhibitions although we ourselves were only able to see a few. Among these, we noted particularly Moretti’s display, an ensemble of several Seicento Florentine paintings, accompanied by a veritable catalogue. There is notably a Virgin and Child with the young Saint John the Baptist by Lorenzo Lippi (ill. 10) and a Nativity by Jacopo Vignali. This exhibition runs until 30 July 2012.
Other very interesting shows include Rafael Valls’ devoted to grisailles (Monochrome Masterworks), until 20 July, with particularly a very beautiful study by Rubens and, at Dickinson’s (until 13 July), an ensemble of about 90 drawings and watercolors by the Italian artist Carlo Labruzzi on the theme of the Grand Tour (with catalogue).

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Didier Rykner, mardi 3 juillet 2012

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