Nana Mouskori’s Subleyras

1. After or by Pierre Subleyras (1699-1749)
Saint Jerome
Oil on canvas - 93 x 69 cm
Auction of the 12 mai 2010 at Drouot
by Pierre Cornette de Saint Cyr
Photo : SVV Cornette de Saint Cyr

17/5/10 – Art market – Paris – Consisting mainly of copies, bad paintings, often old pieces which have been overly restored, the first part of the auction of the Nana Mouskori « collection » led by Pierre Cornette de Saint Cyr at the hôtel Drouot was particularly colorful [1]. It is hard to know if the singer knowingly amassed “kitsch” canvases (this is a genre after all and acquiring an ensemble can be considered rather singular) or if she truly thought she owned masterpieces.

Regardless, in the midst of this veritable hotchpotch, there was a superb canvas, no doubt a mistaken purchase, which René Millet, the expert, had correctly seen as being in Pierre Subleyras’ circle since this was a Saint Jerome (ill. 1) of which he did several known versions. The estimate seemed, however, too low, perhaps on purpose to attract potential buyers, situated between 2,000 and 3,000 euros. Amateurs as well as professionals thus crowded around the canvas and bidding quickly soared to a final 82,000€ (without charges) (ill. 2).
The issue now facing the person or persons who acquired it is to obtain the acknowledgement of this painting of very high quality as an authentic Subleyras. It is well known that the artist, sometimes with the help of his workshop, would produce several replicas of his compositions as proven by the catalogue of the 1987 exhibition by Pierre Rosenberg [2]. There are thus several known examples of Saint Benedict Resurrecting a Child, with a large format held at the church of San Francesco Romano in Rome [3]. The same case is repeated again, as for instance with Saint Ambrose Absolving the Emperor Theodosius, The Mass of Saint Basil (see news item of 10/3/08) and the Portrait of Pope Benedict XIV (see news item of 29/3/09).

2. Sale of the Saint Jerome
at The Hôtel Drouot, room 10
Photo : Didier Rykner

The large altarpiece of The Vision of Saint Jerome is held at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. Although the attitude of the saint is close to the one in this painting sold at Drouot, many variations as well as the presence of angels playing instruments at the top of the composition would indicate that this is really a modello for another canvas, or a small devotional piece. Another authentic version, very close to the Drouot painting, reappeared recently on the art market.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 17 mai 2010


[1] The catalogue explained also, which is very unusual for an entire auction, that “most of the paintings in this auction underwent restorations, the signatures on some were highlighted.” (“La plupart des tableaux de cette vente ont fait l’objet de restaurations, les signatures sont remontées sur certain.”)

[2] Pierre Rosenberg, Subleyras 1699-1749, 1987, Paris, Musée du Luxembourg.

[3] According to Pierre Rosenberg : the study at the Louvre and the replicas at the Pinacoteca in Perugia and the one in Munich are fully acknowledged ; the ones at the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco, at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill and those in (at the time) English private collections are workshop replicas, whereas an old copy is at the Musée Calvet and two 19th century copies in Parisian private collections.

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