Thursday, 1 December 2011

M/M Goya, Brueghel, Gainsborough, Van de Velde & Maes Lead Old Master & British Painting at Christie's London in December

Image of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Fuendetodos 1746-1828 Bordeaux;) Portrait of Don Juan López de Robredo, Embroiderer to King Carlos IV of Spain; Oil on canvas; 42⅝ x 32⅜ in. (108.3 x 82.3 cm.) £4,000,000 – 6,000,000. Image supplied to Manner of Man Magazine by Christie's London and may not be reproduced without written authorisation.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2011
All rights reserved.

Old Master & British Painting Evening Sale
King Street
6 December 2011
Sale 8007

Christie’s Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale on 6 December 2011will present the market with 36 paintings, providing a visual feast of European art history spanning 500 years. Leading the sale is Portrait of Juan López de Robredo by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), the greatest Spanish painter of his time (estimate: £4 million to £6 million), illustrated above. Offered at auction for the first time in almost twenty years, this important portrait stands alone in Goya’s oeuvre as an example of an artist – the Embroiderer to King Carlos IV of Spain - depicted in the manner of a courtier. Further highlights include The Battle between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel II (1564/5-1637/8) (estimate: £3.5 million to £4.5 million); a full length Portrait of Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield (1755-1815), by Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (1727-1788) (estimate: £2.5 million to £3.5 million); Dutch men-o'-war and other shipping in a calm by Willem van de Velde II (1633-1707) (estimate: £1.5 million to £2.5 million); An old woman spinning in an interior by Nicolaes Maes (1632-1693), 1658 (estimate: £1 million to £1.5million) and An old man at a casement, 1646, by Govaert Flinck (1615-1660) (estimate £700,000 to £1,000,000). The sale as a whole comprises strong portraiture and a notable number of important Dutch pictures and is expected to realise between £18 million and £26 million.

This auction builds on the success of the corresponding sale at Christie’s London in July 2011 which realised £49,766,050 / $79,625,680 / €54,991,485, and set nine new record prices for artists, including Stubbs (£22,441,250 / $35,906,000) and Gainsborough (£6,537,250 / $10,459,600).

Richard Knight, International co-Head of Old Masters and 19th Century Art at Christie’s and Paul Raison, Head of Old Masters and 19th Century Art at Christie’s London: “We are pleased to meet the market‟s continuing appetite for important works of exceptional quality, condition and rarity with a stellar group of paintings in the evening sale this December. This year, our field has witnessed a noticeable broadening of appeal with collectors both globally and increasingly across a range of categories, bringing new energy. Combined with the strong results achieved in July, this presents an exciting context for these works, particularly Goya‟s masterful „Portrait of Juan López de Robredo‟, to come to auction.”

Highlights of the auction:

-Portrait of Juan López de Robredo is an important work by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), which has been widely exhibited and documented (estimate: £4 million to £6 million). Executed with Goya’s inimitable style and mastery of characterisation, it is a vivid and engaging depiction of a fellow artist. Born into a dynasty of ‘bordadores’, López de Robredo not only designed and created exquisite embroideries to embellish the costumes of the Court – including those of the extravagant Queen María-Luisa – but also embroidered hangings, upholstery and woven pictures, many of which remain in the Spanish royal palaces to this day. An artisan and yet also an ‘hidalgo’ of good family, Robredo was immensely proud of his social position and artistic ability. The pinnacle of his career came in 1798 when he was finally granted the right to wear a court uniform similar to, but even more lavish than, those worn by the painters, sculptors and diamond cutters of the Spanish Court. Robredo was so proud that he commissioned this portrait by Goya, illustrated page 1, which - as the leading portraitist of the day and a firm favourite of the Spanish Court - was an audacious move, signaling the sitter’s ambition.

The brilliance of this picture resides in the sympathetic manner in which Goya flatters his sitter whilst also indicating Robredo’s vanity, as he proudly shows off his dazzling new uniform. Robredo’s skill is clear in both the sheet of pattern designs which he holds and the embroidered reality which lavishly adorns his coat and waistcoat, detail illustrated right. Ensuring that the sitter is not overwhelmed by his own attire, Goya balances his masterful handling of the gold braid with a sensitive depiction of Robredo’s face, pulling the viewer’s attention back to his essential humanity. A magisterial celebration of professional success, Goya, who had previously fought for official recognition, may be viewed as both smiling at and empathizing with Robredo’s justifiable pride.

- The Battle between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel II (1564/5-1637/8) exemplifies the unique blend of storytelling and riotous anecdotal detail that has endeared the work of the Brueghels to generations of art-lovers (estimate: £3.5 million to £4.5 million). The internationally acclaimed Brueghel expert, Klaus Ertz, has judged this beautifully preserved picture, which is the property of a gentleman, to be ‘of masterly quality.’ It is one of Pieter Brueghel the Younger's finest reinterpretations of his father's work, which is one of the most recognizable of all the images within the Brueghelian canon. Five versions of the composition by the artist's son are known, of which only three are considered to be autograph. The picture as a whole is a brilliant demonstration of the Breughels' unique ability to orchestrate acutely observed characterization and anecdote into original compositions of great imaginative power. The meaning of The Battle between Carnival and Lent, illustrated left, has been endlessly discussed and interpreted, but rather than imposing a didactic moral message, the picture is notable for its even-handed treatment of both Lent and Carnival. There is no obvious winner in this battle. The artist’s mocking ‘open-air lunatic asylum’ quality seen in works like this one has a resonance which has transcended time, most recently being examined in the work of the Chapman Brothers in their contemporary art show Die Dada Die, in Zurich.

- A remarkably well-preserved and exceptional full length Portrait of Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield (1755-1815) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) is presented for sale for the first time in over half a century, having been bought by the late present owner in 1959 (estimate: £2.5 million to £3.5 million). This picture is offered in December following the success of Portrait of Miss Read, later Mrs William Villebois which set a world record price for the artist when it sold from the Cowdray Park collection for £6.5million / $10.4 million in July 2011.

Chesterfield had inherited the title in 1773 from a cousin, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, the famous author of the Letters, but he waited until his marriage in 1777 before commissioning a pair of full-length portraits to mark the ennoblement of his branch of the family. Depicting Lord Chesterfield relaxing on a country walk, it was painted as a pendant to the more formal portrait of his wife, which was bought by the Getty Museum, in 1959. It was executed in the years after Gainsborough's move from Bath to London in 1774; the period when he established his reputation as one of the most sophisticated painters of his generation. This portrait demonstrates the artist’s dexterity and lightness of touch and his increasingly confident and experimental approach to painting.

Offered at auction for the first time in over 150 years, from a family trust, Dutch men-o'-war and other shipping in a calm by Willem van de Velde II (1633-1707) has long been recognised as one of the outstanding paintings in the artist’s oeuvre (estimate: £1.5 million to £2.5 million), illustrated left. It is in exceptionally good condition and has, since it was first documented in 1778 at the Servad sale in Amsterdam, long received unanimous acclaim for its technical excellence and the serene harmony of its composition.

-From the same collection, An old woman spinning in an interior, 1658, by Nicolaes Maes (1632-1693), 1658, is also offered for the first time in over 150 years (estimate: £1 million to £1.5million), illustrated left. This charming painting belongs to a group of about twenty-five genre scenes by Maes that feature a housewife or maid seated in a domestic interior and engaged in an everyday activity such as spinning. Maes's genre paintings invariably communicate a moralising message, which would have been readily understood by the contemporary viewer. A copy of the present work in watercolour, with variations and the inclusion of a boy receiving a bible lesson from the housewife, by the Dordrecht painter Abraham van Strij (1753-1826), is in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

-An Old Man at a Casement, 1646, by Govaert Flinck (1615-1660) is a rediscovered treasure from the Hermitage (estimate: £700,000 - £1,000,000), illustrated below. Having once graced the walls of the Imperial Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, this is one of Flinck’s most powerful paintings, remarkable both for its technical virtuosity and its psychological intensity. It reveals how by the mid-1640s Flinck had emerged as the chief rival to Rembrandt, in whose workshop he had trained between 1633 and 1635.

Flinck’s portraits of this period were particularly admired by his contemporaries, though few possess the brooding, mesmeric power of the present work, which focuses from close quarters on the contemplative man leaning on a casement. Acquired by Catherine the Great of Russia as part of one of the greatest collection-building campaigns in history - the product of which was to become the Imperial and subsequently the State Hermitage Museum - this picture is recorded in an inventory made after her death in 1797, and seems to have been separated from the Hermitage collections in the mid-nineteenth-century. This is the first time that it has been offered on the market since the early twentieth century.