NEW YORK, N.Y.- Sotheby’s annual auction of Important Old Master Paintings & Sculpture in New York will take place on 26 January 2012. The morning session of Important Old Master Paintings will offer strong examples across a wide range of styles and genres, from early Italian pictures to Italian Baroque, French Rococo, Dutch 17th century and Italian view paintings, while the afternoon session of Old Master Paintings & Sculpture will feature a selection of sculpture by artists including Andrea Della Robbia, Agnolo di Polo and Louis François Roubiliac. The auction will be on exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 21 January, alongside the Old Masters Week sales.
Important Old Master Paintings
The morning session will be highlighted by three works from the estate of Lady Forte, whose husband Charles Forte founded the global hotel and restaurant group Trusthouse Forte. The group will be led by Canaletto’s Venice, a View of the Churches of the Redentore and San Giacomo, with a Moored Man-of-War, Gondolas and Barges, painted between 1747 and 1755 (est. $5/7 million*). The canvas was originally conceived as one of a pair, which was sold at Sotheby’s along with its pendant – now in a private collection – in 1960. Both views display Canaletto’s customary attention to detail, and additionally demonstrate his strength in the depiction of motion, such as the gondoliers entering the composition at lower right.
The estate of Lady Forte also comprises Still Life of Roses, Tulips, Peonies and Other Flowers in a Sculpted Stone Vase, together with a Bird’s Nest on a Stone Pedestal before a Niche, an important but little-known work painted on a large sheet of copper by Jan van Huysum, the leading Dutch still life painter of the 18th century (est. $4/6 million). It is one of a relatively few number of flower or fruit still lifes that van Huysum painted on a copper support, and along with an example in the Staatliches Museum in Schwerin, it is among his largest and most ambitious works in the medium. Interior with a Child Feeding a Parrot was painted by Pieter de Hooch around 1668-72, seven or eight years after the artist’s move from Delft to Amsterdam (est. $1.5/2 million). It is one of his most elegant and engaging works that survive from this period.
The January auction will also be highlighted by The Virgin Annunciate, an exceptionally rare and beautiful panel by Simone Martini from the early 14th century (est. $3/4 million). The work once formed the right wing of a small, portable devotional diptych representing the Annunciation, and the composition relates closely to Martini’s famous Annunciation with Saints Ansano and Margaret at the Uffizi in Florence – a work that represents a revolution in the depiction of the Virgin Annunciate. The picture once formed part of the highly important Adolphe Stoclet Collection, which crossed multiple collecting categories including fine Egyptian antiquities, as well as works from ancient Mesopotamia, pre-Columbian Mexico, dynastic China, Japan and Africa. The Stoclet Collection also featured a number of important early Italian paintings, including Duccio di Buoninsegna’s Madonna and Child that was acquired by New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 2004.
Lucretia is a striking panel by German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, which has not been seen on the market – and virtually unseen by anyone – since its sale to the current owner in 1988 (est. $4/6 million). Its recent cleaning has revealed an extremely well-preserved paint layer, which contains all of the hallmarks of the early style of Cranach, in one of his most favored subjects. The work has been dated to extremely early in the artist’s career, both for stylistic reasons and for the construction of the panel that is seen in works before 1510.
The sale will offer two paintings from the collection of Dodie Rosekrans – the celebrated philanthropist, style icon and collector who was known internationally as a trendsetter in fashion, the arts and society. First attributed to Fra Bartolommeo in 1925, and dated to the 1490s, Saint Jerome in the Wilderness is a small, jewel-like panel that is related to a similar treatment of the subject in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin (est. $1.5/2 million). The picture has been off the market since 1988, when Mrs. Rosekrans purchased it. Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Bartolomeo Schedoni is of exceptional quality, and is a rare highlight from the elusive Emilian artist’s work (est. $700/900,000). The painting has an illustrious early provenance.
A selection of early Northern still life paintings will include Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s A Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Beaker Set in a Marble Niche, likely executed in 1618 (est. $1/1.5 million). The important rediscovered work was missing for almost 80 years, only coming to light in autumn 2011. Its exceptional provenance includes the Russian Imperial collections housed in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg – where it was attributed for some time to Abraham Breughel – and likely entered the collection before the reign of Catherine the Great. The work left The Hermitage on 14 November 1932, eventually entering the collection of the present owners’ grandfather.
Also highlighting this selection is Three Dishes of Sweetmeats and Chestnuts with Three Glasses on a Table, a rare work on copper by Osias Beert the Elder, and is among the finest and most refined examples of the artist’s work to appear at auction in recent years (est. $1.5/2 million). Roughly a dozen signed or monogramed still lifes by Beert are known, and his surviving oeuvre includes only around 50 firmly attributed paintings. Of these known works, about half are flower pictures, while the other half includes fruits and food still life’s such as the present piece. While typically it is difficult to date works by Beert, the copper stamp on the reverse of the present piece allows for accurate dating to 1610. Interestingly, many of the foods pictured are sugared – an ingredient that had only recently come from the New World, and which the artist appears to be celebrating here.
The January auction will offer a recently discovered sketch, or modello, by Sir Peter Paul Rubens: Adoration of the Magi remained unknown for the entire 20th century, emerging in 2010 from the collection of the Viennese family who had owned it since the 19th century (est. $2/3 million). The modello can now be definitively restored to Rubens’s corpus for the first time in over 100 years. The painting is a preparatory work for a large canvas now in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon, though the sketch does contain alterations from the final full scale version – typical of Rubens’s working style.
A Still Life with a Pewter Jug on Its Side, a Glass of Ale, a Salt Cellar, a Bread Roll and Other Objects on a Table Draped in a Dark Green Cloth is a stunning work by the Dutch Golden Age still-life painter Simon Luttichuys, which stands as one of the finest examples from the artist’s entire output (est. $1.8/2.5 million). It is a somewhat atypical example in relation to his more well-known style, as this particular work does not feature the artist’s characteristic dark background. Instead, the composition is luminous, set against a stone background that allows the incredibly realistic still life elements to stand out prominently.
The subject of Charles-Antoine Coypel’s grand and elegant work Roland and the Marriage of Angelique was taken from Philippe Quinault’s opera Roland, which was in turn inspired by the poem Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, published in 1516 (est. $700/900,000). The present work is the primary version of the French Rococo composition that Coypel later enlarged to serve as a tapestry cartoon, and at least nine versions of tapestries after this composition are recorded. Among the earliest and most important of these is the example woven at the Gobelins factory in the ateliers of Le Febvre and Monmerqué from 1734 to 1737, and which is today in the Swedish royal collection. Later it entered the renowned collection of Maurice de Rothschild, by whose family it was sold in Paris in 1948.
Known primarily for his view paintings of Venice’s iconic canals, The Ridotto in Venice with Masked Figures Conversing is a rare and lively interior painting by Francesco Guardi that demonstrates his skill as a narrative painter (est. $1.8/2.5 million). The work depicts the salone centrale or sala grande of the ridotto in the Palazo Dandolo at San Moisè, where guests across social and political classes could mingle with a degree of anonymity from behind masks. This painting is probably the one recorded in an unpublished inventory of the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild at 41 Rue Faubourg St. Honoré in Paris – now the American Embassy. Although given no title, it was one of only two Guardis in the collection, and hung in the Library, where it was valued at £3,000.
Old Master Paintings & Sculpture The afternoon session will be highlighted by a selection of sculpture including An Important Pair of Italian Glazed Terracotta Relief Portraits of Youths by Andrea Della Robbia (est. $400/600,000). The two exceptionally fine portrait roundels probably represent young Florentine noblemen, and were sculpted in Florence circa 1470-80. Vigorously modeled in high relief, their handsome and youthful features project an air of confidence, dignity and intelligence. They exemplify a high point in the quality of the production of the famed della Robbia family workshop, early in the independent career of one of the most celebrated sculptors of his day, Andrea della Robbia.
Another terracotta sculpture in the January auction is An Italian Terracotta Bust of a Bishop Saint by Agnolo di Polo, late 15th century (est. $100/150,000). This large, beautifully modeled bust is one of the few surviving works by the artist, and probably represents Saint Zenobius, first Bishop of Florence. Agnolo, who came from a family of artisans, produced figures and busts for churches in Tuscany and the surrounding region; the treatment of the facial features and flowing hair in the present bust compares well with the known polychromed terracotta works by the artist.
A highlight of the marble sculpture on offer is An Important English White Marble Portrait Bust of Alexander Pope, attributed to Louis François Roubiliac, circa 1741 (est. $300/500,000). The refined carving and elegant design of this exceptional portrait bust of Alexander Pope, one of England’s greatest literary figures, distinguish it as a great masterpiece of 18th century portraiture. Attributed to Louis François Roubiliac, the most accomplished sculptor working in England in the 18th century, the present work originally was paired with the artist’s bust of Sir Isaac Newton, which is now in an English private collection. Both of the portraits were in the collection of the Earls Poulett, at Hinton House, Hinton St. George – their seat in Somerset.