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  • Old Master Paintings Sale Includes Brueghels
    November 13, 2004 LONDON, ENGLAND

    Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Kermesse of St. George, est: ?2,500,000-?3,500,000.

    Sotheby's Old Master Paintings sale on Wednesday December 8, 2004 includes what may well be the finest work by Pieter Brueghel the Younger still in private hands. Estimated at ?2,500,000-3,500,000, The Kermesse of St. George will be offered alongside three important Dutch paintings from the celebrated collection of Enrico Fattorini and a number of other works with similarly appealing provenance, freshness and quality. The sale continues on Thursday, December 9 with two more sessions, one of which will be devoted exclusively to Spanish paintings.

    Full of the intriguing detail that makes the Brueghels' work so compelling, The Kermesse stands apart from the bulk of Pieter Brueghel the Younger's work in that it is one of only a handful of original compositions the artist produced. In contrast to his custom serial production, this composition is known in just three versions, of which this is the prime original. For most of his career, Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1637/8) devoted himself to copying the works of his father, thereby extending the "Brueghelian" tradition, but rarely demonstrating his own independent talents. Here, in what is undoubtedly the finest original composition he ever devised, it is possible to see the elusive hallmarks of his own independent style - a distinctive verve and attention to anecdotal detail - combined with the engaging subject matter and composition that identify him his father's son. This exceptional work is sure to generate great excitement when it appears on the market in December, not only because of its importance, but also because it has not been seen in public since 1935, having remained in the same family ownership since before 1930.

    Alongside the Brueghel, December's sale also includes the last three masterpieces from the collection of the late Enrico Fattorini, which has been dispersed in several sales at Sotheby's over the last ten years*. Fattorini's collection of Dutch pictures was one of the finest assembled in Britain in the last hundred years. Although it is now mostly dispersed, the paintings by Adriaen van Ostade, Jan Steen, and Jacob van Ruisdael that will be offered in December's sale rank among the finest works he ever owned.

    (John) Enrico (1878-1949) was a highly successful businessman from a family of talented entrepreneurs. His grandfather, Antonio Fattorini (1797-1859), came to England in 1815, having impetuously left his native Lombardy earlier that year in order to fight with Wellington's army against Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. Unfortunately, the battle was over by the time Antonio arrived, and - rather than return to Bellagio - he decided to continue North to England to see what opportunities and adventures he could find there. He settled first in Dewsbury, in Yorkshire, and took up work as a travelling packman. By the time he died, aged 63, he owned shops in Leeds, Bradford, Skipton and Harrogate. Subsequent generations continued to develop the family business, but in 1912 John Enrico broke away to found his own mail order business in Bradford - Grattan Warehouses. His fledgling company expanded rapidly and when it was finally floated on the Stock Market in 1936, Fattorini found himself an extremely wealt y man, with the means to indulge his passion for collecting pictures and works of art. He was a disciplined collector who bought well, acquiring, for instance, a group of outstanding cabinet pictures from the Rothschild collection at Exbury in Hampshire, which form the core of his collection.

    Estimated at ?2,000,000-?3,000,000, Adriaen van Ostade's Peasants Carousing and Dancing Outside an Inn was among the most important works Enrico bought from the Rothschilds. One of the artist's most accomplished and animated exterior scenes, this exceptional work was painted when Ostade was at the height of his powers and is replete with the kind of evocative observation of surface at which Ostade (1610-1684) excelled. Prior to its acquisition by the Rothschilds, the painting belonged to a series of distinguished collectors in France, including the Duchesse de Berry.

    Jacob van Ruisdael's (1599-1677) view of Two Undershot Water Mills with Men opening a Sluice (est: ?800,000-?1,200,000) also belonged to the late Enrico Fattorini. Looking at this highly atmospheric depiction of two mills beneath a cloudy sky, it is easy to understand how Ruisdael gained his reputation as one of the greatest landscape painters in Western art.

    The third work from the Fattorini collection is Jan Steen's lively representation of A Comical Figure Greeting a Young Woman in an Interior, estimated at ?700,000-?900,000. In common with many of Jan Steen's (1629-1697) pictures, this theatrical composition makes reference to Dutch proverbs, emblematic traditions and puns. The flute projecting from the elderly man's pocket is an emblem of lust and refers back to an old Dutch proverb, which translates as "The bird catcher, who seeks to deceive, will try to lure the bird with his sweet flute". In Jan Steen's time, as today, 'bird catching' or 'vogeling' would easily be recognised as a clear reference to the pursuit of fornication.