By Carter B. Horsley
This Old Master Drawings auction at Christie’s offers some very rare works by important artists as well as numerous fine works by lesser-known artists.
Vittore Carpaccio (1465-1525), for example, is one of the major artists of the Italian Renaissance whose works seldom appear in the market. Lot 5 is a pleasant small drawing that is a study for a seated woman with her left hand supporting her head in the foreground of one of his major paintings, "Saint Stephen and his companions ordained deacons by Saint Peter" that was painted for the Scuola di San Stefano in Venice in 1511. The gray ink and wash drawing is heightened with white on gray blue paper and measures 5 1/8 by 4 1/8 inches. It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000, reflecting its rarity. It sold for $277,500.
Another such rare master if Girolamo Francesco Mazzola, Il Parmigianino (1503-1540), one of the great Mannerists. Lot 6, show above, depicts two somewhat windblown lovers and a seated nude playing the flute with a heard of goats on a mountain and is a black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash drawing that has an estimate of $120,000 to $160,000, reflecting its very vigorous drawing, good composition and provenance. The drawing, which measures 6 1/4 by 4 1/2 inches, has some minor holes. The catalogue states that it was once in the collection of Sir Thomas Lawrence, the artist, who at one time allegedly had 137 drawings by Parmigianino and 50 by Correggio. It failed to sell!
Drawings, of course, are fascinating first glimpses of an artist’s inspiration and occasionally as record of his revised thinking about a subject. Lot 16 is an excellent, handsome drawing that shows some minor posture changes but is particularly picturesque for his use of different drawing styles to separate the foreground from the background in a very complete and highly detailed composition. It is attributed to Ferraù Fenzoni (1562-1645) and is called "The Pool of Bethesda and it has a study of the figure of Christ on its reverse. The black and red chalk, brown ink and wash drawing measures 17 1/4 by 15 2/8 inches. At one time, it was attributed to Tintoretto. The catalogue notes that this drawing is a study for a picture executed in 1600 for the Confraternità di San Giovanni Decollato in Faenza and now in the Pinacoteca Communale in S. Casadei, Pinocatecaodi Faenza, Bolonga. The estimate is $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $200,500.
Lot 26 is a colorful version of "The Assumption of the Virgin" by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1608-1664), three oil sketch versions of which are in Windsor Castle. Castiligione worked in Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s studio and the drawing has much of the traditional verve of Peter Paul Rubens, Van Dyck’s teacher. The red chalk and brown wash drawing on light brown paper has white and blue highlighting and measures 14 ¾ by 10 ¾ inches. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 and bears an inscription with the artist’s name. It failed to sell.
A more minimalist style can be found in Lot 29, "The Calling of Saint Peter," by Andrea Sacchi (1599-1661) that is quite lovely and has an estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It failed to sell. The 9 ½-by-8 3/8-inch drawing is related to a modello formerly in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome and was probably made in preparation for an overdoor fresco commissioned for Saint Peter’s, Rome, the catalogue noted.
The cover illustration of the catalogue is Lot 33, shown above, "Allegory of the Elevation of Cardinal Deacon Oddone Colonna to the Papal Chair as Pope Martin V," a 19 ½-by-15 ¼-inch drawing that is a study for the ceiling painting in the audience chamber of the Palazzo Colonna, Rome. This is a strong drawing by Benedeto Luni (1666-1724) and has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $222,500.
Another full and very legible work is Lot 34, "Moses striking the rock," by Antonio Zanchi (1631-1722). This drawing, 21 7/8 by 15 inches, has an estimate of only $5,000 to $8,000 and the catalogue states that the artist painted a horizontal version of the same subject for the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo in 1669. It sold for $20,700.
A particularly beautiful drawing whose paper unfortunately shows the ravages, or blotches, or time is Lot 49, a half-length figure of a man with a raised arm, by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690). The drawing, 12 3/8 by 7 inches, has an estimate of only $10,00 to $15,000. It sold for $57,500.
For those who like great "names," Lots 42 and 43 might have some appeal. The former is a small sketch of a man asleep by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). The strong but dark drawing has an estimate of $70,000 to $100,000. It sold for $79,500. The latter is a detailed bucolic Mediterranean scene with a tower and a herd of goats by Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain (1600-1682). The drawing, which measures 6 7/8 by 9 ¾ inches, has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It failed to sell.
One of the auction’s highlights is Lot 102. It is a very delicate and sweet portrait of Miss Elizabeth Keating seated playing her guitar, the Vatican seen from a loggia, a signed pencil drawing by Jean-August-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). Connoisseurs may not be put off by its estimate of $400,000 to $600,000 for this drawing that measures 10 7/8 by 8 7/8 inches, but those holding out for the ravishing satiny colors in his paintings may sit on their paddles, or by their phones, a bit longer. It failed to sell.
The auction even has two small landscape drawings by Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn (1606-1669), Lots 114 and 115. They have been consigned by the estate of Michael S. Currier and were formerly in the collections of William, 2nd Duke of Devonshire and the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement. The former has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,400,000 and the latter, which shows part of a windmill, has an estimate of $1,400,000 to $1,800,000. Neither of them are masterpieces, but Rembrandt, of course, has quite an ardent following. Lot 114 sold for $3,742,500. Lot 115 sold for $2,532,500.
Probably the best individual drawing in the auction is Lot 61, "Returning to their cave, the brigands discover Orlando with Isabella and Abrina, from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, Canto XIII, 32,33," by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1721-1806). This drawing, which was once in the collection of John Nicholas Brown and has been widely exhibited, measures 15 ½ by 9 ¾ inches and has a conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. While its central figure of Orlando is dominant and the drawing does not include the artist’s rapturously romantic females, nor lush color, it is most dramatic and full of the artist’s renowned flourish. It sold for $43,700.
The auction’s best lot is probably Lot 13, an album of scores of late 16th Century, Florentine School drawings, many of them exquisite by several different artists who identity is not yet clear. Many of the lovely works have the feel of Clouet and Corneille de Lyon and the catalogue notes that several "show the strong influence of the draughtsmanship of the Carracci academy, active in Bologna from the late 1580s" and "others show the influence of Frederico Zuccaro who worked at the Duomo [in Florence]…in the late 1570s." The catalogue added that this group seems "to have been executed by an artist of the generation after Frederico, such as Andrea Boscoli, Andrea Commodi, Cristano Allori or Jacopo da Empoli." It had an estimate of $100,000 to $200,000 and it sold for $101,500.
Perhaps the most lyrical drawing in this auction is Lot 38, "The Holy Family resting by an urn, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770), shown above. The drawing, which measures 10 3/4 by 7 3/4 inches, was once in the collection of Antonio Canova. The fluid line and superb use of brown wash typify Tiepolo’s great style. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $112,500.
Another Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804), is presented by two excellent drawings, Lot 40 and 41. The former is "Angels in Flight blowing trumpets," a 7 7/8-by-11 /14-inch drawing that once belonged to Horace Walpole and has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $14,950. The latter, slightly smaller, "Blindfold Cupid and flying putti playing with a laurel crown," has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $11,500.
Hubert Robert, whose consistently high quality is always impressive, is represented by a large and wonderful drawing, Lot 71, "A great colonnaded building, the roof partly open to the sky, with girls washing clothes at a fountain below a statue of a seated man," runs the catalogue’s unofficial title description. The drawing, which measures 30 ½ by 27 inches, has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000 and the structure it depicts appears to have an infinite colonnade of great proportions, sections of whose vaulted, coffered roof have collapsed leaving irregular but most appealing openings, that make one conjure where the small circular opening at the Pantheon might be more dramatic, at least from a Deconstructivist perspective, if it had a lightning cracked opening, the better to counter its "perfection." Any architect with available money who does not buy this is not a true art collector, although Lots 72 and 73 are also nice but smaller works by the same artist with estimates of $12,000 to $18,000 and $15,000 to $25,000, respectively, with which they might console themselves. Lot 71 sold for $156,500. Lot 72 sold for $32,200 and Lot 73 sold for $46,000.
Nature lovers, of course, will by pass Robert’s great vaulted space and concentrate on Lots 77 and 78, both views of the falls at Tivoli by Franz Keiserman (1765-1833). The former, which measures 14 7/8 by 21 7/8, has an estimate of only $6,000 to $8,000 and is a nice composition that is only somewhat faded. The latter is a much brighter and dramatic work and has an estimate of only $5,000 to $7,000, possibly reflecting its smaller size of 17 ¼ by 12 1/8 inches. Lot 77 failed to sell. Lot 78 sold for $10,350. Yet another vista of the falls, from a different perspective, is Lot 80, which is attributed to Simon-Joseph Alexander-Clément Denis (1755-1813). It is a fine composition but monochrome and has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, possibly reflecting its larger size of $25 by 18 ½ inches.
The back cover illustration of the catalogue is Lot 118, "Lazarus begging for Crumbs from Dive’s Table" a signed and dated work by Heinrich Aldegrever (1502-1555/61). The catalogue notes that this newly discovered work is the "only known preparatory drawing" for a series of five engravings the artist did for The Story of Dives and Lazarus. The work is exquisitely drawn and the 78 by 108 mm drawing has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $156,500.