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Old Master Paintings
Christie's New York
April 19, 2018
Sale 14277


Lot 7, "John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony," by Lucas Cranach I, oil on panel, 24 3/8 by 15 5/8 inches

By Carter B. Horsley

The Old Masters Paintings auction at Christie's New York April 19, 2018 is highlighted by an impressive half-length portrait of the Elector of Saxony by Cranach, a very lovely Virgin and Child by Gossart, a good portrait of a satyr by Rubens, a charming large portrait by Van Dyck, and a good genre work by Boucher.
Lot 7 is a superb oil on panel of "John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony" by Lucas Cranach I (1472-1553).  It measures 24 3/8 by 15 5/8 inches.
The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"For over seventy-five years, this arresting portrait of John Frederick the Magnanimous was presumed lost or destroyed. Its reemergence constitutes an exciting opportunity for scholars of early German Renaissance portraiture as well as a triumphant moment for the descendants of Friederich Bernhard Eugen Gutmann, from whose collection it was looted during the Second World War. The painting is, without question, one of Cranach’s most refined portrayals of the Elector John Frederick, who at the time it was executed in the 1530s was the artist’s greatest patron and close friend.
Cranach portrays John Frederick half-length and in three-quarter profile, with his arms slightly cropped along the left and right edges to heighten his monumentality. The artist had established this pictorial convention years earlier, while working as court painter in Wittenberg for the Elector’s uncle, Frederick the Wise (1463-1525). In fact, Cranach employed this pose for almost all of his elector portraits including those of the sitter’s father and predecessor, John the Steadfast (1468-1532), as can be seen in Cranach’s magnificent painting of the three rulers, The three Electors of Saxony: Frederic the Wise, John the Steadfast and John Frederick the Magnanimous in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg....

"Exuding confidence, John Frederick gazes resolutely ahead, his commanding figure filling the picture plane. The elector’s grand stature is enhanced further by his resplendent - and voluminous - attire, which includes a doublet accented with bands of red silk fashionably slashed to allow the embroidered white fabric beneath to peek through. Adorning the doublet’s upper section are three gold collars featuring a motif of pearl “S”s interspersed with geometric designs composed of sapphires and more pearls. Four gold chains, including one with a pendant in the form of a dolphin clutching a pomander in its jaws, add further luster and weight to the elector’s imposing torso. A similar golden dolphin pendant appears in Cranach’s 1531 portrait of John Frederick in the Louvre....In addition to releasing a pleasant aroma, these objects may also have functioned as ear-picks, toothpicks or possibly whistles...Still more intricate jewels appear on John Frederick’s hat, which matches the rich burgundy velvet of his overgown. In addition to a garland of enameled flowers, John Frederick’s stylish beret boasts a ring, a pair of entwined serpents and a hat badge with an hourglass design - perhaps intended as a vanitas symbol. The elector sports another ring on his right index finger; prominently displayed in the portrait’s central foreground, it bears what appears to be a Saxon coat-of-arms....

"As court painter to the Electors at Wittenberg, Cranach was charged with portraying the Saxon princes as well as their friends and allies. These images not only documented likenesses for ancestral records, but also carried a powerful political function as they were frequently exchanged as gifts, a custom that served to strengthen ties between courts by providing a physical presence of the sitter from afar. Such was surely the function of the sixty portrait pairs of Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast that John Frederick famously commissioned from Cranach in 1532.

"To produce his portraits of John Frederick, Cranach likely relied on a drawing taken from life, which was kept in his studio. The contours of the drawing would then be copied onto panels, to be painted by the artist’s assistants. In this case, however, the elevated quality of brushwork and composition suggests that the entire painting was executed by Lucas’s own hand, as Professor Dieter Koepplin has recently confirmed upon firsthand examination. Moreover, the underdrawing (visible through infrared reflectography...) reveals that the artist made several changes to his design, adjusting both the contour of John Frederick’s nose and the position of his eyes as he worked out his composition. Koepplin further suggests that the fanciful attire and absence of a signature indicate that the present work may not have been intended for official circulation.

"Born on June 30, 1503 in Torgau, Prussia, John Frederick would become the fourth and last Elector of Saxony in the Ernestine Saxon line. Unlike his uncle, who maintained an official neutrality toward Martin Luther and his teachings up until the end of his life, John Frederick followed his father’s lead and quickly became one of the Reformer’s most ardent supporters. This fervent devotion was bolstered through study; his tutor was Luther's friend and advisor, George Spalatin (1484-1545), who had trained at the university in Wittenberg. John Frederick subsequently forged a close, personal relationship with Martin Luther, sending public letters of support as early as 1520, in response to the papal bull to excommunicate the Reformer. Luther, in turn, dedicated his “Exposition of the Magnificat” to John Frederick in 1521. John Frederick helped to promote Luther's teachings and even facilitated printing of the first complete (Wittenberg) edition of Luther’s works and in the latter years of his life promoted the compilation of the Jena edition.

John Frederick was closely involved with the theological and political clashes that defined the late 1520s, implementing policies that furthered the Lutheran agenda and defied the emperor and papacy, such as being one of the principal signatories of the Augsburg Confession of 1530. With his accession to the Electorate upon his father’s death in 1532, John Frederick became the leader of the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Lutheran territories designed to defend against military threats from Emperor Charles V. While vigilantly protecting his borders in this way, John Frederick also focused his attention on fostering the ordination of Lutheran pastors. Furthermore, to ensure that the Reformer’s message was properly spread, he implemented a complete reorganization of the University of Wittenberg, infusing it with funds necessary to expand its library, degree programs and to redefine its curriculum, favoring increased study of ancient languages, rhetoric and the Gospels according to a program devised by Philipp Melanchthon. Though John Frederick’s advocacy for the Reformation was unyielding, it is noteworthy that Luther at times chastised the prince for his overindulgence in courtly pleasures, particularly drinking.

"John Frederick's strong Lutheran beliefs led him into frequent clashes with Imperial and Papal policies, which came to a head in 1546, when his cousin, Duke Maurice of Albertine, betrayed his Protestant allies and led an attack on the Saxon territories that he had always coveted. Although his allies in the Schmalkaldic League quickly came to John Frederick’s defense, Charles V sent his imperial armies to support Duke Maurice. On April 24, 1547, the Elector and his allies were soundly defeated at the Battle of Mühlberg. John Frederick was wounded on the battlefield and taken prisoner. The Emperor condemned John Frederick to death but ultimately compelled the elector to agree to the Capitulation of Wittenberg, under which the prince ceded the government of his country and his ancestral lands to Maurice, in exchange for his sentence being commuted to imprisonment for life. During his incarceration, John Frederick’s support of the Reformation never wavered, and he refused to compromise his beliefs, even when offered his freedom upon the renunciation of his Lutheran faith. His graceful conduct during this period of his life ultimately earned him his honorific title, “the Magnanimous.”  After Maurice reembraced Lutheranism and marched against the Emperor, John Frederick was released from prison in 1552; he ended his days in Weimar, where he had moved both his university (it ultimately would be transferred to Jena) and government."

The painting has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $2,000,000.  It sold for $7,737,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The sale was $36,549,750 with 47 of the 64 offered lots selling.

Satyr by Rubens

Lot 41, "A Satyr Holding a Basket of Grapes and Quinces with a Nymph," by Peter Paul Rubens, oil on panel transferred to canvas and laid down on board, 41 1/4 by 29 7/8 inches

Lot 41 is a ravishing oil on panel of a satyr and a nymph holding a basket of fruit by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).  It measures 41 1/4 by 28 7/8 inches.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:
Rubens painted this exuberant image of a nymph and satyr around 1620, when his creative prowess was at its very peak. It was during this period that he was engaged to paint the first of his major cycles of paintings, forty large compositions for the ceiling of the former Jesuit church (now St. Charles Borromeo) in Antwerp. Without a hint of moral admonition regarding the dangers of drunkenness and licentious behavior, this painting celebrates what Fiona Healy has aptly described as ‘the life-giving force of nature that is essential to man’s happiness and survival’, as indicated by the bountiful cornucopia that serves as ‘a celebration of life itself, of fecundity, creativity, love and procreation’.... Such a theme would have been of the utmost prescience for Rubens professionally, who in 1621 was named confidential agent to Isabella Clara Eugenia, Archduchess of Austria, in the search for durable peace between the Spanish Netherlands and the Dutch Republic following the expiration of the Twelve Years’ Truce.

"Images of satyrs were a favorite subject for Rubens and the artists in his circle, among the most memorable being Rubens’ Two Satyrs in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich....Traditionally dated to a year or so before the present work, the Munich painting may well have furnished Rubens with a compositional solution for the figure of the satyr in this image. In both paintings the satyr is depicted as a physically imposing figure who is seen more or less frontally, his head lowered slightly as his eyes fix upon the viewer and mouth curls into a mischievous smile. 

"It is perhaps not coincidental that the satyr’s face in both paintings bears an uncanny resemblance to one that appears on the so-called ‘Rubens Vase’ in The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore..., a Byzantine agate vase carved in high relief that Rubens had acquired in 1619....

"The high esteem in which Rubens’ depictions of satyrs were held by their 17th-century viewers is intimated by Roger de Piles’ 1677 description of a similar painting of a satyr before a rock face in the collection of Armand Jean de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu. De Piles praised Rubens’ ‘forceful use of colors’ as well as his ‘judicious’ way of illuminating the satyr’s flesh tones, statements that are equally applicable to this painting....That De Piles had a different painting in mind is, however, confirmed by the slightly larger horizontal format of the Richelieu painting and its depiction of only the singular figure of a satyr, without an accompanying nymph. Though no painted or engraved image of such a painting is known, it is probable that Richelieu owned a now-untraced version of the Satyr and Bacchante - the finest known version of which is a studio example on copper sold Sotheby’s, New York, 8 June 2017, lot 24 - but without the accompanying female figure ....Indeed, until she was revealed in 1981, the nymph in the present painting had been overpainted, perhaps in a deliberate attempt to make it more akin to the work that so imprinted itself upon De Piles’ imagination.

"This painting has been considered an autograph work by all major Rubens scholars and was included as such in the seminal exhibition A House of Art: Rubens as Collector organized by the Rubenshuis in 2004. Among the reasons for its unanimous acceptance is what Julius Held described in a letter dated 7 March 1993 to the painting’s previous owner as the ‘striking pentimento in the wicker-basket’, suggesting that it was a ‘clear indication that we have here the original version of the composition before us’. The basket of fruit originally included two additional apples or quinces, which Rubens evidently painted out during the process of creation and which are not present in any other known version, including the example given to Rubens that is now on permanent loan to Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna.

"Various scholars, including Didier Bodart (1990), Justus Müller Hofstede (1991), and Michael Jaffé (1992), have suggested that the still life and animal specialist Frans Snyders may have painted the fruit in the present painting. For his part, Held thought it possible that Snyders contributed the fruits but could not exclude the possibility that Rubens executed the basket himself....

"So close were Rubens and Snyders that when the so-called Specificatie (a list of works compiled for auction following Rubens’ death) was made, Snyders was one of three assessors of the works of art in the estate. Among the works listed in Rubens’ collection was one described under no. 174 as ‘Une piece d’une Nymphe et Satyre avec un panier, plein de raisins, sur fond de bois’....Though it cannot be said with certainty as no dimensions are given, scholars have tended to believe that the reference alludes to the present painting. The work in the Specificatie would have served a dual function as a model for studio copies and as a part of the artist’s own collection at his palatial accommodations in Antwerp....Because more than twenty copies of the present painting are recorded—far more than are known for the aforementioned horizontal composition - it follows that the present painting, the prime example of this composition, is likely to have been the work described. Moreover, the painting, or one of its variants, appears at lower right in an interior of an artist’s studio painted by Cornelis de Baellieur I, a further indication of its utility as a model for studio assistants...."

The lot has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000.  It sold for $5,712,500.


Lot 48, "The Virgin and Child" by Jan Gossart, called Mabuse, oil on panel, 17 5/8 by 13 3/8 inches

Lot 48 is a lovely and sumptuous "Virgin and Child" by Jan Gossart, called Mabuse (1478-1532).  It is an oil on panel that measures 17 5/8 by 13 3/8 inches.

The painting was included in the 2010-11 exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The National Gallery in London entitled "Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart's Renaissance."

The catalogue entry provided the following commentary:

"This stunning representation of the Virgin and Child was painted by Jan Gossart toward the end of his life, a time when he was championed as the 'Apelles of our Age' by Philip of Burgundy’s court poet and humanist, Gerard Geldenhouwer....The Virgin looks at Christ, her expression one of maternal devotion tinged with sorrow. Framed by wavy hair dotted with gold highlights, her youthful face is as nacreous as the single pearl that punctuates her forehead and symbolizes her purity. The delicate fingers of her right hand gently restrain her son, whose muscular body is fraught with restless energy as he attempts to wriggle free....

"Mother and Child share this moment within an elegant setting, replete with fanciful, eclectic architectural elements, including a pair of slender marble columns housed in mismatched cases of gold fretwork. Typical of Gossart’s particularly imaginative interpretation of Antwerp Mannerism, the latter recalls his whimsical vision of Gothicism as captured in the graceful tracery of the canopy in the Malvagna Triptych of c. 1513-15....Beyond the elaborate combination of colorful stone and gleaming metal portrayed in the present picture, spandrels, moldings and other details executed in cool gray stone fill the background. All together these components appear to form an architectonic throne, although the precise nature of the structure is difficult to determine. Adding to the luxurious atmosphere are the jewel tones of the Virgin’s gown and mantle, as well as the embellished devotional book on which Christ rests his right hand. The book, which features a handsome contemporary Flemish binding, is tooled in blind with central boss and corner-pieces. Offering yet another opportunity for Gossart to demonstrate his talent for foreshortening, a slip of vellum juts forth from between the book’s pages. Neatly inscribed in red and black ink, the lines on this manuscript indulgence prayer scroll are still discernible but no longer legible.

"Hidden away in a Swiss private collection for decades, the present Virgin and Child was misunderstood by early scholars. Following its reemergence in 2002 at Christie’s, London, it was studied in 2008 by Maryan Ainsworth in the Conservation Studio at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it became clear that it was a late, autograph work by Jan Gossart....Its place within the artist’s oeuvre was fully appreciated in the 2010 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery, London. In the corresponding catalogue, Ainsworth argues that the present work is especially close, both in terms of composition and style, to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Virgin and Child..., which is signed and dated 1531. In particular, Ainsworth draws attention to the sculptural quality of the Virgin’s veil in these paintings, as well as to her 'sweet countenance and demurely downcast eyes' (loc. cit.). Also common to both pictures is the Herculean Christ Child with an unusually large head and tendency to squirm. She places both works in a group of late Virgin and Child paintings by Gossart dating from around 1525-30, which includes the Virgin and Child formerly in a London private collection and recently sold at Sotheby’s, London, 9 December 2015, lot 6....Dating to 1520, this latter painting reveals Gossart’s profound appreciation of Italian art, as attested to by the relatively sober setting and the Virgin and Child’s resemblance to their counterparts in Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna..., which was installed in the Onze Lieve-Vrouwekerk following its acquisition in Florence in 1506 by the Flemish wool merchant, Alexander Moscheron. The other paintings in the group discussed by Ainsworth, namely the Virgin and Child in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, and the Holy Family in the Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, date to the second half of the decade, when Gossart increasingly embraced his Northern identity. Thus, while the influence of Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna lingers in the faces of the Virgin and Child in the present painting (chronologically the penultimate of the group), the impact of Albrecht Dürer’s Virgin and Child with the Pear.... - which was likely present in the Netherlands during Gossart’s lifetime - may also be detected in their features. Moreover, the eccentric stylishness of the setting in our painting, as in the Berlin and Bilbao pictures, is wholly characteristic of Gossart’s distinctive brand of Antwerp Mannerism, which grew ever more assertive toward the end of his career."

The lot has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000.  It sold for $3,372,500.

Van Dyck

Lot 52, "Francois Langlois, called Chartres," by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, oil on canvas, 41 by 32 7/8 inches

Lot 52 is a handsome and fine portrait of "Francois Langlois, called Chartres" by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641).  It is an oil on canvas that measures 41 by 32 7/8 inches.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"As with many of van Dyck’s best likenesses, the work offered here portrays a friend or close acquaintance. Its extraordinary liveliness must at least in part be credited to the obvious affection the painter held towards his model, François Langlois, called Chartres after his birthplace. He is identified by the inscription on an engraving by Jean Pesne, probably published in 1645, two years before his death....Well-travelled and well-connected, Langlois built up a successful business as a print dealer and publisher. The firm’s central position on the international art market lasted well into the eighteenth century....

"Until recently, a painting previously in the collection of Viscount Cowdray and now jointly owned by the National Gallery, London, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, was considered the only surviving autograph version, a view still subscribed to by Dr. Christopher Brown. Rightly celebrated as ‘a work of the finest quality’, with the head ‘very fully modelled’ and the instrument ‘painted with a beautiful liquid touch’ (Barnes et al., op. cit., p. 549), that painting was assumed to be the one owned by Langlois, and engraved during his lifetime by Pesne.

"Langlois is shown by van Dyck while playing a type of bagpipes known as a musette, ‘associated with virtuoso music enjoyed in a courtly context’....The prestige of the instrument and the relatively soigné clothes worn by Langlois argue against the idea that he is represented in the guise of a Savoyard, a travelling street musician, as has been argued.... Rather, van Dyck’s painting must be compared to an earlier portrait of Langlois by Claude Vignon, in which he wears a much fancier, ‘Spanish’ costume and also plays a musette (Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College...)

"It is possible that van Dyck was inspired by Vignon’s model, which he could have seen at Langlois’ home when visiting Paris....As so often, van Dyck modified several details of the drawing when working on the painting, replacing the melancholy mood of the sketch with the ‘relaxed mood and genial character’ of the painted versions....The result in one of the most engaging and memorable likenesses by one of the greatest portraitists of his age."

The lot has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $4,000,000.  It sold for $1,812,500.


Lot 35, "The Landscape Painter," by Francois Boucher, oil on canvas, 16 1/8 by 12 5/8 inches

Lot 35 is a charming small oil on canvas entitled "The Landscape Painter" by Francois Boucher (1703-1770).  It measures 16 1/8 by 12 5/8 inches.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Boucher’s Landscape Painter caused a ripple of excitement in the art world when it appeared at auction in Paris in June 2012, because the painting - only known from an 18th-century engraving and an old black and white photograph made when it was in the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild - had not been exhibited publicly since the 19th century and was unseen even by the specialists of Boucher’s art. Covered in thick layers of discolored varnish, when the work came to public attention, its debut nonetheless disappointed no one: it was self-evidently one of Boucher’s earliest masterpieces, a small canvas overflowing with wit, charm, invention and technical virtuosity. It can be compared to the better-known variation of the same subject by Boucher, also called The Landscape Painter, that entered the Louvre as the gift of Dr. Louis La Caze in 1869..., but its complexity and ambition are greater, its painterly touch even more masterly.

"The present painting is related to two other small-scale genre scenes by Boucher depicting modest, rustic interiors, made in conscious emulation of the style of David Teniers, Frans van Mieris and Willem Kalf, 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painters widely admired by French collectors in the 18th century. Boucher painted his trio of cabinet pictures in the early to mid-1730s, shortly after his return to Paris from Rome in 1731. The publication of an engraving of one of the paintings, La Belle cuisinière, was announced in April 1735, giving a probable terminus point for all three. In La Belle cuisinière (...Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris), a handsome young servant boy embraces a pretty kitchen maid and implores her attentions; in La Belle villageoise (...Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena), a voluptuous young mother cares for her three small children. In The Landscape Painter, the artist sits in his studio before his easel, fully absorbed in putting the final touches to a new landscape; a young assistant in a tricorn peeks from behind the easel as he enters the studio carrying a portfolio; another assistant - this time, a self-confident adolescent - pauses from grinding colors to peer over the painter’s shoulder and assess his progress, while the painter’s wife and swaddled infant look on from behind. A single drawing for the painting survives, a beautiful trois crayons study for the assistant carrying the portfolio; it was last known in the collection of J.P. Heseltine, London....

"The three compositions share nearly identical settings, depicting the homes of rustic laborers of a modest class: dark, ramshackle and cluttered interiors, with disorder everywhere - pots and cauldrons scattered across floors, open cupboards with jugs, bottles, woven baskets and candlesticks precariously balanced. (In each, Boucher shows himself a master of still life.) The floor of the landscape painter’s garret seems to be made of dirt, and a side of meat and a bunch of onions hang from the ceiling to keep them away from vermin. The dilapidation is charmingly picturesque, but has the feel of lived experience, and it may well be that Boucher - himself barely 30 years old, recently married (in 1733) and newly a father (1735), working diligently in difficult conditions to make a successful career for himself and his family - brought more than a little autobiography to his rendering of the scene, characteristically romanticized as it is. Indeed, the sense of authenticity in the painting is so palpable that when it appeared in the posthumous sale of the architect Pierre-Hippolyte Lemoyne in 1828, the landscape painter was, not surprisingly, identified as depicting Boucher himself, the woman his wife and the pupil with the portfolio under his arm as Deshays, Boucher’s son-in-law. The ages of the various characters, in view of the presumed date of the painting, make the purported identifications wholly fanciful.)

"Although the signs of poverty are evident, the painter wears a striped dressing gown abundantly lined in heavy red velvet, and his red bonnet, while creased, is not without a certain chicness. His assistant is barefoot, yet he wears his three-cornered hat at a jaunty angle. Despite the cramped conditions and congestion of the studio, everyone in the painting seems happy; indeed, the same can be said of all of the characters in Boucher’s trio of ‘lowlife’ interiors. It is interesting to contrast these scenes to the kitchen interiors being painted by Chardin at the exact same moment. Boucher paints the modest workers in their own, unvarnished dwellings; Chardin depicts domestic servants at work in the homes of their wealthy employers. Georges Brunel (1986) perceptively compared the vision of the two artists, observing: 'Pictures like [Boucher’s] probably give us a better idea of the dwellings of the common people than Chardin’s contemporary paintings…Order reigns in the kitchens and offices that Chardin paints: the floor is swept and the utensils in their places…'. On the other hand, Brunel notes, 'Boucher’s characters…seem to congregate, they touch and brush against one another in rooms apparently too small and too crowded for anyone to move about with ease…But this hubbub with all these people living on top of each other, corresponds to everything we know about living conditions in the 18th century, particularly in Paris. The pictures like those Boucher paints in 1735 cannot be criticized for their arbitrariness and fantasy; they are realistic in their way, gay with a touch of Rabelaisian spirit.'

"Depictions of artists at work had appeared frequently in European art since the Renaissance, but almost invariably in guises that exalted the artistic calling, invoking biblical or mythological precedents, such as ‘St. Luke Painting the Virgin’ or ‘Zeuxis Choosing his Models for the Portrait of Helen of Troy’. Boucher broke with these traditions in celebrating his craft and exalting human creativity in the guise of a humble young painter alone at his easel....

"It is not known if The Landscape Painter was a commissioned work or who its original owner might have been, but it was first recorded in 1778 in the sale of the estate of the distinguished sculptor, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, where it was sold with a pendant, The Sculptor’s Studio, by Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre (...present location unknown). Pierre’s painting, which is of identical dimensions to the present lot and has a complementary composition, was presumably painted many years after Boucher’s painting specifically to pair with it...."

The lot has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.  It sold for $1,692,500.

Tondo 5

Lot 5, "The Madonna and Child with the infant St. John the Baptist," by Pietro del Donzello, tondo, oil on panel, 36 1/8 inches in diameter

Lot 5 is a very nice tono of "The Madonna and Child with Infant St. John the Baptist" by Pietro del Donzello (1452-1509).  An oil on panel, it measures 36 1/8 inches in diameter.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"This beautiful renaissance tondo, monumental in scale, was only recently restored to the oeuvre of the Florentine painter, Pietro del Donzello. At the time of it sale in 1962 and its subsequent publication in Burlington Magazine later in the decade, the painting was considered to be the work of the younger Raffaellino del Garbo and was listed under that attribution by both Federico Zeri and Bernard Berenson in their respective archives. Prof. Laurence Kanter, however, recognized the painting’s author as Pietro del Donzello (written communication with the department, 25 February 2018). The elegance of the figures and pervading sense of serenity recall the work of Lorenzo di Credi and Domenico Ghirlandaio, to the whom the artist’s style is indebted. The figures are placed before a stone ledge and their high vantage point permit the inclusion of distant landscape with no interruption in the middle ground. The painting’s beautiful surface allows the viewer to fully appreciate the meticulously detailed representation of the city, rendered almost in miniature, nestled in the hills beyond.

"Pietro and his brother, Ippolito, also a painter, took the name “Donzello” from their father, who was a donzello dell Signoria, a messenger of the Florentine government. Pietro is largely recorded as having produced standards and shields for the city of Florence and, while many commissions of that kind are recorded, only two paintings by the artist are documented, both executed for the city. The location of the first, his Crucifixion with Two Angels for the Ospedale di San Matteo, is unknown, but the second, his Annunciation can be found in the church of Santo Spirito, Florence....The Annunciation was painted for the one of the church’s Frescobaldi chapels in 1498-99 and remains in its original position today. The porcelain-like treatment of flesh and clean, sharply outlined features of the figures in the documented Santo Spirito painting find parallels in those depicted in the present tondo."

The lot has an estimate of  $400,000 to $600,000.  It sold for $612,500.

Di Giovanni 2

Lot 2, "Saint Augustine," by Matteo di Giovanni, tempera and gold on panel, a fragment, 16 5/8 by 11 1/2 inches

Lot 2 is a fine tempera and gold fragment on panel of "Saint Augustine" by Matteo di Giovanni (1430-1495).  It measures 16 5/8 by 11 1/2 inches.

The catalogue entry provides the following description:

"Matteo di Giovanni’s depiction of Saint Augustine once formed part of one of the artist’s most important altarpieces, formerly in the church of Sant’Agostino, Siena. The principal panel of the altarpiece was TheMassacre of the Innocents now in Santa Maria della Scala, Siena....The present saint is a fragment of the lunette that once sat atop the Massacre and has since been divided into three pieces and dispersed across various collections. At its center was The Madonna and Child with two angels (Keresztény Múzeum, Esztergom...), at right was a Saint Francis, whose sleeve is just visible at the right edge of the Esztergom panel (private collection...); and at left was the present Saint Augustine.

"John Pope-Hennessy was first to propose the reconstruction of the altarpiece in 1960...while conducting a separate search for the original home of a predella panel by Matteo di Giovanni. Noting that the artist’s very similar Massacre of the Innocents for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, Siena (now in the Museo Nazionale del Capodimonte, Naples), had been surmounted by a lunette, he suggested that the Sant’Agostino panel might have been conceived in a similar manner....

"The harmonious simplicity of the lunette, with its tranquil figures placed against a celestial gold background, must have presented a stark contrast to the tangled frenzy of violence in the scene of the Massacre below."

The lot has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.  It sold for $348,500.

Master Paintings Evening Auction at Sotheby's New York February 1, 2018 with splendid pictures by Titian, Hubert Robert, Cranach, van Dyck and good works by Lorenzetti,Gaddi and Allori (2/1/18, updated 2/8/18)
Master Paintings & Sculpture at Sotheby's New York January 25, 2017 with fine works by Botticelli, Rubins, Drost, de Coster, Marieschi and Gentileschi (1/24/17, updated 1/28/17)
Master Paintings & Sculpture at Sotheby's New York day auction January 26, 2017 with fine work by followers of Botticelli, Bellini and van der Weyden (1/25/17, updated 1/29/17)
Old Master Drawings at Sotheby's New York January 25, 2017 with fine works by Boucher, Ingres, Roberts, Il Guercino, Turner, Ruskin and Gainsborough (1/25/17, updated 2/20/17)
Old Master & English Drawings at Christie's New York January 24, 2017 with fine works by Rubens and Parmigianino (1/24/17, updated 2/27/17)
Master Paintings auction at Sotheby's New York May 26, 2016 with works by Botticelli, Giannicola di Paolo, Bartolomeo Veneto, Giovanni Francesco Tura, Scheggia, the Master of Santo Spirito, Hubert Robert and Gabriel Metsu(5/26/16, updated 8/25/16)
Old Masters auction at Christie's New York April 14, 2016 with a small work by El Greco, a nice pair of capriccios by Guardi, and impressive paintings attributed to Bellini, Botticelli, Giovanni Ponte, Parentino, and Duccio and many works once owned by the Countess Nadia de Navarro (4/13/16, updated 4/25/16)
Old Masters auction at Christie's New York June 3, 2015 with good works by Allori, Berchem and Jan Brueghel I (6/3/15, updated 8/10/15)
Master Paintings at Sotheby's New York June 4, 2015 with good works by Thomas Gainsborough, Gaetano Gandolfi, Antonio Joli, Hubert Robert, Jan Bruegel the Elder, and Jan Brueghel the Younger (6/4/15, updated 8/5/15)
Selected Renaissance and Mannerist Works of Art Assembled by Fabrizio Moretti January 29, 2015 auction at Christie's New York (1/29/15, updated 3/8/15)
Master Paintings Part I at Sotheby's New York January 29, 2015 with great John Constable study of Salisbury Cathedral, an excellent Circle of Rogier van der Weyden and fine works by Lorenzo Pasinelli, Hubert Robert and Giovanni Tiepolo (1/29/15, updated 2/8/15)
The Abbott Guggenheim Collection A New York Kunstkammer auction of Renaissance and Baroque bronzes at Christie's New York January 27, 2015 (1/27/15, updated 2/27/15)
Renaissance paintings auction at Christie's New York January 28, 2015 with a great Bronzino and very good works by Bassano, studio of Botticelli, circle of Cranach and Jacopo Del Sellaio (1/25/15, updated 3/5/15)
Renaissance Paintings auction at Christie's New York January 29, 2014 with the very spectacular Rothschild Prayerbook, a great Pontormo, a great Circle of  Leonardo da Vinci, a great Lucas Cranach, a marvelous Laocoon by Alessandro Allori, a very nice small Gerard David and a wonderful Adriaen Eisenbradt
Important Old Master Paintings auction at Sotheby's New York January 30, 2014 with fine works by El Greco, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Fragonard

Old Master Paintings Part I auction at Christie's New York January 29, 2014 with great works by Ter Borch and Sir William Beechey and Ferdinand Bol

The Courts of Europe Renaissance to Rococo at Sotheby's New York January 30, 2014 with a three-sided view portrait of a gyrfalcon, a great Benjamin West and a fine Willem van Tetrode
 Old Master Drawings auction at Sotheby's New York January 29, 2014 with several works by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo
See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters Auction at Sotheby's New York Winter 2013
See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters Auction at Christie's New York Winter 2013

See The City Review article on the Renaissance auction at Christie's New York Winter 2013
See The City Review article on Old Master Drawings auction at Christie's Winter 2013

See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters auction at Sotheby's New York Winter 2012
See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters auction at Sotheby's Winter 2011
See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters auction at Christie's Winter 2010
See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters auction at Sotheby's Winter 2010
See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters auction at Sotheby's Winter 2009
See The City Review article on the Important Old Masters auction at Christie's January 28, 2009
See The City Review article on the Old Master Paintings auction at Christie's April 15, 2008
See The City Review article on the Old Master Paintings auction at Christie's April 19, 2007
See The City Review article on the January 27, 2005 Important Old Masters Auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the January, 2004 Old Masters auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the January 24, 2003 Old Masters auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Winter 2001 Old Masters Paintings auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Winter 2001 Old Masters Paintings auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Old Masters auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Old Masters auction at Christie's January 26, 2001
See The City Review article on the Important Old Master Paintings Auction at Sotheby's, Jan. 28, 2000
See The City Review article on the Recap of Old Master Paintings auction at Sotheby's May 28, 1999
See The City Review article on the Recap of Old Master Paintings auction at Christie's, May 25, 1999

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