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Important Old Master Paintings


10 AM, January 28, 2009

Sale 2135

The Scholar's Eye:

Property from the Julius Held Collection

Part 1, January 27, 2009; Part II, January 30, 2009

Sale 2237 and Sale 2249

"Madonna and Child" by the Masterof the Fiesole Epiphany

Lot 1, "The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist," by the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany, active Florence 15th Century, tempera and gold on panel, arched top, 29 7/8 by 17 1/8 inches

Lot 1 is a very pleasant "Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John The Baptist" by the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany who was active in Florence the 15th Century. The tempera and gold on panel with arched top measures 29 7/8 by 17 1/8 inches. The work was sold in Paris as School of Fra Filippo [Lippi], but Everett Fahy published it in 1976 as by the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany and reconfirmed that attribution last year, adding that that artist may be "identical to Jacopo del Sellaio's workshop companion, Filippo di Giuliano." The lot, whih is being offered without reserve, has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $128,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. Of the 210 lots offered, 137 sold for $14,189,500.

"Madonna and Child with saints" by Giovanni dal Ponte

Lot 3, The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist, Andrew, Anthony Abbot, and Nicholas of Bari; the Annunciation in the predella," by Giovanni dal Ponte, tempera and gold on papenl, arched top, 46 by 24 inches

Lot 3 is an impressive tempera and gold on panel with arched top by Giovanni dal Ponte (Florence,1385-1437/8) entitled "The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist, Andrew, Anthony Abbot, and Nicholas of Bari; the Annunciation in the predella." The work measures 46 by 24 inches. It was once in the collection of Victor Spark of New York. The catalogue entry for the lot notes that "The figure of Saint John the Baptist in this composition can be compared to the same figure in two versions of Giovanni's Triptych: Coronation of the Virgin (Musée Condé, Chantilly; and Accademia, Florence). The fall of the Virgin's robe, with the right side draped over her left knee, recalls in reverse Spinello's treatment of the same subject (Pinacoteca, Cittŕ di Castello). The artist, whose studio was at Santa Stefano a Pontein Florence, is believed to have been a student of Spinello Aretino."

It is being offered without reserve and has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $122,500.

"Madonna and Child with Two Angels" by Studio of Botticelli

Lot 8, "The Madonna and Childwith Two Angels," by Studio of Alessandro Filipepi,called Sandro Botticelli, tempera and oil on tondo panel, 33 inches in diameter

One of the highlights of the auction is Lot 8, "The Madonna and Child with Two Angels," a tempera and oil on tondo panel that is 33 inches in diameter and is attributed in the catalogue to the Studio of Alessandro Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli (Florence, 1445/5-1510). The work is property from the collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince of Chicago and had been with George Salting of London circa, 1875, and then sold in 1885 to Robert and Evelyn Benson of London and then was with Duveen in London in 1927 and with Baron Michele Lazzaroni of Rome, John Levy Galleries of New York and then Mr. E. W. Edwards of Cincinnati, thence descent to his daughter, Eleanor Wood Prince of Chicago.

The lot, which has been widely published, has an extremely modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $152,500.

The catalogue njotes that Mr. Salting left Vermeer's "A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal" to the National Gallery in London and a sketch by Rembrandt of "Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk" to the British Museum. The Benson collection included four panelsby Duccio and masterpieces by Bellini, Giorgione,Titian, Veronese and Botticelli.

"This tondo," the catalogue entry states, "shares a number of compositional and stylistic traits with other works by Botticelli and by his large and prolific studio. The device of the Madonna's fingers disappearing into the folds of her blue robe reappears frequently; compare, for instance, La Primavera (Uffizi, Florence) and The Last Communion of Saint Jerome (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The pink and blue striped veil wrapped loosely around her hair, perhaps a studio prop, features in the Madonna della Melagrana (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) as well as in the Madonna del Magnificat (Uffizi, Florence). This painting is in many ways close to a tondo from Botticelli's workshop, the Virgin and Child with Six Angels and the Baptist in the Galleria Borghese, Rome: the gesture of blessing made by Christ; the costume of the young Baptist; the frame-like device of the architecture behind the Madonna; and the vases of pink roses on the windowsill are all remarkably similar."

The panting looks very much an authentic Botticelli.

"The Holy Family" by the Master of Memphis

Lot 10, "The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and Two Shepherds," by The Master of Memphis, oil and tempera on tondo panel, 44 1/8 inches in diameter

Another large tondo from the collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince of Chicago is Lot 10, "The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and two shepherds" that the catalogue states is by The Master of Memphis (active Florence circa 1500 - 1510). The tempera on tondo panel is 44 1/8 inches in diameter.

The lot was sold at Christie's in London March 24, 1961 as "Filippino Lippi" to Agnew's for 7,000 guineas. Its estimate at this auction is $500,000 to $800,000. It sold for $302,500.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Filippino Lippi (c. 1457-1504), in whose orbit the artist of the present painting was certainly active, was the son and pupil of Fra Filippo Lippi (c. 1406-1459), and was taught also by his father's student, Sandro Botticelli. His paintings are characterized by an expressive linearity, and his ability to keep at the forefront of contemporary tastes won him numerous prestigious commissions from patrons including Lorenzo (il Magnifico) de'Medici and Filippo Strozzi. Filippino is perhaps best known for his extensive fresco cycle for the Strozzi Chapel in Santa Maria Novella, Florence. He was a prolific and talented draftsman and certainly ran his own studio at some point, though little is known about his pupils. Artists known to have been apprenticed to or at least influenced by Filippino include Raffaelino del Garbo, Vincenzo Frediani, and the anonymous author of the present work, the Master of Memphis. Works given to the Master of Memphis, an as-yet unidentified assistant of Filippino, are grouped after a signal work in the collection of the Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis. Painted in tondo format, this work has in the past been considered a collaboration between Filippino and Raffaelino del Garbo; according to a 1962 opinion by Dr. Alfred Scharf, he believed the landscape and two shepherds to be the work of Filippino himself and the Saint Joseph and Saint John to be by Raffaelino. However, recent scholars, including Everett Fahy, Jonathan Nelson and Patrizia Zambrano, have all attributed this tender devotional image to the anonymous Master of Memphis. His paintings can be identified by the characteristically long and slender fingers and toes of his figures, their rather abrupt gestures and voluminous drapery, with numerous folds and pleats - all traits evident in the present Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist and Shepherds.There is a version of this composition, without the infant Saint John and slightly reduced in size (diameter 86 cm.), formerly on the art market in Naples in 1928, and the original composition may well derive from a now-lost sketch or painting by Filippino. We can also compare the figures of the shepherds conversing in the background to those in a tondo given to the Master of Memphis, in the collection of the Petit Palais, Avignon. In both instances, the artist uses the architectural ruins as a visual device, physically separating the earthly figures of the shepherds from the heavenly figures of the Madonna and Child, Saint Joseph, and Saint John. In many respects this tondo is close to similar works given to Filippino himself, and thus also demonstrates the influence of Fra Filippo Lippi and Botticelli. There is a particular, obvious delight in the details of the landscape background that is typical of Filippino, with the descriptions of the tiny plants and grasses in the foreground, as well as the hazy blue mountains and towers of the town in the distance. The rustic shepherds, taken from Filippino, may ultimately derive from Hugo van der Goes's Portinari Altarpiece, which arrived in Florence in 1483 and proved a significant influence on the staffage of Filippino's paintings later in his career."

While the composition is not bad, the handling of the figures is not entirely graceful.

"The Adoration of the Magi" by Marziale

Lot 60, "The Adoration of The Magi" by Marco Marziale, oil on canvas, 30 3/4 by 37 inches

Lot 60 is a work of considerable charm as a small leopard stands apart from the crowd witnessing the magi's adoration. The oil on canvas was painted by Marco Marizle (Venice, 1492-1507) and measures 30 3/4 by 37 inches. It has a modest estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $98,500. The lot has been consigned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Art to benefit its acquisition fund. It was once at Newhouse Galleries in New York where it was attributed to "Carpaccio and Studio."

The catalogue entry notes that "Marco Marziale is known primarily through two signed and dated altarpieces painted for churches in Cremona: The Circumcision commissioned for San Silvestro and The Virgin and Child enthroned with Saints Gall, John the Baptist, Roch (?) and Bartholomew for San Gallo (both National Gallery, London). Comparison to these works allows us to safely place the present painting among the dozen or so works ascribed to him. In this Adoration of the Magi, Marco Marziale shows his hard-edge, descriptive style. His figures are tightly spaced and ordered within the composition and are characteristically slightly wooden. The attention to details of costume, in which the artist normally delighted, is seen here only in the ferronnerie damask silk cloak of the kneeling figure of Melchior and may previously have been more prominent in the painting. Marziale does not hesitate to borrow from Bellini's pictorial vocabulary, however. The arrangement of the Madonna and Child is a direct quote from The Madonna and Child with saints and donors, known as the Pourtalčs Madonna (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York), which was produced in Bellini's studio. The Magus Caspar, standing in prayer to the left of the Holy Family, is first used by Marziale in The Circumcision (dated 1499; Museo Correr, Venice) and again in the Cremona altarpiece, but the appearance of the same figure in The Circumcision from Bellini's workshop (National Gallery, London) suggests that it too was borrowed. The frieze-like arrangement of the figures in a panoramic landscape is reminiscent of the Adoration of Magi, once thought to be by Bellini and now given to his workshop (National Gallery, London)."

"A River Landscape with a Ferry" by Jan Brueghel II

Lot 73, "A River Landscape With A Ferry Crossing Near A Windmill, A Village Beyond," by Jan Brueghel II, oil on panel, 17 by 26 1/8 inches

Lot 73 is a very detailed and good river landscape with many people and some windmills by Jan Brueghel II (Antwerp, 1601-1678). An oil on panel, it measures 17 by 26 1/8 inches. It has a modest estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $434,500. The painting was selected for the "Fuhrermuseum Linz" in 1941 and returned to the Netherlands in 1947 where it remained at the Instituut Collectie Nederland until restituted to the heirs of Hugo Kaufmann in 2007.

The catalogue entry for this lot declares that "Bustling harbor scenes were a significant part of the work of both Breughel the Elder and Younger, but the present River landscape with windmills and ships is a unique composition," adding that "It is most assuredly an independent work by Jan Brueghel II in which he explores his own ability to interweave in a new way themes developed by his father."

"Twelve Sibyls" by Zurbaran

Lot 77, "The Twelve Sibyls," by Francisco de Zurbaran Badajoz, oils on canvas, most approximately 74 by 42 inches each

Lot 77 is a very impressive set by Francisco de Zurbaran Baqdajoz (Madrid, 1598-1664) and his studio of the "Twelve Sibyls: Persian, Erythraean, Cumaean, Tiburtine, Delphic, Hellespontic, Egyptian, Samian, Libyan, Cuman, European and Phyrgian." Each oil on canvas measures about 74 by 42 inches. The lot has a modest estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. The lot failed to sell, but after the sale it was disclosed that an after-sale took place and it was bought by a private American collector.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Zurbarán's Twelve Sibyls, each a vibrant, expressively painted figure on her own and visually stunning as a group, are perhaps even more fascinating for the art historical questions posed by their origins: specifically, the duality of their typically Spanish style and foreign iconography. The series of Sibyls fits logically into Zurbarán's studio production around 1650, during a period of financial crisis in Spain, worsened by the plague of 1649. As commissions from local clientele fell off, Zurbarán turned increasingly toward a colonial market. With his assistants he produced several series - martyred saints, Roman emperors, biblical figures - for clients in the Americas. We know of at least two extant series of Sibyls: the complete set discussed here, and a second, smaller-scale, incomplete set of four. One series was recorded in the possession of the Spanish collectors Don Antonio and Don Aniceto Bravo, and subsequently dispersed by their heirs, though it is unclear which set they owned as both match the descriptions in the Bravo collection catalogues equally well. If we allow for the possibility of additional, as-yet unknown sets, the provenance becomes increasingly murky. Another uncertainty is the thematic origins of Zurbarán's Sibyls: their iconography is not traditionally Spanish, prompting us to look for sources from afar. Angulo and Soria remind us that a number of Spanish painters were influenced by Flemish prints, particularly Zurbarán and Diego Velazquez. César Pemán points out that Zurbarán's series of twelve Roman Caesars on horseback, sent to Lima in 1647, was inspired by a print series by Pieter Mulier (called Pietro Tempesta). The theme of the twelve Sibyls had a lengthy history in Western art, but saw a resurgence of popularity in the Renaissance, with its emphasis on the study of classical antiquity. It is, therefore, no surprise to find that there is a direct print source for the paintings - what is surprising is to find that there are two, one French and one Flemish. The former is by Claude Vignon, engraved by Rousselet and published in Paris. At the foot of each Sibyl is a label with her name and several accompanying lines of verse. The other set of prints is by Pieter de Jode II, whose figures resemble Vignon's, but with longer faces and heavier limbs. The greatest differences between the two sets lie in the tiny evangelical scenes illustrated in the background of each: Vignon favored smaller figures, more nervous and active, with a greater contrast of light and shadow between foreground and background; Jode preferred fewer, larger figures, which he situated closer to the picture plane. It is not certain which set of prints served Zurbarán as his model. Vignon had fairly limited influence in Spain: he only spent time in Barcelona, in his youth and without much consequence; nevertheless, it is probable that Vignon's prints were Zurbarán's source, because Zurbarán's figures (with the sole exception of the Cumaean Sibyl) are oriented in the same direction as Vignon's, and the reverse of Jode's. The differing levels of quality suggest a certain degree of studio participation in the present series of paintings: for instance, the outstretched left hand of the Cumaean Sibyl, fingers gracefully bent, is more finely painted than the outstretched left hand of the Delphic Sibyl. Overall, the positions of the Sibyls and their attributes follow the printed models very closely, but for obvious reasons Zurbarán could flex his creative muscles when it came to the color scheme....The twelve Sibyls of Greek and Roman mythology were priestesses of Apollo endowed with the gift of prophecy. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic church adopted them into Christian iconography, as pagan counterparts to the Old Testament prophets and foretellers of the coming of Christ. In Zurbarán's hands, they are united by composition and color palette, yet distinguished by a variety of poses and the individual characterization of face and figure. Their monumental scale, luminous coloring, and balanced, sculptural forms resonate just as strongly today as they did when first painted."

"Saint Peter" by Guercino

Lot 78, "Saint Peter," by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, il Guercino, oil on canvas, 19 3/4 by 15 3/4 inches

Lot 78 is a very fine small portrait of Saint Peter by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, il Guercino (1591-1666). An oil on canvas, it measures 19 3/4 by 15 3/4 inches. It has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It failed to sell. The catalogue notes that "This painting is a new addition to Guercino's oeuvre."

"Still Life" by Chardin

Lot 91, "Still Life with a Copper Pot, a Pitcher, Fish, a Glass, Two Nuts and an Onion," by Jean Siméon Chardin, oil on canvas, 19 1/4 by 34 1/4 inches

Alan Wintermute

Alan Wintermute, Christie's specialist, discussing the Chardin painting

Lot 91 is a striking still life by Jean Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) that is an oil on canvas that measures 19 1/4 by 34 1/4 inches. It was acquired by its present owner at Sotheby's in New York January 14, 1988 for $792,000. It as an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It failed to sell.

The catalogue entry for this lot notes that "Pierre Rosenberg has proposed that this spare and powerful painting is among the earliest works by Chardin in which he deployed the quotidian household utensils that would become characteristic of his kitchen still lifes."

"Despite the apparent casualness of this depiction of mundane elements," it continued, "Chardin has in fact arranged them with great artistry into an eloquent composition of unexpected monumentality. Probably painted around 1725 or shortly thereafter, when Chardin was in his mid-twenties, the painting displays none of the awkward experimentation that one might expect from a young painter forging a new style and working in a new genre; rather, it is a masterly achievement, perfect and fully formed from the first. Its composition instills the banal subject matter with timeless grandeur and poetry, while Chardin's brush magically evokes the oily, lifeless scales of the fish, the cool solidity of copper, the shimmering translucence of water seen through glass, the rough hardness of nut shells, the enameled glow of glazed pottery. In rejecting the prevailing tradition in French still life painting of depicting settings of great lavishness, costliness and opulence - a tradition that reached an apogee in the still lifes of Desportes - Chardin invented a new still life painting that has the immediacy, clarity and timelessness of great art and strikes a modern chord. Rosenberg believes that the present painting was made as the pendant to another kitchen still life, with scallions, apples, eggs and a bottle of wine that was in the Kaiser Freidrich Museum in Berlin...and was destroyed in a wartime bombing in 1945 (but is known from photographs); indeed, the two paintings were on the same large scale - among the largest kitchen still lifes that Chardin painted - and had complementary compositions. The warm palette of the present lot is dominated by a wide-range of subtly different shades of brown and other earth tones, enlivened with surprising touches of blue, pink and silver. The copper pot and lid and the pitcher here featured prominently came from Chardin's own kitchen and would reappear in numerous paintings executed by the artist throughout the late 1720s and early 1730s...."

Alan Wintermute, a specialist in the Christie's Old Masters Department, told a press preview that the Chardin was one of the earliest still lifes painted by the artist and one of the largest and had once had a pendant that was in the collection of the Kaiser-Frederick-Museum in Berlin that was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II. It is "a perfectly realized composition" and Chardin was the first French artist to "look downstairs" for his still life subject matter that when he painted it was probably considered "lowly" and left his contemporary viewers "aghast."

"Battle of La Hogue" by West and Trumbull

Lot 34, "The Battle of La Hogue," by Benjamin West and John Trumbull, oil on canvas, 64 3/4 by 96 1/4 inches, 1778

The auction has two fine works by Benjamin West (1738-1820).

Lot 34 is a work by him and John Trumbull (1756-1843) that is entitled "The Battle of La Hogue." It is an oil on canvas that measures 64 3/4 by 96 1/4 inches and is dated 1778 and "retouched" 1806. It has a very conservative estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $722,500.

The painting was offered by West to the Pennsylvania Academy in 1809 and then by his sons to the United States in 1828 and it was sold in 1829 to the Hon. John Monckton of London and Fineshade Abbey, Stamford and his family kept it until 1921 when it was sold and changed ownership several times under it was acquired by Victor D. Spark, a major dealer in New York. From 1958 to 1964 it was with James Graham and Sons from which it was acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was one of the showpieces of the American Painting department, and then sold in 2006 at Sotheby's in New York for $632,000 to the present owner.

According to the catalogue, "this ambitious canvas, monumental in scale and composition, depicts the Battle of La Hogue, a crucial naval action of the War of the Grand Alliance in which the English and Dutch fleets successfully defeated a large French invasion in May 1692. West first approached the subject in 1780, in a closely-related work, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy of that year (now National Gallery of Art, Washington)....The battle, or more accurately a series of battles, was fought off Cape La Hogue near Cherbourg and the English victory ended the French threat of restoring James II (a Catholic) to the throne. Depicted in the painting are both the battle's hero, Admiral George Rooke (the figure with the sword in the small boat), and the exiled King James II (standing on the distant cliff). As a personal touch, West anachronistically added a portrait of his friend William Williams, an early supporter in Philadelphia, behind the figure of Rooke. Depictions of modern history subjects were a rather recent innovation, for which West himself was largely responsible. His Death of Wolfe had been applauded for its relative realism. Some conservative connoisseurs, including the King himself, had urged West to paint the figures in classical attire, envisioning the great victory on the Plains of Abraham as a battle of Roman grandeur. West, who had made his fame with paintings depicting classical antiquity, preferred a more contemporary approach, and he dressed Wolfe and his troops in military uniforms. While not exactly a radical approach, it was highly innovative, and West's approach to history painting was adopted by the majority of his contemporaries....On the 11th of May, 1806, the painter Joseph Farington (1747-1821) visited the studio of Benjamin West, who until recently had been the President of the Royal Academy before his resignation was forced by a group of Academicians, including his fellow American, John Singleton Copley. There Farington viewed among other works a set of three large history paintings, of the type that had made West's reputation. West had planned the exhibition as a pointed reminder to the members of the Academy of the powers of their former head; it proved a huge success....The first version of the painting had been painted for Richard, Lord Grosvenor, who owned a group of five large-scale works by West (including the Wolfe) depicting scenes of 'modern' English history. The composition was an immediate success. A review of the Royal Academy exhibition of 1780, the year the picture was first exhibited publicly, noted that The Battle of La Hogue 'exceeds all that ever came from Mr. West's pencil.' It was engraved by Wollett the next year and a drawn copy with variations was made by the Dutch artist Dirk Langendijk to serve as the model of another engraving of 1783....In a very real way, the present Battle of La Hogue epitomizes West's importance as the mentor and supporter of the younger generation of American (as well as, in fact, British) artists. It was almost immediately after finishing this painting under West's direction that Trumbull became confident enough to begin in the fall of 1785 his great series of paintings depicting scenes of the American Revolution, beginning with the Death of General Warren at Bunker Hill (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT). West's encouragement and inspiration are evident throughout that picture, and his praise of it was fulsome (he regarded it as the best painting of a modern battle ever made). No less canny an eye than Sir Joshua Reynolds made the mistake of confusing the artists; when looking at the Bunker Hill, he said to West that it was 'better colored than your works usually are,' at which point West corrected his elder and gave Trumbull the credit."

"Cupid and Psyche" by West

Lot 43, "Cupid and Psyche," by Benjamin West, oil on canvas, 54 1/4 by 56 1/4 inches, 1808

The other West, Lot 43, is smaller, but still very large. It is entitled "Cupid and Psyche" and is an oil on canvas that measures 54 1/4 by 56 1/4 inches. It is dated 1808 and has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $458,500. The painting, which has been widely published, has been consigned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art to benefit its acquisitions fund.

The catalogue observes that "West never exhibited the present work during his lifetime, probably because of its erotic subject matter and it is not therefore a canvas that would have been known to contemporary critics or the public. For an artist, whose reputation and public image were immensely important to him, it can be seen as an unusually personal essay....West's treatment of Cupid and Psyche follows that found in several other well-known works from the period, in particular that by François Gérard of 1798 and Antonio Canova's sculptural group of 1793 (both Louvre, Paris). The emphatic profiles of both Cupid and Psyche in the present work suggest a lingering influence of the French Neoclassical paintings that West had seen on a visit to Paris in 1802. Indeed, the present work is extremely close to Canova's composition which West had seen in the Murat collection on that trip. "

"A View inthe Domleschg Valley" by Turner

Lot 36, "A View in the Domleschg Valley, Switzerland," by Joseph Mallord William Turner, pencil and watercolor with scratching out, 9 1/8 by 11 3/8 inches

The auction includes five watercolors by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Lot 36 is entitled "A View inthe Domleschg Valley, Switzerland" and it measures 9 1/8 by 11/38 inches and has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $398,500. It is property from the collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince of Chicago and was once owned by John Ruskin. The Princes were the owners of a large Turner painting of Venice that set a record recently when it was sold for more than $35 million.

"A View of Salisbury" by Constable

Lot 40, "A View of Salisbury," by John Constable, oil on paper laid down on canvas, 7 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches

Piers Davies

Piers Davies, Christie's specialist, discussing the Constable painting

Lot 40 is a small landscape by John Constable (1776-1837) that is entitled "A View of Salisbury." It is an oil on paper laid down on canvas that measures 7 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches. It is property of the collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince of Chicago. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $800,000. It sold for $1,082,500. Piers Davies, a specialist in the Old Masters Department, told a press preview that the Constable sketch was done "en plein air" and has pinholes where the artist pinned the paper to a board. He suggested that the rain clouds in the sketch perhaps reflect the artist's melancholic frame of mind and that as always in his works the artist has included a small figure in red.

Nicholas Hall

Nicholas Hall, co-head of Christie's International Old Masters Department, with the Truesdell Saturn at left

Lot 22, Saturn Devouring a Male Child, bronze, after Pietro Francavilla, 18 1/4 inches high

Lot 22 is a spectacular bronze statue of Saturn Devouring a Male Child. The catalogue says it is "after Pietro Francavilla (1546/7-1615). It is 18 1/4 inches high and was once in the collection of Queen Marie or Romania. It is one of four known versions. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It failed to sell. It is property from the collection of Professior and Mrs. Clifford Ambrose Truesdell.

At a press preview, Nicholas Hall, co-head of Christie's International Old Masters Department, said that the statue is "probably the most discrete depiction of cannibalism and infanticide and is excessively baroque" and was probably a model after one made by Bologna. He said that a recent Old Masters auction in London last month indicated that the market "remains rather robust despite the economic turmoil...if sensibly calibrated," adding that "there were more bidders than in July."

He said that the the collection of the late Julian Held being offered was very interesting as it reflected his "eccentric taste" on "a professor's salary" and that its Quentin Massys is "remarkable."

He said that there has been "tremendous pre-sale interest" as many lots are being sold "without reserve" by a consignor "not in a hurry to sell."

"Head of Saint John" by Barocci

Lot 65, "Head of Saint John the Evangelist, an oil study for The Entombment of Christ in the Church of Santa Croce, Senigallia," by Federico Barocci, oil on paper laid down on canvas, 15 1/2 by 11 3/4 inches

One of the most lyrical and beautiful works in the auction is lot 65, a small oil study on paper laid down on canvas that is one about 30 preliminary studies by Federico Barocci (circa 1535-1612) for the Entombment of Christ altarpiece in the Church of Santa Croce in Senigallia. It is the cover illustration of the catalogue and it measures 15 1/2 by 11 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $1,762,500.

"Portrait of a man with the Order of Saint Michael" by Dell'Abate

Lot 66, "Portrait of a bearded man, bust-length, in a fur-trimmed robe and black hat, with the Order of Saint Michael," by Nicolo Dell'Abate, oil on canvas, 22 by 18 1/2 inches

Lot 66 is a fine portrait of a man with the Order of Saint Michael by Nicolo Dell'Abate (circa 1509-1571). An oil on canvas, it measures 22 by 18 1/2 inches and has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell.

"Trompe l'oeil" by Pierson

Lot 68, "A trompe l'oeil of Hawking Equipment, including a glove, a net, and falconry hoods, hanging on a wall," by Christoffel Pierson, oil on canvas, 19 1/2 by 26 inches

Lot 68 is a fabulous trompe l'oeil painting of hawking equipment, including a glove, a net, and falconry hoods, hanging on a wall, by Christoffel Pierson (1631-1714). It is an oil on canvas that measures 19 1/2 by 26 inches. The artist was a student of Bartholomaus Meyburgh, with whom he traveled to Germany and he established himself in 1654 in Gouda. The lot has an estimate of $50,000 to $80,000. It sold for $74,500. It is an extraordinary composition.


The Scholar's Eye: Property from the Julius Held Collection

"An Allegory of Folly" by Massys

Lot 66, "An Allegory of Folly," by Quentin Massys, oil on panel, 23 3/4 by 18 3/4 inches

In an essay in the catalogue, John Walsh, the director emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum, recalled studying under Julius Held, who died in 2002, at Columbia University and visiting his apartment nearby on Claremont Avenue. "The walls were dense with paintings of all periods that had no labels. There were sculptures, drawings, venerable furniture, a harpsichord, Persian carpets...and a strange fragance in the air coming from the maid's room that served as the studio of Ingred-Marta Petterseen Held, called Pim, the first restorer I ever saw at work. The fragance was picture varnish."

Another essay has been contributed by Walter Liedtke, curator of paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"Held was many things to many people: a much admired teacher at Barnard College and Columbia University (fro 1937 to 1970) as well as N. Y. U., Yale, Bryn Mawr, Williams Collee, and elsewhere; one of the world's leading historians of Dutch and Flemish art, known above all for his work on Rembrandt and Rubens; a loving husband and father; a dear friend and colleague of men and women spanning four or five generations; and a collector of paintings, drawings and prints that dated back to the sixteenth century but also included works by important modern artists that he happened to know....Between 1931 and 1934 Held served as Max Friedlander's junior colleague in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin. The advice of Hans Jantzen and the hospitality of the collector Clarence Palitz brought Held to New York in 1934."

Lot 66 is a amusing and exotic work by Quentin Massys (1466-1530) that is entitled "An Allegory of Folly." An oil on panel, it measures 23 3/4 by 18 3/4 inches. The catalogue notes that the painting was probably executed circa 1510 when "fools were commonly found at court or carnivals, performing in morality plays." "Sometimes a fool would be mentally handicapped, to be mocked for the amusement of the general public. Massys has chosen to represent his fool with a wen, a lump on the forehead, which was believed to contain a 'stone of folly' responsible for stupidity or mental handicap....Massys' fool was nearly an exact contemporary of Erasmus' Praise of Folly, in which the character of Folly is in fact a wise and perceptive commentator on folly in others....The traditional costume of the fool includes a hooded cape with the head of a cock and the ears of an ass, as well as bells, here attached to a red belt. The fool holds a staff known as a marotte, or bauble, topped with a small figure of another fool - himself wearing the identifying cap. The staff would have been used as a puppet for satirical skits or plays, and the figure's obscene gesture of dropping his trousers, symbolic of the insults associated with fools, was once overpainted by a previous owner whofound it overly shocking....Massys' fool is made even more grotesque by his hideous deformities - an exaggerated, beaked nose and hunched back - and thin-lipped, toothless smirk. Grotesque figures were a favorite theme of the artist, making regular appearances in his painters as tormenters of Christ or in allegories of Unequal Lovers. This reflects an awareness of the grotesque head studies of Leonardo da Vinci, whose drawings had made their wway northward from Italy." The lot has estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $374,500.

"A Woman Enraged" by Huys

Lot 65, "A Woman Enraged," by Pieter Huys, oil on panel, 25 1/2 by 19 3/4 inches

Another major painting in the Held collection is Lot 65, "A Woman Enraged," an oil on panel by Pieter Huys (1520-1584). It measures 25 1/2 by 19 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell. The catalogue notes that "stylistically, he falls withon the orbit of Hieronymous Bosch, whose work remained popular and influential through the sixteenth century." "Thematically, Huys favored moralizing scenes with layers of symbolic meaning, such as the present Woman Enraged, an allegory of Anger and Avarice, which are Deadly Sins, a favorite topic for artist's from Huys' era.

Mr. Hall, the head of Christie's department, said "we are pleased with the excellent results achieved for Part I of "The Scholar's Eye: Property from the Julius Held Collection. It is a fitting tribute to Professor Held's connoisseurship that 85 percent of the works were purchased and at prices that soared beyond estimates in a number of cases. We are particularly delighted by prices achieved for Joachin Beuckelaer's Market Scene and for Lovis Corinth's Self Portrait, which sold for more than four times it high estimate. In all, a healthy mix of private, trade, and institutional buyers were active participants in today's sale, yielding very strong results for the Old Master's category." The Bueckelaer, Lot 41, sold for $542,000, way over its $300,000 high estimate, and the Corinth sold for $254,500. Of the 68 offered lots, 58 sold for a total of $2,546,875.

See The City Review article on the Old Master Paintings auction at Sotheby's January 29, 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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