By Carter B. Horsley
The January 28, 2010 auction
of Important Old Master Paintings at Sotheby's has many wonderful,
museum-quality paintings as well as some of considerable historical
interest including three works that were once in the collection
of Hermann Goring, the Nazi. The auction is highlighted by a great
painting by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, a delightful small work by Fragonard,
an impressive painting by Hendrik Goltzius, a great Cornelis Cornelisz.
van Harlem, a lovely George Romney, a luscious small oil sketch
by Rubens, a great small painting by the Master of the Female
Half-Lengths, a lovely small Madonna and Child by the Master of
the Dijon Madonna, a fine large Madonna and Child by Andrea del
Sarto, a superb self-portrait by Ferdinand Bol and an oil version
of Leonardo da Vinci's "Belle Ferronniere" in the Louvre
that was the center of a major slander case against Sir Joseph
Duveen, the legendary art dealer.
Lot 176 is a magnificent work
by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), "Two Studies of a Bearded
Man." An oil on canvas, it measures 18 1/4 by 25 1/2 inches.
Ut was formerly in the collections of Sir Francis Cook of Richmond,
England, and Montgomery H. W. Ritchie.
The catalogue provides the
"This evocative work was
painted by the young Van Dyck when he was still in Rubens's studio
and shows how fully he absorbed the lessons of his master, as
well as how soon he had begun to assert his own style. Making
study heads from a live model was first introduced in the Southern
Netherlands by Frans Floris and later eagerly embraced by Rubens
and then Van Dyck....Rubens so valued Van Dyck's studies that
he kept them long after his prize pupil had left his workshop,
and many appear in the inventory of the studio at his death. The
combining of several studies of figures on the same sheet is less
common than single heads, but Van Dyck, Rubens and Jordaens all
did so on occasion. Surely there was an advantage to the artist,
when he had the model before him, in putting down two or more
studies on a single canvas, panel, or sheet of paper. There must
also have been the sheer aesthetic pleasure of arranging multiple
studies to create a single composition - a feat Van Dyck brought
to its highest leel in his Charles I in Three Positions....in
the Royal Collection. There were probably more multi-figured studies
than we known, for evidence suggests that some were later cut
apart....The first secure owner of Two Studies of a Bearded
Man was Sir John Charles Robinson (1824-1913), one of the
leading connoisseurs of his day. Robinson was one of the founding
curators of the South Kensington Museum (now Victoria and Albert)....He
was perhaps the most important scholar of Renaissance drawings
of the nineteenth century, writing ground breaking books on Michelangelo
and Raphael, and later in his career was appointed to the singular
honor of Keeper of the Queen's Pictures."
Ritchie acquired the painting
in 1952 and was, according to the catalogue, "a cowboy, a
pilot, and a banker, as well as a collector of Impressionist and
Post-Impressionist pictures....After graduating from Cambridge
University he traveled to the United States to visit his family's
ranch near Amarillo, Texas. During its peak, the JA Ranch had
encompassed 1.3 million acres, but because of the draught and
the Great Depression it had enormous debts....In 1992, he donated
three fourths of his collection to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens
in Memphis, Tennessee, of which he was a lifetime member and where
many of his paintings, including The Two Studies of a Bearded
Man were on loan. The Van Dyck was his only true Old Master,
although he also had works by the great English nineteenth century
landscape painters Turner and Constable."
It sold for $7,250,000 including
the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
Lot 142 is one of several versions
of "The Magdalen Writing a Letter" by The Master of
the Female Half-Lengths" who was active in Antwerp in thefirst
half othe16th Century. An oil on panel, it measures 10 by 7 1/2
inches. The catalogue observes that "the sparseness of the
composition, with its velvety black background, heightens the
serenity of this jewel-like scene." The artist's works are
exquisite depictions of very elegant and very beautiful woman
with a very consistent style that is slightly reminiscent of Parmigianino.
The lot has a very conservative estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $326,500.
Without question, the most
charming work in the auction is Lot 209, a small oil on copper
by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). Entitled "A
Boy at a Window Stretching Out His Arms," it measures 6 1/4
by 4 5/8 inches. The catalogue states that this painting was "recently
rediscovered." It has a modest estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
Lot 215 is another Fragonard
that is larger and only a little less charming than Lot 209. It
is an oil on canvas that measures 13 1/8 by 17 1/4 inches and
is entitled "Peasant girl with two children. It has a modest
estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It was once in the collections
of Edmond de Rothschild and Maurice de Rothschild, both of Paris.
Lot 181 is a version of "La
Belle Ferronnière," a painting by Leonardo da Vinci
that hangs in the Louvre. The catalogue states that this work
is by a "follower of Leonardo da Vinci, probably before 1750."
An oil on canvas, it measures 21 5/8 by 17 1/8 inches. The Louvre
portrait is thought to depict Lucrezia Crivelli, a mistress of
Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan.
The auction catalogue provides
the following commentary:
"It is today typically
agreed that the Louvre version is either by Leonardo himself or
one of his pupils, while the present version is thought to be
a later copy....This Belle Ferronnière was bnrought
to the United States in 1920 by newly weds Harry and Andreé
Hahn....Harry, an American serviceman during World War I, had
met and married a young French woman named Andree Lardoux. With
the war over, Harrry returned home to Kansas City with his new
bride and this picture, a wedding gift from Andreé's godmother,
Louise de Montaut, Shortly after their arrival in the U.S., the
Hahns decided to sell their picture....Later, they claimed to
have nearly reached a deal with the Kansas City Museum for $250,000
when a reporter for The New York World....telephoned the
famed art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen in London to ask his opinion....The
art dealer had never seen the Hahn's picture, but nevertheless
told the reporter that it must be a copy and that the real work
was in the Louvre....In November, 1921, the Hahns served papers
on Duveen at his gallery in New York City. He was being sued for
slander....Duveen rallied a host of art experts to his side, including
Bernard Berenson, Wilhelm Valentiner and Roger Fry, who all unanimously
agreed that the Hahn's picture was a copy. He even orchestrated
- at his own expense - a confrontation between the Louvre's and
Hahn's pictures in Paris. There too, the unamiity of opinion between
the various art experts was almost unheard of in the history of
connoisseurship: the Louvre's picture was the original, while
the Hahn's was a later copy. Duveen could sense his victory in
the courtroom. But as the trial began, it became clear that the
jury was not on his side....The Hahn's lawyer began to poke holes
in this unified front by questioning the experts on their opinions
of the Louvre picture. Many had written articles in the past claiming
that it too was a copy....In 1929, with no scientific or archival
evidence to back up the testimony of Duveen's experts, the jury
could not reach a decision, and the case ended in a hung jury.
Duveen ultimately settled out of court, paying the Hahn's $60,000
in damages....In 1947 Harry Hahn published a book, The Rape
of La Belle, which blasted the art establishment for its treatment
of the picture, and which claimed to conclusively prove that it
was by Leonardo....However, it all came to nothing and the work
disappeared from public view. In 1993, La Belle Ferronnière
was examined by Leonardo expert Professor Martin Kemp. While
Kemp did not think that the painting was a Leonardo, he did believe
that it had age, daitng tit to the first half of the 17th Century.
He also suggested an attribution to a northern European painter,
perhaps Laurent de la Hyre. Recent technical examination of the
painting has revealed compelling new evidence about the genesis
of the picture, much of which supports Kemp's theory."
The face of the woman in the
Hahn painting is very well done, well enough to probably convince
some experts that the sfumato work in the face might well come
from da Vinci's studio, but the woman's dress almost appears by
a different and less skilled hand. The woman in the Hahn painted
is seated behind a stone balustrade that is suggested by a strip
of gray paint at the bottom, which is very clumsy and a far cry
from da Vinci's marvelous landscapes and virtuoso technique.
The painting has an estimate
of $300,000 to $500,000 which does not rule out the remote possibility
that it might be authentic, in which case it would be worth in
the nine figures, but more likely reflects its infamous history
and the mystic of connoisseurship. It sold for $1,538,500.
Lot 182 is a very fine "Madonna
and Child" by Andrea del Sarto (1486-1531). An oil on panel,
it measures 30 by 25 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000. It failed to sell.
It was once in the collection
of Dr. Baron von Thyssen-Bornemisza of Schloss Rohoncz in Lugano
and was sold at Sotheby's in London July 5, 1989 as "after
Andrea del Sarto." In 1963, S.J. Freedberg listed the painting
in his catalogue raisonne on the artist as a copy but the catalogue
states "it has since been lightly cleaned, and the quality
of the picture, the softness of the modeling, the numerous pentimenti
and the technique with which the picture was painted (particularly
the underdrawing) all confirm the painting's autograph status."
Lot 162 is a very fine self-portrait
by Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680) that has been consigned by the Los
Angles County Museum of Art to benefit future acquisitions. It
has a very modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,00 and it is hard
to understand why any museum would sell off such an excellent
work. It was given to the museum by Mr. and Mrs. Lauritz Melchior.
According to the catalogue, Mr. Melchior was"the greatest
Wagnerian tenor of the first half of the 20th Century and gave
519 performances at theMetropolitan Opera in New York. It sold
Lot 217 is a full-length portrait
of Lady Hamilton by George Romney (1734-1802). An oil on canvas,
it measures 56 1/2 by 45 inches. It has a very modest estimate
of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $230,500.
The catalogue notes that "this
charming and wistful portrait of Emma, Lady Hamilton" is
one of three versions and possibly a fourth and that "the
prime version is generally believed to be the canvas in the collectin
of the Naitonal Maritime Museum, London."
The catalogue provides the
following commentary about Lady Hamilton:
"Emma Hart, born Emy Lyon
(bap. 1765-1815) came from humble roots to become one of the most
celebrated beauties of her age. The companion of a number of prominent
gentlemen, Emma became the mistress of Charles Francis Greville
(1749-1809) in the early 1780s, and through him, met George Romney
and other members of London's artistic elite. The artist painted
Emma over and over, and he was only the first of many to be taken
with her. In 1786, Greville sent Emma to Naples to live with his
uncle, Sir William Hamilton. Emma thrived in Naples, becoming
the toast of society. It was also here that she developed her
'Attitudes," in which she dressed in 'classical' robes and
imitated the poses of figures from Greek pottery and antique sculpture.
Goethe, in his Italian Journey, described Emma as a 'young
English girl...with a beautiful face and perfect figure,' and
her Attitudes 'like nothing you ever saw before in your life.'
After marrying Sir William in 1791, Emma also had a long relationship
with Lord Nelson (1758-1805), with whom she had three children,
one of whom, a daughter narmed Horatia, survived. When Nelson
was killed in the battle of Trafalgar, he left Emma and Horatia
provided for in his will, but it was not enough to save her from
debt, alcoholism and obscurity. Emma died in Calais in 1815, but
she left behind an artistic legacy, evident in the numerous works
by Romney, Reynolds, Lawrence, Hoppner and Kauffmann that she
Lot 179 is a superb work bny
Cornelis Cornelisz. van Harlem (1562-1638) entitled "The
Purification of the Israeliites at Mount Sinai." An oil on
penl, it is dated 1600 and measures 26 by 22 1/2 inches. It has
an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell. The
catalogue notes that the painting was acquired in 1604 by Melchior
Wyntgis, who was the mintmaster of Zeeland and later adviser and
master extraordindary of the Auditor General of the Duchy of Luxembourg
Lot 167 is a large and dramatic
oil on canvas by Hendrik Goltzius (1558-1617) entitled "Jupiter
and Antiope." It measures 48 by 70 inches and has an estimate
of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.It sold for $6,802,500. It
had been acquired by Herman Goring and was on loan to the Kunsthistorisch
Institut in Utrecht from 1952 to 1978, the Groninger Museum from
1979 to 1985 and the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem from 1985 to
2009 when it was restituted to the heirs of Abraham Adelsberger.
"Jupiter and Antiope
is a remarkable picture, both for Goltzius's masterful handling
of paint and brush and his frankly erotic treatment of the subject.
It is a work that seduces the viewer on various levels, cerebral
and physical. In 1600, when he abandoned printmaking and began
painting, Goltzius was the most famous engraver of the Netherlands
and perhaps all of Europe...he painted more than 50 pictures and
was soon recognized as the premier painter in Haarlem, surpassing
his rival Carnelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem...."
Another work that was once
in the collection of Hermann Goring is Lot 145, "The Crucifixion
with the Archangel Michael and Saints Elizabeth of Hungary, Agnes,
Catherine of Alexandria and Clare; the 'Imago Pietatis' with the
donor figures of a Franciscan monk and nun on the reverse,"
by a follower of Giotto, circo 1320. The work is gold ground and
tempera on panel and measures 13 1/2 by 8 3/4 inches. The catalogue
notes that the panel was once the central element of a triptych
and that the choice of saints depicted suggests that it was painted
for a member of the order of the Poor Clares. It has a modest
estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $362,500.
Another work that was once
in the collection of Hermann Goring is Lot 194 is a "Portrait
of a Young Woman with a Black Cap" by Rembrandt (1606-1669).
An oval oil on canvas on a wood support that the catalogue states
was probably cut down to this shape possibly in the 18th century,
it measures 27 by 21 inches. It has an estimate of $8,000,000
to $12,000,000. It failed to sell.
This painting was also once
in the collection of Sir Francis Cook of Richmond, England and
after World War II it was restituted to Nathan Katz in 1947. "Its
altered form and later over-paintings caused the Rembrandt Research
Project (RRP) to reject it [as] the work of an imitator in 1972,
but in 1995, following a cleaning and thorough physical analysis,
they reinstated it as an authentic Rembrandt. Now that old additions
and dirty varnish have been removed, we have the opportunity to
enjoy this early work by Rembrandt," the catalogue maintains.
"The sitter is intended
as an anonymous Oriental, an exotic figure, perhaps from an earlier
time, not a young woman from Amsterdam. The style and technique
are characteristic of Rembrandt's portraits from the early 1630s,
a combination of refinement and bravura in which the subtle modeling
of the features are combined in a seamless whole with the loose
brushwork of the costume and ornaments," the entry notes.
Lot 153 is a large work by
Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522) entitled "The Madonna and Child
Enthroned with Saints Onophrius and Augustine." An oil and
tempera on panel, it measures 80 1/2 by 68 3/4 inches. It has
an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $1,202,500.
The catalogue offers the following
commentary about the artist:
"Despite being one of
the most inventive artists in Florence during the last quarter
of the 15th and first quarter of the 16th century, Piero's reputation
for eccentricity obscured recognition of his artistic merit for
centuries. This was largely due to Vasari's biography of the artist
in which Piero is described as socially deviant, a loner, living
and working in solitude, irritated by 'the crying of children,
the coughing of men, the sound of bells, and the chanting of friars.'"
This painting closely resembles a similarly static and unexciting
altarpiece attributed to Raphael in the collection of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
Lot 195 is a nice oval oil
on canvas by Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770). Entitled "The
Discovering Truth," it measures 18 by 25 3/8 inches. It has
an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $914,500.
According to Beverly Louise Brown, "this is one of Tiepolo's
most lyrical and engaging works on a small scale."
Oneof the loveliest early Old
Master paintings in the auction is Lot 141, "The Virgin and
Child" by the Master of the Dijon Madonna. A tempera and
gold on linen, it measures 9 7/8 by 7 1/8 inches. The catalogue
notes that this lovely painting was attributed to the Colmar School
when it was included in an exhibition in 1904 at the Louvre, noting
that "the delicacy of the pale flesh-tones, the maternal
sweetness of the blonde Virgin, the taste for abstract forms could
justify the French attribution." The catalogue, however,
further noted that in 1989 Diane Wolfthal christened the anonymous
artist theMasterof the Dijon Madonna based on similarities between
this painting and a virtually identical one in the Musée
des Beaux-Arts in Dijon. Since then, it continued, several other
similar works have been attributed to the same master whom Wolfthal
considered to be a Flemish painter working in the following of
the Master of the Magdalen Legend. More recently other versions
of the painting have appeared, "all very close to the original
Dijon painting," and they are known as Tuchlein paintings.
Another version of this painting was sold in New York January
29, 1999 for $552,500, the catalogue said. This work has a modest
estimate of $80,000 to $100,000. It sold for $290,500.
Lot 146 is a "Madonna
and Child" by Francesco di Vannuccio, who died before 1391.
The small work is in an elaborate frame that measures 21 1/4 bny
14 3/4 inches. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It
sold for $1,022,500. The work was on loan to The Cloisters
of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1982 to 2009.
"As much a sumptuous and
rich object as a painting, this exquisitely preserved and beautifully
decorated reliquary exemplifies the elegant and refined taste
of late trecento Siena. The center is painted with a finely
rendered depiction of the Madonna of Humility....Surrounding this
central image is a series of fifteen small compartments, each
glassed over with a small piece of verre eglomisé decorated
with alternating golden bursts of light and floral motifs, these
of course to hold the holy relics for which the object was intended."
Lot 229 is a handsome pair
of small oil paintings by Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto
(1697-1768). They are both oil on canvas laid on panel and each
measures about 11 by 14 5/8 inches. One is called "The Piazzetta,
Venice, with the Southwest Corner of the Doge's Palace,"
and the other is called "The Quay of the Dogana, Venice.
The lot has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. The lot
sold for $3,890,500.
Lot 227 is a very fine painting
by Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) that is entitled "A Capriccio
of Buildings with Figures by a Ruined Arch." An oil on canvas
it measures 22 by 16 3/4 inches. It has a modest estimate of $300,000
to $400,000. It sold for $362,500. "Although Guardi
painted many topographical Venetian views, his genius is also
wonderfully expressed in his capricci, which take familar Venetian
buildings, or in this case ruins, and place them in imaginary
settings. Guardi's poetic use of light and composition conjures
up the essence of the city," the catalogue notes, adding
that this work is "particularly close in composition"
to a version in the National Gallery in London.
Lot 204 is a large painting
of "Saint Dorothy, Full-Length, Holding a Basket of Apples
and Roses," by Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664). An oil
on canvas, it measures 71 by 40 inches,. It has an estimate of
$3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It sold for $4,226,500. The catalogue
notes that the artist painted numerous full-length figures. Probably
the loveliest is "Santa Casikia" at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza