1466 The Miracle of Einsiedeln
2019 sold for $ 370k including premium
An important engraving workshop contributed to the celebration with three images on the theme of Madonna and Child, in 21 x 12 cm, 13 x 9 cm and 10 x 6.5 cm formats, certainly offered in a wide range of price to satisfy the rich and the poor. The availability of hand colored versions would not seem impossible at that time.
The largest of these images is composed in three registers. It is dated and bears an inscription commemorating the angelic consecration of Einsiedeln. The use of a burin on a copper plate is a recent innovation that facilitates the effects of volumes and textures through oblique hatching or dotted lines.
The three images are part of the corpus attributed to the workshop of Master E. S., so designated with reference to the initials identified on other prints. His activity is not documented. He was one of the first publishers of images to date some plates, from 1461 to 1467, thus preceding by several years the engravings by Mantegna and Schongauer.
On January 29 in New York, Christie's sells a copy in very good condition of the large version of the Madonna of Einsiedeln, not colored, lot 3 estimated $ 300K. From the thirteen known impressions, it is the last in private hands.
Only 13 impressions of The Madonna of Einsiedeln by the Master E.S. are known to exist today, 12 of which are in public collections. We know very little about him — so what can we deduce from this 15th-century print, offered tomorrow in New York? https://t.co/WrYwyfh4eA pic.twitter.com/TKkoFYJewq— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) January 28, 2019
The Athletic Nudes of the Quattrocento
Throughout history, the best artists consider the questionings of their time while trying out the most recent techniques.
During the last third of the Quattrocento, the printed book provides a new medium for the illustration. Production is easy and dissemination widens. In Mantua, Mantegna is one of the pioneers who view the printed image as a separate art.
In Florence, Antonio Pollaiuolo tries also. Only one of his engraved works survives: a battle of the nudes in large size,42 x 61 cm. Even Vasari did not know other prints by him. But it was a success, as evidenced in part by the fact that fifty units still exist, and also by the full signature, non monogrammed, of the artist proud of his work: "opus Antonii Polla-ioli Florent-tini."
The theme is modern for the time. Ten naked men are busy fighting, by pairs, fiercely. Culturally, both groups are not distinguishable. This surprising lack of narrative reference suggests that the muscled anatomy of the fighters, shown in various attitudes, is the only theme of the work, to be used as a sort of modello demonstrating the skill of the artist.
We would like to be able to date this outstanding image for comparing it with the chronology of the engravings by Mantegna, whose Fights of sea gods proceed from a similar inspiration. Unfortunately, the printed image was not a major art in the Quattrocento, and no indication of date has survived.
One of the very few copies still in private hands of Pollaiolo's print is estimated $ 700K, for sale by Christie's in NewYork on January 30.
1501 The Mystery of the Stag
2019 sold for $ 400k including premium
Promoter of all themes of images, Dürer realizes engravings on copper from 1496. The action is more direct : the burin of the goldsmith draws the line on the metal in the same way as a pencil is doing on the paper, unlike the chisel of the sculptor which digs in the wood the areas that will not be inked.
Copper engraving is preferred for the most prestigious editions. The drawing is thinner, allowing a better mastery of shadows and lights. Unfortunately the pressure exerted on the plate generates a wear which limits the quantity of high quality printing.
Prepared around 1501, Saint Eustace, 36 x 26 cm, is the largest image created by Dürer on copper. The hunter is seeing the crucified Christ between the antlers of the stag. This tale is an excellent support for the demonstration of the artist's know-how, staging a character in a landscape as well as various animals with superb anatomical details.
There is no doubt that Dürer created this work for promoting his art. The hunter dressed in the fashion of his time resembles the future emperor Maximilian. The landscape is inspired by Van Eyck and the overall composition is close to an illustration published by Koberger for the Legenda Aurea.
A lifetime copy of Dürer's Saint Eustace was sold for $ 720K including premium by Christie's in New York on January 29, 2013. Another one with the same watermark was sold for $ 400K including premium in the same auction room on January 29, 2019, lot 30.
1515 Exodus on a Large Scale
2017 SOLD for $ 750K including premium
In the tradition of the images of battles previously renewed by Leonardo in his Battle of Anghiari, Titian offers a complex narrative. The well balanced picture is centered on the waves, sufficiently stormy on the left to engulf a whole army of horsemen and quiet enough on the right to lead the Israelite refugees on a peaceful coast.
Moses manages this epic operation with his long rod. Near him a dog defecates, symbolizing the fact that the enemy is only deserving scorn. This detail displays the hatred of the Venetians for the Imperial troops at the time of the war of the Holy League.
The joints between the twelve blocks are finely accurate without miss or overlap and the unidentified engraver, who was probably not the artist himself, assembled the twelve sheets with the utmost care. This technical feat is perhaps one of its kind at that time.
Complete surviving copies are very scarce. One of them characterized by a very beautiful contrast was sold for $ 850K including premium by Christie's on January 30, 2013 over a lower estimate of $ 250K. On January 25 in New York, Christie's sells another example with a nice uniformity in the execution, lot 77 estimated $ 200K.
1515 Humanist Cosmography
2011 SOLD 360 K£ including premium
At the time of Dürer, Nuremberg is a major center of learning and curiosity. The woodcut engravings help spread the knowledge.
Circa 1515, the mathematician Stabius obtained from the Emperor Maximilian the permission to publish a map of the stars, in two sheets showing the sky as seen from each hemisphere, 46 x 44 cm each. The cartouche that includes his name also attributes the positioning of the stars to the astronomer Heinfogel and the drawing to "Albertus Durer ".
Although the scientific rigor is not contested, the view of the northern hemisphere is confusing with its tangled allegories of the Almagest constellations and of the zodiac signs. At the corners, the four authorities of ancient astronomy are each holding a globe. This picture is shown in the press release shared by AuctionPublicity.
The view of the southern sky is made more pleasant. Very sparse, it tells the learned community of its time that this mapping is still largely unknown.
We will have some reticence to include this edition among the masterpieces of Dürer, but its position in the history of knowledge is important: it was the first engraved map of the sky.
A very nice copy of these two sheets, hand colored at the origin, is estimated £ 120K, for sale by Sotheby's in London on March 30.
POST SALE COMMENT
Rare, in excellent condition, with original hand colouring: the price, £ 360K including premium, rewards a lot exceptional in its class.
1652 Faust disturbed by Rembrandt
2010 SOLD 150 K£ including premium
The best master of the Christian image was Rembrandt. Using on the same plate the three techniques of printmaking (etching, drypoint and burin), he edited in 1649 one of his masterpieces, Christ healing the sick.
In 1652 or 1653, he is treating the theme of Faust. The old doctor is standing by his desk and looks a light centered by the letters INRI which comes from the window. The artist is a master of the joint use of sharp and blurred. The scientist is real, thus he is perfectly drawn. The mystical object is in an aura, and ghostly figures and symbols (including a skull) are scrambled.
Sotheby's sells on March 30 in London a print of the first state (of three). The estimate, £ 80K, is reasonable, and certainly takes into account the small size of this artwork, 21 x 16 cm. It is illustrated in the press release shared by Art Knowledge News.
The images of this great master are still circulating in large quantities on the market and are affordable: there are no less than 20 Rembrandt prints in the sale of Sotheby's, half of them with a low estimate at less than £ 5K.
POST SALE COMMENT
Excellent result, making me well pleased, for this beautiful engraving from a remarkable subject and technique : 150 K £ including premium.
I was right when considering that the estimate was "reasonable".
1656 The Elderly Silversmith and his Art
The sale organized by Swann Galleries in New York on April 25 includes no less than 40 prints by Rembrandt, the greatest ancient master of the image, best known for the quality of his self-portraits and the mysticism of hisChristian scenes. Three of them are illustrated in the blog of the auction house.
Made in 1656, the portrait of Jan Lutma shows the silversmith then more than 70 years old, sitting in an armchair and holding a candlestick. We can see on the table beside him his hammer, a pot containing punches, and a bowl from amodel created by him.
The example for sale is from the first state among three. Rembrandt is a virtuoso for mixing the techniques: this print,20 x 15 cm, is an etching completed with the dry-point, providing a nice contrast in the details of the bearded face and of the clothing. It is estimated $ 200K.
In the two later states, Rembrandt added some details of the room around the sitter. I prefer the first state,psychologically stronger because the attention of the observer does not leave this man, tired but proud to display the attributes of his brilliant career.
1661 Rembrandt, Printmaker
2008 SOLD 420 K£ including premium
I am always surprised that prints of great ancient masters are still on the market at affordable prices. Yet some of these sheets have survived several centuries and represent an important part of the vision of these artists.
Christie's sale on December 2 in London helps to know the value of Rembrandt and Dürer whose works are presented in a very wide price range.
I do not comment the lowest prices, because that should lead me to spend too much time analyzing the sizes, the printing dates, the issued quantities, the quality of inking and the condition reports, but I invite those interested in this topic to do it. I think I have listed above the important parameters to be considered.
From my top-down method, I present to you the two major lots, being guided by the press release, and trying to explain how they are exceptional.
At Lot 49, we see the Christ crucified between two thieves, estimated 350 K £. The image is large (39 x 46 cm), rich and sharp. This is a print of fourth state, 1661, which had been so reworked if compared to the previous state that it almost became an original edition. By this transformation, Rembrandt wanted to strengthen the emotional power in a very nice effect of chiaroscuro. The printing of this specific example is very successful. Christie's prefers it to the copy in the British Museum!
At Lot 44 for 180 K £, we see the Christ healing the sick. This image of 1649 including many characters represents for many connoisseurs the best summary of the techniques used by Rembrandt: etching, drypoint and burin.
POST SALE COMMENT
The most important of the Rembrandt prints of this sale got a price that was justified by its unique characteristics, well described in the catalog: 420 K £ inclusive (Lot 49).
Lot 44 has not been sold.
1726-1735 The Tribute by Jullienne to Watteau
2014 SOLD for € 265K including premium
Jean (de) Jullienne was two years younger than Watteau. He was a promoter of the business of dyes and fine fabrics of his uncle, to whom he will succeed in 1729. This wealthy young man began in 1717 to buy paintings to his friend and prepare prints.
Watteau died in 1721. He was only 37 years old but left an abundant work.
The collection of Watteau prints published by Jullienne is an early example of what is now called a 'catalogue raisonné', and it is still used today for authenticating paintings by Watteau. Jullienne commissioned for the project the best engravers including Boucher and Jean Audran.
The publication was carried out in two deliveries, in two different sizes, 49 x 32 cm and 62 x 47 cm, including a total of 619 works by Watteau. The first part was published in 1726-1728. The second part, limited to 100 copies, was published in 1735.
On November 6 in Paris, Sotheby's sells a copy of the two Recueils Jullienne, each one bound in two volumes by Padeloup before 1758. That set belonged to Czar Alexander I and obtained after 1928 the exit permit from the Hermitage collections. Many Recueils Jullienne have been dismantled by print dealers and complete copies are now exceptional. This one is estimated € 200K, lot 245.
1782 Roman Engravings by Piranesi
2014 SOLD 610 K€ including premium
At the time of the vedutisti, Giovanni Battista Piranesi is the great image maker of Rome.
On March 6 in Paris, Alde sells a remarkable set of fifteen volumes in folio size 53 x 40 cm in bindings made in the late eighteenth century, including 21 books published in Rome from 1748 to 1780. They are offered as a single lot estimated € 600K, number 117 in the catalog.
The 15 volumes are not a complete collection, and the connoisseur who assembled this group in the lifetime of the artist or shortly after his death in 1778 did not specifically sought the first editions.
This set of 829 engravings along with the texts of the books is nevertheless exceptional. Some additional pictures by his son, dated 1782, are the latest prints in the lot.
Rome and its vicinity are the unique theme of the art of Piranesi, fascinated by the ancient architecture.
The grandeur of Roman monuments has also inspired his Carceri of invenzione, here represented by the second edition corrected circa 1770. This unusual and amazing work designed in 1749 and 1750 anticipates Romanticism.
POST SALE COMMENT
This collection was impressive but few works were from the first issue. I think that the price, € 500K before fees, is very good although it does not reach the lower estimate.
1790 Gloomy Prisons within the Head of Piranesi
Let me take you today in one of the sites where Art is born: Lascaux. In recent years, the auction house Galateauconducts sales of books in Montignac-Lascaux. This auction house organizes most of its other activities 100 Km away, in Limoges.
The next sale will last three days, from 26 to 28 August.
The important item of the last day, lot 2048, is one of the most stunning works from the mid-eighteenth century: Carceri d'invenzione. Roma, by Piranesi. These prisons extracted from the imagination of the artist are so gloomy. The composition is exceptionally modern, made to arouse anxiety by the profusion of details, the lack of identified marks and the labyrinthine subject.
The original edition was published in 1750. Piranesi was 30 years old. Among the other masters of the strange, Füssli was 9 years old and Blake was not born!
The collection contains 16 prints, ie an engraved frontispiece and 15 prints. It is not dated, but the set, coherent with the final version of 1761, was printed in Rome around 1790. This lot is estimated 45 K €.
I found two references for oldest editions (source: old paper issues of the Gazette de l'Hotel Drouot):
On 13 October 1989 in Paris, Ader Picard Tajan sold at 1.83 MF an unbinded group of the thirteen original prints, with the frontispiece of the second edition.
On 11 October 2001 in Paris, François de Ricqlès sold at 480 KF the sixteen prints of the second edition.
1793 UTAMARO CAPTURES A MOMENT OF HAPPINESS
A copy of a masterpiece of Kitagawa Utamaro, Mono omou koi (Reflective Love), could be worth $ 1 million atChristie's in New York on September 18.
She is a young woman shown in bust, in traditional dress, her hairstyle is complicated. The head turned left, the hand under the chin, she looks at something out of view. The title tells us, she believes in love, or she symbolizes love, which is somewhat the same thing.
This work is part of a series of five published 215 years ago as an anthology of love poems. Christie's said in its press release that this copy is in excellent condition.
No need to introduce Utamaro. His art is one of the greatest of all countries and of all time. This should surprise nobody that a print, i.e. a multiple work, of this master is estimated at a price that most painters should not even imagine for their oils. The clear line of its drawing is beautiful, simply.
The catalogue is not yet online. It will tell us what are the unique characteristics that justify the expected price.
In 1992, in Paris, a Mono omou koi had been sold 2.4 MF by Chayette and Calmels. In this exceptional sale still in the memory of lovers of Japanese prints at Drouot, a remarkable portrait of actor by Sharaku was sold 680 KF. It is interesting to note that these two works date back almost to same year. To help you understand the golden age of Japanese prints, I translate in our calendar: 1793-1795.
1793-1794 The Images from the Ivy Shop
2016 SOLD for € 750K including premium
The technique of engraving used for the multicolor prints of the floating world or ukiyo-e was developed for over a century. The original drawing was glued to a wood piece that was carved and black inked. Paper copies are in turn glued on wooden blocks which are recessed to define the surface to be inked with a predetermined color. Wedges define a sharp position of the blocks during the subsequent color inkings. About 300 copies could be printed before a significant wear of the woods.
Ukiyo-e is a bourgeois art that develops along with the social changes of the Edo period. The aristocrats do not like these multiple images that often honor illicit activities and the censorship is becoming increasingly severe.
The biography of the artists is not well known because of their plebeian origin and of the risk brought by the censorship. They often change their pseudonym and their real name is usually not identified. Tsutaya is not a personal name but the sign of the Ivy Shop. It however refers to a single publisher, Jūzaburō, who died in 1797 of our calendar.
Utamaro is a friend of Tsutaya with whom he resides. His artistic contribution is greatly innovative. He draws the head in close-up, which is shocking with reference to the Japanese artistic tradition, with a strong psychological intensity. He also innovates in the detailed drawing of the hair. His kira-e technique of embellishing the background with mica flakes provides a luxurious illusion that deliberately breaks with the traditional use of the ukiyo-e prints.
Sharaku is the pseudonym used by an unidentified artist who was perhaps Utamaro or Tsutaya for a series of portraits of actors of the Kabuki theater in which the female roles are played by men.
The sale held on June 21 in Paris (Drouot) by Beaussant Lefèvre in collaboration with Christie's enables to compare images by Utamaro and Sharaku in the standardized Oban tate-e format around 35 x 24 cm. Here is the link to the auction house's website.
Lot 6 is the portrait by Utamaro of a woman dreaming of love. This image from one of the most famous ukiyo-e series was printed by Tsutaya in 1793 or 1794 with the kira-e on a salmon-colored background. Lot 3 is the portrait of an actor in a female role executed by Sharaku in 1794 with a kira-e gray background and a collar also slightly improved by mica.
Utamaro : SOLD for € 750K including premium
Sharaku : SOLD for € 40K before fees
1794-1795 The Sharaku Enigma
2009 SOLD 396 K€ including premium
We better know the biographical details of Banksy than those of Sharaku: it may look incredible.
Portraits of actors by Tōshūsai Sharaku are marvels of clarity in the design, and of expression of the characters in their respective roles. Yet Sharaku produced nothing before mid 1794, and his career lasted only ten months.
One hypothesis is that Sharaku is not an artist but a group of artists in a collaborative project led by a publisher of prints. It is relevant to note the name of this editor: Tsutaya Jûzaburô.
Two considerations support. The subject was shocking for the Japan of that time, which did not accept a too realistic art. I already said it in the Asia group for the screens of Okyo Maruyama, who were made in the same period. Also nobody knows what Hokusai did during the short time of "Sharaku."
On October 16 in Paris (Hôtel Drouot), Piasa sells a significant group of prints by Sharaku. The most beautiful, 39 x 25 cm, is estimated 50 K€.
In its press release, Piasa reminds the Huguette Berès sale, by Sotheby's in Paris in 2002 and 2003. A portrait of actor dressed as a peasant in an aggressive mood had been sold 145 K€ including premium.
POST SALE COMMENT
The print by Sharaku was more worthy than its estimate. Much more. The result, 396 K € including premium, allows to include this lot among the masterpieces.
1794-1795 Sharaku and the Kabuki
No one could identify who was hiding under the pseudonym Toshusai Sharaku, whose kabuki prints are among themost successful pictures of Japanese art. However the dates are known, since their first edition covers only ten months, during the years 1794 and 1795 of our calendar.
Oban is the size of the print, which is in a position tate-e, portrait, or yoko-e, landscape.
Kabuki is the traditional Japanese theater. It is a total show: Ka means singing, Bu dancing and Ki virtuosity.
One oban tate-e by Sharaku, 34 x 24 cm, for sale by Christie's in New York on September 14 is both one of the most expressive and one of the most rare. The kabuki actor is ready for a brawl. The arched mouth and the strabismus indicate a high concentration, and fingers wide apart assess that the man is on the defensive.
The play, the scene, the role and the actor are identified. The play was performed in Edo during the fifth month of Kansei 6, which is matching the short Sharaku period.
These realistic images with strong psychological effect displeased the contemporaries of Sharaku. It is not surprising if the images which we now regard as his masterpieces are also the rarest. This one is estimated $ 600K.
1816 The Image Ledger of the Duc de Mirepoix
2017 SOLD for £ 510K including premium
During an inventory the descendants inspect an old ledger forgotten in a bookshelf since the mid-19th century. In this large pre-printed volume, almost all pages have been used to paste an image. An inscription inside the cover by an unidentified craftsman indicates that this operation was to cost 5 fr 50 c to M. de Mirepoix.
The discoverers are not excited by the 90 hand-colored lithographs of military uniforms by Hippolyte Bellangé but this beginning leads to a treasure : the complete series of the 33 etchings of La Tauromaquia by Goya. They appreciate that the ledger was used because its 54 x 36 cm size enabled to install these 30 x 45 cm sheets with their full margin.
La Tauromaquia was published by Goya in 1816, shortly after the return of the Bourbon dynasty in France and Spain. Laval is the French ambassador to Spain from 1814 to 1823.
The theme of the death-fight between beast and men allows the artist to escape the censorship that already threatens his favorite social themes. Goya is very familiar with the details of a corrida and his images show the full variety of the action. The fact that the toro is not always the loser is an underlying political message.
Goya is a master of all engraving techniques. In 1799 the beautiful sepia tones of his aquatints of Los Caprichos are masterpieces. La Tauromaquia is printed in dark ink with very beautiful contrasts brought by the aquatint.
Maintained in very fine condition thanks to its very long storage without handling, the image album of the duc de Mirepoix isestimated £ 300K for sale by Sotheby's in London on April 4, lot 34.
A complete set in 28 x 40 cm sheet size of La Tauromaquia with the addition of a handwritten list of the images in a binding contemporary to the edition was sold on April 9, 2013 by Christie's for $ 1.9M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 400K.
1825 The Bulls of Bordeaux
2010 SOLD 104 K$ including premium
In 1825, Goya was exiled, disillusioned by the political events of his country. In Bordeaux, he met the lithographer Cyprien Gaulon, and could experience with success the new printing technology.
He chose one of his favorite themes, bullfighting, and executed four superb drawings of action scenes in the arena.Old and sick, the great master is however displaying a fabulous dynamism in such late works. The fighting bulls of Goya are the worthy predecessors of those of Picasso.
Gaulon edited these images in 100 copies, 31 x 40 cm. It is one of the best early examples of the use of lithography in the production of artistic images. Invented a quarter of century before, this promising method was still in its development phase in 1825.
On April 28 in New York, Doyle will sell the four views separately. They are estimated $ 175 K each.
Comparing with £ 200 K which had been expected in vain in December by another auction house for a complete set, that price may seem high. Keep in mind that the price of old papers depends greatly on their condition, and let us await the outcome of the sale before concluding.
POST SALE COMMENT
When the catalog was published, the estimate became reasonable : $ 100K for each print. They have not reached that price, but all have been sold. Before fees : 85, 80, 70 and 60 K $. Including premium: 104, 98, 86 and 74 K $.
1827-1839 Birds of Double Elephant Size by Audubon
2009 SOLD 120 K$ including premium
Historians of big auction prices remember two important results achieved by Christie's in New York on collections of Audubon prints. Both had been recorded on the main work of this artist, The Birds of America. The four volumes contain the complete set of 435 hand-colored etchings.
These prints are in folio double elephant size, the largest known format for an illustrated book: 100 x 67 cm. Christie's had successively received $ 3.7 million in 1992 and 2.75 million in 1993.
Thank you to Artvalue for having recorded this information.
This gigantic dimension is related to the goal that John James Audubon had for the great work of his life: he wanted that all his birds are represented in their natural habitat, life size even for the biggest. American, he had to explore to England to find a publisher: he was Robert Havell, of London. The publication took twelve years (1827-1838). This duration was not exceptional at that time for such an ambitious book.
In its sale of 23 and 24 February in New York, Sotheby's offers four of these prints:
the American Flamingo, Plate CCCCXXXI (Lot 76, est. $ 100 K)
the Carolina Parrot, Plate 26 (Lot 69, est. K $ 70), showing a group of birds of this species that disappeared afterwards,
the Snowy Owl, Plate CXXI (Lot 70, est. K $ 70) a night scene with two birds,
the Wild Turkey, Plate 1 (Lot 68, est. K $ 50).
These prices are comparable to what is found in Artvalue for similar prints, but the condition is not perfect.
POST SALE COMMENT
The results are interesting. The best price, $ 120 K premium included, has been successively reached on the most aesthetic image (the owls) and on the most famous (the flamingo).
The group of parrots, a little mess, reached $ 86 K including premium.
The turkey, who twisted too much his neck for entering life size in the format of the page, remained unsold. Yet he had the lowest estimate of the four.
Suppose that these four plates were in a similar condition (it was to be analysed during the exhibition). If so, we conclude that aesthetics still play a role in prices in this market sector.
A copy of the Great Blue Heron, plate 211, was sold for $ 300K before fees by Arader Galleries for $ 300K before fees on November 16, 2019, lot 30 here linked on LiveAuctioneers bidding platform.