happy peasants by le nain
Their business is prosperous and they receive many commissions. The themes are innovative. By showing the French peasant family in an attitude of stoic piety, they are far away from the theatrical or symbolic features of the Dutch genre. These contemporaries of Poussin are not inspired by Rome. Their art is descriptive and not narrative. Their realism anticipates Courbet by two centuries.
The Académie de Peinture et Sculpture was created by Louis XIV in 1648 and the three brothers were nominated. Unfortunately Antoine and Louis Le Nain were to die in that same year and Mathieu will be left solo in the studio. Their iconography is very popular and widely copied.
Le Nain's autograph art is extremely rare on the market. On April 27 in New York, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 51 x 61 cm, lot 33 estimated $ 800K.
Two women, a little girl and a young boy pose around a table at the time of the benedicite. The boy is slicing the bread. They can constitute a family exhibiting the three ages of life. Another interpretation is related to the practice of the Filles de Charité, an institution very active at that time in Paris : these laic women put the poor in confidence by using similar clothing as them.
Another autograph version of this painting is known, with a simpler surrounding, less accessories and without the coarse lines in the faces. If we retain Pierre Rosenberg's observation that Louis was the best artist in the studio, the painting coming for sale could be a later work by Mathieu Le Nain at the time when the supposed limits of his skills could no longer be offset by a brother.
1650 Olimpia in the Vatican
2019 SOLD for £ 2.5M including premium
Throughout the pontificate of Innocent X from 1644 to 1655, the Vatican was managed by a greedy and corrupt woman. Donna Olimpia is the widow of the older brother of the pope. She takes all the decisions, constantly seeking to increase her financial gains and practicing a shameless nepotism. Her power is unlimited : Innocent X never disavowed her.
She is nicknamed La Papessa or more tastelessly La Pimpaccia, a pun on Olim Pia (once pious) suggesting that religion no longer mattered to her. This hyperactive woman also worked for assisting women prostitutes in Rome and commissioned Bernini with the fountains of the Piazza Navona.
The Papessa sits to Velazquez in July 1650. This image was engraved as early as 1653. The original art has been authenticated after nearly three centuries in anonymity. This oil painting 77 x 61 cm still on its original canvas is not in pristine condition. It is estimated £ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3, lot 28.
This 59-year-old woman appears austere and unconstrained just as her brother-in-law is weak and devious, completing the image of the masters of the world on whom Velazquez mercilessly applied his objective vision. This painting is a signature example of Velazquez's mastering of black color.
#AuctionUpdate Lost for nearly 300 years, Velázquez’s missing portrait of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj - sister-in-law, reputed lover and puppet master of Pope Innocent X – commands the saleroom, hammering down at a formidable £2,495,000. #SothebysOldMasters pic.twitter.com/UVtk1OiTAu— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 3, 2019
mid 1650s Lely by Himself
2016 SOLD for £ 870K including premium
The untimely death of Van Dyck in 1641 does not stop this trend. The place is free for other young foreigners. Pieter van der Faes arrives in London around that time. He uses the pseudonym Peter Lely, easier to pronounce and evoking the nearly heraldic symbol of the lily which he explained by a decorative gable on the house of his father.
Peter Lely was an extremely prolific artist who used many assistants. Friendly and worldly, he led his career without interruption despite the political turmoil of the time from Charles I to the Commonwealth and to the Stuart Restoration.
The legendary request by Cromwell inviting Lely to realize his portrait with all his warts is indirectly a tribute to the realism and psychology in the art of Lely. Later, Charles II let him represent in the guise of Venus the famous official mistress Nell Gwyn.
Peter Lely was also a great draughtsman. On July 6 in London, Sotheby's sells a self-portrait 39 x 31 cm in black chalk subtly enhanced in colors and white, lot 216 estimated £ 600K. It had been kept until now in the descendance of the artist.
The man is young and proud of himself, in an ample clothing, elbows on a table. The face is young with a thin mustache. The lines of his curly natural hair, very long in the fashion of that time, are remarkably accurate. The viewing angle is the same as in another self-portrait without surrounding made around 1641 but the experts prefer dating the drawing for sale from the mid-1650s.
1650-1660 Ferdinand Bol inspired by Rembrandt
2009 SOLD 1.3 M€ including premium
Of these two artists, Rembrandt is the master, undoubtedly. But Ferdinand Bol, who was ten years younger, is nevertheless an important painter, to the extent that some of his paintings were long attributed to Rembrandt.
A characteristic of Bol artwork is the large size of his biblical scenes inspired by the Old Testament. By consulting Artvalue, we see a dynamic Angel appearing to Elijah, 162 x 178 cm, sold £ 1.36 million inclusive by Sotheby's in London on 5 December 2007.
The expert Eric Turquin, well known in the auctions in France, introduces Eliezer and Rebecca at the Well, in a very interesting video in French on Interencheres.tv. The scene shows the young woman drinking the traveler, in the presence of her servant. The two main characters, attentive to one another, have a great psychological presence.
This large oil on canvas, 185 x 170 cm, dating from 1650 - 1660, will be sold by Versailles Enchères on June 14 at Versailles, in the condition where it was found. Mr. Turquin demonstrates how it has suffered from time. It was resized two hundred years ago, the harmony of colors and lights is tarnished by a centenary varnish that has yellowed, and the seam between the two canvas panels became visible.
In these conditions, the estimate of K € 400 seems reasonable.
POST SALE COMMENT
Here is a very interesting result: € 1.3 million including expenses.
The beauty and authenticity of this painting have prevailed on its condition. This condition may even have been an advantage because the fans of ancient art love the works that are fresh on the market.
Ancient art is often the field of such added value between the estimate and the result, but it is always difficult to predict on which lots it will happen. Interencheres and Eric Turquin convinced me that this would be the case for this one.
I invite you to view the video shared by Interencheres :
1654-1662 Street Scenes by JV
2019 SOLD for $ 1.22M including premium
These two paintings display narrow streets in a medieval atmosphere, cobbled in their middle, animated by rare characters either static or in conversation, in daylight. The theme is rare and deserves attention but the technique is unsophisticated. Both are signed with the monogram JV.
A street scene at dusk, oil on board 39 x 29 cm signed VREL, was sold for £ 840K including premium by Sotheby's on July 4, 2018.
A corpus of about 38 works is currently attributed to Jacobus Vrel. The first name Jacobus appears on one of these works. The name Vrel is the most frequent but appears on only three works. There are other spellings : Frel, Frell, Wrel, Vrelle, Vreelle. Some are dated, between 1654 and 1662.
An anthroponymic study did not bring any information. The artist did not reveal his real name. We are not in the same situation as for Sharaku : Vrel's rough technique could be from a dilettante. The appearance of similar details in various street scenes suggests that all these views are imaginary. The intimate style of the interior scenes perhaps imitates de Hooch.
The initials JV made it confusing with Johannes Vermeer. It is more rewarding to own a Vermeer than to own a Vrel. Thoré-Burger once found a signature of Vrel under an apocryphal signature of Vermeer.
This artist has yet existed. The dendrochronology confirms the dates. There is one and only one document in period, recording three works by Vrel in the inventory of the collection of the Archduke of Austria in 1659.
The monographic exhibition currently being prepared by the Munich Pinakothek, the Fondation Custodia and the Mauritshuis will certainly reopen the debate on the authentic perimeter of the highly enigmatic Jacobus Vrel.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Lot 30 SOLD for $ 1.22M
Lot 31 SOLD for $ 860K
1656 The Bad Touch
2019 SOLD for € 660K including premium
His Brussels period does not last more than three years but is very prolific. He opens a painting workshop and publishes some engravings. He teaches drawing, setting the example by a variety of themes including tronies of expressions and temperaments.
On November 15 in Paris (Hôtel Drouot), Mirabaud Mercier sells an oil of canvas 75 x 60 cm painted circa 1656, lot 27 estimated € 400K, which is a rare example of a moralizing painting that manages to mix one of the five senses with one of the seven sins. It remained very fresh despite some ancient restorations announced in the catalog. The wet in the eyes and lips of the character is well preserved. Please watch the video shared by Hôtel Drouot.
An innocent young man with a silly smile holds a tabby cat in his left hand. With the other hand, he caresses the ear of the little beast which does not enjoy this initiative and begins to mew. This image is a Christian allegory. We must be cautious about touch, the most dangerous of the five senses, which leads insidiously to lust and eroticism.
This work is part of a series of the five senses, known from black and white photographs of the 1950s. The other four views are less dramatic. The same fool offers a sweet to a monkey in the allegory of taste and pats the owl's head for the sight. The hunting horn and the candle characterize the other two senses.
1657 Rinaldo and Armida by Guercino
2010 SOLD for € 1.04M by Dorotheum
The secular scene of Rinaldo restraining Armida is inspired by the Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso, an epic poem parodying the Crusades that was still famous in period.
The young soldier Rinaldo, from the European side, is in love with the beautiful Armida who is sent by Satan to him. The scene captures the moment when the young man prevents the sorceress plunging an arrow into her bare chest. The characters are shown at mid length.
This painting has been recently considered as an addition to a commission of four paintings made to Guercino in 1657 by a Milanese aristocrat and adventurer who went to be unable to pay all of them. It was later modified by the artist for another customer. It is a highly emotional scene in which the action is enhanced by a nice chiaroscuro.
1660 The Music Lesson by van Mieris
2021 SOLD for £ 3.5M by Christie's
1660 Earthware and Metal Pot on a Painting by Willem Kalf
2008 SOLD 470 K€ including premium
We are in the middle of the seventeenth century. Willem Kalf, who was born in 1619, was a contemporary of Jean de La Fontaine, but the utensils he shows on his painting are far more peaceful than those of our fabulist.
This artist who was born in Rotterdam offers us at Dorotheum in Vienna on October 14 a still life with ginger pot and porcelain bowl, arranged on an entablature with fruits and textiles.
It is a very interesting study of textures and light effects, showing that the trend to realism of artists of that time was not limited to shape and color. For these qualities, some do not hesitate to compare Kalf to Vermeer. The goal of this artist is that the viewer has the impression of being in front of a group composed of real objects.
The Wikipedia, where you can navigate from one language to another, shows few paintings of Kalf. One of them, in the Louvre, 58x71 cm, dated circa 1660, is virtually identical to that of Dorotheum, whose dimensions have not yet been specified. The press release of Dorotheum also indicates that similarity.
On 17 October 2007, Dorotheum obtained 145 K € on another still life, with a mess composition. The estimate of our painting, 400 K €, is rather to compare with another one sold £ 320 K by Sotheby's in London in 2000. Owning an artwork "as the Louvre", which collector could resist this temptation?
POST SALE COMMENT
The price obtained, 470 K € fees included, is a good one especially when it concerns a little-known artist. In reading my article again, I see that such a price, according to the estimate, was predictable. Dorotheum has correctly managed the sale.
1660 Hurry up, Luca !
2009 SOLD 225 K€ including premium
The Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano was known to his contemporaries under the name of Fa Presto (Hurry up). The legend tells that this is how his father, also an artist, encouraged his spontaneity.
This designation desserts today, because it gives the impression of sloppy work. Rather, it should show us the passion of this artist for drawing and his ability to imitate his predecessors with speed and quality.
Luca comes in the history of art after Veronese and Piero di Cortona, but he was also influenced by the clear line and the bold colors of Mattia Preti, who was in Naples since 1653. The religious scenes of the two artists are animated by many characters in anecdotal attitudes.
Produced circa 1660 while Luca was not yet thirty, Gesu tra i Dottore is a large oil on canvas, 188 x 348 cm, which reminds us that he was also a fresco artist. It is for sale by Porro in Milan on October 21.
On January 24, 2008, Sotheby's sold 937 K $ including premium another oil on canvas of large size (234 x 335 cm) of mythological subject. The animation density was comparable to Porro's work. So we have good hopes that the estimate of the latter, 250 K €, is achieved and exceeded.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting was sold 225 K€ including premium, below the estimate.
1660 sharing the wine
In this second part of his career Metsu renounces to the religious and historical themes for specializing in the genre scenes that appeal his new customers. Do not look for social information in his works. At the best of his art, he shows young men and young women occupied in ordinary activities in sumptuous garments. The fairly dense compositions add also some music, food and a dog.
On May 26 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 41 x 36 cm painted around 1660 by Metsu, lot 49 estimated $ 6M. This piece had belonged to a Rothschild collection and was confiscated by the Nazis.
In this young couple which is ignoring the disapproval of the faithful dog, the woman seems to be more enterprising, perhaps because she is in a favorable light. She looks at her friend while presenting a glass of wine. The young officer has put his sword on a cushion. He is not interested in wine and extends a hand toward the shoulder of the woman.
A scene on the same subject dated from the same period, oil on panel 64 x 47 cm also realized with chiaroscuro effects, is kept in the Louvre Museum.
I invite you to watch the very short video shared by Sotheby's.
1660 Jan Steen as a Candidate to Debauchery
The best genre scenes of Jan Steen are a comedy where he sometimes plays the central role. We enter with him into the interiors of old Holland, but this lover of proverbs also opens the possibility of complex interpretations.
In 1660, Steen moves to Haarlem. His artistic maturity is reached and he wants to enjoy his art and good life. The oilon canvas for sale on July 2 by Christie's in London is on first reading the introduction by the artist of this pleasantambition to the attention of his new neighborhood.
Jan is the jovial man aged 34 busy eating oysters, supposed at that time to provide an aphrodisiac effect. He is servedby an old woman preparing the oysters and by a seductive young woman who offers the wine.
It is not so simple. The proverb is known by a copy made in the following year: "Soo Gewoone Soo Verteert '(sooncome, soon consumed) now retranslated as Easy come easy go. The gentle debauchery intended by the artist may lead him to hell. The picture on the wall symbolizes Fortuna, both good and bad. The empty shells that litter the groundalso generate some disapproval.
This painting of a large format rare in the art of Jan Steen, 103 x 134 cm, is estimated £ 7M.
1661 Interior with Music
2011 SOLD 1.76 M$ including premium
2016 SOLD for $ 610K including premium
The sale of the ancient art from the Taubman collection is organized by Sotheby's in New York on January 27. It includes at lot 26 a music scene of the Dutch Golden Age, previously discussed in this column.
Taubman bought it for $ 1.76M including premium in the sale of the Safra collection at Sotheby's on January 26, 2011, far below the estimate, which certainly explains the caution of the auction house in its new lower estimate: $ 800K. This charming genre painting does not however lack merit.
The artist, Hendrick Sorgh, is little known but nevertheless had a successful career in Rotterdam. His scenes of peasant taverns are inspired by his contemporary Teniers the Younger. His active participation in local life leads him to observe the bourgeois in their vast interiors, with kindness but without the theatrical dynamism of Jan Steen, for example.
The oil on canvas 68 x 82 cm from the Safra and Taubman collections, painted in 1661, shows a group of young people busy playing music. A man plays the theorbo and another the violin, and a woman sings. Their group includes another young woman whose dreamy attitude, captured by the emotion of the music, is seconded by the symbol of the virginal passion, the bird in its cage.
The theme of the musical group, rare in the art of Sorgh, is more common by Teniers.
St Joseph becoming younger
1998 SOLD for $ 2.5M by Sotheby's
Murillo spent his entire career in Sevilla during the baroque period. Before him Ribera had revised the iconography of the saints by imagining their everyday passion. Murillo further humanizes the saints by showing them in ordinary occupations. His honest and unwealthy characters invite the faithful to sympathy and charity.
St Joseph is an ideal character in this new hagiography. His role in Christian theology was ill-defined. Thomas Aquinas had rightly observed that his existence was indispensable to Mary's side in order to prevent this unmarried mother from being persecuted by the Jews. In return he does not have the right to a sexual life and is necessarily very old.
The counter-reform alters this vision. The sensitivity to the mysteries diminishes in favor of a more intimate and less narrative representation. Joseph has now an increased role. He is the nutritoris domini, meaning the well-intentioned educator. He is not a threat to Mary and can become young again.
On December 7 in London, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 222 x 165 cm by Murillo on the theme of St Joseph taking the hand of the Christ Child, lot 50 estimated £ 3M. This painting had been sold for $ 2.5M by Sotheby's on January 30, 1998.
Joseph is a young man, similar to the traditional iconography of Christ himself. The boy a little sulky or ill-awake is in the period before his first teachings and his first miracles. The mystical dimension is assured by the very discreet halos and by a background with angels.
This painting is not dated. It was made in neutral colors with only a more vivid light on the child's face. This simplicity in execution could relate to the latter part of the artist's career. Murillo died in 1682 at the age of 64 as a result of an accident at work.
1670 The Man of Sorrows
2017 SOLD for £ 2.75M including premium
On July 5 in London, Sotheby's sells an Ecce Homo, oil on canvas 64 x 53 cm painted by Murillo around 1670 or a little earlier, lot 32 estimated £ 2M. This artwork had been sold for £ 2,47M including premium by Christie's on December 8, 2005.
Christ is seen half-length on a black background, in a composition very close to the Ecco Homo of similar dimensions painted by Titian in 1547, now at the Museo del Prado. He is alone with no narrative surrounding to face his physical and moral pains with the attributes of mockery : the rope binding his hands, the red robe that does not cover the body, the crown of thorns and the scepter of reed.
The feeling is however completely different. The head of the man of sorrows by Titian is turned almost in profile with a too thick beard. On the contrary the attitude shown by Murillo is facing. His lowered eyes and his meditating mouth reveal that this man is strong enough in his mind to overcome all sufferings and challenges.
1670 exotic memory from brazil
Frans Post, younger brother of the painter Pieter Post, is staying in Nieuw Holland from 1637 to 1644. He realizes many drawings and some landscape paintings with gray skies attesting the rainy condition of the equatorial climate.
In 1646, Frans is enrolled in the Guild of St Luke of his hometown, Haarlem. He joins therein Pieter de Molijn who was mixing some genre painting into his landscapes. For a quarter century, Frans Post will paint the views of Dutch Brazil.
His images soon lose their realism to display a successful colonization, with busy slaves in fields surrounding small houses. He reuses his sketches to introduce exotic flora and fauna. Over time, the foregrounds become empty, perhaps because the artist preferred being less accurate for avoiding contradiction. His memory was certainly impaired by alcohol.
On April 22 in New York, Sotheby's sells a nice view of Brazil, lot 41 estimated $ 1.5M. This oil on panel 35 x 41 cm painted around 1670 includes two groups of workers, a blue sky dotted with clouds, and the inevitable exotic symbols: a tall palm tree and an armadillo gently crossing path with an anteater.
1672 The Surrender of the HMS Royal Prince by Willem van de Velde II
This victory was highly important for the Dutch republic. Willem van de Velde II and his father Willem I prepared many sketches and a few paintings to commemorate the surrender of the British flagship. Examples of grisaille pen paintings by Willem I are dated 1668 and 1672.
Curiously the most achieved painting, an undated oil on canvas 75 x 106 cm, did not surface before an auction in Amsterdam in 1763. This piece is highly narrative including the figure of the defeated captain amidst many sailors. The shameful white flag of surrender is already superseding the Union Jack.
The painting was possibly executed when father and son were preparing for exile in England in 1672 following the French invasion of the Dutch republic. It is estimated £ 4M for sale by Sotheby's on July 6, 2022, lot 5.
1677 the reception of coysevox
Antoine Coysevox (spelled Coyzevox by himself) follows in this path. His work appealed the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture which warmly welcomed his two pieces of reception, the busts of Le Brun and Colbert in white marble.
Colbert was one of the most outstanding and influential ministers in French history and the protector of all the Académies. Le Brun was the referent for the arts with the title of premier peintre du roi. They are pleased with their figures made by Coysevox. With such a reference, his career was launched.
That 71 cm high Colbert bust carved in 1677 in a beautiful marble probably from Carrara was immediately offered by the Académie to the statesman. The expressive and caring figure, remarkably realistic, breaks with the tradition of such sculptures that had been previously mostly inspired by funeral monuments. The importance of the personality is reflected in the decoration of the Ordre du Saint-Esprit through his jacket.
This marble remained in the family of Colbert. It was classified French national treasure in 1937, which is banning its export but does not prevent it to remain in private hands. It will be sold on November 12 in Paris by Leclere as the single lot of this auctioneer in a co-operative sale at the Hôtel Drouot (lot 46 in that sale).
<1683 The Ceiling of the Arts
2015 SOLD for $ 1.56M including premium
Perrault was the bold leader of a new cultural line minimizing the past to better glorify the reign underway. In the early 1680s, he imagined to devote to the arts the ceiling of the cabinet of his Parisian mansion on an overall area of 8.5 x 4.5 m.
The eleven elements of the ceiling are painted by eleven different artists. The objective of Perrault is to replace the traditional list of seven liberal arts by a new list of eight arts more suited to the life of his time. Only the music appears in both lists.
The decor was decidedly not the main goal of Perrault. His house was destroyed in 1683 to enable the realization of the Place des Victoires and the painted ceiling has probably never been assembled. In 1690, three years after launching in the literary world the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he published a small book illustrated with the eleven images to explain and promote his theories on modern arts and sciences.
We may consider that all the paintings were still in the ownership of Perrault in 1690. They subsequently disappeared excepted Eloquence which is currently preserved in the museum of Brest.
La Musique has just resurfaced. This oil on canvas 98 x 152 cm was painted by Antoine Coypel, aged just over twenty years but whose early skill was famous. This painting is estimated $ 1.5 million, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 29, lot 87.
This work is a complex allegory cleverly built around a woman and five young children. The woman plays an antique lyre decorated with a sun (the emblem of the king), while the children open the future with more modern instruments. A lyrical staged scene in the background along with stacked books referring to recent musicians reinforce the modernist allegory.
These six figures probably represent the five natural children of Louis XIV and Montespan around their new gouvernante Madame de Maintenon significantly rejuvenated to please the court.
1696 Louis XIV on Horseback
The years pass and Bernini's monument is still not delivered. The king had established in the mean time a protectionist regime, including for arts. Even before the monument was received in 1685, Louvois required Girardon to make major changes. This statue nearly 4 m high is then installed in Versailles.
They must do better. In 1686 a bronze showing Louis XIV standing in coronation costume is installed on the new Place des Victoires. At 12 m high including its tall pedestal, the monument was made by Desjardins. It will be destroyed during the Révolution.
The square that will become Place des Conquêtes before being Place Louis-le-Grand and later Place Vendôme is also under construction. Advised by Louvois, the king ordered in 1685 an equestrian statue to Girardon. Designed on the model of the statue of Marcus Aurelius, the monument is made in 1692 in a single casting of 60,000 liters of bronze. Inaugurated in 1699, it is 7 m high, 17 m including the pedestal, and will also be destroyed under the Révolution.
In 1690 Louvois wants the same for his castle in Meudon. Girardon is preparing a very similar model, with a change in the position of the arm to hold a command stick. This version will be illustrated in the directory of works and collections by Girardon made under the supervision of the artist at the end of his life.
Four bronzes in reduction of the equestrian statue of Louis XIV by Girardon were realized under the control of the artist. Only one of them is in the Louvois-Meudon configuration. This statue 104 x 90 x 43 cm weighing 232 Kg is estimated £ 7M for sale by Christie's in London on July 5, lot 130.
The casting date of one of the three specimens in the Place Louis-le-Grand configuration is known : 1696. Radiographic inspections of three of the replicas show that the arms were fitted on bodies supported by a similar internal armature.
1699 Pluto under Auction Fire
In the art market, there is a category apart, a corner for specialists, which may attract some important prices: the French bronzes from the seventeenth century.
They include groups of characters in violent situations. This is the case of the statue that I present today. Pluto is lifting Proserpina for abducting her into Hell. Proserpina, despite her hectic gesture, is not unfortunate: she will become the goddess of the vast area of her attacker. Another woman is down and tries again to intervene, and we imagine that Pluto had bluntly rejected her.
The bronze, 104 cm high, is attributed to François Girardon, who was one of the masters of that style. It is the lot 166 of sale 7631 of Christie's in London on December 4. It is estimated £ 500 K.
This example probably anticipated the installation of the large marble of Versailles (1699). It has the remarkable feature of having been cast in one piece. It was common that the arms were produced separately before being joined. Our bronze is a great technical feat, recently discovered.