1706 Venice is not a Capriccio
Vedute or capricci? Painters working in Italy at the end of the seventeenth century cleverly mixed the two genres. The most active is a Dutchman, Gaspar van Wittel (Gaspare Vanvitelli).
In Venice, Luca Carlevarijs (a real Italian, despite the spelling used for his name) satisfied his customers in both genres. A realistic view of San Giorgio Maggiore is for sale at Bonhams in London on July 8. It was painted on canvas in 1706, 64 x 93 cm.
The catalog tells us that twenty years later the owner wanted to buy other paintings of the same artist but a good counselor advised him to prefer Canaletto. He was not wrong: Carlevarijs images are well made and animated, but do not match the sharpness of lines that gives such life to the works of his successor.
Let us therefore consider Carlevarijs as an important actor of the early Venetian vedute. This is possibly not enough to expect K £ 500 for his painting. Other works were sold well above this price, but they were larger and more animated.
1718 The Floral Profusion of Jan van Huysum
Born in Amsterdam in a family of painters, Jan van Huysum naturally became a skilled master of still lifes of flowers.The quality of his art assured him a great career, despite a difficult character: aware of his genius, he became jealous of his own art.
Flowers in a vase are tight and tangled. Each of them is shown with a meticulous realism, but the bouquet assembly is unrealistic, like a pretext to accommodate the infinite variations of color and light. Jan van Huysum is an unexpectedprecursor of modern art.
On January 26 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on copper painted around 1718. Measuring 79 x 60 cm, it is alarge size for this technique that allows a sharp line and brilliant colors. This painting can be considered as a masterpiece of the artist.
This lot is estimated $ 4M. Here is the link to the catalog.
1720s The Timeless Art of Chardin
Chardin's place is unique in the history of art. Becoming famous by showing kitchen utensils was not a foregone conclusion. Under Louis XV, the court sets the tone for a luxury that is the reputation of France. The decorations are complicated, the paintings are mild, royal symbols invade everything to please the king and his court.
Chardin is decidedly the opposite. His subjects are humble. The design does not matter, because the composition and color make objects so present in his art. He was not the first to paint still lifes, of course. But his genius is to remove all the symbols in favour of a simple sentimental or sensual search. And he succeeds because he is a great artist. In the same idea, the environment disappears: the background is united, not located. Only remains the subject.
In the mid-1720s, he was not yet thirty years old. The still life is his main specialty. Later he would also make portraits. From the time of his beginnings, Christie's has found an oil on canvas, 49 x 87 cm, with objects beautifully arranged on a table: a pot, a pitcher, two small fish, a glass, two nuts and an onion. That's all. It is a masterpiece of simplicity.
This painting estimated 1.2 to 1.8 million $ will be sold in New York on January 28. This very open estimate confirms that the auction house is aware of an outstanding artwork here. The major works are priceless ...
1732 The Dome of the Pantheon
2015 SOLD for $ 5.3M including premium
Giovanni Paolo Panini was admitted into the Congregazione in 1719 at the age of 28 years. He was already an important figure in the Roman art world, being since the same year a professor at the Accademia di San Luca.
Panini had been trained in the decoration of the palaces and was familiar with trompe l'oeil techniques. In painting, he specialized in capricci of ruins and ancient monuments. Unlike the Venetian vedutisti he reconstructed the ancient sites in whimsical juxtapositions.
Panini executed several paintings showing the interior of the Pantheon. The earliest known, dated 1732, is for sale by Sotheby's in New York on 29 January. This oil on canvas 119 x 98 cm is estimated $ 3M, lot 91.
Various characters are busy to pray, beg or chat in the great hall. They are scattered for accentuating the grandiose effect. The artist is sensitive to the geometrical feat of this place where the inner diameter of the dome and the height of the oculus have exactly the same size, 43.3 m. The figures that appear in the opening of the vestibule and in the oculus are on the same scale.
1733 - 1735 Chardin between Vocation and Career
2013 SOLD 4 M$ including premium
Now he wants to earn a living. Still life, even well made, sold poorly. The fashion of the time, in those years following the Régence, is to licentiousness. Boldly, he chose a totally opposite way.
In the early 1730s, Chardin made his first genre scenes, based like those from the old Dutch masters on peaceful household themes. But he disliked the movement and the anecdotes. His figures are frozen in a static position. For the first time probably in the history of art, the texture becomes more important than the subject.
He made a very honorable career, but nobody understood him. Diderot said that "no one he knew had ever seen Chardin paint" (quoted by Christie's). His contemporaries were unable to follow him, but we may now see in his work some roots of modern art through Cézanne and Matisse.
To demonstrate the above, l'ouvrière en tapisserie (embroiderer) is an excellent example. Although the size is very small, 19 x 17 cm, the texture of embroidery, cap, apron are remarkably fine, with a touch anticipating Monet and Van Gogh.
One of the early examples of this scene designed around 1733-1735 is estimated $ 3M, for sale by Christie's in New York on January 30. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Taking into account its small size, this painting has got a very good result: $ 4M including premium.
1733-1735 the business of the vedute
2008 sold for € 380K before fees
2017 sold for € 345k including premium
'The play of light and shadow, the animation by small characters (a little sparse), make enjoyable this view of the Campo di SS. Giovanni e Paolo with its canal and its gondolas, a small bridge, palaces and churches. The equestrian statue of Colleoni, clearly visible, is two and a half centuries old at that time.'
This oil on canvas 62 x 98 cm had been authenticated as made by Michele Marieschi by the best specialist of this artist before it sold at Sotheby's for $ 400K including premium on January 27, 2006.
My previous discussion had announced it in a sale by Hampel where it fetched € 380K before fees, lot 209, on July 4, 2008. This result which was far below the lower estimate is no more accessible in the archives of that auction house.
It will now be sold by Dorotheum in Vienna on April 25, lot 117 estimated € 300K. The new catalogue provides additional informations that were not available (or which I could not find) in 2008.
This nice view is not an original composition by Marieschi and probably not fully from his hand but it indeed brings an interesting insight within the practice of the early vedutisti around Canaletto.
The original was painted by Canaletto. It is preserved in the National Gallery of Art in Washington with an estimated date 1731-1732.
The painting for sale is a copy for the composition and also for the colors but not for the use of impasto. If it is confirmed to be by Marieschi a date between 1733 and 1735 is acceptable. The details of the architecture in the background have probably been painted by an assistant.
Marieschi is known to have produced in 1738 another painting of the same view and to have included its engraving in his collection of 21 prints of Venice in 1741.
The hypothesis that the painting for sale was made by Francesco Albotto at a later date cannot be dismissed. Albotto was a pupil of Marieschi who married his widow after the master died in January 1744 aged 33.
1736 Edmé Bouchardon, Precursor of the Antique
2012 SOLD 3.75 M€ including premium
After making beautiful busts of Popes and of Roman dignitaries, he was commissioned in France for a bust of the Marquis de Gouvernet. Dated 1736, this marble 78 cm high had remained since that time in the family of the model. It is for sale on June 11 in Paris by Aguttes.
The Marquis, 42 year old, bare chest, head up, is proud as a Roman emperor. He is however also a man of his time through the thick hair falling over the shoulders. The result is remarkably realistic, as the artist intended.
The original sculptures signed by Bouchardon are very rare on the art market. Too rare: we know that scarce pieces usually get some difficulties to find a collector. Despite its prominent place in the history of French sculpture, the estimate of this bust of a governor of Montélimar, € 3.5 million, is too ambitious.
POST SALE COMMENT
This bust outstanding in art history becomes a museum piece. Sold € 3.75 million including premium, it was preempted by the Musée du Louvre, exercising the right which is granted to the government by French law to supersede a private purchaser in an auction.
I invite you to play the video shared on YouTube by the auction house :
1738 Roman Capricci
2010 SOLD 572 K$ including premium
Artist and designer from Piacenza, Giovanni Paolo Panini was enthusiastic about modern and ancient monuments of Rome. This painter of veduti helped popularizing the antiquity in the generation which preceded that of Winckelmann.
For our realism-loving time, his approach seems curious. Indeed, his most important paintings are capricci, which are based on realistic representations of buildings but where they are crammed into narrow spaces.
The pair of oils on canvas dated 1738, 97 x 136 cm each, for sale by Doyle in New York on January 27, is typical. One of them gathers the views of the Pantheon, the Column of Trajan and the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. The other view includes the Colosseum, the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Constantine. The artist has also included sculptures, vases and walkers.
This pair will be separated. Each painting is estimated $ 200K.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Very good results for both paintings, sold separately.
With the Pantheon: 475 K$ excl, 572 K $ including premium.
With the Colosseum: 300 K$ excl, 362 K $ including premium.
It's definitely a good day for Panini: his Piazza del Popolo has just been sold $ 1.2 million including premium at Christie's in New York.
Happy end for this story : both paintings at Doyle were sold to the same buyer !
1738 Canaletto and the British Tourists
When the British invented tourism, they wanted to keep the memory of their travels in their rich mansions. Thus a wealthy clientele commissioned Canaletto, who was not the first but was unquestionably the best of the Venetian vedutisti.
Two years ago, I discussed here two paintings of 1738, 47 x 78 cm, from an original group of four. The view from the Canal Grande had been sold £ 3.8 million including premium at Christie's.
On October 19, two other oil paintings of the same size are on sale at Sotheby's in Milan. The first customer for these was high in the English aristocracy, and he had taken no less than 20 paintings of the master to recreate the atmosphere of Venice in Buckinghamshire. The catalog suggests 1738 as the probable date of these works.
The Gran Canale is typical of the imaging of Canaletto, with its gondolas that glide between the two rows of sunny palaces and with its pleasantly cloudy sky. This lot is estimated € 3M.
The other veduta shows a place, the Campo San Geremia. For this theme less interesting, but for which no other example by Canaletto is known, there should be € 1.5M.
POST SALE COMMENT
Unsold. Sotheby's has made the wrong choice by combining the two paintings in one lot, with an estimate of € 4.5M. This pair came from a bigger set, and it was not essential to keep it as a pair.
In the example above which I took at Christie's, the two paintings in question were not separated, and only one had been sold.
1739 Canaletto's Nephew
2012 SOLD 3.3 M£ including premium
For a long time, his views of Venice were confused with the productions of the workshop of his uncle. Bernardo at the beginning of his career is however appreciated today as one of the most original vedutisti.
A pair of his early oils on canvas made around 1739 were among the first to be reassigned to Bellotto. They have been separated. One of them, 60 x 92 cm, is estimated £ 1.2 million, for sale at Sotheby's in London on December 5. Here is the link to the catalog.
It is a general view of the Grand Canal taken from the Rialto bridge. The animation is intense on water and banks. The flat boats of daily life dominate the gondolas.
The main feature of this work is the use of the contrasting light from the extreme hours of the day. We now consider that the bold style of the very young painter had a deep influence on his uncle, so contributing to Canaletto's considerable commercial success in the next two decades.
Shortly afterwards, the path of the two artists separated. Bellotto left Venice in 1742 to export the vedutism in the major cities of Europe.
POST SALE COMMENT
This masterpiece of a very young vedutist artist has attracted the collectors. It was sold £ 3.3 million including premium.
1740 The Venetian Beginnings of Bellotto
2015 SOLD for £ 2.56M including premium
He took as models the views painted by his uncle, directly or through engravings. Some minor features differentiate the works of the two masters. Negatively, Bernardo is not appealed in characters and animation. He restricts the amount of boats and gondolas, providing some volume to his compositions.
Positively, Bernardo's architectural detail is sharp and his colors are looking to express new atmospheres. A view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto painted around 1739, 60 x 92 cm, with a warm effect of sunrise or sunset, was sold for £ 3.3 million including premium by Christie's on December 5, 2012.
Henry Howard 4th Earl of Carlisle made his grand tour of Italy in 1738 and 1739. He was in touch with commercial agents including Zanetti who was already seeking to promote the art of the nephew. Through these courtiers, orders and deliveries will last long after his trip, ensuring to the Howard family one of the most spectacular collections of Italian views.
On July 8 in London, Sotheby's sells a view of the Grand Canal from Palazzo Foscari by Bernardo Bellotto, lot 21 estimated £ 2.5M. This oil on canvas 60 x 90 cm was delivered in 1740 at Castle Howard, where it remained until now. One of the banks is in the shade and the other in the sun with beautiful reflections in the water of the canal.
1741-1744 Lungarno in Florence
2015 SOLD for $ 1.23M including premium
Zocchi probably did not wait for the publication of his drawings to execute multiple copies in oil on canvas, most for the use of his patron and of himself than for trade, unlike the practice of the Venetian vedutisti. These paintings in a style inspired by Marieschi and Canaletto restore the brightness of the Florentine sky and the reflections in the water.
On January 28 in New York, Christie's sells a view of the Arno, oil on canvas 57 x 88 cm, lot 46 estimated $ 1M. An article published by the auction house shows many interesting details of this artwork.
The river is animated with many Renaioli, these flat Florentine boats where teams of men, women and even horses work to clean the Arno from its sand and detritus. In the background the main monuments are shown in a painstaking realism.
The image of this painting is shared by Wikimedia:
1744 Lavish Life in a Venetian Palace
2012 SOLD 5.9 M$ including premium
At one time long ago, Contarini welcomed a king. In 1574, Henri de Valois was King of Poland, when the death of his brother Charles IX made him heir to the kingdom of France. The haste with which he came back to Paris to become Henri III was criticized and was prejudicial to his reputation.
In that time, travels, even in a hurry, were long and not direct! This prince between two thrones spent ten days in Venice, which received him with luxurious ceremonies.
Pisani remembered that story, and ordered a fresco to Giambattista Tiepolo, then the best specialist in great decorative works in Venice, on the theme of the arrival of Henri III at the Villa Contarini. This work is now in Paris at the Musée Jacquemart-André.
The oil on canvas, 72 x 107 cm, for sale by Christie's in New York on January 25, is a preparatory work and probably a modello for the mural, but its detail and quality make it an outstanding piece by this artist. It is estimated $ 4M.
Henri was there with his retinue, in an architected surrounding. On both sides, the colorful and lively crowd takes advantage of this opportunity to display luxurious clothes of satin and silk. This painting must also be interpreted as a tribute by Tiepolo to his predecessors of Henri's time, the architect Palladio and the painter Veronese.
POST SALE COMMENT
Venice is forever one of the favorite themes of the ancient art market. Apart vedute, the animated scenes are rare. This painting was sold $ 5.9 million including premium, just below its higher estimate.
1747-1755 Venetian Capriccio
2010 SOLD 302 K$ including premium
Canaletto is correctly famed for the realism of his animated scenes of Venice. His perspectives, canals, piazzas and monuments are shown with an accuracy that was matched only by photography, one hundred years later.
The master was also imaginative. Unlike Panini, of whom we recently discussed the illustrations of Rome, the architectural capricci of Canaletto are unreal and impossible (for the time) because their monuments are so huge and magnificent.
Sotheby's auctions on January 27 in New York a beautiful drawing in brown ink, gray wash and black chalk, 30 x 44 cm, estimated $ 250K.
The directing line is a canal with gondolas. At right in the foreground is a towering pavilion. The horizon is occupied by a giant double arch in ruins, which spans the canal. Under the arch, a frail bridge welcomes a few walkers.
Made around 1747-1755, this much imaginative drawing is contemporary of Roman works by Piranesi.
POST SALE COMMENT
302 K $ including premium for this drawing by Canaletto: this result is very close to the estimate.
It is shown at the bottom right of the page shared after the sale by Art Market Monitor.
1748 The English Garden
2020 SOLD for $ 915K including premium
England is in the midst of the industrial revolution while remaining firmly attached to its cultural traditions. The artist is not at all disturbed by this architecture which leaves a place for vast spaces, so different from the accumulation of palaces beside the canals of Venice. He is so passionate about the transformations of St James's that his views can be dated according to the modifications of the buildings.
Upon his arrival he is pampered by the young nobles who want to modernize their residence. The 8th Baron Brooke is one of them. He inherited the very prestigious historic castle of Warwick, and will be awarded the recreation of the title of Earl of Warwick when it becomes vacant in 1759. He was made in 1746 Earl Brooke of Warwick Castle.
Canaletto visits Warwick Castle at least twice. The first visit, in 1748, is evidenced by a payment for some drawings. At that time Lord Brooke has just started the interior renovation in the neo-Gothic style, entrusted to the architect Daniel Garrett. He is probably already in touch with Capability Brown, the inventor of the English garden, to whom he will soon commission the transformation into a landscaped garden on the banks of the Avon in front of the castle.
Canaletto works in three phases. He takes sketches on the site, then makes large drawings showing the whole perspective, before making the paintings. He does not hesitate to anticipate constructions, such as for example at the Westminster Bridge.
On January 28 in New York, Christie's sells a view of the south front of Warwick Castle, lot 75 estimated $ 800K. This large drawing 32 x 58 cm preceding three paintings was probably executed on the occasion of the first stay in 1748.
The medieval castle is depicted with an almost photographic realism. Quiet visitors take advantage of the vast garden crossed by the river, perhaps anticipating Brown's work. Contrasts and shadows very skilfully interpret a bright sunshine.
Canaletto’s exceptionally large ‘View of the South front of Warwick Castle’ depicts Warwick Castle, the building in England most often depicted by Canaletto in his works. View more from our upcoming Old Master & British Drawings sale in #NewYork: https://t.co/4OEywHcUM0 pic.twitter.com/9GBbaO3D4h— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 22, 2019
1749 Canaletto at Saint-James's
1997 SOLD for £ 1.1M including premium by Christie's
Being a foreigner in this big city in perpetual transformation, he did not try to express the atmosphere of remote districts and focused on a limited number of topics including the banks of the Thames and the great plaza of St. James's Park.
The view of the Horse Guards across St. James's is one of his masterpieces by its monumental size, 117 x 236 cm. This oil on canvas was sold for £ 10M including premium by Christie's on April 15, 1992. It is currently on long-term loan to the Tate Gallery by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.
Canaletto showed the old red brick building of the Horse Guards. Two sketches that have been preserved assess that the artist had been appealed by the announcement of the imminent destruction of the building in 1749.
On January 29 in New York, Sotheby's sells another view on the same theme, less panoramic and better focused on the Old Horse Guards and on the spring green of the Park. This oil on canvas 47 x 77 cm is estimated $ 4M, lot 98.
Really passionate about this fate of a monument, Canaletto observed again this scenery three years later with the scaffolding of the new building. This oil on panel 59 x 110 cm remained unsold in 2012 at Dorotheum despite a conservative lower estimate of € 2M.
early 1750s canaletto under the high vaults
On March 12, 1774, Christie's sold two interior views showing Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey and King's College Chapel. The interiors are very rare in the work of Canaletto and these two paintings probably constituted an original pair according to the same common practice as for the Venetian views by the artist.
Both chapels have a common characteristic. They are the masterpieces of Gothic English architecture with very high arches, which are reinforced at Westminster by a pattern of strikingly carved pendants.
The Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill collection owns since 1774 an oil on canvas of King's College, 75.5 x 67 cm, without an identified reference to the Christie's sale of the same year. OnJanuary 28 in New York, the view of Henry VII Chapel 77.5 x 67 cm for sale by Sotheby's is recorded from that ancient Christie's sale. It is estimated $ 5M, lot 59.
Strawberry Hill dates its painting from 1746-1754 and Sotheby's dates the other view from the early 1750s, which is consistent. In both cases, the sparse animation brings an atmosphere of tourism instead of religion. As ever, Canaletto takes an extreme care to the accuracy of the details and to the light. However the excessive lighting of the monument of the Duke of Buckingham in the Westminster picture has no convincing explanation.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's. It is also shared on Wikimedia.
1750 The Roman Step in the Grand Tour
2013 SOLD 3.45 M$ including premium
The evolution of customer tastes will end, or at least slow down, such a fantasy. The modern observer is happy of that, because photography has accustomed us to the reality of the sites.
English aristocrats are discovering Italy by traveling the grand tour, in which the major steps are Venice, Florence and Rome. Panini is their supplier in Rome, and his work becomes now very close to Canaletto, with grandiose views populated by a crowd of little figures in their daily life.
A gentleman of Warwickshire decorated his home with views painted by Canaletto and Panini. Two of his oil paintings, made by Panini in 1750 with spectacular perspective effects, are for sale by Christie's in New York on January 30. The catalog comments that the artist, although resident in Rome, chose to adapt the views of his predecessors, including Vanvitelli and Specchi.
The view from the Campidoglio, 119 x 126 cm, is estimated $ 3M. Here is its page in the catalog. The view from the Piazza S. Pietro, 119 x 123 cm, is estimated $ 2M. Here is its page in the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Good results for the Roman contemporary of Canaletto: $ 3.45 million including premium for the Campidoglio and $ 2.1 million including premium for the Piazza S. Pietro.
1751-1753 a view painter in dresden
The precocious skills of his nephew Bernardo Bellotto were already internationally recognized. In 1747 the Elector of Saxony Friedrich August II invited him to paint the monumental views of Dresden. Using in his turn the pseudonym Canaletto, Bernardo will stay there until 1758.
Dresden was a modern capital. The monuments that lined the Elbe were erected in the previous twenty years and some of them were not yet completed. The achievement of the artist met the expectations of the Elector.
Bernardo made rare copies of his paintings for the attention or on commission of the court dignitaries. On July 9 in London, Christie's sells a view of Dresden from the right bank of the Elbe, lot 48 estimated £ 8M.
Painted between 1751 and 1753 from an original 132 x 246 cm made as early as 1747, this oil on canvas 96 x 165 cm takes benefit from Bernardo's usual practice for a gradual improvement of his images, including not only the most recent modifications of the buildings but also a nice animation and pretty reflections in the river.
1752 sunset and moonlight by vernet
2017 sold for £ 1.45m including premium
I introduced it as follows in 2016 :
Rome is the capital of the arts. The young French artists gather at the Académie de France from where they look for wealthy clients.
Claude-Joseph Vernet works in Rome from 1734. Interested in the landscape and animation of the shores, he is influenced by the art of le Lorrain, French resident in Rome during the previous century. Their views do not claim to realism and cannot be located.
In 1750 Abel-François Poisson makes his Grand Tour. Directeur des Bâtiments du Roi, he is acting on behalf of Louis XV somehow as a minister of culture. Brother of la Pompadour, he will become marquis de Marigny in 1754. He manages to convince Vernet that his know how can also be used for topographical paintings useful to the king illustrating the seaports of France and their occupational. This series of fifteen paintings made from 1753 to 1765 will be the masterpiece of the artist.
Beside this prestigious commission, Vernet continues until the end of his career to propose imaginary landscapes to his customers. His art cannot be compared to the vedutisti, Canaletto in Venice and Panini in Rome, whose occasional capricci mark an intention of architectural design or urban planning.
Sotheby's sells a pair of oils on canvas 72 x 99 cm each, painted by Vernet in 1752 in Rome shortly before he returned to France. These paintings compare the colors of sunset and moonlight in a Mediterranean harbor in a pre-romantic sensitivity that is rare at that time.
1752-1753 Canaletto in the City
The art of the Italian vedutisti was intended for British tourists, and the very long stays of Canaletto in London were for bringing him closer to his patrons. Of course, the Venetian master also painted some views of London.
London is becoming a modern city, not by political decision but as a requisite after the fires of 1666 which was a major disaster and of 1698 that almost completely destroyed the largest palace in Europe, Whitehall. Christopher Wrenand William Kent exercised their skills in this reconstruction.
In 1749, on the former site of Whitehall, Canaletto painted the Horse Guards from St. James's Park, with walkers and guards. The old building of the guards was still standing. This very large oil on canvas, 117 x 236 cm, was sold £ 10Mincluding premium at Christie's on April 15, 1992, and is today one of the glories of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation.
On the same subject, Christie's sold a small painting, 47 x 77 cm, £ 1.1 million including premium on 4 July 1997.
Later, Canaletto painted the same view again, but this time the New Horse Guards will replace the old house. The presence of scaffolding enables to identify the date: between November 1752 and November 1753.
This oil on panel of good size, 59 x 110 cm, is estimated € 2M, for sale by Dorotheum in Vienna on October 17. It is illustrated on the release shared by AuctionPublicity.
I invite you to play the video shared on YouTube by Dorotheum :
1754 The Pompadour Venus
2014 SOLD 2.4 M$ including premium
She protects François Boucher who works often for her and expands his customer base. For the marquise, Boucher can develop his favorite theme, the expression of happiness of the nude woman accompanied by cupids in her gentle occupations.
The theme is not new but the art of Boucher, corresponding to the expectation of the marquise, shocked many of their contemporaries. Venus is not the goddess of fertility and the women painted by Boucher are frail. The occupation devoid of any realism does not generate concern for those beings who are perfect in their fragility and innocence.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells a Sommeil de Vénus, oval oil on canvas 103 x 90 cm made in 1754 for Pompadour who was then furnishing the château de Bellevue. This painting had originally a pendant on the theme of Venus protecting the arts which demonstrates the extreme care of Boucher to flatter the favorite.
Sitting outdoors on a cloth that goes up around her waist, this sleeping Venus is charming. On the same cloth, a winged cherub is deeply asleep. Another cherub is ready to land on the group. This pretty painting typical of the best of Boucher is estimated $ 2M. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
This gentle painting typical of the art of Boucher was sold for $ 2.4M including premium.
1762 Masks and Dogs
2014 SOLD 3.65 M$ including premium
Giambattista Tiepolo, painter and muralist, decorates the opulent Venetian palaces and the villas in the countryside where the wealthy aristocrats come for resting or entertainment. His themes are religious, historical, mythological or allegorical.
His art is in high demand and he is assisted by his two sons. The elder, Giandomenico, takes opportunity of these bucolic stays to observe a surprising mix of nobles, peasants and actors.
Circa 1762 Giandomenico Tiepolo painted a pair of oils on canvas 33 x 49 cm, separated some years ago.
The Minuet is danced by the nobles, recognizable by their beautiful clothes and the velvet masks of the women. This painting was sold for £ 1.3 million including premium at Christie's on December 6, 2007 .
On January 29, its pendant is estimated $ 2M for sale by Christie 's in New York. The theme is more popular. A dancing gypsy girl rotates four dressed dogs standing on their hind legs. A dense and joyful crowd participates in the action.
Giandomenico amused without seeking to express a social criticism, unlike Hogarth. By its animation and its fine lines, this village scene also anticipates by several decades the drawings and paintings by Goya or Boilly.
The Minuet was sold for £ 3.1M including premium by Christie's in London on July 6, 2017, lot 22, over a lower estimate of £ 1.5M.
1760s The Vibrations of the Grand Canal
Made in black chalk and brown ink pen with a beautiful brown wash, it includes small annotations preparing the light and color of a future oil painting. The reverse is another drawing of a more distant study of the same subject.
This preparatory drawing and the final painting are not dated. However, it is tempting to position them in the 1760s when Guardi seeks to create a style different from Canaletto's.
View, animation, composition leaving a large place to the sky are typical of the images of Venice. Away from the geometrical lines of Canaletto, Guardi already provides a more vibrant perception. The effect of presence provided by the reflections in the water of the canal and by the shaken perspective of the palaces anticipates the pre-romantic paintings of Guardi's later career.
I have not found another drawing of similar quality on the Venice of the eighteenth century in the history of recent auctions. It is estimated £ 1.5 M.
1767 The Children of Lord Spencer
2019 SOLD for $ 920K including premium
Lady Spencer is proud of her handsome husband. Gainsborough paints their portraits and those of their children. They often travel to Italy for health reasons. They meet Angelica Kauffmann in Rome.
Angelica had been a child prodigy. She is adored by the English community of Rome for her skill as a portraitist and for her charm. In 1766 she accompanies to London the wife of the British ambassador who introduces her to the highest level of the English aristocracy. A friend of Reynolds, she was in 1768 a founding member of the Royal Academy.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells the portrait of the three Spencer children by Angelica Kauffmann, lot 52 estimated $ 600K.
This oil on canvas 114 x 145 cm is not dated. The age of the children is as in 1767 or 1768 but it is possible that this painting is a later reinterpretation. Their resemblance is blatant with their triple portrait as young adults by the same artist in 1774.
Georgiana is the eldest, aware of that role. George, the boy, holds a branch of which he made a bow. The young Henrietta, whose health was fragile in her childhood, is sad or shy. George Spencer is the patrilineal ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.
1770 The Girls get up
2006 SOLD 2.7 M£ including premium by Sotheby's
Jean-Honoré Fragonard looks for fame, and specializes in the boudoir painting so much appreciated in the licentious court of Louis XV. In 1769, his marriage with the miniaturist Marie-Anne Gérard changes his vision of life and art.
For his new customers enjoying the risqué, Fragonard shows how love leads girls from innocence to motherhood. He treats this highly Rousseauist theme in remaining voluntarily at the border between genre and eroticism, not restraining to show the shirts wide open on bare flesh.
These future women are playing with small dogs. They still know nothing about love. The brushwork is fast, without preliminary drawing, providing the impression of spontaneity and freshness intended by the artist.
An oil on canvas painted circa 1770, 74 x 59 cm, shows two girls at get-up time in full light. One of them is standing and tries to dance her dog. The pet is observed by the other girl, still in bed with her own dog. In the shadow on the left, a mirror reflects the first girl.
This painting was sold for £ 2.7 million including premium by Sotheby's on July 5, 2006, having been earlier sold 8.2 million FF by Etude Tajan on December 12, 1995. Expecting another gain, it is estimated $ 6M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 30. Here is the link to the catalog .
POST 2014 SALE COMMENT
The expected gain in relation to the 2006 sale was not realistic. Unsold
1770 Blue Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough
2016 SOLD for $ 3.25M including premium
The Royal Academy of Arts is founded in 1768. The first exhibition made in the following year marks the triumph of its first president, Joshua Reynolds, who expresses his theories in popular lectures. Gainsborough, who is a founding member of the Academy, disagrees. The opposition between the theoretical approach of Reynolds and the spontaneity of Gainsborough exacerbates their fertile rivalry.
Reynolds does not like the cold colors. Gainsborough is seeking their merit by studying the best portraitist who has worked in England, Van Dyck. The blue captures the attention of the viewer and can be used in large areas to show a silk garment. His Blue boy, oil on canvas 178 x 112 cm painted circa 1770, is a famous challenge by Gainsborough to Reynolds.
On January 27 in New York, Sotheby's sells the Blue page by Gainsborough, lot 62 estimated $ 3M. The discussions to identify whether this oil on canvas 166 x 113 cm is a sketch or a following to the Blue boy are inconclusive.
Gainsborough painted the Blue page for his private use with the same model as the Blue boy, perhaps his nephew and assistant who was sixteen years old. The difficulty of identifying the background of the scene can be interpreted as a test for the balance of colors but the less static attitude of the boy who goes away after achieving his session appears instead as a conclusion.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1770 the union jack flies over Havana
2016 SOLD for £ 425K including premium
Serres specializes in contemporary history painting. His experience in Canada and West Indies helps him to show the military operations of the Seven Years War in which he had not participated. Lieutenant Philip Orsbridge published circa 1766 some illustrations related to the taking of Havana by the British navy in 1762. Serres was certainly influenced in part by the Orsbridge images.
In 1767 Serres painted four views 52 x 77 cm of the Havana siege. A pair from this set was sold for £ 195K including premium by Sotheby's on July 9, 2014.
Such trials brought to Serres what was probably the most important achievement of his career : a series of eleven oils on canvas painted between 1770 and 1775 depicting the preparation of the attack, the capture of the fort and of the city and the immediate aftermath of the battle of Havana, commissioned by the Earl of Albemarle and his brother Lord Keppel who together had led the siege.
The topography is sharp at such a point to imply that Serres could have earlier met Canaletto. The action is intense, even including in close up some British soldiers busy loading the batteries.
The eleven paintings remained in the family of the Earls of Albemarle. They were on loan since 1948 at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and some of them have joined the permanent collections of the museum.
On July 6 in London, Sotheby's sells separately four of these paintings. The military preparations occupy lot 43, 86 x 177 cm dated 1770, estimated £ 400K, and lot 45, 84 x 122 cm dated in the same year, estimated £ 200K. The fall of the fort where the Union Jack is now flying is at lot 42. This beautiful panoramic view, 126 x 188 cm undated, is estimated £ 800K. The fourth picture shows the cathedral after the events, 84 x 122 cm undated, lot 44 estimated £ 300K.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Lot 43 : £ 425K
Lot 44 : £ 340K
Lot 45 : £ 220K
Lot 42 unsold.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1770s Fragonard flirting with Morality
The moral philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau disturbs the traditionalists. Happiness should be natural within the family, but is threatened by social conventions. The direct role of the mother is essential in the education of young children.
Influenced by these ideas, Fragonard succeeded his marriage in 1769, with already a challenge to the morality of the time: the bride is pregnant! Enchanted by his family life, he attempts to show all stages of a harmonious development from the meeting of lovers up to the mother's love.
The Good Mother is the culmination of this process. Very young, fresh and charming, she takes care of her three children in a garden which is welcoming but isolated from the social world. This oval oil on canvas 49 x 39 cm painted in the early 1770s is estimated $ 5M, for sale by Christie's in New York on January 25.
Fragonard has maintained a reputation as an affected and risqué artist. He is rather advocating a moral lifestyle soon to be made obsolete by the French Revolution. He supports the philosophy of Jean-Jacques just like, two centuries before him, Cranach the Elder accompanied the Lutheran Reformation.
1772 The Vegetables of Luis Melendez
Luis Melendez was a talented artist but like his father he was arrogant. The major themes and the court portraits being now forbidden to him, he specializes in still lifes with chiaroscuro in the tradition of Zurbaran.
Luis Melendez produced a series of 44 paintings for the natural history cabinet of the Prince of Asturias, later King Carlos IV, on the unique theme of the glorification of fruit and vegetables produced by Spanish soil, accompanied by local utensils. 39 of them are kept in the Prado Museum.
These elements are arranged harmoniously on a table in front of a dark background, with great care applied to drawing, texture and light. The artist has also painted variants for his own business. A 37 x 50 cm oil on canvas typical of this theme was sold for £ 3.5M including premium by Christie's on February 9, 2012 over a lower estimate of £ 2M.
In 1771 and 1772 for the same prince, Melendez made four more ambitious paintings, 80 cm wide, in which he placed the fruits and vegetables in the very close foreground of a stylized Spanish landscape. These works are also in the Prado.
The artist paints in the same style and probably at the same time other compositions of similar inspiration that are not delivered to the prince whatever the reason. An oil on canvas 62 x 83 cm displaying nine artichokes accompanied by tomatoes, pears and peas is estimated $ 2M for sale by Christie's in New York on May 1, lot 106.
Again disgraced for his arrogance around 1776, this time after claiming excessive prices for his art, this too skilled artist died in poverty in 1780.
1774 landscaped gardens in the enlightenment
Hubert Robert was trained in Rome, where he stayed for eleven years. He saw Tivoli and met Piranesi, and developed a vocation to be a designer of gardens. Hubert Robert's paintings are neither realistic landscapes nor capricci with romantic ruins. They are studies for gardens.
Robert possibly worked for Girardin at Ermenonville. After 1774, the new queen Marie Antoinette wants to reconcile her high nobility with some features of country life. He will be involved in the realization of the Hameau de la Reine at Trianon.
On January 28 in New York, Christie's sells a pair of oils on canvas painted in 1774, lot 53 estimated $ 2M.
These two paintings are very large and in the same size, 245 x 191 cm, yet the themes are opposite, between the strength of an Italian waterfall and the quietness of a Northern canal. Unknown in the lifetime of the artist, they certainly had the target of convincing a patron about the infinite variety of the new style of gardens.
1777 Poetry of a Sunset Sky
2010 SOLD 2.4 M£ including premium
Sotheby's sale on July 14 in London includes a watercolor, 43 x 62 cm, estimated £ 500 K, showing the hill of Castel Gandolfo reflected in the lake of Albano. The work is dominated by a bright sunset sky preparing a storm, while the details of the landscape are barely sketched.
Cozens has twice traveled to Italy, from 1776-1779 and in 1782-1783. Wikipedia publishes the image of our watercolor by dating it circa 1777. Sotheby's, more cautious, is not as accurate.
It is unclear what Cozens made between his second return from Italy and 1794, the year Dr. Monro began to take him over for incurable dementia. Monro hosted a circle of artists whose most famous member was Thomas Girtin, and which had a direct influence on Turner.
POST SALE COMMENT
The market for ancient art is sensitive to the importance of works in the history of art. The price reached by this outstanding watercolor is remarkable: £ 2.4 million including premium.
The image is shared by Wikimedia :
1777 Where have gone the Strength and Wisdom of Angelica Kauffmann ?
Angelica Kauffmann was a gifted girl. Born in 1741 in the Grisons (Graubunden), she spent her childhood in Vorarlberg, and showed an early talent for art. A special success for portraits of notables pushed her very quickly into the high society, and she spent her entire life meeting intellectuals and artists, including Reynolds and Goethe.
Her life has been forgotten, she is now rather outdated, but the historical scenes are still appreciated. Many paintings are framed in oval format, suitable to represent the friendly charm of her models.
On February 24, Im Kinsky sells in Vienna a pair of tondos painted before 1777, diameter 35 cm. Entitled Allegory of Justice and Allegory of Temperance, each of these paintings shows a young woman in discussion with an Eros. They are presented in square frames beautifully carved. The pair is estimated 250 K €.
These two works were part of a series on the four cardinal virtues, but nobody knows the fate of the Strength and of the Wisdom. Herself had her wisdom lost ten years earlier during a clandestine marriage with a false Swedish baron.
1780 Guardi celebrates the Bucentaur
The Bucentaur was the pride of Venice. Every year on Ascension Day since the beginning of the fourteenth century, this floating palace went out into the lagoon. The Doge plunged his ring into the Adriatic to celebrate the mystical marriage of Venice and the sea. The boat was named for its figurehead, a monster half-man half-ox.
Built in 1727, the last Bucentaur was a huge galley 35 meters long and 8 feet high, without sail, powered by 168 rowers and 40 sailors. Its main hall hosted 90 guests. This symbol of the ancient maritime supremacy of Venice was destroyed by order of Napoleon.
Of course, this ceremony excited the vedutisti. On December 15, 1993, Ader Tajan sold a Bucentaur by Canaletto for 66 MF, the second highest price ever recorded at auction in French francs.
In the next generation, the best of the Bucentaur vedutisti was Francesco Guardi. On October 19 in Milan, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas, 45 x 69 cm, painted after 1780, estimated 1.5 million €.
The festive atmosphere is extremely lively, with a dense crowd of gondolas in the foreground. On the horizon behind the Bucentaur starting to the Lido, the sea is populated with boats.
1781 Portrait on a Gray Horse
2017 SOLD for € 1.6M before fees
The horse is also an appropriate theme to please the aristocratic patrons. Stubbs watches the beasts in the meadow and on the race fields, alone or in groups, with or without rider or groom. He shows them mostly in steady or prancing attitudes. Avoiding the gallops in close-up, Stubbs never falls into the error of the flying horses that will be refuted by the photographs of Muybridge.
Then the artist improves his technique and diversifies his themes. He studies a wide variety of animals as well as hunting scenes, endeavors to improve the stability of his paint and exhibits in 1782 at the Royal Academy some enamel paintings on Wedgwood ceramics.
On June 30, 2016, Christie's sold for £ 3.05M including premium an oil on mahogany 80 x 99 cm painted in 1778 showing two horses, a hunt groom and a dog in a landscape near a lake.
On December 7 in Munich, Hampel sells an oil on wood 61 x 71 cm painted in 1781, lot 387 estimated € 1.8M. This scene shows a rider on a light gray horse, in a landscape comparable to the example discussed above. This image is known by a Wedgwood plaque made in 1782 or 1783 which is considered as a self-portrait. The tweet below shows a detail of the painting of the next sale.
1783-1792 The Spreading Gardens of Carmontelle
The gardener's art is ephemeral by its nature. The performing arts are no more sustainable. Despite their ingenuity,the transparencies of Carmontelle had all the qualities needed to be forgotten.
We are between 1783 and 1792, when the toiles de Jouy and the wallpapers become popular. At the end of the century of Enlightenment, the aristocrats are hungry for entertainment.
Working in the service of the ducs d'Orléans, Carmontelle is a pioneer of the landscape gardens à la Française and the designer of the Parc Monceau in Paris. Also a painter and draftsman, he invented and produced a novelty, the "décors transparents animés" (animated transparent sets).
A canvas showing famous gardens animated with stylish characters is unrolled between two coils before the audience, like the Chinese imperial scrolls before Qianlong.
This canvas is transparent, allowing to be lit from the rear, half a century before Daguerre's Diorama. The tour is accompanied by music and by declamation of text.
Five major fragments apparently from the same roll painted with gouache and watercolor are for sale as a single lot bySotheby's in London on July 7. The heights vary between 41 and 45 cm. The total length exceeds 6 m. One of the largest elements, illustrating the press release shared by Artdaily, gives an idea of the whole.
Lots that are too atypical are often difficult to sell, which certainly explains the reasonable estimate of £ 350K.
1786 gainsborough in the English Countryside
Painter of the English upper class, Gainsborough excelled in the outdoor portrait. He was therefore naturally interested in showing the countryside.
Initially, when nature was the main subject of one of his works, it was with a pre-Romantic passion and expressivity. By comparison, a pair of oils on canvas painted in 1786, 62 x 75 cm each, represents a turning point in his career and almost his artistic testament.
Nature has become the main topic. On one view, near a pond, it is welcoming. On the other one among the rocks, it is more aggressive. Peasants and cattle are there, playing a secondary role, lost in the immensity.
The two paintings were still in the pair when they were sold by Christie's in 1916. They were separated soon after, probably for mercantile reasons.
The scene at the pond was confirmed as one of the masterpieces by Gainsborough when it was sold $ 5.7 million including premium at Christie's in New York on April 15, 2008. The same auction room introduces on January 27the rocky view, estimated $ 2 million.
1787 The Travel of Houdon in Virginia
2009 SOLD 300 K£ including premium
The sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon is the specialist of life size busts of his most illustrious contemporaries. Among them, the ambassador of the United States of America in France, Benjamin Franklin.
Thomas Jefferson, who was Franklin's successor, also committed in the cultural life of Paris. He ordered to Houdon an equestrian statue of Washington, the hero of the War of Independence. Very honored, the artist decided he can not work from drawings and crossed the Atlantic in 1785. He spent two and a half weeks with George Washington at Mount Vernon.
Back to his workshop in Paris, Houdon made several busts of Washington. Sotheby's sells on July 9 in London a terracotta dated 1787, estimated £ 300 K. The future president is represented in the antique, with a tunic and a toga. As always in the works of Houdon, the model is shown very realistically, without complacency, which provides a striking contrast with the official portraits.
To conclude, note that the equestrian project was abandoned in favor of a marble showing a standing Washington, built in 1792 in the Capitol in Richmond.
POST SALE COMMENT
The bust of Washington was sold £ 300 K, but this price includes the premium.
1795 David in Jail
In contrast to the soft art of the eighteenth century, Jacques-Louis David made himself known through historical compositions in which the heroes of antiquity expressed with the greatest strength the pride of human passions.
He then resolutely committed to the revolutionary side, became deputy in the assembly, voted for the death of LouisXVI. The fall of Robespierre (Thermidor Year II) threw him in prison for the first time.
Less than one year later he was again imprisoned following the Prairial riots that were due to the come back of faminein Paris and to the disillusionment of the people against the politicians.
Pending the trial, David draws the portrait of the other defendants. They are seen in profile, in jacket and scarf, on an interesting single circular format 18 cm diameter. Keeping their heads high, they embody their dignity and their loyalty to the revolutionary ideals despite the economic collapse of the regime.
The portrait of Jeanbon Saint-André is kept at the Art Institute of Chicago. An anonymous character which was once considered a self-portrait was sold € 577K including premium on February 23, 2009 by Christie's and Pierre Bergéwithin the Saint-Laurent sale.
Another unidentified, for sale in Paris, Hôtel Drouot, by Piasa on March 31, offers some unique features. It is endorsed with a date, 3 Messidor III (June 21, 1795), three weeks only after the start of the second incarceration. It is the only one in the series where the sitter exhibits the revolutionary cockade on his hat.
Last and not least, it is the only known specimen that has been done entirely with feather pen. It may be the first of the series, at a time when the artist did not have access to his brush.
It is estimated € 150K. The illustrated catalog page is shared by the auction house.
1796 the portrait of the first us president
The War of Independence had an opposite effect on two of the best American painters of that time. The enthusiast Charles Willson Peale realized full-length portraits of Washington in all the energy of his victories. Reluctant, or for fear of losing his traditional customers, Gilbert Stuart preferred to exile in England.
A portrait of Washington painted by Peale in 1779 was sold for $ 21,3M including premium by Christie's on January 21, 2006. The hero was obligingly sitting for artists and Peale had competitors in the next decade such as Joseph Wright and William Dunlap who were to have a role in the birth of the Federal coinage and the sculptor Houdon who came especially from France in 1785.
Meanwhile, Stuart takes advantage of his knowledge of America. He painted in 1786 a portrait of the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, an ally of the British, then visiting England. This oil on canvas was sold for £ 4.1 million including premium by Sotheby's on July 9, 2014.
Washington becomes in 1789 the first President of the United States. Stuart crosses the Atlantic again and settles in Philadelphia in 1795 to practice his specialty, the half-length portrait of prominent personalities.
The portrait of Washington realized by Stuart in 1796 will later be considered as the prototype of the official portraits of US presidents. Curiously, after painting the face the artist did not finish this work. He used it as a model to make more than a hundred copies that he sold for $ 100 each.
One of these oils on canvas, 76 x 65 cm, is estimated over $ 800K for sale on February 26 in Scottsdale AZ by J Levine, lot 4088. Its condition is not perfect according to the description in the catalogue.
1798 Turner on the Tweed
2017 SOLD for £ 580K including premium
Thomas Girtin has the same age and passion. When they meet in 1794 they are 19 years old. Girtin already takes advantage of the fluidity of watercolor to create images of monuments and landscapes that prefigure the romanticism.
Three years later Turner was enthused by Norham Castle over the Tweed, which had been abandoned when the advent of the Stuarts made obsolete the border disputes between England and Scotland. In one morning of very fine weather, the young man gets up before sunrise to admire the color of the sky behind the ruins. The atmosphere has become more important than the monument.
Like other English artists Turner works in a workshop according to his sketches. He does not master oil painting properly. His first masterpieces, highly admired at the Royal Academy's exhibition in London in 1798, are watercolors.
One of them of large size 52 x 74 cm shows the sunrise over Norham. It is estimated £ 500K for sale on July 5 by Christie's in London, lot 105.
This picture is a study of luminosity highlighted by the sky and the reflections on the river. Much balanced in its composition, it is altogether romantic with the outlines of the tall towers, rural with the water mill where the daily life is beginning, and bucolic with the cows coming down from the hill to soak their paws in the ford.
Turner accompanies this 1798 exhibition with a quotation in the catalog. He selected four lines from The Seasons by the local poet of southern Scotland, James Thomson. A contemporary of Rousseau and admired by Voltaire and a forerunner of Robert Burns, Thomson praised the merits of nature in words that moved the young artist. After the Napoleonic wars, Turner added a pacifist dimension to this poetic inclination, seeking to rediscover throughout Europe the observations and arguments of Byron.
1798 Portrait of a man with Embroidery
Goya, an artist of many talents, was a great portraitist. An oil on canvas, 108 x 82 cm, for sale by Christie's in London on December 6, shows both the accuracy of his art and his attention to the psychology of his models.
In 1798, Don Juan López de Robredo is proud to be recognized as an artist at the court of Carlos IV. Working since1782 for the royal court, he is the first embroiderer to receive such an honor. He asks Goya to paint his portrait.
Goya shows him in a finely embroidered cloth, attesting to the specific art of his sitter. He is inflating that wealthytorso, but his rather ordinary face indicates that he is not fully at ease in his new social position.
The portraits by Goya are rare at auction. It is estimated £ 4M.