By Carter B. Horsley
This Important Old Master Paintings auction at Sotheby's January 27, 2005 has several museum-quality works and many others that will be of considerable interest to connoisseurs and dealers.
It is highlighted by two great paintings by George Romney (1734-1802), and two excellent works by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765), a superb Venetian School circa 1320 Crucifixion scene, fine portraits of men by Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Bernardo Strozzi (1581-1644), and Juseppe de Ribera (1591-1652), and Bartolomeo Veneto (1502-1531), a small but good painting attributed to Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), a beautiful portrait of a woman by Cornelis de Vos (1584-1651), fine still lifes by Willem van Aelst (1627-after 1683) and Luis Melendez (1716-1780), a lovely pair of Venetian scenes by Francesco Albotto (1721-1757), a nice racing picture by John Ferneley Snr. (1782-1860), and some charming landscapes by Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634), Jan Josefsz. Van Goyen (1596-1656), and Jacob Isaackz. Van Ruisdael (1628/9-1682), a good religious work by Guide Reni (1575-1642), a ridotto scene by Pietro Longhi (1701-1785), and a handsome painting by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734).
The more esoteric and intriguing works that will fascinate connoisseurs include two Madonna and Child scenes that was once attributed to Parmigianino, two fascinating small paintings on copper by Jacopo Zucchi (circa 1540-1596), a strong painting of Saint Paul by Andrea di Bartolo (active from 1389-1428), a painting of a naked women that the catalogue states is by Alessandro Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), a "Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens" painting and an allegorical work that the catalogue states is by Rubens (1577-1640), and a Madonna and Child scene that the catalogue states is by Vittore Carpaccio (1450-1522).
While there are no works with staggeringly high estimates the overall quality of the 100 lots in this afternoon auction is quite high and is certain to produce some surprises.
The auction, in fact, offers wonderful examples of why it sometimes is more important to look for what is "right" rather than what is "wrong" in a work and why some works that cannot be definitively attributed to a specific artist may still be superb and very desirable for the connoisseur and intelligent curator. Furthermore, the auction also emphasizes that some artists who were virtually unknown to the general public a few decades ago are worth noting as art historians extend their researches. The old college freshman Art History textbooks are getting outdated....
Lot 126, "Fortune," is, without question the most intriguing painting in this sale. It is a tempera on panel, transfered to canvas, that measures 23 1/2 by 22 7/8 inches. The category states it is by Alexxandro Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli, and provides the following commentary:
"The present work has only recently be[en] reintegrated in Botticelli's oeuvre. Its importance has been missed by most Renaissance scholars, perhaps due to the painting being inacessible and to its change in format. All four corners have beenmade up indicating that the painting was original circular in format. The tondo is to be found principally in Florentine Quattrocentro painting and Botticelli partiuclarly favoured this format for his own works. In addition, there has been a general misunderstanding of the true subject of the painting. When it was offered for sale in 1981 its subject was erroneously identified as The Birth of Venus, probably due to its reminiscences of Botticelli's famous painting of that subject in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence....In both pictures the female figure stands out at sea (in the Uffizi picture balancing on a shell whilst here it is less clear) and a personification of Zephyr blows air through pursed lips and puffed-out cheeks (in the Uffizi picture the figure is shown in its entirety whilst here only a fragment of his face is visible lower left). Fortune was traditionally shown in two guises: a female figure standing on a fortune wheel, or with nautical attributes as mistress of the seas. The former was particularly used in medieval times but was also adopted through the Renaissance....The latter presentation derived from antiquity but was also used in the Renaissance, in coins and medals as well as in the insignia of the Rucellai family, the wind and billowing sail held by Fortune alluding to her inconstancy)....Though ignored in much of the Botticelli literature, Everett Fahy was the first to reassign the work to Botticelli himself. The figure type is characteristic of the artist: Fortune's swelling stomach and elongated limbs have much in come with those of Clori, the nymph in the Primavera (Uffizi, Florence) from whose mouth flowers spill. Fahy has dated the present painting to the early 1480s, that is around the same time as the Primavera (c. 1482) and The Birth of Venus (c. 1484-6). Also characteristic of Botticelli is the decorative quality he gives to the gold tracings (presumably intended as the ropes holding the billowing sail and fluttering ribbon at her feet. Fahy rightly points out that this picture had a more symbolic rather than narrative function and was therefore probably not intended to be viewed closely: the landscape is summarily painted and the compositon is bold, but Botticelli does not describe the figure or her setting in any great detail. Fahy has suggested the intriguing and highly plausible possibility that this painting once hung above the bed of Lorenzo de Medici, possibly forming part of a baldacchino. The posthumous inventory of Lorenzo's belongings drawn up on April 8, 1492, lists amongst the objects in the ante-chamber of lorenzo's son, Piero: '...(A large unvarished bedstead of 4 bracchia (armslengths) long with walnut footboards around with marquetry and mazze and sachone (unclear, possibly carvings of emblems?)...a canopy of the said bed in the aforementioned antichamber painting with a Fortune by the hand of Sandro Botticelli....' Given the painting's modest dimensions, its 'legibility'; from a distance, and its learned but also highly sensual subject matter, it seems quite plausible that it once formed part of a piece of bedroom furniture. Although a tondo may seem an unusual choice of format for a baldacchino, Fahy cites another such example: Francesco Granacci's tondo (today in the Gemãldegalerie, Berlin) commissioned by Salvi Borgherini for his son's bedroom on the occasion of his marriage to Margherita Acciaiuoli in 1515...."
This work was consigned by the Penthouse Media Group Inc. It had been bought at Sotheby Parke Bernet January 8, 1981, where it had been consigned by Marquesa Margaret Rockefeller de Larrain, a granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller, as "School of Sandro Botticelli."
The lot has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000, which is extremely low for a nice-sized work by Botticelli, one of the greatest painters in history, especially given the recent acquisition last year of a very small Madonna and Child by Duccio for $45,000,000 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Everett Fahy is one of the foremost experts of Italian Renaissance paintings in the world and a generation ago was already known as the "Baby B.B.," a reference to Bernard Berenson, the famous art scholar and expert. The lot sold for $464,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
This attribution to Botticelli is difficult since the artist's delicate and extremely elegant style of delineating his figures is one of the touchstones of the West's notions of feminine beauty. Fortune's face here is not out of character for Botticelli, but her swollen belly is strikingly at odds with his aesthetic. Furthermore, the "gold tracings" are unusual for the artist and it is a little hard to accept that so powerful a person as Lorenzo de Medici would choose to look at such an awkward and ungainly female before he went to sleep and when he woke up on a regular basis. Given present art market values, "Primavera" would probably sell for several hundred million dollars if it were to come on the market and since that is unlikely a large nude such as this lot by Botticelli certainly should be worth a few million. The condition of this work is less than excellent and it is not particularly painterly. Perhaps more disturbing, however, is that Fortune has a very small head in proportion to the rest of her body and that her very long hair is not particularly well painted and that her she is not the personification of grace, Botticelli's forté.
Despite such misgivings, it should be remembered that some drawings by Da Vinci are clumsy and some paintings by Raphael are boring, which is to say that not every great master is great every day.
Lot 178, "Madonna and Child at a Parapet, A Landscape Beyond," is well painted and in good condition in contrast with Lot 126. The catalogue states it is by Vittore Carpaccio, a Venetian artist whose works are almost as rare, albeit not as celebrated, as Botticelli's. It appears from the catalogue reproduction to probably have been cut down on its sides as the book and tree branch are truncated. It is quite an unusual composition with the child's face obscuring the lower right corner of the Madonna's face and an asymmetrical background. The child's drapes and body are extremely well done but his face is quite unusual perhaps because of the pose. The catalogue entry notes that "The pose of the infant Christ in the present work is related to that of the painting by Carpaccio of the Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and Jerome, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, Germany," adding that when it was sold at Sotheby's January 17, 1992 it "was seen and believed to be the work of Carpaccio by Roberto Longhi, Giuseppe Fiocco and Rodolfo Pallucchini." The entry also noted that Longhi attributed the panel in full to Carpaccio, probably dateable to 1485-90 in a May 19, 1960 letter. The painting was exhibited at the Princeton University Art Museum from 1984-6 and the Yale University Art Gallery from 1986-1990. The oil and tempera on panel measures 23 1/4 by 19 1/4 inches and has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000, which is very low for a work of this caliber by an artist as rare in the market as Carpaccio. It sold for $84,000.
Lot 185 is a fine Mannerist work that was once in the collection of Alphonse Kahn of Paris and was considered a Parmigianino when his collection was sold in 1927 at the American Art Association in New York. The palette and stylized figures are very much in keeping with Parmigianino's style but the 22 1/2-by-17 3/4-inch oil on panel is given in the catalogue as only "Emilian School, 16th Century" and it has an estimate of only $40,000 to $60,000 whereas Parmigianinos are very rare and very, very valuable. It sold for $156,000.
Interestingly, another "Emilian School" work, Lot 116, was also once attributed to Parmigianino when it was sold at Christie's in London July 1, 1927. This catalogue remarks that "Of high quality and distinctive handling, the present work has of yet defied a secure attribution," adding that 'The composition itself would appear to betray an awareness of Emilian painting of the first half of the 16th Century, with traces of both Bolognese and Parmesan elements. It has also been suggested that the coloration betrays a Tuscan flavor. The composition of the Madonna and Child is in fact recorded in a print by Mariano Bovi. The image is in the same sense as the present canvas, but differs in the background,where is a drape and a window in the image. The print was after a painting then in the collection of Sir William Hamilton in 1784, when it was attributed to Parmigianino....The same attribution to Parmigianino was applied to the painting whenit was in the collection of Sir George Allen. When it was purchased by the present collector, it had been given to an artist in the circle of Faccini....The distinctive handling of the present work lends itself to attributions to these two very diffrent, idiosynacratic artists. It may be that the painting is from a less known phase of a particular artist's work, and in fact an attribution to the early phase of Federico Barocci's carrer has also been suggested."
Parmigianino's works tend to display a more elongated stylishness and the rather aggressive visage of the child is more in line with some works by Pontormo. This attractive lot, entitled "The Madonna and Child," is an oil on canvas that measures 28 by 21 1/2 inches. It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $60,000.
Lots 130 and 145 offer an interesting study in attributions.
The former, "Nymphs Filling The Horn of Plenty," is an impressive and large oil on canvas, 82 1/2 by 60 1/4 inches that the catalogue attributes to the studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). It is being sold by the Birmingham Museum of Art to benefit its acquisitions fund. The seated female figure on the right is classic, unmistakable Rubens, a voluptuous body of very white flesh and a beautiful face. The faces of the other two women in the painting are attractive but not as animated as typical Rubenesque women. The catalogue notes that "The present painting repeats the composition by Rubens of circa 1617 in the Prado, Madrid," adding that "An oil sketch by Rubens of the same subject is in the collection of the Dulwich College Picture Gallery." This is an exceeding good composition. "In a letter from Ludwig Burchard, dated May 25, 1960, he writes that he considers the present work 'as painted in Rubens's studio with competence and brilliance. The fruit, the parrots and the monkey seem to be by the hand of Frans Snyders,'" the catalogue entry continued. In his Rubens catalogue of 1989, Michael Jaffé describes this work as an "old copy." Rubens's studio was large and he often collaborated with other artists. Given the overall attractiveness of this work, its estimate of $30,000 to $50,000 seems low. It sold for $102,000.
The latter work, "Allegory of Fortitude," on the other hand is clumsy and the woman is not up to Rubenseque standards of pulchritrude. It is, however, stated in the catalogue that it is by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. It is an oil on panel that measures 25 9/16 by 17 1/2 inches and has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. (A large and major work by Rubens sold a couple of years ago in London for more than $75 million.) It failed to sell. About three-quarters of the offered lots in this auction sold.
The catalogue provides the following commentary on this work:
"The present picture formed part of a group of four panels representing the four Virtues: Prudence, Fortitude, Justice, Abundance....Prudence and Fortitude were unknown to [J.S.] Held prior to his 1980 monograph, but their discovery shortly after the publication offered Held the opportunity to examine firsthand the group as a whole, at hwich point in written communication with the owner, he suggested an execution date of circa 1630. The composition of the Allegory of Fortitude was used for a tapestry woven in Brussels in the workshop of Frans and Jan-Frans Van den Hecke....The tapestry depicting the Allegory of Fortitude was sold with the collection of the Duke of Berwick and Alba in Paris..., but its present day location is not known. All four panels were first recorded in the 1727 inventory of Charles-Henri, Compte de Hoym, Ambassador in Paris of King Frederik Augustus (the Strong) of Saxony and Poland (1694-1733)....Although listed in the inventory as a group, they were not in fact hung together....In 1739, Justice and Abundance were acquired by James Harris and from him passed into the collections of the Earls of Malmesbury, Greywell Hill, Basingstoke, Hampshire, where they stayed until sold in 1972, only to be later published in the collections of E. V. Thaw, New York, and the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, respectively. Prudence and the present panel remained untraced until the early 1990s when they were rediscovered. Prudence was sold by Christie's, London, 9 July 1993."
The catalogue entry observes that all four panels in this series are of the same size and the reverse of each bears the brand of the coat-of-arms of the City of Antwerp.
Despite such impressive provenance and documentation, Fortitude, who wears a lionskin headdress, is not very appealing, especially for an artist's appeal is extremely consistent.
Another very fine work is Lot 127, a "Venus and Cupid" that the catalogue only ascribes to "circle of Francesco Primaticcio, another rare Mannerist artist. An oil on canvas transferred from panel that measures 51 1/2 by 60 1/2 inches, it may have been cut down on the sides as it is hard to imagine that an artist would only paint one such glorious wing for his Cupid. The catalogue notes that the Louvre in Paris has a drawing of Venus and Cupid by "an artist working in the style of Primaticcio...that relates closely to the present work." This quite exquisite lot has a conservative estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $168,000.
Lot 115 is a charming and fine small oil on panel that is attributed to Giorgio Vasari, the excellent Mannerist painter who is more famous as a biographer of major Italian Renaissance artists. Entitled "Allegory with the Goddess Diana,Fame and the River Arno with a Bearded Man (Giorgio Vasari?), The City of Florence in the Distance," it measures 9 by 6 1/2 inches. It has a very modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $84,000.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Giorgio Vasari, in an attempt to give prestige to the artistic community of Florence, conceived of the idea of founding an academy for painters, sculptors and architects, much on the lines of the existing literary Accademia Fiorentina (degli Umidi) which had been in existence since 1540. Under the patronage of Cosimo I, and with the aid of a number of the most important artistic and intellectual figures of the day..., the Accademia del Disegno was given official recognition on January 13, 1563. The inscription on the reverse of the present painting would seem to indicate that the present painting was conceived as a stemma or emblem for the Accademia, and the iconography would seem to support that."
The entry also notes that "While it is hard to be sure, it seems possible that this [the bearded man] may represent Giorgio Vasari himself, the founder of the Academy (the physiognomy is similar enough to the Portrait (or Self-Portrait) of Vasari in the Uffizi to support this speculation."
Another small jewel is Lot 118, "The Assembly of the Gods," by Jacopo Zucchi, an oil on copper that measures 12 1/4 by 8 3/4 inches. Zucchi was a pupil of Vasari's and he specialized in small works of an allegorical or mythological nature that were known, according to the catalogue, as "quadretti."
"These were commissioned by patrons," the catalogue observed, "either for their own collections, or to present them as gifts to their friends. Zucchi's first recorded quadretto, a small-scale copy after Raphael's Transfiguration in the Musei Vaticani, Rome, was apparently sent as a gift by Fernando de' Medici to the Marchesa Santacroce in 1577. Not all of these quadretti were produced as small independent easel paintings, however, and documents suggest that a large number of them were in fact produced to decorate the doors...of a writing-desk or cabinet (known as a studiolo). This work is one such example and documents record that it formed part of a studiolo decorated (the painted elements only) by Zucchi for Ferdinando de' Medici. From circa 1572 Zucchi was a paid member of Ferdinando's household in Rome and the Cardinal's desire for cabinet pictures was met with enthusiasm by Zucchi....This painting, which has variously been identified as The Assembly of the Olympian Gods and The Birth of Minerva, is recorded as having been painted in 1575-6 as part of a set of nine coppers intended for a cabinet....The desk, which must have been an extraordinary display of craftsmanship of the highest order, had other panels depicted the Three Graces and Apollo and Mercury, statuettes of Jupiter and allegorical figures of Day and Night, nineteen bronzes of the nine Muses and Gods, together with a finely-carved walnut structure and gilt bronze detailing throughout."
This copper panel is the only surviving one "which can be plausibly linked" to the Medici studiolo, according to the catalogue entry, which also noted that the studiolo "was dismembered by the late 18th Century, for the painting is described as hanging inthe First Room of Flemish Paintings in the Uffizi from 1782...until 1796 when it was returned to the Guardaroba...the fact that it was attributed to Zuccaro is not surprising given that many of Zucchi's pictures in the Uffizi were erroneously ascribed to Zuccaro right through until the early 20th Century. "The complex layering of figures results in a crowded design, rich of narrative detail, and Zucchi seems to have favoured this kind of design for his small-scale pictures, compare, for example, his Hercules Musagele and the Olympian Gods in the Uffizi....," the catalogue noted.
This masterful and fascinating panel has a conservative estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.
Another fine work by Zucchi is Lot 119, "The Four Elements," an "unfinished" oil on copper in a carved and gilt wood frame that measures 19 3/8 by 15 1/2 inches. Although it is larger than the previous lot, it has a smaller estimate of $40,000 to $50,000. It is, however, a fine work of great style and dash. It sold for $144,000.
Lot 175 is a very good Venetian School painting circa 1320 of the Crucifixion. Tempera on panel with gold ground within a feigned arch, it measures 11 3/4 by 9 5/8 inches. The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"This is a work of great rarity not only for its early date (circa 1320) but primarily for the fact that very little is known about Trecento Venetian painting before the firmly identifieable hand of Paolo Veneziano....The group of figures lower left in this panel...with the Virgin Mary falling back against the two Maries, is quite possibly inspired by Duccio's Maesta, but reappears in a Crucifixion by Paolo Veneziano in the Byzantine Museum, Athens....This picture is reminiscent of a Coronation of the Virgin in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, formerly given to Paolo Veneziano but since attributed to the 'Master of the Washington Coronation' or 'Master of Caorle....That picture is dated 1324 and though an attribution to the Master has been refuted for the present panel, they do have some points in common. The elongated figures and the inconsistencies in the spatial arrangment of figures and architectural features...are similar in both works, and this seems to be a characteristic of Venetian painting at this date rather than of any one hand in particular." In any event, this is an attractive work of the period in quite good condition. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $120,000.
The auction has numerous fine portraits of men. Lot 123 is an excellent tempera on panel with gold ground of "Saint Paul" by Andrea di Bartolo (Siena, active from 1389-died 1428). It measures 11 1/4 by 7 3/4 inches and has a very modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $28,800. Lot 188 is an excellent portrait of a bearded man "age thirty-five" by Lucas Cranach The Elder (1472-1553). The portrait's sitter is notable for his unusual beard, his dashing jacket and his almost childlike hands. The work is being sold by the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago and has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $192,000.
Lot 182 is a splendid portrait of "Saint Andrew" by Jusepe de Ribera, detto Lo Spagnoletto (1591-1652), who the catalogue describes as "the leading Baroque painter working in Naples during the 17th Century." Describing the portrait as "remarkable," the catalogue entry goes on to state that "The painting, which has only recently come to light, is an early work by the Spanish master, dateable to circa 1616-1618. An oil on canvas that measures 43 3/4 by 36 5/8 inches, it has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $1,192,000.
Another good portrait is Lot 181, "Saint Francis at Prayer," by Bernard Strozzi (1581-1644), an oil on canvas that measures 48 1/4 by 39 inches. This work is similar to another version in the Dayton (Ohio) Art Institute. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It failed to sell.
George Romney was one of England's great portraitists and there are two superb works by him in the auction, Lots 167 and Lot 170.
The former is a portrait of "Mrs. Pringle, née Miss Balneavis," an oil on canvas that measures 30 by 25 inches, that has been consigned by a descendant of Nathaniel von Rothschild. The sitter's husband, Lieut. Colonel Robert Pringle was engineer commandant at Gilbratar, where Mrs. Pringle died on January 18, 1788. The catalogue describes this work as an "exceptionally lovely portrait...[that] shows the distinctive manner in which Romney worked in this period, with a handling of paint that is wonderfully loose and sponteaneous." It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $632,000.
The latter, entitled "Portrait of Mrs. Henrietta Morris and her son John," is an 35-by-27 1/2-inch oil on canvas, that has a conservative estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It is a very lovely painting. It sold for $464,000.
Another lovely portrait of a woman is Lot 142 by Cornelius de Vos. An oil on panel that measures 26 1/4 by 20 1/2 inches, it has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $54,000.
The cover illustration of the auction catalogue is Lot 191, a fine work by Pietro Longhi. Entitled "The Ridotto in Venice," it is an oil on canvas that measures 33 by 45 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $884,000. The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"The scene takes place in the salone centrale of a tidotto in Venice, identified by Pignatti as that of Ca' Giustinian but which more likely shows that of Palazzo Dandolo at San Moisè, before Bernandino Macccanuzzi's remodelling (completed in 1768). The ridotti were public spaces, usually located close to theaters, where the wealthy upper classes would mingle with the populace and engage in the principal activity of these locations - gambling. Since most visitors wore masks at the ridotto, it became the obvious location for conspiratiorial plots and illicit amorous encounters, thus fuelling the imagination of artists in 18th Century Venice. Longhi, Guardi and Tiepolo all painted numerous scenes of the ridotti and Casanova and Goldoni's writings were both appreciated and inspired by these surroundings. For reasons of conspiracy the twenty ridotti scattered throughout Venice were closed on the orders of the Doge, through a decree of 1774 by the Maggior Consiglio, though they were reopened shortly thereafter as state-run casinos....this painting is an important example of the genre in which Longhi excelled. It is the best version of a composition known in at least for other variants....Longhi's composition relies heavily on an earlier protoype by Francesco Guardi today at Ca' Rezzonico...."
Giovanni Paolo Panini is famed for his superb imaginary landscapes of classical ruins and this auction has two very fine examples. Lot 196 is entitled ""An Architectural Capriccio with the Pyramid of Caius Cestus and a Classical Statue of Meleager, Soldiers and Other Figures Conversing." It is an oil on canvas that measures 29 7/8 by 25 1/4 inches and is dated 1744. The catalogue notes that the composition "evidently enjoyed large popularity for a number of replicas, probably executed in his studio, are known." The lot has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for $374,000.
The other Panini is Lot 195, "An Architectural Capriccio of Roman Ruins and the Statue of Marcus Aurelius on Horseback with a Soldier Returning, Other Soliders and Figures Nearby." Dated 1730, this excellent oil on canvas measures 39 1/8 by 53 1/8 inches and has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $800,000.
There are several excellent landscapes in the auction. Lot 187, for example, is a fine scene of a "Torrent in a Wooded Landscape, a Cottage Beyond," by Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael. An oil on canvas that measures 39 1/4 by 33 3/4 inches, it has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000. It sold for $216,000. The catalogue provides the following commentary: "This 'Nordic' landscape was painted in the artist's studio in Amsterdam. Despite the apparent close observance of the Scandinavian terrain, Ruisdael never visited this part of Northern Europe. He was inspired by the paintings, drawings and etchings that Allart van Everdingen (1621-1675) produced." This work was once in the collection of Grant Adam Gottlob Moltke, one of the most distinguished collectors in Northern Europe in the 18th Century.
Lot 171, "A Winter Landscape with Villagers on a Path by a Frozen River, a Windmill Beyond," is a fine work by Hendrick Avercamp. An oil on panel, it measures 9 3/4 by 10 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $464,000. It was once in the collection of Lord Rothemere.
The auction has several very beautiful paintings such as Lot 194, "Sofonisba and Her Retinue," by Sebastiano Ricci, an oil on canvas that measures 26 1/2 by 33 1/4 inches; Lot 186, "Madonna Delle Neve," by Guido Reni, an oil on copper that measures 23 1/4 by 17 3/4 inches; Lot 184, "The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and Saint Catherine of Siena," by Rutilio Manetti, an oil on canvas that measures 39 1/4 by 29 5/8 inches. Lot 194 has a conservative estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $168,000. Lot 186 has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It failed to sell. Lot 184 has a very modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $108,000.
One of the handsomest works in the auction is Lot 163, entitled "Portrait of a Bearded Gentleman, Half Length, Wearing a Hat and a Fur-Lined coat and Holding a Dagger, a Landscape Beyond," by Bartolomeo Veneto, shown at the top of this article. An oil and tempera onpanel, it measures 23 1/8 by 18 1/4 inches. The painting was published by Bernard Berenson in 1916 as by Marco Basaiti. In 1957, however, Berenson reattributed it to Alessandro Oliverio. H. J. Eberhardt and A. Tempestini, however, subsequently reattributed it to Bartolomeo Veneto. It was exhibited at the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego in 2002 in the exhibition entitled "The Portraits of Bartolomeo Veneto and also at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum exhibition entitled "The Intimate Baroque, Snmall Paintings from the John Ritter Collection in 2004. It has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $120,000.
The auction is also highlighted by several superb still-life paintings. Lot 135, for example, is a very good still life by Willem van Aelst thatis entitled "Peaches, Chestnuts and Grapes in an Overturned Basket Resting on a Partially Draped Marble Ledge." An oil on canvas, it measures 22 7/8 by 18 1/4 inches and has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $604,000. Lot 197 is a work by Luis Melendez that is entitled "A Still Life of Quinces, Peras, a Plum, a Bunch of Red Grapes, Green Grapes, a Terracotta Jug and a Ceramcic Cup, All Arranged Upon a Table Top." An oil on canvas, it measures 14 1/4 by 19 1/4 inches and has an estimate of $750,000 to $950,000. It failed to sell.
See The City Review article on the Recap of Old Master Paintings auction at Christie's, May 25, 1999