By Carter B. Horsley
The Important Old Master
at Sotheby's January 26, 2009 is highlighted by some marvelous
paintings from the collection of Luigi Koelliker and superb works
da Fabriano, Lorenzo Monaco, Pieter
the Younger, Cornelis
van Harlem, Lorenzo Lotto, Titian, Guercino, Hals, Goya, Boucher
of the paintings are
mesmerizing and world-class.
for example, is an
exquisite painting by Giovanni Martinelli (1610-1669) that depicts
a beautiful woman with fabulous shoulders and an alluring decolletage
that would intimidate Vermeer and awe Rubens and give Botticelli's
ladies strong competition in the Old Master Beauty Contest. It
is entitled "An Allegory of Painting with a Young Woman,
Half Length" and is an oil on canvas that measures 23 1/2
by 18 inches. The catalogue notes that two paintings of two half-length
women are in the collection of the Uffizi. "During this time
Martinelli's work took on a greater sense of drama, usually, as
here, in the shape of striking light effects, and in this he was
clearly inspired by Caravaggio and his followers whose work he
would have studied during his sojourn in Rome from 1625 to 1632."
the catalogue may be
correct about the influence of Caravaggio on Martinelli, it is
irrelevant as far as this painting is concerned as it is a wondrous
work whose mysterious beauty stands on its own. The woman's expression
and the blue of her dress that barely covers the front of her
left breast and the enormous amount of extremely sensuous exposed
flesh make this an objet d'amour everlasting. The lot has a very
conservative estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It failed to
sale total for the auction
was $61,652,625 even though less than 63 percent of the offered
lots in the first session sold. The total for the morning session
was $57.7 million, while the pre-sale low estimate was $74 million.
property of Luigi Koelliker.
The catalogue describes him as "A Collector of Collections,"
a phrase often applied to J.P. Morgan:
began colleting stamps
at the age of eight, in his teens moved onto watches and during
his twenties and thirties put together a significant collection
of Contemporary art. But then he started to look back in history
to examine the influences that helped form the art of the twentieth
century. He found himself fascinated by Renaissance and Baroque
art, in all its many forms: paintings, sculpture, carpets, musical
instruments and even astrolabes and armillary spheres. In his
London home he created a modern version of a Renaissance studiolo
- the connoisseur's private study which houses his most prevcious
possessions. "It is fascinating to me to try to understand
the line between arte majori and arte
leads you to appreciate works differently, for example artists
who painted majolica also worked on canvas or wood, while scietific
isntruments, which, although not perhaps traditional art objects
are among some of the most beautiful things in the world.' He
soon began to collect sixteenth and seventeeth century paintings
from Italy and the North. "Initially I approached Old Masters
in a very conventional way. I started to buy vedute, views of
Venice, and so on, but quickly moved on to portraits as I found
them much more appealing. I attempt to understand and engage with
what was depicted and the mind of both the sitter and the artist."
As he became more familiar with the material Koelliker focused
on the Caravaggisti, having been attracted to the
and the revolutionary nature of Caravaagio's images, aesthetic
and ideas, but continued to collect in other fields as well....In
addition to his collecting. Luigi Koellliker is well known for
his support for the arts. He has been deeply involved in such
historic restorations as the Micheangelo Randanini Pieta
and the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan and revived Paragone,
the art historical publicaiton founded by Roberto Longhi."
Koelliker picture is Lot 34, "Portrait of a Girl," by
Bernardo Cavallino (1618-1654). An oil on canvas, it measures
16 1/2 by 13 7/8 inches. The lot has an estimate of $150,000 to
$200,000. It failed to sell. The girl has an unsual
and her expression suggests sadness but the painting is extremely
painterly and the blue ribbon in her hair suggests that this exotic
young lady has a flair for style. Her face is as memorable as
the old man in a crowd in the great movie, Koyanisqatsi.
While he was old, unshaven and disheveled, sheis wearing lovely
clothes and has a freshness that almost suggest innocence but
Lot 33, "Salome with the Head
the Baptist," is a good oil on canvas by Tiziano Vecellio,
called Titian (1485/90-1576). It measures 35 1/2 by 32 3/4 inches
and was once in the collection of King Charles I of England at
Hampton Court and eventually of Luigi Koelliker. It has an estimate
of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It failed to sell. The
notes that when the work last appeared at auction in 1994 it had
been both extended on all four sides and substantially overpainted,
adding that removal of the extensions and restoration has "revealed
a painting of far greater quality than previously suspected."
Although a far simpler
composition, Lot 56
is a more appealing work by the same artist. It is a superb portrait
of "an Admiral, Probably Francesco Duodo (1518-1592), Half-Length,
Wearing Armour," by Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian (1485/90-1576).
An oil on canvas, it measures 34 7/8 by 30 1/4 inches and has
a very conservative estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It
sold for $1,762,500. The identification of the man in the
portrait is based on a portrait by a follower of Tintoretto in
the Museo Storico Navale in Venice. The catalogue entry notes
that the work has considerable pentimenti and that the artist
painted the entire metal gorget at the sitter's neck before later
covering it with the beard and the hilt of the sword was originally
higher and slightly to the left. A drawing related to this picture
is in the British Museum but it was apparently done after the
As engaging as the Titian
portrait is, it is
not as compelling as Lot 57, "Saint John the Baptist in Prison
Visited by Salome," by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called
Il Guercino (1591-1666). It is an oil on canvas that measures
29 1/2 by 37 3/4 inches and has a very modest estimate of $750,000
to $950,000. It failed to sell. The catalogue
the work has been "recently discovered" and is the "second
version of this much celebrated composition." There are five
known versions of the painting and in his 1968 monograph on the
artist Sir Denis Mahon lists several later copies. A painting
in a private collection in New York is widely considered to be
the "prime version." The third version is owned by Sir
Denis Mahon and is on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland
painting that is very
haunting is Lot 29, "Saint Peter Penitent," by Guercino.
An oil on canvas, it measures 40 3/4 by 30 inches and is also
from the collection of Luigi Koelliker. It has a modest estimate
of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $422,500. Here,
Peter is an extremely commanding presence. He could easily be
Moses, or Jupiter, or Michelangelo and is definitely a man of
great experience and insight and intelligence.
Lot 67 is a wonderful and
delightful work by
Francois Boucher (1703-1770) entitled"The Muse Erato."
An oil on canvas, it measures 36 1/2 by 51 3/4 inches and has
a very conservative estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold
for $1,314,500. The very impressive provenance lists
de Pompadour (?), Sir Richard Wallace, Lady Sackville, Count Johh
McCormick, JohnTimkin, Count Aldo Crespi.
Lot 7 is a very, very beautiful
and Child" by Ambrogio di Stefano da Fassano, called il Bergognone
(circa 1453-1523). An oil on panel, it measures 20 1/4 by 15 1/8
inches. It has a modest estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It
sold for $482,500.
Bergogognone, according to the
among the most admired and sought-after aertists in the later
years of the Sforza court [in Milan], having frescoed the tranepts
and supplied the mainy altarpieces of the family's most significant
religious institution, the Certosa di Pavia. But in addition to
the large-scale fresoes and cult images he produced there, he
was also capable of painting on a smaller scale, particularly
Madonnas and half-length saints, which appear especially poignant
and tender to the modern eye."
Lot 28 consists of a pair of
on canvas that the catalogue states is by the studio of Georges
de La Tour (1593-1653). One depicts "A Young Boy with a Pipe,
Blowing on a Firebrand," and the other, "A Young Girl
Blowing on a Brazier." Both measure approximately 27 5/8
by 23 3/4 inches. The paintings come from the London residence
of Luigi Koelliker and have a modest estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It sold for $542,500. Some experts have proposed that the
paintings were by Etienne de La Tour (1621-1692), the artist's
son and were so attributed at an exhibition in 2007. Works by
George de La Tour are very, very rare but most are more complex
is a great painting
by Cornelis Cornelisz. van Harlem (1562-1638) that is entitled
"The Purification of the Israelites at Mount Sinai."
An oil on panel, it measures 26 by 22 1/2 inches and is dated
1600. It is quite an unusual composition and the figures are lovely.
It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 43, "St. George's Kermis
Dance Around the Maypole," by Pieter Brueghel the Younger
(1564-1637/8) is a classically crowded, joyful and very merry
village festival scene that is dated 1627. An oil on panel, it
measures 21 1/2 by 29 7/8 inches and has a modest estimate of
$1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $2,434,500.
The auction is offered
separately four small,
related and very nice panels of saints by Gentile di Niccolo Massio,
called Gentile da Fabriano (circa 1380-1427). Lot 2 is "Saint
John the Evangelist" and Lot 3 is "Saint James the Greater."
All are gold ground and tempera on panel unframed and measure
approximately 8 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches and each has a modest estimate
of $80,000 to $120,000. Lot 2 sold for $458,500. Lot 3 sold
The catalogue notes that these
rendered" panels are four "of a set of six newly discovered
panels....all of which comprise a major and exciting new addition
to the artist's oeuvre," adding that "they most probably
formed part of a group of twelve apostles of full-length format,
perhaps used to decorate the pilasters of an altarpiece."
The group of six was until recently in a private Swedish collection.
Gentile da Fabriano worked in Venice and painted frescoes together
with Pisanello in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Ducal
Palace and the catalogue notes that these panels would appear
to date circa 1405 "just before his great, early masterpiece,
the Valle Romita polyptych."
"Although rightly seen today as
he leading artists of his time and the greatest proponent of the
last flowering of the elegant Gothic style of painting in Florence,
Lorenzo Monaco (1389-1423 or 1425) remains nevertheless a somewhat
enigmatic figure," according to the catalogue entry for Lot
8, his "The Magus Hermogenes Casting His Magic Books Into
The Water." The work is gold ground, tempera on panel and
measures 11 3/4 by 8 1/2 inches. It has a somewhat ambitious estimate
of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,426,500.
"His reputation suffered in the
immediately following his death with the startling innovations
of the subsequent generation of Florentine artists, and thus early
sources treated him scantily. It was only in the latter half of
the 19th and the early part of the 20th century that scholarship
restored Lorenzo to his rightful place, and that a clear picture
of his primacy in Florentine painting in the final two decades
of the 14th century was understood," the catalogue maintained,
adding that the picture is "part of a predella of an altarpiece
painted for the Chapel of San Jacopo e San Giovanni Decollato
in Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence." The catalogue states
that "some scholars...regard this series of paintings as
the artist's first known work."
The catalogue notes that the
apparently broken up in the 19th century and the relationship
between the panels "subsequently lost or misunderstood,"
adding that furthermore it was painted by two different artists,
Monaco and Agnolo Gaddi.
This panel was once in the
collection of Frederic
Fairchild Sherman of Westport, Connecticut.
Lot 39, "Ecce Homo," is a very
portrait of Christ by Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556). An oil on panel,
it measures 19 by 15 1/2 inches and has a modest estimate of $400,000
to $600,000. It failed to sell. It was once in the
of the Dukes of Mantua.
The auction has three excellent
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553).
Lot 18 is a "Portrait of a
Man" that is an oil on linden panel that measures 16 1/2
by 11 1/8 inches. It was given to the Los Angeles County Museum
of Art in 1991 by Mr. and Mrs. R. Stanton Avery of Pasadena and
the museum has consigned "to benefit future acquisitions."
It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It failed to sell.
The catalogue entry for this lot notes that "Although Cranach's
portraits of women betray a certain generic similarity, his depictions
of men are much more individualized. Here he has lavished his
full attention on this striking young sitter, with his penetrrating
blue eyes and prominent cheek bones, and carefully delineates
the delicate hairs in his fair, curly beard."
A much larger and jollier work
by Cranach is
Lot 19, "Old Man Beguiled by Courtesans," an oil on
panel that measures 32 1/4 by 47 3/8 inches. It has an estimate
of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,762,500.
catalogue notes that the work "is signed in the upper right
with the device of a serpent with folded wings, a revision of
Cranach's early mark, which depicted a serpent with the spread
wings of a bat, adding that the device "was not a signature
as such, but a mark of quality, and was usedas such by both Cranach
and his son."
The third Cranach work is Lot
an oil on panel that measures 34 1/4 by 22 3/4 inches. It has
an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $962,500.
Lot 25 is an amusing oil on
"The Doctor's Visit," by Jan Havicksz. Steen (1626-1679).
It measures 18 by 15 inches and was one of the artist's favorite
subjects. "The overtly lascivious nature of the protagonists
in the present scene, and indeed the extent to which they are
ridiculed by Steen, set this paiting apart from the artist's earlier
versions," the catalogue entry noted, including one in the
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It has an estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000.
It sold for $1,082,500.
Lot 40, "Bagpipe Player in
is an oil on canvas by Hendrick Ter Brugghen (1588-1629) that
measures 39 3/4 by 32 5/8 inches. It was executed in 1624 and
has an ambitious estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It
to Johnny Van Haeften, a London dealer, although it was not clear
whether he was bidding for a client or himself, for $10,162,500!
It is property of the heirs of Herbert von Klemperer of Berlin
and was restituted to them last July by the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum
in Cologne. The painting is
one of two
closely related renditions. The other is in the collection of
the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
The auction has a pair of
one of a man holding a pair of gloves, and the other of a woman
holding a handkerchief, by Frans Hals (1581/5-1666). They are
both in excellent condition although they are quite sedate by
the artist's bravura brushwork standards. Both measure 36 1/2
by 26 1/2 inches and are dated 1637. The portrait of the man has
an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. The portrait of the
woman has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $9,000,000. Both
failed to sell. In an article in the January 30, 2009 edition
of The New York Times, Carol Vogel reported that "at the
last minute the seller, Eric Albada, a Belgian collector, decided
to put them on the block or not at all, and the estimate for the
two together was $15 million to $20 million. One person was bidding...,
but he wouldn't go higher than $11.5 million, and the works were
Lot 81 is a fine portrait of
Wenzel von Kaunitz-Rietberg" by Francisco Josť de
Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828). An oil on canvas, it measures 23
1/4 by 18 7/8 inches. The prince had been Austrian ambassador
to Spain. It has a modest estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000.
It sold for $2,210,500.
Lot 24 is a superb landscape by
Ruysdael (1600/3-1670) that is an oil on panel that measures 14
7/8 by 21 3/8 inches. It was acquired by the Kunsthistorisches
Museum in Vienna in 1939 and restituted to the heir of the pre-World
War II owner last year. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 11 is a very fine landscape
Ryckaert that is an oil on panel that measures 29 1/8 by 38 1/2
inches. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold
for $698,500. The catalogue notes that the composition is
derived from a work by Jan Bruegel the Elder that is lost but
is known through several versions by his son Jan II.
Lot 92 is a large work by
Joseph Mallord William
Turner (1775-1851). Although it is not an example of his extraordinary
impressionistic style, it is a large and impressive and lively
composition. An oil on canvas, it measures 46 by 70 inches. It
is property of the private collection of Richard Feigen, the art
dealer who bought the painting in London at Christie's in 1982
for $1.1 million. It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $16,000,000.
It sold for $12,962,500.