Four Centuries of Old Master Drawings

Sotheby’s is delighted to announce that it will hold an exciting single-owner sale of Old Master Drawings from the celebrated Unicorno Collection on May 19, 2004, in Amsterdam. The Collection was put together over a period of more than fifty years by the collectors Mr Saam Nijstad and Mrs Lily Nijstad-Einhorn.

It is a special event for the international art world when an important private collection such as the Unicorno Collection is offered at auction. The collection comprises around 500 drawings, all of which have been housed in the Unicorno collection for many years and which are therefore ’fresh’ to the market.

In the autumn of 1949 the collectors-couple acquired their first drawings for the Unicorno Collection. In a time span of more than half a century, the collection has expanded to become one of the most important in this field and one of the most well-known collections of old master drawings in the Netherlands. No one could have thought at that time, least of all the collectors, that it would grow to be a collection of no less that 500 sheets of museum quality, and that parts of the collection would be the subject of museum exhibitions in the Museum Het Rembrandthuis Amsterdam (1993), the Dordrechts Museum (1994-95) and the Haags Historisch Museum (2001).

Their most important criterion at the purchase of every new drawing was that every drawing should be perfect and without any browning or spotting. Businesswise, the couple dealt in paintings, but privately they were enchanted by the delicate drawings. They did not foresee that these works of art would increase strongly in value. Provided that it is attractive and in a good condition, a drawing by a “lesser” master – no matter how obscure – will usually increase in value. For a ’master’ drawing this applies even more.

The Unicorno Collection is highly characterised by a feeling of quality. It is a collection full of surprises, composed with care and knowledge and with a distinct personal taste. For many years the drawings have been stored carefully in acid free boxes and portfolios. Even for the drawings that are framed and hung, a museum setting was chosen, with sliding screens that reveal the drawing at wish and when covered keep them in a dim light that will keep the condition up to scratch.

The Unicorno Collection covers five centuries of drawing, from the 16th till the 20th century, from the French and Italian to the English and German school. A clear accent lies on the Flemish and Dutch School from the 16th to the 18th century, in particular the colourful drawings of flowers, birds, insects and other animals, drawn with great refinement by such artists as Pieter Holsteyn the Younger, Johannes Bronckhorst (Birds in a landscape, pictured), Herman and Anthony Hengstenburgh, Aert Schouman and Alida Withoos.

The drawings have been acquired in various ways. The majority come from private owners, others were bought from (international) art dealers. Auction house Mak van Waay – later Sotheby’s – was regularly visited when drawings were on offer. Thus, the earliest drawings from the Unicorno Collection, by Jan Swart van Groningen and by Esaias van de Velde, Philips Koninck and Gillis Neyts, were bought at auction from the estate of Bernard Houthakker at Sotheby Mak van Waay in 1975.

Sotheby’s Amsterdam and Collections Old Master Drawings – Sotheby’s Amsterdam has a rich history in selling private collections of Old Master Drawings. Important collections of old master drawings sold at Sotheby’s Amsterdam include: Bernard Houthakker (1975), Perman (1975), De Geus van den Heuvel (1976), C.R. Rudolf (1977), F.W.A. Knight (1979), F.C. ButTMt (1993) (contained Old Master Paintings as well), Bijl (1993), Klaver (1994) and Koenigs (2001).

Published in: on December 3, 2003 at 11:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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