Old Master Paintings at Sotheby’s New York

Sotheby’s January 2004 sale of Old Master Paintings is highlighted by A Winter Scene with Many Figures Skating on a Frozen River, one of the finest works by the Dutch artist Hendrick Avercamp left in private hands. Painted at the dawn of the Dutch Golden Age, probably between 1610 and 1615, it shows the delights of a rozen winter’s day enjoyed together by people of all ages: skating; sledging, ice-yachting, fishing and standing about gossiping in their finery, or muffled against the icy chill. Avercamp resolves the apparent contradiction of the physical onslaught of a brutally cold winter’s day with the delights enjoyed by the local population in the face of such a potentially severe trial of nature by introducing warm reddish tones: brick, clothing, flags; which provide a visual counterpart to the remorselessly cold gray of the sky and the ice, without diluting their intensity. The present work is estimated to sell for $4/6 million.

Also included is Hendrick Terbrugghen’s A Fluteplayer carousing with a young woman holding a roemer (est. $3/4 million), one of the finest paintings by the artist remaining in private hands, and an outstanding example of his virtuosity. Terbrugghen was arguably the most inventive and independent of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, and this picture displays to the full his genius in combining dramatic Caravaggesque lighting with an arresting and original use of color, delivered with breathtaking verve. Dating from 1625, the picture, which depicts an amorous couple, illustrates the artist’s refreshingly direct and uninhibited approach to genre subjects in his mature style.

The second half of the eighteenth century is often described by art historians as the golden age of portraiture in Great Britain, not least because it was during this period that that Sir Joshua Reynolds produced his greatest works. Featured in the January 22nd sale of Old Master Paintings is Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Portrait of Mrs. Stanhope (est. $800,000/1.2 million), painted in 1786, at the time of one of Reynolds’s most fertile artistic moments. Well established as the leading British artist of his day, and rivaled only by Thomas Gainsborough, Reynolds had continued to produce striking and innovative portraits throughout the decade of the 1780’s. In the present work, Mrs. Stanhope is depicted in a simple white gown, her pensive gaze upwards adding to her idealized and aloof beauty. This painting is of a type of romanticized portraiture that Reynolds had popularized and that would influence the work of many of his contemporaries, such as George Romney.

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam’s Haarlem, the interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, seen from the south west is the fourth and latest of four known paintings by Saenredam of the Nieuwe Kerk in Haarlem, and is one of the last of his church interiors left in private hands. The church was built to the designs of Saenredam’s friend Jacob van Campen between 1646 and 1649 on the site of the demolished medieval chapel of St. Anne, retaining the tower, which had been erected by Lieven de Key in 1613. The Nieuwe Kerk was the only modern building that Saenredam painted, and is thus the only church he painted built in Classical rather than Gothic or Romanesque style. This painting, which is estimated to sell for $600/800,000) first came to light at the Saenredam exhibition in Paris in 1970.

Featured in the European Works of Art section of the sale is a recently discovered bronze by the 16th century Dutch master Willem van Tetrode, A bronze Ecorche figure of a man (est. $200/300,000). This sculpture, which had changed hands within the consignor’s family, had gone unidentified until the consignor pulled into a train station and recognized a work resembling his on a poster promoting an exhibition of van Tetrode at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The curator of the exhibition, a van Tetrode expert, confirmed its authenticity, with its detailed muscles and innovative stance. Previous to his discovery, it was learned that the consignor’s house was burglarized but that, ironically, the burglar bypassed the sculpture for a television instead.

In connection with the sales of Old Master Paintings and Drawings, and upon the occasion of the reopening of the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna, Austria in March 2004, the curator of the museum, Johann Kraftner, will present a lecture entitled: The Rebirth of a Princely Palace and its Collections. He will speak on the history, renovation and reopening of the house as well as the history of the collection and the purchasing policy of the Liechtenstein Collections. The lecture will be held at Sotheby’s on Sunday, January 18th.

Published in: on December 23, 2003 at 9:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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