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    Sale 7446

    Important Old Master & British Pictures Including works from the Collection of Anton Philips

    6 December 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 1

    Adriaen Jansz. van Ostade (Haarlem 1610-1685)

    Head of a man

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Adriaen Jansz. van Ostade (Haarlem 1610-1685)
    Head of a man
    oil on panel, circular
    3 7/8 in. (9.5 cm.) diam.


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    This intimate depiction of a man's head belongs with a small group of head studies of peasants executed by Adriaen van Ostade mostly in the 1640s. These were intended not as portraits but as studies of physical types and expression and were often conceived - as was probably the case here - as pairs, to display conflicting emotions, or simply a male and female counterpart (see, for example, the pair of oval head studies, dated 1642, in the Boymans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam).

    The sitter for the present work is shown in three-quarter profile looking down to the right, the contour of his head neatly echoing the shape of the panel. His mood is one of quiet contemplation and introspection. Although only in middle age, the unshaven face and lined forehead of Ostade's sitter betray a hard existence, but humble though he undoubtedly is, Ostade bestows upon him an overriding sense of dignity. When seen in the context of the tradition of low-life single figure tronies, from the bust-length studies by Pieter Breueghel the Elder to Brouwer's depictions of carousing drunks, Ostade's tender treatment of his subject marks an altogether novel approach. This has been noted by Peter Sutton who has observed, with reference to another small-scale head study of a peasant '..Ostade offers a sensitive image of the lined face of a farmer, without ridicule or condescension. Such empathy for the lower classes was new.' (P. Sutton, catalogue of the Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, 2002, p. 180, under no. 38).

    We are grateful to Dr. Bernhard Schnackenburg for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs and for proposing a date of circa 1645.

    The circular format chosen for the present picture is extremely unusual in Ostade's oeuvre. Hofstede de Groot records just two pairs of circular single figure studies, of which the size and description of a male head owned by the great Dutch collector Gerrit Braamcamp (1699-1771) perfectly matches the present work. Dr. Bernhard Schackenburg also regards this identification as plausible. The other pair was last recorded in a sale in Rotterdam, 3 October 1825, lot 76 &77 (C. Hofstede de Groot, op. cit., p. 419, no. 906). We are grateful to Dr. Schnackenburg for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs and for proposing a date of circa 1645.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
    From time to time, Christie's may offer a lot which it owns in whole or in part. This is such a lot.


    Provenance

    (Possibly) Gerrit Braamcamp (1699-1771), Herengracht, Amsterdam; (+) sale, Van der Schley, Amsterdam, 31 July 1771, lot 160, with pendant, 'Twee borstbeelden van een Boer en eene Boerin, in t'klein, van eene ronde gedaante, en 4 duim Diameter' (33 florins to Calkoen, below).
    Peter Willemsz. Calkoen; (+) sale, Van der Schley, Amsterdam, 8-11 September 1781, lot 107, with pendant (sold 38 florins).
    Acquired by Anton Philips in 1930, and by descent.


    Pre-Lot Text

    ANTON PHILIPS - ENTREPRENEUR
    As one of the co-founders of the Philips electronics company, Anton Philips ranks amongst the foremost European entrepreneurs of the 20th century. The company was originally founded in 1891 by Anton's father Frederik and his elder brother Gerard, an engineering graduate, who devised a manufacturing process capable of mass producing carbon filament lamps. Within three years the fledgling company was on the brink of collapse when Anton, aged just 20, was brought in to take over the commercial running of the business. His vision, energy and entrepreneurial drive is largely credited with turning the business around and transforming it in the ensuing years into the global electronics giant that we know today. Blessed with enormous charisma and the ability to set his clients immediately at ease, Anton was an exceptional salesman, rapidly establishing selling sites all across Europe and then - crucially - in Russia and America during the formative years of the business. He travelled incessantly at this time, once remarking that 'a good salesman wants to do business for always and not just once'. An extrovert, and by all accounts somebody who radiated power, Anton was also a brilliant strategist and a calculated risk-taker. He fondly recalled in later life the great risks he took to secure the rights to American-made manufacturing machinery in 1910/11, without which his company would have fallen irrevocably behind its competitors. The business grew at a phenomenal rate in the coming years. By 1917 his factories were capable of producing 80,000 light bulbs a day, with a workforce of 4,000 people. Ten years later, with the advent of the radio, he was employing 25,000 people in Eindhoven alone. By 1933, Philips was the largest manufacturer of radios in the world.
    Anton served as CEO of the firm from 1922 to 1939 and was a truly inspirational leader. His work ethic was founded on the principle of identifying what one wanted and then going all out after it. He admired direct action, swift decision-making and abhorred half-hearted work. Heavy demands were made on his employees, Anton once famously remarking that 'If I demand 100 percent from people, I may get as much as 90'. Although his business style was unquestionably aggressive, his entire approach was underpinned by a pervading sense of fairness and down-to-earth practicality. He took care to familiarise himself not only with his senior employees but just as much with those on the factory floor. He was always keen to discuss the human aspect of people's lives and their personal circumstances, and it was typical of him that one of his senior engineers was frequently told that 'he must not only be an engineer but also a human being'. The city of Eindhoven (with which the Philips name is synonymous) grew exponentially with the growth of the company. Anton's establishment of housing, healthcare and recreational facilities for his workers and his acquisition of land for public use was unprecedented. This extraordinary sense of social responsibility and his complete respect for the common man forever endeared him not just to the people of Eindhoven but to the entire Dutch nation.

    DE LAAK - A FAMILY HOME

    It has often been said that Anton Philips owed a great deal of his success to his happy private life. There is no doubt that his marriage to Anna de Jongh was a constant source of happiness, strength and inspiration to him; her calm, re-assuring demeanour a perfect counter to his lively personality. In 1906, they acquired seven acres of woodland outside Eindhoven and employed the Hilversum architect J.W. Hanrath to build a family house to accommodate their three children and to cater to a constant stream of visitors. In spite of his ever spiralling success, De Laak was first and foremost a family home without pretension, where Anton could properly relax with his wife and children. It was also the home to an ever expanding art collection which - typically - Anton was always keen remained understated, once explaining to a journalist that 'Decorating De Laak is a hobby, an interest, but not a mania - it is not a museum. It makes our house a truly liveable house where we are surrounded by the necessary art'.

    ANTON PHILIPS - CONNOISSEUR

    Away from his business and family life Anton Philips' abiding passion was for art. He began collecting in the 1890s and by the mid-1920s had assembled a private collection already reckoned to be one of the most important and diverse in Holland. Anton liked to be well informed about his interests and applied much of his business acumen to the acquisition of serious works of art. Auction catalogues were studied in detail, experts regularly consulted for their advice, and business trips often extended to allow time for visits to museums and dealers. He insisted on inspecting things first hand before making a purchase. Philips's biographer (Professor P.J. Bouman) relates how while travelling, 'Every hour he had to spare would be spent with antique dealers in cities such as Paris, London, and Zurich' and how - 'For an important sale at Christie's in London or some special item offered in Zurich, he would take a night boat or night train for a swift return trip so he could see for himself what he was buying'.

    As far as objects and works of art were concerned, his interests were subject to sudden shifts in enthusiasm. His early taste for Delftware, Chinese porcelain and Dutch furniture soon gave way to miniatures, French enamels, and gothic statuary, before turning his attention latterly (no doubt inspired by his travels in North Africa and the Far East) to Egyptian artefacts and Chinese bronzes. It has already been noted that while in business he was tenaciously single-minded and a brilliant long-term strategist, as an art collector he enjoyed variety and the liberty to indulge his interests at will.
    That said, Anton's passion for old master paintings remained constant throughout his years as a collector.

    Dutch paintings formed the main body of Anton Philips's old master collection. They reveal his preference for understated yet archetypal depictions of Dutch life and the Dutch countryside - from the serenely atmospheric landscapes by Cuyp, Ruysdael and Van de Velde, to the joyous Village Scene by Ostade and the charming Female Portrait by Thomas de Keyser. He was equally comfortable buying works from foreign schools - Italian primitives, French, Flemish and German paintings all featured prominently in his collection and are well represented by the paintings here offered for sale. In all these, Anton was attracted above all by quality and craftsmanship. He bought what he liked; he was never swayed by fashion and seldom influenced by others. As his collection grew, pictures were offered to him by dealers in rapid succession but were mostly declined. Anton preferred instead to take the lead himself and clearly relished the hunt for things that ignited his interest.

    As in business, he was quite rigorous when it came to the acquisition of major paintings. He was very conscious not to pay more than the market value for things and he corresponded regularly with experts such as Bredius and Hofstede de Groot for assurance as to authenticity. To some extent, Anton's buying patterns correlate closely to the fortunes of his business. He was clearly very active around 1920 (the Teniers, the Rembrandtesque Head Study and the Cuyp from this selection were all acquired between 1919 and 1921), but as stock markets around the world faltered in 1921, Anton called a temporary halt to his buying, writing to Bredius in February 1921: 'I think the times are too uncertain for me to add to my collection of paintings at present'. However, as his situation improved, Anton resumed collecting again on a serious scale, acquiring the Willem van de Velde and Salomon van Ruysdael in 1924 and Adriaen van Ostade's Village Scene in the early 30s. 1936-7 was an extremely profitable financial year for the company (accounts show profits of nearly 20 million guilders), and it is probably no coincidence that in that same year Anton purchased Rubens's brilliant Double Head Study from the dealers Asscher and Welker as well as Thomas de Keyser's irresistible Female Portrait from the Rotterdam dealers D.A. Hoogendijk & Co. Most of Anton's paintings were stored with the state collection in The Hague during the war and the great majority survived unharmed.

    Anton Philips's paintings were a never ending source of delight for him. Apart from a low-key, week-long exhibition of some of his collection in Eindhoven, in 1937, the paintings to be offered in this sale (with the sole exception of the Rubens) have never since been seen in public. This was particular befitting for the man who recoiled at the idea of his paintings serving any other purpose than giving personal pleasure. When he was approached by the director of the Mauritshuis - Dr. Wilhelm Martin, in 1920, with the idea of publishing a catalogue of his collection, he declined, replying: 'I know that many collectors have catalogues of this kind made, but I would not like to be thought vain by my friends and acquaintances'.


    Literature

    (Probably) J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné, etc., I, London, 1829, p. 119, no. 41.
    (Probably) C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné, etc., III, London, 1910, p. 412, no. 885b (pendant to no. 899).