Highlights from a sale of items from Rugby School’s collection include works by Lucas van Leyden, Lelio Orsi and Correggio, rare medieval manuscripts and important antiquities
On 4 December Christie’s will present Old Masters/New Scholars: Works of Art to Benefit Rugby School,
a carefully selected sale of approximately 200 lots that will encompass
Old Master and British drawings and watercolours, rare
books and manuscripts,
19th-century paintings and
Chinese ceramics from the collection of the prestigious
co-educational school founded in 1567 in Warwickshire,
‘Rugby School has been generously endowed over its 451-year
history, and is fortunate to have been given such an impressive
collection of artworks, many of which have been held at the school for more than 100 years,’ comments Lucinda Holmes, Chairman
of the Governing Body of Rugby School. ‘The decision to sell
this part of the collection is aligned with the school’s
commitment as a registered charity to use its resources to
benefit current and future students.’
The auction is being led by a rare, black chalk drawing by the Dutch
Old Master painter and printmaker
Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533). The work,
A Young Man Standing, remains the only drawing by
the artist to exist in private hands. Others can be found
in the British Museum, the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum.
Little studied and never published in its entirety, the collection of drawings at Rugby School consists mostly of works given around 1880 by Matthew Holbeche Bloxam (1805-1888), a distinguished antiquarian and himself a Rugbeian. A nephew of the fourth President of the Royal Academy, the great portrait painter and drawings collector Sir Thomas Lawrence, Bloxam acquired a considerable number of drawings from his uncle’s collection.
These include an impressive sheet by the Italian Mannerist artist Lelio Orsi (1511-1587), Rest on the Flight to Egypt, with Saint Anthony Abbot, which will be offered in the sale alongside other fine Italian drawings, including a group of Neoclassical sketches by
Giuseppe Cades (1750-1799), and Studies of Angels by
Antonio Il Corregio Allegri (1489-1534), for one
of his best-known Renaissance altarpieces.
Another highlight is a recently rediscovered, brightly
coloured study by the British painter and former director of the
National Gallery and President of the Royal Academy, Sir Edward John Poynter P.R.A. (1836-1919), for his 1872
Royal Academy submission Perseus and Andromeda,
which was destroyed during the Second World War.
Two exceptionally rare English medieval manuscripts will also
be offered — a hand-drawn copy of the 14th-century
travel memoir The Book of John Mandeville, and a
large Latin missal complete with its original binding.
The school will also be selling a group of important antiquities,
led by a 6th-century Attic black-figured neck amphora attributed
to the ‘Three-Line Group’ which shows the goddess Athena
driving a chariot on one side, and Dionysus and Ariadne drinking together
surrounded by satyrs, on the other. A beautifully painted wooden
coffin lid, dating to the Late Period (circa 664-332) of ancient
Egypt, will be a further highlight.
The selection of works, which will be presented in London,
has been carefully curated to ensure that nothing intrinsic
to the school’s history will be sold, and the auction’s proceeds
(estimated to be around £3 million) will be used by Rugby’s
governing body to benefit the school’s pupils. One proposed project is to creating a newly designated museum space for the remaining works, including the important collection of memorabilia which relates to the invention of rugby football.
Old Masters/New Scholars: Works of Art to Benefit Rugby School will
take place on 4 December 2018 at Christie’s in London.