The tastemaker: Michael Chance

The artistic director of The Grange Festival — a month-long staging of classic opera in the south of England — selects his favourite works from Christie’s Classic Week in London

Inaugurated in 2017 under the artistic directorship of Michael Chance, The Grange Festival — a summer of live opera performed in the grounds of a 19th-century mansion in Northington, Hampshire, in the south of England — revives a long tradition of classical music at the Grade II-listed house. This year’s festival, which runs until 8 July, includes performances of Candide, The Abduction of Seraglio, The Barber of Seville and Agrippina, with music by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Himself a classically trained countertenor, Chance has performed at Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, Berlin’s Philharmonie and London’s Wigmore Hall. He toured with the English National Opera, and won a Grammy for his participation in Handel’s Semele  for Deutsche Grammophon. In 2009, he was awarded a CBE for services to music.

Ahead of Christie’s Classic Week  sales in London, we asked Chance to select his favourite lots from across the auctions. These are his picks:

  • 1
  • Portrait miniatures by Joseph Marie-Bouton and Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin

‘Félicité-Louise-Julie-Constance de Durfort, the second wife of a Napoleonic general, is painted in Orphic mode, a probably unaccustomed lyre to hand, charming the Arcadian landscape. She sadly lived a short life, but was painted in pastoral guise by Merry-Joseph Blondel several times. Clearly a beauty, she charms on canvas as she no doubt did in person.’

Joseph-Marie Bouton (1768-1832). 86  mm  diameter, ormolu frame. Estimate £6,000-8,000. Offered in Treasured Portraits from the Collection of Ernst Holzscheiter on 4 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

Joseph-Marie Bouton (1768-1832). 86 mm diameter, ormolu frame. Estimate: £6,000-8,000. Offered in Treasured Portraits from the Collection of Ernst Holzscheiter on 4 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin (1759-1832). Rectangular, 224 x 176  mm, gilt-metal frame with oak leaf motif. Estimate £8,000-12,000. Offered in Treasured Portraits from the Collection of Ernst Holzscheiter on 4 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin (1759-1832). Rectangular, 224 x 176 mm, gilt-metal frame with oak leaf motif. Estimate: £8,000-12,000. Offered in Treasured Portraits from the Collection of Ernst Holzscheiter on 4 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘A civilised nation honours its artists. How pleasing to see a famous player of the natural (valveless) horn — Frédéric Duvernoy, a star of the Paris Opéra — painted with luscious brilliance. I note the fullness of his lips, his embouchure  prominent, and the gleam of his fully engaged eyes. And, of course, the proud display of his medals.’

  • 2
  • Tiepolo’s A man with a wig seen from behind

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid), A man with a wig, seen from behind. 7⅜ x 4¼  in (18.9 x 11 cm). Estimate £5,000-7,000. Offered in Old Master & British Drawings & Watercolours  on 3 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid), A man with a wig, seen from behind. 7⅜ x 4¼ in (18.9 x 11 cm). Estimate: £5,000-7,000. Offered in Old Master & British Drawings & Watercolours on 3 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘This is as much a cartoon as a figurative watercolour, loaded with wit and a sense of place and time. This is a different world from the airy elegance and exquisite colouring of the Tiepolo of Palladio and Venice. One is tempted to add a witty tag line. I like the distribution of the weight on the widely-placed feet, the leaning forward, the near grotesqueness of the rather full wig, with its dromeda top.’

  • 3
  • An Ancient Egyptian blue faience bowl

An Egyptian blue faience bowl, New Kingdom, 18th-19th dynasty, 1550-1186 B.C. Diameter 5⅞  in (15  cm). Estimate £15,000-20,000. Offered in Antiquities on 3 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

An Egyptian blue faience bowl, New Kingdom, 18th-19th dynasty, 1550-1186 B.C. Diameter 5⅞ in (15 cm). Estimate: £15,000-20,000. Offered in Antiquities on 3 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘This looks as modern as it is ancient. It is inviting and alive. Early ceramic work so often bears the brilliance and spirit of a community as resonantly as any medium. Form and function combine here to powerful effect.’

  • 4
  • Titian’s The Penitent Magdalen

Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian (148590-1576), The Penitent Magdalen. 48⅛ x 37⅞  in (122.4 x 96.2  cm). Estimate £600,000-800,000. Offered in the Old Masters Evening Sale on 5 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian (1485/90-1576), The Penitent Magdalen. 48⅛ x 37⅞ in (122.4 x 96.2 cm). Estimate: £600,000-800,000. Offered in the Old Masters Evening Sale on 5 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘There is entrancing physicality and realism in this painting. The redness of her left eye, presumably after wiping away tears; the enfolding of a voluptuous ringlet between her right index and third fingers, so that her third and fourth fingers are joined in the elegant gesture of the baroque dancer; the open book, presumably a devotional text; the sensuality of the gossamer fabric over her breast; and the powerful upward gaze. I see in this painting the genius of a precise moment caught and communicated.’

  • 5
  • A silver, gilt-bronze, ebony and painted hardstone tabernacle

A silver, gilt-bronze, ebony and painted hardstone architectural tabernacle, Rome, circa 1600-1625. 41⅜ x 28⅞ x 17⅛  in (105 x 73.5 x 43.3 cm). Estimate £100,000-150,000. Offered in The Exceptional Sale 2018 on 5 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

A silver, gilt-bronze, ebony and painted hardstone architectural tabernacle, Rome, circa 1600-1625. 41⅜ x 28⅞ x 17⅛ in (105 x 73.5 x 43.3 cm). Estimate: £100,000-150,000. Offered in The Exceptional Sale 2018 on 5 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘The profusion of riches, the ambition of the architecture, the amount of detail, and the operatic drama in this devotional piece are awe-inspiring. And the presence of lapis lazuli never disappoints. I remember, as a callow teenager newly arrived in Florence, sitting next to the British writer Harold Acton at a ridiculously grand dinner, as he discoursed seamlessly on the delights of lapis lazuli. It has worked its magic on me ever since.’

  • 6
  • A German enamelled bonbonnière

A German enamelled gold bonbonnière, circa 1790. Diameter 3  in (77  mm). Estimate £30,000-50,000. Offered in Gold Boxes on 4 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

A German enamelled gold bonbonnière, circa 1790. Diameter 3 in (77 mm). Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Offered in Gold Boxes on 4 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘Life can never be complete without a bonbonnière to hand. The beautifully executed harbour scenes painted on the 18th-century German bonbonnière pictured above bear close inspection. There is an Ottoman feel to the main image on the lid. The reflections in the water shimmer delightfully, and the whole tells familiar marine tales. I particularly like the backward swagger of the Pasha as he surveys his domain.’

  • 7
  • A Thomas Chippendale mahogany cabinet

A George III mahogany cabinet, by Thomas Chippendale, circa 1770. 99½  in (253  cm) high, including finial; 47½  in (121  cm) wide; 20  in (51  cm) deep. Estimate £300,000-500,000. Offered in Thomas Chippendale 300 Years on 5 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

A George III mahogany cabinet, by Thomas Chippendale, circa 1770. 99½ in (253 cm) high, including finial; 47½ in (121 cm) wide; 20 in (51 cm) deep. Estimate: £300,000-500,000. Offered in Thomas Chippendale: 300 Years on 5 July 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘Oh to have the perfect room in which to display this supremely elegant cabinet! Everything about it is so right, including the polish and patina of the mahogany. Where form and function meet so pleasingly is the achievement of one of our great craftsmen.’

The Grange Festival runs until 8 July 2018. Christie’s Classic Week, London, 3-13 July