RELEASE: REMBRANDT, DÜRER & BLAKE Lead Old Master Prints at Christie’s London in December

For the sixth consecutive year, Christie’s will hold an annual auction of Old Master Prints; representing the only sale at an international auction house dedicated to this venerable collecting field.


For the sixth consecutive year, Christie’s will hold an annual auction of Old Master Prints; representing the only sale at an international auction house dedicated to this venerable collecting field.  To coincide with the sales of Old Master Paintings, the auction will take place at King Street on Thursday, 6 December. On offer will be fine and important prints by the great masters of the medium, such as Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, and Goya, as well as rare works by some of the more arcane figures of printmaking, such as Urs Graf, Augustin Hirschvogel and Giovanni Battista de Cavalieri. Showcasing ninety-six lots, this sale provides exceptional buying opportunities for established and new collectors, with estimates ranging from £2,000 up to £100,000.

Leading the sale is one of the great oddities in the history of European printmaking: Enoch (estimate: £100,000 – 150,000, illustrated above), the only lithograph by the English poet, artist and mystic William Blake (1757-1827), created in 1806/1807. In his characteristically idiosyncratic way, Blake did not simply adopt this newly invented printing technique, but developed his own somewhat complicated method, which is described in the manuscript on the reverse of this impression. The result of his experimentation is visually appealing, yet must have proved unpractical – only four impressions have survived and the present one may well be the last ever to come to the market.

The auction is largely made up of a fine selection of over forty prints by Rembrandt, led by one of his most atmospheric landscape prints, the Landscape with three gabled Cottages beside a Road (estimate: £50,000 – 70,000, illustrated right). The impression offered encapsulates all the factors that make a great Old Master Print:  fine printing quality, very good condition and excellent provenance.  The print comes from the Rosenwald Collection, the majority of which forms the core of the print holdings of the National Gallery of Washington. Other highlights from Rembrandt’s printed oeuvre include some fine and very intimate portraits of family and friends, such as The Artist’s Mother seated at a Table, looking right (estimate:£12,000 – 18,000),  a self-portrait with his wife, the famous Self-Portrait with Saskia (estimate: £20,000 – 30,000) and Ephraim Bonus, Jewish Physician (estimate: £30,000 – 50,000, illustrated left). The whimsical little Sheet with two Studies: A tree and the upper Part of the Head of the Artist is a nearly unobtainable rarity (estimate: £20,000 – 30,000).

Albrecht Dürer, the foremost printmaker of the Renaissance, is best represented in the sale with three famous works. The largest of all Dürer’s engravings, Saint Eustace, his great early tour-de-force of around 1501 (estimate: £80,000 – 120,000, illustrated right), and Adam and Eve, 1504 (estimate: £50,000 – 70,000), both admired for their abundant and meticulous depiction of the natural world; and the most celebrated woodcut from his Apocalypse-series, The Four Horsemen (estimate: £20,000 – 30,000), a masterpiece in the rendition of movement and speed.

Unusually, the generation of artists after Dürer is best represented by Augustin Hirschvogel, whose prints hardly ever appear on the market - this sale offers the rare opportunity to acquire not just one but several of his highly sought-after landscape prints with estimates ranging between £3,000 and £7,000).

Hirschvogel is the first printmaker to exclusively use the then new technique of etching and one of the first to create prints of landscapes and buildings without any religious or allegorical content (illustrations below).

The sale includes other rarities such as the large engraving of the The Massacre of the Innocents by Giovanni Battista de Cavalieri from 1561 after a now lost painting by Francesco Salviati (estimate: £5,000 – 7,000) and a set of playing cards by Stefano della Bella, the Jeu de la Mythologie (estimate: £8,000 – 12,000), devised by Cardinal Mazarin for the education of King Louis XIV of France, when still a child. 

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