New York

New York – Christie’s is pleased to announce the upcoming sale of Old Master Paintings Part I, which will take place on January 29 at 10am and will feature a superb selection of masterworks by French, Italian, Flemish and British artists from the 15th through the 18th-century.  Works from several renowned private collections will be offered, including those of Eric Martin Wunsch, Nathan and Benjamin Katz, and Tom and Ruth Jones, providing collectors the opportunity to acquire fresh-to-the-market works of significant provenance.  The sale is led by a rare self-portrait of renowned Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, which has been consigned by a distinguished American collection.  Old Master Paintings Part I is expected to realize in excess of $19 million.

Leading the sale is Self-Portrait as a Lute Player by Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-1654 Naples) (illustrated page 1; estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000), one of the key painters of the Baroque age and among the boldest and most powerfully expressive female artists in history.  Remarkable for its highly accomplished handling of paint, the work has been dated by scholars to circa 1616-17, when Artemisia was about 25 years old and a newly-accepted member of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence. Self-Portrait as a Lute Player was likely commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici, as it is recorded in a 1638 inventory of the Villa Medici at Artimino.  The picture’s Florentine origins are also evident in the sumptuousness of the costume, particularly the elaborate gold embroidery and the opulent fabric of the turban and sash.   The work, which was lost to notice until its discovery in a private European collection in 1998, has since been exhibited at such renowned institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Galleria degli Uffzi.   

Giandomenico Tiepolo’s (Venice 1727-1804) The Dancing Dogs (illustrated left; estimate: $1,200,000–2,300,000) is a ravishing depiction of an 18th-century villeggiatura, an extended summer holiday in Venetians’ country estates on the mainland.   The lighthearted holiday mood is perfectly captured in the cheerful scene, as a young gypsy girl dances with a tambourine in a clearing, while four dogs—some humorously dressed up—dance on their hind legs to the music, to the delight of the crowd.  Unlike his father Giambattista, who specialized in grand manner history paintings, Giandomenico Tiepolo developed his skill as an ingenious observer of everyday life.  The Dancing Dogs, along with its pendant Dancing the Minuet, both of which were sold at Christie’s in London in 1929, are among the finest examples of this aspect of the artist’s oeuvre.

Still Life with musical instruments (illustrated right; estimate: $1,200,000-1,600,000) is a tour-de-force of Baroque illusionism painted by Evaristo Baschenis (Bergamo 1617-1677), the preeminent still life painter of 17th-century Italy and the most celebrated practitioner of musical still life, in particular.  The painting, which was lost for centuries, has recently been identified as having once belonged to Ferdinando de’ Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany, and was recently included in the Uffizi Gallery exhibition of his collection in 2013.  An accomplished musician himself, Baschenis executed the elaborate arrangement of instruments with meticulous exactitude.  An otherwise serene composition is enlivened by the horn and mandola precariously balanced on the cabinet, along with a curled sheet of music which seems to project in front of the table in the foreground.  Streak marks appear through the dust that has settled on the lute at lower left, an oblique allusion to human presence, which also suggests the passage of time. The fly on the sheet of music, a traditional symbol of the brevity of life, similarly alludes to the transience of human existence.

Eric Martin Wunsch was a New York collector with an assiduous appetite for art and antiques who was revered for his eclectic mix of treasures. He was an active and important member of a number of public institutions, such as the New York State Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, to which he donated many works. Examples of his 17th-century European paintings and drawings have been extensively exhibited in museums both in Europe and North America.  Old Master Paintings Part I will feature five Dutch Golden Age paintings from the Wunsch Collection and highlighting the group is A traveler at rest by Frans van Mieris I (Leiden 1635–1681) (illustrated right; estimate: $1,500,000–2,500,000). This captivating small-scale oil on copper depicts a red-haired bohemian traveler, a subject that is part of a long tradition in Netherlandish art which fascinated the artist. In 1857, this work was included in the groundbreaking Art Treasures exhibition in Manchester, a seminal event fundamental to transforming the study of art into an academic discipline in England.  For more information on the Old Master paintings included in the Estate of Eric Martin Wunsch, please click here to read the press release.  

Three works from The Collection of Tom and Ruth Jones will also figure prominently in the sale.  From spearheading innovations in aircraft technology and manufacturing to producing two of the most sought-after wines in the world, Tom Jones’s diverse life speaks to the passion he and his wife Ruth have shared for surrounding themselves with beauty in all forms.  Their extraordinary art collection, which includes a nucleus of exceptionally fine 17th-century Dutch pictures, reflects a keen eye and level of curatorial excellence developed over more than fifty years of following their creative passion.  From the Jones’s collection of exquisite Dutch paintings is Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde’s (Haarlem 1638-1698) The Grote Markt and Town Hall, Haarlem, seen from the East (illustrated left; estimate: $250,000-350,000), depicting Haarlem’s vital commercial, social, religious and civic center.  Berckheyde describes this complex and varied structure in fine, minute detail, the composition revealing Berckheyde’s great skill in depicting architecture in space.  This commanding painting reflects Haarlem’s long history of city pride, while skillfully adapting an iconic site to accommodate the taste and circumstances of the artist’s contemporaries.

The taste and connoisseurship exhibited by Dutch dealer-brothers Benjamin and Nathan Katz over the course of their distinguished careers place them among the most important dealers of the 20th-century. A recently restituted work from their collection is Portrait of a gentleman, half-length, in a cloak and bejeweled hat (illustrated right; estimate: $1,500,000–2,500,000).  This striking picture is a rare, early masterpiece by Rembrandt’s gifted and accomplished pupil Ferdinand Bol (Dordrecht 1610-1680 Amsterdam).  Created circa 1642, the present Portrait of a Gentleman is contemporaneous with Bol’s earliest signed and dated works.  Bol’s paintings from this early period reveal the most compelling similarities to Rembrandt’s work, and the present portrait - long attributed to the older master - is no exception.  Light falling from the left powerfully models the sitter’s features as it exposes subtle wrinkles around the eyes, individual bristles of facial hair, and gently closed lips. Where shadows fall on the sitter’s face, colors are carefully modulated to create a strong effect of three-dimensionality. The glistening beads in the figure’s high cap and the details of the brocaded cloak about his shoulders, fastened over his chest by a luminous golden clasp, also animate and lend a vivid naturalness to the image while the thoughtful, somewhat melancholy gaze of Bol’s handsome sitter adds a psychological dimension to the picture.

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