Christie’s Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale in London on Thursday 9 July will offer an exceptional selection of pictures from private collections, with emphasis on rarity, importance and provenance.
This auction, together with the Day Sale on 10 July and the Old Master & British Drawings & Watercolours sale on 7 July, are part of London Art Week 2015 (3 to 10 July), which highlights the riches and unparalleled expertise available within the galleries and auction houses of Mayfair and St. James’s.
Celebrating the contemporary art of the past, the wealth of classical works at Christie’s from 7 to 10 July represent excellence and technical brilliance. They will be offered across the sales of Old Master & British Paintings, Drawings & Watercolours, The Exceptional Sale, the Taste of the Royal Court: Important French Furniture and Works of Art from a Private Collection sale, and The Collection of a Distinguished Swiss Gentleman. Below, selected highlights from the Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale on 9 July.
Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721-1780 Warsaw), Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe above the Augustus Bridge. Oil on canvas. 37 5/8 x 65 1/8 in. (95.6 x 165.4 cm.) Estimate: £8,000,000-12,000,000
An artist of precocious talent, Bernardo Bellotto emerged from the shadow of his uncle, Canaletto, to become one of the most skilful view painters of his time. His renditions of Dresden, Vienna, Munich and Warsaw were the defining records of four of the major capitals of northern Europe in the mid-18th century and have a distinguished place in the development of European topographical painting.
Bellotto’s early renown led to him being called to Dresden in 1747 to work for Friedrich-August II, Elector of Saxony, where he undertook a series of views of the city during the height of its powers, in the mid-eighteenth century.
This picture, one of the most remarkable views by the artist to appear on the market in recent times, is a variant of the very first view of Dresden that Bellotto executed for the Elector. It acted as a great showcase for his talent, exemplifying a method based on the highest levels of exactitude and topographical accuracy.
The painting depicts some of the greatest civic and religious buildings that made up the so-called Brühlsche Terrasse that ran along the Elbe at the time, with the domed Frauenkirche rising up to the left, next to the Brühl Library and the Fürstenburg Palace. The promenade was devastated during the Second World War, but has largely been rebuilt. Painted in circa 1751-53, this view of Dresden is distinguished from Bellotto’s two earlier pictures of the same subject in its atmospheric tone, cooler palette and the wonderful reflections in the river.
Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (Sudbury, Suffolk 1727-1788 London), Portrait of Sir Richard Brooke, 5th Bt. (1753-1795). Oil on canvas. 49 5/8 x 40½ in. (126 x 102 cm.) Estimate: $2,000,000-$3,000,000
Only seen in public on one previous occasion, when it was exhibited in 1876, the Portrait of Sir Richard Brooke, 5th Bt. (1753-1795) by Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (1727-1788) has descended through the family of the sitter to the present owner. The picture will be included in Hugh Belsey’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Gainsborough’s portraits, having never previously been published in any of the monographs written on the artist.
Sir Richard is understood to have commissioned the work shortly after he inherited the title and family estates in Cheshire from his father in July 1781. Refined and elegant, the portrait is a superb example of Gainsborough’s bravura draughtsmanship, and presents Sir Richard as the epitome of the sophisticated country gentleman.
Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793), The Grand Canal, Venice, with San Simeone Piccolo. Oil on canvas. 25 ¾ x 31 3/8 in. (65.3 x 79.5 cm.) Estimate: £1,000,000-1,500,000
Previously unrecorded, The Grand Canal, Venice, with San Simeone Piccolo by Francesco Guardi is an important discovery, exemplifying the captivating, atmospheric qualities for which the artist is most renowned. It has been in the possession of the present European family for more than a century and is signed prominently on the left. Datable to the 1770s, the picture is a work of Guardi’s full maturity, when his mastery of vedute painting in Venice was unrivalled.
The view is taken from a bustling stretch of the Grand Canal, near to the church of the Scalzi, then the main route into the city from the mainland. Though the present-day scene is somewhat changed, the vibrancy of Guardi’s view is immediately recognisable. He renders the tranquil, shimmering beauty of the city with an incomparable touch, a superb addition to the oeuvre of one of the greatest of view painters.
Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp), The Kermesse of Saint George. Oil on oak panel. 28 3/8 x 40 5/8 in. (72.1 x 103.2 cm.) Estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000
The sale presents an exceptional selection of four major works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. The Kermesse of Saint George is one of his rarest and most original inventions, entirely independent from any of his father’s works and more accomplished than any of his other original compositions.
Including this picture, only four securely autograph versions are known. Georges Marlier, the pioneering Breughel scholar, dated the picture to before 1626-28. He praised it for brilliantly affirming the younger Brueghel’s personality, calling it ‘one hundred percent “Breughelian”, not only for the dramatic rhythms that pervade it, but also in the stylisation of the figures and in the colour harmonies.’
The other works by Peter Brueghel the Younger are The Birdtrap (Estimate £2,000,0000-3,000,000), a superbly preserved example, painted on a single panel, of what is arguably the Brueghel dynasty’s most iconic invention, and one of the most enduringly popular images in Western art; The Wedding Feast, (Estimate: £1,500,000-2,500,000), not only one of the most iconic images in the Brueghel canon but one of the most famous banquet scenes in the history of Western art by virtue of the prototype, the masterpiece by Pieter Bruegel the Elder now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; and The Outdoor Wedding Dance, dated 1621, (Estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000), which comes from the Cunningham Collection
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