For specialist Jay Vincze, our Head of Private Sales in London, the story behind Auguste Rodin’s iconic Baiser (The Kiss) may be more poignant now than ever.
The work captures the only embrace of ill-fated lovers Francesca and her brother-in-law Paolo, as described in Dante’s Inferno. The pair longed for each other, but their love was one they could not act upon — an experience, notes Vincze, which many lovers and families might relate to in our months of lockdown and social distancing.
This early cast of Baiser has a beautifully preserved, rich brown patina, observes Vincze. It was made by the celebrated Barbedienne foundry in Paris, which produced many of Rodin’s sculptures during the artist’s lifetime. Barbedienne pieces have a reputation for their intricacy and excellent patination, says Vincze, making them particularly sought-after by Rodin collectors.
‘If you imagine the wondrous beauty of a flower captured at the peak of its perfection by one of the greatest botanical artists of all time — you will see Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s Les Liliacées,’ says Margaret Ford, our International Head of Books.
Spanning eight volumes, Les Liliacées is Redouté’s largest and most ambitious collection of botanical illustrations, ranging from lilies and irises to orchids, bananas and pineapples. ‘Turning its pages is like being transported to an eternal garden bathed in sunshine — the best experience of virtual reality,’ says Ford.
Redouté created the series under the patronage of Empress Joséphine Bonaparte, and this particular first-edition copy comes from the library of the artist’s other great patron, the Duchesse de Berry.
A set of four Imperial giltwood pliants for the reception of Emperor Napoleon I, 1805
During his reign as Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1815, Napoleon championed a new style of art and design, rich in Classical Roman motifs and military symbolism.
This set of four giltwood pliants, or formal folding stools, was commissioned for Napoleon’s coronation in December 1804. Their X-shaped joints are inspired by the ‘curule’ campstools favoured by Roman commanders on expeditions, while their legs are carved into the shape of a curved sword, much like the one Napoleon carried in Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801) by Jacques-Louis David.
‘After the coronation, the pliants were held at Château de Saint-Cloud, the palatial home of the Napoleon dynasty for the next 70 years,’ explains Amjad Rauf, a specialist in European Furniture at Christie’s London. ‘Their classically inspired design, quality and connection to a landmark historical moment make them an extraordinary set of Napoleonic artefacts.’
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It is rare to come across a landscape painting by the renowned Victorian painter George Frederic Watts, says specialist James Hastie, Head of European & British Art in London. Watts painted landscapes for almost 60 years — works that were highly regarded during his lifetime — but today he is better known as a portraitist, a Symbolist genre painter and the creator of Barack Obama’s favourite painting, the allegorical Hope (1886).
For Hastie, however, Watts’ Loch Ness is every bit as much a masterpiece. Painted by the body of water during the artist’s only trip to Scotland in 1899, ‘the work plays on Watts’ strengths of light and colour, but you also get the sense he experiments with ideas of vastness, mystery and beauty,’ Hastie explains.
‘Not only does this painting share similarities with the work of Watts’ contemporaries such as J.M.W. Turner and James McNeill Whistler, but it also foreshadows abstraction. It’s a true sensory experience.’