PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.
BRITISH
THE COLLECTOR OF PICTURES AT THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS
Estimate
300,000500,000
LOT SOLD. 557,000 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
JUMP TO LOT

PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.
BRITISH
THE COLLECTOR OF PICTURES AT THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS
Estimate
300,000500,000
LOT SOLD. 557,000 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

19th Century European Art

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New York

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.
1836 - 1912
BRITISH
THE COLLECTOR OF PICTURES AT THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS
signed L. Alma-Tadema and dated 1867 (lower right)
oil on panel
28 by 18 1/4 in.
71 by 46.4 cm
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Provenance

Ernest Gambart (commissioned from the artist in 1867)
George Rennie (acquired from the above and sold, Christie's, June 4, 1870, lot 153)
Thomas Agnew and Sons, London (acquired from the above)
I. C. Haner (acquired from the above, 1870)
J. M. McLean, London (acquired from the above, 1871)
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London (acquired from the above, 1871)
A. G. Kurtz (acquired from the above)
J. C. Larter, Leamington (and sold, Christie's, April 26, 1890, lot 51)
W. K. D'Arcy (acquired from the above)
Stephen Samuel Martin (and sold, Sotheby's, July 31, 1963, lot 94)
Charles Jerdein, London (acquired from the above)
Allen Funt, New York (acquired from the above and sold, Sotheby's, Belgravia, November 6, 1973, lot 9, illustrated)
H. E. Finsness, London (acquired from the above)
Thence by descent

Exhibited

London, The Royal Academy, Works by the late Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Winter Exhibition, 1913, no. 7
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Victorians in Togas: Paintings by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema from the Collection of Allen Funt, March 9 - April 29, 1973, no. 9

Literature

Uber Land Und Meer, 1872
Carel Vosmaer, Alma-Tadema Catalogue Raisonné, circa 1885, no. 60
Georg Moritz Ebers, Lorenz Alma-Tadema, his life and works, trans. Mary J Safford, New York, 1886, p. 70
John Belcher, "The Royal Gold Medal, 1906 Presentation to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema," Journal of Riba, London, vol. III, June 30, 1906, p. 444
Christopher Forbes, Victorians in togas: paintings by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema in the collection of Allen Funt, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1973, p. 15, illustrated
Gazette des Beaux-Arts, January, 1979, p. 34
Rudolf Dircks, "The Later Works of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.," The Art Journal, Christmas Issue, 1910, p. 27
Vern G. Swanson, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, the painter of the Victorian vision of the ancient world, London, 1977, p. 136
Vern G. Swanson, The Biography and Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, London, 1990, p. 144, no. 90, illustrated p. 310
R.J. Barrow, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, London, 2001, pp. 37-9, illustrated, p. 38, pl. 32

Catalogue Note

Alma-Tadema originally conceived of The Collector of Pictures at the Time of Augustus as half of a pair, it’s mate being A Sculpture Gallery in Rome at the Time of Augustus (1867, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). These two works represented Alma-Tadema’s first excursion into the Ancient art world, and his vision was informed by the writings of Pliny the Elder (Swanson, 1990, p. 144). Himself a collector, Alma-Tadema produced numerous works on this theme throughout his career, including The Roman Art Lover (1870, Milwaukee Museum of Art), The Sculpture Gallery (1874, The Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire), and The Picture Gallery (1874, Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Burnley), which is the present work’s closest variation and includes many of the same Pompeian paintings referenced here.

Alma-Tadema first visited Pompeii in 1863 during an exciting time of excavations that were widely publicized and known to Victorian audiences. He produced countless sketches and photographs as source material for his pictorial elaborations and while this Pompeian interior is almost certainly embellished, Alma-Tadema’s artistic license is balanced by his comprehensive attention to detail.  In The Collector of Pictures at the Time of Augustus, art-loving patrons are seen in a dealer’s shop admiring an unseen work displayed on an easel. The inscription on its reverse, facing the viewer, connects the painting to Apelles, who is recognized as one of the most celebrated artists of the ancient world but whose works survive only through the descriptive writings of ancient authors. The paintings hanging on the back wall are more easily identifiable and based on Pompeian wall paintings and mosaics, themselves based on Greek originals.  Emerging from the extreme left edge is the Battle of Issus, identified by the detail of spears meeting in the upper right corner and based on a Pompeian mosaic. Above the arched door is an architectural scene typical of Pompeian wall paintings, and to its right is a copy of Medea by the Greek painter Timomachus (Barrow, pp. 37-39). Central to the composition and in an elaborate frame is a variation on The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (Archaeological Museum, Naples, fig. 1).

While Alma-Tadema was extremely popular and had an enormously successful career during his lifetime, his works fell out of fashion after his death and were only re-appraised in the 1960s, and championed by a somewhat surprising connoisseur and collector, Allen Funt, the creator of the prank television show, Candid Camera. Funt acquired many of Alma Tadema’s best works, including the present lot, which were brought together for a landmark show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1973 where works like The Collector of Pictures at the Time of Augustus found a new and appreciative audience.

19th Century European Art

|
New York