NEW YORK – Due to battles, reformations, burials, lootings and pests, few textiles from past centuries have survived. The clothing preserved through painting, therefore, plays a vital role in understanding historic garments. “Textiles and paintings are a perfect pairing, as one brings the other to life,” says Jill Lasersohn, a New York textile collector who is lending her sartorial archive and expertise to Sotheby’s Masters Week. After more than 25 years, Lasersohn has acquired nearly 3,000 items spanning the 15th to 19th centuries. “Costume in art is usually a second thought,” adds Lasersohn. “But when you look at Old Masters, the majority of the canvas is often consumed by fabric and very little flesh.” In collaboration with Sotheby’s Master Paintings specialist and Costumist Jonquil O’Reilly, Lasersohn paired rare needlework, lace, accessories and more from her collection with selected works from Sotheby's upcoming Master Paintings sale. These pairings will be on view in our presale exhibition opening 20 January. Click ahead to see the works and textiles with descriptions by O’Reilly, and visit our New York galleries on 22 January for a conversation between Lasersohn and O’Reilly about their collaboration. LAUNCH SLIDESHOW
An effortless blend of the artist’s training with Rembrandt in Amsterdam and the enchanting style of Titian, Willem Drost's 'Flora' is a unique highlight of Sotheby’s upcoming Master Paintings & Sculpture Evening sale. Ahead of the auction on 25 January, watch the video to discover the fascinating inspiration for Drost’s depiction of the goddess of flowers.
Grand architecture, watery cityscapes and gondolas: Michele Marieschi's view of the Cannaregio depicts quintessential parts of Venice that have long inspired artists. However, upon closer inspection, Marieschi’s painting, to be offered in Sotheby's Master Paintings & Sculpture Evening sale on 25 January, showcases Venice off the beaten path. Watch the video to discover more about this distinct and dramatic portrayal of one of Italy’s most regal cities.
Passignano’s painting of men bathing is a picture of tantalizing paradoxes: it can be associated with a tradition of bath house and bathing pictures going back to antiquity while at the same time being totally unique. It anticipated, by nearly three hundred years, Thomas Eakins’ Swimming Picture, revealing both the erotic tensions and the underlying classicism of Eakins’ modernity and the modernity of Passignano’s anecdotal classicism. Painted with Passignano’s renowned rapidity and bravura, beautiful in its surface qualities, the picture combines close observation of reality with an idealizing vision of friendship and possibly love. Proudly signed and dated 1600 in the center foreground, it is exceptional among Passignano’s works, which consisted largely of a conventional blend of religious and historical subjects and portraiture. Nothing is known of its origins, although in his seventeeth-century book of biographical notices on artists Filippo Baldinucci mentions a painting belonging to the Marchese Filippo Niccolini in Florence with a number of women bathing in the Arno that has tentatively been associated with the Bathers at San Niccolò. Wrong gender, but close in subject and site; unless Filippo was very nearsighted or only had a glimpse of a painting vaguely recalled, it might have been a pendant, adding mystery to mystery. The painting’s scale – also remarkable for a genre scene that is hardly generic – proves that it was a significant commission and an important one for the original owner who must have been a Florentine with fond associations of summer days at San Niccolò, which is recognizably portrayed. DOMENICO CRESTI, CALLED PASSIGNANO, BATHERS AT SAN NICCOLÒ. ESTIMATE $700,000–900,000. Therapeutic baths and spas were popular retreats throughout Europe. They were recommended in medical tracts and were also places for political intrigue, playing games, and amorous amusements. Illustrations of thermal bathing can be found in fourteenth-century manuscripts and were published in prints from the mid-fifteenth century onwards, most famously in two woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer, one of a women’s bath and the other of a men’s, dated to around 1496. While both of Dürer’s images include one corpulent and aged figure (true to the fact that people of all ages and conditions took the waters), the others are all attractive physical specimens, suggesting the sensuous pleasures available in being naked and in seeing naked or nearly naked bodies. That titillating aspect is emphasized by the soliciting outward look of a young woman at the center of the woman’s bath and the suggestive placement of a phallic spigot with a cockerel tap in front of the crotch of a mature man who leans on the water pump in the men’s bath. That print, with its abundant sexual cues, has been interpreted as both homosocial and homosexual. The bathers at San Niccolò get in and of the water, diving, splashing about, playing water games, resolutely chugging ahead, and lounging on the riverbank. A building in the left middleground seems to be a formal bath house with towels hanging from the windows, a small pool, and visitors on the stairs. But the scene is dominated by casual swimmers. San Niccolò was a spot for such sport, which was one that was linked to homosexual encounters as well as healthy relaxation in the Renaissance. Love between men is given prominence in the foreground couple where a young man standing in the river is locked in ardent gaze with his partner seated on discarded (and very fine) clothes on the bank. Their hands nearly touch. The sitting man points upwards, perhaps to where they might go. Eros had an established place in bath-based iconography, but the epic precedent for a bathing scene was a cartoon by Michelangelo depicting an episode from a war between Pisa and Florence. Made for a fresco for the Council Hall of Florence between 1504 and 1508, it showed soldiers who had been cooling themselves in the river suddenly called to battle. Famous and influential even after its destruction, the cartoon was widely copied and imitated. What singles out Passignano’s painting is that it gives Michelangesque grandeur to the mundane while lacking any reference to what had become an obvious source for groups of nude men near water but for the fact of courting admiration for their bodies. Pat Rubin, Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director; Professor of Fine Arts, The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Mysterious, seductive and theatrical, Orazio Gentileschi’s Head of a Woman hails from the legendary collection of King Charles I of England. As this elegant work heads to auction in Sotheby's Master Paintings & Sculpture Evening sale on 25 January, now is the chance to acquire a painting from the peak of Gentileschi’s career with exceptional royal provenance. Ahead of the auction, watch the video to learn how the Italian artist captured the subject’s ethereal and psychologically penetrating gaze.
In our first collaborative exhibition, Sotheby’s Old Masters Department and Paul Kasmin Gallery present Naturalia, a show, curated by Danny Moynihan, examining natural science in art. Pairing 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century works with those by contemporary artists, the exhibition features Walton Ford, who spoke to Sotheby’s about being inspired by Albrecht Dürer and Renaissance style. Watch the video to discover more about Naturalia and be sure to stop by Paul Kasmin Gallery from 19 January–4 March to see this thrilling show in person.
Whether religious or secular, the Spanish art of The Golden Age, or Siglo de Oro, reflected a new eye on the world with its singular styles and vivid visions. Sotheby's Master Paintings & Sculpture Evening sale on 25 January will feature several artists, such as Francisco de Zurbarán and Diego Velázquez, who flourished during this monumental period. Watch the video to discover more about The Golden Age through some of its most influential artists.
New York creative duo Molly Young and Teddy Blanks set about creating their own emoji sticker pack when they felt what was already on offer didn't allow a satisfactory range of emotions, and that subtleties were often lost in digital translation. As passionate art collectors as well as artists, they took inspiration from the Dutch Masters and developed a set of emojis that present contemporary interpretations of the work of artists such as Frans Hals and Lucas Cranach the Elder. We caught up with Molly ahead of the Old Masters Evening Sale and Day Sale at Sotheby's, London on the 7 and 8 December to discuss facial expressions, the thrill of buying at auction and drawing inspiration from historical works of art.
Master Paintings & Sculpture Evening Sale
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