The Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale is led by Canaletto’s breathtaking pair of views depicting two of Venice’s most familiar landmarks, St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. Painted in 1738-1739 they belong to the finest moment in Canaletto’s career and indeed of Venetian view painting as a whole. The precision of Canaletto’s views is complemented by an highly animated and richly coloured view of St. Mark’s by his great rival Michele Marieschi. The auction additionally features a typically ebullient portrait by Frans Hals and a sublime frozen river landscape by one of the greatest practitioners of Dutch landscape painting, Aert van der Neer.
A particularly strong group of British paintings is highlighted by two extraordinary large-scale group portraits, of Mary May and her daughters, and Joseph May and their sons, by Angelica Kauffmann. A re-discovered jewel-like portrayal of Lucretia by Lucas Cranach the Elder and two remarkably powerful works by his son Lucas Cranach the Younger, a Crucifixion and a Virgin and Child, complete a sale rich in works from the 15th through to the 19th century. The sale will also feature three Victorian masterpieces from the Leverhulme Collection, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s iconic Christmas Carol.
With global participation from 22 countries, London’s December Old Master & British Paintings Evening sale achieved a total of £33,515,500.
The sale got off to a flying start when a Pietà by an unknown artist (a follower of Rogier van der Weyden) sold for £962,500 – nearly five times the low estimate. The top lot of the evening was a pair of supreme view paintings by Canaletto which achieved £9,602,500.
Russian underbidding helped drive Sir Peter Paul Rubens’ intriguing Portrait of a Gentleman, halflength, wearing black to £3,218,500. A new auction record was established for Dante Gabriel Rossetti when his A Christmas Carol from the Leverhulme Collection sold for £4,562,500.
Other highlights from the sale included Frans Hals’s ebullient Portrait of a Gentleman, which sold for £2,994,500, and a sublime frozen river landscape by Aert van der Neer that achieved £2,658,500.
Five artist records were set this evening for Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio, Joost Cornelisz, Droochsloot, Bernardo Polo and Simone del Tintore.