Our 29 January auction brought over $4 million. Highlighting the sale was a magnificent and well preserved drawing by Giandomenico Tiepolo, Incontro al molo: a 'codega' showing the way to a noble couple on a molo, which brough $725,000, setting a new auction record for a work on paper by the artist. A second drawing by Tiepolo, Punchinello collapses on the road, which illustrates a scene from the of life Punchinello, sold above estimate for $695,000.
Presenting a rich survey of some three and a half centuries of European drawings, the sale is particularly strong in works from the Italian and Netherlandish schools. The stars are led by two very different, yet equally magical, images by Giandomenico Tiepolo, who captures the spirit of 18th-century Venetian life like no other artist. One shows a possibly covert romantic excursion, the other a chaotic scene from popular theatre; both are drawn with unparalleled flair and wit.
From a lovely small private collection, put together with great care, come several fine Italian drawings, including an immensely rare red and black chalk portrait of the playwright Ottaviano Castelli, drawn in the 1640s by the great Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Also from this collection is an important design by Giulio Romano for one of his celebrated stucco reliefs in Palazzo Te, Mantua. Another great rarity, and a work of immense power, is the oil on paper portrait sketch by the 16th-century Sienese master, Domenico Beccafumi.
Highlights from the northern schools include Hans Bol’s finely drawn design for a print depicting the story of Judith and Thamar in a landscape, with the central image surrounded by a highly unusual decorative border of animals and flowers, reminiscent of medieval manuscript illuminations. Similar in date, if not in style, is a previously unknown modello depicting The Last Judgement by the rare Antwerp artist Jacob de Backer. This dynamic work is a preliminary study for Backer’s most famous painting, the central panel of the great memorial triptych painted in honour of the notable Antwerp patron Christoffel Plantin around 1589, still today in situ in Antwerp Cathedral.
From a very different artistic milieu comes the beautiful pastel portrait by the Swiss master Jean-Etienne Liotard, depicting the rather dashing English gentleman Edward Tucker. Other very good 18th-century drawings in the sale include excellent watercolours by Samuel Palmer and J.M.W. Turner, a typical example of Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s romantic yet moralising imagery, and an outstanding gouache of a Venetian view by Giuseppe Bernardino Bison. The 17th century, in both Holland and Italy, is also well represented in this particularly diverse sale.