NEW YORK – Today Sotheby's announces additional highlights from the historic sales series devoted to the remarkable collection of the late A. Alfred Taubman – legendary collector, philanthropist and businessman – as well as the first public opportunities to view works from the collection.
Christopher Apostle, Head of Sotheby’s Old Masters Department in New York, said: “Mr. Taubman had a very instinctual response to paintings, and a native intelligence about what makes a museum-quality Old Master work. He was an unconventional collector in that he did not follow market trends, instead responding to the images and artists that moved him. The result is an extensive collection that ranges from one of the strongest groups of Italian Baroque material in private hands, to a classic 18th century portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, to rare pieces by Raphael and Dürer – two of the most iconic names in the history of art. Mr. Taubman began collecting Old Master works in the early 1980s and continued acquiring examples throughout the later decades of his life, demonstrating his unwavering passion for this material.”
RAFFAELLO SANZIO, CALLED RAPHAEL, PORTRAIT OF VALERIO BELLI, BUST LENGTH, FACING LEFT, 1517.
Measuring just 4¾ inches in diameter, Portrait of Valerio Belli, facing Left represents one of the last paintings by Raphael remaining in private hands. The intimate portrait – unique in the artist’s oeuvre as the only known profile bust representation – depicts Raphael’s friend Valerio Belli, one of the leading metalists and gem engravers of the day in Rome. The notable provenance of the work includes more than a century descended through Belli’s family, and more than five decades owned by and descended from Sir Kenneth Clark – the celebrated collector, art historian and presenter of the BBC series Civilisation – before being acquired by Mr. Taubman in 1987.
THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH R.A., THE BLUE PAGE, CIRCA 1770. ESTIMATE: $3,000,000–4,000,000.
Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Page, which demonstrates the artist’s ravishing, brilliant brushwork, stands as a prime example of the artist at his most ambitious and experimental. The work has long been connected to the artist’s famous painting The Blue Boy that is now in The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California; in fact, recent research identifies the sitter in both pictures as Gainsborough Dupont – Gainsborough’s nephew – and dates the Taubman picture after The Blue Boy. This establishes it as a work in its own right, likely a private, un-commissioned piece, where the artist could investigate freely with color, movement and spontaneity.
VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE, THE CROWNING WITH THORNS, CIRCA 1615. ESTIMATE:
Mr. Taubman’s spectacular collection of Baroque pictures is led by The Crowning with Thorns, a masterpiece of Baroque naturalism that is among the first known works painted by Valentin de Boulogne, Caravaggio’s most accomplished French follower and arguably his greatest acolyte. Painted in Rome in 1615 or shortly thereafter, the impressive painting – measuring nearly 5 feet tall – shows to what extent and how quickly the Frenchman had absorbed Caravaggio’s radical and redefining innovations.