What a ride! Cherubic children representing the months are tumbling left and right; the Hours are hanging onto anything they can as Apollo, the sun god, travels through the sky; and though obscured by the intense light, the very central yet properly mysterious god leaves no doubt as to who’s in charge. In this phenomenally dynamic di sotto in sù composition, meaning ‘seen from below,’ Rubens is at his Baroque best. Bursting with movement, colour, vibrancy and sensuality, this oil sketch – a playful, 17th-century interpretation of a ceiling fresco by an earlier master, Francesco Primaticcio – radiates light, exuberance and freshness. That it hasn’t been seen in public since 1823 and has remained in the Neuerburg family since its 1930 purchase only adds to its irresistible charm. –Christine Schwartz Hartley
Sir Peter Paul Rubens, The Chariot of Apollo (detail). Estimate £1,000,000–1,500,000.
Old Masters Evening
6 July | London