As always, the January Old Master Drawings sale will include a wide range of works on paper from all the European schools, dating from the 15th to the mid-19th century, but this year the emphasis is very much on the Italian Renaissance. The indisputable star of the sale is the recently rediscovered and immensely important full compositional study by Andrea Mantegna for his painting of The Triumph of Alexandria, the second canvas in the great series of nine paintings representing The Triumph of Caesar, now in the British Royal Collection at Hampton Court Palace. These paintings, on which Mantegna worked from the 1480s until his death in 1506, are his greatest artistic achievement, and one of the marvels of the entire renaissance, and this drawing – one of only two by Mantegna that remain in private hands – is the only known preparatory drawing by the artist for the project that defines his legacy.
The sale also includes another remarkable Italian Renaissance discovery, the moving and beautifully preserved drawing of The Madonna and Child by Mantegna’s slightly younger contemporary from Perugia, Bernardo Pinturicchio (1454-1513). From a century or so later, there is also a superb and moving oil-on-paper study of a young girl by Annibale Carracci, and a fine red chalk head study of a type so typical of the Carracci. There are also fine northern school drawings, most notably a volume of studies of knights on horseback executed around 1550 in the workshop of Hans Burgkmair, and a ravishingly beautiful and well preserved drawing by the late 16th-century Flemish master, Hans Bol.