Lot 111
  • 111


40,000 - 60,000 USD
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  • Poppaea Sabina 
  • oil on panel
  • 22 3/4  by 18 3/4  in.; 57.8 by 47.6 cm.


Arthur and Margaret Glasgow;
By whom given to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work has an original join running vertically through the shoulder on the left. There may be another original join running though the right background vertically into the left forearm. There are cracks in the panel in the top edge and in the center of the bottom edge. The painting is clearly very dirty, and there are only a few isolated spots of retouching visible under ultraviolet light. However, there are presumably retouches beneath the yellowed varnish. Some retouches are visible to the naked eye in the forehead, and it is likely that there are further retouches in the dark background. The figure does seem to be in very respectable condition, but cleaning would reveal restorations that would need to be replaced.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This painting follows the composition of Sabina Poppaea painted by an unknown artist of the Fontainebleau School, circa 1550-70, now in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva.

Sabina Poppea was a frequently depicted subject in 16th century French art.  According to Tacitus (Annales XIII), Nero’s spouse, the Empress Poppea, aroused curiosity during public processions by wrapping herself in a veil in feigned modesty. The nudity and mischievous symbolism evoked through her gauze wrap, which was customarily worn by courtesans in Nero’s time rather than empresses, directly relate to the Fontainebleau school’s coquettish themes such as “Dame à sa toilette” and “Dame au bain.” Although initially drawn from mythology these subjects became ruses for the depiction of the female nude and often served as commissioned "portraits" of known court ladies.

Indeed, the identification of the sitter in the portrait has provoked much discussion.  The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva considers their prime version as most likely an idealized portrait of Diane de Poitiers depicted as a Roman courtesan.  If so, it would be hard to ignore the political commentary the painting was making about Henri II, whose principal mistress Diane had become. 1. See L'Ecole de Fontainebleau, Paris 1972, pp. 213-4, cat. no. 241, reproduced p. 216.