This summer’s sale of Old Masters in London includes an exceptional array of paintings from the Italian Renaissance, through the Baroque and the Dutch Golden Age, to the early Nineteenth Century. Highlights include a major work by the sixteenth-century Spanish master Luis de Morales; a fine group of elegant eighteenth-century Italian vedute; an exceptional collection of paintings by William Etty R.A., including one of the artist’s most celebrated masterpieces; and two important views of Seville by David Roberts.
The works on paper include an extremely rare and early drawing by the Flemish artist, Hieronymus Cock, executed in the 1550s (the study for one of the earliest widely circulated prints of the Colosseum), and two outstanding drawings by Italian artists of the Mannerist period: an engaging double-sided sheet of figure studies by Polidoro da Caravaggio and a study for the Virgin in the fresco of The Assumption of the Virgin, painted circa 1550 by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta, in the Fugger Chapel of Santa Maria dell’Anima, Rome. There is also a group of ten spirited pen and ink landscapes, once part of a larger album, each drawing still laid down to the original album page, by the Venetian artist, Marco Ricci and a number of great British works on paper led by the wonderful watercolour of Gledhow Hall, Yorkshire, by Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A.
- The Hague
- Stonehenge, Wiltshire
The Dutch Golden Age
The Dutch Golden Age is so-called as one of the most prolific periods of art history. The establishment of the open art market in prosperous 17th-century Holland meant that for the very first time it became possible for the wider public to buy and collect paintings. Artists responded to this demand with a greater diversity of subjects than ever before, satisfying the tastes of a broader Dutch society, which extended beyond the traditional patronage of the church, the court and the elite. This sale includes a number of high-quality 17th-century Dutch paintings, which clearly reflect contemporary predilections for the acute observation of recognisable places and scenes, a delight in interpretation and moralistic messages and, of course, a pervasive interest in the weather.
Discover the techniques of an Old Master using infrared reflectography
Infrared reflectography (IRR) is a non-invasive method of studying a painting which allows us to see through the paint layers so as to examine any underdrawing and pentimenti (changes made by the artist during creation) – giving us great insight into the very first stages of the artistic process.
The IRR for this painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop reveals bold and vigorous drawing and pentimenti which show that the composition continued to develop throughout the design process. It also helps us understand how Cranach and his workshop operated in circa 1518-20 when this painting was executed, with the master developing the composition and then a workshop assistant likely executing much of the paintwork. By this stage Cranach was a renowned and highly sought after master – he had a large workshop to help him meet this demand, and developed a highly efficient system of delegation while maintaining a high standard of quality with workshop participation, as here.
This detail shows a variety of fine and thick marks, indicating different brush sizes applied in an expressive, calligraphic manner.
This details shows freehand, liquid underdrawing – the tapered marks indicate the use of a pointed brush, and vary in form from very broad lines to very narrow also suggesting the use of different brush sizes.
The marks on Saint Christopher’s face are still liquid and freehand but much finer and more closely followed in the paint (apart from the nose which is straightened, lengthened a little and slightly shifted to the right) – perhaps suggesting a preparatory drawing was employed.
- The Nymph
The nymph is drawn with more contrapposto, with a tilted head, and more exaggerated breasts – indicating a considerable degree of freedom and spontaneity on the party of the artist and the design process.
- The Christ Child
The Christ Child, whose right hand is painted raised in blessing, was originally conceived with his hand outstretched, and his smaller head encircled with a different halo design.
This details shows bold drawing marks that do not conform to the paint – the drawn fish appears to have had a fiercer expression and a curved dorsal fin.
- The Nymph
The nymph is drawn with more contrapposto, with a tilted head, and more exaggerated breasts – indicating a considerable degree of freedom and spontaneity on the part of the artist and the design process.
This detail shows freehand, liquid underdrawing – the tapered marks indicate the use of a pointed brush, and vary in form from very broad lines to very narrow also suggesting the use of different brush sizes.
This detail shows bold drawing marks that do not conform to the paint – the drawn fish appears to have had a fiercer expression and a curved dorsal fin.