Old Master Paintings and Portrait Miniatures
Online Auction: 23–28 April 2021 • 2:00 PM BST • London

Old Master Paintings and Portrait Miniatures 23–28 April 2021 • 2:00 PM BST • London

S otheby's Old Master Paintings and Portrait Miniatures sale offers high-quality and varied works from all the major schools of Western European art, with a wide range of estimates providing both established and new Old Master buyers with a chance to expand their collections.

Among many highlights in this auction are: the 16th-century Finding of Moses by Benedetto Caliari, Paolo Veronese’s younger brother and collaborator; another large Venetian canvas, painted a century later by Pietro Liberi, depicting Diana and Callisto; a Portrait of a lady by Nicolas Neufchatel, who perpetuated the rich tradition of Nuremberg portraiture established by Albrecht Dürer; and beautiful views of The Grand Canal, from a pair by the Master of the Langmatt Foundation Views, to an atmospheric plein-air oil sketch by David Roberts, R.A.

The sale also includes 99 portrait miniatures (lots 459-557), which range from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and comprise rare examples by many of the masters of the field. We are delighted to offer nearly sixty works from an important British private collection, as well as a group of largely European miniatures from the celebrated collection of the late Dr Erika Pohl- Ströher.

A 19th-century bronze sculpture by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse is also offered in this sale.


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Exhibition Times

Saturday 24 April12:00 PM - 5:00 PM BST
Sunday 25 April12:00 PM - 5:00 PM BST
Monday 26 April10:00 AM - 5:00 PM BST
Tuesday 27 April10:00 AM - 5:00 PM BST
Wednesday 28 April10:00 AM - 5:00 PM BST
Artistic Inspiration

Artists have always sought inspiration from painters of the past, as well as their contemporaries. This sale includes works based directly on prototypes, along with a number of works that are clearly influenced by another’s style, composition, or choice of subject matter.

Pietro Liberi’s Diana and Callisto translates the language of Titian’s famous rendition, which Liberi saw in Vienna, into the vocabulary of Venice a whole century later; a sketch produced in the workshop of Rubens pays homage not only to the figure in the finished altarpiece by the master and his most famous pupil, Van Dyck, but also to the manner in which those two artists executed studies; a follower of the Roman painter Pier Francesco Mola has borrowed his favoured subject and pose of the poet Homer, though the handling of paint is different; another Roman artist reinterprets Judith beheading Holofernes with a distinct nod to the drama of Caravaggio and his circle; a small panel left the productive workshop of David Teniers the Younger with his signature and all the characteristic motifs of his tavern interior scenes; and a delicate, devotional 17th-century copper was clearly inspired by the feathery brushwork of Carlo Francesco Nuvolone.

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Time Capsules of Past Times: A History of the Portrait Miniature
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A History of British Portraiture

Portraiture has played an important role in Britain since the Renaissance, when portraits by artists such as Robert Peake and Nicholas Hilliard declaimed the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty. Britain not only produced portraitists, but also attracted them from abroad, such as Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who became the leading court painter to Charles I in England following his success in Antwerp and Italy. The Dutch-born Sir Peter Lely also came to work in Britain, becoming Charles II’s principal painter.

During the Georgian era portraitists worked primarily in London where they catered to a flourishing market and exhibited at the Royal Academy, which was founded in 1768 by a group of artists including Nathanial Hone. Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first president of the Academy and the principal painter to George III, teaching and inspiring a generation of artists including John Hoppner. George IV’s early 19th-century elite society was captured by child prodigy and fourth president of the Royal Academy, Thomas Lawrence, who was rivalled by the likes of Hoppner and Thomas Phillips. As the British Empire flourished, artists travelled great lengths to capture British society on distant shores. In 1802 George Chinnery travelled to India where he remained for over 20 years, followed by a move to Macao in 1825 where he painted portraits of both Western and Chinese merchants.

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Man’s Best Friend: Animals in Art

The popularity of animals as a source of inspiration to artists for centuries has always been matched by the enthusiasm of those who may have commissioned their depiction, as well as collectors.

This selection of works shows how animals were used in a variety of ways. Their relation to man is displayed in paintings from the early 17th-century Saint Jerome in his study with the lion, to Stephen Slaughter’s 18th-century Portrait of a boy with his faithful canine companion, to the hound beside the Hunters in a version of a painting by Piazzetta, or Hoppner’s Portrait of Thomas Norton with his trusted steed.

Animals could be used symbolically – as in the variant of Lely’s quasi-religious Portrait of Isabella Stuart with a lamb – and moralistically – as in James Ward’s ‘The Obstinate Donkey’, sentimentalising an imagined vignette of contemporary, rural life. But artists also portrayed animals for their own sake, exploring their forms through studies, and picturing them in their natural habitat.

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