Old Masters Day Auction, Including Portrait Miniatures
Online Auction: 2–8 December 2022 • 2:00 PM GMT • London

Old Masters Day Sale, including portrait miniatures 2–8 December 2022 • 2:00 PM GMT • London

I n this December’s sale of Old Master Paintings in London we are delighted to present a rich and wide variety of paintings, from Flemish landscapes, Italian religious paintings, preparatory oil sketches from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Italian views and classical landscapes, to British portraits and works by female artists, including Elena Recco, Anna Ruysch and Antoinette Haudebourt-Lescot. The December Day Sale also includes several newly rediscovered works by various hands and a selection of portrait miniatures from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Auction Highlights

Women Artists

This December's Day Sale contains a selection of works by female artists, many of which have only recently been reattributed. The growing interest in the work of female artists is rightly leading to the re-evaluation of the careers and artistic output of these figures, many of whom were widely celebrated during their own lifetimes but have since fallen into obscurity.

Particularly well represented in the group are still lifes, a genre that many women artists from the seventeenth century onwards approached with great enthusiasm. Elena Recco’s two large-scale canvases A pair of still lifes of fish are important additions to her growing œuvre. This pair, from a private Irish collection, exemplifies her skill in rendering light and texture in a highly painterly manner. On a more modest scale, yet filled with intricate details, are Still life of flowers and Still life of fruit by Anna Ruysch, the lesser known but equally accomplished sister of the more famous Rachel. Only a handful of paintings by Anna are known, and these are perhaps the finest examples of her work ever to appear on the market. Breaking away from still life, Antoinette-Cécile-Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot's Self-portrait is one of only three recorded by the artist. In this intimate canvas she represents herself as a fashionable young woman; yet she was also a prolific artist, who between 1810 and 1840 exhibited 100 paintings in the prestigious Paris Salons. Our December Evening sale also features Elisabetta Sirani's Saint John the Baptist, a well preserved signed painting that is typical of her work for private devotion.

Sketches and Studies

Sketches have always played an integral part in the artist’s creative process, whether used to devise preliminary ideas for a more finished work or simply to visually record something that the artist has seen. In both cases these often have an exploratory purpose and are an inexpensive and simple way for the artist to express ideas. As such they offer the viewer an invaluable insight into the artist's creative process and way of working which is not always apparent when admiring a finished work. Throughout history, sketches have also played an integral part in an artist’s career, offering their patrons a way to experience a finished artwork or design before committing to it.

Left: Fig. 1 Stefano Pozzi, The Toilet of Venus. Oil on canvas, in a painted oval. 74 x 62 cm.

Right: Fig. 2 Stefano Pozzi, The Toilet of Venus and Allegories of the Four Elements. Frescoes. Gabinetto di Toeletta, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome. We thank © Trust Doria Pamphilj for the ownership of the work and © ADP srl for the photographic credit.

This sale offers a variety of sketches spanning two centuries including works by Italian and Flemish artists. Specifically, an important rediscovery by Roman artist Stefano Pozzi (1699 – 1768). This bozzetto depicting The Toilet of Venus (fig. 1) has been identified as being a preparatory study for the central portion of the ceiling of the Gabinetto di Toeletta in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome (fig. 2). The remaining four sketches for the surrounding lunettes depicting allegories of the Four Elements are part of the Lemme collection and are currently on loan to the Palazzo Barberini, Rome. The decoration of the Gabinetto is Stefano Pozzi's last recorded major commission, executed between 1767–68, as part of a larger renovation project initiated in 1760 by Giovanni Andrea Doria Landi (1704–1765).

Emma Hamilton (1765–1815)

A celebrated model, entertainer and artist’s muse – famous for her ‘Attitudes’ and her creative collaboration with international artists, particularly George Romney; her marriage to the great diplomat, antiquarian and collector Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803), British Envoy to Naples; and her relationship with Admiral Lord Nelson, the ‘Nation’s Hero’ – Emma, Lady Hamilton was a cultural icon and European celebrity in the early nineteenth century. The December Day Sale features a selection of paintings relating to Emma.

First is George Romney's Portrait of Emma, a picture undertaken in 1784 and a fine example of the artist's fascination with Emma's beauty and dramatic effects. Alongside Emma’s likeness is perhaps the last portrait ever undertaken of her husband: William Beechey's Portrait of Sir William Hamilton, which was commissioned by none other than Lord Nelson, Emma's lover. The three of them were involved in a sensational ménage-à-trois. The Irish artist Robert Fagan's painting of Emma Hamilton as a Bacchante is typical of the characterful poses Emma adopted when enacting scenes from classical works of art for her so-called 'attitudes'. Finally, John Thomas Serres' Naples, a view of the bay with Vesuvius erupting beyond, captures a view of the city that was home to Emma and Sir William for many years and the place where Nelson first met the couple.

Upcoming Auctions

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

Sell with Sotheby's

Sell with Sotheby's

Curious to know if your item is suitable for one of our upcoming sales?

Provide information and share images to request an online estimate now.

Start Selling
arrow Created with Sketch. Back To Top