T his season’s Old Masters Evening Sale comprises over 35 works, which date from the late 14th century to the early 20th century, spanning a range of artists, styles, and genres. We are pleased to offer a rediscovered study for The Glebe Farm by one of Britain’s greatest landscapists, John Constable R.A., and a pair of beautifully-preserved portraits by Sir Anthony van Dyck, dating from 1628, the beginning of the artist’s second Antwerp period. Alongside these we present property from the collection of the late Sir Peter Jonas, legendary opera director at the ENO and the Bavarian State Opera, including a lively oil sketch by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, and a fine selection of Dutch Golden Age paintings from the collection of the Barge-Dreesmann family, including two exquisite still lifes by Rachel Ruysch. All these are among works from: the Italian and Northern Renaissance, such as a small devotional panel by Lucas Cranach the Elder; the Baroque period, from a Brueghelian series of The Four Seasons by Sebastiaan Vrancx, to a Caravaggesque Saint Agnes by Simon Vouet, and poetic still lifes by Jacques Linard and Willem Kalf; the eighteenth century, including Rococo designs by François Boucher, and a newly-discovered sketch by Francisco Goya; and the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with an early landscape by J.M.W. Turner, and two fittingly wintry scenes of Prague and Oslo, by Jakub Schikaneder and Harald Sohlberg.
Andrew Graham-Dixon's Old Masters Gallery Tour
As befits an auction held in December, the Old Master Evening and Day Sales both offer a fine selection of Winter Landscapes. This genre of painting originated in 15th-century Books of Hours in depictions of the months of the year, though it did not become an independent subject until the 17th century. Pieter Bruegel the Elder paved the way for such works with his iconic Hunters in the Snow of 1565 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), and the development and popularity of depictions of The Four Seasons, led directly to works such as the set by Sebastiaan Vrancx in this sale. Winter in The Netherlands, and the activities and games on frozen canals that came with the season, served as an obvious source of inspiration to Dutch artists and their preoccupation with representations of weather, light and temperature. The development of winter landscapes as explorations of atmosphere perhaps reached its peak in the Romantic Era and the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, whose legacy is strongly felt in Sohlberg's Norwegian masterpiece of 1909, offered here as the last lot of the auction.
We are delighted to offer three works by John Constable, one of the most recognisable and influential of all English Romantic landscape painters, in our December Evening Sale. The rediscovered sketch of The Glebe Farm, circa 1828, relates to a subject of particular importance to the artist, which he chose to depict in five works, including a plein air sketch, and a more fantastical variant of the composition, as well as the large-scale compositions today in the Tate and Detroit Institute of Arts.
The verdant woodland, scumbling clouds, subtle glistening of the stream, incidental details of the cow and figure on the bridge, and the quintessentially British farm building and church tower are exactly the qualities prized in Constable's most famous works, which are among the most celebrated images in British Art. The Colliers unloading on Hove Beach is also a rediscovery and a significant addition to Constable's œuvre. A very different painting in mood and subject, it is based on a drawing from a series of pencil studies the artist made when he visited Brighton in the summer and autumn of 1834, and relates closely to other similarly unfinished, full-scale oil studies of these beach scenes. The earliest of these three pictures is the small oil study believed to date to around 1800, when Constable was emerging as a confident landscapist, influenced both by the example of artists from the past, such as Jacob van Ruisdael, and a progressive, naturalistic approach to painting from nature.
It is not uncommon to find that paintings which may have come to auction from different sources once shared common provenance, but it is particularly remarkable when that collection is one of such note as that of Sir Joseph Robinson. A self-made South African Randlord and mining magnate, Robinson took out a lease on Dudley House, at 100 Park Lane, London, in 1894, and went on to fill it with his acquisitions. In under a decade he brought together some 170 Old Masters for the house and its 81-foot Picture Gallery, including the exceptional pair of portraits of Jacob de Witte and Maria Nutius by Sir Anthony van Dyck, and the two large canvases by François Boucher and his workshop, all offered in this sale.
In 1923, Robinson had been back in South Africa for around 12 years, and instructed that the majority of his collection, then in storage, should be sold at Christie's. However, upon returning to London and seeing the paintings shortly before the sale, Robinson could not bear to part with them, and increased the reserve prices on every picture in the hope that they would go unsold. His tactic worked, and only 11 of the 116 paintings found new owners. Among the works to remain in Robinson's collection were the Van Dyck pair and the Boucher canvases, which were subsequently inherited by his daughter Ida upon his death in 1929. The Bouchers have descended in the family ever since, while the Van Dycks were sold to the family of the present owners in 1976.
Offered across our December Evening and Day Sales, this choice collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings is made up of works by some of the most famous artists, and of the most representative subjects, of the period. It includes paintings by three of the foremost landscapists of the era: Jan van Goyen and his teacher Esaias van de Velde, in complementary summer and winter landscapes, and Salomon van Ruysdael, in one of Holland's most recognisable 17th-century views, the beach at Egmond-aan-Zee. These are offered alongside paintings by two of the leading still-life specialists: Pieter Claesz., the inventor and most highly-regarded proponent of monochrome ‘breakfast pieces’; and Rachel Ruysch, the first female Netherlandish artist to win international recognition during her own lifetime through her depictions of flowers. The collection also includes Flemish works by brothers Jan Brueghel the Elder, in an exquisite and typical river landscape, and Pieter Brueghel the Younger, in a pair of roundels depicting ever-popular Netherlandish proverbs, full of innuendo.
We are delighted to offer property from the collection of the legendary, late Sir Peter Jonas (1946-2020), former director of English National Opera and the Bavarian State Opera, whose passion for Old Master Paintings led him to collect works over a period of twenty-five years. A mystical depiction of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi by Alonso Cano and a spirited oil sketch by Sir Peter Paul Rubens are included in our Evening Sale, while a fascinating range of works dating from the Italian and German Renaissance to the 19th-century are offered in the Day Sale.