With Sotheby’s poised to re-open the doors once more onto its galleries in New Bond Street in London, this winter season’s series of Old Master and Treasures sales will showcase works by some of history’s most famous artists, including Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt. From paintings to prints, to sculpture and drawings, these artworks will go on view alongside unique and extraordinary objects encapsulating the history of patronage and collecting over the centuries.
Alongside these 700 artworks spanning 800 years, two paintings from our sale of Old Masters in New York in late January 2021 will be unveiled in our London galleries as part of the pre-sale exhibition. Sandro Botticelli’s Young Man Holding a Roundel – the ultimate Renaissance portrait and a true beauty of the ages, and one of the greatest Renaissance paintings remaining in private hands – is estimated to sell in excess of $80 million.
It will be joined by Abraham and the Angels, a rare biblical scene by Rembrandt measuring just 6½ by 8⅜ inches (16 x 21cm) – a profoundly beautiful, gem-like painting on panel from 1646 that stands among the finest works by the artist ever to come to auction. The masterpiece was studied for months by the late British artist, Lucian Freud, a few years before his death, with the intention of making an etching inspired by the painting. Freud abandoned the print, remarking that he could not improve upon what Rembrandt had done. Last appearing at auction in London in 1848, when it sold for £64, this small-scale masterpiece is now returning to the block with an estimate of $20-30 million.
Visit Sothebys.com for opening times.
London Old Master Evening Sale, 10 December
The Evening sale of Old Masters on 10 December offers a strong selection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, including masterpieces by the titans of the Golden Age. David Teniers the Younger’s The Wine Harvest is one of the largest and finest works he ever painted and, from the collection of the Viscounts Gage, it comes to the market for the first time in well over 200 years (est. £3,000,000-5,000,000).
The sale features two early works by the great Jacob van Ruisdael, the most important and influential Dutch landscape painter of the 17th century, including his moving, early masterpiece Landscape with a cottage and stone bridge under a cloudy sky which last appeared in 1840 (est. £800,000-1,200,000). Offered alongside River landscape with farmhouses and a dovecote upon a high bank by pioneering naturalistic artist, Jan van Goyen, the works featured in the sale form an encyclopedic survey of 17th-century Dutch landscape painting and beautifully evoke the changing light and atmosphere of the Netherlands at different times of the day. The sale is further distinguished by Jan Steen’s wonderfully optimistic The Dancing Couple (est. £1,000,000-1,500,000).
Unusually, this season’s sale will also feature British portraits from each of the 16th to the 19th centuries by masters including Sir Thomas Lawrence (Portrait of Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Taylor, est. £150,000-200,000), respected as the finest portrait painter of his day; Hans Eworth, whose portrait of Joan Thornbury (est. £400,000-600,000) includes a memento mori vanitas unusual of English art in this period; a magnificent portrait of the Earl of Chesterfield painted by Sir Peter Lely (est. £150,000-200,000) at the height of his career, and a painting of Thomas Orde in Rome on the Grand Tour by Pompeo Batoni (est. £300,000-400,000), which is considered among the finest of the artist’s portraits.
Treasures and Decorative Arts
Turning to our annual Treasures sale on 10 December, now in its eleventh edition, an exciting array of pieces includes a Regency bookcase from Devonshire House incorporating a concealed door through which George IV used to go through to visit his mistress Mrs. Fitzherbert in the next room, and a highly important and rare Fabergé varicolored gold-mounted nephrite desk set formerly in the collection of the King of Egypt.
Leading a group of historical Nelson related objects is a fine painted silk hatchment from the Vice Admiral Viscount’s state funeral carriage, which was made in 1805 and glimpsed by the public on 9 January the following year, when the coffin carrying the body of the nation’s hero made its way from Admiralty to St Paul’s Cathedral with an escort of 10,000 soldiers (est. £30,000-50,000).
A special single-owner sale, A Treasury of Vertu on 10 December offers 37 lots that together tell a veritable history of the gold box, and the limitless inventiveness of goldsmiths, lapidaries and enamellers. Hailing from an impressive private collection, these precious objects have in many cases only been known to academics through literature and illustrations in sale catalogues of the most prestigious historical auctions. The sale includes a menagerie of snuff boxes, from black Jasper boars and turtles to colourful carved hardstone beetles and ladybirds attacking an onyx fly.
Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art
The selection of outstanding sculptures on display in the galleries is led by Willem Danielsz. van Tetrode’s dramatic and ambitious bronze, Neoptolemus and Astyanax, directly inspired by a monumental antique marble from the Farnese collection (Treasures sale, est. £400,000-600,000). Autograph bronzes by the artist are rarely seen on the market, making the appearance at auction of this exceptional example – depicting an episode from the Trojan Wars – a luxury object fit for a collector of sophistication and erudition.
A poignant aspect of the Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art auction (24 November – 5 December) are the lots which have been returned to the heirs of Jewish collectors whose collections were stolen by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s. The sale includes two works owned by one of the greatest 20th-century art collectors, Jakob Goldschmidt – whose 1958 auction of Impressionist pictures at Sotheby’s in London remains one of the defining moments of art market history – including a beautiful Italian Renaissance relief attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1501) of the Madonna and Child among Clouds, made circa 1480-90 (est. £40,000-60,000).
Originally serving as a container for holy water, an extremely rare Romanesque situla from the first half of the 12th century, thought to be among the earliest examples of its kind, once formed part of the collection of Emanuel Vita Israel, one of the foremost Jewish art collectors in Amsterdam (est. £30,000-50,000).
Small Wonders: Early Gems and Jewels
A sale of Small Wonders: Early Gems and Jewels (27 November – 10 December) is distinguished by an exceptional 13th-century cameo representing the ascension of the prophet Elijah to heaven (est. £120,000-180,000). One of the most significant medieval glyptics to have appeared at auction in a generation, and one of a handful of 13th-century engraved gems with Hebrew inscriptions carved in the court of Frederick II, King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor, this enchanting and mysterious cameo was previously recorded in the Imperial Treasury of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors.
Old Master Prints
Our inaugural Old Master Prints sale (26 November – 7 December) comprises several of most sought-after graphic subjects by Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius and Rembrandt. Property from an Important Private American Collection includes four of Dürer's most revered prints, subjects that are also considered to be incontestable masterworks of Renaissance printmaking: St Eustace, Melencolia I, St Jerome in His Study, and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. St Eustace (est. £300,000-500,00), Dürer’s largest engraving, is also one of his most coveted – since its execution in 1501, it has been held up as an exemplar of the artist’s virtuosity as a printmaker. (Available to view by appointment until 7 December.)
Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012). Today, Sotheby’s has a global network of 80 offices in 40 countries and presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris. Sotheby’s offers collectors the resources of Sotheby’s Financial Services, the world’s only full-service art financing company, as well as Advisory services for collectors, museums, corporations, artists, estates and foundations. Sotheby’s presents private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including three retail businesses: Sotheby’s Wine, Sotheby’s Diamonds, and Sotheby’s Home, the online marketplace for interior design.
* Estimates do not include buyer's premium or overhead premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer's premium and overhead premium and are net of any fees paid to the purchaser where the purchaser provided an irrevocable bid.
Stream live auctions and place bids in real time, discover the value of a work of art, browse sale catalogues, view original content and more at sothebys.com, and by downloading Sotheby’s apps for iOS and Android