11 Highlights from The Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection

Launch Slideshow

This autumn Sotheby’s November sales of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art in New York will be led by Masterworks from the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection. Celebrating the ascendancy of works on paper, the superb collection includes expressive charcoals, watercolours, gestural ink drawings and other media by Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Lucian Freud and Jasper Johns. Click ahead for highlights from this unparalleled collection of works by the masters of 20th- and 21st-century art.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
14 November | New York

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale 
15 November | New York

Contemporary Art Evening Auction
16 November | New York

Contemporary Art Day Auction
17 November | New York

11 Highlights from The Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection

  • © 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
    Pablo Picasso, Combat de taureau et cheval, 1935. Estimate $1,500,000–2,500,000.
    The theme of the bullfight preoccupied Picasso throughout his long career. The artist completed this drawing in April 1935, at the height of the Surrealist movement when Freudian psychosexual symbolism played a defining role in the imagery of the avant-garde. By this time Picasso had taken to the habit of identifying himself with the bull, with its tempestuous and virile nature, and the woman he loved with the horse. In the present work he has also incorporated a figure swooning on top of the horse, bearing a strong resemblance to iconic depictions of his mistress Marie-Thérèse that he created during this period. The bullfight became a symbol for the most public display of violence, bravery and ability. It carries powerful contradictions of brutality and grace, tragedy and entertainment, Eros and Thanatos, and ultimately, life and death.

  • © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris 2017.
    Joan Miró, Femmes, oiseaux, étoiles, 1942. Estimate $1,500,000–2,000,000.
    Femmes, oiseaux, étoiles was executed on 25 May 1942 – a time when Miró was rapidly gaining widespread international acclaim. Populated with highly stylized and abstracted figures, the composition utilises the vocabulary of signs Miró developed a few years earlier in his celebrated Constellations series. Relying on the artist’s pictorial lexicon of signs and symbols, Femmes, oiseaux, étoiles exemplifies the power of abstraction to express the essence of the natural world without mirroring it.

  • Art © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
    Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Die Sternen-Welt), circa 1950. Estimate $300,000–400,000.
    A captivating and ethereal assemblage, Untitled (Die Sternen-Welt) is filled with images and objects collected by Cornell during his wanderings around New York City, and later rearranged into unique tableaux in the basement workshop of his house on Utopia Parkway in Queens. With its astronomical map punctuated by five marble-filled glasses, Untitled (Die Sternen-Welt) offers the enigmatic Cornell’s romantic alternative to the heroic painterly abstractions of post-war art.

  • © 2017 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
    René Magritte, La Réponse imprévue, 1963–64. Estimate $2,000,000–3,000,000.
    Executed in 1963–64, La Réponse imprévue explores one of the recurrent images of Magritte’s oeuvre, that of a closed door broken by a hole. This device is deliberately ambiguous, suggesting a physical body passing through the space but devoid of human presence. At the heart of this work is a web of paradoxes: Magritte shows us an interior and an exterior; the door is closed as well as open, both hiding and exposing what is behind it. By mystifying the familiar and questioning the significance and purpose we attribute to various objects, Magritte creates new meanings by placing these objects in unexpected contexts 

  • Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
    Jasper Johns, Numbers, 2006. Estimate $2,500,000–3,500,000.
    Numbers from 2006 is a mature example of Johns’s exploration of the most significant issues addressed thorughout his body of work: representation, form and how meaning is conveyed through signs and symbols. This particular Numbers is striking for its large size of just over three feet by two-and-a-half feet, not atypical for a painting but certainly rarer for a work on paper. 

  • © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
    Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1968. Estimate $5,000,000–7,000,000.
    With its serene and shimmering hues, the luminescent multiforms of Untitled from 1968 attest to Rothko’s mastery of light, colour and form achieved in his late works on paper. An exquisitely vibrant example from a period characterised by a predominantly sombre palette, Untitled stands as a testament to a medium that was of increasingly profound significance to Rothko in the last years of his career as he focused his energies upon exploring the absolute limits of painting on paper. Accordingly, the present work was selected for inclusion in the artist’s seminal 1998 retrospective at the National Gallery of Art. 

  • © 2017 Brice Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
    Brice Marden, Hydra Diptych, 1991. Estimate $800,000–1,000,000.
    The present work captures Marden’s considered engagement with his materials, as well as a deep affinity for language as form, particularly Chinese calligraphy. Two rectangular pieces of textured, cotton fibre Arches Satine paper are saturated by a rich wash of deep, mossy green ink, and hinged together by Japanese paper. Marden’s serpentine black strokes twist, undulate and intersect in a compact network of lines that is energised by the seemingly spontaneous application of white ink across the composition. His choice of black and white ink, as well as his gestural mark making, creates a form of script that whisks across the page in a visual vocabulary entirely unique to the artist and divorced completely from semiotics. 

  • © 2017 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
    Jackson Pollock, Untitled, 1951. Estimate $3,000,000–4,000,000.
    The lyrical curves and drips of Untitled exemplify the painterly finesse of Pollock at his most brilliant. Created in 1951, a groundbreaking year for the artist, Untitled is from the artist’s rare series of drawings in black and coloured inks on special Japanese paper. Epitomising the fusion of chance and control that has come to define Pollock’s oeuvre, these compositions were the result of an innovative transfer technique the artist developed that year. Pollock dripped, stained, and pooled inks upon stacks of the absorbent papers, allowing the mediums to bleed through before flipping the upper sheet to additionally stain and rework those below; one of three works on paper from a single stack, the two sister compositions are in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

  • © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris 2017.
    Joan Miró, La Funambule, 1938. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    Painted in 1938 as the Spanish Civil War raged on and the rest of Europe stood on the brink of the Second World War, La Funambule is part of a series of works created by Miró in a moment of intense creativity. Appearing monstrous and omnipotent, beautiful, hopeful and optimistic, or vulnerable and terrified, the tight-rope walker, like the rest of the figures painted against the backdrop of impending war, is at once vivid and unsettling. This profound sense of tension is expressed in the figure balancing against all odds, forever in limbo, perpetually on the brink of falling, yet somehow managing to remain upright. 


  • © 2017 Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
    Henri Matisse, Nu sur le canapé (recto) & Nu au collier (verso): A Double-Sided Drawing, 1936. Estimate $150,000–250,000.
    In this double-sided drawing, Matisse returns to the odalisque, a subject favoured throughout his career. Here Matisse creates a vision of luxurious comfort, enhanced by the inclusion of rich patterning, which underscores the delicacy of his line. The sense of volume rendered with the nude models is offset by a bold flattening of perspective in the decorative elements that fill the space on recto

  • © 2017 Lucian Freud.
    Lucian Freud, Portrait of a Woman, 1990–91. Estimate $900,000–1,200,000.
    Before he gained a reputation as a painter, Freud was known primarily as a draughtsman, and his career was punctuated by vigorous and prolific periods of drawing. Freud routinely portrayed his friends from London’s almost mythological bohemian aristocracy, among them was Clarissa Eden (née Spencer-Churchill). Portrait of a Woman is a supremely rare work and an extraordinary depiction of a remarkable woman. It typifies Freud’s representation of flesh in the latter part of his career, while highlighting his lifelong preoccupation with the drawn line. 


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