Highlights from Old Master & British Works on Paper

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With more than two hundred works spanning nearly four centuries, and all European schools, the Old Master & British Works on Paper sale is one of the richest and most varied such offerings in years. There is a particular focus on British art, with the rediscovered 1815 panorama of Westminster by Pierre Prévost, and no fewer than nine watercolours by Turner, led by the late view of Lake Lucerne from Brunnen. The Continent is also extremely well represented, with highlights ranging from the early Renaissance in Italy and France, through Dutch, Flemish and Italian masters of the 17th century, to great examples by leading French artists of the 18th and early 19th century, such as François Boucher and Jacques-Louis David.

Old Master & British Works on Paper
4 July 2018 | London

Highlights from Old Master & British Works on Paper

  • Jacopo Ligozzi, A knight, half length, wearing armour and an elaborate plumed helmet. Estimate £25,000–35,000.
    The fantastical helmet, topped with ostrich feathers, for which this is the design, was never intended to be worn in battle. In fact, this striking drawing was made in connection with a ceremonial tournament that was held in Pisa, on 10 February 1603, as part of the extravagant celebrations surrounding the marriage of Cosimo de’Medici and Lucrezia Catani. Made by one of the leading artists working at the Medici court in Florence in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the drawing is a rare and exciting visual record of the life and tastes of this famous Florentine court.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • Workshop of Perugino, Verona c.1445 – c.1530, An Angel. Estimate £100,000–150,000.
    In the years just before 1500, Perugino was central to many of the most exciting and innovative stylistic developments in Italian Renaissance art.  His artistic vision underpinned the subsequent achievements of Raphael and other leading masters of the next generation, but it was only through the making, preservation and ultimate dispersal of drawings such as this that Perugino’s style came to have such widespread influence. 

    In astonishingly fine condition, this sizeable study of an angel is an extremely rare example of a surviving figure drawing, made in the master’s workshop and kept to serve as a model for figures in his own paintings and those of his assistants. The drawing has belonged, since the mid-19th century, to the celebrated Loyd collection at Lockinge, near Wantage.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Pastoral journey.
    Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    As the recent exhibition of his drawings at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, very clearly illustrated, Castiglione was one of the most technically innovative draughtsmen of the 17th century. His highly original drawings and monotypes combine oil paint, gouache, watercolour and chalk in ways that no other artist of the day attempted, and the result is a body of work that is both distinctive and exciting. This large and very well preserved drawing epitomises Castiglione’s unique and distinctive style.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • Pierre Prévost, A panoramic view of London, from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster.
    Estimate £200,000–300,000.
    This recently rediscovered panoramic view of London, seen from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, is over six metres wide, but is still only one fifth of the size of the finished painting, for which it is the study. That painting – now lost but much celebrated in its own time – was made to be installed in a purpose-built, circular structure, erected in central Paris, which visitors paid handsomely to enter, immersing themselves in the illusionistic sensation provided by this highly detailed, carefully lit, circular image, which instantly transported them into the heart of London.

    Prévost’s London panorama was part of a craze for such proto-cinematic images, which were made in some numbers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but are almost all now destroyed. The ‘snapshot’ of London that this French artist provides here is all the more significant because he came to London to make the drawings in 1815, only very shortly after the Battle of Waterloo, which brought to an end the lengthy conflict between England and Napoleon’s France.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • François Boucher, A young woman, seen in profile, walking in a park, traditionally identified as a Portrait of Madame de Pompadour. Estimate £150,000–200,000.
    Epitomising the shimmering elegance of so much of 18th-century French art, this large and brilliantly executed study of an elegant young woman strolling across a terrace is one of François Boucher’s grandest and most impressive drawings. As in many of his other drawings, within the figure herself, Boucher here combines black, red and white chalks to create a dazzling counterpoint of textures and reflections.

    In contrast, though, to the carefully worked, bravura handling of the chalk in the figure, Boucher works the background with much more freedom, combining blue and green pastels and soft, stumped chalk to create a softly handled landscape that contrasts most effectively with the very polished central figure. Boucher’s technical brilliance, and also his ability to convey a sense of grandeur without ever seeming pompous, mark him out as one of the very greatest draughtsmen of the 18th century.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • Jacques-Louis David, Study of a Bishop and two Clerics for “The Coronation of Napoleon”. Estimate £80,000–120,000.
    The paintings and drawings of Jacques-Louis David constitute the most important and atmospheric visual record of the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.  One of David’s most significant paintings from this time is the immense canvas, now in the Louvre, recording the great ceremony at which Napoleon crowned first himself and then Josephine, as Emperor and Empress. Despite the fact that David worked on this painting, so important in his career, for some three years between 1805 and 1808, very few drawings are known that relate to the commission. 

    This rare study is for the three clerics presiding over the ceremony, who appear in the painting standing right in the very centre of the composition, between the kneeling figure of Josephine and that of Napoleon, who raises the crown to place it on her head.  The drawing is an exercise in essential brilliance, demonstrating just how much David could convey with very sparing use of pen and wash.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • Jan Josefsz Van Goyen, River landscape with figures and cows in a ferryboat, approaching a village. Estimate £20,000–30,000.
    Though drawings are so often thought of as works created as part of the process of making a work of art in another medium, such as a painting or a print, in 17th-century Holland many landscape drawings were in fact made as independent works of art, to be sold on the open market. The wide, blank margins seen here, which were usually trimmed off when these drawings were mounted in the 18th century, and the fact that the drawing is signed and dated, all point to its having been made as a finished work in its own right.

    Van Goyen was one of the greatest Dutch landscape draughtsmen, who was able to create a magical, shimmering light and great atmosphere through his immense skill with his favourite black chalk and grey wash technique. His brilliance is, though, only fully visible when the drawing is, like this one, in more or less perfect condition.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, West Cowes, Isle of Wight. Estimate £200,000–300,000.
    From very early in his career, Turner was fascinated by the sea and its shores, and his initial fame was in fact as a marine painter. In this highly atmospheric evening view of shipping at anchor off the Isle of Wight, with West Cowes in the background, Turner returns, around 1827, to the theme of earlier works, but in the style and technique typical of this period, during which he was working on his major series of watercolours, intended for engraving under the title Picturesque Views in England and Wales. The print based on this watercolour, engraved by R. Wallis, was published in 1830.

    The watercolour shows Turner working at the very height of his creative powers, demonstrating all the dazzling effects and techniques that he has perfected by the late 1820s.  Although the composition is highly sophisticated, he seems to have worked at some speed, creating without hesitation the most intricate elements of the rigging of the ships, while also capturing the gentle haze on the horizon, and the abstract yet comprehensible patterns of reflections in the water. All these remarkable passages and contrasts are all the more effective thanks to the superb condition in which this exceptional watercolour has survived. 

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen. Estimate £1,200,000–1,800,000.
    J.M.W. Turner’s The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen is considered to be one of the greatest and most beautiful of his watercolours to remain in private hands. It forms part of a celebrated group of ‘finished’ late landscapes inspired by his travels to Switzerland between 1841 and 1844 that have come to be seen as the pinnacle of his achievements in watercolour. This view was commissioned in 1842 by Turner’s major patron Elhanan Bicknell, to hang as a companion piece to the artist’s iconic Blue Rigi (Tate Britain), which achieved a world-record price of £5.8 million when sold at auction in 2006.

    In this serene, proto-impressionist work, space and depth are constructed essentially with colour, not outline, and only in a few details, such as the figures in the left foreground and the tiny steamboat in the middle of the lake, are elements of the real world depicted in anything like a naturalistic way. In that power of visual suggestion lies so much of Turner’s genius as a watercolourist.

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
  • John Constable, A Watermill. Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    This rare watercolour by Constable dates to the 1830s and belongs to a group of works of this date which share the same spontaneity and distinctive use of pen and ink. Although the view has not been identified, it must be in the area of the Stour valley, the most fertile part of Suffolk, with a variety of gentle hills, picturesque villages, churches and riverbanks, and luxuriant meadows that provided Constable with the raw materials for many of his greatest paintings.

    Constable was deeply attached to scenes such as these and noted in a letter from 1821: "the sound of water escaping the mill dams...willows, old rotten Banks, slimy posts, & brickwork. I love such things... As long as I do paint I shall never cease to paint such places."

    Old Master & British Works on Paper
    4 July 2018 | London
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