Old Master Highlights from the SØR Rusche Collection

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More than 200 works from the SØR Rusche collection will be offered by Sotheby's in a series of auctions, commencing with a dedicated online auction alongside a group of works in the Old Masters sale in London on 8 May. Click through to view highlights from the online sale, which presents a opportunity to acquire exceptional works by some of the lesser-known Golden Age artists.

Old Master Highlights from the SØR Rusche Collection

  • Emanuel Murant, Village landscape with figures beside a river, a tree silhouetted against the sky.
    Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    Murant specialised in village scenes and ruined farm buildings, executed with minute accuracy – a trait that may have developed through his friendship with Haarlem painter Jan van der Heyden. The 17th-century Dutch biographer, Arnold Houbraken writes that one can 'count the stones of the masonry' in Murant's paintings – certainly true of the building in the present work, which rewards close scrutiny. By contrast, the strikingly stark silhouette of the tree means that the impact of this image is as powerful from afar as it is close to.
  • Cornelis van der Meulen, Vanitas still life with a statuette of Saint Susanna.
    Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    Although little is known of Van der Meulen’s life, he is recorded as having moved to Stockholm in 1678, a decade before this work was painted. The traditional vanitas elements of a skull and a candlestick here remind the viewer of the transience of worldly goods. The inclusion of the statuette of the Roman martyr Saint Susanna is more unusual, however. It is based on the 2-metre high sculpture by François Duquesnoy (1593-1643), executed in 1629-33 for the altar of Santa Maria di Loreto in Rome, suggesting that Van der Meulen must also have travelled to that city before 1688.
  • Cornelis Pietersz. Mooy, Dutch ships on a choppy sea.
    Estimate £8,000–12,000.
    Maritime paintings such as this were particularly popular in 17th-century Holland, unsurprising for a nation built on overseas trade and a country so criss-crossed with rivers and canals. This is one of very few oil paintings securely attributed to Mooy, who is best known for his so-called ‘penschilderij’ (pen paintings), imitating drawings in pen and ink. By contrast, the present work delights in the qualities of oil paint, the wet-in-wet brushwork in the foreground evoking the choppy waves, preserved in exceptional condition.
  • Cornelis van der Voort, Portrait of a young lady.
    Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    By contrast with many other genres of painting produced for the booming open art market in The Netherlands in the 17th century, portraits were almost exclusively commissioned. Although we do not know the identity of the sitter in this work, it is clear from the rich, expensive black fabric of her dress, the fine lace of her head-piece, ruff and cuffs – not to mention her jewellery – that she enjoys some level of wealth and status. The ring on her left hand is displayed prominently, suggesting that she is soon to be, or is recently, married.
  • Edwaert Collier, Trompe l’œil with a portrait of Erasmus.
    Estimate £8,000–12,000.
    This trompe l’œil depiction of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the great Dutch humanist and renaissance scholar, reproduces a print made after the famous portrait of Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger. Collier included such a print in many of his works. He was clearly fascinated by the idea of mechanical reproduction, which called into question the very role of the artist – an issue raised in his own works, designed to trick the viewer. Erasmus himself wrote on the subject of deceitful appearances, and Collier’s preoccupation with his image was undoubtedly a deliberate reference.
  • David Teniers the Younger, after Guido Reni, Susannah and the Elders.
    Estimate £6,000–8,000.
    This panel was produced as part of Teniers' Theatrum Pictorum, the first catalogue of a picture collection ever to be illustrated and printed, which Teniers produced with a view to acquaint the educated public with works of art from the princely collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1646–56. With one exception, Teniers painted small copies of the 243 original paintings selected for the catalogue, which served as modelli for the engravings of the same dimensions. This work records a painting by Guido Reni, lost since the late 18th century.
  • Dirck Hals, A mother searching her children for nits, a child stoking a fire to the left.
    Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    An all too familiar sight for parents nowadays, the subject of checking a child’s hair for nits was a common one in 17th-century Dutch Golden Age painting. As with many genre scenes depicting ostensibly banal, quotidian activities, this subject belies a moralistic message. One of a number of moederzorg (‘maternal care themes’) in painting, nit-picking was understood as a metaphor for the human condition – the idea that cleanliness of body was naturally linked to purity of mind and soul.
  • Daniel de Blieck, Church interior with marble columns and triptychs.
    Estimate £6,000–8,000.
    Daniel de Blieck specialised in architectural paintings. This work is distinguished by the beautiful marble columns featured in the foreground, in contrast to many of his other paintings, which depict plain, whitewashed Calvinist church interiors. The fascination for this genre developed with an increased understanding of perspective and the effect of light on architectural geometry.
  • Pieter de Bloot, Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind.
    Estimate £6,000–8,000.
    "The blind leading the blind" is an idiom that finds its roots in ancient Sanskrit texts dating back to 800 BC, and has been echoed in philosophical and religious writings ever since, including Matthew 15:14. Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted what is probably the most famous depiction of this verse in 1568, and it is highly probably that De Bloot had knowledge of that work. Here, he has translated the different characterisations and diagonal composition of Bruegel’s painting into his own distinctive artistic vocabulary.
  • Jan Van Kessel the Elder, A sculpted cartouche with floral still life, with the Christ Child as Salvator Mundi.
    Estimate £15,000–25,000.
    Jan van Kessel was a member of the great Brueghel dynasty of artists, and took much inspiration from his grandfather, Jan Brueghel the Elder, who pioneered the development of the genre of garland paintings. Born out of the imagery of the Counter Reformation, garlands typically surround devotional images or portraits, executed in collaboration with a figure painter. The reverse of this panel bears the mark of the Antwerp panelmaker, François de Bout (active 1637-1649), who is known to have provided many of David Teniers the Younger’s panels.
  • Claes Claesz. Wou. A rocky coast in a storm.
    Estimate £6,000–8,000.
    This painting on panel, about the size of a large postcard, is an eloquent tonal description of the cold, stormy atmosphere of the sea on a forbidding coastline. The scudding clouds, choppy waves, and the small forms of the seagulls borne aloft by the gusts of wind are convincingly conveyed through energetic brushwork and a number of shades of grey.
  • Herman Saftleven the Younger, A barn interior with light streaming through a window.
    Estimate £8,000–12,000.
    A quiet interior is bathed in golden afternoon light, which streams in from a window on the left, revealing a clear blue sky. Inside, the precariously-balanced earthenware jug, propped-up yoke, abandoned broom, scattered egg and mussel shells and the overturned copper pot that still holds water, though not the three fish now on the ground, are transformed into a poetic moment of tranquility.
  • Willem van Mieris, Ceres and Bacchus.
    Estimate £12,000–18,000.
    Willem van Mieris belongs to the second generation of Leiden fijnschilder painters – artists working in the style pioneered by Gerrit Dou, creating works distinguished by meticulously-executed, exquisite details and smooth surfaces. Trained in the workshop of his father, Frans van Mieris, Willem was particularly interested in the idealisation of the female nude, following his study of classical sculpture. This preoccupation is clearly reflected here in the elegant figure of Ceres.
  • D. Witting, Vanitas still life with a skull, books, string instrument and peacock feather on a table.
    Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    Virtually all still lifes painted in this period had a moralistic message, generally concerned with the brevity of life and mankind’s preoccupation with worldly goods and pleasures. The vanitas theme is particularly explicit in this work with the inclusion of a skull adorned with a laurel wreath. The variety of objects on the table are an exercise in depicting the effects of light, directed from the left-hand side, on differing textures, from the feather, to the smooth gourd, to the sheaves of paper.
  • Johannes Natus, A tavern scene with peasants smoking and drinking.
    Estimate £20,000–30,000.
    Almost nothing is known of Johannes Natus’ life and career, except that in 1662 it is documented that he became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke in Middelburg – the city second only to Amsterdam as Holland’s most important centre of trade during the 17th century. The artist appears to have specialised in high-quality depictions of tavern interiors, the rather monumental figures, quality of light, and colours in which suggest that he may have spent time in Italy.
  • Herman van Swanevelt, Italianate river landscape with herders and their cattle.
    Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    Swanevelt was a Dutch painter working in Rome and Paris, whose work may be seen as one of the most important links between the first and second generations of Dutch artists working in Italy in the 17th century. This landscape is particularly reminiscent of the work of Claude Lorrain, whose style developed in tandem with Swanevelt's in Rome during the 1630s. In this copper plate, upon which the bright palette remains vibrant, Swanevelt has depicted a quiet but nevertheless monumental landscape, receding to the blue mountains in the distance.
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