Turner Leads Old Masters Evening Sale

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The Old Masters Evening Sale in London on Wednesday evening realised a total of £52,514,750 and achieved the highest-ever sell-through-rate for any Old Masters sale held at New Bond Street. The total saw a substantial increase on both London sales last year and with 85.3% sold by lot, it was the second consecutive sale of its kind to achieve a sell-through rate of over 80%. The undoubted star was J.M.W Turner’s Ehrenbreitstein, which realised £18,533,750, the highest price paid for an Old Master Painting at Sotheby’s in London since the sale of the artist’s Rome, From Mount Aventine for a record £30,322,500 in 2014. Earlier in the day, the Old Master & British Works on Paper sale brought £8,341,500 - above a pre-sale estimate of £5.6-8 million, and the second highest total for a sale in this category at Sotheby’s in London. Presenting an extraordinary selection of the finest and most celebrated works of decorative art, Sotheby’s annual Treasures sale in London totalled £10,813,750. Click ahead to see highlights from the Old Masters sale.

Turner Leads Old Masters Evening Sale

  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, Ehrenbreitstein, or The Bright Stone of Honour and the Tomb of Marceau, From Byron’s Childe Harold. Sold for £18,533,750.
    The only oil painting by Turner of a German subject left in private hands, this magnificent picture is one of the artist's great late masterpieces. It is at once indebted to Claude, but also pre-emptive of the leaps to be made in the art of landscape painting  in decades to come, particularly by the Impressionists. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1835 Ehrenbreitstein elicited huge critical acclaim and it has been considered one of the artist's most celebrated masterpieces ever since.

  • Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Ecce Homo. Sold for £2,746,250.
    Whether painting genre scenes or religious subjects, Murillo’s greatest achievement lies in his ability to portray individuals as convincing human beings and to express their emotional state. In this exceptional late work, categorised by Diego Angulo Iñiguez as the best example of the composition, Murillo creates a powerful image of great psychological and painterly subtlety. In his interpretation of the Ecce Homo the Sevillian master pays homage to Titian, while at the same time producing an invention that is profoundly original.

  • Bernardo Bellotto, Venice, Piazza San Marco looking east towards the Basilica. Sold for £2,521,250.
    Circa 1739: This quintessential view of Venice was painted by all the great view painters of the Serenissima, including Michele Marieschi, Antonio Canaletto and Francesco Guardi. To this majestic group can be added Bernardo Bellotto, to whom this splendid example of the Piazza San Marco was correctly reattributed when it was published by Beddington in 2004. The artist trained in the studio of his uncle, Canaletto, and by the age of sixteen was producing work of such quality that it was indistinguishable from, and indeed often sold as, the work of his celebrated uncle.

  • Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Portrait of a Lady as Flora.
    Sold for £2,408,750.
    This is one of only a very small number of paintings of beautiful women in fancy dress by Tiepolo to have survived. Though they occupy only a tiny part of his output, these depictions of idealised feminine beauty remain among the most famous and easily recognised of all Tiepolo’s works. Painted during the artist’s last years in Venice in the late 1750s, this canvas was very probably among a series of ‘half-length figures of women done a capriccio’ recorded in a letter of 1760 as painted for the Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Completely unknown and unrecorded before its reappearance in 2008, the present canvas is without doubt the most beautiful and important Tiepolo discovery of recent years. The remarkable pristine condition of this canvas, unlined and with all of its original brushwork and impasto intact, is here revealed for the first time following its recent restoration.

  • Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Portrait Of Elisabet, Court Fool Of Anne Of Hungary. Sold for £2,168,750.
    This intriguing and highly unusual sixteenth-century portrait probably represents a woman named Elisabet, who was a fool employed by Anne of Hungary (1503–1547), wife of Ferdinand I (1503–1564), Archduke of Austria and later Holy Roman Emperor. The painting has been in Britain since the early nineteenth century, when it was described as a work by Quinten Massys (1465/66–1530) in a sale catalogue of 1814 and later attributed to Lucas Cranach (1472–1553).

  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Wedding Feast.
    Sold for £1,808,750.
    This scene of a Peasant wedding is without question one of the most famous and recognisable images in western art.  Its fame was due to the celebrated original picture by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and in keeping with his normal practice, Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s design is here based upon that of his father. The scene depicts a country village wedding, which takes place inside a barn stacked with straw, mirroring contemporary belief that the most propitious time for a marriage was after the harvest. The spectator is placed at eye-level, which immediately fully engages them with the celebration before them. Two sheaves are fastened to the wall with a rake as a sign of blessing for the bride, who sits demurely beneath them before a blue drape adorned with a paper crown, wearing a wreath of flowers in her loose hair, but required by custom to neither speak nor eat at the celebration. The bridegroom himself is absent, for custom did not allow him to see his wife until the evening of the wedding.

  • Sir Anthony van Dyck, Portrait Of The Engraver Jean-Baptiste Barbé. Sold for £1,628,750.
    This grisaille belongs to a set of portraits by Van Dyck commonly known as the Iconography series. Anthony Van Dyck, the leading portraitist of his day, produced this set of paintings and drawings as templates for subsequent engravings in the early 1630s and continued until his death in 1641.

  • Claude-Joseph Vernet, Le soir: a Mediterranean harbour at sunset with fisherfolk and merchants on a quay and Clair de lune: a Mediterranean harbour by moonlight with fisherfolk by a fire on the shore, a natural arch beyond, 1752. Sold for £1,448,750.
    1752: These masterpieces by Vernet, painted in Rome at the apex of his career in 1752, draw on the romance of the Claudian landscape tradition, from which they are directly inspired, and add to it a finesse and level of detail that he learned from the Italian vedusti of the preceding decades. Works such as this would ensure his reputation as one of the leading landscape painter of the second half of the 18th century.

  • Jacopo de' Barbari, Portrait of Albrecht of Brandenburg (1490-1545). Sold for £1,448,750.
    Painter, draughtsman and printmaker, the Venetian Jacopo de’ Barbari was one of the most fascinating and versatile artists of the early sixteenth century, and ‘the first Italian Renaissance artist of note’ to make the journey across the Alps to the courts of both Germany and the Netherlands. This rare and important portrait of the young Albrecht of Brandenburg is one of a very small number of certain paintings by his hand, and the only work by him left in private hands. It epitomises the key role which Jacopo’s art and his relationships with his patrons and painters such as Dürer and Cranach played in the evolution of artistic patronage in the Holy Roman Empire in the early Renaissance period.  Albrecht, later a cardinal and Elector of Mainz, was himself a patron of very considerable discernment. An important figure in the Catholic hierarchy, it was his sales of indulgences which provided the spark for Martin Luther’s protest and the outbreak of the Reformation itself exactly five hundred years ago.

  • Pieter Claesz, A Roemer, an Overturned Pewter Jug, Olives Half-Peeled Lemon on Pewter Plates. Sold for £956,750.
    This is a key work in Pieter Claesz’s development as a painter of still-life, signalling a new approach to the genre. It ushers in a greater simplicity that, though sporadically present in works from 1630–35, becomes from this point his sole modus operandi for several years. Pieter Claesz was, with Willem Claesz. Heda, the finest exponent of the monochrome still life, a genre for which he was to a large degree responsible. Though purposefully limited in colour, tone and content, the utter brilliance of the execution of such works made them the most sophisticated of the Golden Age.


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