Monday, January 19, 2015

El Greco at Auction

Sotheby's NY: Master Paintings: Part I - 29 January 2015

El Greco’s Saint Joseph, a rare subject for the artist, was unknown to scholars until its reappearance a few years ago (est. $2/3 million). The painting has now been recognized as a fully autograph work by El Greco, dating to his first years in Toledo, a moment of particular artistic creativity and energy for the artist. The work illustrates a strong figure and a mastering for drapery, capturing the skill discernible in some of El Greco’s greatest and most famous masterpieces of the late 1570s.

The present work was recently included in an exhibition in Toledo celebrating the 400th anniversary of the artist’s death (Museo de Santa Cruz, September – December 2014). Concurrent with Sotheby’s January auction, a number of New York institutions are also celebrating the Spanish artist: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hispanic Society of America have combined their collections of the artist’s work in an exhibition, which is open until 1 February, and The Frick Collection is also displaying their works by El Greco contemporaneously.

Sotheby’s London Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale 3rd July 2013

Saint Dominic in Prayer (est. £3-5m) is one of the artist’s finest depictions of saints, notable for its encapsulation of his extraordinary imagination and highly individual technique. In this work El Greco depicts Saint Dominic simply dressed in his black and white habit in a moment of quiet piety in the wilderness. The very personal and earthy portrayal of the saint, juxtaposed against his transcendental surroundings, make Saint Dominic the intercessor between us and the divine. From his arrival in Spain in 1577, El Greco’s paintings tackle this question of the dualism between heaven and earth. There are four known versions of this composition, probably dating from circa 1600 onwards - the other three are in the collection of Placido Arango in Madrid, the Sacristy of Toledo Cathedral and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Previously in the collection of the Spanish painter Ignacio Zuloaga and dating from the period of El Greco’s maturity, around 1600-1610, the monumental

Christ on the Cross is the last of only three surviving large-scale versions of this composition by the great master. The others are in the collection of the Museum of Art, Cleveland and the collection of the Marqués de la Motilla in Seville. The original source for the figure of Christ is almost certainly a drawing by Michelangelo now in the British Museum, which El Greco would have known from early in his career. Combining the international mannerist tradition with his own mystic expressionism, the work creates an image of great power ideal for spiritual contemplation. A record price at auction for El Greco (£3.85 million) was achieved for a reduced autograph version of this composition at Sotheby’s in 2000, which is now held by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Sotheby's January 30 2014

LOT SOLD. 5,877,000

Christie's December 7. 2010

Saint Francis of Assisi in meditation