Friday, March 27, 2015

Titian at Auction

 Sotheby’s Sale of Important Old Master Paintings January 29 & 30, 2009

Fourteen works from Italian businessman Luigi Koelliker's collection will be included in the January sale, led by Titian's Salome with the Head of John the Baptist(est. $4/6 million). The painting, which portrays the seductress Salome straining under the weight of John the Baptist's head, was executed in 1570 at the end of Titian's life and embodies the artist's late style. The canvas is characterized by dynamic contrasts between light and dark as well as the juxtaposition of the carefully executed jewels that circle Salome's neck and the expressive brushstrokes of her garments. 

First recorded in the 1649 Hampton Court Inventory of the late King Charles I of England, the painting was intended for the Commonwealth sale following the English Civil War, but was removed from sale, and ultimately returned to the British Royal Collection after the Restoration of Charles II. It descended in the Royal Collection until after 1736, at which point it entered a private Scottish collection. 

Although its importance was unknown at the time, the work first reappeared at auction in 1994 in London, where it was acquired by the London dealer Colnaghi, from whom it was purchased by Mr. Koelliker. Subsequent research reestablished its status as an autograph work by Titian and restoration uncovered the mark of King Charles I, proving its royal provenance.

From the Daily Mail:
A lost masterpiece by Venetian artist Titian which was once owned by King Charles I and worth millions was mistakenly sold at auction for just £8,000, it emerged yesterday.

The £4million 16th century painting - Salome with the Head of St John the Baptist - was originally unearthed during a house clearance in 1993.

Its unsuspecting owners took it to auction house Christie's in London where they were told that it was probably 'from the school of Titian', but not by the hand of the master himself.

Assured that cleaning the painting would be an unnecessary expense David Seton Pollok-Morris Dickson, 60, and his sister Susan Marjorie Glencorse Priestley, 62, agreed to a valuation. 
When it went under the hammer 12 months later in December 1994 they watched as lot 348 was sold for its reserve price of just £8,000.

Christie's was accused of failing to recognise the true value of the painting

Only later after the painting was sold on again in 2001, this time to Milan-based private collector Luigi Koelliker, was its true value revealed. And ironically, all it took was a little cleaning. 

Yesterday Mr Dickson and his sister reached an out-of-court settlement with Christie's after launching legal action at the High Court claiming breach of duty and negligence.

Mr Dickson, from Ayrshire, and Mrs Priestley, from Clapham in south London, said Christie's had failed in their commitment to competently 'research and advise' on the painting's value.

Read more:
Sotheby's 2011

  The work is one of only a handful of multi-figured compositions by the 16th-century artist that remain in private hands, and is the most important to appear at auction since 1991. The painting was shown in public for the first time in more than 30 years at Sotheby’s New York, and has since been on exhibition at Sotheby’s galleries in Paris, Amsterdam and London. 
Painted circa1560, Sacra Conversazione is a mature work executed by Titian at the height of his artistic abilities. He had established his reputation as the leading artist of his time, and his profound use of color and innovative technique have since made him one of the most influential figures in the history of Western art. While historically referred to as ‘The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine’, the present canvas’s subject lies within the more traditional representation of a ‘sacra conversazione’–a ‘holy conversation’ between the Madonna and Child and saints. The main focus of the composition is the tender representation of the Madonna and Child as they engage Saint Catherine, and in particular the gesture between the female saint and the Christ Child.