Over 500 years of European art history will be presented in two sales at Christie's in New York this January: Old Master Prints on Tuesday, 29 January, and Old Master & British Drawings on Thursday, 31 January. Together, the sales offer an overview of the graphic arts from 1466 to 1880, ranging from Albrecht Dürer's bold woodcuts to the diaphanous watercolours of J.M.W. Turner, from late gothic engravings by the Master E.S. and Martin Schongauer to the virtuoso, mannerist draftsmanship of Polidoro da Caravaggio and Niccolò dell'Abate, from meticulous 16th century studies of flowers and insects by Jacques le Moyne de Morgues to the landscape etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn.
The highlights across the sales include works by some of the greatest artists of their time, such as Lucas van Leyden, Primaticcio, Parmigianino, Sofonisba Anguissola, Canaletto, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Francisco de Goya, Thomas Girtin and many others. With estimates starting from $700, the two auctions will give the newcomer and the passionate collector ample opportunity for discoveries and long-desired acquisitions.
OLD MASTER PRINTS | 29 JANUARY
The Old Master Prints sale on 29 January starts off with an outstanding selection of 15th century prints, including three important, early engravings from the Collection of Herschel V. and Carl W. Jones, Minneapolis. The most remarkable work of these three is the The Madonna of Einsiedeln: Large Version by the Master E.S. (active circa 1450-67) ($300,000 - 500,000), one of first great artists in the history of European printmaking and the first to sign his works. The Madonna of Einsiedeln is arguably his most sophisticated composition and only thirteen impressions have survived. The present one is the last in private hands and comes with notable provenance.
Also from the Jones Collection comes a superb, rich impression of The Death of the Virgin by Martin Schongauer (circa 1445-1491) ($200,000-300,000), in exceptionally good condition and with impeccable provenance, as well as a rare example of an early engraved playing card, Israhel van Meckenem’s (1440-1503) The King of Men, from: The Large Deck of Playing Cards, circa 1465-1500 ($30,000-50,000). It is one of only three known impressions and comes originally from the collection of the Dukes of Sachsen-Gotha.
Herschel V. Jones was one of the most important collectors of prints and museum patrons in the United States in the first part of the 20th century. In 1916, he acquired the collection of Western prints of William Mead Ladd (1855-1931) of Portland, Oregon, which he donated in its entirety, approximately 5,300 prints, to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, thus laying the foundation for a Print Department - their Print Room still bears his name today.
Following on from these and other late medieval treasures, the sale features several of the most celebrated works of European printmaking, including Albrecht Dürer's famous woodcut The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from: The Apocalypse, circa 1497/98 ($250,000-350,000) in a stunning impression in near-perfect condition; the largest of all his engravings, Saint Eustace, circa 1501 (estimate on request);
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, (1606-1669), Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape etching and drypoint, circa 1653. Estimate: $300,000-400,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
and two of the most desirable etchings by Rembrandt (1606-1669): Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape, circa 1653 ($300,000-400,000), one of the great prints of Rembrandt's most innovative, later period; and The Three Trees, 1643, the artist’s largest and most ambitious etched landscape ($250,000-350,000).
The sale also offers exquisite and rare works by lesser-known, but no less talented and interesting artists, such as Lucas van Leyden, Hans Sebald Beham, Wenceslaus Hollar, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Francisco de Goya and Jean-Etienne Liotard, amongst many more. The sale is rounded off with a good selection of chiaroscuro woodcuts, a group of rare prints of the School of Fontainebleau, and some unusual artists’ portraits of the 18th and 19th century.
OLD MASTER & BRITISH DRAWINGS | 31 JANUARY
The Old Masters & British Drawings sale on 31 January will offer a strong selection of Italian drawings featuring a rare, late work by Polidoro da Caravaggio from a private collection, Design for a banner with Saint Mark and two friars ($200,000-300,000).
Two Renaissance works created by Italian artists working in France: Niccolò dell'Abate’s Conversion of Saul ($100,000-150,000) and Francesco Primaticcio’s Polymnestor killing Polydorusis, which is a significant addition to the artist’s drawn oeuvre ($100,000-150,000). Rounding out the group is Canaletto’s A capriccio with an ancient tomb monument to the left, and a watermill to the right ($100,000150,000) and Pietro da Cortona’s vibrant black chalk drawing Study of a nymph, her arms outstretched, a work commissioned by Grand Duke Ferdinand II de’ Medici for the ceiling fresco of the Sala di Apollo at Palazzo Pitti, Florence ($180,000-250,000).
The selection of British drawings are led by Lake Lucerne, with the Rigi by Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A., depicting the beautiful Swiss motif he obsessively returned to in his late career ($200,000-300,000) and Thomas Girtin’s St. Paul’s Cathedral from St. Martin’s-le-Grand, London ($180,000-250,000). Among the works offered by French artists, the sale features a rare suite of five botanical drawings by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, including Two narcissi and a columbine, a dragonfly and a stag beetle ($80,000-120,000), and Hubert Robert’s A Roman capriccio with a ruined rotunda ($30,000-50,000), a large watercolor from the prestigious Desmarais Collection.