Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on 10 February 2016, - Richter, Freud

 Sotheby’s London Contemporary Art Evening auction on 10 February2016 will be led by one of only a handful of truly spectacular examples of Gerhard Richter’s Abstrakte Bilderremaining in private hands–a monumental canvas from 1990, previously held in the private collection of the artist. Painted in 1990,  

Abstraktes Bild (725-4)remained in the artist’s private collection, away from the public eye, until 1996 when it was unveiled atan exhibition of his personal paintings atthe Carre d’Art in Nimes: “Gerhard Richter: 100 Pictures”. The work has not been exhibited publically since.Acquired by the current owner via Marian Goodman and Anthony d’Offay in 1996, Abstraktes Bildwill now be offered at auction for the very first time, with an estimate of £14-20 million (US$ 

On  10  February,  Sotheby’s  London  will  offer  for  sale  a  painting  that  not  only  marks  a  pivotal  moment  in  the  career  of  Lucian  Freud,  but  that  also  shines  a  spotlight  on  a  fascinating  but  little-­‐known  moment  in  the  artist’s  life.  While  much  has  been  written  about  many  of  Freud’s  amorous  liaisons,  barely  anything  is  known  about  his  intense,  and  ultimately  transformative,  relationship  with  Bernadine  Coverley.  The  two  met  when  she  was  just  16,  and  he was already  an  established  artist, 20  years  her  senior.  Although  their  time  together  was  relatively  brief,  it  was  to  prove  critical  -­‐marking  both  the  beginnings  of  a  life-­‐long  bond  and, for  Freud,  a  new  approach  to  painting.  

Pregnant  Girl embodies  this  new  approach.  Estimated  £7-­‐10m,  the  painting  will  be  a  highlight  of  Sotheby’s  Contemporary  Art  Evening  Auction  in  London  on  10  February  2016.Media 

 Oliver  Barker,  Sotheby’sSenior  International  Specialist,  Contemporary  Art:  “This  astonishingly  beautiful  painting  embodies  the  profound  bond  between  Lucian and the  mother  of  his  two  daughters. There  is  arguably  no  other  portrait  by  Freud  that  is  more  gripping,more  tender,and  more  laden  with  such  emotional  depth.”  

In Pregnant  Girl we  see  Freud  paint  his  lover  reclining  on  the  green  sofain  the  long  and  narrow  room  in  his  studio  in  Delamere  Terrace,  West  London.  The  sleeping  17-­‐year  old  -­‐head  titled  to  one  side,  eyes  shut,  dreaming-­‐does  not  confront  the  viewer,  or  the  artist;  rather  we  confront  her  at  an  intensely  private  moment.  In  creating  a  modern  ‘Madonna  and  Child’  or  ‘Sleeping  Venus’,  Freud  echoes  the  greats  of  art  history,  to  deliver  a  breathtaking  image  of  beauty,  desire,  femininity  and  fertility.

Coverley,  whose  Irish  Catholic  parents  ran  the  Black  Horse  pub  in  Brixton,  was  sent  to  a  convent  boarding  school  at  the  age  of  four.  Feeling  trapped  and  despondent  under  the  strict  governance of  the  convent,  she  twice  tried  to  run  away.  By  her  teens,  she  craved the liberation  and  excitement  of  bohemian  Soho  –an  intoxicating   underground   world   of   artists,   musicians   and   writers.  It   was   here,   in  a   Soho   pub   in  1959, where  Coverley  first  met  Freud, who  was  captivated  by  her  natural  beauty  and  free  spirit.  Much  has  been  written  about  Freud’s  famously  numerous  partners  -­‐when  he  first  met  Coverley,  he  had  already   been   twice   married   and   had   fathered   a   number   of   children–but little   is   known   about  their  relationship.  

Pregnant  Girl opens  a  window  onto  the  most  meaningful  moment  in  the  lives  of  both  lovers,  embodying  thesingular  tenderness  he  felt  for  Bernadine,soon  to  be  the  mother  of  his  daughters  Bella  and  Esther.  “It  must  have  been  a  very  happy  time  in  her  life,  being  pregnant  with  the  man  she  loved  and  him  wanting  her  to  be  there  and  paint  her”,  says  their  daughter  Bella,  “I  think  he  was  undoubtedly  the  love  of  her  life.”

After  separating  from  Freud,  Coverley  left  England  (and  its conservative views on unmarried   mothers) with  her  wo small  daughters  to  start  a  new  life  in  Morocco.  The  story   of   their   bohemian   lifestyle   in   Marrakesh   was  immortalised  in  Esther’s  novel  “Hideous  Kinky”,  and  later  turned   into   a hit  film   with   Coverley   played   by   Kate  Winslet.  Although   he   was   not   altogether   present   in   Bella   and  Esther’s  early  years,  Freud  was  extremely  close  with  his  two   daughters,  painting   both   of   them   several   times,  including  

Lucian Freud,  Baby  on  a  Green  Sofa,  1961  Copyright:  Image/Artwork:  ©  The  Lucian  Freud  Archive  /  Bridgeman  Images

Baby  on  a  Green  Sofa (1961),  a  painting  of  Bella  as  a  baby  resting  on  the  same  green  sofa  in  which  her  mother   was   portrayed.  Remarkably,   after   two  extraordinary  lives,  Freud  and  Coverley  died  within  just  four  days  of  each  other  in  July  2011.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on Thursday 11 February: Freud, Hockney

Two of Lucian Freud’s most intimate portraits of his daughters will be united in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on Thursday 11 February in London, King Street.

Head of Esther (1982-83, estimate: £2,500,000 - 3,500,000)

 and Head of Ib (1983-84, estimate: £2,500,000 – 3,500,000)

contribute to the strong core of British artists offered at auction this February, alongside Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Peter Doig.

The two works have previously been included, individually and together, in all of Freud’s major retrospectives, including at the National Portrait Gallery, London (2012); Tate Britain, London (2002-3) and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C (1988). Highlights of 20th Century at Christie’s, a series of sales that take place from 2-12 February in London, the two are on view at Christie’s Rockefeller Centre, New York until 20 January 2016. 
Of the same size and similar date, these works were both executed in arguably Freud's greatest period at the beginning of the 1980s when he painted the much celebrated  

Large Interior, WII (After Watteau), (1981-83),  

Two Irishmen in W11 (1984-85),

and his famed self-portraits of 1981

and 1985.

Having recently turned 60, this was a moment of reflection for Freud; painting his children for the first time in over a decade, these works capture Freud’s deep affection for his grown-up daughters after many years of parental absence.  The early 1980s was also a time of professional triumph for Freud: in 1981 he was hailed as a father of ‘New Figuration’ after his work was included in the ground-breaking exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and in 1983 he was appointed Commander of the British Empire in recognition of his contribution to British painting.
Painted when Esther and Isobel (Ib) were both in their early twenties, the two works stand among the artist’s most acclaimed small format portraits.  Almost the same age, Isobel (Ib, born in 1961 and daughter of Suzy Boyt) and Esther (born in 1963, the daughter of Bernardine Coverley and celebrated author of Hideous Kinky, which was made into a 1988 film starring Kate Winslet) are rendered with subtle strokes of impasto in rich, warm hues that convey the blossoming familiarity between father and daughters. Many of Freud’s sitters were unattributed but the portraits of his own children were almost always named. The paint itself, which the artist described as being the person, was worked to function in the same way as the flesh of the sitter. It became a tool not just of observation but of reconnection – a means of bringing himself closer to his daughters.
Esther Freud: ‘My father had charisma, he had the ability to make whoever he was with feel very special. With each person he was with he focused so much that they felt glowing. I was glowing. I felt I was important to him ... in those hours and hours I had so much of his attention. He would paint, tell me stories, sing me songs, give me food and take me for dinner. He makes you feel wonderful. I did feel very close to him’ (E. Freud, quoted in interview with A. Elkann).
Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post War and Contemporary Art, EMERI at Christie’s commented: ‘At Christie’s we have had the pleasure to present some of Freud’s greatest works yet never have we seen two small portraits of this quality; they are jewels that date from arguably the most important moment in his career and offer an insight into the relationship between a father and his daughters that is unmatched. The intimacy is reflected in the scale of the fourteen-by-twelve inch portraits recall the format of Francis Bacon’s celebrated portrait heads, however where Bacon attempted to capture the presence of his subject  in a single brushstroke, Freud carefully carves and caresses the paint with a piercing exactitude and intense precision.’

Also leading the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction are three works by David Hockney, including his vivid celebration of light and colour  

Beach Umbrella (1971, estimate: £1,000,000 – 1,500,000, pictured above).

Created during a highly productive period following the devastating end of the artist’s relationship with Peter Schlesinger, the work is also a powerful testament to the therapeutic power of paint. Its vibrant colours and rich, tactile surfaces demonstrate the solace Hockney found in the medium. Beach Umbrella was a highlight of Hockney’s landmark 1988 retrospective, which was shown to great acclaim at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Tate Modern in London.

Also offered for auction alongside Beach Umbrella are

Hockney’s Parade Curtain After Picasso (1980, estimate: £600,000 – 800,000), a jubilant tribute to his greatest artistic hero,

Parade, the curtain, tempera by Picasso. (the original)

and The Sea at Malibu (1988, estimate: £600,000 – 800,000, pictured above),

an example of his triumphant return to painting that year, and his continued reverence for Southern California where he had a studio in Malibu.

The Fitermans were champions of Pop Art in all its forms and whilst Hockney was a leading figure of the Brit Pop scene, in France Jean Dubuffet cultivated his own unique way of looking at the quotidian.

Dubuffet’s Veglione d’Ustensiles (1964, estimate: £1,000,000 – 1,500,000), painted in 1964 is a vibrant early example of Jean Dubuffet’s most revered series: ‘l’Hourloupe’, a celebration of the everyday.   Emblazoned against a black background, a swarming puzzle of red, white and blue segments form a teeming, interlocking mass of his now legendary visual language.

Completing this survey of international pop is Andy Warhol’s vibrant portrait of the artist Man Ray (1974, estimate: £200,000 – 300,000), a tribute by the Pop master to one of the leading figures of the Dada and Surrealist art movements. Rendered in Warhol’s distinctive Pop palette, Man Ray’s likeness is constructed out of a single screen of Warhol’s original photograph, which is then embellished by a series of expressive brushstrokes in tones of green and golden yellow.

Sotheby’s London Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist Art Evening Sales on 3rd February -

Encompassing works by artists including Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte, to name but a few, the 54 lots in the evening sales are estimated to fetch a combined total of £97,630,000-138,370,000.


Claude Monet Le Palais Ducal vu de Saint-Georges Majeur (1908) Estimate: £12,000,000-18,000,000

Monet’s spectacular view of the Palazzo Ducale on the Grand Canal belongs to the extraordinary series he completed during his first visit to Venice in the autumn of 1908.He paints a Venice transfigured by light–conveying the famous Venetian haze in the interplay between the ornate Byzantine façadeand the rhythmic expanse of water. Other examples of the artist’s views of Le Palais Ducal painted in the same year are now held by prestigious museum collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Sotheby’s has sold each of the three highest-priced paintings of Venice by Monet, including 

Le Grand Canal of 1908 in February 2015 for £23.7m, a record price for a Venice painting by the artist and  

Le Palais Ducal of 1908 in May 2015 for $23m.

Henri Matisse La Leçon de piano (1923) Estimate: £12,000,000-18,000,000

An exceptional painting by Matisse, La Leçon de piano has emerged after 89years in a private British collection. Combining music and art, two of the artist’s greatpassions, this intimate work is one of the finest interior compositions from Matisse’s early Nice period, which rank among the boldest and most life-affirming in Matisse’s œuvre.The vibrantly coloured and highly patterned fabrics that make up the interior have become synonymous with his art from the 1920s, and in this painting they are complemented by the piano on the left, while the composition is centred around the figures of Henriette Darricarrère, Matisse’s favourite model of this era, and her two younger brothers.The painting was acquired by the late Royan Middleton, whose collection is one of the least known and most fascinating of all those formed in Britain from the 1920s onwards.

Pablo Picasso Tête de femme (1935) Estimate: £16,000,000-20,000,000

Instantly recognisable as a portrait of Picasso’s ‘golden muse’ Marie-Thérèse Walter, this elegant and radiant composition is one of the most geometrically complex renderings of the artist’s beloved mistress.The work, full of erotic love for the woman who was pregnant with his child at the time of painting, features a crescent moon across her face, a symbol of Diana, god of fertility.  The linear forms of the composition contrast with the more cubist aesthetic which is achieved through the crosshatching of the background.The image of Marie-Thérèse in Tête de femme inspired a creative synthesis of the most radical aspects of Picasso's production,as he was able to incorporate elements from various different parts of his career into one work –the voluminous treatment characteristic of his plastic work, the grid-like background reminiscent of his ground-breaking collages, and the sharp, linear distortions borrowed from the Cubist canon.

Fernand Léger Eléments mécaniques (1919) Estimate: £3,000,000-5,000,000 

Created shortly after the end of the First World War, Eléments mécaniques is a celebration of technological progress in anage of rapid industrialisation. The piece also marks a return to the simple purity of abstraction and bright palette, which Léger had abandoned whilst serving in the French army. He transforms the composition with a fragmentation of the objects and space to reflect the frenetic simultaneity of modern life. 

Sotheby's 2013: Fernand Léger Élément mécanique, 1920. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 8,677,000 USD

Sotheby's 2015 Fernand Léger LES HOMMES DANS LA VILLE. 1919  LOT SOLD. 5,626,000 USD

Marc Chagall Femme a l’âne vert or
Tête de vache verte (1953) Estimate: £400,000-600,000

Femme à l’âne vert is suffused with the rich blue that characterises much of Chagall’s post-war work and represents his new engagement with colour and light. The figures in the piece are laden with significance and imbue the work with an underlying nostalgia that suggests both a present happiness and remembrances of a lost past.The young woman with dark, flowing hair was synonymous with the artist’s beloved first wife Bella, and here she is lent extra weight by the bouquet of flowers she clasps in her hand.

Christies 2010 L'âne vert Painted in 1969-1973 Price Realized £802,850


Franz Marc Grosse Landschaft I (Large Landscape I) (1909)Estimate:£4,000,000-6,000,000‘

 Marc believed that the horse, with its flowing mane and strong, sinuous physicality, symbolised the ideal beauty of nature. In 1911, Marc and Kandinsky chose this majestic animal for the cover of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach–the manifesto of a group fundamental to Expressionism. This early work heralds the artist’s bold palette and his rejection of naturalistic use of colour, in a harmonious and rhythmic composition. Marc died during the First World War, and the surviving artists, including Kandinsky and Paul Klee, later acknowledged their debt to the spiritually based, ‘primitive’ aesthetic that Marc had pioneered.

Emil Nolde Meer Bei Alsen (Sea off Alsen) (1910) Estimate: £1,200,000-1,600,000

Painted in 1910, Meer bei Alsen is one of the earliest representations of the sea by Emil Nolde, and is an exceptionally powerful and dynamic example of a subject which captivated him throughout his career. Preoccupied with the task of representing the sky and sea as elemental forces, the artist’s instinctive response to one of nature's most moving spectacles is clear in the raw energy capture by the rapid brushwork.

Max Beckmann Schlafende am Strand (Quappi at the Beach) (1927& 1950) Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000

Schlafende am Strand was inspired by Beckmann’s visit to Rimini on the Adriatic coast of Italy, where he spent the summer of 1927 with his wife Quappi. Both 

the initial sketch 

and the painting remained first in the artist’s and then in Quappi’s possession until the end of her life, the drawing now forming part of the collection of Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig. Quappi, who often featured as a model in Beckmann’s works, is depicted as an image of beauty and youth.The sense of simplicity and joie de vivre is palpable as the artist centres his attention on depicting the simple pleasure of lying on a sunny beach.

 France Kees van Dongen Lilas et tulipes (circa1925) Estimate: £400,000-600,000 

Vibrantly coloured and executed on an impressive scale, Lilas et tulipes exemplifies both Van Dongen’sremarkable mastery of colour and his innovative approach to the still-life form. Juxtaposing the slender stems of the lilac blossoms with the sensuous heads of the tulips, Van Dongen imbues the composition with a remarkable dynamism and his expressive use of thickly applied colour reflects the enduring influence of an association with the Fauves.

Wassily Kandinsky Flächen und Linien (Surfaces and Lines) (1930) Estimate: £700,000-1,000,000

A harmonious exploration of colour and form, Flächen und Linien is an important example of Kandinsky’s mature style. The painting dates from the years the artist spent in the industrial town of Dessau, where the Bauhaus was relocated in 1925.Combining flat planes of colour and clearly defined shapes in the style thatbecame associated with his Bauhaus works, this paintingexemplifies the artist’s ground-breaking aesthetic experiments.His use of strict geometric forms was due to his belief that particular arrangements of shapes triggered an "inner resonance" or "spiritual vibration" and could elicit from a viewer a powerful emotional response.

Sotheby's 2015 Wassily Kandinsky OHNE TITEL Estimate 2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 5,738,000 USD


Paul Delvaux Le Miroir (1936) Estimate: £5,500,000-7,500,000 

In this monumental painting Delvauxpresents an encounter of disparate elements, juxtaposed in such a way as to create aworld of mystery. Depicting at once an interior and an exterior setting, there is an ambiguity in the relationship between the two figures. The nude woman is associated with nature and beauty, whilst the decaying room with its peeling wallpaper may well serve as a metaphor for the woman’s spiritual state. The first owner of Le Miroir was Sir Roland Penrose, who was himself a painter as well as a friend of many Surrealist artists and an avid promoter of their work.

Pablo Picasso Personnages oil on canvas (1929) Estimate: £1,000,000-1,500,000

In 1929 Picasso’s private life was dominated by more than one woman, as he was becoming increasingly involved with his young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter while still married to Olga Khokhlova. His depictions of the beach at Dinard often contain references to both women, exorcising the tension of his increasingly distressing relationship with his wife Olga while at the same time reflecting the compelling new inspiration and energy that Marie-Thérèse brought into his life.The work reflects the influence of the Surrealist artists who were at the forefront of the European avant-garde, as Picasso used their highly abstracted vocabulary as a means of disguising the image of his mistress, whose existence he would keep secret until 1932.

Francis Picabia Ventilateur (circa1918) Estimate: £1,800,000-2,500,000

An exceptional example of Picabia’s rare and profoundly influential machinist compositions from his Dada period, in this work a ventilation machine is depicted as analogous with a potent female sexuality. The use of mechanical forms and the sensational associations they evoke were fundamental to the artist’s perception of art’s role in the modern, industrialised epoch. 

René Magritte Shéhérazade (1956) Estimate: £500,000-700,000

One of Magritte’s most elegant renderings of the recurring motif of the pearl-woman, this intricately composed female face alludes to the enigmatic yet legendary storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights. Her beauty is evident, yet at the same time it appears like a fleeting mirage in a mysterious setting, revealing the artist’s fascination with the paradox of the visible and the invisible. This gouache was commissioned from the artist by Barnet Hodes in 1956. 

René Magritte L’Usage de la parole ( 1961)Estimate: £500,000-700,000

Magritte’s use of paper cut-outs in 1925 began around the same time that he embarked on his first surrealist paintings. This work features a number of the iconic elements and signature objects that he developed at this time, including the silhouette of a bowler-hatted man –which remained the single most iconic motif of his œuvre. The piece is also linked to Magritte’s celebrated body of work known as ‘word-paintings’, and the word representing an abstract notion (knowledge) adds a conceptual dimension to the composition.

Paul Klee In Stellung (In Position)(1939) Estimate: £120,000-180,000

Executedin 1939, the most productive year in Klee’s career, In Stellung is a magnificent example of the artist’s ability to blend natural elements and geometric forms into a fantastic, dream-like image. Following Klee’s death in 1940, the present work was inherited by his widow Lily Klee and later passed into the possession of the newly formed Klee Foundation in Bern.


Auguste Rodin Iris, messagère des Dieux (1890-91) Estimate: £6,000,000-8,000,000

Suspended in mid-air, this image of the female body is one of Rodin's most daring sculptures, both in its defiance of gravity and in the frankness of its sexuality.One of only seven known life-time casts of this magnificent work, the bronze is one of his most celebrated sculptures, admired for its expressiveness. Rodin drew voluminous quantities of nudes in unconventional poses, often highly erotic ones, and it is perhaps these studies that prompted the exceptional arrangement of the Iris. Originally conceived as one of the muses in his second project for the Victor Hugo Monument, the flagrantly explicit composition and central focus on the female anatomy also recalls Gustave Courbet's infamous painting L'Origine du monde.

Alberto Giacometti La Cage (première version)(executed in 1950 and cast in bronze in 1991) Estimate: £1,800,000-2,500,000

Throughout his career as both sculptor and painter, Giacometti was preoccupied with two themes that became central to his work:the role of the artist and his model and the relationship between man and woman. InLaCage (première version)both of these themes combine to create a palpable tension.This is due to the relatively ambiguous relationship of the figures, but also between the geometric structure of the cage itself and the fluidity of its captives.The mportance of La Cage (première version)to Giacometti is evident in the fact that he kept the plaster version of the work himself until his death, whereupon it was cast in bronze posthumously.

Edgar Degas  Cheval se cabrant (conceived circa 1880s and cast by 1921) Estimate: £500,000-700,000

Widely regarded as Degas' most expressive rendering of a horse, this work celebrates the elegance and power of the animal’s movement.Degas’ two engrossing passions, horseracing and ballet, provided him with a rich and exciting social life and the artistic inspiration for the greatest part of his œuvre. As a member of the prestigious Jockey Club, the artist was a habitué of the racecourses at Deauville and Longchamps, where he could study the beauty of thoroughbred horses at close quarters. This sculpture is among the earliest-known casts from the edition and was exhibited at the GalerieBernheim-Jeune in Paris in 1921.

Henry Moore Maquette for King and Queen (conceived and cast in bronze in 1952) Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000

The maquette for one of Moore’s most celebrated monumental sculptures, the King and Queen, the work depicts two figures which are imbued with an ancient, otherworldly majesty that is closer to a primitive notion of kingship than a modern conception of royalty. Moore subsequently suggested that one inspiration for them had been an Egyptian limestone statue in the British Museum and the enigmatic quality of their mask-like faces certainly recalls ancient statuary.The figures’ mystical quality was inherent in their making.The first full-size cast was made for the Middelheim Museum, Antwerp in 1953, and further casts are now in the collection of the Tate, London, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D. C., and the Glenkiln Sculpture Park in Dumfries, Scotland.

Salvador Dalí Vénus de Milo aux tiroirs Executed in plaster in 1936 and cast in bronze in 1964. Estimate: £400,000-600,000

The image of Vénus de Milowas celebrated as the apex of female beauty by poets and artists throughout the centuries. Man Ray and Dalí created intriguing reassessments of this paragon of mythical beauty as an object of amusement and sexual play.As a child, Dalí had made a terracotta copy of the famous Greek marble at the Musée du Louvre. The motif evolved further while Dalí was staying in England with Edward James, the renowned collector and supporter of the Surrealists, after a misunderstanding that arose upon hearing someone talk of a “chest of drawers”. The first version of this work was created in 1936 when Dalí, possibly with the technical assistance of Marcel Duchamp, modified a copy of the Vénus de Milo incorporating six drawers.The piece alludes to the mysterious depths of the human psyche. Dalí was influenced by Sigmund Freud, as the human body, an object of beauty at the time of the Greeks, was now full of secret drawers which only psychoanalysis could pull open. Dalí’saddition of fur in the place of the knobs adds a soft, tactile quality to the image, amplifying its erotic undertone.

In this work Dalí painted the bronze in white, thus tricking the viewer into believing that the sculpture is made of marble. The theme of the Vénus de Milo with drawers appears in several drawings and a painting from the same year. 

Man Ray Vénus restaurée (1971)Estimate: £350,000-500,000 

Vénus restaurée is one of the most iconic of Man Ray’s surrealist creations: a magnificent and thought-provoking object which challenges and subverts preconceived notions of sexuality and beauty. The torso of a nude woman –modelled after the celebrated Medici Venus which dates from 1st century B.C., now in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence –is here imbued with undeniable connotations of eroticism and calls to mind the Marquis de Sade, whose writings deeply influenced the Surrealists. The use of rope is suggestive of enslavement, re-enforcing the importance of the body as a sexual and fetishistic tool within Surrealist practice.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

European hand-painted playing cards 1430–1540

The World in Play: Luxury Cards, 1430–1540

The Cloisters, New York City
January 20–April 17, 2016

Only three decks of European hand-painted playing cards are known to have survived from the late Middle Ages—two made in Germany and one in the Burgundian Netherlands, all dating from the early to late 15th century. The only complete set of these luxury cards—The Cloisters Playing Cards, from the southern Netherlands—and representative examples from the other two decks will be featured in the exhibition The World in Play: Luxury Cards, 1430–1540, opening January 20 at The Cloisters.

The earliest surviving deck of hand-painted woodcut cards—and the finest example of such work from the German Renaissance—will also be included in the exhibition, where contextual background will be provided by 15th-century engraved and woodcut playing cards from Germany and tarot cards from North Italy. Among the works on view will be examples by the Basel painter Konrad Witz (1400–1445) and two other artists of the period who were known as Master E. S. and Master of the Playing Cards.

The Cloisters is the branch of the Metropolitan Museum dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.

Card games originated in China in the ninth century and were later taken up in India and the Middle East. Playing cards first appeared in Europe around the late 14th century, probably through trade. Because card games often involved gambling, clerical and civilian authorities in Europe banned cards. Early European decks were not standardized and featured diverse suit pictures as well as variety in the number of suits and the number of cards.

Exhibition Overview

The three hand-painted decks represented in the exhibition—the Stuttgart Cards (ca. 1430), the Ambras Courtly Hunt Cards (ca. 1440), and The Cloisters Playing Cards (ca. 1470–80)—were made over a span of some 50 years by different artists in different locations. Although each of these decks is unique, all feature images related to hunting, a favorite leisure activity of medieval nobility. The high quality of the paintings and excellent condition of the cards suggest that the luxury sets were never played. Rather, they may have served as engaging collectors’ items, like portfolios of prints or drawings, for the private enjoyment of their owners.

Representing the earliest known deck of cards is the incomplete Stuttgart Cards (12 of the 49 remaining cards in this deck will be on view at The Cloisters). Although the theme is the hunt, no actual hunt is shown. Rather, the imagery of the Stuttgart Cards serves as a metaphor for the patron’s view of the world, evoking a chivalric past in which man exists in harmony with nature. The deck’s four suits are falcons, hounds, ducks, and stags.

On the basis of overall style and the treatment of landscapes, the Ambras Courtly Hunt Cards are attributed to the workshop of the noted German painter Konrad Witz. The suits are lures, falcons, herons, and hounds. Six cards from this deck will be displayed.

The Cloisters Playing Cards are the earliest complete set of cards, and are among the more intriguing works of secular art in the collection of The Cloisters. The exhibition marks the first time that all 52 cards will be displayed at The Cloisters at the same time. (Because works on paper are sensitive to light, normally only a small number of the cards have been shown at one time.) The suits in The Cloisters deck are nooses, collars, leashes, and hunting horns.

Six examples from the 16th-century Courtly Household cards—the earliest deck of printed cards—will provide a fascinating glimpse into the organization of a late medieval princely court. The four suits correspond to the kingdoms of Germany, France, Bohemia, and Hungary. The hand-colored cards in this set are embellished in silver and gold leaf and represent the varied ranks at court: king, queen, marshal, chaplain, physician, chancellor, court mistress, barber, herald, fishmonger, and fool. Some occupations are depicted in all four suits, others appear only once. The deck represents some of the earliest German woodblock prints in existence.

A later set of woodblock printed cards from Nuremburg around 1540, by German sculptor, designer, and printmaker Peter Flötner, is distinguished by the musical notations that appear on the back of each card. The cards from this deck—all of which will be shown in the exhibition—are hand colored, with silver and gold embellishments. The suit pictures—acorns, leaves, hearts, and bells—had by this time become standard in Germany.

Queen of Stags, from The Stuttgart Playing Cards (Das Stuttgarter Kartenspiel) German, Upper Rhineland, ca. 1430
Paper (six layers in pasteboard) with gold ground and opaque paint over pen and ink
7 1⁄2 × 4 3⁄4 in. (19.1 × 12.1 cm)

Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart (KK grau 15)
Image: © Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart, photo: H. Zwietasch 

Under Knave of Ducks, from The Stuttgart Playing Cards (Das Stuttgarter Kartenspiel)
German, Upper Rhineland, ca. 1430
Paper (six layers in pasteboard) with gold ground and opaque paint over pen and ink 7 1⁄2 × 4 3⁄4 in. (19.1 × 12.1 cm)
Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart (KK grau 42)
Image: © Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart, photo: H. Zwietasch 

9 of Hounds, from The Courtly Hunt Cards (Das Hofjagdspiel) Workshop of Konrad Witz (active in Basel, 1434–44)
German, Upper Rhineland, ca. 1440–45
Paper (pasteboard) with watercolor, opaque paint, and gold over pen and ink 6 1⁄4 × 3
7⁄8 in. (15.9 × 9.8 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Kunstkammer (KK 5032) Image: © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

5 of Herons, from The Courtly Hunt Cards (Das Hofjagdspiel) Workshop of Konrad Witz (active in Basel, 1434–44)
German, Upper Rhineland, ca. 1440–45
Paper (pasteboard) with watercolor, opaque paint, and gold over pen and ink 6 1⁄4 × 3
7⁄8 in. (15.9 × 9.8 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Kunstkammer (KK 5053) Image: © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

4 (Trumpeter) of Hungary, from The Courtly Household Cards (Das Hofämterspiel)
German, Upper Rhineland, ca. 1450
Woodcut on paper (pasteboard) with watercolor, opaque paint, pen and ink, and tooled gold and silver

5 1⁄2 × 3 15/16 in. (14 × 10 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Kunstkammer (KK 5088) Image: © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

6 (Lady-in-Waiting) of France, from The Courtly Household Cards (Das Hofämterspiel)
German, Upper Rhineland, ca. 1450
Woodcut on paper (pasteboard) with watercolor, opaque paint, pen and ink, and tooled gold and silver

5 1⁄2 × 3 15/16 in. (14 × 10 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Kunstkammer (KK 5118) Image: © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Knave of Cups, from The Visconti Tarot
Workshop of Bonifacio Bembo (Italian, active ca. 1442–77; d. before 1482)
Italian, Milan, ca. 1450
Paper (pasteboard) with opaque paint on tooled gold ground
3⁄8 × 3 1⁄2 in. (18.9 × 9 cm)
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University,
New Haven, Connecticut (ITA 109)
Image: © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven

World, from The Visconti Tarot
Workshop of Bonifacio Bembo (Italian, active ca. 1442–77; d. before 1482)
Italian, Milan, ca. 1450
Paper (pasteboard) with opaque paint on tooled gold ground
3⁄8 × 3 1⁄2 in. (18.9 × 9 cm)
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University,
New Haven, Connecticut (ITA 109)
Image: © Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven

Knave of Horns, from The Cloisters Playing Cards
South Netherlandish, Burgundian territories, ca. 1475–80
Paper (four layers in pasteboard) with pen and ink, opaque paint, glazes, and applied silver and gold
5 3/16 × 2 3⁄4 in. (13.2 × 7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1983 (1983.515.3)
Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 Queen of Nooses, from The Cloisters Playing Cards
South Netherlandish, Burgundian territories, ca. 1475–80
Paper (four layers in pasteboard) with pen and ink, opaque paint, glazes, and applied silver and gold
5 3/16 × 2 3⁄4 in. (13.2 × 7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1983 (1983.515.41)
Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

4 of Leafs from The Playing Cards of Peter Flötner and King of Bells, from The Playing Cards of Peter Flötner Peter Flötner (German, Thurgau 1485–1546 Nuremberg) Published by Hans Christoph Zell
German, Nuremberg, ca. 1540
Woodcut on paper with watercolor, opaque paint, and gold 4 1⁄8 × 2 3⁄8 in. (10.5 × 5.9 cm)
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (GMN Sp 7418 1–47 Kapsel 516) Image: © Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, photo: Monika Runge

Monday, January 18, 2016

Wilfredo Lam at Auction

Christie’s The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale on Tuesday 2 February 2016 


Infused with a sense of drama and mystery, Chant de la Forêt by Wifredo Lam (1902-1982) captures the dark and enigmatic power of the Cuban landscape and stimulates the imagination in its suggestion of the presence of unseen forces, hidden in the depths of the forest (estimate: £1.3-1.8 million). Fusing vegetative forms with sharply angled shapes, the artist creates a hybrid creature, part animal, part plant and part mystical being. Its hybridity simultaneously referencing Surrealist thought, the indigenous landscape of Lam’s homeland, and the unique elements of the Afro-Cuban culture which survived there. Painted in 1946, Chant de la Forêt was created following Lam’s return to Cuba after almost two decades living in Europe. This homecoming prompted an extraordinary breakthrough in the artist’s work, as he reconnected with his cultural roots. Hinting at a presence beyond the conscious world, this work elegantly fuses the unique spiritual elements of the Cuban culture with its distinctively lush landscapes to achieve a bold new approach to Surrealism.

Christie’s  2013

Price Realized


Christie’s  2010


Wifredo Lam (Cuban 1902-1982)


Price Realized


Sotheby's 2015

LOT SOLD. 1,210,000 USD

Estimate 500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 610,000 USD

Estimate 200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 363,000 EUR

Estimate 800,0001,200,000 USD

600,000800,000 USD

Sotheby's 2014

Estimate 600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 725,000 USD

Estimation 200,000300,000
Lot. Vendu 695,000 USD