Works from the Salander O’Reilly Galleries to be Auctioned at Christie’s

On June 9, Christie’s new York will offer as a special addition to its sale of Old Masters & 19th Century Art, a selection of European paintings and sculpture from the former Salander-O’Reilly Galleries based in Manhattan. The inventory is to be sold pursuant to a Chapter 11 plan approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. A total of 130 Renaissance era and 19th century works will be presented for sale, including paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Palma Vecchio, Jacopo Bassano, and the studio of El Greco, among others.

Earlier in the day, Christie’s will present its mid-season sale of Old Masters & 19th Century Art, including major works by Bouguereau, Batoni, Carlevarijs, Grimshaw, and Brueghel, among others.

The works from the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries collection include a number of significant works by the leading masters of the Renaissance era, with a particular focus on Italian paintings and sculpture. The selection spans nearly 400 years of European fine art, from a 14th century Bolognese School painting (estimate: $15,000-20,000) to a painting by the 19th French artist Théodore Géricault, A rooster, three chickens, and a guinea pig (estimate: $200,000-300,000). The works are indicative of the many fine examples of Old Master and 19th century art acquired by Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, LLC over its three decades of operation.

In November 2007, the Gallery became a debtor in a Chapter 11 case before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. In January, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order confirming a Chapter 11 Plan which incorporated a series of settlements between and among the Gallery and its major creditors, and paved the way for the upcoming auction of selected works from the gallery’s vast inventory. The Plan ensures that all of the artwork to be sold is free and clear of all liens, claims, and encumbrances. Further, the Trust overseeing the auction has secured title insurance protection from ARIS for all of the works as an added benefit so that buyers may bid with confidence. There is no added cost for this benefit.

Highlights of the Sale
Among the many highlights of the upcoming auction is Sir Peter Paul Rubens’ An Allegory of Fortitude (estimate: $200,000-300,000), one of four panels Rubens created circa 1630 to represent the four Virtues: Prudence, Fortitude, Justice, and Abundance. With An Allegory of Fortitude, Rubens presents his main subject as a fusion of Hercules, the hero of classical mythology, and Samson, his biblical counterpart. The hero’s strength and courage is signified both by the fractured columns he holds in his arms, and the lion pelt – a signifier of the Nemean lion – that he wears as a protective cloak.

Also among the top lots of the selection is The Agony in the Garden (estimate: $200,000-300,000), a superbly rendered workshop version of one of El Greco’s (1541-1614) most celebrated religious compositions. The painting depicts the episode after the Last Supper and immediately before Christ’s arrest, when he retired to the Mount of Olives to pray, while in the distance a group of soldiers led by Judas Iscariot approaches. Below the kneeling figure of Jesus, the disciples Peter, James, and John are depicted as elegant, elongated figures – a characteristic of the artist’s celebrated style.

For devotees of Titian, the selection boasts an impressive group of works by 16th and 17th century contemporaries and followers of the great artist, including Jacopo Palma, Il Vecchio (1479/80-1528), and Pietro Della Vecchia (1602/3-1678), among others. Palma Vecchio’s Portrait of a Woman (estimate: $150,000-200,000) is a provocative half-length depiction of a blond courtesan modeled on Titian’s celebrated Flora in the collection of the Uffizi in Florence. Della Vecchia’s Imaginary SelfPortrait of Titian (pictured page one right; estimate: $100,000-150,000) was once considered to be a self-portrait by Titian himself, until scholars later re-examined the work and determined it to be as autograph variant of Della Vecchia’s Portrait of Titian, now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The large scale portrait depicts Titian with sketchpad at hand, wearing the gold chain given him by Charles V and with a statuette of the Medici Venus in the background.

Additional highlights include the sale’s cover lot, a superb portrayal of the Madonna and Child attributed to the 16th century Bolognese painter Girolama Mirola (estimate: $60,000-80,000) and a group of 35 sculptural works dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, including bronzes, carved wood, terracotta, and sandstone figures, and relief carvings in marble and wood. A beautifully-detailed sandstone figure of Saint John the Baptist is believed to have once adorned a church portal, and dates to the second half of the 15th century (pictured at left; estimate: $15,000-20,000). An early 16th century carved marble portrait in relief of Alexander the Great (estimate: $10,000-15,000) portrays the renowned Macedonian king with flowing locks and wearing his iconic lion’s headdress.