British, Dutch and Flemish Masters Headline Sotheby’s 2010 Summer Sale

Sotheby’s London summer Evening Sale of Old Master and British Paintings in London will take place on Wednesday, July 7, 2010 and taking centre stage will be J.M.W. Turner’s breathtaking masterpiece Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino.

The sale will further comprise: a strong selection of works by Dutch and Flemish 17th century artists including members of the Brueghel dynasty, Frans Hals and Jan Lievens; a rare painting by the British artist James Ward; and little-known and newly-discovered works by the great Spanish still life painter of the 18th century, Luis Meléndez, the 14th century Italian artist Barnaba da Modena and John Constable. Some 57 lots will be presented for sale overall, with a combined pre-sale estimate in the region £35 million.

J.M.W. Turner’s Breathtaking Masterpiece Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, Estimated at £12-18 Million. Photo: Sotheby’s

Turner’s Modern Rome:
J.M.W. Turner’s Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino is undoubtedly one of the most important works by the British master ever to come to auction. Painted in 1839, the painting shows Turner at the height of his technical powers and it is further distinguished by its immaculate condition and impeccable provenance, having only appeared on the open market once in the 171 years since it was painted. The picture, illustrated on the front page, was bought by the 5th Earl of Rosebery for his wife Hannah Rothschild, in 1878, and has remained in his family collection ever since. It is today one of only five comparable major Turner oil paintings to have remained in private hands. Arguably Turner’s finest depiction of an Italian city, this sun-filled panorama represents the culmination of the artist’s fascination with Rome and it comes to the market with an estimate of £12-18 million. The sale will also include two Italian views in watercolour by Turner – Venice from Fusina, estimated at £700,000-1,000,000, and Rome from Monte Mario, estimated at £400,000-600,000. Both watercolours are completely fresh to the market having last been on sale in 1890.

The Brueghel Dynasty:
Notably the sale will include a number of scenes of peasant life by members of the great Brueghel dynasty, which have all been off the market for more than 50 years, and have been consigned following the successful sale of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Massacre of the Innocents at Sotheby’s London last July for the sum of £4.6 million. A hitherto unrecorded picture by Pieter Brueghel the Younger – entitled The Outdoor Wedding Feast – has been part of the same family collection for the last 60 years and represents a rare opportunity for collectors. Capturing a subject that is one of the artist’s most famous compositions, this version presented for sale is unquestionably among the finest examples to survive today. Not only in an excellent state of preservation, it is also remarkable in being one of the earliest versions of the well-known scene to survive, and it is presented for sale with an estimate of £900,000-1,300,000.

The Kermesse of Saint George with the Dance Around the Maypole is another previously unrecorded work by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Painted on a single plank of wood and also conserved in excellent condition, the painting has been in the same family collection for 60 years and it is one of only eight or nine authentic versions of the composition known by the artist. It is estimated at £2.2-2.8 million. Jan Brueghel the Elder is represented by A Village Landscape with Horses, Carts and Figures Before Cottages, a characteristic Flemish village scene during the summer months, with the village inn and all the goings on within it at the heart of the composition. The painting has been part of the same English family collection since 1958 and before that – for more than two centuries – was in the Bavarian Electoral and Royal collections. It comes to the market with an estimate of £800,000-1,200,000.

Bernard van Orley:
A panel depicting the Virgin and Child by Bernard van Orley, one of the greatest Netherlandish painters of the 16th century, graces the cover of the Evening Sale catalogue and is estimated at £500,000-700,000. Beautifully preserved, it is one of four panels of similar size and style that seem to have been painted by the artist for the same altarpiece, possibly that of the Benedictine Monastery of Marchiennes near Douai in Northern France around 1515.

David Teniers the Younger:
A previously unrecorded work by David Teniers the Younger, depicting a guardroom interior with a self-portrait of the artist, has been in the same family collection in France since the early 19th century or earlier. The work is unusually painted on a copper support, which allowed the artist to render the scene with a remarkably high degree of detail and finish. Of further note is that Teniers has portrayed his own likeness in the features of the standing officer, who is shown smartly attired in an exotic fur-trimmed coat and fur hat with plume. The scene is estimated at £300,000-500,000.

Dutch Golden Age works:
Two important portraits – the work of Jan Lievens and Frans Hals – highlight the strong group of Dutch Golden Age works presented for sale. A Study of the Head and Shoulders of an Old Bearded Man Wearing A Cap by Jan Lievens, estimated at £2-3 million, dates from circa 1629, a time when Lievens and Rembrandt were together in Leiden and painting a series of studies of old men and women, the theme of which was old age itself. The portrait shows the extraordinary quality of characterisation which caused Lievens to be regarded as the equal of Rembrandt by his contemporaries.

The mastery of Frans Hals is represented with his Portrait of a Man Wearing a Hat and Holding a Pair of Gloves, a mature work by the artist that dates from circa 1644-5 and shows his self assured style to perfection. This portrait also carries an estimate of £2-3 million.

The sale will also include prime examples by Hendrick Terbrugghen, Willem Claesz Heda and Pieter Jacobs Codde. Hendrick Terbrugghen’s A Luteplayer Carousing with a Young Woman Holding a Roemer, estimated at £1-1.5 million, is one of the finest paintings by the artist left in private hands and an outstanding example of his virtuosity.

A superb still life by Heda dates from the height of the artist’s powers and comes to the market with an estimate of £300,000-400,000. The still life features a pewter kanne, a silver beaker, an earthenware pot, silver and pewter platters and a ham, and all are informly arranged on a table draped with a white cloth over a green one. Such objects are signature elements of Heda’s output and also that of his peers in the city of Haarlem in the 17th century. Heda and his peers refined this genre of still life painting to the extent that it became the dominant style in and around Haarlem for several decades.

A Portrait of the Family Twent in an Interior by Codde shows the patriarch of the Twent family of Delft in Southern Holland standing proudly in the centre of a sparsely decorated room with several generations of his family all around him. Dated 1633, the portrait belongs to Codde’s most productive period, both as a painter and a writer. Although his most famous work as a portraitist is his completion of Frans Hals’s monumental life size portrait group of civic guards (The Meagre Company, which today hangs in the Rijksmuseum), in the context of his own portraits this depiction of the Twent family is widely considered his most ambitious and successful. The work has an estimate of £400,000-600,000.

Other British highlights:
A powerful and dramatic painting of a lioness and a heron by the British artist James Ward is rare to the market and carries an estimate of £400,000-600,000. The painting portrays, with startling immediacy, a lioness at rest in a stormy landscape, her left paw holding down a heron, which she has just trapped and it represents an important development in the depiction of animals in British art. As a subject, animals had fascinated Ward from early on in his career and he would later go on to become the most important animal painter of his generation. In addition to depictions of horses, dogs and other domesticated animals Ward became fascinated by wild and exotic beasts and they were the subject of some of his most successful and dramatic pictures. The painting is being sold by the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico and the proceeds raised will be used to benefit future acquisitions at the museum. Additional British highlights will include some important British portraits: a Portrait of a Lady, Probably Lady Margaret Douglas attributed to William Scrots; a Portrait of Sir William Guise by Allan Ramsay; and a portrait of Sir James Scudamore wearing Greenwich armour, which
is attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.

Little-known and newly-discovered works:
An unseen still life by Luis Meléndez – whose whereabouts have been unknown for over half a century – comes to the market with an estimate of £300,000-500,000 and the beautiful “bodegon” epitomizes the style and qualities that made Meléndez one of the greatest painters of still lifes in the 18th century. Its subject – typically – is one of quiet simplicity and consists of nothing more than the ingredients for a simple salad, set upon the rough hewn wooden planks of a kitchen table. In this uncomplicated but highly realistic style Meléndez continued and developed the tradition of Spanish still life painting established by his countrymen Juan Sánchez Cotán and Francisco de Zurbarán in the previous century. The design of this still life is clearly closely related to Meléndez’s slightly larger painting of the same subject from 1774 which can today be found in the Prado in Madrid.

A previously unknown gold ground panel of the Madonna and Child by the Modena born artist Barnaba da Modena also represents an exciting re-discovery, having been in the same French collection for over a century. The panel, which is estimated at £300,000-500,000, is unusual in the fact that it is signed and dated by this important late 14th century Italian master.

A little-known cloud study by John Constable has been in the same private collection since 1956 and is estimated at £200,000-300,000. During the summer and autumn of 1821 and 1822 Constable made a concerted effort to paint studies of clouds and in 1821 he wrote to his great friend the Reverend John Fisher: “I have done a good deal of skying – I am determined to conquer all difficulties…. That landscape painter who does not make skies a very material part of the composition – neglects to avail himself of one of his greatest aids.” Constable undoubtedly had a practical knowledge of the sky and clouds dating from his early days as a miller’s son, but he also took great pains to absorb contemporary scientific knowledge. His studies can be seen as a faithful record of the weather at the time and he succeeded in depicting all sorts of varieties of cloud types, the direction of their movement, and their three dimensional form.