Sotheby’s London Sale of 19th Century European Paintings 18 May

Sotheby’s London Sale of 19th Century European Paintings on Wednesday, 18 May, 2011 will bring together some 163 works by artists from no fewer than 15 countries: among them Spain, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Italy, France, Switzerland, Britain, Israel, the Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, and South America. Among the distinct categories of pictures to be offered will be a strong contingent of Spanish, Orientalist, German, Austrian and Central European works. The sale is estimated to bring in excess of £6.5 million.

Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928), In the Harem. Estimated at £200,000-300,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.

Spanish Paintings
The Spanish section of the 19th Century European Paintings sale boasts Arabe delante de un tapiz (Arab Before a Tapestry), one of the most important works by Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874) that has appeared at auction in the last decade. The picture pays homage to the mystery and exoticism of North Africa. Painted in Rome in 1873 at the height of his career, a year before his untimely death at the age of 36, Arab Before a Tapestry – never before exhibited in public – is a large and dramatic canvas that demonstrates a marriage of Moorish and Western cultures. Each component is carefully arranged for optimum theatrical effect, from the richly patterned vertical drop of the Persian Safavid carpet, to the standing Arab swathed in a white robe, who holds a Moroccan musket horizontally above his chest. To his right, Fortuny has placed a Spanish twelfth century ivory inlaid casket; to his left, a sixteenth century round hispano-moresque lustreware; above his head, a hanging mosque glass. Estimated at £150,000-250,000, the present work comes to the market from a South American private collection, and Sotheby’s sale will mark its first appearance at auction.

The period’s greatest exponent, Valencian painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), is present in the sale with several works, among them the Portrait of Luisa Martinez de Tejeda (est. £120,000-150,000) painted in 1907, when he had received the highest accolades for his very personal technique and enjoyed international recognition across Europe and in the United States. The masterful composition Sevillanas (Ladies of Seville) (est. £280,000-350,000) and the more intimate Cabeza de Andaluza (Andalusian Girl) (est. £80,000-120,000) were produced in 1914-15, during a break from the Andalusian panels for the Visions of Spain cycle commissioned for the Hispanic Society, New York, by Archer Huntington. Both works come from the artist’s private collection and show Sorolla at one of his best moments, painting for his own pleasure.

Collectors interested in the sought-after landscapes by the charismatic leader of Catalan Modernism Santiago Rusiñol (1861-1931) have the choice of three works which are very fresh to the market. Rusiñol travelled extensively throughout Spain, and often returned to favourite locations such as Majorca to capture different angles of landscapes that had caught his eye. He worked on the hitherto unknown work Garden of Sa Coma, Valdemosa (est. £80,000-120,000) in the same year –1904 – and at the same venue as Jardí de muntanya, Sa Coma, IV, sold at Sotheby’s London for £568,000 in 2006 and which established a record for the artist’s work at auction. Further up the island he painted El Valle, Soller (View over Soller) (est. £180,000-250,000). Both works come directly from private collections and have not been seen in public for almost a century. The third work by Rusiñol in this sale is The Hanging Houses, Cuenca (est. £70,000-100,000), one of the seven paintings he completed in the summer of 1916 when in Cuenca.

Fellow Catalan artist Joaquín Mir (1873-1940) captured the bustle of the square on a bright day in Plaza De Pau Casals, Vilanova (est. £100,000–150,000). This painting, which has never before been recorded, shows the artist at the happiest and most settled time of his life following his marriage and move to Vilanova y la Geltrú in 1922. The artist’s fascination with colour and contrasts of light and shade are evident in this mature work in which he has abandoned the use of black and sombre colours so present in his earlier works.

Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945) has two works in the sale, Mademoiselle Souty (est. £150,000–250,000) and Good Fortune (est. £90,000–130,000), and Cordoba’s Julio Romero de Torres (1874-1930) provides his vision of an alluring woman in the portrait Julita Cerdá (est. £25,000-35,000). The sale also includes works by Fernando Alvarez de Sotomayor, José de Togores, Rafael Zabaleta and Valentín de Zubiaurre, as well as a collection of 42 small panels depicting views of Spanish towns by Jenaro Pérez Villaamil, from the collection of the Earl of Clarendon.

The Orientalist Sale
The Orientalist section of the sale will be highlighted by an impressive array of works fresh to the market by seminal artists in this field. The 62 works are estimated to realise in excess of £2.5 million. Austrian-born Rudolf Ernst (1852-1932) is today one of the most celebrated and sought-after Orientalist painters of the nineteenth century and Sotheby’s sale will include three works by the artist. Leaving the Mosque is a superbly conceived and finely observed panel, in which Ernst gives expression to his admiration for Muslim piety and Islamic architecture. Mosques and prayer became central to his paintings during his travels to the Middle East. In the present work, estimated at £200,000-300,000, Ernst displays his characteristic attention to the quiet richness and geometrical order of the architecture, the clean lines and vivid colours, all symbols of divine perfection.

A second exceptional work by Ernst is An Afternoon Show, painted long after his Middle Eastern travels were over. Ernst made no apologies for the imaginative craftsmanship that took place in his Paris studio. The present work brings together interesting vignettes and well-observed details that were probably never witnessed by the artist in one place or at one time. A brown bear dances to the beat of the gypsy’s tambourine, capturing the attention of the seated men who are oblivious even to the arrival of their afternoon coffee. The building in the background, with its beautiful light and dark stone courses and exterior stairwell, is typical of Mamluk and later Ottoman architecture. The oil on panel, estimated at £80,000-120,000, combines Ernst’s love of contrasting patterns and textures, with his skill as a storyteller.

The Bohemian artist Rudolf Weiss (b. 1859) is represented with an oil on panel entitled The Arms Merchant Presenting his Wares. Weiss belonged to the highly successful school of Viennese trained Austrian and Bohemian artists, including Rudolf Ernst, who made Orientalist subjects their metier. He perfected the genre, as seen in the present work with its display of academic rigour and attention to detail. An almost luminous clarity is achieved through the use of a wood panel. It is estimated at £80,000-100,000.

The American artist Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928) produced a series of harem paintings, and Sotheby’s Orientalist sale will be led by an oil on canvas entitled In the Harem. While most Orientalist painters with a taste for this subject delighted in the voyeuristic opportunities it offered, Bridgman differed from them by using such scenarios to reveal a more domestic and family-orientated side of North African women’s lives. In the Harem draws directly from the artist’s travels and experiences. Here, three young North African women sit on a Berber carpet, with burning incense and the taking of tea imparting a sense of peace. The young girl who joins this group looks out directly at the viewer, as she cradles her doll. The intensely saturated colours and impasto brushstrokes show an emphasis towards a naturalistic aesthetic, with hints of impressionistic influences. Estimated at £200,000-300,000, the painting is a striking example of the artist’s beloved theme.

German artist Leopold Carl Müller (1834-1892) made nine trips to Egypt between 1874 and 1886, and his main fascination was for the country’s people, their cultural mores and daily routines. The Water Carriers, estimated at £200,000-300,000, was painted in 1880 and shows a Nubian woman with a fair-skinned girl transporting their water jars with gracious ease. Müller bestows the main figure with a proud monumentality, her height accentuated by the jug she carries on her head, and by the bent over posture of the male water carrier to her left. The painting illustrates Müller’s interest in the towns and cities he visited: the dome and miniaret on the left are those of the Mosque of Ibrahim in the city of Desuk in the north-western Nile delta, which the artist had visited in 1874. The mosque dates to the era of Sultan Khalil Qalawuns (1280-90), but was extended in the fifteenth century by Sultan Qaitbey.

Three works by the German-born artist Adolf Schreyer (1828-1899) all capture the importance of horses in nineteenth-century Middle Eastern life. The Pursuit and Riders by an Oasis, each estimated at£50,000-70,000, are both desert scenes enlivened with painterly, dynamic brushwork. The black Arabian stallion, so emblematic of the region, is vividly realised in French artist Alfred De Dreux’s Cheval noir au palmier (est. £25,000-35,000).

Views and Scenes of Turkey
Girolamo Gianni’s (1837-1895) Panoramic View of Constantinople, from Beyazit, estimated at £30,000-50,000, represents one of the many masterpieces included in this auction. This impressive view from the heights of Beyazit (today occupied by Istanbul University) takes in most of Constantinople’s most famous landmarks. From left to right can be seen the Süleymaniye Mosque, Bridge, Topkapi, and the Haghia Sophia.

Highlighting the Turkish subjects in the sale is The Tomb of Sultan Mehmet I by Rudolf Ernst, an oil on panel estimated at £180,000-250,000. This rare Turkish subject by Ernst depicts the interior of the Yesil Türbe (Green Tomb) in Bursa, one of the finest examples of early Ottoman architecture and the burial place of Sultan Mehmet (ruled 1413-1421). The interior of the tomb attracted a number of Western artists, including John Frederick Lewis, who depicted it in a watercolour now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. It is unusual to find a painting by Ernst that depicts an actual place. So often his paintings were imagined, worked up from photos, props, and his own memory, but ultimately fictitious. Here, the sarcophagus and its surroundings are minutely observed, guarded by the Imam or tomb guardian. The mihrab, a niche set into the middle of the qibla wall of a building in order to indicate the direction of Mecca, is also clearly visible.

Educated at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, Hermann Corrodi (1844-1945) earnt his international reputation with his views of Constantinople and Egypt, which were eagerly bought by Turks and Europeans alike. His patrons included the German Emperor and the English Royal Family, and he exhibited across Europe, including at the Royal Academy in London. Sotheby’s Orientalist sale will include Corrodi’s stunning View Across the Bosphorus, Constantinople, an oil on canvas estimated at £300,000-400,000. From its viewpoint on the Asian side of the Bosphorus looking west towards Seraglio Point, this impressive panorama takes in a wealth of detail, from the riders and villagers gathered in groups in the foreground, to the town of Kadiköy bathed in evening sunlight on the near shore, to the skyline of Sultanahmet in the distance. The calm waters of the Bosphorus form a glowing sheen, mirroring the pinky blue evening sky. Also on sale by Corrodi, is his Capriccio View of the Golden Horn, Constantinople, an oil on canvas portraying the Golden Horn, often described as the world’s greatest natural harbour. It is estimated at £100,000-150,000.

Another exceptional work is Germain Fabius Brest’s (1823-1900) Quartier de Constantinople, estimated at £80,000-120,000. Encouraged by his teacher in Marseille, Emile Loubon, Fabius Brest spent four years, from 1855 until 1859, living in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), recording in a series of paintings views of Constantinople, the surrounding countryside, and the Black Sea coast. The time he spent there continued to inspire his work for the rest of his career, and provided the subjects for many of his Salon submissions throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Today, Fabius Brest is best known for his paintings of the streets and squares of Constantinople. For the present work, the artist has chosen to depict on an unusually large scale a remarkably informal scene set in a quiet street on a hot summer’s afternoon – perhaps the better to describe the daily life of the townspeople. A melon seller plies his trade in the shade of a tree in the foreground, and on the right traders return from the market with their mules, their baskets now empty. In the background, a group of men converse outside a kief or café.

German, Austrian and Central European Paintings
The German, Austrian and Central European section of the sale includes a masterpiece by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein (German, 1788-1868). Entitled Girl with a Drawing Instrument, the Countess Thekla Ludolf, it is estimated at£50,000-70,000. Painted during Vogel von Vogelstein’s extensive sojourn in Rome, it depicts a young girl in the act of drawing. The Countess looks at the viewer with a beguiling openness, and her sumptuous, red velvet dress – and the exquisite griffin-headed empire chair on which she sits – all speak of opulence and the refinement of the Grand Tour. The artist uses a compositional device that was used in Renaissance portraits: a beautifully rendered vista seen through the balcony arch. The Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius provide a dramatic backdrop, in keeping with Romantic painting of the eighteenth century, set against another subject emblematic of the age, a young woman of noble birth practicing a pastime of refinement. The present work comes to the market following its restitution last year to the heirs of the Rosauer sisters. From the Hascoe Family Collection comes a further portrait by Vogel von Vogelstein, depicting the Biedermeier artist Fredrich von Amerling. In contrast to the more measured style of his commissioned portraits, the present work displays a spontaneity that is recorded in the inscription. It was painted in the space of just six hours on 16 August 1837 (est. £40,000-60,000).

Polish artist Henryk Siemiradski (1843-1902) is represented in the sale with By the Fountain, estimated at £250,000-350,000. The work exemplifies the artist’s light filled compositions of classical Roman life. The dynamic gestures, luminous palette and subtle juxtapositions of light and shadow are hallmarks of his very best works. This halcyon narrative is set under an azure Mediterranean sky and makes nostalgic reference to a vision of domestic bliss in antiquity. Siemiradski settled in Rome in 1872 and during his time in Italy he earned world fame. His studio was recommended to tourists by Baedecker guidebooks and was frequented by members of the Russian and Italian royal courts, as well as by famous Poles. Siemiradski’s scenes from Antique times achieved great success during the second half of the nineteenth century, as evidenced by eager patronage as well as numerous exhibitions of his work throughout Europe.

19th Century European Paintings
A dazzling oil on canvas by Paul César Helleu (French, 1859-1927) depicts the artist’s wife at her bureau. Madame Helleu à son bureau dans le salon de l’atelier du peintre (Madame Helleu at her Bureau in the Drawing Room of the Artist’s Studio) displays a confidence in the application of swift brushstrokes of paint that recalls the work of John Singer Sargent, a close friend of the artist. The sitter was Helleu’s muse and favourite model and another version, one in a series of oils showing Madame Helleu at her bureau, was sold by Sotheby’s in New York in 1997. The present work is estimated at £250,000-350,000.

Federico del Campo’s (Peru, 1837-1923) sweeping panorama of Gondolas by the Doge’s Palace, Venice is striking in its technical precision, lively brushwork and luminous palette. The elegant subject and technique is very much of the time, reflecting sophisticated belle époque taste during the 1880s and 1890s, and of the increased demand for souvenir views by a newly mobile bourgeoisie. Born in Lima, Peru, the young del Campo was lured to Italy by the hope of launching a successful and lucrative career, and made such a big name for himself with his views of the city that he painted nothing but Italian views. The present panorama, painted from the promenade overlooking the lagoon and encompassing the Doge’s Palace, the entrance to St Mark’s Square, and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, was painted by del Campo several times, and became his signature composition. It is estimated at £120,000-180,000.

*Pre-sale estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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