Francesco Guardi Venetian Painting to Lead Sotheby’s Sale

Sotheby’s London Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale, on 6th July 2011, will offer a selection of newly discovered and important works of exceptional quality and rarity, many of which have remained in private collections for decades. Estimated to reach a total in excess of £31 million, the auction of 73 paintings, led by a monumental Venetian view painting by Francesco Guardi, will feature masterpiece works by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Correggio, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, John Constable, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Hans Schäufelein and Frans Jansz. Post.

Francesco Guardi, Venice, a View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon, oil on canvas, 120 x 203.7cm. Estimated at £15-25 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.

Guardi’s Venice, a View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon, estimated at £15-25 million, is the centrepiece of the sale. This dramatic, atmospheric evocation of 18th century Venice measures an impressive 115 by 199.5cm (45¼ by 78½ in) and is one of four works that Guardi painted on this grand scale, all executed in the late 1760s, which together constitute the pinnacle of his output as a painter of vedute. Generally considered to be Guardi’s greatest works, they are the first and fullest expression of the artist’s mature style. The oil on canvas has an exceptional provenance, having been sold just once since it was first acquired in Venice in 1768 by the English Grand Tourist, Chaloner Arcedeckne and then passed by inheritance from Arcedeckne until 1891. Throughout its existence, the painting has almost always hung in private. It has been on loan for a short period recently to the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood House in London, but before that, has only been on show twice in its long history.

Offered at auction for the first time is an important, newly discovered work by Antonio Allegri, better known as Correggio, one of the greatest and most influential figures of the Italian High Renaissance. Executed circa 1514-15, the oil on panel Madonna and child with the infant Saint John the Baptist, estimated at £2-3 million, provides a profound insight into the development of the young artist. It sheds new light on the extent to which Correggio was prepared to experiment with form and design and demonstrates a stylistic link between his formative years and his more mature work.

Sotheby’s is also delighted to offer for sale two newly discovered works by Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The great Flemish master’s Portrait of a Carmelite monk, head and shoulders, circa 1617-20 has descended through the same family for over 200 years and was previously known as the “Confesseur de Rubens”. The intense and psychologically penetrating portrait is a hitherto unknown work, which Sotheby’s has discovered to have been painted by the youthful Van Dyck during the years he worked in Rubens’ studio. Offered for sale for the first time in more than two centuries, the painting is estimated to sell for £600,000-800,000.

A Bearded Man with Hands Raised circa 1616 is an important oil study Van Dyck also executed while working in Rubens’ studio. Estimated at £200,000-300,000, the painting’s distinctive model helped Sotheby’s confirm the attribution to the great Flemish master. The figure is one whom Van Dyck used for a variety of sketches, some of which were used in completed paintings, including The Betrayal of Christ, located at Corsham Court.

Offered at auction for the first time, The Village Lawyer’s Office of 1618 and estimated at £800,000 to £1,200,000) is the finest example of one of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s most popular compositions. Distinguished by its large scale (73 by 105 cm) and very fine condition, the vibrant oil on panel is also, unusually for this composition, signed and dated. The subject has traditionally been called “Rent Day” and latterly “Tax-Collector’s Office”, but more recent scholarship has identified it as a ramshackle village lawyer’s office strewn with papers. Brueghel’s love of incident and delight in the textures of objects is clearly evident in the work, as is a vigorous element of caricature. There is strong evidence to suggest that this is a 17th Century satire on the perceived venality of the legal profession and the way lawyers were seen to twist and distort the law. In this respect it reads as a startlingly modern work.

An important rediscovery, John Constable’s oil on canvas Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (estimated at £500,000 – £700,000) is a dramatic and atmospheric rendering of one of the great English artist’s best known subjects. Painted in the 1830s and depicting the cathedral amidst a lightning storm, the work offers a revealing insight into Constable’s inner emotional turmoil in the latter part of his life. It has also been suggested that the artist used Salisbury Cathedral as a metaphor for the troubled status of the Church at this date, and therefore the meteorological effects under which it is presented are of great significance. The painting remained in Constable’s studio as a visual resource and treasured view until the sale following his death in 1838. The work is now offered for sale at auction for the first time in 173 years.

Sir Peter Lely’s seductive Portrait of a Young Woman and Child, as Venus and Cupid is almost certainly a depiction of Nell Gwynn, actress and mistress of King Charles II. Estimated at £600,000-800,000, the work was recorded in 1723 as: “Nell Gwin naked leaning on a bed, with her Child by Sr Peter Lilly. This picture was painted at the express command of K.Charles 2d nay he came to Sr Peter Lillys house to see it painted when she was naked on purpose. Aterwards this picture was at Court.” These words were written by George Vertue when he visited Buckingham House to see the collection of the courtier, John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. The painting was also recorded in the collection of King James II in 1758.

Hans Schäufelein’s double-sided, tempera and oil altarpiece panel depicts The Dormition of the Virgin and is estimated at £1.5–2 million. It is one of four similar works painted by Schäufelein, one of Albrecht Dürer’s three principal pupils, in Augsburg circa 1509-1510. Probably intended for a church in Augsburg, it is thought the panel came from there in the first third of the 19th century and was purchased in Munich by Pugin, the greatest architect of the Gothic revival. The panel was on loan to St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham between 1927 and 1969. Sotheby’s George Gordon, Co Chairman, Old Master Paintings, Worldwide, said: “Large-scale altarpieces in exceptional condition by one of the most important artists of the German Renaissance are exceptionally rare at auction, and this exquisite example should provoke keen competition.”

Frans Jansz. Post’s A landscape in Brazil is a newly discovered work, which has remained in the same family collection for at least four generations. Estimated at £400,000 – £600,000, the oil on panel work was identified after cleaning and restoration revealed the artist’s signature. Post spent seven years between 1637 and 1644 in Brazil with the Dutch colonists under Prince Maurits.

This work is believed to date from the so-called ‘fourth phase’ of his production, circa 1670, when having returned to the Netherlands he drew on his recollections of his Brazilian sojourn as inspiration to produce works for an avid collecting public.

Painted at the height of his career in Venice, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s A Young Boy in the Costume of a Page, Head and Shoulders is estimated to fetch £600,000-800,000. This charismatic study of a youth was executed in the middle or
latter years of the 1740s when Tiepolo, by now an artist of great renown, was engaged in a series of important commissions in Venice and the Veneto, including the magnificent frescoes of the Meeting of Cleopatra and Anthony in Palazzo Labia. The exceptional condition of the oil on canvas reveals the full range of Tiepolo’s mastery with paint. Appearing at auction for the first time, the work was, since at least the late 19th century, part of the Mumm collection in Reims.

An English School Portrait of Elizabeth I circa 1595 (estimated at £100,000-150,000) also features in the sale. The painting belongs to an important group of portraits adhering to what is known as the Weavers’ Company type, after a portrait in the Guildhall Art Gallery and adopts the Darnley face pattern, the most influential pattern of the reign.

A portrait of James I by John de Critz the Elder, sergeant painter to the King from 1605, is estimated at £80,000-120,000. The painting was presented by James I to Sir Edward Phelips, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1603-1611. Phelips was one of those appointed to examine the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and it is possible the painting may have been a gift from the King in recognition of his services during the trial and subsequent prosecution of Guy Fawkes.

Attributed to Giandomenico Tiepolo are two highly distinctive, majestic depictions of polar bears – possibly the first individual depictions of the animals in Italian art. Believed to be designed as overdoors, the spectacular pair – oils on canvas with gold ground – is estimated at £400,000-600,000.

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