Sotheby’s Presents 19th Century European Art Auction on 4 November

Sotheby’s New York sale of 19th Century European Art on 4 November 2011 will offer a number of rare opportunities for collectors across diverse collecting categories. The auction will be a showcase for the best of the eclectic artistic styles that flourished throughout the 19th century: Barbizon school, Academic realism, Belle Époque opulence, Victorian and Edwardian romanticism, early Impressionism and Sporting art. The sale will be on exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 28 October, alongside the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale and the Important Russian Art auction.

Following Sotheby’s November 2010 sale of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s The Finding of Moses for a record $35,922,500 and its May 2011 sale of The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 B.C. for $29,202,500, the upcoming November auction will feature four works by the iconic artist. The group will be highlighted by Alma-Tadema’s A Spring Festival (On the Road to the Temple of Ceres), which has belonged to both Malcolm Forbes and J.P. Morgan and which is currently on offer from The Forbes Collection (est. $1/1.5 million). The work imagines a celebratory procession of flower-crowned revelers dancing from the Convent of Ceres, shown in the background, towards the Temple of Ceres. The painting is still housed within the artist’s original tabernacle frame, inscribed with a translation of Virgil’s Georgics that sets the rhythm and tone of the active composition – staged in Alma-Tadema’s characteristically theatrical style.

Education of the Children of Clovis (School of Vengeance, Training of Clotilde’s Sons) is Alma-Tadema’s most accomplished composition on his early Merovingian subjects – the Frankish people who ruled Gaul from the 5th through mid-8th centuries (est. $1/1.5 million). The artist depicts Queen Clotilde sitting on her throne, watching her two oldest sons as they are trained in ax throwing. The exercise had a specific purpose: Coltilde commanded her children to avenge the murder of her parents by her uncle Gondobald, king of the Burgundians. While the revenge plot is bloody, Alma-Tadema challenges historians’ characterizations of the Merovingians as barbaric counterparts to the Roman Empire by setting the training ground within a sumptuous courtyard.

Other masterpieces in the sale from the Victorian and Edwardian period will include works by Edward Robert Hughes, John William Godward and Charles Burton Barber.

Within the impressive range of six works in the sale by French painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Ronde d’Amours; Lever du Soleil is an exceptional highlight (est. $900,000/1.2 million). The painting was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in 1855, following the critical success of the artist’s 1850 Salon entry La Danse des nymphes that inspired critics to hail Corot as the greatest landscape painter of the age. Another milestone of Corot’s oeuvre included in the fall sale is Mantes, les bords de la Seine au pied du pont, considered to be Corot’s earliest view of the Gothic cathedral in Mantes, a town 30 miles west of Paris (est. $500/700,000).

Brussels-born artist Charles Hermans’ Bal Masqué depicts the social event of the Belle Époque’s winter season: the extravagant masked costumed balls held throughout Paris, Brussels and other European cities, which were among the most talked about spectacles of the late-19th century (est. $1/1.5 million). Hermans exhibited this monumental canvas in the Paris Salon of 1880 to great acclaim; the parade of daring young women of the demi-monde mixing with men of aristocratic, financial and political prominence – many wearing small black domino masks that gave the illusion of anonymity – is as compelling as it is captivating.

Additional highlights of the November sale will include canvases by Louis Béroud, Jehan Georges Vibert, Jean Francois Raffaëlli and Alfred Stevens. Featured on the cover of the sale catalogue is Béroud’s Les joies de l’inondation (dans la galerie Médici), a fantastical depiction of an artist sitting in the Louvre and copying a painting from Peter Paul Rubens’s Marie de’ Medici cycle (est. $300/500,000). The subject’s careful study is interrupted as a trio of naiads literally flows from the canvas on waves that threaten to soak the gallery and wash him away. La Tireuse de Cartes (The Fortune Teller) is Vibert’s masterfully painted satirical portrait of two cardinals being entertained by a fortune teller in their opulent chambers (est. $300/500,000). Raffaëlli’s Princess Street, Edinburgh, is a rare impression from the artist’s time spent in Scotland while he visited his friend, Alexander Reid, the celebrated Scottish gallerist. And Stevens’s Un Bleuet (The Blue Ribbon) is an example of the artist’s depictions of elegantly dressed women in fashionable attire that served as a record of his time (est. $400/600,000).

Sporting art in the sale will be led by a group of seven works from Collection of Edward P. Evans, sold to benefit the Edward P. Evans Foundation. The group includes John Frederick Herring Sr.’s Preparing to Start for the Doncaster Gold Cup (est. $400/600,000). The Doncaster Cup remains the oldest continuous horse race in Britain, having been founded in 1766, and the present work depicts many of the celebrated competitors who vied for the prize in 1825. The winning horse that year was Lottery, who is shown at the far left of the composition. Also included in the Evans Collection is a diverse selection of important paintings by Sir Alfred James Munnings, including the exquisite Start of a Steeplechase (est. $300/500,000).

Image: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M, R.A, A Spring Festival (On the Road to the Temple of Ceres). Est. $1/1.5 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.

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