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Fra Bartolommeo, van Dyck, Marieschi and Turner Lead Auction of Old Masters at Christie's
Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp), The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, oil on panel, 40 x 65¾ in. (102 x 167 cm.) Estimate: £1,000,000 - £1,500,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2009.

LONDON.- Christie’s announce the inaugural Old Masters and 19th Century Art Evening Sale which will take place on 7 July 2009, and which will present important paintings, drawings and watercolours representing nearly 700 years of European history. The auction is expected to realise in excess of £15 million. Leading highlights include:

- The Madonna and Child in a landscape with Saint Elizabeth and the infant Saint John the Baptist, a signed and dated picture by the Florentine Renaissance master Fra Bartolommeo (1472-1517) whose paintings rarely appear at auction, and which is offered from the collection of Brenda, Lady Cook (estimate: £2 million to £3 million)

- an impressive full-length portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), unseen in public since 1929 (estimate: £800,000 to £1,200,000)

- a masterpiece by Michele Marieschi (1710-1743) which was commissioned by Field Marshal Count Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg (1661-1747) one of the great patrons of the 18th century, and which hung in the entrance hall of his home in Venice (estimate: £2 million to £3 million)

- a group of three intimate drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) of his close friends and patrons the Marcotte family, which have passed by descent and have never been offered at auction (estimate: £250,000 to £350,000 and a pair, £300,000 to £400,000)

- further works by J.M.W. Turner, Frans Hals, Franz-Xavier Winterhalter, Giandomenico Tiepolo and Pieter Brueghel II, among others.

A leading highlight of the sale is The Madonna and Child in a landscape with Saint Elizabeth and the infant Saint John the Baptist by the Florentine Renaissance master Fra Bartolommeo (1472-1517) whose paintings rarely appear at auction. Signed and dated 1516, the work is offered from the distinguished collection of Brenda, Lady Cook having once formed a part of the renowned Cook Collection at Doughty House, Richmond (estimate: £2 million to £3 million). First published in 1885 by Sir Charles Robinson, the esteemed scholar of Italian Renaissance art, the picture is closely related to a similar work in the Galleria Corsini, Rome; study drawings of these compositions now in the Boymans-van Bueningen Museum in Rotterdam suggest that the work to be offered at Christie’s precedes the Corsini picture.

Fra Bartolommeo (1472-1517) was one of the leading artists in Florence during the High Renaissance. A talented artist from a young age, he was a virtuous and deeply religious man. He was a supporter of Savonarola, the priest and Florentine leader who was an opponent of the excesses related to the Renaissance and whose portrait he painted. In 1497, Savonarola orchestrated the ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ whereby items associated with moral laxity were rounded up and burned in Piazza della Signoria in Florence; Fra Bartolommeo is recorded to have burned many of his own drawings on the fire. Two years later, Savonarola was himself burned on the same spot, the people of Florence having rebelled against his puritan ways. Soon afterwards, Fra Bartolommeo joined the convent of Domenico di Prato and became a Dominican friar; he refrained from painting from 1500 to 1504. Soon after his return to painting, he met Raphael; Giorgio Vasari writes that ‘Raffaello was always in his company’ and while the friar developed a better sense of perspective from the younger artist, Raphael drew great inspiration from Bartolommeo’s use of bold colour and his skill in painting drapery. With the exception of visits to Venice in 1508 and Rome in 1514, Fra Bartolommeo would spend the rest of his life in Florence where he was celebrated as the leading artist of the city.

The present work once formed a part of the magnificent collection formed by Sir Francis Cook (1817-1901) and later, his grandson Sir Herbert Cook (1868-1939) at Doughty House, Richmond. Sir Francis was a collector of antiquities until middle-age when, with the help of his advisor Sir John Charles Robinson (1824-1913), he began to collect paintings with the aim of assembling an encyclopaedic collection to rival the breadth and depth of the public galleries of Britain and Europe. At his death in 1901, the collection included approximately 500 pictures with works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, del Sarto, Titian, Tintoretto and Raphael, among others. Sir Herbert continued adding to the collection, focusing on paintings from the Venetian High Renaissance, as well as playing a major role in the founding of The Burlington Magazine. As the Second World War approached, it became difficult to house and maintain such a substantial private collection, and so began significant sales. Sir Francis Cook (1907-1978) ensured that dispersals from the collection were largely to the benefit of institutions around the world and in 1942, he donated one of the most impressive masterpieces, Titian’s La Schiavona, to the National Gallery in memory of his father.

Portrait of Mrs. Oliver St. John, later Lady Poulett by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) is an impressive full length portrait by the great Flemish master (estimate: £800,000 to £1,200,000). The picture was formerly in the collection of the 1st Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674), the historian, statesman and collector whose daughter married the future King James II of England, King James VII of Scotland.

The portrait is thought to have been painted in 1636; four years after the artist had been knighted and appointed Principal Painter in Ordinary to King Charles I. The sitter, Mrs Oliver St.John, later Lady Poulett, is shown while pregnant with her first child. After the death of Lord Poulett (the sitter's second husband), the painting was secured by the 3rd Earl of Lothian, a great Scottish collector. Early in 1667, he presented the portrait to the Earl of Clarendon who had apparently been 'looking after such a thing'. A letter from Lord Tweedale, Lord Chancellor of Scotland, to Lord Lothian on 24 February 1667 says of Clarendon's response to the gift 'He did commend it exceedingly as one of the best ever Vandick did'. The portrait passed by inheritance until a sale at Christie's in 1919 and was last seen in public when exhibited at The Detroit Institute of Fine Arts in 1929. The auction will offer two further works by van Dyck including Saint Bartholomew, which was formerly in the collection of the Earls of Spencer at Althorp and which is expected to realise £500,000 to £700,000.

The Courtyard of the Doge's Palace, Venice, with the Giant's Staircase, Saint Mark's Basilica beyond by Michele Marieschi (Venice 1710-1743) is one of very few large-scale works painted by the artist, and one of the most exceptional of his pictures to be offered at auction (estimate: £2 million to £3 million). Commissioned by Field Marshal Count Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg (1661-1747), a great patron of 18th century Venice, records show that the painting was acquired on 20 November 1736 for 50 zeccini, after which it was hung in the entrance hall of his house as the pendant to The Riva degli Schiavoni, one of Canaletto’s greatest masterpieces.

Schulenburg is known to have collected over 900 paintings during his lifetime and having died a bachelor, they were left to his nephew, Christian Gunther von der Schulenburg. A group of approximately 150 of the finest pictures were sold at Christie’s in 1775, where the present work was sold by James Christie, the company’s founder, for 59 guineas, and about which time it was fitted with the present frame. The present view of the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace is the earliest known depiction of the subject, and was a location never painted by Marieschi’s contemporary Canaletto. It is also one of very few subjects which the artist chose to paint more than once in his brief career.

The auction will present a group of three intimate drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) which are offered at auction for the first time by the family of the sitters. In 1836, Ingres wrote to his great friend and patron Charles Marcotte and promised to draw portraits of his children. A few years later, the artist drew portraits of Marie Marcotte and Alexandre Legentil, her fiancé, which will be offered as a pair (estimate: £300,000 to £400,000). In 1849, after the death of his first wife, Ingres went to stay with the Marcotte family where he executed the drawing of their only son, Joseph, which will be offered with an estimate of £250,000 to £350,000. Charles Marcotte commissioned many of the artist’s most famous paintings including Odalisque with the Slave, which is now in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge (Mass.).

Saint John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness by Pieter Brueghel II (1564/5-1637/8) is recognised as one of the artist’s most successful and popular large-scale compositions of a religious subject matter. In July at Christie’s, one of the best preserved examples will be offered at auction for the first time in 70 years from the collection of Baron Coppée (estimate: £1,000,000 to £1,500,000).

The impressive Portrait of a lady with a fan Franz-Xavier Winterhalter (1805-1873) is expected to realise £100,000 to £150,000. Winterhalter was one of the most celebrated portraitists of the 19th century, and his sitters included Queen Victoria, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie. Winterhalter spent much of the 1840s and 1850s in Paris, a social hub for the European nobility, where his suave, cosmopolitan style made him universally popular as a portrait painter. It was while in Paris in 1850 that he was commissioned to paint the present work which illustrates the artist’s considerable talents as a portraitist.

Further highlights of the sale include Head of a Boy, a newly rediscovered portrait by Frans Hals (1581/5-1666) which is expected to realise £300,000 to £500,000; ‘Off Yarmouth’: A Steamship off the Coast in Rough Weather, a dynamic watercolour by J.M.W. Turner, R.A. (1775-1851) (estimate: £200,000 to £300,000); Angelica and Medoro, a recently rediscovered painting by Giandomenico Tiepolo (1727-1804) (estimate: £600,000 to £800,000); and La belle endormie, an unusually private, intimate and suggestive painting by Jean-Francois Rafaëlli (1850-1924) (estimate: £70,000 to £100,000).

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