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Newly-Discovered Works to Lead Sotheby's Sale of Old Master Drawings in New York
A scholar talks backdropped by a drawing by Peter Paul Rubens, entitled: 'Venus Nursing the Cupids' at a central London's auction house, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010. The drawing will be part of Sotheby's Old Master Drawings sale in New York, scheduled for Jan. 2011. AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis.
NEW YORK, NY.- Three major discoveries will lead Sotheby’s sale of Old Master drawings in New York on 26 January 2011: a newly discovered drawing by Sir Peter Paul Rubens; and two exceptionally rare composition studies by Rembrandt van Rijn and Perino del Vaga, neither seen by scholars since the early 20th century. The discovery of Rubens’s Venus nursing Cupids adds an important and beautiful work to the artist’s oeuvre that has long eluded scholars and collectors (est. $500/800,000). Rembrandt’s Judas Returning the Thirty pieces of Silver offers a fascinating look at the process by which the artist arrived at the finalvcomposition for his early masterpiece of the same name (est. $600/800,000). Perino del Vaga’s Jupiter and Juno - an important design by Raphael’s most talented associate for a renowned series of tapestries – ranks among the greatest Italian Renaissance tapestry designs still in private hands and not seen in public since 1935 (est: $600,00-800,00). All three drawings will be on view in Sotheby’s London galleries from 4-8 December before returning to New York for exhibition and sale in January.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens – Venus Nursing the Cupids
Completely unknown until now, Rubens’ beautiful, tender rendering of Venus Nursing the Cupids emerged only very recently, and quite unexpectedly, from a private collection in France (est. $500/800,000). The image is one that has tantalized specialists in the field for generations: an engraving of the same subject by Cornelis Galle credits the original design to Rubens, but the existence of the “original design” has eluded scholars. Until now, the identity and even the medium of the source for Galle’s print remained unclear.

While the drawing sheds fascinating light on Rubens’s working methods (quite exceptional in terms of style and technique, it combines various features typical of Rubens’s drawings in a way that is very unusual within his work), it also carries an inscription–not reproduced in the print and therefore previously unknown–that opens a new window on the relationship between Rubens and the important Antwerp senator and patron Paulus van Halmale. The Latin inscription on the drawing loosely translates to: “To Paulus Halmale, Noblest of men, greatest of senators, whose friendship increases daily, this image is humbly presented by Peter Paul Rubens, In the year 1616, month of April.” Dated April 1616, it marks the earliest beginnings of a relationship between artist and patron that was to last for much of the remainder of their lives. Gregory Rubinstein, Worldwide Head of Old Master Drawings at Sotheby’s, summarized: “Until now, the evidence of the print by Galle indicated that a somewhat unusually conceived composition by Rubens had previously existed, but only now, with the discovery of this drawing, is it finally possible to understand that this puzzling print was a record of an extremely beautiful drawing, made by Rubens with enormous thought and care as a personal gift for a leading figure in the artistic world of early 17th-century Antwerp.”

Rembrandt van Rijn – Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver
This small but powerful compositional study by Rembrandt van Rijn represents a crucial step in the tortuous process by which the young Rembrandt arrived at the final composition of his radical early masterpiece of the same name (est. $600/800,000). Begun in 1628 when the artist was just 22 years old, the finished painting was one of his earliest ambitious historical works, and the first to show anything of the distinctive approach to composition, lighting and narrative that characterizes his iconic style. The study has not been seen by scholars for over a half century, and is the first important historical drawing by Rembrandt to come on the market in decades.

There are no fewer than three drawings that clearly relate to the development of the composition for Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, two of which are in museums in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Hardly any of Rembrandt’s surviving drawings can be directly linked to the creation of a painted work, and there is no other painting by the artist for which so many studies are known. The drawing on offer is the only one of the group to indicate the whole composition, and it incorporates various features not yet seen in any of the other related works.

Rembrandt first sketched out the painting’s whole composition in oil directly on the panel. He then appears to have decided that his initial composition was unsatisfactory, so he made at least three drawings in which he explored alternative solutions before returning to the panel and revising the original composition extensively. While the two other known drawings were done on the verso of other studies for a different painting, the verso of the present sheet contains a drawing for the same work: a preliminary sketch for the two central figures of the kneeling Judas and the standing high priest. This verso sketch was previously unknown, only now discovered as part of the work’s re-emergence.

The extraordinary effort that Rembrandt put into the finished painting paid off almost immediately. In around 1630, Constantijn Huygens, the immensely influential secretary to the Dutch Stadholder Frederick Henry, hailed the young artist as equal to the greatest masters who ever lived, citing Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver as his primary evidence. This early endorsement served as the cornerstone of Rembrandt’s subsequent critical reputation and contributed to his dramatic rise to fame in the early 1630s.

Both technically and stylistically, Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver is one of the most accomplished and original drawings of Rembrandt’s early work. It illustrates the remarkable passion with which the artist created his early masterpiece, done at what proved to be a pivotal moment in his young career.

Perino del Vaga – Jupiter and Juno in an Alcove Surrounded by several Amorini
Among the other highlights from the January 2011 sale of Old Master Drawings is an important, rediscovered Renaissance drawing by one of the greatest of Raphael’s pupils and associates, Perino del Vaga. Jupiter and Juno in an Alcove Surrounded by several Amorini is an elaborate preparatory design for a renowned series of tapestries, known as Furti di Giove, which was commissioned by Andrea Doria, a nobleman and associate of Emperor Charles V, for his palace in Genoa (est. $600/800,000). Since its execution, the drawing has passed through an illustrious series of collections, most notably Sir Thomas Lawrence and J. P. Heseltine. Major Renaissance drawings of this type rarely appear on the market and, although known in literature, the present work has not been seen by scholars in modern times. Among the greatest Renaissance tapestry designs still in private hands, this grand study ranks as the finest such design to have come to the market in a generation.



*Estimate does not include buyer’s premium

Sotheby's | Paul Rubens | Old Master Drawings | Gregory Rubinstein | Rembrandt |


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