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Living with Art: A private European collection for sale at Christie's in London
Joan Miro (1893-1983), Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil. Signed, dated and titled `Miro. 11-3-1946 "Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil"' (on the reverse). Oil on canvas, 36.1/4 x 29 in. (92.7 x 73.8 cm.). Painted in 1946. Estimate £4,000,000 – 7,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

LONDON.- Christie’s announces the sale of an extraordinary private collection in London in February 2012. Comprising approximately 200 masterpieces from antiquity through to contemporary art, and including paintings, sculpture, furniture and works of art, the collection was assembled with a focus on aesthetic quality, independent of origin or age, and offers a fascinating juxtaposition of art from through the ages. It is expected to realize £25 million to £35 million. The collection will be offered at an evening auction on the 9th February and a day sale on 10th February, during the same week as the annual spring auctions of Impressionist and Modern art.

Orlando Rock, Deputy Chairman; Christie’s Europe: ““This fascinating private collection is a celebration of a couple’s deeply sophisticated connoisseurship, embracing contrasting cultures and mediums from Antiquity to the new millennia. Confident and brave, the couple was not afraid to juxtapose works of art from all periods, as long as the key criteria of quality, condition and aesthetic value were met. As the interior photographs of their apartment show so clearly, each and every work was carefully placed to ensure a provocative conversation between different periods in time – Baroque picture frames with Modern works on paper, antiquity side by side with contemporary, forms and colours picked out between Léger, Tribal heads and specially woven wall-coverings. In my favourite corner of the Hall, a tribal sculpture and Calder mobile stand proudly before a canvas by Joan Miró in which their compositions are perfectly echoed.

To collect is a deeply personal passion, to display and juxtapose contrasting but sublime works of art side by side so inventively is an art form. Such a concentrated focus on quality echoes the trend driving the global art market and so we are extremely excited to be offering this magnificent collection during one of the busiest weeks in the global art collecting calendar.”

The collection includes an impressive group of Impressionist and Modern art including several works by some of the titans of Modernism. Joan Miró’s Personages et oiseaux devant le soleil, dates from 1946, a year when the artist became freer in his handling, creating greater contrasts between his painted figures. This is an important example of the artist’s work from this period; a whimsical, capricious and poetic composition that is expected to realize £4 million to £6 million. Femme au fauteuil, 1949, by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is expected to realize £4 million to £6 million. This fascinating portrait was executed in 1949, while the artist was with his young lover and muse Françoise Gilot, and draws on motifs and distortions more often associated with depictions of Dora Maar, the artist’s previous lover.

Le table devant le bâtiment, 1919, by Juan Gris carries a personal dedication from the artist to his dealer, Léonce Rosenberg, by whom he was exhibited the following year (estimate: £1.5 million to £2 million). This is an exceptional example of the artist’s work from a period when his paintings showed a wonderful clarity. Juan Gris reinvigorated Cubism when he joined the movement, later than Braque and Picasso, the original pioneers. Further Impressionist and Modern works will be offered by artists including Fernand Léger, René Magritte, Yves Tanguy, Julio González and Salvador Dalí, among others.

Post-War and Contemporary art includes (Encadenado) – katezale, 1956, by Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) which is expected to realize £1 million to £1.5 million. A unique, iron sculpture executed in 1956, this is from one of the most important and desirable periods of the artist’s career. It is offered at auction for the first time and is expected to realise one of the highest ever prices for the artist at auction.

Contracorrent by Miquel Barceló (b.1957) is one of the artist’s paintings of boats that, along with his bullfight pictures, have proved to be the most desirable to collectors of contemporary art (estimate: £500,000 to £800,000). Executed in 1991, this composition offers great texture and movement, with thick paint and swirling brushstrokes. Samurai Tree Invariant 4 by Gabriel Orozco (b. 1962) was exhibited at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. It is expected to realize £150,000 to £250,000, while Untitled, 1973, by Philip Guston (1913-1980) carries an estimate of £1 million to £1.5 million. The collection will also offer modern works by artists including Anselm Kiefer, Takashi Murakami, Sean Scully and Alexander Calder, among others.
The Old Masters paintings in the collection are highlighted by two exceptional still lifes by Luis Meléndez (1716-1780).

Meléndez, together with Chardin, was the greatest still life artist of the 18th century, and this is the first time that two great Meléndez paintings of this quality have been offered in the same sale – offering a unique opportunity to collectors of the still-life genre. Still life with oranges, spices, boxes of sweet meats, a pitcher and cask is expected to realize £2 million to £3 million; Still life with cheese, apples and an earthenware jug is expected to realize £1.5 million to £2 million. The Wedding Dance by Pieter Brueghel II (1564-1637) is a popular composition of Northern European painting, and a noticeably large scale example will be offered with an estimate of £500,000 to £800,000. The collection also offers a selection of predominantly Flemish and Spanish works by Juan van der Hamen y León (1598-1631), Bernard van Orley (1488-1541), Jan van Dornicke (1470-1527) and Antoine Mirou (1570-1661), among others. `Wunderkammer’ or `Kunstkammer’ works of art were another focus of the collection, with champlevé enamels and Siculo-Arabic ivory boxes displayed alongside early illuminated manuscripts. A leading highlight is a 13th century bronze aquamanile in the form of a lion (estimate: £200,000 to £250,000).

Aquamaniles were ritual objects, designed for pouring water over the hands above a basin (the term originates from the latin words aqua + manos). They seem to have originated in the Islamic world but became popular in Western Europe in the Romanesque and Gothic periods where they were used in both the homes of the wealthy and by priests during preparations for celebrating mass. The present example dates from the ‘golden age’ of aquamaniles in the 13th century. It is comparable to other lion aquamaniles in several German museums including the Kunstgewerbe Museum in Flensberg. Further highlights include a beautifully restrained Louis XVI ormolu-mounted acajou moucheté secretaire a abattant by Adam Weisweiler commissioned by the Earl of Elgin of Elgin marble fame, which is expected to realize £120,000 to £180,000; and a gilt-copper and enamel reliquary chasse depicting the martyrdom of St. Saturninus (estimate: £180,000 to £250,000).

A selection of pictures will be offered at the auctions of Latin American Art and 19th Century Art in New York in May 2012. Latin American Art will include three works by Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949), the Uruguayan artist whose works are rare; the majority of his output having been lost in a fire in 1979 while on display at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. The group is led by Grafismo universal sobre fondo gris (estimate: $1 million to $1.5 million). The auction of 19th Century European Art will offer Clarinetteiste by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) which is expected to realize $250,000 to $350,000.

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