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Sotheby's spring auction of 19th century European art to be held on 4 May 2012 in New York
James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot, The Morning Ride, French, signed J.J. Tissot (lower right), oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 38 3/8 in., 66.7 x 97.4 cm. Est. $2/3 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s annual spring auction of 19th Century European Art in New York will be held on 4 May 2012, featuring 110 exceptional works of art that celebrate the diversity of the period. Timed to coincide with Sotheby’s May auctions of Impressionist & Modern Art, the sale provides further insight into the cultural and art historical developments in the 19th Century, from which Impressionism and other modern movements were born. The auction will be on exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 27 April.

Works from the estate of noted collector Mrs. Monique Uzielli will be led by James Jacques-Tissot’s The Morning Ride (est. $2/3 million*). This painting was last offered at auction in 1944, at Parke Bernet in New York, the painting has emerged to the market after decades in a private collection, as many of the works in this sale have. Visitors had the opportunity to view the painting during The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s summer exhibitions, where it was on loan between 1975 and 1991. Depicting the bright, fleeting azalea blossoms of spring, the May auction is well-timed for the sale of this masterpiece.

With its silvery light, cottony trees and feathery brushwork, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s Les étangs de Ville d’Avray is an excellent example of the artist’s celebrated landscapes (est. $700,000/1 million). Corot’s late work resonated with a generation of plein-air painters, providing the link between the grand tradition of French landscape painting of Poussin and Claude, and the movement that would become Impressionism.

In November 2010, Sotheby’s set two of the top three auction prices for works by Giovanni Boldini, including the record of $6.6 million for his Portrait of Giovinetta Errazuriz. The upcoming May auction will present another life-sized society portrait by the artist, with his Portrait of Mrs. Howard-Johnston from 1906 (est. $1.5/2 million). Mrs. Howard-Johnston was a Scottish beauty who married into British industrial wealth, and later into aristocratic status in France. The portrait was acquired directly from Boldini by Baron Maurice de Rothschild, and descended in the famed family for nearly 90 years.

A selection of six paintings by William Bouguereau will be highlighted by L’Orientale à la grenade, a rare example of the artist’s Orientalist subject matter (est. $500/700,000). Bouguereau seems to have been particularly fascinated by Egypt, and the girl’s intricate silver jewelry is typical of North African design. Originally in the collection of Samuel Mayo Nickerson, whose massive fortune was built on the distilling business and later as a founder of the First National Bank, the work had not been seen in public for nearly a century after descending through an American family. Also featured in the May sale is Orpheline à la fontaine from 1883 (est. $700/900,000). Bouguereau painted the work in La Rochelle, his birthplace and summer holiday destination. While the identity of the model is currently unknown, she was probably a local girl from La Rochelle, and was the inspiration behind some ten summer pictures painted between 1879 and 1883.

Featured on the sale’s catalogue cover is Jean Béraud’s Brasserie d’étudiants (Student Brasserie) from 1889, in which the artists depicts the bohemian atmosphere of a café (est. $400/600,000). Béraud was intrigued by all aspects of Parisian life, and was one of its most scrupulous and devoted observers. The painting was formerly in the collection of Béraud’s friend and patron, Armand Dorville, who donated many important works by the artist to the Musée Carnavalet in Paris in 1944.

The selection of sculpture on offer in the May auction features Two Eagles Battling a Lynx, a large scale work done by Christophe Fratin in 1850, at the height of his career (est. $300/400,000). The work appears to be a singular cast, as no other examples of the composition are known. It belongs to an important body of work from the 1850s when pairs of eagles were among the artist’s most sought-after commissions. Two Eagles Battling a Lynx was originally acquired by Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, the sixth Baronet of Wynnstay and the lord of an immense family estate spanning sections of Denbigh in Wales, and Shropshire and Cheshire in western England.

Unrecorded until now, A Fair Reflection marks an important discovery in the oeuvre of John William Godward (est. $400/600,000). The large scale oil undoubtedly marks the most significant painting undertaken by the artist in 1915, and is among the most ambitious from the time he spent in Italy. Unlike most of the paintings from this period, A Fair Reflection did not return to London to be exhibited and sold – instead, it remained in Italy until it was acquired by an American collector in the 1940s, descending through the same family to the present owner.

Henri Gervex painted La Toilette circa 1878-9, soon after his scandalous Rolla was removed from public exhibition at the Paris Salon of 1878 (est. $250/350,000). The work harkens Émile Zola’s character ‘Nana’, a young actress and courtesan who became a well-known icon in French popular culture, as well as Édouard Manet’s portrait Nana that had been rejected from the Salon in 1877. The interior depicted was the artist’s own apartment and the model portrayed is the courtesan Madame Valtesse de la Bigne.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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