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Property from a distinguished private collection highlights Christie's Sales of Antiquities and Old Masters Paintings
Fra Bartolommeo (Florence 1472-1517), The Madonna and Child. Oil on panel – a tondo in its original frame, 25 ½ in. (64.8 cm.) diameter. Estimate $10,000,000-15,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced the inclusion of an important single-owner collection in the December 5, 2012 Antiquities sale and the January 30, 2013 sale of Old Master Paintings. The artists of the Renaissance looked to the world of Antiquity for inspiration and this beautifully curated collection reflects that important historical connection. The superb group of works reflects the passion and intelligence of true connoisseurs, ranging from Ancient Egyptian canopic jars and painted Attic amphorae to a masterpiece by the celebrated 16th-century portraitist Scipione Pulzone, and iconic works such as the bust of Marcus Aurelius and the extraordinarily rare Madonna and Child by Fra Bartolommeo. The collection is estimated to realize in excess of $14 million.

A demonstration of veritable connoisseurship, the collector developed an extensive body of works from antiquity that embrace the cultures of Greece, Rome, and Egypt. A Roman marble portrait bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, circa 170-180 A.D., highlights the selection of antiquities to be offered on December 5 (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). The celebrated philosopher-emperor, who was known as the last of the Five Good Emperors, is depicted here in his later years, after having ruled for several years. In addition to his characteristic tousled curls, he is portrayed with the mustache and beard of individual curling locks, denoting his wisdom and age. This magnificent portrait has an impressive provenance, hailing from the renowned collection of classical sculpture from Marbury Hall, Cheshire, England, formed by the Honorable James Hugh Smith Barry during the Grand Tour in Rome circa 1776-1780.

A set of four Egyptian canopic jars dating to the Late period, Dynasty XXVIXXX, depict the four sons of Horus, baboonheaded Hapy, human-headed Imsety, falcon-headed Qebehsenuef, and jackalheaded Duamutef (estimate: $60,000-80,000). Canopic jars were used to separately house each of the four organs – the liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines – removed from the deceased during the mummification process. Each organ was then believed to be under the protection of the respective son of Horus.

A fantastic selection of Greek vases, including kraters, kylikes, hydriae, and amphorae are also included in the collection. Among these is an Attic black-figured Tyrrhenian neck-amphora, circa 560-550 B.C., which is attributed to the Fallow Deer Painter (estimate: $80,000-120,000). On the upper register, there is a violent scene in which a bearded Herakles, wearing the skin of the Nemean lion, kneels and prepares to draw his bow. The scene depicts a specific mythological tale. While Herakles was dining on Mount Pholoë as a guest of a wise centaur, Pholos, he was forced to defend the group against a wild pack of other centaurs, attracted to the area by the smell of wine.

A Roman Marble Portrait Head of Anisthenes, circa late 1st-early 2nd century A.D., is of grand scale, depicting the Greek philosopher in his advanced years (estimate: $100,000-150,000). Anisthenes was a student of Socrates and is often credited with founding the Cynic movement within Greek philosophy. It is said he wrote ten volumes of writings, most of which focused on themes of ethics and virtue, only fragments of which have survived. Epitomizing the unkempt intellectual, depictions of the philosopher, including the present example, always include his characteristic full-length beard, mustache, and thick curly hair.

Of the highest quality and in exceptionally fine condition, the collection of old master paintings will be featured in a special curated sale devoted to the art of the European Renaissance. The cover lot of Renaissance will be Fra Bartolommeo’s beautifully preserved The Madonna and Child, an important recent addition to the artist’s oeuvre (estimate: $10,000,000-15,000,000). Likely executed in the mid-1490s, early in Fra Bartolommeo’s career, this tondo-shaped oil on panel depicts a tender moment as the Christ child eagerly grasps his mother’s veil, pulling himself up to receive a kiss. While this motif had originated in a late 13th-century icon known as the Glykophilusa Madonna, artists continued to portray the affectionate, maternal relationship throughout the centuries. Unlike his contemporaries, however, Fra Bartolommeo has painted the figures in profile, echoing Byzantine icons, thus elevating them to a beatified, inaccessible realm. Still set in its original frame, the circular form of the tondo is also of note, not only as an allusion to the halo, but also for the long-held associations with the shape. Greeks revered the circle as the most perfect geometrical form, Romans used circular portraits to denote the subject’s apotheosis, and Renaissance contemporaries of Fra Bartolommeo associated the circular format with the cycle of birth, death, and resurrection at the center of the Christian faith.

Attributed to The Master of Antwerp Adoration, this well-preserved triptych, depicting The Adoration of the Magi, exemplifies the style of Mannerist painting that flourished in Antwerp in the early 16th century (estimate: $500,000-800,000). The style is characterized by a high degree of finish, portraying the figures in visually striking poses, and using linear design to create an aesthetically appealing scene, all of which are apparent here. The Adoration of the Magi is among the most common subjects for triptychs of the period, likely due to a strong personal resonance with merchant traders, many of whom were important art patrons. Artists would often pay homage to them by including a merchant motif in the background; in the present example, a glimpse of a caravan of horses can been seen over the standing King’s shoulder.

A Triumphal Procession was executed by the 15th-century Florentine painter Bernardo di Stefano Rosselli as a decoration for a cassone, a chest used in the Renaissance to store clothing and objects of value, often elaborately decorated (estimate: $700,000-1,000,000). In addition to their utilitarian function, these pieces of furniture were usually commissioned in pairs to commemorate the matrimonial union of two powerful families. The frieze-like scene of the present example may represent the Triumph of Julius Caesar over the Gauls, reflecting the Florentine fascination with the Roman Empire. Interestingly, Rosselli has chosen to include contemporary architectural details in his scene of ancient Roman history. The Palazzo Rucellai, the Duomo, and the Loggia della Signoria, all edifices of Renaissance Florence, are visible in the background as the figures walk toward the gates of Rome.

A Portrait of Jacopo Boncompagni, executed in 1574 by Scipione Pulzone, is a stunning example of the artist’s famed portraiture and was previously exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000). Pulzone was the most sought-after portraitist of his generation in Rome due to his extraordinary skill in meticulously capturing the minutest details of his subjects. Included amongst his most eminent sitters were Popes Pius V and Gregory XIII, as well as Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Marie de’ Medici, Queen of France. The letter held in the present sitter’s hand identifies him as Jacopo Boncompagni, the natural son of Pope Gregory XIII and commander of the Papal army. Boncompagni’s role is underscored by the inclusion of a victorious St. Michael on his breastplate and the armorial decoration all’antica, which served the purpose of associating its wearer with ancient Roman military heroes. The closest surviving ceremonial armor to
that seen in the portrait is today preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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