London will offer Jan Havicksz. Steens remarkable The Prayer Before the Meal, from Sudeley Castle, estimated at £5-7 million, in its forthcoming Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale Including Three Masterworks from Chatsworth on 5th December 2012. Other highlights include Pieter Brueghel the Youngers A Wedding Procession, estimated at £2-3 million and two important Italian view paintings by Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli and Bernardo Bellotto. The sale will conclude with a supremely rare and important drawing by Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael; and by two 15th century illuminated manuscripts among the most important of their kind ever to be auctioned. All three come to sale from the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth House.i Comprising 51 lots, the auction is estimated to achieve a total in excess of £35.6 million.
Alex Bell, Sothebys Head of Old Master Paintings commented: Decembers sale will offer collectors an unprecedented selection of masterpieces from private collections. In addition to the three masterworks from Chatsworth, Jan Steens remarkable and intimate The Prayer Before the Meal leads a field of quite outstanding Dutch cabinet paintings, and from the early Italian Renaissance we are offering four exceptionally rare Scenes from the Passion of Christ by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini. Not only are many of the works making their first appearance on the auction market for generations, but their treasured status has ensured they are in a wonderful state of preservation.
Jan Havicksz. Steens The Prayer Before the Meal, (est. £5,000,000-7,000,000), depicts an unusual subject within the artists oeuvre. In a mood of quiet, unadorned piety, a simple family says grace before the humble meal laid before them. In few other works did Steen achieve such understanding of texture and detail. The treatment of the interior and the subtle understanding of light and its effects point suggestively to the influence of Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. It is the earliest surviving treatment of at least four, compositionally different variants of this unusual subject by Steen - indicative of how sought after it was among his patrons. Extensively exhibited - at the Royal Academy, London; The National Gallery, Washington; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam the painting comes from the collection at Sudeley Castle.
Pieter Brueghel the Youngers A Wedding Procession of 1627 is a charming large-scale version of one of the artists most popular subjects and is believed to have been based on a lost work by the artists father Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Estimated at £2-3 million, the work, an oil on oak panel, depicts a couple making their way through a gently undulating Flemish landscape towards a village church.
Four extremely rare 14th-century paintings by the Florentine artist Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, depicting Scenes from the Passion of Christ are estimated at £800,000-1,200,000. They are the only known surviving examples of an Italian 14th century narrative cycle on linen and are datable to circa 1390 on stylistic grounds.
The paintings are remarkable not only for their size and unusual medium they are painted on linen fabric supports but also for their astonishingly good state of conservation. The works once belonged to William Young Ottley (1771-1836), the great pioneer in the appreciation and collecting of Italian primitives in England.
The auction features two outstanding Italian view paintings.
Rome, A View of the River Tiber at the Porto Della Legna Looking Towards Castel SantAngelo, with Saint Peters Basilica in the Distance, by Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli is estimated £1,200,000-1,800,000. Vanvitelli was one the first of the great vedutisti of 18th century Italy and is best known for his arresting, panoramic views of the Roman skyline. One of six known variants of the view, this is intriguingly - the only one to include the palazzo Borghese, suggesting perhaps that this may have been a Borghese commission. A meticulous pen-and-ink preparatory drawing, relating to the painting, is in the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele in Rome.
Painted by Bernardo Bellotto at the age of just 17 or 18, Venice, The Grand Canal, Looking South-West, From the Rialto Bridge to the Palazzo Foscari (£1,200,000-1,800,000) is one of the young vedutistas most poetic and accomplished views of Venice. Extraordinarily for such a gifted painter, the recognised oeuvre of Bernardo Bellottos Venetian vedute has only come together during the past 20 years or so, obscured under misattributions to Canaletto Bellottos uncle - or his studio. The painting has been hung, consecutively, in two of the finest, and largest, nineteenth-century neo-Gothic castles in Great Britain: Saltmarshe Castle and Penrhyn Castle.
Portrait of Giovanni Gaddi (1493-1542), Head and Shoulders, Wearing a Black Cap (est. £600,000-800,000) was most likely painted in Florence in the first years of the 16th century. Formerly attributed to Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, this exceptional portrait by a singular hand is remarkably and tantalisingly - yet to find an entirely convincing attribution. Such a portrait could not have been conceived without knowledge of contemporary portraits by Raphael; yet its marmoreal, three-dimensional smoothness and plasticity owes something to Michaelangelos Doni Tondo painted in Florence around the time of the portraits likely execution, circa 1505-1508. The painting shows Giovanni di Taddeo di Agnolo Gaddi a descendent of the celebrated Florentine family of artists - as a boy aged perhaps between 12 and 15 years.
A piece of masterful and serene observation, Willem van de Veldes Shipping in a Calm Offshore with Figures on the Shore by a Rowing Boat, A Man-Of-War Lying Off is estimated at £600,000-800,000 . This painting is likely to be one of a small group of pictures painted circa 1659-1662 the period van de Veldes marines were considered to reach the apogee of refinement.
The auction also includes a fine selection of Dutch and Flemish still lifes, including Jan Brueghel the Elders remarkably well-preserved study of tulips, roses and irises, dating from circa 1607-9 which was restituted this year to the heirs of Julius Kien, estimated at £600,000-800,000, and Jacob Van Hulsdoncks exquisite and highly detailed breakfast still life, estimated at £500,000-700,000.