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Sotheby's To Sell The Jeffrey E. Horvitz Collection of Italian Master Drawings
Lelio Orsi, Apollo Driving the Chariot of the Sun, est. $200/300,000. © Sotheby's Images.

NEW YORK.- On January 23, 2008, Sotheby’s New York will present for sale The Jeffrey E. Horvitz Collection of Italian Drawings, one of the preeminent collections of its type in private hands, and arguably the finest to appear on the market in nearly 20 years. Comprising more than 100 works, the extremely high quality of the drawings, combined with their extraordinary breadth and depth, presents all aspects of the art of drawing in Italy from the early 16th century to the early 19th century. Representing a wide range of techniques, from the earliest rapid sketches, to highly finished, elaborate presentation drawings, the collection features outstanding examples of the work of the artists in question. Among the highlights are rare and exceptional works by Giulio Romano, Federico Barocci, Parmigianino, Annibale Carracci, Guercino, and an outstanding group of 11 works by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo. The offering, which was acquired over a period of several decades, is estimated to bring more than $5 million.

Gregory Rubinstein, Director of Sotheby’s Old Master Drawings Department said, “In recent times, a shortage of really good material has been a defining feature of the Old Master Drawings market, which is why this sale of Mr. Horvitz’s collection will be so significant. This is the most important collection of Italian drawings to come to the market in a generation, and for many collectors, this will be the first time they have had an opportunity to study so many outstanding Italian drawings outside of a museum context, or to consider such a wide range of acquisition possibilities. The offering of this collection has the potential to attract a whole new generation of collectors to this fascinating field for the first time.”

Jeffrey Horvitz began collecting Old Master Drawings in 1983. At that time he was a prominent dealer in Contemporary Art – a field he sees as sharing intrinsic similarities with that of Old Master drawings. He recalls: “I was a dealer in 20th-century art in Los Angeles the 1970s, and my experience was that almost all of the dealers of 20thcentury art that I knew had drawings in their collections. I think it has something to do with the immediacy of the objects.”

From the outset, Mr. Horvitz quickly established himself as one of the most vigorous collectors active in the market. Relentless in his pursuit of French and Italian drawings – all of which had to fit his own strict set of criteria – he has, over the last 25 years, put together two parallel collections, each of which is unrivalled in terms of both quality and quantity. In more recent years, however, the bulk of Mr. Horvitz’s energies have been directed towards finessing the French collection and now, recognizing the near-impossibility of building two world-class collections at the same time, he has decided to divest himself of the smaller group: “Now the French outnumber the Italian drawings by a factor of ten. Nonetheless, the Italian collection may be one of the largest remaining in private hands in North America. It has been some time since I have added an Italian drawing, not because I fell out of love with them, but because the scarcity of fine works became increasingly frustrating. Meanwhile, the French collection grew into something so large and special that it required professional management. So, I have decided to turn all of my efforts and attention into continuing to build a comprehensive survey of French drawings, paintings, and sculpture.”

After many years working with great success in real estate and as a private investor, it is clear that Mr Horvitz has a keen commercial instinct. This instinct also to some extent informs his collecting activities, but there it operates in conjunction with his own set of strictly applied criteria, which dictate that no drawing should be acquired that is not genuinely exceptional as regards aesthetics, historical importance, and significance in the context of the artist's work.

Among the highlights of the offering is an outstanding composition by Lelio Orsi, Apollo Driving the Chariot of the Sun, which relates to the most prestigious commission offered to any artist in Orsi’s native city of Reggio Emilia - the decoration, now lost, of the Torre dell’Orologio in the Piazza del Duomo. The clock face of the tower was embellished with a flamboyant fresco of Apollo driving his chariot for which the present work is a study. A total of five drawings for the fresco are known, but the present drawing is the only one on the colored paper often reserved for Orsi’s most finished sheets. It is therefore very possible that the present work was made as the finished modello to be presented to the dignitaries of the city responsible for this highly important public commission, awarded to Orsi in 1544. Selected as the cover image for the catalogue of an important exhibition of the artist’s work in 1987, the drawing is estimated to sell for $200/300,000.

Also included is a rare example of pastel from the 16th century by one of the masters of the medium, Federico Barocci. His Study of the Head of a Young Woman Looking Down to the Right relates to a figure in the foreground of Barocci’s altarpiece known as ‘La Madonna del Popolo’ which is now in the Uffizi in Florence. The commission from the Pia Confraternita dei Laici di Santa Maria della Misericordia for their chapel in Arezzo was originally given to Giorgio Vasari, but upon his death in 1574, the project was passed to Barocci. No fewer than ninety preparatory drawings for the painting survive, indicating the enormous amount of time Barocci spent in designing the various figures and compositional details. The present work, handsomely executed in black chalk heightened with colored chalks, is estimated to bring $200/300,000.

One of the most sophisticated black chalk drawings by Battista Franco in existence, Male Nude Holding a Dagger, will also be offered in January. Because of its quality, it was previously attributed to both Michelangelo and Daniele da Volterra. Scholars now believe the present drawing to be a mature work, datable to the artist’s later Venetian period, circa 1552-55. This powerful work, which clearly draws inspiration from Michelangelo is estimated at $80/120,000.

A powerful and accomplished pen study by Annibale Carracci, Two Standing Women and a Reclining Male, which could related to the artist’s famous canvas depicting The Choice of Hercules painted for the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, is also among the highlights of Mr. Horvitz’s collection. The distinguished provenance of this drawing includes noted 17th century scholar and collector, Francesco Angeloni, the French artist Pierre Mignard, the banker Pierre Crozat and the man who can be considered the greatest drawings connoisseur of all, Pierre-Jean Mariette, whose characteristic blue mount with distinctive cartouche provides important details about the attribution and this drawing’s exceptional history. While many of Carracci’s preparatory works for The Choice of Hercules are now preserved in the Louvre, the present pen study is estimated for sell for $140/180,000.

An early stage in the evolution of Parmigianino’s composition of the Entombment, the most elaborate and grandest of the artist’s etchings, will also be offered. Study for an Entombment of Christ, in red chalk, shows the artist’s experimentation and development with the subject. Perhaps taking inspiration from Raphael’s Il Compianto of 1507, which features the Transportation of Christ to the Tomb, this drawing is estimated to sell for $120/180,000.

Like the work by Lelio Orsi, Giulio Romano’s Jupiter and Juno Received in the Heavens by Ganymede and Hebe is a modello for the painting of the same subject now at Hampton Court Palace.

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