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Master Drawings Sale at Sotheby's to be Held in July

LONDON.- Coinciding with the Master Drawings London, Sotheby’s sale of Old Master Drawings on Wednesday, July 9, 2008 will bring to the market a range of rare and important drawings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, encompassing all European schools. The sale will be spearheaded by an early and rare figure drawing by Jan Lievens, who during the 1620s worked closely alongside the young Rembrandt in Leiden. Estimated at £70,000-100,000, the study in red and black chalk of the old woman known as “Rembrandt’s Mother” is one of the finest drawings by Lievens to remain in private hands; Rembrandt’s mother appears in many paintings and drawings by both Rembrandt and Lievens. At the time that Lievens undertook the rare drawing of the elderly lady he was in some respects a more innovative artist than Rembrandt. Although he was subsequently to be overshadowed by the great Rembrandt, a major exhibition in Washington, Milwaukee and Amsterdam - opening in October this year - is set to reassess his importance.

The Lievens is one of 25 drawings in the sale from the collection of the late Jacobus A. Klaver of Amsterdam, a collection that was given the rare honour of an exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam in 1993. The following year, the majority of the drawings were sold in an important single-owner sale at Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, but a core group of drawings - those of the greatest personal significance to the collector - was retained and are only now being sold by his heirs. Among the works being sold is a rare and important drawing of The Annunciation by the leading 16th-century stainedglass designer, Dirck Crabeth, which is estimated at £60,000-80,000, as well as a number of classic 17th-century Dutch landscapes and figure drawings and fine 18th-century watercolour views of Amsterdam.

The Dutch and Flemish Schools are particularly well represented in the sale and this group contains no fewer than three drawings - which are all very different - by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The first is a spectacular, large sheet showing Scipio Welcomed outside the Gates of Rome which carries an estimate of £120,000-160,000. The composition of this work is based on a tapestry design by the 16th-century master Giulio Romano, whom Rubens admired hugely. In this work, however, Rubens has taken a copy of Giulio’s composition - drawn by another artist - and heavily reworked it in his own distinctive style, brilliantly transforming a classic Renaissance composition into a thoroughly Baroque work that bears all the hallmarks of Rubens’ own great inventions.

The second work by Rubens is a newly discovered study of St. Lambert which is estimated at £80,000-120,000. This is a much sketchier drawing, a lively and rapidly executed “first thought”, presumably for an unrealised work in another medium. The final piece by Rubens is a study of a young woman – very possibly the artist’s own wife, Hélène Fourment – which relates to his great painting, The Garden of Love, of 1632/3, and this is expected to fetch £40,000-60,000.

Of the other important Netherlandish drawings in the sale, one that is particularly noteworthy is the very powerful figure study by Karel van Mander, which is estimated at £40,000-60,000. Van Mander is probably best known as the man who wrote the definitive Dutch account of the lives of the artists, first published in 1604, but he was also himself a highly influential artist. During the 1570s, he travelled to Italy, and then worked in Vienna at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, before returning to the Netherlands. Van Mander encountered all sorts of new and exciting works of art during his travels and brought back to his native land a style of drawing and painting that formed the basis for the powerful Dutch Mannerist style of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Among the French school offerings there is a drawing by one of the greatest – and rarest – artists of the 17th century: Nicolas Poussin. Poussin’s drawings rarely appear at auction, so the emergence of this important, doublesided sheet, which has been in the possession of the same American family for more than half a century is of huge significance. One side of the drawing is a very rapid pen study
for a composition showing The Finding of Queen Zenobia on the Banks of the River Araxes, while on the other side there are various detailed partial studies of figures – a type of drawing that is hardly ever seen in Poussin’s oeuvre. The double-sided work is estimated at £70,000-90,000.

Other French drawings include classic 18th-century works by artists such as Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and culminate with three fine and characteristic portrait drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, which were executed between 1830 and 1848 and depict M. et Mme. Aristide-Laurent Dumont (Madame Aristide-Laurent Dumont and Mademoiselle Louise Marcotte – a member of a family frequently drawn and painted by Ingres. These works are estimated at £100,000-150,000, £80,000-120,000 and £60,000-80,000 respectively.

Highlights of the Italian School range from a delightful, early, double-sided drawing in red chalk by Parmigianino, estimated at £8,000-12,000, to a particularly splendid drawing of The Holy Family by Giambattista Tiepolo, which is expected to fetch £50,000-70,000. The latter was consigned from the estate of Catherine Gamble Curran and it demonstrates to the full the artist’s extraordinary mastery of wash, and ability to create ravishing effects of flickering light and movement. Also included in the sale are two large and extremely rare 18th-century panoramic views of Constantinople. Constantinople was a place of fascination to 18th-century western Europeans, yet few artists actually went there. These huge panoramic drawings, one of which measures nearly 1.5 metres long, are therefore of great rarity. Both drawings are estimated at £30,000-40,000.

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