LONDON.- Christie's sale of Old Master Prints on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 will offer outstanding examples of printmaking, dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Consisting of 61 lots the sale showcases rare and iconic prints by the masters of the medium, such as Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Andrea Mantegna and others; estimates range from £2,000 to £350,000.
The focus of the sale is on quality. This does not necessarily mean that all works featured have high estimates; there are many important old master printmakers whose beautiful, highly skilled work is still not well-known and which provide an excellent introduction to the field. Since many examples are now in museum collections this carefully selected group offers a very rare, exciting opportunity Richard Lloyd, Head of Prints department, Christies London.
Leading the sale are two works by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669). The first is arguably his most famous work Christ healing the Sick: `The Hundred Guilder Print', circa 1649 (estimate: £180,000-220,000). Since its creation this print has been admired as Rembrandt's most ambitious, intricate and highly-worked composition as a printmaker. Not only did Rembrandt bring together a remarkably large number of figures in a complex yet convincing composition, it is also a virtuoso display of his technical skills, combining etching, drypoint and engraving. The present impression is one of only 28 known impressions on oriental paper very few of which remain in private hands. There are several anecdotes as to where the informal title, `The Hundred Guilder Print', came from. It almost certainly comes from a letter written by a print dealer, recommending the work to a prospective purchaser as something of great value, which `has been known to sell in Amsterdam for 100 Guilders or more'.
The second major work by Rembrandt to be offered is thought to be one of his most important works: Christ crucified between the two Thieves: `The Three Crosses', 1653 - circa 1661 (estimate: £350,000-450,000). This magnificent print is famous not only for its size and emotional power, but also for the radical transformation it underwent. In the fourth state Rembrandt covered the plate with powerful, dynamic diagonal strokes which focuses the viewer's eye on the central tormented figure of Christ. The present impression is exceptionally rich and dramatic, comparing favourably with one in the British Museum.
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is an enduring theme in western art, and this sale provides a fascinating contrast between two versions of the subject. Albrecht Dürers (1471-1528) engraving, from 1504 (estimate: £60,000-80,000), is one of the best-known in his oeuvre and is thought to have been produced as a show piece for the Italian market. Dürers great skill exemplifies the painstaking realism and attention to detail for which the northern masters were renowned. This is also the only print which Durer signed with his full name and birthplace. It is a work which is loved for its sheer charm and beauty. The entire composition is an image of duality and division. The Tree of Knowlegde separates Adam from Eve and also splits the image into two halves and the parrot and the serpent respectively symbolise wisdom and betrayal. Rembrandts version from 1638 (estimate: £30,000-50,000) is far more naturalistic, but also includes an intricate dragon, and to suggest the exotic nature of the Garden of Eden, a small detail of an elephant.
Further key works include Rembrandts timeless landscape The Three Trees, 1643 (estimate: £140,000-160,000), Dürers Saint Eustace, circa 1501 (estimate: £80,000-120,000), and Goyas La Tauromaquia, 1861 (estimate: £120,000-180,000). Also included in the sale are works by William Blake, Agostino Veneziano, Daniel Hopfer, Jusepe Ribera, Augustin Hirschvogel, Adriaen van Ostade, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Cornelis Anthonisz, and Antonio Fantuzzi.