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A Blockbuster Two-Part Sale of European Masters Announced at Christie's New York
Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765), An architectural capriccio with figures among Roman ruins. Estimate: $600,000-800,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

NEW YORK, NY.- Following on the heels of its successful December Evening Sale of Old Master & 19th Century Art in London, Christie's New York presents a blockbuster two-part sale of paintings, drawings and watercolors by the great masters of European Art on January 26. With over 300 works in total, the assembled offerings represent the greatest examples of European art dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries, with master works by Canaletto, Luca Carlevarijs, Jean-Francois Millet, Jean Léon Gérôme, William Bouguereau, and Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema among the highlights.

Nicholas Hall, International Co-head of Old Master & 19th Century Art at Christie's, comments: “As the first major international auction of 2011, our flagship New York sale of Old Master and 19th Century Art is a bellwether for the global art collecting community. We closed 2010 with very strong sales in this category in London, aided by a surge of interest from collectors in Asia and emerging markets outside of Europe and the U.S. With the rich diversity of periods and styles included in this upcoming sale, we anticipate our largest audience yet for Old Master and 19th Century Art at Christie's New York.”

Within the Old Masters category, highlights of the sale include an exceptional selection of 18th century works drawn from private collections, many of which trace their origins back to the wealthy class of British and Irish gentlemen who purchased them while on the Grand Tour through Italy in the early 1700s. A lead example of this group is a masterful view of Venice by the one of the foremost masters of vedutismo, Luca Carlevarijs (1663-1730). Entitled View of the Molo, Venice, Looking West (estimate: $3,500,000-4,500,000), the superlative city view utilizes one of the artist’s favorite vantage points for capturing the bustling heart of the city. Carlevarijs completed the work around 1718 for the son of a wealthy Lord Mayor of London, William Bateman, who visited Venice while on his Grand Tour. The work was passed down, along with a pair of views of the Molo, through several generations of Bateman’s descendants until it was sold at Christie’s London in 1896 for 16 guineas. A similar view of the Molo sold at auction in 2005 for just under $4 million.

Additional examples of Grand Tour commissions include View of Mestre (estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000) by Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto (1697-1768). The work is the only large-scale view the great master painted of Mestre, a mainland city that is now linked to Venice by bridge. Among the previous owners of this majestic view were the Viscounts Ashbrook, whose ancestors likely purchased the work direct from the artist’s studio during their own Grand Tour. The painting was kept at Castle Durrow in Ireland until it was demolished in 1922, and was later auctioned at Christie’s London in 1928.

Also featured in the sale is a grand commission by the most illustrious painter of Roman views, the 18th century master Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765). Entitled An architectural capriccio with figures among Roman ruins (estimate $600,000-800,000), this large-format work includes no less than eight buildings and eleven other monuments from various sites around Rome in a tour de force of architectural rendering. A second Panini work, An architecutral capriccio with the philospher Diogenes (estimate: $400,000-600,000) will also be offered.

In keeping with current demand in the global market for top-quality examples of 19th century and Orientalist works, Christie’s is pleased to present a strong line-up of works with broad international appeal. Among the lead highlights of the section is Master of the hounds, a regal depiction of a soldier surrounded by a pack of hunting dogs by the French painter Jean-Leon Gérôme (estimate: $700,000-$1,000,000). In a first for the Old Master & 19th Century category at Christie’s, this work, alongside Canaletto’s View of Mestre, was previewed to an enthusiastic audience of Asian collectors during Christie’s major Hong Kong auctions in November.

Painted at the height of Gérôme’s career, the work portrays an armed Bashi-bazouk - a reserve soldier in service to the Ottoman Empire - accompanied by his faithful hunting dogs. For Gérôme, the proud Bashibazouk became a symbol of masculine fortitude and the exotic Orient -- two themes that captured the imagination of the artist’s growing French and American audiences in the late 1800s. The artist’s works along this theme were inspired by frequent visits to Egypt, Asia Minor and Jerusalem between 1856-1880, where he would closely observe the men and women of his host countries. Upon his return to his home studio, he would reproduce the many life sketches made during his travels into full-scale paintings, creating evocative images such as Master of the hounds that mixed these direct observations with his own fanciful imaginings.

Among the most iconic examples of 19th century painting is La fin de la journée; effet du soir by Jean-François Millet (1814-1875). Also known as L'Homme à la veste (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000), the atmospheric scene captures a solitary field worker struggling into his coat sleeve at the end of his day's labors. The painting is Millet's final realization in a long series of works devoted to this solitary figure, whose striking pose became a powerful influence on generations of later artists, most notably Vincent Van Gogh.

Rounding out the selection of 19th Century works is The Oleander (estimate: $500,000-700,000), an exceptional work by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) painted at the height of his career. Infused with a warm Mediterranean light, the painting portrays a daydreaming woman seated at the edge of a marble bath filled with exotic shells, holding a single stalk of oleander to her nose. First exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1883, this romantic work enjoyed rave reviews from critics of the day, and has since been featured in exhibitions at major museums in the U.S. and Western Europe.

Additional highlights of the sale include:

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664)
Circe changing the Companions of Ulysses into Boars Estimate: $1,200,000-1,800,000 Il Grechetto, as Castiglione was called, emerged as one of the most famous Genoese artists of the 17th century despite his reckless and rather eccentric personality. This marvelous large-scale scene from the Odyssey, in which the sorceress Circe turns one of Ulysses' men into a boar-headed hybrid of man and beast, reflects both the artist's flair for high drama and his magnificent technical skill with paint-handling and brushwork.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621)
Tulips, roses, a bluebell, Narcissus tortuosis, forget-me-nots, lily of the valley and cyclamen in a flask, on a ledge with a caterpillar, butterfly and dragonfly Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000 This rare jewel-like painting on copper is one of only approximately 50 works by Bosschaert, a 17th century Flemish painter who is now recognized as one of the founders of the floral still life genre. Using an elegantly balanced composition, Bosschaert painted each petal with scientific precision, having first closely observed the flowers in differing seasons. Last exhibited publicly in 1984, this exquisite work has been maintained in a private collection for over 30 years.

William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Portrait of Eva and Frances Johnston Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000 The sisters depicted in this tender portrait by Bouguereau are the daughters of John Taylor Johnston, one of the founders and the first president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. With their elegant dresses of red, white, and blue, Bouguereau’s masterful portrait subtly suggests the arrival of French art on American soil, an endeavor in which their father was most intimately involved. The upcoming sale marks the painting’s first public exhibition, having been maintained within the Johnston family collection since its completion in 1869.

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787)
Venus Caressing Cupid Estimate: $400,000-600,000 In this beautifully composed mythological painting the goddess Venus appears to indicate to her son Cupid that he is ready to assume his role as Love's messenger among mortals. Executed in 1774, at the height of Batoni's career, it is believed to be the primary version of a work later commissioned by Prince Nicolay Yusupov of Russia and completed in 1784. Of the two, this version featured in the upcoming sale is widely considered to be the more superior, displaying all the soft tonalities and brilliant lighting effects for which Batoni was best known.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
An écorché study of a male nude, with a subsidiary study of the right leg Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000 Among the most exciting rediscoveries in the upcoming sale is this previously unpublished anatomical study by Rubens, which until recently was known only through two copies now in the collections of the Royal Museum in Copenhagen and the Albertina in Vienna. This sheet, done in pen and brown ink, was likely intended for use in an engraved pattern or reference book for pupils and other artists. Never before offered at auction, this work is from the collection of the late Ludwig Burchard, a leading scholar of Rubens’ work. An exceptional and highly important example, this work has remained in private hands with Burchard’s descendents since his death in 1960.

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