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19th Century European Art Including an Important Collection of Sculpture at Sotheby's New York
Jean-François Raffaëlli, Les Champs-Élysées. Oil and batônet Raffaëlli on paper laid down on canvas. Est. $150/200,000- Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s New York auction of 19th Century European Art on 5 May 2011–timed to coincide with the May sales of Impressionist & Modern Art–is distinguished by important and rare works, as well as a number of major discoveries. The select and highly-curated sale offers the best works of each artist represented, and concludes with a suite of exquisite marble sculptures. Taken altogether, the auction celebrates the diverse artistic traditions that preceded and coincided with French Impressionism. The works will be on exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 29 April.

Important Discoveries
The May auction is highlighted by several works that either have been thought lost or have been previously unrecorded. A lost version of Fernand Pelez’s monumental 1888 Salon entry, Grimaces et misère: les saltimbanques, is featured on the catalogue cover. The work is a poignant depiction of a troupe of French circus performers, and was previously unknown apart from the version that is currently housed in the Petit Palais in Paris (est. $200/300,000).

Viewers will be delighted to discover the Venetian artist Frederico Zandomeneghi, who was championed by Degas and exhibited in four of the landmark Impressionist shows. His beautiful pastel Enfant jouant à la poupée was last recorded in 1901, when Durand-Ruel, the prominent French art dealer, sold it to a private American collector. As far as is known, the work has not been seen in public in over 100 years.

A strong group of paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot also highlight the sale, including a suite of three early portraits that were previously unrecorded. Jeune fille à la poupée leads the group–recently discovered in a French private collection–shedding important light on Corot’s skill as a portrait painter (est. $500/600,000).

Additional canvases by contemporaries of the Impressionists are led by a group of four works by Jean-François Raffaëlli, including Les Champs-Élysées ($150/200,000). The painting is a vibrant and sophisticated piece that comes from a private collection in Texas by descent of the San Francisco social institution Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. The work is among the best street scenes the artist produced, painted with an energy and finesse resembling the later works of Camille Pissarro, and the importance of the work was unknown to the owners for decades.

Albert Joseph Moore’s The Marble Seat is another major discovery of a painting thought to be lost ($60/80,000).

Victorian & Edwardian Art
Following the record-shattering price of $35,922,500 achieved at Sotheby’s New York in November 2010 by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s The Finding of Moses, the May 2011 auction will be led by another masterpiece by the artist. In The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 B.C., Alma-Tadema draws inspiration from Shakespeare’s play in depicting the memory of Antony’s first encounter with Cleopatra (est. $3/5 million). Beautifully rendered in the artist’s distinctive style, the image took on an iconic status soon after its completion in 1883 and has since served as inspiration for theatrical and filmed versions of the famed story.

In addition to The Meeting of Antony & Cleopatra: 41 B.C., Victorian and Edwardian works in the sale are highlighted by paintings from Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, Albert Moore, John Melhuish Strudwick and John William Godward, R.B.A. Sandy’s Love’s Shadow is a powerful and iconic image of female beauty (est. $300/500,000). Godward’s The Time of Roses is among his most successful compositions, with every inch of the canvas contributing to the beautiful image of a Grecian woman in a sinuous draped gown (est. $300/400,000).

The French Academics: William Bouguereau, Jules Breton & Jean Richard Goubie
The April auction features an impressive group of eight paintings by William Bougeureau, led by Les oranges (est. $1.4/1.8 million). Executed at the height of Bouguereau’s genius, the work stands among his greatest achievements and represents the pinnacle of his technical virtuosity. Other important works from the artist include Jeune mère contemplant son enfant, from the collection of Art Garfunkel (est. $250/350,000), as well as Le Livre D’Heures, a masterfully-rendered painting (est. $450/550,000). Closely related to the group is The Watercarrier by the Austrian painter Eugen von Blaas, a contemporary of Bouguereau (est. $300/400,000).

Jules Breton’s Jeune fille gardant des vaches attracted great attention at the Salon in 1872, as the powerful image of a peasant girl tending her cattle reminded its cosmopolitan audience that the rural regions of the country retained their character and customs at a time of war and political upheaval (est. $1/1.5 million).

A student of Jean Léon Gérôme, Jean Richard Goubie made a name for himself with his equestrian scenes of well-dressed Belle Époque riders, and L’après-midi du dimanche au jardin d’acclimatation further demonstrates his sensitivity to the relationship of people and animals (est. $700,000/1 million). The work depicts the Jardin d’Acclimatation, opened in 1860 by Napoleon III and Empress Eugènie, which intended to ‘acclimatize’ newly-imported exotic animals including kangaroos, giraffes and monkeys to a European environment.

The Symbolists
Les Épreuves is an example of Gustave Moreau’s work as one of the most inventive and influential painters of his generation (est. $600/800,000). The title, which translates to “Trials”, implies the classical story-arc of the hero’s quest, and the protagonist appears to be a forlorn poet, either tormented or inspired by a group of apparitions.

Statues de Chair: an Important Sculpture Collection
The May sale concludes with 10 important sculptures from an American collector, featuring life-size figural marbles. The group is led by French sculptor Max Blondat’s Fontaine aux Grenouilles, an impressive fountain that has seen numerous reproductions adorning the public squares and gardens of Dusseldorf, Zurich, the Place Darcy in Dijon and Fontainebleau (est. $300/500,000). Une Heure de la Niut (An Hour of the Night) is Joseph Pollet’s most famed composition, striking both for its beauty and monumentality (est. $200/300,000). A nude young woman, attended by a winged cupid, gracefully raises her arms to tend to her blossoming chignon.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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