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The Courts of Europe: From the Renaissance to the Rococo at Sotheby's New York
Lombard School, Circa 1550, Portrait of a Gyrfalcon, Viewed from Three Sides. Oil on canvas, unlined, 29¾ by 39⅝ in.; 75.7 by 100.5 cm. Est. $700/1,000,000.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s New York presents The Courts of Europe: From the Renaissance to the Rococo, a highly curated sale featuring distinguished paintings, drawings and sculpture that reflect the princely taste of these artistic centers, to be held on 30 January 2014 during Old Masters Week. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, the courts of Europe were paramount in political and cultural life, driving the taste and style of the day and greatly influencing the arts through their patronage. From the papal and princely courts of Renaissance Italy to the French and Russian palaces of the 18th century, they were the lavish centers of artistic life and development. The sale will feature examples from multiple countries and genres, including works by artists that were employed by European rulers from 1500 to 1800. Highlights from the sale will travel to Los Angeles, London and Beijing this fall. Additional highlights will be announced in the coming months.

Christopher Apostle, Senior Vice President, Head of Department, Old Master Paintings, commented, “Over the last few auction seasons, we have been seeing more and more collectors become interested in the art of the Renaissance, the Baroque and the Rococo periods which, for their narrative qualities and visual impact, remain resonant to the modern viewer. The Courts of Europe will allow us to present to a contemporary audience the strong and vivid images of these periods together within their historical context. We hope that this exciting and new approach will intrigue those who are new to Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, as well as seasoned collectors.”

Leading the sale is Portrait of a Gyrfalcon, viewed from three sides by a Lombard Master, 1540 – 1560 (est. $700/1 million). This unique and striking portrait of a gyrfalcon dates between 1540 and 1560. Gyrfalcons were a sign of wealth during that time; only the most elite nobility were permitted to hunt with this majestic bird. The Allegory of Geometry is part of a series of paintings of the Seven Liberal Arts, one of Laurent de La Hyre’s most important commissions and a paradigm of classical refinement and iconography (est. $800/1.2 million). La Hyre painted the series between 1649 and 1650 to decorate a room in the Paris residence of Gédéon Tallemant, a member of the Council of State under Louis XIV. The series was dispersed in 1760.

Portrait of Aglaé Angélique Gabrielle de Gramont, wife of General Alexander Davidov (1787 – 1847) was painted by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée le Brun, known for her portraits of French royal and nobility (est. $400/600,000). She is now recognized as the most famous and influential female artist of the 18th century. Aglaé Angélique Gabrielle de Gramont, known as "la générale Davidova," was the daughter of the Duc and Duchesse de Guiche et de Gramont and granddaughter of Marie-Antoinette's favorite, the Duchesse de Polignac. Aglaé Angélique Gabrielle married the Russian general, Alexander Davidov in 1804.

Cupid Releasing Two Doves, an immaculately preserved panel by Benjamin West, is among his finest mythological pictures (est. $250/350,000). A native of Pennsylvania, the artist became the official history painter for George III and emerged as one of the most beloved public figures in his adopted country of England. In addition to this role of court history painter, West was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts, where he served as the Academy’s second president, a post he held until 1805.

A further highlight of the sale is a fine and important lindenwood relief portrait in homage of Catherine the Great of Russia by Aubert-Henri-Joseph Parent, which was exhibited by the artist in 1783 (est. $80/120,000). Decorated with his characteristically intricate and naturalistic floral motifs as well as symbols of the Catherine’s imperial power, Parent also included a group of mother birds feeding her young, symbolizing the empress’s maternal care for her subjects. The panel exemplifies the artist’s expert use of undercutting and micro-carving techniques to imitate the vibrancy and delicacy of nature. Parent became a royal favorite in his native France in 1777 when King Louis XVI received a relief panel by the artist as a gift which the king later placed at Versailles. Louis’ enthusiastic and public support garnered Parent a number of important commissions from the court. Some scholars believe that the appearance of this wood relief indicates that the artist visited St. Petersburg where he would have carved the panel as a tribute this monarch and voracious collector of fine art.

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