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Important rediscoveries lead Sotheby's Old Master Paintings Sale in New York on 30 January
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Two Girls on a Bed Playing with their Dogs. Oil on canvas, 29¼ by 23⅜ in.; 74.3 by 59.3 cm. Est. $6/8 million. Photo: Sotheby's.
NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announced the sale of Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, comprising an exceptional selection of works from schools throughout Europe, to be held on 30 January 2014 during our annual Old Masters Week auctions. The sale is highlighted by a number of important paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, particularly an exciting rediscovery of a work by Jacob Ochtervelt. A Child and Nurse in the Foyer of an Elegant Townhouse, the Parents Beyond is a previously unrecorded painting and is an important addition to the artist’s oeuvre (est. $3/4 million). The subject matter and composition are related to a group of nine other “entrance hall paintings” that Ochtervelt made over the course of 20 years and which are universally considered to be among his most innovative and interesting pictures. Meticulously painted, the present work is both a beautiful example of his luminous style as well as a sophisticated representation of Dutch life and values in the mid-17th century.

A further important rediscovery leading the auction is A Merry Group behind a Balustrade with a Violin and a Lute Player by Gerrit van Honthorst (est. $2/3 million). A major addition to the artist’s oeuvre, the painting has not been seen in public since it was on the auction block in Valenciennes in 1883. This superlative work exemplifies Honthorst’s style in every respect, from its sophisticated and accomplished brushwork, to its exuberant figures and its vibrant color scheme.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s interpretation of Summer must be considered one of his most popular and successful subjects, and Summer: Figures at Rest during the Summer Harvest, is perhaps the finest and most impeccably preserved examples to emerge in decades (est. $2.5/3.5 million). This panel, signed and dated 1600, is the earliest of the approximately 20 variations on the composition, which strongly suggests that it is the prime version of the group. The present example alludes to his father’s famous painting of the Harvesters, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Wooden Landing Stage on a Frozen River, Churches and a Windmill at Left on the Distant Shore by Jan van Goyen is among the most refined and impeccably preserved examples from his entire oeuvre to come to market (est. $1/1.5 million). Dated 1646, this was a highly creative time in van Goyen’s career; he focused his energies on capturing highly subtle and varied effects of weather at various times of day.

The gentle restraint of A Peasant Family in a Cottage after a Meal exemplifies Adriaen van Ostade’s paintings from the mid-1650s and 1660s (est. $800,000/1.2 million). Around mid-century Ostade began creating refined panels such as this, with its meticulous brushwork, rich coloring and sense of tranquility. Throughout its distinguished history, this small panel has been prized by generations of collectors and connoisseurs from the 18th century until the present day, including the Duc de Choiseul, Minister of War and Foreign Affairs to Louis XV, the Prince de Conti and Nicolas Beaujon, banker to Louis XV.

In this evocative seascape, A Dutch Ship at Anchor Drying Sails and a Kaag under Sail, Willem van de Velde captures the mood of a quiet late afternoon on the water (est. $800,000/1.2 million). The present work is from about 1660, generally considered to be Van de Velde’s finest period. The painting has been in a number of very distinguished American collections including that of Peter A. Widener, who developed public transportation systems for major American cities, and newspaper publisher and diplomat, Ralph Harmon Booth.

In a different genre, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s fantastic Two Girls on a Bed Playing with a Dog, painted circa 1770, dates from the artist’s most fertile artistic period (est. $6/8 million). The spontaneous brushwork clearly illustrates why Fragonard’s virtuoso technique so impressed his contemporaries and why his style still resonates with the modern viewer as much as it did for the members of the court of Louis XV. This light and intimate scene has been exhibited at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in 2008 and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 2010 – 2011.

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