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Christie's announces Sale of 19th century Art including a beach painting by Sorolla
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923) Miedo al agua. Oil on canvas, 173 x 112cm Estimate: £500,000-800,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

LONDON.- Christie’s presents Miedo al Agua by the renowned Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida to lead the sale of 19th Century European Art in London, on 21 May 2014 (estimate: £500,000-800,000). Coming directly from the estate of the artist and passed on thence by descent to the present owner, this expressive snapshot was painted on Malvarossa beach at Valencia in the summer of 1909, when Sorolla was at the height of his artistic powers and international fame. Presenting a cross-section from different cultural and geographical milieus, the sale will also include a rich array of works from a wide variety of private collections illustrating the influence of the many intellectual and social currents of the 19th century, including a group of Greek Marine paintings by Konstantinos Volanakis from an important private Greek collection. 65 lots featuring works from the Symbolist, Barbizon and Orientalist schools, as well as a strong group of noble portraits are expected to realise a combined total of £4 million.

The auction is highlighted by a selection of noble portraits from private European collections, all of which are attuned to the dash and swagger of the Belle Époque. These include from left to right: Viennese court painter Franz Makart’s life size portrait of his close friend Maria, the Italian aristocrat Countess von Dönhoff (estimate: £120,000-180,000); renowned Italian painter Giovanni Boldini’s Portrait of Lady Nanne Schrader, vivacious with her radiant smile (estimate: £200,000-300,000) and Franz-Xavier Winterhalter’s Portrait of Mrs. Vanderbyl (estimate: £200,000-300,000).

The mythological work of Franz Von Stuck (1836-1928) will be represented in the auction by an extraordinarily brooding and evocative painting from 1909 of Pluto the God of Hades (estimate: £150,000-200,000). In the present work, Von Stuck has chosen a sinister interpretation of Pluto, rooting the subject to a massive sepulchral throne, Cerberus standing loyally by his side guarding the entrance to the underworld. A further highlight in the symbolist section is Gustave Moreau’s Salomé à la colonne executed circa 1885-1890, to be offered from a distinguished Swiss collection (estimate: £300,000-500,000). The subject of Salomé provides a deeper vein of inspiration that any other in Moreau’s oeuvre, and is the one with which he was most associated in his own lifetime. Noted as the most gifted watercolourist of his generation, Moreau accomplished an immortal monument to the femme fatale with this enigmatic depiction.

The landscapes in the sale are represented by two key artists from the Barbizon and Nordic schools of painting. The first, Les Baigneuses des Îles Borromées by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) combines the principles of both neo classical and plein-air painting, summing up many of the characteristics that secured Camille Corot’s place as arguably the most important landscape painter in France of the mid nineteenth century (estimate: £120,000-180,000). The second is Kaskimetsa (Burnt Forest) painted in 1904 by the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela, offered from the property of an important private European collector (estimate: £100,000-150,000).

While Corot’s painting is one of a large number of evocative, ethereal landscapes which Corot painted in his later career, and which he defined as “Souvenirs” (memories), painting an Arcadian, pastoral vision, first expressed by 17th century painters such as Claude and Poussin, but communicated in a fresher and more immediate pictorial language, Gallen-Kallela’s ground breaking work helped define the Finnish artistic national consciousness, whereby his landscapes were metaphors for Finland’s struggle towards nationhood in the face of Russian hostility. This is notable in the present work where Finland’s national hope and indomitable spirit is represented by a lone woodpecker in the upper centre of the composition, which taps at a burned out hollowed trunk, determined to build a new home from his apparently ruined surroundings.

Christie’s will offer Fausto Zonaro’s On the Galata Bridge, Constantinople as part of the Orientalist section of sale (estimate: £120,000-180,000). The first artist to chronicle Istanbul as a modern city, Zonaro combined an almost photographic realism with a painterly, impressionist technique. The Galata Bridge was the key crossing point of Constantinople and this monumental painting, which projected an image of power and modernity, so pleased the Sultan, Abdulhamid, that he appointed Zonaro as official court painter, granting him unfettered access to all the city’s sites. Further highlights will include paintings and watercolours by key Orientalists such as John Frederick Lewis, Rudolphe Ernst and Johann Jakob Frey.

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