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Sotheby's Paris announces an important offering of Old Master and 19th century paintings
Paul-César Helleu, Portrait of Madame Helleu with a Parasol (c.1899). Est. €100,000-150,000 /$139,000-208,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
PARIS.- Sotheby’s announced that the forthcoming sale of Old Master & 19 th Century Paintings & Drawings on June 26 will feature numerous rediscoveries including, from Italy, a rare and powerful work by the 17th century Caravaggesque artist Artemisia Gentileschi (est. €200,000-300,000 / $277,000-415,000) and a strikingly modern oil on copper by Giuseppe Cesare.

The French 17th and 18th century schools will be worthily represented by refined portraits, still lifes and pastoral scenes by Barbault, Taunay, Louyse Moillon and François Boucher. The sale also features Flemish and Spanish paintings, while 19th century highlights include a Symbolist work by Victor Hugo and an impressive equestrian picture by Théodore Géricault . There are also two spectacular marine works by Louis-Philippe Crépin; an Impressionistic painting by Paul-César Helleu; and a fine series of Italian paintings from the early 20th century.

Old Master Paintings & Drawings
There will be an exceptional choice of Italian works, starting with a rediscovered work by Artemisia Gentileschi and a magnificent oil-on-copper by Giuseppe Cesari (1568-1640): Suzanna & The Elders (c.1606). This was deemed lost, but had actually been hidden in a family collection since 1812. Cesari was one of the most accomplished Roman artists of his generation and much favoured by the papacy. His take on the famous Bible episode shows a long, blond-haired Suzanne as a sensuous young woman whose diaphanous complexion is subtly enhanced by the ruby red glow of her fleshy lips. By turning her gaze away from the two old men and towards the viewer, she displays a naïve lack of modesty: this audacious composition lends the work a very modern feel (est. €80,000-120,000 /$111,000-166,000).

French 17th and 18th century paintings include works by Barbault; a Paris scene by Taunay; and a superb still life by Louyse Moillon, Bowl of Apricots, Peaches & Plums on a Ledge (c.1635). Sotheby’s posted a world record for the artist in 2013, when her voluptuous, youthful Still Life with Peaches – painted at the age of 19 – fetched over €1 million. The still life here, imbued with spiritual simplicity, is another youthful work (est. €200,000-300,000 /$277,000-415,000).

Other discoveries include two paintings by François Boucher: La Lecture de la Lettre (est. €350,000-500,000/$484,000-695,000) and a Scène Pastorale (est. €250,000-350,000/$346,000- 484,000). Both hail from the Marshal Berthier Collection sold by Sotheby’s Paris on April 29. Boucher was a key figure in the Marquise de Pompadour’s cultural circle, and credited with inventing the pastorale . These two small paintings from late in his career have an intimate feel that contrasts with the great mythological and religious subjects Boucher often favoured. In 1765 the Mercure de France evoked them as follows: ‘It is hard to imagine by what magical process an Artist used to working on large-scale works has managed to drop down into this other genre without his brush becoming less broad or less free.’

The sale’s Spanish works include two rare portraits by Miguel-Jacinto Meléndez of Philip V of Spain and his wife Marie-Louise-Gabrielle of Savoy (est. €20,000-30,000/ $27,700-41,500). Meléndez was official court artist to Philip V, and often portrayed the royal family; some of these portraits are now in the Prado. These dated, monogrammed works are excellent examples of his work.

Flemish Masters are also present, notably with a Déjeuner sur l’Herbe attributed to the Brunswick Monogrammist (est. €20,000-30,000/ $27,700-41,500), and two panelled depictions of the Tower of Babel by 16 th century Antwerp artist Hendrick van Cleve III, who trained with his father Willem van Cleve and with Frans Floris. The Tower of Babel was an Old Testament subject popular with 16th century Flemish artists, among them Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

This attractive Portrait of Elisabeth de France was painted by Frans Pourbus the Younger (Antwerp 1569-Paris 1622), whose patrons included the Habsburgs, the Medici and the Bourbons. He came to France in 1606 for the baptism of the Dauphin Louis XIII, and carried out his first commission for the French court: a spectacular full- length portrait of Maria de’ Medici that earned him the plaudits of the Court and especially the Queen, to whom he became official artist three years later, remaining in the post for twelve years. Our portrait (c.1609-15) dates from this French period, and shows Louis XIII’s sister Elisabeth de France, daughter of Henri IV and Maria de’ Medici. Her childlike features display the authority and solemnity of a young adult aware of her own destiny – she would become Queen of Spain (est. €60,000- 80,000/ $83,000-111,000).

19th Century Paintings & Drawings
Among the 19th century paintings is a magnificent, previously unpublished Théodore Géricault Portrait Thought to be of Napoleon’s Horse Aly that once belonged to Caroline Delessert, the wife of Jean-Henri Hottinguer, then their grandson Maurice Hottinguer, with whose descendants it has remained to this day. It is painted in the rapid, racy style typical of Géricault’s finest stable interiors, and shows a majestic animal with the elegant gait of an Arab thoroughbred and a light, almost white coat. Napoleon’s famous mount at the Battle of Wagram is thus portrayed like a dignitary of the Napoleonic army (est. €150,000-200,000/ $208,000-277,000).

Two spectacular works by Louis-Philippe Crépin will delight connoisseurs of naval battles: The Lys and the Gloire Fighting the Cumberland , first shown at the Salon of 1827 (est. €80,000-120,000 /$111,000-166,000); and The Bayonnaise Fighting the Embuscade (est. €40,000-60,000/ $55,500- 83,000). Crépin was a sailor in his youth and made sea battles his speciality, becoming one of the first artists attached to the French Naval Ministry. These two theatrical scenes offer a snapshot of battle raging before our eyes.

There are also two magnificent works in ink on paper by Victor Hugo: Nox, from 1847 (est. €8,000- 12,000 /$11,100-16,600) and La Tour des Rats (est. €40,000-60,000/ $55,500-83,000). Both these dark, brooding landscapes ooze Romantic appeal.

Paul-César Helleu’s Impressionistic Portrait of Madame Helleu with a Parasol (c.1899) entered the Olivier Sainsère Collection before 1920. It recalls the magnificent series of women with parasols painted by Claude Monet in the 1880s. Madame Helleu, the artist’s muse as well as his wife, is seen from below, and stands out against an intensely blue sky amidst harmonious shades of white (est. €100,000-150,000 /$139,000-208,000). The work shows Helleu’s interest in light, and its reflections on fabric and amongst clouds, evoking the plein air research of his Impressionist friends.

An important series of Italian paintings, led by Federico Zandomeneghi’s La Modella , embellish the second part of the sale. Zandomeneghi often painted intimated scenes and female portraits, and his work was admired by Paul Durand-Ruel. Here he seems to have captured his young subject at the end of a modelling session. Perhaps she has just slipped on her dress, and is adjusting it modestly with her left hand, revealing her neck and the top of her back. This delicate work gracefully conveys the model’s state of mind, her charming gesture and the gentle look in her eyes (est. €200,000-300,000/ $277,000-415,000). A Milan collection of ten works by Carlo Fornara and Emilio Longoni, meanwhile, illustrates early 20th century Divisionism.

Finally come two important works of Greek interest: Louis Dupré’s Consul Louis Fauvel at his Easel with the Acropolis in the Background , and Louis Boulanger’s Two Figures in Greek Costume in an Interior.





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