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Sotheby's to sell magnificent 15th century chandelier dating to the 15th century
A limestone statue of Saint John the Baptist. Estimate: £200,000-300,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s London sale of Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art on 10 July 2014 will be led by a magnificent Gothic chandelier dating to the closing decades of the 15th century which finds a tantalisingly direct parallel in Jan van Eyck’s celebrated oil painting The Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery, London. Estimated at £200,000-300,000, and probably made in either Dinant, in the Southern Netherlands, or Nuremberg, in Southern Germany, two of the leading centres for metalwork production in Europe at the time, the chandelier is very rare. Few 15th-century examples of this scale survive, to be found only in leading museums and private collections.

At the centre of the tabernacle stands a small statuette of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven; affixed to the tabernacle are two tiers of arms, fitted with candleholders and drip-pans. The scale of the whole ensemble is breath-taking, and would have created a dazzling effect once illuminated.

Impressive, multi-tiered, chandeliers were the preserve of the wealthiest private citizens, serving as signifiers of taste and prestige. The centrepiece of Van Eyck’s interior is a chandelier very similar in detail, with arms sprouting leaves, and a lion mask below the central architectural matrix. Chandeliers were often given as wedding gifts, and the example in the painting may, therefore, have been an expensive present to celebrate Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini’s marriage.

Details in the example being offered for sale suggest equally persuasive arguments for either a Dinant or Nuremberg origin. The relationship between the two centres was very close, most significantly as a result of the sacking of Dinant by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, in 1466, forcing many of the town’s craftsmen to flee to cities including Nuremberg.

A rare medieval stained glass window dating to circa 1260 has re-emerged, hidden amongst a group of 19th and 19th century stained glass windows that were purchased as a job lot at an auction in the US, over a century after it was last accounted for. The panel, illustrating a rare apocryphal scene from the Genesis, in which Adam bathes Eve after the birth of Cain, is one of two original sections of a window from Tours Cathedral known to have survived. The glass in the window – which combines two demi-medallions – is in a remarkable state of preservation, with radiant colours and precise painting, indications of the high class of craftsmanship of the school of Tours.

In 1810, a group of medieval windows were acquired by the Tours cathedral chapter in order to restore the glass in the cathedrals ambulatory chapels, which had probably been heavily damaged in the Revolution. Most likely purchased from the nearby Abbey Church of Saint Julien, the window was removed sometime in the middle of the 19th century as part of a large restoration project and stored, as was customary, in a glazier’s workshop at the time. It is unclear what happened to the window afterwards, but it probably found its way into the US in the early 20th century.

The faces in the window are lively and beautifully delineated by quickly painted lines – such finesse and heightened movement were among the innovations made by the Tours School. The somewhat worried countenances of the figures are also characteristic of glaziers from the West of France. An enormous amount of glass was installed in Tours cathedral between 1245 and 1267, creating a need for a glaziers workshop that developed a distinctive style. The window is estimated to bring £60,000-70,000.

A limestone statue of Saint John the Baptist is one of only a handful of monumental stone carvings from the fabled workshops active in the Burgundian Netherlands in private hands. Attributed to Jan Crocq, who was active between 1486 and 1510 at the Bar and Lorraine court of Duke Rene II, the sculpture was probably carved in the first decade of the 16th century. Monumental in presence and measuring 163cm in height, it was once part of an important altarpiece. The manner in which Crocq handles the stone is comparable to wood sculptures of the period. Crocq was the most important sculptor active in the court. A native of Flanders, he received regular payments from Rene II and his wife from 1499 to 1510, suggesting he was permanently employed as their court sculptor; his name disappears from the ducal accounts after 1510, and other sculptors took his place at court.

The facility with which Crocq has carved the figure of Saint John and the attendant details is staggering, from the alternating crescent-shaped curls of his hair, the folds of the mantle, the distinctive raised cuticle around the nails, to the soft, ridged spine of the book. The gaze of the lamb upwards is also exquisitely realised. Estimated at £200,000-300,000, the sculpture comes to the market from a Belgian private collection.

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June 28, 2014

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Sotheby's to sell magnificent 15th century chandelier dating to the 15th century

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