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Sotheby's organizes an auction in Paris combining paintings and sculptures for the first time
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The visit to the Farm. Signed and dated lower left P. BREVGHEL/1622. Oil on panel, 51 x 73, 6 cm; 20 by 29 in. Estimate: 300 000 – 400 000 € / $ 320.000 – 427.000. Photo: Sotheby's.


PARIS.- Sotheby’s France will mix sculptures with old and 19th-century paintings at an exceptional auction in Paris on 17 June.

This rich auction pays tribute to 17th-century masters with works that seldom come up on the market, including an unusual group of panels by Abel Grimmer painted in 1609 and rare Mannerist paintings by Joachim Beuckelaer and Pieter Brueghel the Younger. The 19thcentury section includes a powerful preparatory sketch Eugène Delacroix made for a now-lost painting, an attractive group of female nudes by artists such as Hugues Merle and Jules Lefebvre and landscapes by Corot, Harpignies and Guigou that will appeal to aesthetes with a fondness for this bucolic genre.

For the first time, sculpture will be part of a session dedicated to old masters. An outstanding medieval selection opens this part of the auction, followed by Renaissance bronzes. An attractive Adonis by Barthélémy Blaise, signed and dated 1795, and François Rude’s brilliant portrait of the mysterious sea explorer La Pérouse, will conquer those in love with French marbles.

Old Paintings and Drawings
The Virgin with Child attributed to Simon Vouet (estimate: €200,000-300,000 /$ 214.000 – 320.000) is an unprecedented work. There are two reasons for the attribution: the artist’s style, served by a powerful technique, and the half-length Virgin, a theme that was very popular in France as early as 1638, with which Vouet brilliantly renewed the genre. The gentle-looking Madonna heart-warmingly leans over a child in the full flush of health, with soft, chubby pink flesh.

Joseph Vernet painted Draughtsmen Opposite a Waterfall at the Foot of Tivoli during a turning point in his career (estimate: €250,000-350,000 /$ 267.000 – 373.000). Dated to ca. 1738 — early in the artist’s œuvre — the work is vibrant with sincerity and feeling. In 1734, Vernet went to Rome, where he discovered the city’s monuments of course, but also the light, which he incessantly sought to capture in his paintings, anticipating the work of Corot and Turner. Under the influence of his teacher, Adrien Manglard, he immersed himself in nature and worked outdoors, surpassing the idealised views that made Claude Lorrain famous. Tivoli, a majestic spot where ancient monuments overlook waterfalls, offered landscape painters an ideal motif.

Abel Grimmer’s six works on round panels, Six Months of the Year: January to September (estimate: €600,000-800,000 /$ 640.000 – 855.000), dated 1609, originally belonged to a complete series of the Twelve Months of the Year. Owned by the same family since the 17th century, their reappearance on the market is a genuine event.

The panels’ excellent state of conservation makes them very easy to read. Grimmer used very thin paint whose transparency recalls watercolour and gives them a very pure, poetic aspect. The son of Jacob Grimmer, who was deemed one of the finest landscape painters of his time, the artist created his own pictorial style combining rigorous composition with refined colours. Our panels are excellent examples.

The Visit to a Farm, also called The Visit to the Wet Nurse, 1622 (estimate: €300,000-400,000 /$ 320.000 – 427.000), is probably one of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s rarest themes: only around 10 versions of this scene are known to exist. The boldly composed subjects, usually thought up by Pieter Brueghel the Elder and repainted and circulated by his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger, poetically depict daily life in an unforgiving countryside.

The master’s inimitable, visionary pictorial style achieves the full measure of its expression here, foreshadowing the singular framing of comic strips centuries before their time.

Nineteenth-century paintings and drawings
A Portrait of Eustachine-Jeanne d'Osmond by Jean-Baptiste Isabey (estimate: €30,000-40,000 /$ 32.000 – 42.700) depicts the daughter of the Marquise d'Osmond, who was famous for hosting the "Fridays at the hôtel d'Osmond" in the neo-Gothic grand salon of her hôtel particulier in Paris, which attracted many artists, including Jean-Baptiste Isabey. Each summer, Isabey would visit the d'Osmond family’s château de Pontchartrain near Rambouillet, where he painted magnificent portraits of his hosts. They rank among his finest works.

The duc d’Orléans commissioned Eugène Delacroix to paint Cardinal de Richelieu Saying Mass in the Chapel of the Palais Royal for the Palais Royal gallery (estimate: €100,000-150,000 /$109.000 – 163.000). Exhibited at the 1831 Salon and lithographed by Jourdy, the picture was lost in the fire of 24 February 1848. It took Delacroix three months to complete the large-scale work. According to a letter to Louis de Schwiter, he based his depiction of Richelieu on Philippe de Champaigne’s portrait of the cardinal, now in the Louvre.

Many artists won the Prix de Rome, including François-Edouard Picot (1786-1868), a student of François-André Vincent and Jacques-Louis David, in 1811. Today, Sotheby’s France is auctioning his collection of 31 final sketches made by his students (estimate: €50,00070,000 /$ 53.500 – 75.000), of whom many went on to win the Prix de Rome themselves. A jury would short-list the first 20 artists, who were then asked to make a study of a male nude from a live model. Then, 10 artists from that group would be summoned for the final competition. They had 10 hours to do a sketch, then 72 days to make a final painting in a studio, which could not depart from the original sketch in any way. The paintings that won first prize are in the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.

The auction also includes a beautiful group of landscapes, mainly from the Barbizon School. One, Les Evaux, near Château-Thierry, Tree-Lined Road, a work Camille Corot painted ca. 1855-1865 (estimate: €50,000-70,000 /$ 53.500 – 75.000), shows a landscape shaded by a curtain of trees. In 1855, Corot started going frequently to the Aisne, where he painted a number of pictures.

Lastly, a group of academic nudes adds a touch of sensuality to this auction, providing an opportunity to gaze upon fleshy odalisques. Hugues Merles’ Hebe’s Dream or Hebe after the Fall, 1880 (estimate: €25,000-35,000 /$ 26.000 – 27.300) features a young woman with alabaster skin revealing her voluptuous curves with a subtle contrapposto.

Sculptures
For the first time in Paris, this selection includes sculpture. Medieval art takes centre stage, starting with a champlevé enamel plaque of the Crucifixion, ca. 1200-1210 (estimate: €40,000-60,000 /$ 42.700 – 64.000), that was probably made for a tabernacle. It is a prime example of the aesthetic developed by Limoges enamel artists ca. 1200, alternating human figures in reserve with silhouettes in chased copper gilded directly on the plaque.

Two stained glass windows forming a pair, ca. 1250-55, each estimated at between €40,000 and 60,000/ $42.700 – 64.000, from the rose window in the northern arm of the transept of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, praised the divine light whose rays it was their purpose to distil. Their matching pieces are in the musée de Genève. A thuriferary angel holding a censer appears in a blue, red, green and yellow stained glass medallion. The matching piece depicts a ceroferary angel.

An important group of five sandstone reliefs from Mainz, in the Rhineland, each featuring two apostles (estimate: €300,000-500,000 /$ 320.000 – 535.000), ca. 1410-1420, is a masterpiece of Gothic sculpture. They probably decorated the upper register of a rood screen or a pulpit in the early 15th century. Clearly from the same studio, this coherent group offers a harmonious vision and a carefully thought-out iconography where the faces, although complying with the period’s stylistic imperatives, stand out from one another, individualising the saints and giving them their own identity.

The auction also features several Renaissance bronzes, including a Walking Lion by Barthélémy Prieur, ca. 1600 (estimate: €60,000-80,000 /$ 64.000 – 85.500). The inventory after Prieur’s death, drawn up in 1611 with the King’s prosecutor in attendance, mentions “...five bronze figures of animals, lions and dogs as well as bulls, some small, some large, together valued at fifty livres tournois” [translator’s note: ‘Tours pounds'] (Arch. nat. IL.-264). The elaborate finish of the lion’s mane, the features of its face and the elegant modelling of its sleek body attest to the superior-quality casting of Prieur’s bronzes, which renders every detail in sharp relief. A copy is in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

Beautiful French marbles close the selection of sculpture, including a life-sized bust of the sea explorer, comte de La Pérouse, ca. 1831, by François Rude, winner of the 1812 Prix de Rome (estimate: €40,000-60,000 /$ 42.700 – 64.000). Commissioned in 1828 for the musée du Dauphin, the forerunner of the musée de la Marine, the bust was presented at the 1831 Salon. The unexplained disappearance of the navigator, who was sent by Louis XVI on an expedition to explore the Pacific, prompted much talk at the time. Rude took inspiration from a miniature portrait of the navigator (musée La Pérouse, Albi) and the engraving on the frontispiece of his travel writings, published in 1798. He imagined the features of this great man, whose fate remains shrouded in mystery, based on the few sources available to him, creating a particularly spirited portrait. The bust is a counterpart to Bosio’s 1831 portrait of comte Bougainville.

Lastly, there is a Young Shepherd or Adonis in white marble by Barthélémy Blaise (estimate: €85,000-120,000 /$ 91.000 – 128.000) from the former Mentmore collection that was exhibited at the 1787 Salon. Blaise excelled in marble carvings of mythological figures. Here, Adonis is sitting on a rock with an animal hide on his lap, his mace behind him and his dog keeping him company at his feet. The painstaking attention to detail and intelligent treatment alternating smooth and rough surfaces are noteworthy. The contrapposto position of the legs gives the body a twisting movement, leading the viewer’s eye around the marble sculpture.






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