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Sotheby's online sale of Old Masters includes portrait miniatures from the Pohl-Ströher Collection
William Etty, R.A., Bacchanalian Revel. Estimate £30,000-40,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Following the recent success of the dedicated online sale of works from the collection of Old Masters dealer Rafael Valls, which more than tripled the high estimate to realise £1.6 million / $2 million, Sotheby’s will once again offer excellent examples from many of the major schools of Western European art in its mid-season sale of Old Master Paintings, open for bidding online 29 April – 7 May. Led by a magnificent group of 17th-century portraits of famous Englishmen from the celebrated Clarendon Collection, the sale also features exceptional still lifes, city views and landscapes, as well as over 70 portrait miniatures from the esteemed collection of the late Dr Erika Pohl- Ströher.

Since launching in 2017 Sotheby’s online sales have gone from strength to strength, and in the wake of widespread lockdowns due to the onset of Covid-19, have proven to be an increasingly valuable platform for both consigners and buyers alike. Already in 2020 Sotheby’s has held over 30 dedicated online sales, totaling over $50m, with sales consistently demonstrating strong sell through rates, such as the Rafael Valls sale (8 April) which achieved 98% sold by lot, and the Jewelry auction (25 March) which had a record 97% sell-through rate. Sotheby’s sales have also seen new benchmark prices achieved for any Print, Watch, Photograph and Handbag sold in online sales, whilst The Design auction (31 March) achieved the highest-ever total for an online sale of 20th Century Design, at any auction house.

Following the restoration of Charles II, the celebrated statesman and historian Edward Hyde became a trusted advisor to the monarch and was bestowed the title of Earl of Clarendon in 1661. A significant patron of the arts, Clarendon amassed an important collection of portraits during his lifetime, including both historical figures and famous contemporaries who had played a significant role in the turbulent years of the Civil War.

These seven portraits, which until recently were on long-term loan to the Palace of Westminster, where they adorned the walls of the House of Lords for the last half century, are all that remains of the Clarendon Collection. Depicting some of the leading political and cultural figures of the reign of Charles I, together they had a large hand in leading England through one of the most turbulent and poetically divisive periods in its long history.

Scientist, geologist, collector, museum patron, and businesswoman, Dr Erika Pohl-Ströher (1919-2016), was the granddaughter of Franz and Marie Ströher, who founded German hair care and cosmetics giant Wella AG. A great lover of paintings and books, she and her husband Gerhard Pohl were avid collectors, and over a period of nearly forty years passionately and discerningly collected portrait miniatures, slowly putting together one of the greatest collections in the world.

From formal images of state to depictions of disarming intimacy, over 70 works from the esteemed Pohl-Ströher collection of portrait miniatures will be offered, with masterly examples from the leading artists of many of the most important national schools of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

SEVEN WORKS BY WILLIAM ETTY R.A. (Lots 92-98) No other artist in British history has dedicated themselves to the depiction of the human form as assiduously as William Etty. Whether small single figure studies, academic studies or grand mythological and historical works, his paintings are festooned with the naked form, and in particular the female nude.

Epitomising his commitment to the traditions of European painting and dedication to the study of the life model, seven works by Etty are to be offered, including Venus relieving Cupid of his bow (Lot 93), and A Bacchanalian Revel (Lot 92) which featured in the 2011 exhibition William Etty: Art & Controversy at York Art Gallery.

A particularly strong group of still life paintings features in the sale, such as an opulent work by Jacques Hupin, a French artist working in Rome in the late 17th century (Lot 27), which displays rich carpets, flowers and fruit, and the beautiful Still Life (Lot 28) featuring birds, insects and flowers by one of the earliest known female artists of the Renaissance, Orsola Maddalena Caccia.

From Northern Europe comes an extremely rare signed and dated work by Herman Verelst (Lot 57), elder brother of the well-known flower painter, Simon Verelst. Both brothers came to work in London at the end of the 17th century – their close relationship is witnessed by a near identical version of this composition painted by Simon, today in a private collection.

Representing the earliest painted view of Covent Garden, and one of the first close-up depictions of one of London’s most iconic quarters, this extremely rare example of 17th-century British urban topographical painting (Lot 71) depicts the piazza before a market was begun there in 1649-56, just over a decade after Inigo Jones’ St Paul’s church was consecrated in 1638. The addition visible on the south side of the Cathedral is known to have been built between 1647-49, with a similar feature added to the north side in 1656, but since this does not appear here, its omission provides a terminus ante quem for the view.

A number of high-quality Italian view paintings will also be offered, from the iconic view of the Piazza San Marco in Venice by a Follower of Canaletto (Lot 103), to an anonymous capriccio view of a fantastic palace, which bears many of the hallmarks of a Venetian set designer, such as Francesco Battaglioli (Lot 101). Two impressive large canvases by Carlo Labruzzi, an artist based in Perugia in the 18th and early 19th century, depict the dramatic waterfalls at Tivoli (Lot 105) and a serene afternoon at Lago Nemi, to the south of Rome (Lot 106).

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