Christie’s is pleased to present its Old Masters sale, which will feature a selection of European paintings and sculptures – for a global estimate of 3.4M. – compiled with a great variety to meet the taste of a wide range of collectors. Such prominent Flemish artists as The Master of the Female Half-Lengths, Joos de Momper, or Roelandt Savery will be represented alongside quality artworks by French and Italian masters among which Alexandre-François Desportes, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Claude-Joseph Vernet, Achille Etna Michallon, or Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.
The highlight of the sale is a work by Alexandre-François Desportes, one of the greatest still life and animal painters of the 18th century. The Nature morte au ara, bas-relief, instruments de musique et chocolatière (pictured above) is an exceptional testimony to his talent as a still life painter. This majestic, elegant composition has a rich, vibrant palette. Every detail reveals the observation and faithful rendering of nature, goldsmith’s wares, and trompe l’oeil bronzes. The work comes from prestigious former collections, notably that of Ramel de Nogaret, Minister of Finance, Baron Lepic, and the collection of Elisabeth Wildenstein. It is estimated at €600,000-1,000,000.
Another major lot in the Old Masters Sale is a luminous landscape, Vue imaginaire d’un port méditerranéen au soleil couchant, by the famous marine painter, Joseph Vernet, shortly before his return to France. Dated 1752, the work belongs to Vernet’s Italian period, often considered as his most creative.
As Ingersoll-Smouse describes it: ‘The whole of the Italian period, from the series in the manner of S. Rosa to the genre paintings, constitutes, for its richness, variety of subject and beauty of execution, the finest part of Vernet’s life and art.” A lovely light illuminates the picturesque scene in the foreground while reinforcing the romantic depiction of the Mediterranean coastline with its overhanging rocks sheltering a grotto animated with figures. Estimated at €250,000-350,000, collectors should be seduced by this delicate marine that has remained in the same collection since 1950.
A rediscovery for the art market, the Department of Old Master Paintings is pleased to present one of the artists Joos de Momper’s masterpieces, Paysage d’hiver avec un moulin à vent. Together with Denis van Alsloot, Joos de Momper is considered one of the most important Flemish landscape painters of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
Momper collaborated here with Jan Brueghel the Younger on the figures, which are rendered with the greatest care. The transparency of the glazes and the play of colours contribute to the perspective and the magical character of the composition. It is estimated at €200,000-300,000.
Another rediscovery: since its acquisition in Paris in 1972, this highly sensitive painting, Jeune femme écrivant une lettre, has not appeared on the market since and is added to the astonishing corpus of the Master of the Half-Figures. The figures are recognisable by their soft, idealised, three-quarter-turned oval faces with half-closed eyes. They recall the influence of the Bruges painters Adriaen Isenbrandt and Ambrosius Benson, as well as the Brussels master Bernard van Orley.
The charm and technical ease that characterise our painting make it a very fine example. Particular care has been taken to render the garment, which is elegant and refined, as shown by the subtle play of materials. The lettering is also transcribed with the utmost care. The detail of the reflection of the young woman’s neck in the bull’s eye in the background adds to the delicacy and sensuality of the composition. This rare portrait is estimated between 80,000 and 120,000 euros.
Unpublished on the international market, collectors should be attracted by the beautiful pictorial writing displayed for this large-scale ceiling project, Deux saints évêques, by the Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Pittoni. Embodying the artist’s style, we find the colourist, sophisticated, and a work imbued with an Arcadian atmosphere close to the French rococo.
Highly regarded by his contemporaries, Pittoni was a founding member of the Venetian Academy and succeeded Tiepolo as president of the institution in 1758. From a private collection, the work is estimated at €100,000-150,000.
Finally, in the Old Masters Sale Sculptures section, one of Jean-Baptiste Houdon’s late 18th century masterpieces will be highlighted, a Portrait en buste de Voltaire (1778). Estimated at €150,000-200,000, this is a portrait of Voltaire made a few weeks before his death. Depicted without his wig, wrinkled and marked by time, this image of Voltaire is nevertheless the one that most pleased the philosopher of the Enlightenment.
For behind this mask of flesh, the liveliness of the spirit is expressed by the sculptor through the intensity of the gaze and the malice of the smile. Power emerges from this bust, considered by Rodin to be a masterpiece and a milestone in the history of sculpture. This bust portrait is a rediscovery, as only three other casts were known until now.
Sale: 16 June 2021 at 2 pm
Exhibition: 12 to 15 June from 10 am to 6 pm (free admission)
Christie’s : 9 avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris