Christie’s Presents Old Master & 19th Century Drawings Sale

Sale on 22 March at 3 pm | Viewings from 17 to 22 March.

On the same day as the Salon du Dessin opens its doors on 22 March, Christie’s Old Master & 19th Century Drawings department will present its annual sale of drawings spanning more than 400 years of European art, from the 16th to the 19th century.

Comprising nearly one hundred lots, with a global estimate of around €1.3 million, the sale will feature a wide variety of works on paper from the French, Italian, Dutch and Flemish schools. Among the highlights of the sale is a rare and significant study by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, a delightful little drawing by Victor Hugo, an Orientalist watercolour by Antoine-Ignace Melling and a set of Italian drawings from a private European collection.

The auction of Study of a Kneeling Man in Profile by Peter Paul Rubens is sure to be one of the highlights of the season for collectors and enthusiasts. The artwork has a prestigious provenance and has remained in the de Clercq family since the 19th century. It has not been seen on the market since 1867 (estimate: €250,000-350,000). Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens, a prominent 17th-century painter, rarely appear for sale.

In this delicate study, created using one of the artist’s favourite techniques – black chalk accentuated with white – the Flemish master draws inspiration from Carracci and other great Italian artists of the same period. This is a fine example of the Italian influence that remained with Rubens long after his return to Antwerp. Here, the black chalk allows the artist to use a palette of greys in halftones in an interplay of light and shadow.

The extremely modern drape of the coat hugs a back whose curved, rounded outline reinforces the softness and humility in the model’s posture. The movement of the face and the downward glance extend the outline of the garment while giving the drawing great harmony and strength.

New to the market, Souvenir: Château Fantastique by Victor Hugo. A gift from the writer to his friend, the woman of letters and composer Louise Bertin (1805-1877), this drawing has remained in the same family ever since. The work, enriched with touches of blue and red – rare colours in the artist’s graphic corpus – also features a variety of media: pen, brown ink, brown wash drawing, charcoal, watercolour, and gouache.

This demonstrates the artist’s mastery of numerous techniques, as he liked to test, innovate with, and harmoniously mix the media he used. Estimated at €40,000-60,000, this drawing belongs to a series of “Souvenirs” produced by Hugo during his career – one of which, dated 1864, is conserved at the Maison Victor Hugo in Paris.

Procession en l’Honneur d’un Mariage Turc by Antoine-Ignace Melling was published in 1804 for Lacretelle’s two-volume publication, Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et des Rives du Bosphore. It has remained in the same family for over a century. The artwork, produced in graphite, watercolour and gouache, and embellished with gum Arabic, belonged to Auguste Boppe (1862-1921).

He was a trained archivist and embassy counsellor in Constantinople and the author of Peintres du Bosphore au XVIIIe Siècle, published in 1911 (and republished with illustrations in 1989). The book introduced the Orientalist painters of the 18th century to the public and remains a reference for art historians to this day.

Estimated at €200,000-400,000, this highly refined work, which highlights the colours of the Orient, was exhibited in 1992 at the Carnavalet Museum (Paris) and at the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam) during the tour dedicated to the French artist, “Du Bosphore à la Seine, Antoine-Ignace Melling, artiste voyageur”.

The sale will also feature a private European collection of Italian drawings. The set, collected between 1990 and 2000, consists of some fifteen drawings with estimates ranging from €2,000 to €15,000. A selection was displayed in Madrid (2022) and Lisbon (2000 and 2021) with the title European Master Drawings from Portuguese Collections.

The exhibition was curated by Nicholas Turner, independent art historian and former Deputy Keeper in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. These drawings include a very fresh study Le Combat des Quatre Éléments, by Pietro Testa on blue paper from the 18th century Pierre Crozat collection and more recently that of Alfred Normand (1910-1993).

Finally, a small selection of 18th-century French drawings will be presented, including a set by Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700-1777) and François Boucher (1703-1770), all of which are new to the market and belonged to the sculptor Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867). The drawings, preserved by the artist’s descendants, have remained hidden from view and are a revelation for all lovers of French drawings. The artworks, with highly attractive estimates, will be auctioned at between €5,000 and €25,000.

Practical Info

Dessins anciens & du XIXe siècle sale
Wednesday 22 March 2023 at 3 pm
Viewings from Friday 17 to Wednesday 22 March 2023
Open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, except Sunday 19 March from 2 pm to 6 pm and Wednesday 22 March from 10 am to 12 pm
Christie’s Paris
9, Avenue Matignon – 75008 Paris



Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had auction sales in the first half of 2019 that totalled £2.2 billion / $2.8 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectables, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.