For the first time, Christie’s in France will hold a sale dedicated to women artists, covering all mediums – ancient and modern paintings, sculptures, books and autographed letters, photographs, engravings, design, jewels, fashion. The panorama will pay tribute to women artists working over five centuries, of different nationalities, all of whom have marked art history, from the 16th to the 21st century.
Alice Chevrier, a specialist in the Rare Books and Manuscripts department, and Bérénice Verdier, a specialist in the Old Master Paintings department, in charge of the sale: “We are very proud to organise in France the first sale dedicated to women artists. In recent months, we have watched as events devoted to women artists were held by museums, including the exhibition “Peintres femmes, 1780-1830” at the Musée du Luxembourg, the upcoming exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, “Elles font l’abstraction” (Women in abstraction) and the Mooc (Massive Open Online Courses) created by the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay through their collaboration with the Aware association.
It seemed therefore a good moment for Christie’s Paris to organize a sale with this focus for the art market and we have had great support from consignors and colleagues. We have been able to assemble an impressive selection of works from different periods and mediums, which should widen the appeal to many collectors, with estimates ranging from 200 to 300,000 Euros. We hope that the sale will throw light on the careers of these women artists, some of whom have remained in the shadow for too long!”
This sale focuses on artists from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, who have often been treated unequally in art history. In the Old Master Paintings section is a beautiful painting by LOUYSE MOILLON (1610-1696), Still life (1636), estimated at €300,000-500,000, the highlight of the sale. A leader in the genre of fruit still lifes, Louyse Moillon is one of the few female painters of the 17th century in France whose work is now well identified.
The painting offered for sale is dated and signed, allowing scholars to situate it precisely in a body of work with only sixty-nine works attributed with certainty to the artist. The meticulous realism of her works, the precise touch, full colors, and the rendering of the velvetiness or transparency of the fruits are a testament to the mastery of her craft, inherited from Flemish art and acquired by her familiarity with the work of a group of Dutch painters working in Saint-Germain.
Further highlights include a delicate autumnal composition by ANNE VALLAYER-COSTER (1744-1818), Vase of Flowers and Grapes on Entablature (1781) (estimate: €150,000-250,000), executed during the artist’s mature period, after her admission to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
In an excellent state of conservation, the work has never been presented at auction and has not been exhibited since its last appearance at an exhibition in London in 1954. An artist of great modernity recognized by her peers, she inspired the Impressionists, notably Fantin La Tour.
Another important work in the section is a beautiful Portrait of a Woman by ELISABETH VIGEE LE BRUN (1755-1842). Counted among the greatest portraitists of her time, the artist was successively the painter of the court of France, the Kingdom of Naples, the Court of the Emperor of Vienna, and finally the Emperor of Russia. This is a rediscovery, as the work has never been published or offered for sale. Estimated at €80,000-120,000, collectors should be seduced by this beautiful testimony of the artist’s Parisian period.
The Rare Books and Manuscripts department will offer a magnificent 8-pages letter by GEORGE SAND (1804-1876) addressed to Gustave Flaubert, estimated at €6,000-8,000. The writer changed her name to that of a man to ensure her work was more widely read. This letter-confession is one of the most beautiful and moving of George Sand’s correspondence: “Your letters fall on me like rain that wets, and makes what is in germ in the ground grow right away… “she wrote.
Collectors will also be able to purchase a letter that has never been published from EDITH PIAF (1915-1963) to her lover, the Italian-French actor Yves Montand (estimate: €2,000-3,000) that she wrote to him while on tour in the North of France. She announced their breakup, after receiving a telegram from Montand saying “You may be right – I am too young for you – Wishing you with all my heart the happiness you deserve.”
In the field of science, women have also worked in a revolutionary way, and MARIE CURIE (1867-1934) is perhaps one of the most important figures, especially thanks to her thesis (1903) devoted to radioactivity which enabled her to obtain the Nobel Prize in Physics, six months after its publication. Estimated at €10,000-15,000, scientific bibliophiles will certainly be aware of the historical value of the book, offered in its first edition and signed by her hand.
DOROTHEA TANNING (1910-2012) is represented in this sale through her engraved masterpiece: The seven spectral perils (€25,000-35,000). Produced in 1950, these 7 surrealist lithographs in exceptional condition will be presented in their original portfolio. The edition includes only 50 copies, some of which are already in the collections of the greatest international museums (MoMA, Reina Sofia, Smithsonian American Art Museum). A delicate portrait of a woman painted by TAMARA DE LEMPICKA (1898-1980) also close to surrealists artists, will be offered with an estimate of €100,000 – 150,000, it is Figure de femme (1924).
Other important figures of the 20th century: NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE (1930-2002), SARAH MORRIS (1967), DORA MAAR (1907 -1997), SHEILA HICKS (1934), and MARIA HELENA VIEIRA DA SILVA (1908-1992) will also be included in the sale. The latter’s work La ville, la nuit (ill. on right), estimated at €30,000-50,000, is one of the highlights of the 20th-century section.
This work comes from the collection of Max-Pol Fouchet, a renowned man of culture, poet, novelist, art historian, literary and music critic, and also known as a man of radio and television. This work was a gift from the artist to Max-Pol Fouchet after their meeting on the shooting of a documentary dedicated to the artist.
Fashion will also be represented with a few pieces by the daring avant-garde couturier MADAME GRES, including a draped dress from the 1930s that was exhibited in the major retrospective “La couture à l’œuvre” at the Bourdelle Museum in 2011. The art of jewelry will also be present with a splendid necklace, made by the surrealist artist LEONOR FINI, estimated at €10,000-15,000. It is a true sculpture-necklace stylizing “Horns” in yellow gold, wearable as a head jewel or a torque necklace.
Other women artists and writers presented in the sale: Carole Benzaken, Claude Cahun, Anne Vallayer Coster, Marie Curie, Dadamaino, Sonia Delaunay, Veuve Duvinage, Lavinia Fontana, Leonor Fini, Sarah Morris, Maria Lai, Marie Laurencin, Vernon Lee, Suzette Lemaire, Dora Maar, Louyse Moillon, Berthe Morisot, Meret Oppenheim, Alice Paalen, Alicia Penalba, Maria Pergay, Edith Piaf, JIANG Qiong Er, Bettina Rheims, Ayako Rokkaku, Niki de Saint Phalle, George Sand, Dorothea Tanning, Boi Tran, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Renée Vivien.
Sale: June 16, 2021, at 5pm
Exhibition: from June 12 to 15 from 10 am to 6 pm (free entrance)
Christie’s : 9 avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris