London’s Classic Week Shines with Harnoncourt Collection

In a momentous event during Classic Week, Christie’s, the prestigious auction house, is set to unveil “Alice & Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Artists Collecting Art.”

This highly anticipated online sale features a handpicked selection of 50 exquisite artworks, available for bidding from 30th June to 14th July. The collection will be presented alongside an ensemble of Old Master paintings and illuminated manuscripts from the Harnoncourts‘ personal archives, to be offered in the Old Masters Part I Sale on 6th July.

Renowned Classical Duo’s Art Collection Revealed in London Exhibition

Alice and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, a celebrated artistic couple, were renowned figures in the classical music world. Alice, a classical violinist (1930-2022), and Nikolaus, a distinguished conductor and musicologist (1929-2016), dedicated their lives to the pursuit of music and art. With insatiable intellectual curiosity, the Harnoncourts cultivated a shared passion for collecting throughout their remarkable 63-year marriage.

This extraordinary online sale grants the public an intimate glimpse into the private world of these celebrated classical music icons, featuring an eclectic array of fine and decorative European art spanning over five centuries. Notable provenances include the esteemed Rothschild family, Alfred Cortot, Yves Saint Laurent, and J.P. Morgan.

Elisabeth von Magnus, daughter of Alice & Nikolaus Harnoncourt: “My parents bought works that inspired them and that they wanted to live with. They were never just collectors. They only bought art that they found important and fascinating, as well as with the music they engaged with – it was worth studying and discovering again and again”. 

Benedict Winter, Head of Sale commented: “Alice and Nikolaus Harnoncourt left an indelible mark on the world of classical music. Their unwavering commitment to music and art underpinned their collecting and desire for artistic perfection. The works being offered for sale provide the public with a rare glimpse into their private world.”

London's Classic Week Shines with Harnoncourt Collection
Master of Martainville 183
(Estimate: £300,000-500,000 / €350,000-570,000)

A Musical Partnership for the Ages

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, born in Berlin, Germany, in 1929, emerged as an Austrian conductor and musicologist. Raised in a musically inclined family, Harnoncourt’s passion for music flourished from an early age. In 1953, after marrying Alice Hoffelner, a celebrated Austrian violinist, the couple co-founded Concentus Musicus Wien. This ensemble, dedicated to the performance of Baroque and Classical music using period instruments, garnered international acclaim. The numerous recordings produced by both Nikolaus and Alice have since become benchmarks in the field of historically informed performance.

Amid their illustrious careers in music, the Harnoncourts pursued their lifelong passion for collecting art at their home near Salzburg. Adorned with a diverse and carefully curated collection, their residence became a testament to their discerning artistic sensibilities.

Old Masters Part I Sale: Exquisite Artworks from the Harnoncourts’ Collection

The upcoming Old Masters Part I Sale presents six captivating works from the Harnoncourts‘ collection. Noteworthy pieces include a fragment of oil on canvas titled “Cupid Holding the Reins of Mars’ Charger” by Paolo Caliari, also known as Paolo Veronese.

Painted for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612), this artwork represents an exceptional opportunity for discerning collectors (estimate: £200,000-300,000 / €230,000-340,000).

Cupid Holding the Reins of Mars’ Charger” by Paolo Caliari
(Estimate: £200,000-300,000 / €230,000-340,000)

Additionally, Sir Peter Paul Rubens‘ oil sketch “Ecce Homo” is set to captivate art enthusiasts (estimate: £600,000-800,000 / €690,000-920,000).

The sale also features a lavishly illuminated and iconographically unusual Book of Hours, crafted by the Master of Martainville 183 in Paris during the 1490s. Previously held in the collections of Napoleon’s chamberlain Count Joseph-François de Kergariou and the renowned French bibliophile André Hachette, this piece offers a rare glimpse into history (estimate: £300,000-500,000 / €350,000-570,000).

Finally, Jacob Jordaens’ sketch “The Rape of Europa” enthrals with its evocative storytelling (estimate: £300,000-500,000 / €350,000-570,000).

The collection sale encompasses a wide range of art categories, each offering its own highlights:

Sculpture and Works of Art

London's Classic Week Shines with Harnoncourt Collection
Saint George and Saint Florian
(Estimate: £25,000-35,000 / €29,000-40,000)
  • “Christ Crucified” – an exquisite polychrome wood figure, likely of Italian origin, dating from the late 14th or early 15th century (estimate: £50,000-80,000 / €58,000-92,000).
  • “The Months of the Year” – a partial set of ten oval enamel plaques attributed to Pierre Reymond (1513–1584), circa 1560-80. Each plaque depicts a scene representing a month of the year, featuring a zodiac symbol within the clouds and inscriptions denoting the respective months (estimate: £30,000-50,000 / €35,000-57,000).
  • “Saint George and Saint Florian” – intricately carved wood figures of German or Austrian origin, from the late 17th or early 18th century (estimate: £25,000-35,000 / €29,000-40,000).

Books and Manuscripts

London's Classic Week Shines with Harnoncourt Collection
First Incunable Edition of Flores Musicae
(Estimate: £15,000-20,000 / €18,000-23,000)
  • “First Edition of the Ninth Symphony”Beethoven’s final and greatest symphony, Sinfonie mit Schluss-Chor über Schillers Ode ‘An die Freude,’ fur grosses Orchester, 4 Solo-und 4 Chor- Stimmen. This rare first edition from 1826 offers a remarkable opportunity for collectors (estimate: £10,000-20,000 / €12,000-23,000).
  • “First Incunable Edition of Flores Musicae” – a significant and famous musical treatise by Hugo Spechtshart (circa 1285-1360). Printed in Strasbourg by Johann Prüss in 1488, this edition stands as one of the earliest to include woodcut-printed scores (estimate: £15,000-20,000 / €18,000-23,000).
  • “De Europische Insecten, Naauwkeurig Onderzogt” – an Amsterdam publication by J.F. Bernard from 1730, showcasing the meticulous illustrations of naturalist-artist Maria Sibylla Merian. Her groundbreaking approach to insect illustration revolutionized the field of scientific art (estimate: £30,000-50,000 / €35,000-57,000).

Porcelain and Silver

London's Classic Week Shines with Harnoncourt Collection
Urbino Maiolica Documentary
(Estimate: £40,000-60,000 / €46,000-69,000)
  • “Urbino Maiolica Documentary” – a signed and dated Istoriato charger (Piatto da Pompa) painted by Orazio Fontana in the workshop of Guido Durantino in 1543. Formerly part of the esteemed Collection of Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild, this piece exemplifies superb craftsmanship (estimate: £40,000-60,000 / €46,000-69,000).
  • “German Parcel-Gilt Silver Tankard” – an exquisite piece created by Hans Jacob I Baur in Augsburg between 1666 and 1669 (estimate: £3,000-5,000).
  • “17th Century Rock Crystal Cup” – an impressive cup featuring gilt-metal mounts, possibly of German origin, showcasing the artistry of the period (estimate: £7,000-10,000 / €8,100-11,000).

Furniture and Objects

London's Classic Week Shines with Harnoncourt Collection
Flemish Pastoral Tapestry
(Estimate: £7,000-10,000 / €8,100-11,000)
  • “16th Century French Oak Double-Eagle Lectern” – an elegant and functional piece with an associated base dating back to the 15th century and later. This lectern represents the marriage of artistry and practicality (estimate: £25,000-35,000 / €29,000-40,000).
  • “Flemish Pastoral Tapestry” – a captivating depiction of a festive scene with dancing figures. Crafted in Brussels during the late 17th or early 18th century, this tapestry brings an air of enchantment to any space (estimate: £7,000-10,000 / €8,100-11,000).

The upcoming online sale, “Alice & Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Artists Collecting Art,” curated by Christie’s, provides a remarkable opportunity for art enthusiasts and collectors to acquire extraordinary pieces from the private world of Alice and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The Harnoncourts‘ unwavering commitment to music and art is reflected in their carefully curated collection, spanning over five centuries of fine and decorative European art. Each piece holds a rich history and a captivating story, making this sale a truly remarkable event for both connoisseurs and admirers of classical music and art. Don’t miss the chance to own a piece of this extraordinary legacy.

Prepare yourself to embark on a journey through centuries of artistic excellence as Christie’s presents the Alice & Nikolaus Harnoncourt Collection. The online sale commences on 30 June and runs until 14 July, offering a unique opportunity to acquire masterpieces that reflect the remarkable lives and passions of these renowned figures within the realm of classical music. Don’t miss your chance to own a piece of this extraordinary legacy.

Images: Christie’s

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