Old Master & British Drawings Including Property From The Cornelia Bessie Estate

Christie’s online auction Old Master & British Drawings including property from The Cornelia Bessie Estate will be offered for sale 14-28 January and will feature works from the 15th to the 19th centuries, with a particular focus on drawings by some of the greatest 18th-century French artists.

A rare highlight of the auction appearing on the market for the first time is Jean-Étienne Liotard’s pastel Portrait of Philibert Cramer, one of Voltaire’s publishers, which is offered by his descendants (estimate: $400,000-600,000). The dashing sitter is identified on a label on the back of the canvas as Philibert Cramer (1727-1779), who together with his brother Gabriel, were the principal publishers of Voltaire and responsible for the first editions of major works such as the novel Candide. Liotard is closely associated with the medium of pastel and the portrait is a striking demonstration of his art, characterized by originality and a sense of realism.

The estate of Cornelia Bessie features a strong group of 18th century works including an important wash drawing of The Flight into Egypt by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo which exhibits incredible freshness and was once owned by Aleksey Fyodorovich, Prince Orlov (estimate: $200,000-300,000). Another highlight of the Cornelia Bessie collection is an enchanting red-chalk figure study Young woman dozing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (estimate: $300,000-500,000).

The sale features thirteen sheets from Fragonard’s illustrations for Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, the popular sixteenth-century epic poem, which is offered from the Collection of Nina R. and Arthur A. Houghton, Jr (estimates range from $15,000-30,000). The thirteen examples have been kept together since Fragonard’s death and are likely the largest group available in private hands. A red-chalk Study of the head of a woman by Jean-Baptiste Greuze highlights the group from The Collection of Nina Griscom (estimate: $70,000-100,000). Rounding out the selection by French artists is a large drawing by Laurent de La Hyre related to his Binding of Isaac in Reims (estimate: $80,000-120,000).

Among the Italian drawings are rare works such as a sketch for a painting by the 15th-century Roman artist Antoniazzo Romano, an architectural drawing by architect Vincenzo Scamozzi, the pupil of Palladio, and a drawing of The Nativity by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. Northern drawings include Jan Siberecht’s Study of an old gnarled tree, a selection of works from the Rembrandt School, a pastel family portrait by Cornelis Troost, as well as one of the finest early copies after Dürer’s Hare.

Viewing is by appointment only, January 20–28 2021
20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020

Monday–Saturday 10:00 AM–5:00 PM
Sunday 1:00 PM–5:00 PM


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.