The Madonna of the Cherries To Sell For £12 Million

The Madonna of the Cherries is the epitome of Renaissance art, painted by the great Quentin Metsys, founder of the Antwerp School.

One of the stars of the Old Masters Part I sale at Christie’s in London on 2 July during Classic Week, this masterpiece is estimated to sell for £8,000,000-£12,000,000.

Painted in the 1520s during Metsys’s prime, The Madonna of the Cherries has left its mark on art history and has inspired countless artists and many copies and variants. Having been on view at Christie’s New York in May, the masterpiece will return to London for the pre-sale exhibition from 28 June to 2 July.

The Madonna of the Cherries: A Masterpiece of the Antwerp School
Before Transformative Conservation

Henry Pettifer, Christie’s International Deputy Chairman for Old Master Paintings, expressed the significance of this event, stating, “We are delighted to be offering this work by Quentin Metsys that has only recently been recognised as the prime version of his celebrated late masterpiece – The Madonna of the Cherries – which helped cement his reputation as the founder of the Antwerp School of painting.”

Provenance: A Treasured Masterpiece

August 1615: Archduke Albert VII of Austria and Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia of the Spanish Netherlands visited Cornelis van der Geest, a wealthy Antwerp spice merchant and art collector.

Among the many treasures in his collection, the regents wanted to buy Metsys’s Madonna of the Cherries. This visit was recorded by Willem van Haecht in his 1628 painting, The Cabinet of Cornelis van der Geest. The painting shows van der Geest surrounded by the Antwerp artistic and social elite, including Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.

Van der Geest’s collection, or Kunstkammer, was a tribute to Antwerp’s pre-eminence in the arts, and The Madonna of the Cherries was the pièce de résistance. The painting was admired not only for its beauty but also as a symbol of the city’s cultural and artistic patrimony.

Rediscovery and Conservation

The Madonna of the Cherries was lost after Peter Stevens’s death in 1668.

It turned up in Paris in a 1920 sale, but its composition had been altered – a curtain had been added to the window and a landscape – and it was not recognised as the original. At a 2015 sale, it was misidentified as a studio copy of Metsys’s original due to overpainting and dirty varnish.

Conservation work has since revealed the painting’s true nature. The overpainting and varnish were removed and the original paint surface was found to be in pristine condition and it was then recognised as the prime version of Metsys’s Madonna of the Cherries.

This has not only restored the painting’s beauty but also its place in the art historical record.

The Artistic Influence of The Madonna of the Cherries

Quentin Metsys’s Madonna of the Cherries is not just a pretty picture; it’s a work that has inspired generations of artists. Its composition, technique and emotional depth are what many artists aspired to. The Madonna and Child surrounded by foliage and cherries is calm and poetic, a moment of divine tenderness.

Led by Quentin Metsys, The Antwerp School was known for its innovative approach to painting. Metsys’s ability to combine Northern Renaissance detail with Italianate composition is seen in The Madonna of the Cherries. His attention to detail, especially in the texture and fabric is a demonstration of his technical skill and artistic eye.

A Work of Wide-Reaching Impact

The influence of The Madonna of the Cherries went far beyond Metsys’s lifetime. Artists all over Europe tried to copy its composition and delicate treatment of religious subjects. The painting’s impact can be seen in the work of Metsys’s contemporaries and followers who borrowed from his use of colour, light and form.

The 16th century was a time of great artistic experimentation and Quentin Metsys was right at the heart of it. His work on The Madonna of the Cherries reflects the broader trends of the time, the fusion of Gothic and Renaissance. This is seen in the balanced composition and naturalistic details.

The Role of Patronage in Metsys’s Career

Patronage was key to many Renaissance artists’ careers and Quentin Metsys was no exception. The support of wealthy patrons like Cornelis van der Geest allowed Metsys to work on big projects and hone his skills. The Madonna of the Cherries is a result of the successful collaboration between artist and patron.

Cornelis van der Geest was more than a collector; he was a connoisseur who knew the value of Metsys’s work. His decision to buy The Madonna of the Cherries and display it in his collection shows his refined taste and love of art. Van der Geest’s legacy lives on through the artworks he so loved.

The Enduring Appeal of The Madonna of the Cherries

The timelessness of The Madonna of the Cherries is in its universal themes of motherhood, divinity and beauty.

These themes are still relevant today and draw the viewer into the painting’s calm world.

Metsys’s ability to capture these themes is what makes The Madonna of the Cherries a work of art for all time.

The Future of The Madonna of the Cherries

As The Madonna of the Cherries goes to auction its future is unknown. But one thing is certain it will remain relevant in the art world. Whether in a public museum or a private collection, this masterpiece will continue to delight and entertain for centuries to come.

The Madonna of the Cherries: A Masterpiece of the Antwerp School
After Transformative Conservation

Modern conservation has been key to the preservation of The Madonna of the Cherries. The painstaking process of bringing the painting back to its original state has not only restored its beauty but also given us a deeper understanding of Metsys’s methods and intentions. Conservation is vital to our cultural heritage.

Through its storied provenance, transformative conservation, and lasting impact, it continues to be celebrated as a masterpiece of the Antwerp School.

As it heads to auction, the world eagerly awaits to see where this iconic work will find its new home, ensuring that its legacy will continue to inspire and captivate for generations to come.

Images: Christie’s

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