London Old Master sales (part 2)
July 3 2016
Today I went to view Christie's Old Master sales at King St. And what an impressive sight it was - this year Christie's has put together an extremely strong sale. The weight of great art on show at King St. is also added to by a loan exhibition of works from private collections, which is displayed in some newly refurbished rooms on the ground floor. The exhibition includes works by Bacon, Freud, Gainsborough, Canaletto, Lawrence, and Turner. I also enjoyed seeing Landseer's famous Monarch of the Glen (above), which I don't recall seeing before. The exhibition is on until July 15th, and is well worth a visit.
As expected the most important painting of Christie's Evening Sale is the early Rubens of Lot and his Daughters. This is officially described as 'estimate on request' in the catalogue, but an estimate of £20m-£30m has been widely discussed. It's a great picture (and I know that's an over-used phrase in the art trade), in excellent condition, and I expect it to sell well. As mentioned earlier on AHN, Rubens is also included in the sale with a sketch of Venus Supplicating Jupiter from the Beit Collection (£1.2m-£1.8m).
There is a rather lovely, and entirely 'right', previously unknown portrait of a lady by Van Dyck. It is in perfect 'dealer bait' condition, cheaply estimated at £100k-£150k, and the temptation to take off the old varnish will be great. It should blossom into an engaging and important late English period Van Dyck - and will surely sell above the estimate. A full-length Titian is on offer at £2m-£3m, which price probably reflects the condition of the picture - it's a little thin in parts, which is alas so often the case with Titian. It seems that pictures by the most famous artists have, over time, been cleaned far more regularly than those by minor ones - and have consequently suffered from the attentions of over-enthusiastic 'restorers'.
A rarity on offer at Christie's is a complete set of Peter Breughel the Younger's 'Four Seasons' estimated at £3m-£5m. Individual 'seasons' have made strong prices in the past, and I'd expect the set at Christie's to make more than the lower estimate. That said, the Breughel market has been affected by a recent decline in Russian buying. For some reason Russian buyers were particularly keen on Breughel the Younger, and for a while in the last decade his pictures became something of an art historical currency. A 'Payment of Tithes' by Brueghel the Younger is also in the sale £300k-£400k. Other pictures I liked included a Paulus Potter 'Milkmaid' at £250k-£350k, and a small Canaletto 'View on a River' at £700k-£1m.
The Christie's Day Sale catalogue is here, and includes a fine picture of giraffes by Jacques-Laurent Agasse (£40k-£60k). If I had the space, I'd buy this massive landscape by Jan Looten and Jan Wyck, a bargan at £15k-£25k.