While Sotheby’s continues the tradition and will field four sales between January 30 and February 1 plus an online Old Masters auction, Christie’s has moved its main New York Old Masters offering to the spring as part of Classic Week.
Both rooms, however, continue to hold a dedicated works on paper auction: Sotheby’s on January 30 and Christie’s the following day (preceded on January 29 by a dedicated auction of Old Master Prints).
A sizeable slice of Sotheby’s 162-lot January 30 auction is devoted to a single-owner group of predominantly Italian drawings with a distinguished royal provenance. They were collected by King William II of the Netherlands (1795-1849) and his wife Anna Pavlovna (1795-1865).
While the bulk was dispersed at auction in 1850, the 13 lots here have remained with their descendants. The highlight is a Flemish rather than Italian work, a chalk figure study by Peter Paul Rubens for his famous altarpiece The Raising of the Cross which is in Antwerp Cathedral. The 19½ x 12½in (49 x 31.5cm) work belonged to the artist Sir Thomas Lawrence before it was acquired by King William and is estimated at $2.5m-3.5m.
Rounding off Sotheby’s auction is an interesting 47-lot group of 18th century Dutch drawings and watercolours formed by an American couple over four decades. They include a number of humorous gouaches and theatre scenes by Cornelis Troost as well as works by Jacobus Buys (1724-1801), including a 10½ x 14½in (26 x 37cm) pencil ink and watercolour study, signed and dated 1762.
The theatre scene depicting men discussing a Copernican theory is estimated at $8000-12,000.
Among the highlights of Christie’s January 31 sale is a new discovery, a squared preparatory drawing by Primaticcio (1504- 70) for the major commission that occupied him for the last years of his life, the fresco of the Galerie d’Ulysse at the Château of Fontainebleau.
The decoration was destroyed in 1738 so our knowledge of it relies on the surviving preparatory drawings and prints. The classical subject of this 10 x 6½in (25 x 16.5cm) chalk, ink and wash work on paper inscribed Bologne upper right is thought to be either Polymester killing Polydorus or King Priam and Simon.
It comes from a 17th century French collection of drawings and has passed down by descent to the vendor. The estimate is $100,000-150,000.
A group of five 16th century botanical studies by the Dieppe-born artist Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues also feature in Christie’s Old Master drawings auction.
Le Moyne was sent to Florida by Charles IX in 1564 as a cartographer but shortly after his return to France he was forced as a Huguenot to flee again to England where Sir Walter Raleigh was his main patron. There are albums of his botanical studies in the Victoria and Albert and the British museums.
The five botanical studies offered at Christie’s form part of a larger group that were sold at Sotheby’s New York in January 2004 and appear to date from early in his career before he moved to England.
The estimate is $80,000-120,000.