The art-collecting couple, who were also major philanthropists of UK institutions including the V&A and National Gallery, formed a revered collection through “a deeply disciplined and informed approach” according to Orlando Rock, Christie’s Chairman UK.
A large and well-preserved mythological scene by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) will lead the offering and is pitched at a cool £6m-8m. The Nymph of the Spring is dated to c.1540 and depicts a seductive figure resting but comes with a cautionary warning to the viewer against approaching her, made clear by the inscription to the top left FONTIS NYMPHA SACRI SOMNVM NE / RVMPE QVIESCO (I am the Nymph of the Sacred Spring: Do not disturb my sleep. I am resting).
The other picture from the same source is a still-life by the elusive Jan Jansz den Uyl (1595-1639) which is billed as the artist’s “undisputed masterpiece”. Dating from 1633, the painting of a pewter jug and silver tazza on a table has long been admired for its fine colouring and daring compositional arrangement, with both the fallen objects and those leaning precariously over the table deemed superbly executed.
It was acquired by the Lewises at Sotheby’s New York in 1988 where it fetched $2m (£1.11m) and has since featured in The Rijksmuseum’s Still-Life Paintings from the Netherlands 1550-1720 exhibition in 1999. This time round it is estimated at £2.5m-3.5m.
Both works will appear at Christie’s Old Masters evening sale on July 7.