Old Master paintings figured prominently at recent auctions in Austria and Germany.
Top honours went to Dorotheum (28/25/15% buyer’s premium) in Vienna which, as previously reported in ATG No 2569, sold Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini and an assistant on November 9 for €1.13m (£982,610).
Another notable result came for a painting by Bernardo Bellotto (1722-80), achieved by local competitor Kinsky (25/15% buyer’s premium) on the previous day.
The 2ft x 22in (60 x 56cm) canvas was the star lot of the Erna Weidinger collection. In 1967 Weidinger had inherited an Austrian company producing building materials from her father and ran it until 1988, when she passed the reins to her son.
When she died in 2021 her extensive collection of silver, jewellery, furniture and painting was consigned to Kinsky, where it attracted lively bidding. The Portrait of the Royal Page Gintowt on Horseback was one of four well-documented related paintings by Bellotto commissioned by the Polish King Stanislaus II August Poniatowski in 1773.
The artist received 200 ducats for the four equestrian works: two of them now belong to the National Museum in Warsaw, the third to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It is not known when the current work left the royal collection; in 1910, it was part of the Henry Kent collection in Florence and later belonged to a French collector. In 1991, it resurfaced at Sotheby’s in Monaco and was purchased there by Weidinger.
It was now guided at €250,000-500,000. On auction day, frenetic international bidding emerged, at the end of which an unnamed Polish buyer seized his prize for €730,000 (£634,780).
Van Dyck link
Among the Old Masters offered at Van Ham (25% buyer’s premium) on November 16 in Cologne, a portrait attributed to the studio of Anthony van Dyck caught the eye of several bidders.
According to some sources, the portrait is by the artist himself, but the auction house was more cautious. After all, it is well known that Van Dyck often copied his own works or had them copied by members of his studio.
What is certain is that the 3ft 7in 2ft 9in (1.08m x 85cm) canvas in Cologne is the replica of a portrait that belongs to a collector in Antwerp and both can be dated to 1638-40.
The Van Ham painting now came from a French collection and its secured provenance can be traced back at least to a sale at Christie’s in 1919. Prior to that, it presumably belonged to various members of English aristocratic families descended from Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (1608-74).
For many years, the sitter was considered to be Mary Howard, daughter of the Duke of Buckingham. The current theory of art historians is that the portrait possibly depicts Elizabeth Howard, lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria, second wife of Algernon Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland.
Proceedings started at €25,000 and after an exchange of bids from several quarters, a British collector saw off her competitors with a successful offer of €65,000 (£56,520).
Van Overbeke triptych
On November 19, it was the turn of Lempertz (26% buyer’s premium), also of Cologne, to hold its autumn sale of Old Masters.
The highlight here was an early 16th century triptych by Adriaen van Overbeke of Antwerp. The central panel is a depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting Jesus to the masses and declaring ‘Ecce Homo’ (Behold, a man). In the foreground the High Priest Caiaphas, dressed in red robes, is clamouring for the death of Jesus.
Van Overbeke, whose dates of birth and death are not known, worked at least between 1508-29. He was a specialist for such altar-pieces, many of which have been preserved. His clientele was international – alongside his works for local and regional dignitaries he also executed commissions from France, Germany and in this case England.
On the two side-panels are portraits of the donors: John Vowell and his wife Alice Hooker, who can be identified by their respective coats-of-arms.
They are portrayed with their patron saints; the husband with John the Baptist, the wife with Alice de Schaerbeck. She was a 13th century Cistercian nun who was afflicted by leprosy. This is illustrated by a rather macabre detail on the right-hand panel: two severed hands lying on the table and on the ground.
The auction house could offer little in the way of provenance, other than that the triptych was purchased by the consignor at a Parisian gallery in 2013.
Thanks to several participants, the estimate of €400,000 was soon surpassed and bidding continued until a private collector in Brussels won at €620,000 (£539,130).
£1 = €1.15