A.lain R. T.ruong

23 juillet 2014

Lucas Cranach the Elder (Kronach 1472 - 1553 Weimar), Lucretia


Lucas Cranach the Elder (Kronach 1472 - 1553 Weimar), Lucretia. Photo Sotheby's

Oil on linden panel; 60.3 by 48.9 cm.; 22½ by 18¼ in.

Art Collectors Association Gallery, London, 1920;
Anonymous Sale, New York, Sotheby's, 3 June 1988, lot 24;
Whence acquired by a private collector, by whom sold, ‘Property from a Private Collection’, New York, Sotheby's, 26 January 2012, lot 34, for $5,122,500;
Whence acquired by the present owner.

M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin 1932, p. 39 under cat. no. 48;
D. Koepplin and T. Falk, Lukas Cranach : Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, vol. II, Basel and Stuttgart 1976, p. 662, under no. 576;
M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p. 80, cat. no. 55, reproduced.

This is the earliest known treatment of the classical subject of Lucretia by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Unanimously dated by scholars circa 1509, it was painted during the early years following Cranach’s arrival in Wittenberg in 1504 to work in the employ of the Electors of Saxony, and shortly after the conferral in 1508 by Duke Frederick the Wise of the coat of arms with the winged serpent device that would later became the basis of the artist’s signature. Of all the known depictions of Lucretia by Cranach and his circle, this can be considered one of the most sensual and beautiful and it is a supreme example of the type of erotic historical painting produced for the artist’s private patrons, ironically right in the geographic and ideological heart of the Reformation, in the very court where Cranach’s great friend Martin Luther enjoyed the protection of the Electors of Saxony.

Prior to the painting's appearance at auction at Sotheby's in New York in 2012, it had remained largely unknown despite having been included in the art historical literature since 1932.1 In the revised edition of their catalogue, Friedländer and Rosenberg list it as an autograph painting by Cranach the Elder, dating it to circa 1512-14; however, they had apparently not seen the work in person.2 Similarly, Koepplin and Falk cited it in their seminal exhibition catalogue but also had not seen the picture itself.3 A cleaning and laboratory examination prior to the 2012 auction revealed not only the beauty of the work itself, but also its importance within Cranach's oeuvre, for the leading experts on Cranach Dr. Werner Schade and Dr. Dieter Koepplin now consider it to be the earliest version of Lucretia, a subject that clearly fascinated Cranach and which he came back to again and again throughout his long career.4

Forensic examination as well as stylistic analysis point to a date of circa 1509-10 for this picture. During Cranach's first years in Wittenberg, the court supplied him with linden for his panels, though he soon also began to use fir, beech and occasionally oak. Lucretia is painted on four strips of linden, which were smoothed down and joined together to create the support for the picture. This use of a number of narrow pieces of wood both reduced the possibility of warping and was also more economical. The panels run horizontally, that is across the short edge of the composition, not vertically. This was an unusual practice, notably used by the workshop that provided Cranach's panels until about 1510-11, thus providing a fairly reliable terminus ante quem for the painting. The wings of two early commissions, the altarpieces of The Martyrdom of St. Catherine in Dresden and The Holy Kinship in Frankfurt, of 1506 and 1509 respectively, show a similar arrangement of the narrow strips.4 An examination of the edges of the picture reveal that the framing elements were nailed to the panel before a double white ground was applied. The first ground, which was more liquid, flowed under the frame, while the second, thicker ground lodged up against it, leaving the characteristic barb at the edge of the painted area. The drips from the first ground can be clearly seen because there is an unusually large strip of unpainted wood visible beyond the barb all around the panel (see figs.1 and 2). There is no under-drawing visible to the naked eye or under infrared examination, which may be a result of Cranach using red chalk for the initial design (although he often used brush and black pigment for his under-drawings, it was not uncommon for Cranach to use red chalk as well). It is nonetheless clear that he revised the composition as he worked on it, as can be seen in the changes to the length and positioning of Lucretia's left thumb; it was originally smaller and was possibly hidden under the fur at the edge of her mantle.



The subject of the painting is the suicide of Lucretia, taken from Livy's Ab Urbe Condita. Lucretia was raped by Sextus Tarquinius, son of the last Roman king Tarquinius Superbus, and a relative of her husband. Although her father and husband swore to avenge her, in order to fully expunge the dishonour done to her, she committed suicide by stabbing herself. According to legend, the horror of the act, and her extreme sense of honour, spurred the aristocracy to rise up against the monarchy and establish the Roman Republic. Livy, in any case, regarded her as an exemplar of the virtuous Roman wife, and in the Wittenberg court, with its emphasis on learning and intellect, her conduct was celebrated as one of the antique virtues. The Suicide of Lucretia was a subject that preoccupied Cranach throughout his long career and there are more than 35 versions of the theme attributed to him and his circle. In all the paintings, Lucretia is shown alone, in full-length, half-length or three quarter length, sometimes partly clothed and sometimes nude except for a transparent veil that hides nothing. For Cranach the real subject is not the rape but the aftermath. Like Judith, the Old Testament heroine whom he also depicted numerous times, Lucretia is an embodiment of virtue rather than merely an historical figure.

Cranach paints Lucretia seated, in three quarter length, facing the viewer. She is covered in furs and jewels, but has pulled aside her mantel and blouse to expose her right breast, resting the point of her dagger just below it. In its composition Lucretia is very similar to another version of the subject of roughly the same size in a private collection.6 It is datable to circa 1510-1513 and was previously thought to be the earliest version of the subject. The major differences between the two are that in the latter version her hair is bound up rather than loose, and both breasts are exposed. In both, Cranach revels in the delineation of Lucretia's clothing. Here he is particularly fascinated by the play of light on the rich fur of her mantel, describing how the individual hairs separate and bend one way and another as the mantel follows the curves of her body. He takes similar care with Lucretia's hair, using an extremely fine brush to paint exuberant blond curls that escape from the thicker strands of hair, falling across her cheek and billowing out to form a cloud above her fur collar.

Later in his career he was much more mechanical in his treatment of the hair and drapery, so in looking at the present work in the context of Cranach's oeuvre we are better served comparing it to such early paintings as Venus in St. Petersburg or The Virgin and Child in the Thyssen Collection, rather than to later versions of Lucretia. Although the subjects of the three paintings are quite different, the figures themselves are very similar. All are serious round-faced young women, Venus and Lucretia are a little plump, with a slight double-chin. Details such as the treatment of the hair are strikingly alike as is Cranach's use of an intense but rather dark palette. There is a freshness to these works that is lost when the artist is forced to turn to a more formulaic manner to satisfy the demands of his patrons.

It is part of Cranach's genius that he is able to make the suicide of Lucretia an act both virtuous and erotic, though altogether lacking in horror. In other versions of the subject Cranach traces a discrete line of blood running across Lucretia's skin, but here the dagger just pricks her skin so that the blood trickles down the blade and a droplet forms on the guard of the handle. This virtuosic description of the bright, thick fluid running down the shiny blade is unique in Cranach's work. Lucretia has a contemplative look as she gazes at us, the point of the dagger just breaking her skin. Yet this serious look is counter-balanced by the artist's deliberate focus on her plump breast, setting it off with furs, gold chains and the sumptuous decorative work on her blouse. While the figure of Lucretia herself is quite different from the attenuated and ever so worldly Lucretias of the 1530s and 1540s, it embodies that tension between virtue and eros that runs through Cranach's work from his arrival in Wittenberg until the end of his career and still fascinates us today.

We are grateful to Dr. Werner Schade and Dr. Dieter Koepplin for their help in preparing this entry and to George Bisacca for his analysis of the panel and ground.

1. See Literature, Friedländer/Rosenberg 1932, p. 39, under no. 48
2. See Literature, Friedländer/Rosenberg 1978, p. 80, where they describe it with "dimensions unknown."
3. See Literature.
4. W. Schade, in a letter of 17 November 2011, dates the panel to circa 1509 on the basis of high resolution digital images and transparencies. D. Koepplin suggests a date of circa 1510 on the basis of personal examination of the painting.
5. G. Heydenreich, Lucas Cranach the Elder. Painting materials, techniques and workshop practice, Amsterdam 2007, pp. 57-58. Friedländer/Rosenberg 1978, nos. 12-13 and 18, respectively.
6. Friedländer/Rosenberg 1978 no. 42.

Sotheby's. Contemplation of the Divine, London, 05 juil. 2014-16 juil. 2014.

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Doménikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco (Candía, Crete 1541 – 1614 Toledo), The Crucifixion


Doménikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco (Candía, Crete 1541 – 1614 Toledo), The Crucifixion. Photo Sotheby's

Oil on canvas, in a period carved black and parcel gilt wood frame; 67.5 by 42 cm.; 26 1/2 by 16 1/2 in.

Don José Suárez, Madrid, by 1909;
Don Tomás Urquijo, Bilbao;
Acquired by Don Félix Fernández Valdés (died circa 1977), Bilbao, during the early 20th century;
Thence by family descent;
Until acquired by the present owner in 2011.

A.F. Calvert & C. G. Hartley, El Greco, London 1909, reproduced plate 59, as El Greco;
J.E. Baranda Icaza, Recuerdos artísticos de Bilbao, Bilbao 1919, reproduced plate 58;
M.S. Soria, ‘Greco’s Italian Period’, in Arte Veneta, vol. VIII, 1954, p. 221, no. 59, as El Greco, datable to second Venetian period, circa 1572-76;
H. Soehner, ‘Greco in Spanien’, in Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, Drit Folge 1957, I, p. 132, reproduced plate 71, as El Greco, ‘eigenhandige Replik?’ (autograph replica), datable circa 1576/77;
H. Soehner, ibid, 1958-9, vol. IX-X, no. 5, as by El Greco, autograph replica, datable circa 1576;
H.E. Wethey, El Greco and His School, Princeton 1962, vol. II, p. 179, no. X65, as pupil of El Greco, circa 1580.

This striking depiction of The Crucifixion is an early masterpiece by El Greco, painted in around 1576-78, during the period immediately following the artist’s arrival in Spain. Although the work was published as El Greco by Calvert and Hartley as early as 1909, for much of the 20thcentury (whilst in the distinguished collection of Don Félix Fernández Valdés, Bilbao) it remained hidden to scholars, and only following its recent re-emergence and cleaning has it been rightfully restored to the oeuvre of one of the greatest and most idiosyncratic painters of Western art.


El Greco’s Crucifixion is the culmination of a group of four related small-scale treatments of the subject painted by the artist between around 1573 and 1578. The other three variants, which are each painted on different supports, are: a signed version on canvas (43 by 28 cm.) in a North American private collection, sold New York, Christie’s, 31 January 1997, lot 217, for $3,605,000; a version on copper (35 by 26.7 cm.), today in a private collection, Texas (see left (c) Private Collection,Texas); and a version on panel (30.5 by 19.8 cm.), formerly in the collection of Dr. Gregorio Marañon, Madrid, and today in the Caja Castilla La Mancha, Toledo.1

The present work is closest in type and composition to the version on canvas in a North American private collection, which is approximately a third smaller in size (43 by 28 cm. versus 67.5 by 42 cm.). Both paintings share a similar treatment and handling (unlike the copper panel which is far smoother in execution), however El Greco has made a number of modifications to his earlier design and darkened the overall palette to perhaps signify a more advanced moment in the narrative when Christ has expired and, as recounted by the synoptic gospels, a darkness began to fall over the whole land. The figure of Christ on the cross is set further back within the landscape, with a far greater expanse of sky above Him, which serves to heighten His sense of isolation within a setting that he no longer dominates, as in the other versions. The dramatic swathe of black cloud, that in the two versions in America fall diagonally across the figure of Christ, here envelops much of His body to provide a striking backdrop and contrast to His starkly lit figure, emphasizing His moment of sacrifice. The arms of Christ are also raised somewhat higher than in the other versions to accentuate the weight of the slumped and lifeless body of Christ, enabling more of the celestial shafts of light to show through between the figure and the lateral bar of the cross. The tonality of the present version is characterised by a greater use of lilac than in the bluer North American canvas, a colour which El Greco had a particular predilection for during his formative years, as attested by his small treatment on copper of The Stigmatization of Saint Francis of circa 1570-72 in the Zuloaga Collection, Spain.2

With regard to chronology and dating, the late Professor Alvarez Lopera (to whom the present work was unknown) proposed a dating for the two versions in America to circa 1573-4, before El Greco left Italy for Spain, whilst he surmised that the version on panel may be a little later, circa 1573-76. Leading El Greco scholars today believe the present, larger treatment, to be somewhat more advanced in date and in all probability executed circa 1576-78, in the period immediately following El Greco’s arrival in Spain.


A number of sources of inspiration have been proposed for El Greco’s design of The Crucifixion. Roberto Longhi was the first to point out similarities in the powerful treatment and modelling of the body with drawings by Michelangelo dating from the 1540s, such as the celebrated work commissioned by Vittoria Colonna today in the British Museum. In 2002 however, Fabianski rightly drew comparison with a far closer prototype, a small sculpture by Giambologna, datable before 1573, which exists in various casts including those in the Palacio de Apostoles, Loreto and the National Gallery, Prague (see left, (c) National Gallery in Prague 2014)).3 In both El Greco’s painting and Giambologna’s sculpture, the model for the figure, the movement, the proportions, as well as details such as the fall of the head on the right shoulder, are almost identical and there seems little doubt that the palpable sense of three-dimensionality that Greco achieves in his treatments of The Crucifixion is inspired through direct study of the sculpture. For the landscape El Greco was seemingly inspired by works by Titian, in whose studio he almost certainly worked during the early 1570s, such as the great Venetian master’s Crucifixion of circa 1554 in the Monasterio del Escorial.

The death of Christ on the cross is the central image in Christian art and the visual focus of Christian contemplation. It signifies the potential moment of man’s redemption and delivery from the original sin of Adam which all mankind inherited. El Greco’s interpretation of the subject is rendered in his own highly personal and idiosyncratic style and the rediscovery of this masterpiece represents a significant addition to the known corpus of work from the period immediately following El Greco's arrival in Spain.

This painting will be included in the forthcoming exhibition El Greco: Arte y Oficio, to be held in the Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo, on 8 September - 9 December 2014, as part of the cultural programme to mark the fourth centenary of El Greco's death.

1. See J. Alvarez Lopera, El Greco. Estudio y Catálogo, Madrid 2007, vol. II, part I, pp. 35-37, nos. 5-7, reproduced figures 12-14, respectively.
2. See J. Alvarez Lopera, op. cit., p. 288, reproduced figure 48.
3. See M. Fabianski, ‘El Greco in Italia: precisazioni su due quadri’, in Paragone, LIII, no. 46, November 2002, pp. 33-38

Sotheby's. Contemplation of the Divine, London, 05 juil. 2014-16 juil. 2014

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Doménikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco and workshop (Candía, Crete 1541 – 1614 Toledo), Saint Francis of Assisi in ecstasy


Doménikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco and workshop (Candía, Crete 1541 – 1614 Toledo), Saint Francis of Assisi in ecstasy. Photo Sotheby's

With remains of signature lower left. Oil on canvas; 72 by 54 cm.; 28 ¼ by 21 ¼ in.

Provenance: Private collection, Spain.

Of all the Christian Saints it was the founder of the Franciscan Order that El Greco depicted on the greatest number of occasions and with whom the artist’s work is most closely identified. Such was the popularity of the Saint during El Greco’s lifetime that in Toledo alone there were three Franciscan monasteries, including the great San Juan de los Reyes, and a further seven religious institutions dedicated to Saint Francis.

El Greco painted some eleven treatments relating to the life of Saint Francis during his lifetime, many of which exist in several autograph and numerous studio versions. The present painting however is one of only three autograph versions of this rarely seen composition by the Greek master. The two other works, published by Wethey as El Greco and studio and dated circa 1590-95, are a painting (oil on canvas, 75 by 57 cm.) in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau and another (oil on canvas, 110 by 87 cm.) that originally hung in the Capilla de San José in Toledo, which then passed into the collection of the Conde de Guendulain y del Vado, Toledo (when published by Wethey), before being subsequently sold to a North American private collector during the 1990s.1 It seems likely that all three versions reflect a lost original entirely by the hand of the master.

Wethey also lists nine school versions, only two of which are from the artist’s workshop, whilst the remainder include a copy by Blas Muñoz (signed and dated 1683), today in the Casa del Greco, Toledo, and two later copies in the Academia de San Carlos, Mexico and the Museo de Arte, Sao Paulo, attesting to the enduring popularity of the design.

In common with the majority of the artist’s treatment of the subject, El Greco has created a design of great simplicity in which the Saint is depicted in three-quarter length, with only minimal details to the landscape, a skull - a symbol of man's mortality - placed prominently in the left foreground, with the Saint gazing in ecstasy to the divine light emanating from above. The palette is restricted to a predominance of greys and browns, to add further to the sobriety of the scene and create an ascetic, humble depiction of the Saint that conformed to the spirit of the Counter Reformation, following the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563) that denouced the excessive adornment of religious imagery.

The present work is extremely close in handling to the version formerly in the Capilla de San José, Toledo, which Wethey gives to El Greco and workshop. The aqueous treatment of the eyes, the use of carmine to the lips, the black outlining of areas such as the hands, the beautiful draughtsmanship and modelling to the skull, the impressionistic brushwork to the habit and freely sketched background are all stylistically consistent with the work of El Greco, as also the distinctive marks close to the centre right margin where the artist has cleaned his brush during execution of the work.

1. See H.E. Wethey, El Greco and His School, Princeton 1962, vol. II , p. 121, nos. 217 & 218, the latter reproduced vol. I, p. 263.

Sotheby's. Contemplation of the Divine, London, 05 juil. 2014-16 juil. 2014.

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Francisco de Zurbarán (Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz 1598 - 1664 Madrid), Saint Francis at prayer


Francisco de Zurbarán (Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz 1598 - 1664 Madrid), Saint Francis at prayer. Photo Sotheby's

Oil on canvas, in a carved and parcel gilt wood frame; 157.5 by 100.5 cm.; 62 by 39 1/2 in.

Don Luis Pacheco Suárez de Deza, Spain;
By descent to his son Don Alonso Pacheco de Torres, 1st Count of Ibangrande, by 1700;
By descent to Doña Pilar Carrillo de Albornoz Dávila, 8th Countess of Ibangrande, by circa 1906;
By descent to her daughter Doña María Dolores Carillo de Albornoz;
Doña María Luisa Martínez Carrillo de Albornoz;
By whom sold Madrid, Alcala, 15 February 2001, lot no. 288;
With Caylus, Madrid;
Private collection.

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Francisco de Zurbarán, 29 January – 25 May 2014, no. 51.

O. Delenda, Francisco de Zurbarán, pintor, 1598 - 1664, Madrid 2007, pp. 72-73;
O. Delenda, Francisco de Zurbarán, Catálogo Razonado y Crítico, Madrid 2009, vol. I, pp. 640, cat. no. 231, reproduced;
O. Delenda, 'Francisco de Zurbarán: los ultimos hallazgos', in Ars Magazine, Jan-Feb 2010, no. 5 pp. 108-110 & 114;
Exhibition catalogue, Francisco de Zurbarán, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 29 January – 25 May 2014, pp. 194-95, no. 51, reproduced.

This arresting image of Saint Francis at Prayer by Francisco de Zurbarán can be dated on stylistic grounds to around 1650-55, towards the end of the artist's Sevillian period, and is characterised by his dramatic treatment of light and sense of monumentality to the figure for which he was so admired during his lifetime as also today. Zurbarán produced devotional works relating to the founder of the Franciscan Order throughout his career, and through their stark simplicity and profound sense of spirituality, they can today be considered amongst the most evocative and iconic sacred images produced within 17th century Spain.1

For over three centuries the present work remained in the collection of the Counts of Ibangrande, Spain, whose descendants sold the painting at auction in Madrid in 2001, when its true authorship was obscured by dense layers of dirt and accretions that covered the paint surface. It was only following a professional restoration in London that, as stated by the leading Zurbarán scholar Odile Delenda: ‘then appeared the indisputable qualities of the work which permit it to be accepted as a totally autograph work.’2

Subsequent to its restoration the painting was rightly restored to the artist’s oeuvre, and was included in the 2009 catalogue raisonné published by Odile Delenda, as well as more recently the exhibition dedicated to Zurbarán held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (see under Exhibited).

In its simplicity and directness, Zurbarán’s depiction of Saint Francis is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the Counter Reformation, following the Council of Trent (1545 – 63), which encouraged a new focus on devotional life and re-affirmed the importance of the veneration of images. Saint Francis is shown in a grotto, kneeling in prayer before an outcrop of rock that he has improvised for use as an altar. On top rests his only worldly belongings and the objects of his contemplation: a book of scriptures, a skull (symbolising man’s mortality) and a simple cross. The simplicity of the scene is matched by the artist’s monochromatic palette which adds to the sense of austerity and piety of the image. Against the backdrop of the cavernous setting, the figure of Saint Francis is carved like a sculpture, the tenebrist lighting and voluminous folds of drapery creating the illusion of three-dimensionality and monumentality to the figure. Captured in a moment of prayer, Saint Francis looks out towards the beholder, his mouth open (presumably mid-recital), inviting us to engage in a life of devotion to God and thereby lead us to our own salvation.

The success of the present design is attested through the existence of a variant (oil on canvas, 168 by 114 cm.) from a Spanish private collection, which was exhibited in public for the first time in the recent exhibition dedicated to Zurbarán held at the Palazzo Diamanti in Ferrara, a studio version of which is in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.3

The present work has been requested for the exhibition Francisco Zurbarán. Nueva mirada, to be held at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, on 9 June - 13 September 2015.

1. For example, the Saint Francis in the National Gallery, London, or that in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for which see the exhibition catalogue, Sacred Made Real: Spanish Paintings and Sculpture 1600 - 1700, London, National Gallery, 21 October 2009 - 24 January 2010, pp. 174-75 and pp.178-181, reproduced.
2. ‘aparecieron entonces sus innegables calidades que permiten admitirlo como una obra totalmente autógrafa.’ See O. Delenda, op. cit., p. 641.
3. See the exhibition catalogue, Francisco de Zurbarán, Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, 14 September 2013 - 6 January 2014, pp. 204-05, pp. 204-05, reproduced.

Sotheby's. Contemplation of the Divine, London, 05 juil. 2014-16 juil. 2014.

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Francisco de Zurbarán, Christ on the cross with the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, and Saint John at his feet


Francisco de Zurbarán (Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz 1598 - 1664 Madrid), Christ on the cross with the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, and Saint John at his feet. Photo Sotheby's

Signed and dated at the foot of the cross: Fran.co de zurbarán 1655. Oil on canvas, 212 by 163 cm.; 83 ½ by 64 ¼ in. 

In the collection of Janio Marques de Almeida, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, by 1997;
Acquired by the present owner around 2002.

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Zurbarán al Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, 1998, no. 5;
Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes, El Ultimo Zurbarán, 2000, no. 7;
Albuquerque, El Alma de España, 17 April – 31 July 2005;
Fort Worth, The Kimbell Museum, Guests of Honor, 2005-6.

Exhibition catalogue, Zurbarán al Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona,1998, pp. 88-93, no. 5, reproduced p. 89
Exhibition catalogue, Zurbarán: IV Centenario, Museo de Bellas Artes, Seville, 8 October - 9 December 1998, p. 22, entry by Enrique Valdivieso;
O. Delenda, ‘Bilan d’un centenaire, Zurbarán’, in Dossier de l’Art, no. 53, 98, p. 28;O. O. Delenda, ‘Zurbarán en la Actualidad’, in Actas del SImposium Internacional Zurbarán y su epoca, Fuentedecantos, 1998, p. 21, reproduced fig. 1;
P. Cherry, ‘Seville and elsewhere Zurbarán’, in Burlington Magazine, February 1999, no. 1151, p. 130, reproduced fig. 83;
Exhibition catalogue, El Primer Naturalismo en Sevilla, Seville, Hospital de los Venerables, 29 November 2005 - 28 February 2006, and Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes, 20 March - 28 May 2006, p. 258, reproduced fig. 138;
O. Delenda, Francisco de Zurbarán, Catálogo Razonado y Crítico, vol. I, Madrid 2009, pp. 647-48, cat. no. 234, reproduced p. 647;
Exhibition catalogue, Zurbarán, Ferrara, Palazzo Diamanti, 14 September 2013 – 6 January 2014, p. 50, reproduced fig. 22.

This deeply moving and monumental representation of Christ on the Cross with the Virgin, Mary Magdalene and Saint John the Evangelist is a late masterpiece by Francisco de Zurbarán, painted in Seville towards the end of the artist's career, in 1655. The picture is an outstanding example of the artist’s late style, the only known treatment of the crucifixion by the master to include the figures of the Virgin, Mary Magdalen and Saint John at the foot of the Cross, and one of only two crucifixions by Zurbarán remaining in private hands today.

Remarkably the painting was only discovered in 1997/98, having lain undetected in a South American private collection. It was displayed to the public for the first time in the exhibition on Zurbarán held at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona in 1998 to mark the fourth centenary of the birth of the great master from Extremadura. At the time of the discovery the work was restored by Marco Grassi in New York and a photograph of the painting in a stripped state reveals that a limited number of losses were confined predominantly to the neutral background, as well as some parts of the mantle of the Virgin, whilst the striking figure of Christ remains in a remarkable state of preservation.1

Zurbarán's design is a tour de force. Against an intense black background, the anguished figure of Christ is lit by a powerful light from the left side, creating the illusion of a three-dimensional form that in its sense of volume and monumentality recalls the sculptures of leading Sevillian artists of the day, such as Juan Martínez Montañés and Juan de la Mesa. At the foot of the cross the forlorn figure of the Virgin is comforted in her grief by Mary Magdalene, who stares out to the viewer, drawing us in as witnesses to the harrowing scene, whilst to the right Saint John the Evangelist looks up to the dying Christ with an intense look of devotion and belief, his clasped hands inviting the onlooker to a life of devotion and prayer and thereby ultimately leading us to our salvation. The unusual inclusion of the Virgin, Mary Magdalene and Saint John the Evangelist, Christ’s favoured apostle, supports the work's original function as an altarpiece. The half-length figures would have been on the same level as the priest performing Mass in celebration of Christ's sacrifice and as such provided the ideal backdrop to the consecration of the bread and wine and their transubstantiation into the body and blood of Christ, thereby underpinning the central mystery of the Christian faith.

Iconographically the artist has deviated from the more traditional Cristos muertos en la Cruz for the Cristo expirante type that depicts the final moment just before Christ’s expiration, His chest expanded to take one final breath as He calls out to his father: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.’ As pointed out by Odile Delenda, the intense drama and anguish captured in the scene provides a departure from the more serene treatments of the subject painted by the artist earlier in his career, and it may be that this heightened degree of spiritual anguish was depicted at the behest of the artist’s patron following the terrible plague in Spain of 1649.

Some eleven other treatments of The Crucifixion by Zurbarán are known today, ranging in date from his painting of 1627 in the Art Institute, Chicago, to the celebrated Artist before Christ on the Cross, datable to around 1655-60, in the Prado, Madrid. Of these treatments however, six are today in international museums (five of which are in Spain), four remain in churches or religious institutions (three in Spain and one in Cuzco, Peru), whilst only one other (in addition to the present work) remains in private hands. As pointed out by Odile Delenda in her 2009 catalogue raisonné of the works of Francisco de Zurbarán:

‘Esta obra maestra muestra que en estas fechas de sus últimos años en Sevilla, Zurbarán conserva una fuerza expresiva increíble dentro de la evolución de su técnica.’

‘This masterpiece shows that during his last years in Seville, Zurbarán continued to achieve extraordinary powers of expression within the evolution of his style.’ (Translation)

Indeed, the painting can be rightly considered an outstanding work by perhaps the most quintessential and authentic Spanish painter of all time. Through its directness and immediacy, Zurbarán's intensly powerful and dramatic depiction of Christ on the Cross with the Virgin, Mary Magdalene and Saint John the Baptist at His Feet is as moving to viewers today as when painted in Seville some three and a half centuries ago.

The present work has been requested for the exhibition Francisco Zurbarán. Nueva mirada, to be held at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, on 9 June - 13 September 2015.

1. See a photograph of the painting in its stripped state see O. Delenda, op. cit., p. 648, fig. 1, reproduced.

Sotheby's. Contemplation of the Divine, London, 05 juil. 2014-16 juil. 2014.

Victor Velyan Jewelry

POTD_Owl_2939575k (2)

Victor Velyan gold and silver bracelet with a white patina, set with black opals and diamonds.


Victor Velyan gold and silver bracelet with a black patina, set with tanzanites, diamonds, moonstones and purple sapphires.


Victor Velyan gold and silver drop earrings with 118ct tourmalines surrounded by diamonds.


Victor Velyan yellow and white gold ring with a central black opal and diamonds.


Victor Velyan gold bracelet with Paraiba tourmalines and diamonds.


Victor Velyan white and yellow gold bracelet with black opals and diamonds.


Victor Velyan gold and silver bracelet with a white patina, set with peridots and diamonds.


Victor Velyan gold and silver bracelet with a green patina, set with rubellites and diamonds.


Victor Velyan gold bracelet with 15.43ct blue sapphires and diamonds.


Victor Velyan white gold Jellyfish pendant with round diamonds, diamond briolettes, white sapphire briolettes, moonstones, blue fire opal and jelly opal.


Victor Velyan gold and silver pendant with a central 36.55ct black opal surrounded by diamonds on a pearl necklace.


Victor Velyan white and yellow gold ring with a 22.96ct blue zircon and diamonds.

Posté par Alain Truong à 12:32 - - Commentaires [0] - Permalien [#]
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Vermeilleux ! L’argent doré de Strasbourg du XVIe au XIXe siècle à la galerie J. Kugel

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Alexis et Nicolas Kugel © Guillaume Benoit

Il y a 50 ans presque jour pour jour, était présentée à la galerie Jacques Kugel alors 7, rue de la Paix, une exposition mémorable intitulée : « Le siècle d’or de l’orfèvrerie de Strasbourg » en collaboration avec le charismatique directeur honoraire du Musée de Strasbourg Hans Haug. 
Pour commémorer cet anniversaire, et en hommage à leur père Jacques, Alexis et Nicolas Kugel ont choisi cette année, de remettre l’argent doré appelé vermeil, à l’honneur. 
Cette exposition ambitieuse permet à toute une nouvelle génération de découvrir certains des plus beaux chefs-d’œuvre de l’orfèvrerie du XVIe au XIXe siècle.


Carrefour des arts et de l’Europe, Strasbourg, ville « libre » fut réputée pour sa dorure sans pareille, et la qualité de ses orfèvres. 
Ainsi, en honorant plusieurs générations d’orfèvres strasbourgeois, la galerie Kugel célèbre trois siècles d’excellence artistique. 
L’exposition s’articule autour de deux parties chronologiques : l’influence germanique à la Renaissance et à l’époque Baroque, puis le style français des XVIIIème et XIXème siècles, passant par le style rocaille et le néoclassicisme. 


Coupes et pièces d’influence germanique, Strasbourg, vers 1570-1650 © Guillaume Benoit 


Ville principale de l’Alsace germanique d’où sont originaires nombre de dynasties princières, Strasbourg est d’abord un centre artistique florissant tourné vers l’Allemagne.

Les nombreux orfèvres de talent sont issus de la puissante corporation appelée « tribu de l’Echasse », qui contrôle rigoureusement la qualité du travail des artisans. Sur les plaques d’inculpation de la corporation qui subsistent aujourd’hui, on dénombre plus de 500 poinçons entre 1540 et la Révolution.

Après le rattachement de Strasbourg à la France en 1681, c’est l’influence française qui s’affirme avec notamment, la construction du Palais Rohan par Robert de Cotte l’un des meilleurs architectes parisiens.

Le statut particulier de la ville, où le titre moins élevé de l’argent allemand est maintenu et les taxes moins élevées, profite aux orfèvres, qui se spécialisent dans la conception d’objets luxueux commandés en particulier par les maisons régnantes des états voisins de Hesse-Darmstadt ou du Palatinat. 


Ecuelle et son préentoir en argent doré, Strasbourg,1768,par Johan Ludwig III Imlin © Guillaume Benoit 


Comme pour chaque exposition thématique, Alexis et Nicolas Kugel ont la double ambition d’allier avec rigueur la recherche en histoire de l’Art et leur métier d’antiquaire car tous les objets exposés sont à vendre. Par leur expertise et leurs conseils, ils contribuent à la formation de grandes collections et l’enrichissement des musées.

Le catalogue accompagnant l’exposition propose une étude scientifique pour chaque pièce ainsi qu’un répertoire exhaustif de tous les orfèvres de Strasbourg de 1540 à la Révolution, constituant ainsi l’ouvrage de référence sur le sujet.

L’orfèvrerie de Strasbourg, passionnément recherchée par les grands collectionneurs du XXe siècle, tels que les David-Weill, les Rothschild, les Patiño, saura sans aucun doute séduire par son raffinement et sa beauté, les nouvelles générations de collectionneurs et d’amateurs.


Timbale. Exposition "Vermeilleux ! L’argent doré de Strasbourg du XVIe au XIXe siècle" © Guillaume Benoit


Avec plus d’une centaine de pièces, l’exposition illustre la double influence de l’orfèvrerie strasbourgeoise et couvre l’essentiel des styles et des formes.

L’influence allemande à la Renaissance est illustrée par un magistral gobelet en forme d’ours, seul animal connu réalisé à Strasbourg, ainsi qu’une série de cinq gobelets gravés vers 1570, par le meilleur orfèvre de son temps Georg Kobenhaupt, pièces sans équivalent. 


Ours en argent doré, Strasbourg, vers 1570-80, par Dibolt Krug © Hughes Dubois

Un certain nombre de coupes couvertes et gobelets rappellent les productions de Nuremberg. Pour la période baroque qui suit la guerre de Trente Ans, une extraordinaire coupe réalisée pour la corporation des orfèvres est ornée de scènes qui représentent précisément un atelier d’orfèvre.

Avec l’influence française au XVIIIème siècle, on verra apparaitre un type spécifique de timbale de forme tulipe dite « à côtes pincées ». Un superbe exemple par Johann Jacob Ehrlen provenant des collections Rothschild était exposé à l’exposition de 1964. L’écuelle est l’un des objets de prédilection des orfèvres de Strasbourg. L’exposition en présente une dizaine, réalisées entre 1700 et 1785 et illustrant l’évolution stylistique.


Timbale, Strasbourg c. 1740, par Johann Jacob Ehrlen  © Hughes Dubois

De style rocaille, le plus somptueux exemple est la toilette de la duchesse de Mecklenburg-Strelitz, ou le service réalisé quelques années plus tard par l’orfèvre Johannes Jacob Kirstein pour la comtesse von der Leyen, dans un style radicalement différent.


Toilette en argent doré de la Duchesse de Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Strasbourg, 1784, par Johann Heinrich I Oertel et Gottfried Imlin © Hughes Dubois


Toilette en argent doré de la comtesse von der Leyen, Strasbourg, 1789 par Johannes Jacob Kirstein et Carl-Ludwig Emmerich © Hughes Dubois

Exposition en accès libre, du lundi au samedi de 10h30 à 19h. 

L’exposition est accompagnée par un luxueux ouvrage conçu sous la direction d’Alexis Kugel : « VERMEILLEUX, l’argent doré de Strasbourg du XVIe au XIXe siècle ». Editions Monelle Hayot, 352 pages, 85 € 

GALERIE J.KUGEL. 25 Quai Anatole France 75007 Paris - www.galeriekugel.com

A bronze articulated model of a beetle, Meiji period (late 19th century), signed Watanabe

POTD_Owl_2939575k (2)



A bronze articulated model of a beetle, Meiji period (late 19th century), signed Watanabe. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2014

The beetle constructed of numerous parts joined together, the neck and limbs move, finely finished with brown patina, the details of the body incised; signature on underside; 6in. (15.2cm.) long. Estimation USD 4,000 - 6,000

Generally in very good overall condition for its age.

Christie's. Japanese Art: Meiji Period Magnificence -https://onlineonly.christies.com/

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A bronze articulated model of a crab, Meiji period (late 19th century)


POTD_Owl_2939575k (2)

A bronze articulated model of a crab, Meiji period (late 19th century). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2014

The crab constructed of numerous parts joined together, the claws open and the limbs move; the details of the shell and body finely incised; 9in. (22.9cm.) long. Estimation USD 3,000 - 4,000

Generally in very good overall condition for the age except some minor wear.

Christie's. Japanese Art: Meiji Period Magnificence -https://onlineonly.christies.com/

Posté par Alain Truong à 09:47 - - Commentaires [0] - Permalien [#]
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A small lacquer box, Meiji period (late 19th century)



A small lacquer box, Meiji period (late 19th century). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2014

Decorated in gold and colored lacquer hiramaki-e, takamaki-e, kirikane and inlaid mother-of-pearl and various stones; fitted with a gourd-shaped tray, rims silver; 3½in. (8.9cm.) long. Estimation USD 2,500 - 3,000

Generally in good overall condition for its age except the following:
-The lid slightely warp.
-A spot with surface wear.

Christie's. Japanese Art: Meiji Period Magnificence -https://onlineonly.christies.com/

Posté par Alain Truong à 09:17 - - Commentaires [0] - Permalien [#]
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Fin »