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Frans van Mieris the Elder, A Young Woman in a Red Jacket Feeding a Parrot, oil on canvas, est: £500,000-700,000. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby´s.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s second major sale of Old Master Paintings in London this year will be staged on the evening of Wednesday, December 3, 2008 and will follow in the wake of the company’s impressive series of Old Master sales in London in the summer. The December sale will be led by the prominent names of Frans van Mieris the Elder (1635-1681), Pieter Brueghel the Younger (circa 1564-1638), Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) and Hendrick Ter Brugghen (1588-1629).

Frans van Mieris the Elder’s A Young Woman in a Red Jacket Feeding a Parrot is set to be the highlight of the sale, given its impeccable 300 year provenance and that it one of the most important works by the artist ever to appear at auction. Estimated at £500,000-700,000, the painting is the principal version of van Mieris’ most famous, much-copied composition and it is part of a select group of masterpieces from the 1660s which define the artist’s fijnschilder technique, for which he is best known. The painting depicts a young woman, expensively attired in a red jacket trimmed with fur, seated feeding an African Grey parrot which sits on a perch.

The painting has a long and distinguished history and its whereabouts has been well documented from the early 18th century onwards, when records suggest that it was acquired by the Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria (1662-1726) for his palace at Schleissheim (which is located a few miles northwest of Munich). It then remained in the possession of Maximilian’s descendants - the Bavarian Electors and Princes - before becoming part of the Bavarian State Picture Collections, where it was displayed at the Alte Pinakothek until 1936. The painting then went to the US and was sold in the Dunlap Sale at Sotheby’s New York in 1975, where it was acquired for the collection of the renowned connoisseur, Lord Samuel. It is Lord Samuel’s widow’s estate who has now consigned the painting for sale. The painting’s impressive and detailed history is incredibly rare.

In recent years Sotheby’s has had an unparalleled track record of selling works by Pieter and Jan Brueghel and in just July this year saw a new auction record established for Jan Brueghel the Elder when his The Edge of a Village with Figures Dancing sold for £3.5 million. This came after the sale of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s Christ on the Road to Calvary for £5.1 million at Sotheby’s in July 2006, which still remains the auction record for the artist. The forthcoming sale will continue Sotheby’s Brueghel association, presenting some four works by various members of the Brueghel dynasty. The undoubted star of the group though will be Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Kermesse of Saint George, which is estimated to fetch £2.5-3.5 million. The painting is one of only three securely autograph versions of the artist’s finest and most original composition; it is entirely independent from any of his father’s works and it is more assured and accomplished than any of his own other original creations.

A rare coastal landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder will be another notable highlight of the group and dating from 1595, it is one of this artist’s earliest works; he most probably painted it at the end of his stay in Rome and before his departure for Milan. An Extensive Coastal Landscape with Fishermen Landing and Selling their Catch, the Sacrifice of Jonah Offshore was a pioneering work which played a key role in Brueghel’s own development as well as being highly influential on his contemporaries and successive generations of artists in the low countries. The picture’s excellent state of preservation makes it easy to read the subtle brushwork, even in the darkest parts, and it combines two themes from Brueghel’s early career - marines and harbour/beach scenes with fishermen - and while marine scenes were limited to the preliminary years of his career, the harbour/beach scenes, of which this is his earliest dated example, formed an important part of his oeuvre for much of the rest of his career. The coastal scene was part of the renowned Barberini collection for almost 300 years - from 1644 (or even earlier) until 1934 - and it has been in the family of the current owner since 1960.

An eye-catching portrait of Portrait of Bindo Altoviti by Girolamo da Carpi provides a penetrating likeness of one of the most remarkable personalities of the Renaissance in Florence and Rome. The sitter, the Florentine banker Bindo Altoviti (1491-1556), was a powerful financier to the Papacy, a major political opponent of the Medici family - the rulers of Florence - and an important patron of the arts. He was the friend and patron of many of the greatest Renaissance artists and he divided his time between his native Florence and Rome. A testament to his fame, there are four surviving likenesses of him by different artists – including the one on offer – and all four date from varying periods of his life. Da Carpi’s portrait was probably painted in Rome around 1549-1552 when Altoviti was approximately 60 years of age.

The portrait has impeccable provenance having passed by direct descent from the late 18th century through successive generations of the Sellon family of Switzerland – the Sellon family’s collection was arguably one of the most important Swiss family collections of the 18th and 19th centuries. The painting is expected to fetch £200,000-300,000.

A selection of works from the London residence of the Italian industrialist and businessman, Luigi Koelliker, will be another notable element of the December sale. A born collector and a true connoisseur and patron of the arts, Luigi Koelliker first started collecting at the tender age of eight. Since those formative years, his collecting direction has shifted and evolved considerably, from stamps to wristwatches to Contemporary Art and then Old Masters and 18th and 19th century furniture. When he first moved in to the Old Master field he pursued views of Venice but he quickly moved on to portraits as he found them much more appealing. Mr. Koelliker also assembled a diverse and intriguing collection of bronzes, maiolica, furniture, silver and scientific instruments – the objects that he saw in the Old Master paintings that he loved. These latter works will be offered in a single-owner sale on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 3.

The group of approximately 36 paintings from Mr. Koelliker’s London home have an estimate of £2-3 million and they will be divided between the Evening sale of Old Master Paintings on December 3 and the Day sale of Old Master Paintings on December 4. Spearheading the Evening sale offerings will be Hendrick Ter Brugghen’s A Jovial Violinist Holding a Glass of Wine, which is a characteristic work from the artist’s final years. The humorous depiction of a drunken violinist - his nose reddened with drink and his teeth brown with age and abuse - is one of Terbrugghen’s most boisterous works, abounding with energy and gusto. It is estimated at £250,000-350,000.

A second highlight of the group that is also estimated at £250,000-350,000 is Saint Andrew Bearing his Cross by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino. This mature work by Guercino, painted in the mid 1650s, was conceived as a pendant to a Saint John the Baptist in the desert. The painting’s existence was only known through documents until its first appearance on the open market in 1998.

Further paintings from the Koelliker collection - including an important work by Titian - will be sold in the sale of Old Master Paintings at Sotheby’s New York on January 29 and 30, 2009.

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Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Kermesse of Saint George, which is estimated to fetch £2.5-3.5 million. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby´s.