Luca Carlevarijs, Piazzetta, Venice (detail). Estimate: $2/3 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s will offer old master and 19th century paintings from the extraordinary private collection of J. E. Safra in a single-owner evening sale on 26 January 2011 in New York. The auction offers a wide range of styles and genres including Dutch, Italian and French pictures, and is highlighted by significant works from Luca Carlevarijs, Giovanni Paolo Panini and Jacopo Amigoni. The evening sale will open for exhibition on 22 January.

“This group of paintings was acquired by Mr. Safra for his personal collection between 1988 and 2001,” said George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department Worldwide. “From a fabulous Venetian scene by Luca Carlevarijs, to architectural views by Hubert Robert and Giovanni Paolo Panini, to mythological masterpieces by Jacopo Amigoni and Jan Miel, the scale and scope of the works on offer are representative of the collection as a whole, and demonstrate why Mr. Safra is one of the most passionate collectors I have encountered in my long career. He has an insatiable intellectual curiosity and is totally committed to the study and development of his collection, which the sale of these works will help him to support.”

The January sale is led by Luca Carlevarijs’s Piazzetta, Venice, a masterpiece by the founder of Venetian view painting and the teacher of Canaletto (est. $2/3 million*). Unlike in Rome, there was no prior tradition of view painting in Venice prior to Carlevarijs in the 17th century. For the first time, an artist was depicting the daily life that took place in the city’s grand public spaces as a subject in its own right. Piazzetta, Venice is a meticulous illustration of both the architecture and colorful figures of the city’s commercial and religious center. Carlevarijs painted this view on a number of other occasions, but offers a new interpretation here by observing the piazza from an unusual, offcenter vantage point, further demonstrating his mastery of perspective.

The sale offers two Capriccios of Classical Ruins by Giovanni Paolo Panini that typify the kind of work that made him the most sought-after artist of his time in Rome (two lots, est. $1/1.5 million each). Though the canvases were originally conceived as pendants, or pairs, remarkably they have not always remained together. Mr. Safra reunited the works in the 1990s after a 20-year separation, purchasing both at different auctions.

Signed and dated 1739, the paintings were completed during a period of feverish activity for Panini that resulted in the production of some of his best works. In each canvas, most of the architectural elements are accurate depictions of real sites. However, Panini has taken the classical ruins out of context and arranged them across his canvases to create balanced and highly effective compositions. While the first Capriccio of Classical Ruins depicts exclusively Roman sites, such as the Temple of Antonius and Faustina and the Colosseum (lot 18), the second lot features classical ruins drawn from further afield, including the Maison Carrée at Nîmes and the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli (lot 19).

Jacopo Amigoni’s Venus and Adonis is a magnificent and monumental canvas that represents one of the most exciting mythological works by the artist to appear on the market in recent years (est. $1.5/2.5 million). Originally formed as one of a pendant pair of paintings, its mate has been owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York since 1985, depicting Flora and Zephyr. With a tender overall tone that focuses on the feelings of the two protagonists, the present work portrays the goddess Venus imploring Adonis not to leave her to go off on the hunting trip during which he would ultimately be killed.

While Amigoni spent his early career in Venice, he soon left the city to make a name for himself as an international artist in the Venetian Rococo style, quickly finding eager patrons amongst the English nobility and royalty. Of the few decorative pieces he executed while in England, most are still in situ in the houses for which they were commissioned. In fact, it is likely that both Venus and Adonis and its pendant pair were commissioned to decorate an as yet unidentified English country house.

Ceres, Bachhus and Venus is a masterpiece of Jan Miel’s mature style (est. $800,000/1.2 million). The work was completed at a time when the artist was making a dramatic shift away from the genre scenes that occupied his earlier years in Rome to the more classicized figurative work of his later career. Although part of the famous collection of Count Moltke, the work had been unseen and largely ignored by critics until it appeared at a London auction in 1996. Dated 1645, its re-emergence has prompted a re-dating of some of Miel’s other important history paintings. Zeeland Man-of-War in a Calm of a Jetty, a Rowing Boat in the Foreground is a rare and unpublished penschilderingen by Willem van de Velde the Elder, one of the foremost seapainters of the mid-17th century (est. $400/600,000). It ranks among his earliest-known works in the medium, which consists of pen and ink on a prepared white background. The graphic nature of penschilderingen allowed van de Velde to depict the boat, its rigging, and the carving of the figurehead and stern in meticulous detail.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium


Luca Carlevarijs, Piazzetta, Venice. Estimate: $2/3 million. Photo: Sotheby's