Titian´s A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria sold for $16,882,500. Photo: Sotheby's

NEW YORK, NY.- Today at Sotheby’s sale of Important Old Master Paintings in New York, a new auction record was established for the Renaissance master Titian when his A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria sold for $16,882,500 to a European Private Collector. That price exceeded the previous record of $13.6 million, which had held for 20 years. A Sacra Conversazione is one of only a handful of multi-figured compositions by Titian that remain in private hands, and is the most important to appear at auction in decades.

The morning session ended with an outstanding total of $78.6 million, which is above the session’s high estimate of $74 million.

In addition to the Titian, a number of remarkable and record prices have also been achieved this morning:


Titian (Pieve Di Cadore circa 1485/90 (?) - 1576 Venice), A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria. Photo: Sotheby's

Perino del Vaga’s The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist was sought after by at least five different bidders, finally selling to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for $2,098,500 (est. $300/400,000). That price exceeds the record price for the artist achieved in yesterday ' s sale of Old Master Drawings at Sotheby ' s, when The Metropolitan Museum Art purchased Jupiter and Juno for $782,500.

oil on canvas, 127.8 by 169.7 cm.; 50 1/4 by 66 3/4 in. Estimate 15,000,000—20,000,000 USD. Lot Sold 16,882,500 USD

PROVENANCE: Traditionally said to have been painted for 'Titian's friend the Chevalier Orologi of Padua' and thence by descent in the Dondi dell'Orologio family, Padua (according to Sir Richard Worsley's 1797 inventory, the 1816 catalogue and Buchanan, under Literature, 1824);
From whom acquired by Sir Richard Worsley (1751-1805) during his time in Venice 1793-7 for 200 sequins and bound for England on a ship which was captured and taken to Malaga;
There acquired by Guillaume Guillon-Lethière on behalf of Lucien Bonaparte;
Lucien Bonaparte, Principe di Canino (1775-1840), Rome, by 1804 and still there in 1808 and 1812 (see Bozzani, Carloni and Guattani under Literature below);
His sale, London (29 St. James's Street), Mr. Stanley, 16 May 1816, lot 176 (unsold);
Sir John Rae Reid, 2nd Bt. (1781-1867), before 1829 (by whom lent to the British Institution in that year);
Charles Pascoe Grenfell (1790-1867), Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire, by 1857 (by whom exhibited in Manchester in that year);
Thence to his grandson, William Henry Grenfell (1855-1945), 1st and last Baron Desborough, Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire, and Panshanger, Hertfordshire;
Thence to his widow, Ethel (Ettie) Fane (1867-1952), niece of the seventh Earl Cowper, whom he had married in 1887, Taplow Court and Panshanger;
Lord Desborough collection sale, London, Christie's, 9 April 1954, lot 77, for 600 guineas to Skelton;
With Rosenberg & Stiebel, Inc., New York, 1956, from which acquired by the late husband of the present owner.

EXHIBITED: London (60 Pall Mall), The New Gallery (Mr. Buchanan's), 6 February (and following days) 1815, no. 123;
London, British Institution, Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch and English masters, 1829, no. 129 ('Holy Family, with St. Catherine), lent by Sir J. Rae Reid;
Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Art Treasures of the United Kingdom, 1857, no. 278 ('Marriage of St. Catherine'), lent by C.P. Grenfell;
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, 1878, no. 141 ('Marriage of St. Catherine'), lent by W.H. Grenfell;
Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, Venetian Tradition, 9 November 1956 - 1 January 1957, no. 53;
Stockholm, National Museum, Konstens Venedigs: utställning anordnad med anledning av Konung Gustaf VI Adolfs åttioarsdag, 20 October 1962 - 10 February 1963, no. 91;
Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Von Bembo bis Guardi, 3 July - 14 September 1975, no. 80;
Pfäffikon SZ, Seedamm-Kulturzentrum, & Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Art vénitien en Suisse et au Liechtenstein, (Pfäffikon) 18 June - 27 August 1978 & (Geneva) 13 September - 5 November 1978, no. 74.

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: Sir Richard Worsley, Inventory of Moveables taken at Venice, 1797, Worsely MSS 42;
C. Bozzani, Galleria Bonaparte, MS dated Rome, 13 June 1804, Archivio di Stato, Rome, Camerale II, Antichità e Belle Arti 7, fasciolo 204, fo 3, Room 3, no. 15;
G.A. Guattani, Galleria del Senatore Luciano Bonaparte, Rome 1808, vol. II, p. 105, no. 115;
Choix de gravures à l'eau forte, d'après les peintures originales et les marbres de la Galerie de Lucien Bonaparte, London 1812, p. 4, no. 70, reproduced (as an engraving) plate 115 ('Mariage de Ste. Catherine, grandeur de nature, sur toile - Le Titien');
Catalogue of the splendid collection of pictures belonging to Prince Lucien Bonaparte, which will be exhibited for sale by private contract, on Monday the sixth day of February, 1815, and following days, exhibition catalogue, London, The New Gallery, 1815, p. 34, no. 123 (a value of 3,000 guineas marked in the catalogue held at the National Art Library, V&A Museum, London);
L. Bonaparte, Collection de gravures choisis d'après les Peintures et Sculptures de la Galerie de Lucien Bonaparte, Prince de Canino, Rome 1822, p. VIII;
W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting, London 1824, vol. II, p. 278, no. 113, and p. 291, no. 119 (as Titian 'The Marriage of St. Catharine');
Sir J.A. Crowe & G.B, Cavalcaselle, Life and Times of Titian, London 1877, vol. II, p. 466 (as near Polidoro Lanzani);
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813-1912, vol. III, London 1914, pp. 1317, 1320 and 1322;
H.S. Francis, Venetian Tradition, exhibition catalogue, Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, 9 November 1956 - 1 January 1957, cat. no. 53, reproduced plate XIV (as Titian);
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Venetian School, London 1957, vol. I, p. 187 (as 'in great part autograph');
W. Suida, "Miscellanea Tizianesca, IV", in Arte Veneta, vol. 13-14, 1959-60, pp. 65-66, reproduced fig. 81 (as Titian and dated to circa 1540, tentatively identifying the male saint as Luke);
P. Grate ed., Konstens Venedigs: utställning anordnad med anledning av Konung Gustaf VI Adolfs åttioarsdag, exhibition catalogue, Stockholm, National Museum, 20 October 1962 - 10 February 1963, p. 93, cat. no. 91 (as by Titian);
R. Pallucchini, Tiziano, Florence 1969, p. 287 (as by Titian, dated to late 1540s, shortly after Titian's return from Rome);
F. Valcanover, Tiziano, Milan 1969, p. 110, no. 207 (as by Titian);
H.E. Wethey, The Complete Paintings of Titian. I. The Religious Paintings, London 1969, p. 107, cat. no. 62, reproduced plate 53 (as by Titian, dated to circa 1560; erroneously identified as 'Madonna and Child with SS. Catherine and Luke');
S. Béguin & Valcanover, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Titien, Paris 1970, p. 111, no. 207;
G. Germann ed., Art vénitien en Suisse et au Liechtenstein, exhibition catalogue, Pfäffikon SZ, Seedamm-Kulturzentrum, 18 June - 27 August 1978, & Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, 13 September - 5 November 1978, pp. 114-115, cat. no. 75, reproduced;
D. Martinez de la Peña y Gonzales, "Sobre la collection de pinturas de Luciano Bonaparte, (documentos del avril-5)", in Miscelanea de Arte, 1982, pp. 252;
J. Shearman, The Early Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Cambridge 1983, p. 175, under cat. no. 176 (as attributed to Titian 'but it does not seem... that this attribution is beyond question');
P.L. Fantelli & M. Lucco, Catalogo della Pinacoteca della Accademia dei Concordi di Ravigo, Venice 1985, p. 41;
B. Edelein-Badie, La Collection de Tableaux de Lucien Bonaparte, Prince de Canino, Paris 1997, pp. 278-79, no. 262, reproduced on p. 279 (as Titian);
M. Gregori, in M. Natoli ed., Luciano Bonaparte: le sue collezioni d'arte, le sua residenze a Roma, nel Lazio, in Italia, 1804-1840, Rome 1995, p. 288, no. 73, reproduced (as an engraving) p. 292;
R. Carloni, in M. Natoli ed., idem, p. 41, under Terzo Salone, no. 15 ('Il Matrimonio di S. Caterina, di Tiziano, gran quadro');
R. Bartoli Contini, in M. Natoli ed., idem, p. 330, no. 73;
F. Pedrocco, Titian. The Complete Paintings, London & New York 2001, p. 205, cat. no. 152 (as by Titian, dated between Titian's return from Rome in June 1547 and his first trip to Augsburg in January 1548; erroneously identified as 'The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine, with St. Luke');
M. Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of North European Drawings, vol. I, Turin 2002, p. 80, under no. 1008 12 b (as 'Virgin and Child with Sts Catherine and Luke');
P. Humfrey, Titian. The Complete Paintings, London 2007, p. 242, cat. no. 177, reproduced in colour (as by Titian, dated circa 1549-54);
G. Tagliaferro et al., eds., Le Botteghe di Tiziano, Florence 2009, pp. 97, 100, reproduced (as by Titian, dated circa 1550-1555).

By Pietro Fontana (Galerie de Lucien Bonaparte catalogue, 1812 & 1822).

NOTE: "A perfect work of the Venetian school".1

This painting is one of the most important multi-figural compositions by the artist remaining in private hands and is the finest work by the artist to come onto the open market for two decades. It is a mature work, painted circa 1560, when Titian was at the height of his powers and had established his reputation as the leading artist in Europe. It is a composition that is at once monumental but also extremely tender and as Titian's last known Sacra Conversazione it is the culmination of his lifelong exploration of this theme in Venetian art. The painting also has a remarkable provenance: during the almost half millennium since it was painted it has only changed hands six times, moving from one illustrious private European collection to another and rarely appearing in public at exhibition or at auction.

Titian and the Sacra Conversazione
Titian was a master of the compositional type that is known as the Sacra Conversazione; literally, a 'holy conversation' between the Madonna and Child and saints. In Venice the Sacra Conversazione format was devised by artists in the late fifteenth century as a device for structuring large altarpieces. In its earliest manifestation it was a highly formal way of depicting the Saviour based around a rigid hierarchy which saw the Madonna and Child enthroned at the top of the composition with saints ranged along either side of the throne. Artists such as Giovanni Bellini in his Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and a Donor, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Fig. 1), excelled in this format but by the turn of the century the formality of these compositions was starting to break down.2 A younger generation of artists such as Palma Vecchio abandoned the rigid settings and static figures that had gone before and by placing the Virgin and Child in a pastoral landscape strove towards the creation of a more informal and thus more accessible image. This process was to culminate in Titian's exploration of the theme of the Sacra Conversazione and ultimately find its apotheosis in his late examples such as the present work. Here Titian has built up the composition using pictorial space, medium, colour, gaze and gesture to ensure the focus of the painting is the central figure group and particularly the gesture from the Christ Child to Saint Catherine.

The date of execution of the present painting has been the subject of much debate: dating has spanned a twenty-year period, from between 1540 to 1560. Suida's dating of circa 1540 was not accepted by Wethey, who argued that the large imposing figures are comparable to those in other paintings by Titian which he dated circa 1560; such as the signed Annunciation in the church of San Salvatore, Venice and the Madonna and Child in the Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice.3 Subsequent scholarship has tended towards a dating in the late 1540s, after Titian's return to Venice from Rome.4 Pedrocco follows this line and argued that the motif of strongly-defined figures set against a luminous background landscape is typical of works dating from the period between Titian's return from Rome in June 1547 and his first trip to Augsburg in January 1548.5 Humfrey lent support to a date in the late 1540s but has also suggested that a later dating is equally plausible.6 In the last six months the exciting opportunity for scholars to examine the painting at firsthand has led to a general consensus that the painting must date from circa 1560, rather than earlier as previously thought.

Titian started painting Sacre Conversazioni early in his career, experimenting with a variety of different formats. His most traditional interpretation of the type, inherited from Bellini, was the half length frieze of standing figures close to the pictorial plane, typified in the Virgin and Child with Saints Dorothy and George, in the Prado, Madrid (Fig. 2).7 However, even early on in his career Titian was pioneering a new format of Sacra Conversazione, clearly influenced by the older Palma Vecchio's pastoral settings but combined with a new physiological treatment of the Madonna and Child which was to revolutionise the genre. His first experiment with this format came circa 1513-14 with his Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine and Dominic and a Donor, in the Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Parma (Fig. 3).8 The Madonna and Child are seated in a rustic setting with saints and a donor in attendance. Whilst this informal setting was not entirely new, Titian was to explore it with a single minded intensity that set him apart from his predecessors. Titian's most important innovation was his relaxed presentation of mother and baby and the informal way in which the group of figures commune. This Sacra Conversazione is not a stiff, hierarchical depiction of Mother of God and Saviour flanked by adoring saints but a real conversation between tangible, human figures.

Throughout the second and third decades of the century Titian continued to develop this innovative idea of the Sacra Conversazione as a depiction of human interaction within an informal setting. In his Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist dated circa 1517-20 on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh from the Duke of Sutherland (Fig. 4) one can see how far these ideas had developed over just a few years. The seated Madonna and Child are depicted as a loving mother with her wriggling, lively baby. Even Joseph and Saint John are depicted as truly human in the way the former reaches out to the playful Christ Child and the latter sits peacefully stroking his sheep.

Titian painted Sacra Conversazione compositions throughout his career and continued to explore new ways to increase the accessibility and emotional impact of his images through the humanity of his protagonists at the same time as retaining the religious significance of the genre. The present painting demonstrates how his understanding of the genre continued to evolve; as Titian's last known example of this type, it can be considered the culmination of his exploration of this theme. It has many of the same characteristics as the earlier Sacre Conversazioni but here, more profoundly than in any previous work, Titian has ensured that the focus of the painting is the 'conversation' taking place between Christ and Saint Catherine. Christ, as in the Sutherland picture, is depicted as a playful baby, slightly off-balance as He tips forward with arms outstretched towards Catherine. Christ is held securely by His mother as she looks down tenderly stabilising Him, preventing Him from toppling forward with a hand under His chest. The main focus here is the central group of the Madonna and Child and Saint Catherine and as Christ reaches out to Catherine so she reaches back to Him with a gentle gesture and a gaze that is at once both that of a young woman playing with a small child and that of a Saint gazing in awe at her God incarnate. The sensitivity and humanity with which these figures are depicted is a natural evolution from Titian's earlier Sacre Conversazioni and the resultant image is both emotional and accessible. Titian has also increased the size of the figures relative to the background landscape in a way not found in his earlier work. He still uses a curtain on the right to balance the image but the central group has been brought much closer to the pictorial plane. In the background he paints a far distant landscape in which the looming clouds and deep colours of the sky create an intense atmosphere not present in his previous compositions. Titian uses the same technique of depicting large figures close to the pictorial plane set against a mysterious far distant background in other works from this period such as the Annunciation in the church of San Salvador, Venice, dated to the early 1560s (Fig. 5). In both compositions Titian's intent is to use the enlarged figures and receded backgrounds to create an intense focus on the individuals. The shifting shapes of the background cannot hold one's attention for long so the gaze is repeatedly drawn back to Titian's central figure group.

Titian's maturity
By the time the present painting was executed Titian's career was at its height: he was over 70 years of age; he had reached a remarkable point in his career; and his international reputation was unparalleled. As a result of this in circa 1551 he had entered into an agreement with Philip II of Spain which allowed him to live and work in Venice whilst producing commissions for the Spanish heir and later king. This gave him a certain amount of financial independence and left him relatively free to choose his own subject matter whilst also allowing him to continue to accept other foreign and domestic commissions. It was rare that patrons allowed artists so much liberty of person or subject as Philip granted Titian and it was a mark of his unique creative status. The paintings Titian produced for Philip dominated these years and thus it is important to understand the present work in this context.

During the 1550s Titian embarked on a series of large, multi figured poesies or mythological scenes for Philip which included the Diana and Actaeon (Fig. 6) belonging to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh and the National Gallery, London and the Diana and Callisto on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh from the Duke of Sutherland.9 This series is widely regarded as amongst the greatest achievements of Titian's late career and the two aforementioned paintings were completed and ready to be shipped by September 1559. Despite this Titian did continue to take other commissions in these years, such as the present painting, and this escalating volume of work meant Titian increasingly relied on his studio for help in completing his paintings. Throughout his career Titian employed a large and highly sophisticated studio in which a number of assistants, often talented painters in their own right, helped him to varying degrees with his work. Identifiable hands within Titian's studio include his son Orazio Vecellio, relations Cesare and Marco Vecellio and Girolamo Denti.10 There has been much scholarly debate on the increasing extent of studio participation in Titian's late works from the 1550s until his death although actual intervention seems to have varied between individual compositions and was often dependent on Titian's perception of the importance of the patron.11

It is however clear that in the great majority of his later works from the 1550s onwards Titian employed his trusted assistants to work on peripheral areas of his compositions. Given that these assistants were taught to emulate their master's style and that the hand of Titian himself is often so inextricably interwoven with theirs, it is often extremely difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. Titian's hand is most strikingly in evidence in the present picture in the figures of the Virgin and Child and in the atmospheric sky and background. He clearly experimented with the position of the figure of Saint Catherine but whether he himself worked up the figure to its final level of finish must remain a matter of debate. Whilst the positioning and design of the figure of Saint Luke and the curtain must be Titian's, it seems more likely that these peripheral areas were completed by an assistant working under his supervision, in accordance with his usual practice at this time.

During these years to avoid overwork Titian was careful to accept other commissions only if they came from important religious or civic institutions or from important personages. The present painting is a rare exception. The Dondi dell'Orologio family were an important noble family in Padua but their influence did not extend throughout Italy. According to a tradition recorded by Sir Richard Worsley and later published by William Buchanan the present work was commissioned by 'Titian's friend the Chevalier Orologo of Padua'. 12 Although this individual member of the Dondi dall'Orologio family has not been traced and there is no further evidence of this recorded friendship one can hypothesise that it was the personal connection between the artist and the 'Chevalier Orologo' which lead Titian to accept the commission and to execute so much of the canvas himself rather than handing it over to his studio.

Titian's late style
The fullest account of the artist's technique comes from Marco Boschini who recorded Palma il Giovane's observations on Titian's working method:
"[he] blocked in his pictures with a mass of colours, which served as a bed or foundation for what he wished to express, and upon which he would then build. I myself have seen such underpainting, vigorously applied with a loaded brush, of pure red ochre, which would then serve as a middle ground; then with a stroke of white lead, with the same brush then dipped in red, black or yellow, he created the light and dark areas of the relief effect. And in this way with four strokes of the brush he was able to suggest a magnificent figure... After having thus established this crucial foundation, he turned the pictures to the wall and left them there, without looking at them for several months. When he later returned to them, he scrutinized them as though they were his mortal enemies, in order to discover any faults; and if he did find anything that did not accord with his intentions, like a surgeon treating a patient, he would remove some swelling or excess flesh, set an arm if the bone were out of joint, or adjust a foot if it were misshapen, without the slightest pity for the victim. By thus operating on and re-forming these figures, he brought them to the highest degree of perfection . . . and then, while that picture was drying, he turned to another. And he gradually covered with living flesh those bare bones, going over them repeatedly until all they lacked was breath itself.... For the final touches he would blend the transitions from highlights to halftones with his fingers, blending one tint with another, or with a smear of his finger he would apply a dark accent in some corner to strengthen it, or with a dab of red, like a drop of blood, he would enliven some surface—in this way bringing his animated figures to completion. . . . In the final stages he painted more with his fingers than with the brush".13

By this point in his career Titian had entirely mastered the medium of oil paint and perfected his subtle manipulation of colour. During the 1550s one can detect a notable change in his work as he moves towards a more painterly, freer way of expressing himself. When Vasari's described Titian's late style he spoke of the artist building up his canvases through a series of macchie (blots), touch and 'bold strokes...dashed off with a broad and even coarse sweep of the brush'.14

The present work was executed during this exciting phase in Titian's career when he was developing his late style and moving away from the carefully delineated canvases of his youth. Here, as with many paintings from this decade, one can see Titian exploiting the versatility of his medium and moving towards a much looser application of paint. The macchie and blended halftones Boschini writes of are used by Titian in the present work particularly to build up the landscape and sky in the centre and left distance. He breaks down the outlines and in a series of brief, spontaneous brushstrokes creates an impression of form in the indistinct and tremulous shapes (see detail opposite). Titian experimented with this breaking down of the paint surface in his works of the 1550s and beyond. In backgrounds of the Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon one can find the same mysterious far distances, urgent colours and fragmentary shapes.

In the present work this summary use of paint and freeing up in application was used by Titian in a graduated fashion to organise the pictorial plane. The figures of the Madonna and Child and Saint Catherine are carefully defined through sculpturally modelled contours and precise highlights and thus clearly occupy the immediate foreground. The figure of Saint Luke and the curtain are executed with softer lines and a slight blurring of form that places them a register behind the front figures and the loose paint application and breakdown of lines in the landscape and sky puts it firmly in the far distance.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, until his death in 1576, Titian continued to explore the possibilities inherent in his new freer application of paint and by the end of his career his works were becoming increasingly sketchy and abstract not just in the backgrounds but also in the foreground figures. This has led critics to argue that some of his final works such as the Flaying of Marsyas, Archbishop's Palace, Kroměříž (Fig. 7) of circa 1570-6 are incomplete.15 However, the presence of his signature on the Kroměříž painting seems to suggest that Titian regarded it as finished and thus the sketchy quality of the work should be seen as the culmination of the breakdown of form and emphasis on the painted surface such as one starts to see in the background of the present work.

It is clear that Titian used both composition and medium to define the space within the present canvas however his use of colour also played an important part. Colour had always been of primary importance to Titian and throughout his career he continually experimented with different juxtapositions, shades and hues. One of the defining characteristics of his late style, and particularly evident in the present work, is the way he started to use colour no longer simply to animate the composition but rather as the defining agent to guide one through the narrative. Gone are the blockish brighter colours of his youthful works and in their place Titian has used a deeper, more muted palette in which closely interrelated hues of pink, orange, red and brown predominate. Both the deep pinkish mauve of the Virgin's dress and the peach like pink of Catherine's dress are echoed in the darker tones of Saint Luke garments. These different shades of pink are picked up in the individual skin tones and whilst the Madonna's cheeks are a cooler pink Saint Catherine's skin tones originate in a warmer, ruddier base. These tones are used in an extremely sophisticated way to define the composition and focus attention on the central figure of the Christ Child, who is wrapped in a white cloth with pearly pinkish white skin. In the sky all these different tones of pink, peach, mauve and white are synthesised to create a series of shimmering iridescent lines above the horizon. Titian's subtle differentiation between the skin tones of his protagonist means the nearly naked Christ naturally draws the eye and if one's gaze wanders upwards into the sky the looming clouds above with their pink highlights force the eye back down through the landscape to focus on Christ once more. This movement throughout the composition is not dependant on colour alone but is enforced by Titian's carefully constructed network of gaze and gesture: as Mary gazes at Christ so He reaches towards Catherine who by her kneeling position and outstretched arm firmly returns to focus to Christ. Saint Luke acts as a framing device on the left, as the curtain does on the right.

The Evolution of the Composition
X-radiographs of the painting reveal numerous changes and pentimenti to the composition, notably in an area on and around Saint Catherine in the centre of the painting (Figs. 8 and 9). Catherine's positioning appears to have shifted upwards slightly and a profile is faintly visible beneath her gently turned face. Considerable pentimenti and scuffling can be seen in the X-ray and there appear to be some unresolved areas to the left and right of Catherine's raised hand, visible to the naked eye. It is clear that Titian was experimenting with different solutions for this 'conversation' between Catherine and Christ, intended as the focal point of the picture .The male saint to the left seems to have been painted before Saint Catherine; his sleeve clearly passes through her head in the X-ray. The identity of this figure has been the subject of much debate: he has been variously identified as Saint Paul, Saint Luke and Joseph. The X-rays reveal the head of a bull in the lower left corner; a symbol normally associated with Saint Luke. However, by the time the painting entered the collection of Sir Richard Worsley the bull was not longer evident. It was however clearly intended to be visible in the 16th century for a near-contemporary variant of the composition possibly originating in Titian's studio, in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court includes the same bull's head.16 The figure of Saint Catherine has been replaced with that of a male donor in the Hampton Court picture and it is quite possible that the present work was also originally intended to include a donor portrait, which was changed to Catherine at a late stage. The painting has always been described as 'The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine' but as the Christ Child does not hold a ring and if the male figure is indeed Saint Luke the painting's subject lies within the more traditional representation of a Sacra Conversazione.

Colour, gesture, gaze, composition, paint application and manipulation of pictorial space were all used by Titian to ensure the central focus of the painting remained the gesture between Christ and Saint Catherine, and on a wider level the central group of the Madonna and Child and Saint. This particularly distinctive central group caught the eye of Sir Anthony van Dyck who saw the painting during his travels through Italy in the 1620s and made a sketch of it in his 'Italian Sketchbook' formerly at Chatsworth and today in the British Museum, London (Fig. 10).17 The sketchbook was compiled between the autumn of 1622 and that of 1627 and is a 'precious, scarcely matched record of Van Dyck's travels in his 20s, as well as of intimations of lost works in painting or drawing, highlighting his tastes and the range of his interests developed South of the Alps'.18 He left Antwerp and travelled first to Genoa, where he stayed with the Flemish artist brothers Lucas and Cornelis de Wael, making a second stop in Padua, where he is likely to have seen the present picture. He also travelled to Venice, Rome, Florence, Bologna and Palermo, noting sketches, ricordi, annotating names of artists as well as lists of owners and locations, many of which were from the Veneto. Indeed the sketchbook testifies to Van Dyck's predilection for 16th-century Venetian art and, in particular, for Titian whose name appears almost sixty times alongside various sketches.19 The drawings in the sketchbook are not sequential so reconstructing Van Dyck's route through Italy based on the whereabouts at that time of the works he copied is extremely problematic. The present painting was almost certainly in Padua when Van Dyck saw and copied it but the figure of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness that appears further up on the same sheet, taken from Titian's painting in the National Gallery, London, was copied when that picture hung in the Aldobrandini collection in Rome (where it was from 1603). The figure of Saint John was clearly drawn first, not only because of its positioning further up on the page but more importantly because Saint Catherine's head is drawn around John's right foot rather than beneath or over it. This would suggest that Van Dyck travelled first to Rome and then to Padua but this is not thought to be the case. In any event, the interaction between the three figures in Titian's painting inspired Van Dyck enough for him to make a copy after it in his precious sketchbook.

According to tradition, as specified by its former owners Sir Richard Worsely, Lucien Bonaparte and later reported by William Buchanan in the early 19th century (1824), this picture was painted for 'Titian's friend the Chevalier Orologi of Padua'; that is the Dondi dell'Orologio family. The painting presumably passed by inheritance through the generations until the last decade of the 18th century when it was acquired directly from the family by Worsley.20 The Dondi dell'Orologio family were important members of the Paduan nobility dating back to at least the fourteenth century when a Giovanni Dondi dell'Orologio, professor at Padua's world-renowned university, created one of Italy's first astrological clocks; something which led to him and his descendants being called 'dell'Orologio'.21 A full-length statue of Giovanni Dondi by the Paduan sculptor Francesco Rizzi was erected in Prato della Valle in 1778, upon the instigation of the Marchesi Giovanni, Antonio and Francesco Dondi dell'Orologio. Dondi is shown full-length, in 14th-century costume, holding a compass in his right hand and a sphere with signs of the zodiac in his left (an obvious reference to his astrological clock).

Although it had previously been thought that the painting was probably acquired directly from the Dondi dell'Orologio family by Napoleon's brother, Lucien Bonaparte, in whose collection it was by 1804, recent research by Mr Jonathan Yarker has proven otherwise and we are grateful to Mr Yarker for sharing his, as yet, unpublished research with us.22 Mr. Yarker has shown that the painting was actually acquired from the Dondi dell'Orologio family by the English politician, diplomat and antiquary Sir Richard Worsley (1751-1805) during his time in Venice as the last British Resident (Fig. 11). After the very public breakdown of his marriage in England, Worsley withdrew from political life and travelled extensively during the 1780's through Europe and the Levant visiting Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and the Crimea. He amassed a fine collection of ancient Greek sculpture, ancient Roman marbles and other antiquities for his house Appuldurcombe on the Isle of White.23 On his return to England in 1790 he re-entered politics and in 1793 was appointed British Resident of Venice, a position he held until Venice's annexation by France in 1797. During his time in Venice he was an avid collector of paintings and took advantage of the unstable political situation to acquire some magnificent works at depressed wartime prices.24 The 1797 inventory of 'movables' he made on his departure includes works by Paris Bordone, Tintoretto, Veronese, Palma Giovane, Giovanni Bellini and Canaletto and well as six Titians.25 In the same inventory Worsley was effusive in his praise of Titian:
"The works of this sublime master are so numerous and many of them so beautiful that no Panegyric whatsoever can give them additional merit. When Titian chose to show the greatest of his genius and the wonderful perfection of his art he painted half figures, generally chusing Religious subjects".26
The present painting is listed as having been purchased directly from the family of the "Cavalear Dondi d'Oralogio of Padua" for 200 sequins (almost double the price paid for any other painting in the entire list).27 Worlsey also acquired Titian's Supper at Emmaus (Fig. 12) during his period in Venice and it still in the hand of his descendants, the Earls of Yarbrough.28 However The Supper at Emmaus must have been shipped back to England separately as it does not feature on the list of 'movables' and we know it was safely hanging in Worlsey's London house by 1803. When Worsley returned to England in 1797 he left the inventoried items, including the present painting, behind in Venice to be shipped at a later date. However in September 1801 Worsley received word from an Edward Bedingfeld in Malaga lamenting the fact that "as a fatal consequence of the present war" a French privateer had captured the ship transporting the rest of his collection to England and had brought it into port where he had put the contents up for sale.29 The entire collection, including the present painting, was purchased "on very moderate terms" by the painter Guillaume Guillon-Lethière on behalf of Lucien Bonaparte and Worlsey was only able to reclaim the antiquities by paying the French bounty on them.

Lucien Bonaparte (Fig. 13) was an avid collector and his central involvement in the political upheavals of the Peninsular Wars afforded him ample opportunity to build up one of the most prestigious collections of the 19th century. He was Minister for the Arts under the Napoleonic regime, priding himself on his connoisseurship, and in 1800 he was appointed Ambassador to Madrid. There he began to form a collection, with the help of Guillon Lethière, and famously acquired Velázquez's Lady with the Fan (now in the Wallace Collection, London). He patronised contemporary French artists, owning works by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, François-Xavier Fabre, Antonio Canova, Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Dominique Ingres and Pierre-Narcisse Guérin among others. There were numerous Italian paintings in his collection including works by Lorenzo Lotto (Portrait of Giovanni della Volta and his Family in the National Gallery, London); Raphael (The Madonna of the Candelabra in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore); Annibale Carracci (The Three Maries at the Tomb in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg); Bronzino (thought at the time to be by Sebastiano del Piombo) and Bernardo Luini (thought at the time to be by Leonardo da Vinci). Titian, however, seems to have been a particular favourite of the Prince's for he owned no fewer than nine paintings attributed to the artist, including the present work.30 Titian's Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and Luke (known at the time as The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine) was considered a masterpiece and undoubtedly one of the highlights of his collection: in 1812 and 1822 Lucien published an engraving of the painting by Pietro Fontana.31 By 1804 the Prince was living in self-imposed exile in Rome and the painting is listed in an inventory of his collection drawn up in June of the same year.32 He was living in the Palazzo Lancellotti at via dei Coronari, a guest of his maternal uncle Cardinal Joseph Fesch; also an avid collector. Fesch was always criticised by his nephew for buying large quantities of pictures – disparagingly referred to by Bonaparte as his 'tableaumanie' – whilst the latter prided himself on being more selective than his uncle. In 1806 Bonaparte bought the Palazzo Nuñez at via Bocca di Leone and moved there with his family and collection. It was largely between 1804 and 1810 that Bonaparte put his collection together in Rome with the help of Vincenzo Pacetti, an artist-dealer-restorer who acted as mediator for him during this period. He acquired paintings from private aristocratic collections and was able to purchase masterpieces from Prince Vincenzo Giustiniani: among them Poussin's Massacre of the Innocents (Musée Condé, Chantilly), Sofonisba Anguissola's Game of Chess (Museum Narodowe, Poznán) and Gerrit van Honthorst's Christ before the High Priest (National Gallery, London), all of which are mentioned in a letter from James Irvine to William Buchanan, dated 30 June 1804.33

In 1810 Bonaparte was exiled to England where he remained for another four years, before returning to France and Italy. Around this time he started to face growing financial difficulties and in 1814, 198 pictures from his collection, including the present painting, were sent to London to be exhibited and sold privately by William Buchanan.34 The exhibition took place at Buchanan's gallery, The New Gallery, at 60 Pall Mall, with a catalogue published to accompany it in which the Titian was described in glowing terms: "This chef-d'œuvre of fine colouring was painted for his friend the Chevalier Orologi of Padua. In it is to be found all that can be desired of the master, while it seems to possess not only those qualities inherent in Titian, but also those which are attributable to the best works of Correggio. – As a perfect work of the Venetian School, it demands the most attentive examination". The exhibition was apparently greeted with disappointment by connoisseurs and public alike; something Buchanan himself attributed to Bonaparte's having withdrawn twenty of the most famous paintings from his collection. A book on Bonaparte's collection, published in 1812 in London, was clearly produced to publicise his collection prior to the exhibition: this is further confirmed by the fact that the book was for sale at Buchanan's exhibition for the price of 6 guineas. When the exhibition proved unsuccessful the group of pictures was offered at auction the following year at Mr. Stanley's, 29 St. James's Street. The Titian was the final lot (lot 176) and was the most highly-valued item in the three-day sale (750 guineas), being valued at three times more than Titian's The Allegory of Prudence in the National Gallery, London, and 50 guineas more than Raphael's Madonna of the Candelabra in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. It was described as: "The Marriage of St. Catharine... The landscape, forming the Back-ground, is in perfect unison both for Design and Effect, and is illuminated by splendid Clouds, that serve to connect all the Lights into one grand and powerful mass... This inestimable Chef-d'œuvre was painted expressly for the Artist's friend, Chevalier Orologi, and is a superb Specimen of the powers of the Prince of the Venetian School: on Canvass, 4 feet 10 by 5 feet 6."

The painting is next recorded in the collection of the Conservative politician and financier Sir John Rae Reid (1781-1867). Reid was the son of Elizabeth Goodfellow and Sir Thomas Reid of Ewell Grove, Surrey, whom he succeeded in the baronetcy in 1824. Reid was the MP for Dover, Kent, from 1830 to 1831 and again from 1832 to 1847. He later became a Director and Governor of the Bank of England. Though it is not known how or when he acquired the picture it was certainly in his possession by 1829; the year in which he lent it to the British Institution (Fig. 14).

The painting subsequently entered the illustrious Desborough collection, having been acquired by Charles Pascoe Grenfell some time before 1857; the year in which he lent it to an exhibition in Manchester (see under Exhibited). Charles Pascoe bought Taplow Court in 1852 and commissioned the architect William Burn to remodel it in its present early-Tudor style. The estate, dominated by the red-brick Victorian mansion, is located on the river Thames near Maidenhead and has been home to a lay Buddhist society since 1988 (Fig. 15). In 1867 the estate was inherited by Charles Pascoe's grandson William Henry, whose father Charles William had died in 1861. William Henry Grenfell was raised to peerage as the first (and last) Baron Desborough in 1905; the same year in which his wife Ethel (Ettie) née Fane was bequeathed the Panshanger Estate in Hertfordshire from her childless uncle, the seventh and last Earl Cowper.

The seventh (and last) Earl Cowper, Francis Thomas de Grey's (1834-1905) marriage to Katrine Cecilia (1845-1913) was happy but childless and so they virtually adopted the Earl's niece, Ethel (Ettie) Fane, following the death of his sister and brother-in-law in 1870. It was to Ettie to whom he left Panshanger and its magnificent collections. The main gallery at Panshanger, as it stood in 1936, was hung with some of the notable pictures from the collection: masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Van Dyck, Panini, Velázquez, Fra Bartolommeo, Carlo Dolci, Stubbs and Zoffany were among them.35 However Baron and Lady Desborough continued to live at Taplow Court and only visited Panshanger two or three times a year. Ettie Desborough was the most famous society hostess of her age. She frequently hosted meetings of the celebrated aristocratic, political and literary figures known as "The Souls" at the Desborough residence of Taplow Court, with visitors including Henry Irving, Vita Sackville-West, Edward VII, H.G. Wells, Edith Wharton and Oscar Wilde. Lady Desborough had three sons and a daughter and although the succession and survival of Taplow Court and Panshanger with their grand collection of art seemed secure, it was not to be: two of her sons were killed in the First World War and the third in a car accident in 1926, leaving no obvious heir to the estate. The sale of Lady Desborough's estates followed shortly after her death in May 1952. Taplow Court was bought by Plessey Electronics and Panshanger was sold, along with 89 acres of the park, to a demolition contractor for £17,750 and was subsequently destroyed in 1953-54. A portion of the art collection passed to Lady Desborough's daughter, Alexandra Imogen Clair Grenfell (known as Lady Imogen), who married the 6th Viscount Gage in 1931 and lived at his seat, Firle Place in Sussex. Her share of the art, consisting mainly of French furniture and important Dutch and English pictures, arrived in 1954 and the rest of Panshanger's contents were sold at Christie's in the same year (see provenance).

Copies after the composition in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland, Syon House, Brentford, and with a Mr. Hope are recorded, by Collins Baker as after the Hampton Court picture, and by Wethey as after the present painting. Other versions of the Hampton Court picture include that sold, London, Christie's, 3 July 1953, lot 26 (125 by 168 cm.), and another in the Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas (129.5 by 170 cm.). A copy of the Hampton Court painting by Peter Oliver, signed and dated 1639, is in the Royal Library at Windsor.

1. W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting, London 1824, vol. II, pp. 278, 291 in reference the present work.
2. R. Goffen, Giovanni Bellini, London 1989, p. 174, reproduced fig. 131.
3. W. Suida, "Miscellanea Tizianesca, IV", in Arte Veneta, vol. 13-14, 1959-60, pp. 65-66, H.E. Wethey, The Complete Paintings of Titian. I. The Religious Paintings, London 1969, p. 107. Both paintings have more recently been dated to slightly later in the 1560s by Peter Humfrey: see P. Humfrey, Titian. The Complete Paintings, London 2007, p. 319, cat. no. 248, and p. 332, cat. no. 259, both reproduced in colour. The Madonna and Child is not unanimously accepted as an autograph work though Humfrey does include it in his recent catalogue raisonné.
4. R. Pallucchini, Tiziano, Florence 1969, p. 287.
5. F. Pedrocco, Titian. The Complete Paintings, London & New York 2001, p. 205, cat. no. 152.
6. Humfrey, op. cit., p. 242.
7. Ibid., p. 95, no. 54 reproduced.
8. Ibid., p. 76, no. 36 reproduced.
9. See W.R. Rearick, 'Titian's Later Mythologies', in Artibus et Historiae, vol. 17, 1996, pp. 23-67.
10. G. Tagliaferro et al., Le Botteghe di Tiziano, Florence 2009, pp. 73-109.
11. Ibid., p. 128 reproduced fig. 65.
12. W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting, London 1824, vol. II, p. 278, no. 113, and p. 291, no. 119.
13. Trans D. Rosand in 'Titian and the Critical Tradition' in Titian: His World and His Legacy, D. Rosand ed., New York 1982, p. 24.
14. Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, trans. G. du C. de Vere, vol. II, London 1996, p. 794.
15. Humfrey, op. cit., p. 363, no. 289 reproduced.
16. Inv. 1271, 121.5 by 171 cm.; see The Early Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Cambridge 1983, p. 175, under cat. no. 176, reproduced plate 156, as 'Attributed to Palma Giovane', following a suggestion by Philip Pouncey. Acquired by Charles I in 1637 as a Titian and recorded by Van der Doort in the Square Table Room at Whitehall as such; Van der Doort, 1639, Millar ed., 1960, p. 21, no. 8. The picture was previously considered by Berenson as a product of Titian's workshop (though he had initially thought it might be a ruined but autograph picture), and by Suida as an autograph work by Titian dating from circa 1550, about a decade after the present painting.
17. Inv. no. BM 1957-12-14-207, fol. 12 recto; 205 by 165 mm., pen and brown ink on vellum. See G. Adriani, Anton van Dyck. Italienisches Skizzenbuch, Vienna 1965, p. 13, reproduced plate 12 (where the sketch is described as after a 'lost' painting by Titian). The drawing was more recently published in M. Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of North European Drawings, vol. I, Turin 2002, p. 80, under no. 1008 12 b.
18. Ibid., p. 71.
19. Van Dyck labelled his sketch after the present painting 'titian', as he did the figure of St. John the Baptist on the same sheet.
20. See Buchanan, op. cit., vol. II, p. 278, no. 113, and p. 291, no. 119. A painting of similar subject is listed in the inventory of the Paduan residence of Galeazzo Dondi dell'Orologio, drawn up on 2 January 1750 ("quadro Sposalizio della Madonna, sive S. Cattarina, soaza pero nera"; see C.A. Levi ed., Le Collezioni Veneziane d'Arte e d'Antichità dal secolo XIV ai Nostri Giorni, Venice 1900, p. 221) but the omission of any mention of Saint Luke or Titian makes an identification with the present painting unlikely.
21. A full-length effigy of Giovanni Dondi is among the 78 statues in the square of Prato della Valle in Padua. The clock was destroyed by fire in 1344 and a reconstruction of it now dominates the Piazza dei Signori in Padua.
22. Mr. Yarker will be publishing his research in an article entitled 'The last Resident: Richard Worsley, Lucien Bonaparte and his collection of Venetian Paintings' in the Burlington Magazine next year.
23. J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, London 1997, p. 1019.
24. L. Borean, 'Richard Worsley' in L. Borean and S. Mason, Il collezionismo d'arte a Venezia. Il Settecento, Vencie 2009, p. 315.
25. Worsley MSS. 42.
26. Worsley MSS. 42, p. 40.
27. Worsley MSS. 42, p. 40.
28. H.E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian, vol. I, London 1969, pp. 160-1, no. 142, plate 87.
29. Worsley MSS. 55/18.
30. Also in Lucien Bonaparte's collection was the enigmatic Allegory of Prudence today in the National Gallery, London.
31. See M. Natoli ed., Luciano Bonaparte: le sue collezioni d'arte, le sua residenze a Roma, nel Lazio, in Italia, 1804-1840, Rome 1995, p. 288, no. 73, reproduced.
32. R. Carloni, in M. Natoli ed., ibid, p. 41, who cites a document in the Archivio di Stato di Roma, 1804, Camerale II, Antichità e Belle Arti, busta 7, fasc. 204.
33. See F. Haskell, Rediscoveries in art: some aspects of taste, fashion and collecting in England and France, London 1978, p. 33.
34. The growing financial pressure led Lucien Bonaparte to dispose of Villa Rufinella at Frascati in 1820 (he had acquired it in 1804) and Palazzo Nuñez in 1823.
35. Amongst the paintings visible in the photograph: Van Dyck's Portrait of Count Johannes of Nassau-Siegen and his family passed to Lady Desborough's daughter, Lady Imogen, and today hangs at Firle Place in Sussex (see E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck, Düsseldorf, 1988, p. 339, cat. no. 915); Gian Paolo Panini's Interior of St. Peter's in Rome was sold at Christie's, London, 2 December 1977, lot 89 (see F. Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini, Rome 1986, p. 339, cat. no. 217, reproduced in colour plate 113); Fra Bartolommeo's Rest on the Flight into Egypt with St. John the Baptist is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Carlo Dolci's Saint Joseph and the Christ Child was sold and was with Whitfield Gallery Ltd., London, in 1995 (see F. Baldassari, Carlo Dolci, Turin 1995, p. 59, cat. no. 27, reproduced in color plate IX).

Claude-Joseph Vernet’s monumental canvas, Grand View of the Sea Shore Enriched with Buildings, Shipping and Figures, was sought after by more than six bidders before selling for $7,026,500, many multiples of the high estimate of $2 million and a new record for the artist at auction.


Claude-Joseph Vernet (Avignon 1714 - 1789 Paris), A Grand View of the Sea Shore Enriched with Buildings, Shipping and Figures. Photo: Sotheby's

signed and dated lower left: J Vernet f./1776, oil on canvas, 64 by 102 3/4 in.; 162.6 by 261 cm. Estimate 1,500,000—2,000,000 USD. Lot Sold 7,026,500 USD

PROVENANCE: Commissioned from the artist by William (Fitzmaurice) Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, later 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805), on 21 October 1774;
His deceased sale, Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London, 19-20 March 1806, lot 40, to Robert, Earl Grosvenor, for 185 guineas;
Robert, 2nd Earl Grosvenor, later 1st Marquess of Westminster (1767-1845);
Thence by family descent to Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 3rd Marquess of Westminster, later 1st Duke of Westminster (1825-1899);
Thence by family descent to William Grosvenor, 3rd Duke of Westminster (1894-1963);
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 24 June 1959, lot 18 (as A View of the Port of Genoa, with figures on the quay and shipping in the harbour), to Agnew, for £4,000;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, London;
Acquired by Max Aitken, 1st Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964) in 1962, and thence to the present ownership

EXHIBITED: Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Exhibition of Art Treasures, Art in Dispute, 1 July 2005-5 March 2006.

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: J. Young, A Catalogue of the Pictures at Grosvenor House, London 1820, p. 42;
L. Lagrange, Joseph Vernet et la peinture au XVIIIe siecle, Paris 1864, pp. 351-52, no. 263 and p. 369, nos. 183, 185 and 190;
F. Ingersoll-Smouse, Joseph Vernet, Peintre de Marine, Paris 1926, vol. II, pp. 26-7, cat. no. 990-1;
I. G. Lumsden, C. J. Collins, L. Glenn, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery Collection: Selected Works, Fredericton 2000, p. 38, reproduced in color, p. 57;
S. Donovan, ed., The Nashwaak Review, vol. 16/17, 2006, no. 1, reproduced in color on back cover.

NOTE: On the 21st October 1774, William Petty, Earl of Shelburne (see fig. 1), accompanied by the Abbé Morellet, visited Vernet in his studio and commissioned a pair of grand views. One was a stormy landscape and the other "a peaceful seascape at sunset, with handsome buildings, and several gallant figures, such as Turks, Greeks, etc."1 The size was to be comparable to the Ports of France, Vernet's most important paintings, commissioned by Louis XV and executed between 1753 and 1765. The price was to be determined by Morellet, a well-known figure in society, famous for his acid tongue, and a member of the Académie Française. In the event, the cost of the pair was 15,000 livres tournois, or approximately £1,125.

This was a very significant commission for Vernet, for a number of reasons. One was the status of patron himself: Shelburne was a collector of antiquities and modern paintings and a well known figure in society and politics. His commissioning the pair of paintings would enhance Vernet's reputation in Britain and could win him further business from the aristocracy. Another was the scale of the pictures themselves, for Vernet had not attempted anything of this size since The Ports of France. A cache of five letters from Vernet to Lord Shelburne, three receipts and several sketches for frames provide us with first hand evidence of just how important this commission was to Vernet and how even a most celebrated painter was dependent on public opinion.2 In the first two letters, dated 20 May and 21 June 1775, he proposed sending the pendant to A Grand View of the Sea Shore to the forthcoming Salon in Paris, to which Lord Shelburne agreed. Then on 12 October 1775 (see figs. 2-4), Vernet recounted what transpired:

The painting, which I have the honor of sending you, was exhibited at the Salon du Louvre for more than a month. I do not dare say how pleased the knowledgeable public was, but my vanity was flattered more than I had dared hope and more than I think I deserve. However I cannot pretend that I am not susceptible to the praise and that for me it is the highest of rewards. All accounts of my work published thus far have been positive.

Because the duty on importing picture frames into Britain was extremely high, Vernet suggested that Lord Shelburne have them made locally. He was very concerned, however, that the frames do justice to his pictures and devoted large sections of his letters to what they should look like and how they should be made. He wanted them to be in the same style as those made for the king (presumably for the Ports of France) and to this end he sent descriptions and sketches for the English frame makers to follow (see fig. 5).

In the October letter he expained to Lord Shelburne how he intended to ship the unframed pendant to England, and the correct procedure for dealing with it when it arrived3 :

The painting I have the honor of sending you is safely rolled on a pole; as soon as you receive it, it should be put on a stretcher and if it has gotten dusty wash it with clean water and a sponge to remove the egg white I have put on it. Let it dry twenty-four hours and have someone who knows how, put on a coat of egg white.... I would also like the frame to be ready for the arrival of the paintng I am honored to send you, in order for it to be put on right away, because, as the Italians say "La Cornice e Ruffiana del quadro"4

Unfortunately the original frame has been lost, probably in the early twentieth century. The painting itself has come down to us in remarkable condition due, no doubt, to the fact that it changed hands so few times since it was painted and belonged to collectors who fully understood its quality and value. The beauty of the surface in concert with the scale of the work draws the viewer into this imaginary harbor. The sun is nearing the horizon and its light reflects off the clouds above and the water below. Although the pennants are waving in a breeze, there is a kind of stillness and softness in the air, a silvery pink glow, that is characteristic of Vernet at his best.

A Further Note on the Provenance
William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, who commissioned A Grand View of the Sea Shore and kept it until his death, began collecting while he was in his early 30s. In 1771, in the wake of the death of his first wife, he left England to make a tour of the Continent, at which time he first became acquainted with the Abbé Morellet. While in Rome he met Gavin Hamilton, the painter, art dealer and amateur archaeologist, who encouraged Shelburne in his plans to remodel his house in Berkeley Square (later called Lansdowne house) as a showcase for antique sculpture and works by "the most celebrated painters now living."5 Lord Shelburne later broadened his program to include earlier artists and put together a collection that included, among others, Leonardo's Madonna of the Rocks, now in the National Gallery, London, and Rubens's Adoration of the Magi, King's College, Cambridge.

Shelburne returned to London to resume his political career, eventually rising to Prime Minister in 1782, and spent most of that summer negotiating a peace agreement with the former American colonies. However, his tenure lasted only eight months, and although he then served in the House of Lords, his political career was effectively over. He was named Marquess of Lansdowne two years later in recognition of service to his country. He died in 1805 and most of his paintings were sold the following spring to cover his financial debts.

Robert Grosvenor, 2nd Earl Grosvenor, purchased A Grand View of the Sea Shore at that auction, along with Rubens's Adoration of the Magi.6 He had inherited a substantial picture collection at the death of his father in 1802 and then acquired the entire Welbore Agar Ellis collection for 30,000 guineas. The latter included Velazquez's Riding School, still in the family's collection, and a remarkable group of landscapes by Claude Lorrain. The Grosvenor family seat was in Cheshire, but they also owned substantial property in London, including most of what is now Belgravia, Mayfair and Pimlico. Their London house was in Millbank, but in 1805 Lord Grosvenor bought a house in Upper Grosvenor Street that had a sufficiently large gallery to hold his rapidly growing collection. He renovated the gallery in 1807-08, but in 1818 he purchased Rubens's tapestry designs for The Triumph of the Eucharist, now in the Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida, the scale of which necessitated the enlargement of the gallery. In 1820, when John Young published a catalogue of the collection, noting the present work as hanging in the dining room, the collection was among the greatest London collections of the period, and a paradigm of aristocratic taste.

The painting remained in the family until 1959, when it was sold by Sotheby's London. It was purchased by Thomas Agnew & Sons, from whom it was acquired by Lord Beaverbrook in 1962. Sir Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, was famous as a politician, newspaper magnate and supporter of the arts. He was born in Maple, Ontario, in 1879 and after having made a fortune from the cement industry in Canada, moved to England and was elected to the House of Commons in 1910. He became leader of the Conservative Party the following year, and was subsequently one of only three people to serve in the Cabinet during both World War I and World War II. Concurrent with his political triumphs was his transformation of the British newspaper industry. Having previously acquired the London Evening Standard, in 1916 he bought a controlling interest in the floundering Daily Express. In 1918 he founded the Sunday Express and acquired the Glasgow Evening Citizen. Through a combination of remarkable business acumen and innovative though sometimes controversial journalism, he built a newspaper empire and transformed the lowly Daily Express into the newspaper with the widest circulation in the world.

Beaverbrook brought the same energy to his activities in the art world as he did to the political and newspaper arenas. He was a friend and patron of Graham Sutherland and supported many lesser known artists through his newspapers. He was also a great benefactor of the National Gallery of Canada, and helped build their collection of historical paintings. In 1959 he opened the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick, thus realizing another of his great ambitions: to establish a museum in the province where he grew up.

Emilie Beck Saiello has confirmed the attribution of the present lot on the basis of photographs and will publish it in the catalogue raisonné she is completing for the late Philip Conisbee.

1. L. Lagrange, pp. 351-52, "l'autre une mer tranquille au coucher du soleil, avec des beaux édifices; quelques figures nobles comme Turcs, Grecques, etc."
2. The documents and sketches are preserved in the Shelburne archive, which has generously allowed us to read them and reproduce selections here.
3. There is no discussion of how the present work was sent, but presumably it was also rolled.
4. The Italian can be understood to mean "the frame makes the picture" but Vernet's phrase is rather more earthy and can literally be translated as "the frame pimps for the picture."
5. J. Ingamells, compiler, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, New Haven and London 1997, p. 852.
6. The buyer of the pendant is not recorded, though Ingersoll-Smouse (see Literature, p. 27) suggests it might have been in the collection of the King of Naples. She reproduces it in her catalogue as being in the collection of Marc Promis, a Bordeaux wine merchant who bought Chateau Giscours in 1825. He sold the property some 22 years later and we have found no record of where the painting is now.

Adam and Eve, a previously unknown Mannerist work by Joachim Anthonisz Wtewael, inspired heated competition driving the final selling price to $6,242,500, more than five times the high estimate of $1.8 million, and a new record for the artist at auction.


Joachim Anthonisz. Wtewael (Utrecht 1566 - 1638), Adam and Eve. Photo: Sotheby's

Inscribed in an old hand on the reverse of the copper: Ioach: Wtewael and painted with initials GM in a later hand. The reverse also scored with a large X and a small circle, oil on copper, unframed, 15 1/8 by 11 5/16 in.; 38.5 by 28.7 cm. Estimate 800,000—1,200,000 USD. Lot Sold 6,242,500 USD

PROVENANCE: In a European private collection during 20th century.

NOTE: A perfect Mannerist demonstration of facility and grace, this remarkable copper was previously unknown and has only now come to light. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Dutch Mannerism was out of favor, and Wtewael and its other proponents had fallen into obscurity; the painting was then considered to be the work of Jan Brueghel the Elder. Given our greater knowledge of the period, it is now clear that Adam and Eve was painted by Joachim Wtewael, an attribution confirmed by Anne Lowenthal, who will include it in the forthcoming addendum to her monograph on the artist.

Representations of Adam and Eve or the Fall of Man in Northern art throughout the sixteenth and early seventeenth century all ultimately reflect the influence of Albrecht Dürer's engraving of 1504 (fig. 1). From the time of its inception it was considered a masterpiece and was copied throughout Europe in prints, drawings and paintings. Even in 1592, nearly 80 years after the publication of the print, Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, Wtewael's slightly older contemporary, used it as the basis for his over life-sized painting commissioned for the Haarlem Town Hall. There Dürer's figures are literally expanded to conform to the exaggerated body type preferred by Cornelisz., but their origin is clear. In the present work Dürer's influence is more subtle, but we can see its echoes in the snake coiling around the branch, the large, elegant parrot and even Eve's holding not one but two apples. However, Wtewael has profoundly changed the composition, abandoning the classicizing symmetry and transforming the moment of temptation into a truly sensuous scene.

The subject is subtly different as well. Lowenthal notes that the inclusion of so many animals in a composition depicting Adam and Eve with the Serpent, suggests a conflation of the theme of The Temptation with an earlier moment in Genesis, Adam Naming the Animals; it is an approach Wtewael also took in a large canvas formerly in the General von Fabricius collection, Kiev.1 In doing so, Wtewael may well have been inspired by an engraving by Jan Saenredam after Abraham Bloemaert, from a series of six prints depicting The History of Adam and Eve of 1604. 2 The third print in the series illustrates The Temptation, the moment when Adam takes the apple from Eve and is about to bite into it (fig. 2). In the print, as in the present work, Adam and Eve are no longer at the center of the composition. He sits on a rock at the far left, under the Tree of Knowledge, while Eve reaches up with her right hand to take an apple from the serpent's mouth and offers a second apple to Adam.3 In the print the couple do not touch each other, but here Adam reaches his arm around Eve's back, resting his hand on her hip. They clasp the apple together, as if presenting it to the viewer for inspection. This emphasis on the apple and the clearly sexual nature of his gesture vividly remind us of the consequences of their eating the forbidden fruit.

Lowenthal dates the present work to circa 1610-1615, comparing the lithe and graceful figures to those of the Perseus and Andromeda of 1611 and the Judgment of Paris of 1615.4 These, like the Fabricius Adam and Eve, are large works on canvas or panel, while the present painting is a fraction of their size and on copper. As Van Mander already noted in his biography of the artist, Wtewael had the extraordinary ability to work on vastly different scales, but through the first decade of the seventeenth century, he primarily painted cabinet pictures – small scale works on copper. After 1610 Wtewael worked on a larger format, using canvas and panels as supports. The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis of 1612 in the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass., and Adam and Eve may have been the last works he painted on copper.5

Here Wtewael works almost like a miniaturist, filling every part of the background with dark, saturated colors that set off the pale skin tones of Adam and Eve. Even with the naked eye we can see how he builds up the foliage around the figures, leaving them in reserve. The leaves below the serpent on the Tree of Knowledge are actually three dimensional, their dark green forms covering the delicate pale foliage in the background. Adam and Eve are more thinly painted. Wtewael feathers his brush strokes so they blend into each other, creating the sense of smooth warm flesh. It is this sophistication and heightened eroticism that define Adam and Eve as a work by Wtewael at the height of his powers.

We are extremely grateful to Anne Lowenthal for her help in preparing this note.

1. A. Lowenthal, Joachim Wtewael and Dutch Mannerism, Doornspijk 1986, p. 134, under A-62 and p. 163, no. B-7. Lowenthal originally published the Fabricius picture (B-7) as a problematical attribution, but having seen it since it was cleaned and restored now accepts it as an autograph work (email correspondence, November 2010).
2. Lowenthal 1986, p. 134.
3. Lowenthal November 2010 describes the use of two apples as a device of continuous narrative rather than as two actual apples.
4. Lowenthal November 2010.
5. A. Lowenthal, in conversation, December 2010.

A new artist record was also set for the Dutch master Gerrit Dou when his Elderly Woman, Seated by a Window at her Spinning Wheel, Eating Porridge sold for $5,346,500,above the high estimate of $3 million. As many as six different bidders competed for the work.


Gerrit Dou (Leiden 1613 - 1675), an elderly woman, seated by a window at her spinning wheel, eating porridge. Photo: Sotheby's

signed lower right: GDov, oil on panel, 20 1/4 by 16 1/8 in.; 51.5 by 41 cm. Estimate 2,000,000—3,000,000 USD. Lot Sold 5,346,500 USD

PROVENANCE: Crawford, Rotterdam;
His sale, London, Christie's, 26th April 1806, lot 10 (as by Domenicus van Tol), to Richard Payne Knight;
Thomas Andrew Payne Knight, Downton Castle, Ludlow, Shropshire;
Thence by descent to Denis Lennox;
By whom sold, London, Christie's, 4th May 1979, lot 107, when bought by the present owner.

EXHIBITED: Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Art Treasures of the Midlands, 1934, no. 135;
London, Leger Galleries, Fine Paintings by Old Masters, 1948, no. 2 (reproduced, in the catalogue, p. 2);
Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Art Gallery, Pictures from Shropshire Houses, 1951, no. 10;
London, David Carritt Ltd., Ten Paintings by Gerard Dou, 1980, no. 4;
Amsterdam, Waterman Gallery, Groningen, Groninger Museum, The Impact of a Genius: Rembrandt, His Pupils and Followers in the Seventeenth Century, 1983, no. 15;
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art (18 March – 13 May), Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, SMPK (8 June – 12 August), London, Royal Academy of Arts (7 September – 18 November), Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, 1984, no. 32;
Berlin, Altes Museum, 12 September-10 November 1991, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, 4 December 1991-1 March 1992, London, The National Gallery, 26 March-24 May 1992, Rembrandt. The Master & His Workshop, no. 57;
Tokyo, Chiba, Yamaguchi, Rembrandt, his teachers and pupils, 1992, no. 34.

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: W. Martin, Gerrit Dou: Des Meisters Gemälde, (Klassiker der Kunst), Stuttgart & Berlin 1913, p. 102 (known from a photograph, from which uncertain whether copy after or autograph repetition of the Schwerin picture);
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, London 1918-21, vol. 3, p. 292 (as Dou);
I. Gaskell, `Gerrit Dou and trompe l'oeil,' letter in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 123, no. 936, March 1981, p. 164 (as by Domenicus van Tol, copying the Schwerin picture);
O. Naumann, `Gerrit Dou and Van Tol,' letter in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 123, no. 943, October 1981, pp. 617-18, reproduced fig. 42 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture a copy (but not by Van Tol), mentioning the Schaeffer Galleries picture but reserving judgement pending inspection in the original);
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt Schuler, Landau/Pfalz 1983, vol. I, p. 529, under no. 264 (as a copy or replica of the Schwerin picture);
G. Jansen & W.L. van de Watering, in A. Blankert (et al), The Impact of a Genius: Rembrandt, His Pupils and Followers in the Seventeenth Century, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam 1983, p. 120, no. 15, reproduced in colour (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin painting as a copy by "an unskilled follower");
O. Naumann, in P. Sutton (ed.), Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia 1984, p. 183, no. 32, reproduced in colour plate 53; also p. 181, under no. 31 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as a replica by Van Tol, and listing a further copy with Schaeffer Galleries, New York);
R. Baer, The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), dissertation, New York 1990, unpaginated, no. 10 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as a replica); also under nos. 5 & 9;
C. B[rown], in C. Brown, J. Kelch, P.J.J. van Thiel, Rembrandt: the Master & his Workshop, exhibition catalogue, New Haven & London 1991, p. 306, no. 57, reproduced in colour (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as an autograph replica);
C. Brown, in Rembrandt, his teachers and pupils, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo 1992, pp. 102, 232, no. 34, reproduced (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as an autograph replica);
E.J. Sluijter, De lof der schilderkunst. Over schilderijen van Gerrit Dou (1613-1642) en een van Philips Angel uit 1642, Hilversum 1993, pp. 47-8, reproduced p. 48, fig. 23 (as by Dou; the Schwerin picture not mentioned);
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt Schuler, Landau/Pfalz 1983, vol. VI (1994), p. 3596, under no. I, Kat.-Nr.264 (without comment, citing previous literature and opinions for both the present and the Schwerin versions, but misrepresenting Naumann's 1981 view as ascribing the latter to Van Tol);
R. Baer, Gerrit Dou 1613-1675. Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, exhibition catalogue, Washington 2000, p. 68, under no. 3 (as by Dou);
J. Wadum, `Dou doesn't paint, oh no, he juggles with his brush. Gerrit Dou, a Rembrandtesque Fijnschilder', in Art Matters, I, 2002, p. 73 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as an autograph replica of circa 1637);
W. Franits, Dutch seventeenth–century genre painting. Its stylistic and thematic evolution, New Haven & London 2004, p. 131, reproduced fig. 117 (as by Dou);
G. Seelig, Die holländische Genremalerei in Schwerin, Petersberg 2010, p. 82, under no. G 140, especially n62 (as the original by Dou; the Schwerin picture as a copy).

NOTE: Gerrit Dou, the founder of the Leiden school of fijnschilders, was initially trained as a glass engraver, and was a member of the glaziers' guild in Leiden from 1625 to 1627. In February 1628, however, he entered Rembrandt's studio, and probably stayed there until Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631 or 1632, when he is assumed to have become an independent master in Leiden.

This is an early work by Gerrit Dou. It is generally dated circa 1631-5, thus to around the time that Dou left Rembrandt's studio, or shortly thereafter. Christopher Brown, who hailed it as "an outstanding example of Dou's early, independent style," favoured a slightly later span of plausible dating, to circa 1632-7, as did Wayne Franits.1

Ronni Baer compares this work on thematic and compositional grounds with the Old Woman Eating Apples in Berlin which she dates slightly earlier, but notes that it is more advanced in the rendering of materials and the depiction of space: "the composition here is more balanced and the figure is handled with more assurance".2 Both works feature still life elements, some of which recur in both works, including the overturned pot and wicker basket.

As Otto Naumann observed, Dou frequently repeated motifs in his early paintings, and returned to them later on.3 He used the same type of room setting seen here, with a large arched window to the left, a spiral staircase beyond, and a lantern or candelabra hanging from a transverse beam near the picture plane, in a painting depicting a man writing at an easel in a private collection, datable circa 1631-2, and the same window occurs in other works of around this date. Dou continued to use this basic compositional form throughout the rest of his career, at least until the late 1660s. Dou has here used the same model as in several other early works, most notably the Old Woman dressed in a Fur Coat in Berlin, and Christopher Brown suggested she recurs in Rembrandt's Prophetess Hannah, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.4 She is the type traditionally identified as Rembrandt's mother. Little seen until the Dutch Genre Painting exhibition in 1984, this picture was formerly thought to be a copy after a version in Schwerin (see fig. 1); that picture is now widely acknowledged to be a replica or copy and the present work the prime original.5 The Schwerin picture has some additions: a bowl and spoon at the woman's feet and an earthenware jar and a cat eating from a dish in the lower left corner; and the composition is cut off to the left so that only a small part of the window is visible.6 Its signature has been described as possibly added and untypical for Dou.7 Since the present work came to light the Schwerin picture has generally been considered to be a copy, some considering it a replica by Dou himself, although Gaskell in 1981 and Sumowski in 1983 continued to assert its primacy, the former giving the present work to Dou's pupil and nephew Domenicus van Tol, thus asserting its misattribution in the 1806 sale.8 Baer lists a further copy formerly with Schaeffer Galleries, New York, and subsequently sold New York, Sotheby's, 5 November 1986, lot 59 (see fig. 2; as Follower of Dou); this picture was first discussed in the literature by Naumann: in 1981, when he knew it only from a photograph; and then in 1984, when he gave it as a copy. 9 The present picture has often been confused in the past with one sold at Christie's in London from the collection of Col. Fitzgibbon on 5th March 1836, lot 96, for 24 Guineas to Edwards (`G. Dow. An Interior with an old woman with a spinning wheel, eating soup; with admirable effect of light; engraved'). While this cannot be the Schwerin replica, which has been there since between 1725 and 1752, it may perhaps be the Schaeffer Galleries copy sold in 1986, as Naumann suggested.10

1. See under literature, 1991 & 2004.
2. See under literature, 1990. The Berlin picture is no. 5 in her catalogue raisonné.
3. See under literature, 1984.
4. See under literature, 1991, reproduced figs 57 a & 57b.
5. Inv. G 140; oil on panel, 51.7 x 41.5 cm. The monogram GD immediately above the spigot on the end of the barrel was first doubted by C. Hofstede de Groot in 1907 (cited in Seelig, 2010), and described as unlikely to be an original signature by Dou, among others, Otto Naumann in 1981 & Christopher Brown in 1991. Recent technical examination under microscope has revealed no indication that it is a later addition (Seelig, 2010).
6. Jørgen Wadum (see literature, 2002) saw these as additional repoussoir devices typical of Dou himself, but Seelig (see literature, 2010) does not support this.
7. According to Brown, idem.
8. See under literature, 1981 & 1983.
9. See under literature, 1990 & 1981 respectively. The provenance of this picture is as follows:
With D. Katz, Dieren, 1938 (when exhibited in Amsterdam, Dutch & Flemish Paintings, 7 May-4 June, no. 22, as by Dou);
With Schaeffer Galleries, New York, 1939 (when exhibited, Seventeen Masterpieces of the Seventeenth Century, 3 February-15 March, no. 3, as by Dou);
F.D. Heastand, San Francisco;
By whom sold, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 12 December 1956, lot 45, as by Dou;
With Acquavella Gallery, New York;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 5 November 1986, lot 59 (as Follower of Gerrit Dou).
10. See under literature, 1981, especially n2. Both Gaskell and Naumann acknowledge Ellis Waterhouse's discovery of the 1806 provenance of the present work.

Willem van der Vliet’s A Scholar in his Study with Figures with Masks, possibly an Allegory, which is one of only six known history paintings by the artist and today’s cover lot, sold for $2,994,500, well above the high estimate of $1.8 million and a record for the artist at auction


Willem Willemsz. van der Vliet (Delft 1584 - 1642), A Scholar in his Study with Figures with Masks, possibly an Allegory. Photo: Sotheby's

signed and dated upper right: w. vander vliet fecit / anº 1627, oil on canvas, 58 1/8 by 44 1/8 in.; 149 by 112 cm. Estimate 1,200,000—1,800,000 USD. Lot Sold 2,994,500 USD

PROVENANCE: Possibly Adam Drummond, 9th Baron of Lennoch and 2nd Baron of Megginch, acquired in Leiden in the 1670s;1
Sale, Mastraeten, Brussels (Property from the estate of the late L'Abbé Brasseur and others), 29 March 1825 and following days, lot 42 (described as "Une femme tient en riant un masque au-dessus de la tête d'un philosophe, tandis qu'une autre femme suivie de deux personnages masqués semblent l'interroger), for 44 francs, to Rooseboom;
The Honorable Mrs. Q.C. Agnew-Somerville;
By whom sold (The Property of The Hon. Mrs. Q.C. Agnew-Somerville), London, Sotheby's, 9 March 1983, lot 69;
With Colnaghi, London, 1984;
From whom acquired by the present owner.

EXHIBITED: New York, Colnaghi, Italian, Dutch, and Flemish Baroque Paintings, 4 April to 4 May 1984;
Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Holländische Malerei in neuem Licht: Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine Zeitgenossen, 13 November 1986 - 12 April 1987, no. 79;
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, London, National Gallery, Vermeer and the Delft School, 8 March - 16 September 2001, no. 85.

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: Colnaghi, Italian, Dutch, and Flemish Baroque Paintings, p. 60, no. 29, reproduced;
L.J. Slatkes, in Holländische Malerei in neuem Licht: Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine Zeitgenossen (exh. cat. Utrecht & Brunswick 1986-1987), no. 79, reproduced;
C.J.A. Wansink, "Some History and Genre Paintings by Willem van der Vliet," in Hoogsteder-Naumann Mercury, no. 6 (1987), pp. 4-5;
J. L. Williams, Dutch Art and Scotland: A Reflection of Taste, Edinburgh 1992, p. 152, under no. 72;
W. Liedtke, et al., Vermeer and the Delft School, exhibition catalogue, New York and London 2001, pp. 56-58 and 418-420, no. 85, reproduced;
A. Rüger, Vermeer and Painting in Delft, London 2001, pp.18-19, reproduced;
B. Ernsting, "Realistik zwischen Leben und Tod -- Die metamorphotische Maske. Zwei mysteriöse Gemälde von Jan Lievens," in Wir Sind Maske (exh. cat. Vienna 2009), p. 330-331, reproduced fig. 5.

NOTE: This remarkable and haunting picture, painted by Willem van der Vliet in 1627, has been the subject of enormous interest since its appearance on the market in 1983. Our knowledge of Van der Vliet is somewhat limited, but he was sufficiently famous to have been included in Dirck van Bleyswijck's Beschryvinge der stadt Delft, published in 1667. He studied with Michiel van Miereveld and joined the Delft painter's guild in 1615. Although later more famous as a portraitist, Van der Vliet began his career as a history painter, a designation that in the seventeenth century included allegory, mythology, religion and history itself. Today only six such paintings are known by him, the grandest and most compelling of which is A Scholar in His Study.2 The composition seems so direct, but although the picture has been in two major exhibitions, the subject continues to puzzle and intrigue collectors and scholars alike. Various explanations have been offered — including a playwright surrounded by his characters, a philosopher rejecting the sexual advances of earthly love, and a depiction of learning, lust and fraud — but none is totally satisfactory.3 Despite our best efforts, we, too, have been frustrated in trying to decipher the full meaning of this fascinating work. We persist, nonetheless, because the picture itself draws us in.

The year 1627, when Van der Vliet painted A Scholar in His Study, was a time of transition and growth in the Netherlands. Prince Maurits had died just two years before and was succeeded by his half-brother Frederik Hendrik, who undertook to stabilize military and political policy. In terms of the arts, Honthorst and Terbrugghen were the leading painters in Utrecht and at the top of their form, but Caravaggism was gradually giving way to newer trends. Rembrandt and Lievens were young rivals in Leiden, pushing each other ever further, while in Delft, artists working in the various fields of portrait, history, still life and genre painting were defining a local style. A Scholar in His Study encapsulates these different trends. The basic structure of the painting reflects the influence of the Dutch Caravaggisti: as in paintings by Honthorst, Terbrugghen and Baburen, the figures here are set in an undefined interior, shown three-quarter length and set close to the viewer. In the earlier works strategic lighting and dramatic gestures are used to define the central point of the action, but Van der Vliet, responding to the new classicism that was growing up in Utrecht, tempered his style. The result is a blending of the strength and dynamism of the Caravaggisti with greater finesse and refinement that became a hallmark of the Delft school. A Scholar in His Study embodies this synthesis and may, in turn, have been an influence on Vermeer's earliest works, like Christ in the House of Martha and Mary in the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.4

Standing at the center of the painting, her figure lit by a cool, even light, is a young woman. She wears a full, milky white blouse and a yellow satin skirt, its shimmering surface evoked by Van der Vliet's short parallel brush strokes. Around her waist she has tied a striped scarf, which hangs in long loops creating a circular rhythm that contrasts with the downward movement of the pleats. With her right hand she gestures toward the seated man, while with her left she holds a mask, her fingers poking through the empty eyeholes. She projects strength and determination and is undeniably lovely. A panel depicting Two Young Girls, from a private collection, currently hanging in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, is probably a study for the woman (fig. 1). In it are two girls in half length, both apparently painted from the same model. They strongly resemble the woman in Scholar in His Study, though their features are softer and more individualized. The figure at the left is set in profile, her hair style is almost identical to the woman here. Around her neck is the same scarf used as a sash in the present work. The girl in full face also wears a scarf, but it has the same pattern as the turban of the masked figure at the right.

The scholar himself is remarkably individualized and beautifully painted, with deep creases around his eyes, long graying beard and thinning hair. It is little wonder that Slatkes suggested the present work might actually be a portrait historié, the subject a contemporary playwright surrounded by his characters.5 He is clearly an educated man, seated at a table piled with books, and his expression and demeanor suggest both intelligence and humor. He has been compared to the teachers in two representations of A Teacher Instructing His Pupils, one dated 1626, in the National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle, and the other from circa 1626-28, formerly in the collection of Dr. W. Katz, London. However, the man here seems more prosperous and sophisticated than those earnest souls, and he is not formally instructing the people around him.

The interaction between the scholar and the young woman is at the very center of Scholar in His Study and must be the key to its meaning. The other figures are relegated to the shadows and are primarily observers. Christina Wansinck suggests that the man represents "the steadfast philosopher" and the woman is "earthly love".6 She compares the present work to a painting by Honthorst on loan to the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, in which the figure of love is taking off her clothes and is stroking the philosopher. The intentions of the young woman here are hardly so obvious, and her gesture toward the man seems admonitory, not seductive.

The young man standing behind the seated figure holds a mask over the latter's head as if it were a crown. As masks were commonly used as symbols of duplicity, his gesture would seem to cast doubt on the integrity of this learned figure. Walter Liedtke, in a very complex and nuanced discussion suggests that his action in fact casts doubt on the entire scene, and that the ultimate meaning of the picture is a warning against fraud in its various disguises.7

Other elements in the painting have distinct sexual connotations, such as the extremely phallic money bag the masked figure at the right clutches, or the woman's fingers slipping through the eye holes of the mask. But the money bag is also a symbol of avarice. This figure could well be a rich suitor for the hand of the young woman, and the turbanned man set back from the main action might be his attendant. If this is the case, the woman is not happy about the prospect of marriage. The painting could be illustrating a contemporary play or a now obscure classical work, but our not knowing the answer truly adds rather than detracts from our appreciation of this compelling painting. The beauty of the conception and the complex interaction of the figures are glorious in their own right, and each time we approach the work we can do so with the hope that we will discover something new and exciting about it.

1. In the Sotheby's auction of 1983 and the later literature, the painting was described as having descended from Adam Drummond to the Hon. Mrs. Q.C. Agnew-Somervile. Slatkes, op. cit., p. 346, had questioned this, noting the French dealer's label on the back of the frame. His doubts now seem to have been confirmed by the discovery that the pictures was sold at auction in Brussels in 1825.
2. Wansinck, op. cit., pp. 3-10.
3. See Liedtke, op. cit., for a summary of the various opinions.
4. A. Rüger, op. cit., p.56.
5. Slatkes pp. 346 and 348.
6. Wansinck, pp. 4-5.
7. Liedtke, p. 42


Pietro Buonaccorsi, called Perino del Vaga (Florence 1501 - 1547 Rome), The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist . Photo: Sotheby's

oil on panel, 34 1/4 by 25 1/2 in.; 87 by 64.8 cm. Estimate 300,000—400,000 USD. Lot Sold  2,098,500 USD

PROVENANCE: Palazzo Ricci Petrocchini, Pollenza, Marche;
Fabio Failla (1917-1987), Rome

NOTE: Celebrated in his own lifetime as a superlative painter of frescoes, grotesques, trompe l'oeil, and palace façades, a talented stuccoist, as well as a designer of prints, ephemeral decoration and even of images to be etched on rock crystal, Perino del Vaga was one of the most versatile artists of the Italian cinquecento. However, despite his great talent and artistic facility, he remains today a somewhat remote figure to most people. This is due for the most part to several mishaps of history. Many of his most important works have either been largely or partly destroyed, and remain to us either in fragments or in compromised state, if they survive at all. Some others are either generally inaccessible to the public or in less frequented venues; neither his great work in the Palazzo Doria, Genoa, for example, nor his late, great masterpiece, the Sala Paolina in the Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, are amongst the most visited artistic sites, except for the serious student of Italian art. And, apparently due to his great works in these many different fields, Perino's output of standard altarpieces—let alone easel pictures—was extremely limited. As a result, it is as a draughtsman that Perino is most familiar today, and his graphic output, wide and varied, has been justly admired and prized by collectors and connoisseurs alike. Paintings by him, though, are exceedingly rare, and one has not appeared on the market for nearly half a century.1

This stunningly well-preserved Holy Family with the Infant Baptist, therefore, represents a rare and important addition to Perino's elegant art. Painted on a poplar panel, it depicts the Virgin, standing behind a ledge, upon which she rests her Infant Son. She holds out to him with one hand a cherry (a symbol of the fruit of Paradise, and thus of man's original sin and ultimate redemption), and steadies him with her other. She is simply dressed, in the orthodox manner: a red robe with a long blue mantle over her head.2 Perino, however, gives her a slight touch of fashion; she wears a small gem at her breast which gathers her tunic into graceful folds, and a beautifully rendered head of a cherub in gold hangs along her neckline. Her hair, mostly hidden under her veil, is elaborately braided and wrapped with a blue ribbon. The Virgin's robust Son, vigorously painted by Perino as a chubby infant with tousled, sandy hair, plays with a goldfinch, an emblem of Christ's Passion which would have been well known to the artist's contemporaries. Placed at the edges of the composition are the Infant Baptist—who stands like us on the near side of the wall on which Christ rests, looking up in adoration at his cousin— and in the background, the ever watchful and protective Joseph. Insightful and elegant touches abound in the composition. Perino juxtaposes the strong and knotty hands of Saint Joseph, similarly rendered in other depictions by the artist, with elegant and subtle shadows which fall across the saint's small finger and onto his wrist. Perino's final touches are more stunning still; in addition to the beautifully elaborated gold border along the edge of the Virgin's mantle—found in many similar depictions of the period—the artist has subtly and exquisitely highlighted small strands of the hair of the Madonna and the Child with touches of mordant gilding, creating a sumptuous and rich visual effect.

The paucity of easel pictures in Perino's known oeuvre make a precise dating for the present painting somewhat problematic. Elena Parma Armani lists only five autograph easel pictures by the artist, all of which depict much the same subject as the present example. These include Holy Families in the Musée Conde, Chantilly (inv. PE 44); the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa; the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (inv. 1666-5); a tondo in the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein, Vienna (inv. G 24); and an unfinished painting which includes the figure of the Infant Baptist, in the Courtauld Institute, London (inv. P 1932 XX 311). None of these are dated or signed, and thus give no firm footing on which to construct a chronology for the group. The London picture, which is on panel and is largely unfinished, has in the past been reasonably associated with a picture described by Vasari in his biography of Perino: "quadretto non molto grande; il quale condusse a fine quasi piú di mezzo, dentrovi una Nostra Donna."3 That painting was meant as a present for his friend, the Florentine goldsmith Piloto and thus would have been dated to Perino's sojourn there in 1522/3. At over a meter tall, however, it is questionable that the Courtauld Holy Family could be called a "quadretto non molto grande" and most scholars have rejected such an early dating for the picture on stylistic grounds, preferring to place it in the Genoese period of the artist, thus at some point during the 1530s.4 More useful is the picture in Pisa which, although in somewhat damaged state, is almost certainly the picture which is recorded without subject by Vasari as a gift to the nuns of the Convent of San Matteo in that city. Thus, the Pisa picture would be datable to circa 1534, the year that the artist bought a house in the city, and where he was working on frescoes in the Duomo. The Liechtenstein tondo has generally been dated to much later in Perino's career, to the 1540s.5 The Holy Family in Chantilly, which is clearly stylistically related to the tondo, both in the very similar pose of the Madonna and Child and in the slick, lapidary handling of the paint, has been variously dated by the studiosi from as early as 1535 to a more likely dating of the early 1540s. The Victoria Holy Family has been dated later still, and would appear to represent the final assay in the subject, having been produced towards the end of Perino's life, according to Jaffe, circa 1545/6, a view supported by Parma Armani.6

The present Holy Family uses many of the same compositional devices that Perino employs in these other pictures. The strongly modeled and composed image of the Mother and Child is balanced with a tender interaction between them; the brooding dark background contrasts with strong splashes of color in his figures. The ancillary figure of Saint Joseph is always hunched up behind, often in half shadow. Ultimately, all of them owe much to the influence of the late Raphael, with whom as a very young man Perino had worked in Rome on the Vatican Loggie and whose Madonnas (and those of his direct circle) the artist would have known only too well. The present panel, however, differs in tone and character in a number of ways than these other Perino Madonne. It is conceived with much more balance and restraint, and the classicizing influence of Raphael seems much stronger, as in the other panels where it seems to grow ever so slightly removed. It would seem, therefore, that this Holy Family should date to circa 1527-30, either just before he left Rome, or just after he moved to Genoa to work for Andrea Doria. A drawing which can be dated slightly later (1533-4 of the Head of the Virgin (Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques, inv. 2745, see fig. 1) makes an intriguing comparison.

1. The last major picture to be offered on the open market was The Holy Family offered on the London art market with Hazlitt in 1965, and was acquired for the Australian National Gallery (see note).
2. Examination of the painting itself reveals that a slightly later (17th Century?) layer of overpaint has been brushed carefully over the blue veil, in order to darken it. This has been extremely carefully done, so as not to disturb the original gilt decoration along the border or the stella maris symbol at her shoulder. In fact, it has been done in such as way as to visually suggest shadows and pattern. As the paint underneath, which is a more lighter green-blue pigment—and much more typical of Perino's somewhat offbeat palette—appears to be entirely intact, it seems that this addition was made by a later owner of the picture, perhaps to "calm down" the image somewhat, and make the Virgin's costume more in line with traditional representation.
3. "[Trans: A small painting, not very large, which he brought to finish almost more than half way, depicting Our Lady.]"
4. B. Davidson was the first to suggest this, and was followed by Oberhuber, Jaffe and Parma Armani (see Parma Armani op. cit. p. 316, under cat. No. BXII).
5. First attributed to Perino by Frizzoni in 1912, subsequent scholars dated the tondo to Perino's early career until Davidson noted similarities with figures in the Sala Paolina (1545). Other historians have tended to agree with her later dating, if perhaps slightly earlier (Jaffe circa 1540).
6. Torriti to circa 1535; Jaffe, to the late Genoese period, Parma Armani to around 1541/2. op. cit., p. 318.

Among the first works offered this morning were two paintings by the renowned Italian artist Sandro Botticelli which both soared past their estimates - Christ Carrying the Cross brought $722,500 (est. $150/200,000) and The Resurrection sold for $662,500 (est. $150/200,000).


Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli and Studio (Florence 1445 - 1510), Christ Carrying the Cross.  Photo: Sotheby's

tempera on panel, transferred to canvas; 51 3/4 by 42 in.; 131.5 by 106.7 cm. Estimate 150,000—200,000 USD. Lot Sold 722,500 USD

PROVENANCE: With Luigi Albrighi, Florence, 1959;
With David Carritt Ltd., London, circa 1960;
Acquired by Max Aitken, 1st Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964) in 1963, and thence by descent to the present ownership.

EXHIBITED: Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, on loan from 1963 until 2010;
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Exhibition of Art Treasures, 1 July 2005-5 March 2006.

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: "Visit the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick" in The Atlantic Advocate, March 1963, vol. 53, p. 53, no. 7, reproduced, p. 73;
F. Zeri, "Questioni di Bottega del Botticelli" in Paragone, Nos. 419, 421, 423, January, March & May, 1985, pp. 135-9, reproduced, fig. 93 (as Studio of Botticelli);
P. Hachey, "Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510", in Arts Atlantic 25, Spring 1986, pp. 47-9, reproduced p. 47;
N. Pons, Botticelli: Catalogo Completo, Milan 1989, pp. 96-7, cat. nos. 145a and 145b, reproduced (quoting Zeri's opinion);
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery: The Hosmer-Pillow-Vaughan Gallery, Fredericton 1990;
I. Lumsden, CJ. Collins, L. Glenn, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery Collection: Selected Works, Fredericton 2000, p. 148, reproduced in color, p. 156;
I mai visti: capolavori dai depositi degli Uffizi, exhibition catalogue, Florence 2001, p. 61 (as Studio of Botticelli);
A. Cecchi, Botticelli, Milan 2005, pp. 86 and 93, note 89 (as Studio of Botticelli);
S. Donovan, The Nashwaak Review, vol. 16/17, 2006, no. 1, reproduced in color.

NOTE: This emotive Christ Carrying the Cross and the following lot, depicting the Resurrection, are from a set of four canvases depicting the Passion of Christ. The two other pictures from the series are in the collection of the Uffizi, Florence, and represent the Flagellation (inv. 5876) and Figures on the Road to Calvary (inv. 5877; see figs. 1-2 respectively). The present canvas, in fact, appears to have been divided from the second of the Uffizi pictures at some point in the past; the continuation of the lower part of the Virgin's dark robe is clearly visible in the Uffizi picture, and the rope tied to Christ's waist in the present canvas is continued in the other in Florence, where it is held by one of the two male figures who would have been behind him. Given their size and subject matter, these pictures were likely painted to decorate a meeting room of a religious confraternity, or for some similar use.

Having seen the present canvases when they were with the dealer David Carritt in London, circa 1960 (see Provenance), Federico Zeri was the first scholar to publish them and recognize their relationship with the Uffizi canvases, in those years on deposit with the Pinacoteca, Arezzo. His assessment at the time, based on his memory and photographs, was that the group of pictures was by a follower of Botticelli, probably someone continuing in the bottega, even after the master's death in 1510. This assessment, however, seems rather summary given the quality of the present pair and the numerous changes revealed by a recent examination with infrared reflectography (see below) which betray the participation of Botticelli himself to some degree.

The composition of the pictures, with the figures of Christ and the other protagonists all crisply delineated and filling most of the picture plane, are clearly meant to make a visual impact, perhaps from above the viewer's eye level and from a slight distance. The arrangement of the scenes would have been symmetrical and chronological as the events portrayed: the Flagellation and the Resurrection, both with the calm figure of Christ posed in elegant contrapposto, flanking the central image of the Christ Carrying the Cross, originally double the width of the other two. They are all painted in tempera grassa, and have been at some point transferred to canvas. Nonetheless, much of the original preparation is still visible in the present pair, including scoring marks scratched into the still wet gesso with a stylus and straight edge as a guide for some elements, such as in the cross Christ holds in the present picture and the outlines of the stone sepulchre in the Resurrection. This technique was typical of Botticelli and his studio, as is the fact that these guidelines were sometimes ignored as work on the paintings progressed.

Even more compelling, however, is the underdrawing that infrared reflectography has revealed (see figs. 3-8). The image captured of the Christ Carrying the Cross reveals numerous changes of details and shifts of outline, as well as more than one type of drawing. The figure of Christ appears to have been transferred from a cartoon; the linear and blocky contours are rendered in brush, most clearly visible in the tunic of Christ, but also discernable in his head. These were clearly meant as a guide, and were sometimes changed in the later stages of the painting—for example in the profile of the head of Christ, whose face has been broadened, and given a softer, more gentle contour. More interesting are the changes done in free-hand by the artist, particularly in areas that needed more accurate adjustment, such as Christ's hands where he grasps the cross. Here, the initial brush underdrawing has been adjusted with a more sketchy technique—more than once— and then changed again in the final painting, suggesting that particular attention was employed in this area, which would have been too difficult for a studio assistant to render convincingly from a cartoon. The most significant change revealed, however, was that the original idea of depicting the actual moment of the Crucifixion on the hill above at upper right was not carried through(see fig. 6); the figures of the three crosses are drawn in, but were never realized in the final picture, perhaps being too subtle a detail to be seen in the context of the overall composition. The preliminary stages of the Resurrection do not appear to have been undertaken in exactly the same way; the figure of the triumphant Christ has a more fluid underdrawing than in the other canvas, as does the armor and torso of the soldier at right. It is particularly interesting in this picture that the positions of the arms of the central figure were sketched in over other elements—so that a reserve for them was not left in the underdrawing. The arm holding the banner, for example, is drawn over indications for the sleeve which would be underneath the arm. The other arm is painted over a rocky outcrop in the background, and the contours of the hand, forearm and elbow are all shifted in the final picture. Other changes, such as details of the soldier at left's armor, are also visible, all of which in toto suggest a dynamic and free form creative process for the pair of paintings, which presumably is also the case for the paintings in the Uffizi.


Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli and Studio (Florence 1445 - 1510), The Resurrection. Photo: Sotheby's

tempera on panel, transferred to canvas, 52 by 41 7/8 in.; 132.1 by 106.4 cm. Estimate 150,000—200,000 USD. Lot Sold 662,500 USD

PROVENANCE: With Luigi Albrighi, Florence, 1959;
With David Carritt Ltd., London, circa 1960;
Acquired by Max Aitken, 1st Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964) in 1963, and thence by descent to the present ownsership.

EXHIBITED: Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, on loan from 1963 until 2010;
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Exhibition of Art Treasures, 1 July 2005-5 March 2006.

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: "Visit the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick" in The Atlantic Advocate, March 1963, vol. 53, p. 53, no. 7, reproduced, p. 73;
F. Zeri, "Questioni di Bottega del Botticelli" in Paragone, Nos. 419, 421, 423, January, March & May, 1985, pp. 135-9, reproduced, fig. 94 (as Studio of Botticelli);
P. Hachey, "Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510", in Arts Atlantic 25, Spring 1986, pp. 47-9, reproduced p. 47;
N. Pons, Botticelli: Catalogo Completo, Milan 1989, pp. 96-7, cat. no. 145b, reproduced;
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery: The Hosmer-Pillow-Vaughan Gallery, Fredericton 1990;
I. Lumsden, CJ. Collins, L. Glenn, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery Collection: Selected Works, Fredericton 2000, p. 148, reproduced in color, p. 156;
I mai visti: capolavori dai depositi degli Uffizi, exhibition catalogue, Florence 2001, p. 61 (as Studio of Botticelli);
A. Cecchi, Botticelli, Milan 2005, pp. 86 and 93, note 89 (as Studio of Botticelli);
S. Donovan, The Nashwaak Review, vol. 16/17, 2006, no. 1, reproduced in color.