Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Samson and Delilah (recto); Figure studies, probably of soldiers (verso). pen and brown ink, brown wash, brown ink framing lines (recto); pen and brown ink (verso), 6 ½ x 6 ⅝ in. Estimate: £15 – 2.5 million. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.
LONDON.- Christie’s announced the sale of The I.Q. van Regteren Altena Collection which will be offered over a series of sales in London, Amsterdam and Paris throughout 2014 and 2015. This extensive collection of Old Master drawings is the most important to come to auction in a generation and features works by the greatest masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Goltzius, and de Gheyn. Formed by Professor I.Q. van Regteren Altena (1899 – 1980), a distinguished art historian and former head of the Prints and Drawings Department at the Rijksmuseum, the collection will be offered in more than 800 lots and is expected to realise in the region of £10 million. It is very rare for the collection of a true connoisseur to appear on the market and The I.Q. van Regteren Altena Collection presents an incomparable panorama of mostly Dutch and Flemish draughtsmanship from 1550 to 1850, with illustrious provenances. In recent years several drawings from van Regteren Altena’s collection have been transferred to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The museum has just announced that the Van Regteren Altena heirs have generously allowed the museum to make a selection of drawings from the collection for acquisition. The museum chose drawings with a special association with I.Q. van Regteren Altena: a landscape by J. de Gheyn and a group of 46 spectacular watercolours by Joseph Augustus Knip. These acquisitions were generously supported by the Vereniging Rembrandt, the Mondriaan Fonds, de BankGiroLoterij, the Rijkspatrons, the Gerhards Fonds/Rijksmuseum Fonds, the VSBfonds and an anonymous gift. Furthermore, the heirs have donated a group of 69 drawings by 19th-century Dutch contemporaries of Knip in Italy.
On 10 July 2014 Christie’s London will present Part I of the collection including more than 70 lots of Dutch and Flemish drawings from the Renaissance to the Golden Age. Featuring a homogenous group of exceptional quality the sale offers a unique opportunity to acquire outstanding examples of drawings from the Low Countries. Leading the sale is Samson and Delilah by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), the only known preparatory drawing for Rubens’s masterpiece of 1609-10 in the National Gallery, London (estimate £1.5 - 2.5 million). This dynamic composition of twisting forms dates from shortly after the artist’s return from Italy in 1608, and shows how he had begun to develop his distinctive style – blending the voluptuous sensuality of Venetian painting with the heroic musculature of classical sculpture. Commissioned by Nicolaas Rockox, Rubens’s most significant early patron, it offers a fascinating insight into the young artist’s preparatory processes.
A young man leaning on a stick by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669) is a characteristic example of Rembrandt’s figure drawings produced while he was working in Leiden (until ca. 1631) (estimate: £250,000 – 350,000). Depicting a beggar, it can be related to a series of etchings of the same subject dating from 1629 onwards. Loosely and sketchily executed without any continuous pen lines, the drawing conveys a remarkable plasticity and suggestion of form in a very natural and lively way.
Further highlights include Study of a hand by Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) (estimate: £300,000 – 500,000). Executed circa 1588 and imitating in pen and ink his style as an engraver, this drawing is a real tour de force in which Goltzius demonstrates his extraordinary skill. Showing the artist’s own right hand which had been damaged in a fire while he was a child, the drawing was also used for the hand of St. Jude in an engraving of 1589. The combination of the mutilated hand and the technical perfection with which it is drawn makes this sheet one of Goltzius’ most intriguing and striking works.
One of van Regteren Altena’s greatest achievements as a scholar was the rediscovery of an extraordinary artist, Jacques de Gheyn II (circa 1565-1629), on whom he published, posthumously, a catalogue raisonné. It is due to his remarkable effort that de Gheyn is today seen as one of the greatest draftsmen of his time. In total the collection includes 20 drawings by de Gheyn, an unsurpassed group displaying the unrivalled alchemy of his art. Leading the selection of works by de Gheyn is A large beech tree (estimate: £300,000 – 400,000).
Further highlights in the London sale include works by Jan Brueghel I, Jacob Jordaens, Roelandt Savery, Hendrick Avercamp, Nicolaes Berchem, Jacob van Ruisdael, Paulus Potter, Adriaen and Isaac van Ostade.
Three further auctions of drawings from The I.Q. van Regteren Altena Collection will follow the King Street sale. Parts II & IV, dedicated to the Dutch and Flemish schools, will take place in Amsterdam in December 2014 and May 2015. Part III, including French and Italian drawings, will be sold in Paris in March 2015.
Hendrick Goltzius (Mühlbracht 1558-1617 Haarlem), Study of a hand with inscription 'De Hand van Judas Thadeús door H: Goltziús'? pen and brown ink, brown ink framing lines, indistinct watermark WH, some spots of blue-grey staining, 24.5 x 34 cm. Estimate: £300,000 – 500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.