Francisco de Zurbarán, Christ on the Cross with the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, and Saint John at his Feet. Photo Sotheby's
LONDON.- On 9th July 2014, Sotheby’s London Evening Sale of Old Master and British Paintings will be spearheaded by rare masterworks from some of the world’s most eminent aristocratic and private collections. Combining fascinating history with exceptional provenance, these works represent important moments in the artistic development of many schools and nations, from an early 14th century panel by Giovanni da Rimini from the celebrated collections of the Dukes of Northumberland to dramatic portraits from the collection of the Earls of Warwick, Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces from the collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson and Flemish Old Master paintings from the Coppée Collection. A further highlight of this summer’s sale is one of George Stubbs’ most celebrated works and an exceptionally rare example of his big cat paintings. Comprising 63 lots, the evening sale is estimated to achieve a total in excess of £39 million.
This summer, Sotheby’s will also stage “Contemplation of the Divine” - the first ever selling-exhibition of Old Master Paintings and Sculpture held in our New Bond Street galleries, from 5th until 16th July 2014.
Discussing the forthcoming auction, Alex Bell, Joint International Head and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department said: “This sale is exceptional on many levels. Having remained in the same collections for centuries, most of the works carry the imprimatur of the greatest art patrons of the day, such as the Dukes of Northumberland and the Earls of Warwick, or bear witness to the discerning eye of some of the most important collectors of the 20th century, including Baron Coppée and Barbara Piasecka Johnson. These masterworks are coming to light this summer, with their powerfully evocative beauty unaltered by the passage of time. Botticelli’s genius radiates through the extraordinarily important Study for a Seated St Joseph; Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s three iconic works from the Coppée collection encapsulate the artist’s unambiguously stark view of the human condition, while George Stubbs’ unequalled eye for capturing the animal form is reflected down to the delicate whiskers of his leopards cubs. Today, collectors from all horizons look for rare works of fantastic quality with a powerful aesthetic and both this sale and our first ever selling exhibition of Old Master Paintings and Sculpture in London have been curated with this in mind.”
PROPERTY FROM THE CELEBRATED COLLECTIONS OF THE DUKES OF NORTHUMBERLAND
Sold by Order of The 12th Duke of Northumberland and the Trustees of the Northumberland Estates
Among the paintings from the celebrated collections of the Dukes of Northumberland to be presented in the evening sale are two works formerly in the Camuccini Collection, an ensemble of outstanding works purchased by the 4th Duke of Northumberland in Rome in 1856 and representing one of the last great acquisitions made by an Englishman travelling to Italy. The first – a wing of a diptych depicting episodes from the lives of the Virgin Mary and other saints by Giovanni da Rimini - dates from circa 1300-05, a pivotal moment in European painting. The beautifully preserved panel, painted in tempera on gold ground, documents the transition from the Byzantine-inspired tradition of the dark ages to the more lyrical and naturalistic art that would herald the dawn of the Renaissance in western Europe (est. £2-3 million / €2,430,000-3,650,000 / $3,350,000-5,020,000).
Giovanni da Rimini (documented 1292 – 1309/14), Left wing of a diptych with episodes from The Lives of the Virgin and other Saints: The Apotheosis of Augustine; The Coronation of the Virgin; Catherine disputing with the philosophers; Francis receiving the stigmata; and John The Baptist in the wilderness, tempera on panel, gold ground, in an engaged frame,52.5 by 34.3 cm.; 20 5/8 by 13 1/2 in. Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's.
This gold ground dates from 1300-05 and is mostly likely the artist’s earliest known work. Its importance as a bridge between the 13th and 14thcenturies cannot be overstated.
Its inclusion in the Camuccini collection is interesting. It is much earlier in date than anything else and does not fit the Renaissance profile of the collection. Furthermore it was not included in Barbieri's 1851 guide
Provenance: Barberini collection, Rome;
Pietro (1760–1833) and Vincenzo (1771–1844) Camuccini, Rome;
Acquired with the Camuccini collection by Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1792–1865) in 1853;
Thence by descent.
Exhibited: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Festival of Britain Exhibition, 1951, no. 3 (here and below as Giovanni da Rimini);
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, King's College, 1955, no. 35;
Barnard Castle, The Bowes Museum, Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Painting of the 17th Century, 1963, no. 4;
Rimini, Museo della Città, Il Trecento Riminese. Maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche, 20 August 1995 – 7 January 1996, no. 14.
Literature: T. Barberi, Catalogo ragionato della Galleria Camuccini in Roma, Rome 1851, Alnwick Castle DNP: MS 810: Camera Sesta, No. 12 (as Giotto di Bondone and formerly in the Barberini collection);
Manuscript list of the pictures in the Camuccini Gallery and the prices paid, Alnwick Castle DNA:F/76A: 'Camera Sesta. 12. Giotto: Sa Caterina confonde i Dottori; di casa Barberini...£100';
G. F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London 1857, vol. IV, pp. 465–66 (as at Alnwick and by Giotto, described as one half of a diptych, the other half of which was in the Palazzo Colonna di Sciarra);
Rev. C. H. Hartshorne, A Guide to Alnwick Castle, 1865, pp. 69–70, recorded in the Private Sitting Room of the Duchess (as Giotto);
Inventory of Pictures at Alnwick Castle, November 1894, p. 6, Sy.F.XVII.3.a(6), hanging in Her Grace's Sitting Room (as Giotto);
C. H. Collins Baker, A Catalogue of the Pictures in the Collection of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, London 1930, p. 137, cat. no. 648, reproduced plate 26 (as School of Rimini, 14th century, hanging in Alnwick Castle);
E. K. Waterhouse, ‘Exhibition of Old Masters at Newcastle, York, and Perth’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. XCIII, no. 581, August 1951, p. 261 (henceforth as Giovanni da Rimini);
N. Di Carpegna, Catalogo della Galleria Nazionale. Palazzo Barberini, Rome 1953, p. 31;
G. Bandmann, ‘Zur Bedeutung der romanischen apsis’, in Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch Westdeutches Jahrbuch Für Kunstgeschichte, vol. XV, 1953, p. 43, detail reproduced p. 40, fig. 43;
S. Bottari, ‘I grandi cicli di affreschi riminesi’, in Arte antica e moderna, vol. II, 1958, p. 143, note 7, reproduced plate 43a;
F. Zeri, ‘Una Deposizione di scuola riminese’, in Paragone, vol. XCIX, 1958, p. 49;
M. Bonicatti, Trecentisti riminesi, Rome 1963, p. 6, reproduced fig. 3;
C. Volpe, La pittura riminese del Trecento, Milan 1965, pp. 15–16, 71, reproduced fig. 26;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian Schools, London 1968, vol. I, p. 363, reproduced vol. II, plate 177;
G. Bolaffi (ed.), Dizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani, Turin 1974, vol. VI, p. 32;
D. Benati, ‘Pittura del Trecento in Emilia Romagna’, in La pittura in Italia, Milan 1986, pp. 157, 161;
J. Snow Smith, ‘Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks, a Franciscan Interpretation’, in Studies in Iconography, vol. 11, 1987, p. 60, reproduced pp. 66–67, figs. 16–17;
P. G. Pasini, La pittura riminese del Trecento, Rimini 1990, pp. 53–58;
M. Boskovits, ‘Per la storia della pittura tra la Romagna e le Marche ai primi del ’300’, in Arte Cristiana, vol. LXXXI, no. 775, 1993, p. 104, note 1;
D. Litte in J. Turner (ed.), The Dictionary of Art, Oxford 1996, vol. 12, p. 706;
A. Volpe in Il Trecento Riminese. Maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche, exhibition catalogue, Rimini 1996, pp. 30, 37, 42, 174–75, 289, cat. no.14, reproduced in colour (as datable circa 1300–05);
A. Volpe, Giotto e Riminesi, Il gotico e l’antico nella pittura di primo Trecento, Milan, 2002, pp. 109–10, 116 and 171, note 63, reproduced in colour p. 112;
D. Ferrara in Giovanni Baronzio e la pittura a Rimini nel Trecento, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2008, pp. 86 and 88, under cat. no. 2.
Notes: This masterpiece was painted at the very dawn of the fourteenth century and is an extremely rare work by Giovanni da Rimini. It is among the very earliest Italian paintings to have been offered at auction. A very early follower of Giotto, to whom the panel was once attributed, Giovanni was undoubtedly one of the patriarchs in the relatively short-lived glory of Rimini’s school of painting in the first decades of the century. This jewel-like work is arguably the artist’s masterpiece, and it is difficult to overstate its importance as a bridge between the archaic style of the thirteenth century – still so dependent on static Byzantine models which until that moment had dominated painting in the peninsula – and the new, more recognizably Italian style bathed in emotion and perspective, which was pioneered by Giotto and which was to herald the innovations that led to the Renaissance. When Waagen (see Literature) saw the painting in 1854 he assumed it to be by Giotto's hand and described it thus: ‘...a relic of the most delicate kind, the heads fine, the motives very speaking, and the execution like the tenderest miniature...In excellent preservation’.
Roberto Longhi (see Literature) was the first to flesh out Giovanni da Rimini’s œuvre, with Brandi subsequently expanding it. First recorded in 1292, by 1300 Giovanni is referred to as a ‘maestro’ in Rimini. By the end of the thirteenth century Rimini was a small independent commune under the rule of the Malatesta family, but it was not to enjoy the wealth or verdant cultural scene from which Padua and Florence benefited until the fifteenth century. Nevertheless, the great Giotto was lured there to work for the cathedral of San Francesco, better known today as the Tempio Malatestiano. The chronicler Riccobaldo Ferrarese records that Giotto produced some superb frescoes which were most likely destroyed during the restructuring of San Francesco in 1450 but his spectacular Crucifix from just shortly before 1300 still hangs there (see fig. 1).
The date of Giotto’s stay in Rimini has been the matter of some debate, with some scholars proposing it to have post-dated his Paduan sojourn, which is generally accepted as starting after 1303. However, the date of 1309 on Giovanni's signed Crucifix in Mercatello (see fig. 2),1 so clearly dependent on Giotto’s work in the Tempio Malatestiano, strongly suggests that Giotto must have stopped in Rimini before moving on to Padua, where he was to work on the celebrated frescoes in the Cappella Scrovegni and where his colouring developed a more metallic hue, while his compositions became more daring. Moreover, among Giovanni’s most important works is the cycle of frescoes probably from the 1310s in the church of Sant’Agostino in Rimini in which the colouring and volume of the figures show to what extent Giovanni had absorbed Giotto’s pre-Paduan style; the frescoes were to prove defining for the Riminese school for some time after.
The Alnwick panel was originally the left wing of a diptych and narrates a selection of episodes from the lives of the Virgin and Saints. The right-hand panel (see fig. 3), now in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome, shows six episodes from the life of Christ. Placed side by side, the two identically-sized panels illustrate in a refined palette and with the care of a miniaturist some of the most popular and emotionally charged biblical and apocryphal scenes which presumably resonated most strongly with the Medieval believer. The present work was acquired in 1853 from the Camuccini collection, while the Rome panel was in the Sciarra collection until 1897. The early history of the paintings has not reached us but according to Barbieri in his catalogue of the Camuccini collection (see Literature), we know the Alnwick panel came from the Barberini collection. Since the Sciarra and Barberini families first intermarried in the eighteenth century, it is likely that the two leaves of the diptych were separated after a family division.2 The panels have been reunited only once, on the occasion of the 1995 landmark exhibition on fourteenth-century Riminese painting.
As was common in Romanesque panels in the Marches and in Umbria, the panels are divided into several small scenes. The Rome valve is separated into six distinct sections which are of equal size and flow in an ordered sequence from the birth of the Messiah, through to His death, Resurrection and ultimately to His seating on His throne in Heaven. The Northumberland panel, however, introduces a freer approach in both the disposition of the sections and in the choice of narrative episodes. While a very similar decorative band runs vertically through the centre of the Rome panel, in the present work it stops above the lower section of episodes, which is itself divided unevenly. The upper left section depicts the Apotheosis of Saint Augustine and is in fact made up of two quadrants extended vertically. This format creates room for the wonderfully inventive and modern temple, around which a crowd steps back in amazement as they see Augustine’s empty tomb, and allows the artist to successfully explore an early attempt at convincing perspectival solutions. Above them hovers an asymmetrical company of weightless saints and angels who surround the Virgin and Christ and welcome into their fold Augustine, seen in the centre wearing his mitre. Though the upper-right side of the panel appears to be in two sections, with a series of red crosses apparently splitting it horizontally, it is in fact a remarkably inspired reversal of the compositional layout of the Apotheosis scene: the celestial gathering of figures now appears below the focus of the scene, which in this case is the Crowning of the Virgin, rather than above it. The elegant temple, meanwhile, has been swapped for an extravagant throne so often found in Venetian painting. The lively and beautifully robed angels are again inventively irregular yet lyrically balanced in their arrangement; the central angel is even turned away and offers his back to the viewer in a wonderful early example of foreshortening in the depiction of the wings, another testament to the artist’s confident reworking of previous models.
The lower section borrows themes directly from the Saint Francis cycle of frescoes in Assisi which is generally attributed to Giotto. To the left, in the episode of The Dispute of Saint Catherine, Giovanni pays homage to the fresco of Saint Francis preaching to the Sultan (see fig. 4), both in the outstretched arms and in the architectural niche to the right. In the lower right section we see an unusual juxtaposition of Saints Francis and John the Baptist placed within a convincingly three-dimensional mountainous setting. Again, the figures of Francis receiving the stigmata and the winged cherub are lifted from the Assisi cycle (see fig. 5).
Alongside the date of 1309 on Giovanni’s Crucifix in Mercatello (fig. 2), on the basis of style works such as the Alnwick panel also lend weight to the fact that Giotto stopped in Rimini on his way to Padua – how else could artists from a relatively provincial centre such as Rimini have had access to Giotto’s designs and have been so overwhelmingly influenced so early on? Giotto’s arrival sped up immeasurably the stylistic development of the Riminese school, which subsequently plateaued fairly rapidly by the 1320s. Yet despite quickly absorbing Giotto’s modernizing tendencies, part of Giovanni’s charm and his significance to art history is that his thirteenth-century roots are inescapable: the elongated proportions of the Mercatello Crucifix and the archaic background decoration once again remind us of the Byzantine tradition which held sway over Italian painting, particularly on the Adriatic coast. Even within Giovanni’s own œuvre, his stylistic evolution is marked: possibly painted just before the Alnwick and Rome diptych, the Madonna and Child with Saints and Angels in Faenza (see fig. 6) blends a rigid and formal two-tiered structure with some startling and successful innovations, but still feels more archaic than the present work. The iconography is a development of the Byzantine Virgin Pelagonitissa, a stock type which showed the Virgin with the playing Child and which became popular in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. While the lower tier presents the figures in a somewhat austere and evenly spaced arrangement, the Madonna and Child present a strong contrast, breaking free from the tradition that had preceded them and looking toward the more expressive solutions of the fourteenth century, particularly in their tender exchange and in the form of the contorted Child.
Vincenzo Camuccini (1771–1844) was the foremost neoclassical painter in Rome, President of the Academy of St Luke and Inspector-General of the Vatican Museums, and together with his brother Pietro (1760–1833), a prominent picture dealer and restorer, amassed a very considerable collection of works of art. The greater portion of the pictures, seventy four in number, were acquired by the Duke of Northumberland, and included such masterpieces as Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks in the National Gallery in London, and Bellini and Titian's Feast of the Gods now in the National Gallery in Washington. The sale was negotiated in 1853 by Antonio Giacinto Saverio, Count Cabral, who was Northumberland's attorney in Rome, and who had valued the collection in 1850 at £2,500. Letters in the Alnwick Castle archives indicate that the sale was originally brokered by the German Emil Braun.3 The sale was made with Vincenzo's son Giovanni Battista Camuccini (1819–1904), who subsequently bought a castle at Centalupo near Rome with the proceeds.
1. The Crucifix is signed and dated: IOHANNES PICTOR FECIT HOC OPUS FRATRI TOBALDI M.L.M.CCCVIIII.
2. The case is made all the more explicit when one takes into account that Palazzo Barberini is the name of the building of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome in which the Sciarra panel hangs.
3. See J. Anderson, ‘The Provenance of Bellini's Feast of the Gods and a New/Old Interpretation’, in Studies in the History of Art.45., Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts Symposium Papers, XXV, 1993, pp. 265–87.
Jan Brueghel the Elder’s The Garden of Eden – dated 1613 and painted on copper - is both a supreme example of this master’s art and depicts one of his most prized subjects. Only six recorded paintings by the Flemish artist of this subject are recorded, other examples being in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court, The Louvre, the Getty Museum and the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome (est. £2-3 million / €2,430,000-3,650,000 / $3,350,000- 5,020,000).
Jan Brueghel the Elder (Brussels, 1568-1625 Antwerp), The Garden of Eden with the fall of an man, signed and dated lower left.: ...EGHEL 1613, oil on copper, 23.7 by 36.8 cm.; 9 1/2 by 14 1/2 in – dated 1613. Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Pietro (1760–1833) and Vincenzo (1771–1844) Camuccini, Rome;
Acquired with the Camuccini collection by Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1792–1865) in 1853;
Thence by descent.
Exhibited: Barnard Castle, The Bowes Museum, From Northern Collections. Dutch and Flemish Painting of the 17th Century, Pottery and Porcelain, 7 June – 12 August 1963, no. 4;
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Festival of Britain Exhibition, 1951, no. 3.
Literature: T. Barberi, Catalogo ragionato della Galleria Camuccini in Roma, Rome 1851, Alnwick Castle DNP: MS 810, f. 8: Camera Seconda: No. 3. Brueghel Giov: Paradiso terrestre;
Manuscript list of the pictures in the Camuccini Gallery and the prices paid, Alnwick Castle DNA:F/76A: Camera Seconda. 3. Brueghel Giov: Paradiso terrestre, nome dell'autore e la data 1613.... £100;
G. F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London 1857, p. 471 (as at Alnwick): A pretty little picture. Signed;
Inventory of effects at Alnwick Castle, April 1865, Sy.H.IX.1.n., p. 61: Eastern Corridor. Brueghel John The Terrestrial Paradise;
Inventory of Pictures at Alnwick Castle, November 1894, Sy.F.XVII.3.a(6): Eastern Corridor. Tapestry Dressing Room. Brueghel, small picture, 'Garden of Eden';
C. H. Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Pictures in the Collection of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland at Syon House, Alnwick Castle, Albury Park and 17 Princes Gate, London 1930, p. 14, no. 52 (as hanging in Alnwick Castle);
K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, vol. II, Lingen 2008–2010, pp. 442–443, cat. no. 189, reproduced.
Notes: This is one of the finest examples of Jan Brueghel’s famous 'Paradise' landscapes to remain in private hands. Transcending the tiny dimensions of the copper panel upon which it was painted, its beautifully rendered panoramic woodland setting and the lovingly detailed depiction of the teeming variety of the animal life within it, makes it easy to see why such pictures became the most famous of all the artist’s works, earning him the sobriquet ‘Paradise Brueghel’. Within these exquisite works of art Brueghel managed to give expression not only to Counter Reformation religious thought on the Creation and the natural world, but also to the burgeoning contemporary interest in the classification and representation of all its many species. From his own day to this, such works have consistently remained the rarest and most prized of all his creations.
Brueghel’s paradise landscapes such as this typically presented their subject matter within a Biblical context. Because the story of the Creation provides the Biblical link between God and the natural world, Brueghel’s concentration upon the depiction of so many animals was ideally suited to the narratives of the Book of Genesis, in this case, the Fall of Man. Here Brueghel's landscape depicts the Animal Kingdom in its harmonious state of perfection before the Fall. The viewer is at first drawn to the bewildering array of species, ranging from ostriches, a dromedary, lions and a grey horse on the left, to monkeys, cattle and leopards on the right sides of the foreground, and the eye is drawn in through a variety of birds, including swans, a peacock, heron and duck on either side of a stream into the distance goats and deer roam, and beyond them wander deer and an elephant. All around and above fly a variety of birds, familiar European species mingling with more exotic birds of paradise. And in the distant corner the eye finally alights upon the true subject of the picture, the tiny naked figures of Adam and Eve shown at the moment when they are led by the serpent to partake of the fruit of tree and thus commit the original Sin. The deliberately false insignificance of the key iconographical detail harks back to earlier Mannerist tradition and in particular the work of Jan’s father Pieter Breugel the Elder, but its presence serves to remind the viewer of his primary subject: the natural world as an expression of Divine Creation.
These elements were already in place when Brueghel painted his first paradise landscape, the Creation of Adam(Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilij) in Rome in 1594, when he was in the service of Cardinal Federico Borromeo (1564–1631).1 The composition (fig. 1) is relatively awkward, with a slightly imbalanced divide between the animals and the birds and fishes, as befits a first essay in this genre. The importance of Borromeo’s patronage and influence, which would become a lifelong friendship with the artist, was to be of crucial importance in the development of Brueghel’s career and of the paradise theme itself. His philosophy provides the religious context within which Jan Brueghel's landscapes of this type would be understood. Nature and its representation in art was to be illustrative of the divine hierarchy, and the magnificence of God perceived through the contemplation of Nature. Borromeo had been particularly influenced by the thought of Filippo Neri (1515–95), the founder of the Oratorian Order, who had stressed the significance of the Creation. For Borromeo the extraordinary variety of all living species was in itself a living reflection of the Divine power of Creation. His posthumous work, I tre libri delle laudi divine (1632) encouraged the worship of God through an appreciation of his creations, and animals in particular.
‘Looking then with attentive study at animals’ construction and formation, and at their parts, and members, and characters, can it not be said how excellently divine wisdom has demonstrated the value of its great works?’
By the summer of 1596 Brueghel had returned to his native Antwerp, and by the time the present copper was painted in 1613, he had evolved a far more assured formula for the paradise theme, with both landscape and animals altogether more confidently placed in relation to each other, and the mastery of detail in their depiction complete. Works on this theme from the intervening period include a copper in the Prado in Madrid, and a circular copper in the Staatsgalerie, Neuburg an der Donau.2 The present panel belongs to a core group of pictures painted between 1612 and 1615 in which Brueghel developed his most successful designs for the Paradise landscapes. The most closely related example of this particular composition is the larger copper today in the Galleria Doria Pamphilij in Rome, which is signed and dated 1612.3 The design is broadly the same as that of the Northumberland copper from the following year, the chief differences being the changing of the positions of Adam and Eve and the greater prominence accorded the horse, dromedary and ostriches on the left of the picture. In addition to these Ertz (see Literature) also records a small (28 x 38 cm.) canvas formerly with William Doyle in New York, which closely follows the present painting, and a larger (60 x 96 cm.) panel last recorded with Goudstikker in Amsterdam, which follows the Doria Pamphilij version. Both are now known only from photographs and their autograph status remains doubtful.4 Two years later, in 1615, Brueghel returned to the theme of the Fall of Man in a copper now in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court, in which the composition is very similar but in reversed format, with the prominent grey horse and the distant figures of Adam and Eve now to be found on the right-hand side of the picture. A close replica in gouache, which Ertz assigns to the hand of Brueghel himself, was with Galerie d'Art Saint Honoré in Paris.5 The year 1615 seems to have marked the high water mark of Jan Brueghel's preoccupation with this Paradise design, for this marks the date of what is surely his largest and greatest work on this subject, the panel of Paradise landscape with the Fall of Man painted in collaboration with Rubens himself, and today in the Mauritshuis in The Hague (fig. 2).6
The enormous step up in quality between the Doria Pamphilij painting of 1594 and the present painting can of course be explained in terms of the progression of Brueghel’s own maturity, but another key factor was the influence of Rubens, with whom he had begun to work from around 1598 onwards. The magnificent grey stallion on the left of the painting, for example, is heavily indebted to Rubens’ development of this type in a number of works, chiefly equestrian portraits, and probably goes back to his studies of a Riding School, (fig. 3) painted around 1609–12 in preparation for his lost equestrian portrait of the Archduke Albert and formerly in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin.7 Similarly, the poses of the two lions beside the horse suggest strongly that Brueghel had first hand knowledge of Rubens’ own first-hand drawn studies of these beasts (London, British Museum and Vienna, Albertina)8 or else his celebrated canvas of Daniel in the Lions’ Den of circa 1612 today in Washington, National Gallery of Art.9 The presence of these animals in the Doria Pamphilij panel of 1612 show that Brueghel was familiar with their design by this date. Again, the two leopards playing on the ground on the right of the painting are also inspired by a Rubensian prototype, the Leopards, nymphs and satyrs now in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.10
Such borrowings from the work of Rubens should not be taken to infer that Brueghel’s animals were entirely derivative, for Brueghel certainly made his own studies after nature for these pictures, although very few have survived. Though none can be specifically linked to this composition, one such made in relation to his Noah and the Animals entering the Ark of 1622, now in the Getty Museum, gives a good indication of their appearance. Pen and brown ink sketches of various animals are also preserved from his visit to the court of the Emperor Rudolf II in Prague in 1604. The ostriches on the left of the picture undoubtedly reflect the result of first hand studies, such as that in pen and ink and watercolour sold New York, Sotheby’s, 20 January 1982, lot 53 (fig. 4). Brueghel’s inscription recording its size (9 voesen hooghe – nine feet high) shows quite clearly that the drawing was the result of direct observation.
As Arianne Faber Kolb has recently suggested, the prominent position occupied in the painting by both horse and lions is a direct reference to, and reflection of, their symbolic nature as royal beasts.11 Their iconographic nature as such was undoubtedly intended as a reflection of the patronage of the Archduke Albert of Austria (1559–1621) and his wife the Infanta Isabella of Spain (1566–1633), for whom Brueghel worked as court painter in Brussels between 1606 and the end of their reign in 1621. Equally importantly, it was at the Archdukes' celebrated menagerie in Brussels (fig. 5) that Brueghel would have been able to study a variety of birds and animals at first hand. From 1599 onwards the Archdukes, following in a tradition that stretched back through the Emperors Rudolf II, Maximilian I and Charles V all the way to Phillip of Burgundy, had remodelled their park to include enclosures for animals and aviaries for exotic birds. Duke Ernst Johan of Saxony, who visited Albert and Isabella in 1613, the year of this painting, described their park as filled with deer and birds, including aviaries with parrots, scarlet macaws, rare pheasants, wild and Indian pigeons, sparrow hawks from Iceland, and many ducks. By the time of theOmmeganck celebrations in Isabella’s honour two years later on 31 May 1615, at least four dromedaries had been added to the collection, and it is possible that Brueghel may have seen these too at first hand. In addition to this, of course, he may have been able to study animals in his native city of Antwerp, whose port was busy with goods from the New World, including many new and exotic species of animal.
We know that Brueghel was granted access to the menageries in Brussels, for in a letter to his earliest patron, Cardinal Federico Borromeo in Rome, written on 5 September 1621 Brueghel wrote of his delight in being able to study nature in preparation for his painting of the Virgin and Child within a garland of flowers (Madrid, Museo del Prado) in which 'the birds and animals were done from the life from several of her Serene Highness's specimens'.12 If Borromeo’s philosophy provided the religious context within which Brueghel’s paradise landscapes would have been understood by his contemporaries, the patronage of the Archdukes was of equal importance, for it connected Brueghel to the contemporary growth and extension of enquiry into the natural world and the classification of its contents. This trend manifested itself not only in the collection of animals in the menagerie of the Archdukes, but also in the appearance of the first scientific collections and the publication of the first natural history catalogues, notably those by Conrad Gesner (1516–65), the Swiss naturalist whose famous ground breaking encyclopaedia, the Historiæ Animalium was printed as early as 1551–58, and the Bolognese scholar Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605) whose Ornithologiæ was published in 1599–1603. These were the first comprehensive works on natural history since Pliny’s Historia Naturalis (A.D. 77), and the first to apply an extensive system of description for each animal. From these sources Brueghel seems to have adopted the idea of grouping the animals together in their basic groups and depicted them correctly in their specific natural habitat. This classifying tendency was strongest in other works closely related to the paradise landscapes, most notably Brueghel’s series of paintings of the Elements and those devoted to the story of the Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark, notably for example, those of 1613 in the Getty Museum in California and of 1615 in Apsley House, London. Brueghel was by no means the first artist to treat the theme of the landscape of paradise, nor the first to closely observe wild animals, but his study of the animals in the Archdukes’ menagerie and the growing intellectual background against which such studies were set, gave his paradise landscapes such as this a realism and an accuracy in the depiction of the various species depicted that had never been seen before. Brueghel’s own highly detailed and finished style was ideally suited to this task.
Sadly, the earliest history of this painting is as yet unknown. It entered the Northumberland collections, of course, with the acquisition by the 4th Duke of the inventory of the gallery of the Camuccini brothers in Rome in 1853. The date of its acquisition or purchase by the Camuccini brothers is not known, but it is not impossible that the painting had been in Rome from an earlier date. Brueghel’s first paradise landscape, that in Galleria Doria Pamphilij in Rome is recorded in the collection of Cardinal Camillo Pamphilij (d. 1666) in 1654 and may well have been painted there for Cardinal Federico Borromeo. The other version of this composition, the larger panel in the same collection, is also recorded in the same inventory. Camillo’s letters, as well as subsequent family inventories, suggest that he acquired most of the paintings by Brueghel in the family collection, including a famous set of the Four Elements, painted around 1610–11 and which remain in the family collection to this day.
1. Copper, signed and dated 1594, 26.5 x 35 cm. Reproduced in K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, under Literature, 2008–10, pp. 432–33, no. 185.
2. Ertz and Nitze-Ertz, op. cit., 2008–10, pp. 434–37, nos. 186 and 187, reproduced.
3. Copper, 50.3 x 80.1 cm., signed and dated 1612, ibid.,pp. 440–42, no. 188.
4. Ibid., nos. 190 and 191.
5. Ibid., nos. 192 and 193.
6. P. Van der Ploeg and Q. Buvelot, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis. A Princely Collection, The Hague 2006, pp. 74–76, reproduced.
7. H. Vlieghe, Rubens Portraits. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, Part XIX, vol. II, London 1987, p. 36, fig. 4.
8. J. S. Held, Rubens. Selected Drawings, London 1959, vol. I, p. 131, cat. no. 83, and vol. II, Frontispiece and plate 96.
9. Washington, Alicia Mellon Bruce Fund, inv. no. 1965.13-1. Canvas, 224 x 390 cm. For which see M. Jaffé, Rubens. Catalogo completo, Milan 1989, p. 202, no. 289, reproduced.
10. Jaffé, op. cit., 1989, p. 203, no. 289bis, reproduced.
11. A. Faber Kolb, Jan Brueghel the Elder: The Entry of the Animals into Noah's Ark, Getty Museum Studies on Art, Los Angeles 2005.
12. Cited by A. van Suchtelen, in the exhibition catalogue,Rubens and Brueghel. A Working Friendship, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2006, p. 69, n. 39.
From a different place and era is a fascinating portrait of Mohawk War Chieftain Thayendanegea (to whom the English gave the name Joseph Brant), commissioned by Hugh Percy, the 2nd Duke of Northumberland from the American artist, Gilbert Stuart in 1786 (est. £1-1.5 million / €1,220,000-1,830,000 / $1,680,000-2,510,000). An interpreter for the British Indian Department, Brant assisted the British in the American War of Independence in order to regain land that had been lost by the Mohawk people. He fought alongside the 2nd Duke at the Battle of Long Island, New York in 1776 and was described at the time as “The perfect soldier, possessed of remarkable stamina, courage under fire, and dedicated to the cause, an able and inspiring leader and a complete gentleman.” Despite the fact that he was widely admired by many of his English compatriots, his closest, and indeed only, enduring friendship with a white man was with Hugh Percy.
Gilbert Stuart (Saunderson, Rhode Island 1755 -1828 Boston), Portrait of the Mohawk Chieftain Thayendanegea, known as Joseph Brant (1742–1807), inscribed, verso, on the relining: Joseph Theanandagen (commonly called Capt Brandt [sic]) Chief Warrior of Sachem of the Mohawk / Nation of Indians who served with the Duke of Northumberland in America in the Year 1776 / Transcribed 27th June 1955, oil on canvas, 76.2 by 61 cm.; 30 by 25 in. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Commissioned in 1786 by Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742-1817);
By descent to his son, Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland (1785–1847);
By inheritance to his brother, Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1792–1865);
By inheritance to his cousin, George Percy, 5th Duke of Northumberland (1778–1867);
By descent to his son, Algernon George Percy, 6th Duke of Northumberland (1810–1899);
By descent to his son, Henry George Percy, 7th Duke of Northumberland (1846–1918);
By descent to his son Alan Ian Percy, 8th Duke of Northumberland (1880–1930), who married Helen Gordon-Lennox (1886–1965), daughter of Charles Gordon-Lennox, 7th Duke of Richmond;
By descent to their second son, Hugh Algernon Percy (1914–1988), who succeeded his brother, the 9th Duke, as 10th Duke of Northumberland in 1940, after he was killed in action whilst serving with the Grenadier Guards during the retreat to Dunkirk;
By descent to his son, Henry Alan Walter Richard Percy, 11th Duke of Northumberland (1953–1995);
By inheritance to his brother, Ralph George Algernon Percy, 12th and present Duke of Northumberland (b. 1956), the current owner.
Exhibited: London, British Institution, 1857, no. 110;
London, Christie’s, 24 August – 25 September 1960;
Washington, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1 May 1976 – 1 April 1977;
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilbert Stuart, 18 October 2004 – 27 February 2005, no. 17;
Washington, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian, Gilbert Stuart, 8 April 2005 – 31 May 2005, no. 17;
Washington, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian, American Origins 1600–1900, 2006, no. 66.
Literature : W. L. Stone, Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea, including the Border Wars of the American Revolution, 2 vols., New York 1838, vol. I, p. xxviii, vol. II, pp. 251 and 337;
Alnwick Castle, Sy.H.VIII.1.b, Syon House Inventory, 1847, p. 212;
M. Fielding, 'Paintings by Gilbert Stuart not mentioned in Mason's Life of Stuart', in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1914, vol. 38, pp. 311–34;
M. Fielding, 'Addenda and Corrections to Paintings by Gilbert Stuart not noted in Mason's Life of Stuart', Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1920, vol. 44, pp. 88–91;
L. Park, Gilbert Stuart. An illustrated descriptive list of his works, New York 1926, vol. II, p. 747, no. 831, reproduced, vol. IV, p. 516;
C. H. Collins Baker, A Catalogue of the Pictures in the Collection of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, London 1930, cat. no. 702 (hanging at Albury Park).
J. R. Fawcett Thompson, ‘Thayendanegea the Mohawk and his several portraits. How the ‘Captain of the Six Nations’ came to London and sat for Romney and Stuart’, in The Connoisseur, vol. 170, January 1969, p. 51, reproduced fig. 3;
D. Evans, The Genius of Gilbert Stuart, Princeton 1999, p. 44, reproduced p. 45;
C. R. Barratt and E. G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2004, pp. 68–71, reproduced in colour p. 69.
Notes: "Our wise men are called Fathers, and they truly sustain that character. Do you call yourselves Christians? Does the religion of Him who you call your Saviour inspire your spirit, and guide your practices? Surely not.
It is recorded of Him that a bruised reed he never broke. Cease then to call yourselves Christians, lest you declare to the world your hypocrisy. Cease too to call other nations savage, when you are tenfold more the children of cruelty than they.
No person among us desires any other reward for performing a brave and worthwhile action, but the consciousness of having served his nation.
I bow to no man for I am considered a prince among my own people. But I will gladly shake your hand."
Joseph Brant to King George III, 1786
Painted in 1786, whilst the sitter was on his second visit to England, this powerfully evocative painting is possibly the finest portrait of one of the seminal figures of early American history. The paramount war chief of the Iroquois Nation, as well as a missionary and diplomat of consummate skill, Thayendanegea was the Native American best known to Europeans of his generation. An inspirational leader, he lobbied tirelessly with both British and American authorities to secure his nation's survival. Commissioned by his close friend and old comrade in arms, Hugh, Earl Percy, later 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742–1817: see fig. 1), whilst Brant was in London in the winter of 1785–86, negotiating land claims with the British Crown, this portrait is a visual expression of a fraternal bond forged in adversity, and a friendship that traversed culture, race and an ocean. Brant and Percy had met in 1776 when both commanded allied troops around Boston and New York during the American Revolution. By repute Brant is believed to have been with Percy in the flanking movement that cut through the Jamaica Pass during the Battle of Long Island, when British forces under General Howe retook New York, and the pair formed a bond that led to Percy’s adoption by the Mohawk as a warrior of their nation, under the name Thorighwegeri (or The Evergreen Brake, implying ‘a titled house that never dies’).1 Following Percy’s return to England they kept up a lifelong correspondence and exchange of ceremonial gifts. In the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto, are a pair of flintlock pistols, inlaid with silver escutcheons engraved with the letter 'N' surmounted by ducal coronets, that were sent by Percy, by then Duke of Northumberland, to Brant in 1791. The many surviving letters between the two, several of which can be found in the British Museum, as well as in various archives in America, convey a strong mutual respect and a genuine affection on both sides, in what was to be Brant’s only lasting friendship with a white man.
Born in 1742 on the banks of the Cayahoga River, Ohio, Thayendanegea, known to the English as Joseph Brant, was the son of Tehowaghwengaraghkwin, a prominent Mohawk warrior. From his mother, Owandah, he descended from the Mohawk chief Theyanoguin and was born into the Mohican Wolf Clan, one of the chief tribes of the Iroquois Nation. His name, Thayendanega, translates as 'two sticks bound together', or 'he who places two bets' denoting strength and wisdom. Anglican Church records at Fort Hunter, New York, show that his parents were Christians whose English names were Peter and Margaret, but that his father died when he was still in infancy. Details of his early years are scarce, but at some point after his father’s death Joseph’s mother took him and his elder sister, Konwatsi’tsiaienni, known as Molly or Mary, to live with her people in the Mohawk Valley, and in 1753 remarried a widower named Canagaraduncka, a Mohawk sachem, or paramount chief, who was known to the whites as Barnet, or Bernard, and by contraction Brant. As such, young Joseph became known to the whites as Brant’s Joseph, and later Joseph Brant.
Brant’s step father had connections with the British, his grandfather having been one of the Four Mohawk Kings who visited England in 1710 (fig. 5), and was a friend of the influential and wealthy General Sir William Johnson (circa1715–74), Superintendent for Indian Affairs in the Northern Colonies. During Johnson’s frequent visits to the Mohawk he stayed with the Brants’ at Canajoharie, on the banks of the Mohawk River, and formed a relationship with Joseph’s sister Molly, with whom he lived as his common-law wife from 1763. Molly became something of a legendary figure in her own right and lived publically with Johnson, managing his estate during his many absences and running his household, as well as bearing him nine children. Through Johnson’s influence Brant became acquainted from a young age with many influential white figures within the New York colony, and the Superintendent took a personal interest in the young boy’s development and education. In 1761 Johnson arranged for Brant, along with two other Mohawk boys, to be educated by Dr Eleazar Wheelock, at Moor's Indian charity school in Connecticut, the precursor to Dartmouth College. He learned to speak, read and write English fluently, as well as being taught a number of other academic subjects. Brant's clear intelligence and diligence greatly impressed Wheelock, who described his promising student as being 'of sprightly genius, a manly and genteel deportment, and a modest and benevolent temper',2 and planned to send him to college in New Jersey.
A warrior noted for his bravery, as well as a distinguished missionary and diplomat in later life, Brant's rise to prominence began at an early age. His first military service came with the outbreak of hostilities between the French and British in North America in 1754. Early in what is referred to in America as the French and Indian Wars, part of the greater global conflict of the Seven Years War, Brant joined the Mohawk war parties which, along with other tribes of the Iroquois nation, allied themselves with the British. At only fifteen he took part in Major-General James Abercrombie's campaign to cross Lake George and invade French Canada, and in 1758 was one of the Iroquois warriors under the command of Sir William Johnson who accompanied General Jeffrey Amherst’s expedition against Fort Niagara, near present day Youngstown. The following year Brant was again with Amherst when he led a force of British regulars and local rangers down the St Lawrence River to besiege and capture Montreal, thereby ending French hegemony in North America, and was one of the 182 Native American warrior's to be awarded a silver medal by the British for his service.
Brant's intelligence and inspirational leadership inspired the esteem and respect of both his own Native American warriors and their British allies. As well as speaking English he was fluent in at least three, if not all of the Six Nation Iroquoian languages that made up the Iroquois confederacy, and from 1766 Brant worked as an interpreter for the British Indian Department. In the Spring of 1772 he moved to Fort Hunter, in upstate New York, where he collaborated with the Reverend John Stuart, an Anglican missionary, on the translation of the catechism of the Book of Common Prayer, as well as other Christian texts. With his learning and language skill, and his connections with the British, Brant rose swiftly through tribal ranks to become one of the leading war chiefs of the Iroquois nation, and with Johnson's encouragement, the primary spokesman for the Mohawk in Anglo-Indian relations. In 1775, with rising tensions between the American colonists and the British authorities, Brant, who remained loyal to the Crown, was appointed ‘Interpreter for the Six Nations Language’, at an annual salary of £85. 3s. 4d. In November of that year he travelled to England with Guy Johnson (1740–88), Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs and Sir William’s nephew, to petition the British government for aid (fig. 2). Specifically Brant hoped to secure assurances of support from the Crown in redressing past Mohawk land grievances against American colonists, in return for Iroquois military support in the coming conflict.
In London Brant's combination of civilised erudition and savage romanticism created a sensation, and he was universally lionised by both politicians and the beau monde. With his customary charisma and keen comprehension for cultural difference he adopted English style politeness for his negotiations with Lord Germain, Secretary of State for the American Colonies, whilst dressing in full Iroquois chieftain’s dress when in public. The Earl of Warwick commissioned Brant's portrait from George Romney (fig. 3: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), he was inducted into the Freemason’s, and was received at court by George III at St James’s Palace. The King presented Brant with the silver gorget, emblazoned with the Royal crest and inscribed ‘The Gift of a Friend to Capt. Brant’, which he is depicted wearing in this portrait, accompanied by a portrait cameo of the monarch.3 George was sympathetic to the Indian cause, and Brant returned home in June 1776 with the reassurances of protection for his people and their land which he had sought. In a letter Lord Germain further guaranteed that, in return for the loyalty of the Six Nations, the Iroquois could be assured ‘of every support England could render them’.4
Brant landed back in North America in July 1776, in time to join General Howe’s forces as they prepared to retake New York. Though there is no official record of his service, it is here, under the command of Generals Clinton and Cornwallis, that he is believed to have first made the acquaintance of the man that would become his greatest friend among the whites, Hugh, Earl Percy. Percy commanded six battalions, as well as a contingent of artillery, in the column that marched through the night at Jamaica Pass to attack the Americans’ flank on 27 August 1776. The plan was audacious, requiring knowledge of the local terrain, and Brant is believed to have led a party of Mohawk warriors in the attack, and distinguished himself for bravery. In November, following the capture of Fort Washington, at the northern end of Manhattan Island, in which Percy led the charge, Brant travelled north, raising a force of Mohawk warriors and white loyalist militia. Known as Brant’s Volunteers they operated out of Onoquaga, an Iroquois village on the Susquehanna River, and in the summer of 1777 joined forces with British regulars under Brigadier General Barry St Leger to besiege Fort Stanwix, defeating a Continental Army led by Nicholas Herkimer (circa 1728–77) at the Battle of Oriskany on 6 August. In July that year Brant had finally persuaded the council of the Six Nations to abandon their neutrality, and enter the war on the British side. For the next six years he led Iroquois forces in a dazzlingly successful campaign throughout the Mohawk Valley and the area around the Great Lakes in support of the British. One of the most active partisan leaders in the frontier war, in April 1779 Lord Germain sent the governor of Quebec, Frederick Haldimand, a commission signed by George III, appointing Brant Colonel of Indians, in recognition ‘of his astonishing activity and success in the king’s service’.5 The document was suppressed, however, for fear of creating resentment among the other leading Iroquois warriors, and it was not until July 1780 that Brant received an official commission, when (at the recommendation of Guy Johnson) he was appointed Captain of the Northern Confederate Indians. Despite the delay in official recognition, however, Brant was widely praised for his leadership and skill, and British officers who served with him always had the highest praise for his abilities. He was described in official dispatches as ‘the perfect soldier, possessed of remarkable physical stamina, courage under fire, and dedication to the cause, as an able and inspiring leader, and as a complete gentleman’.6 Indeed white volunteers are known to have requested to fight under his command among Iroquois war parties, rather than serve in the rangers, such was their confidence in his abilities.
Following the treaty of Paris in 1783, which despite pre-war British promises made no provision for the welfare or sovereignty of their Native Americans allies, or showed any concern for the economic viability of the Six Nations, Brant travelled to England a second time to again petition the Crown on behalf of the Iroquois. In London he was once more feted by high society, and hailed as the ‘king of the Mohawks’. The reputation and fame he had acquired during the war meant that he was held in high esteem by the British aristocracy, and he used the opportunity to reacquaint himself with many of the British officers with whom he had served in North America. At court Brant ‘presented a seductive public image that merged diplomat and warrior, gentleman and brute’,7 astutely adapting Iroquois custom and dress to suit the occasion. The Baroness von Riedesel, who had known Brant in North America, described the magnificence of the spectacle he presented in her diary: ‘I saw… the famous Indian Chief, Captain Brant. I dined once with him at the General’s. In his dress he showed off to advantage the half military and half savage costume. His countenance is manly and intelligent, his disposition very mild. His manners are polished and he expresses himself with fluency’.8 It was a display that clearly impressed the teenage Prince of Wales, later George IV, who took Brant on many excursions in the capital, and he was much in demand in the salons of the establishment, even attending a masquerade ball.9 This second visit also afforded the opportunity for Brant to reacquaint himself with old comrades who had served with him in North America, and in particular his blood brother Percy, who took the opportunity to commission the great American portrait artist Gilbert Stuart to paint Brant's likeness.Stuart, who had moved to London in 1775, was also commissioned to paint Brant’s portrait by Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings (1754–1826), who, like Northumberland, had seen active military service in North America during the revolution (fig. 4: Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, N.Y.). His exotic appearance was clearly an appealing subject for artists and Brant also sat to John Francis Rigaud whilst in London. The portrait depicted him in the uniform of an officer on the British Indian Department, together with an Iroquois headdress, and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in the summer of 1786 (whereabouts unknown).
Both Stuart’s portraits of Brant reinforce his Native American heritage, but it is only in the Northumberland portrait that the purpose of Brant’s embassy to London, and his allegiance with the British, is made explicit. With a fully modelled visage that portrays a man of intelligent determination, Brant is depicted in the costume of an Iroquois chieftain, his clothing proclaiming both his nationality and his dignity. The silver rings embroidered into his clothing, his plumed headdress, and the silver amulets on his upper arms and wrists all declare his high rank and status. Around his neck, suspended by a blue ribbon, he wears the gorget presented to him by George III, with a medallion portrait of the King in an imposing brass locket below, clearly demonstrating his political allegiance. He is, as Carrie Rebora Barratt wrote in her catalogue entry to the 2004 exhibition, ‘by Stuart’s brush, the exemplification of the savage and noble, an Iroquois statesman ornamented by the British. He entertains the royal encomiums, even as his poignant facial expression seems to acknowledge the equivocation in the King’s promises of assistance’.10 More than this, however, the painting is a statement of fraternity and eternal friendship; a token of affection between an English Lord and his brother warrior in the forests. Clearly it was an object which Percy held in high regard, for he mentions it in a letter to Brant in 1791 stating ‘I preserve with great care your picture, which is hung in the Duchess’s own room’, signing the letter ‘continue to me your friendship and esteem, and believe me ever to be, with the greatest truth, Your affectionate, Friend and Brother, Northumberland, Thorighwegeri’.11
Returning to North America in June 1786, Brant settled in Quebec, from where he continued to campaign tirelessly on the issue of Indian land sovereignty. Negotiating both with the British and the American Governments, in 1792 he travelled to Philadelphia to meet George Washington and negotiate Mohawk land claims in upstate New York. Though not a hereditary sachem (paramount chief) Brant’s education, fluency in English, and his many contacts with government officials in England and Canada, as well as his knowledge of the laws and customs of the whites, meant that he was entrusted as one of the primary spokesmen for his people. In the many territorial negotiations with the governments of Canada and United States that would be held in the years to follow, it was to Brant that the chiefs entrusted their diplomacy. In 1795 Brant secured a large tract of land from the Mississauga Indians, in the vicinity of Burlington Bay, on Lake Ontario, where he built a fine house and lived in genteel English style. He never forgot the cause of his people, however, and would actively pursue recognition of Indian rights until his death in 1807, at the age of 64.
Educated at Eton and St John’s College Cambridge, Hugh, Earl Percy, later 2nd Duke of Northumberland, was gazetted into the army in 1759 at the age of sixteen, first as an ensign in the 24th Regiment of Foot, and later that year as captain of the 85th. In 1762 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the newly raised 111th Regiment of Foot, and shortly afterwards received a commission in the Grenadier Guards. In 1764 he married Lady Anne Stuart, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bute (1713–92), though they were soon divorced, and was appointed aide-de-camp to the King, George III. Despite being elected to parliament in the 1774 general election, in May of that year Percy left with his regiment for service in North America. As a commander he was hugely admired by his troops, marching on foot alongside them and maintaining a vigilant eye on their welfare. He would often furnish his men with food and clothing at his own personal expense, and is known to have paid the cost of the return passage home for those widows whose husbands had died in his service. Extravagant and generous, he was one of the richest men in England and an important and long standing sponsor of Gilbert Stuart’s, whom he rescued from debt in 1785 and who took on something of a role akin to that of a court painter to the Percy household. Percy was therefore a crucial early patron of an artist who went on to become one of the greatest American portrait painters in history. As well as the portrait of Joseph Brant, Stuart painted several half-length portraits of the Duke himself, full-length portraits of the Duke and the Duchess, as well as a large scale portrait of his four children (Northumberland Collection, Syon House).
1. W. L. Stone, Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea, including the Border Wars of the American Revolution, 2 vols., New York 1838, vol. II, p. 337.
2. B. Graymont, 'Thayendanegea', in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. V, University of Toronto, online version.
3. Brant’s gorget is now in the Rochester Museum and Science Centre, Rochester, New York.
4. B. Graymont, op. cit.
7. C. R. Barratt and E. G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, exhibition catalogue, New York 2004, p. 70.
8. Quoted in L. A. Wood, The War Chief of the Six Nations. A Chronicle of Joseph Brant, Toronto 1914, p. 109.
9. An account of which is given in W. L. Stone, Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea, including the Border Wars of the American Revolution, 2 vols, New York 1838, vol. II, p. 259.
10. C. R. Barratt and E. G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, exhibition catalogue, New York 2004, p. 71.
11. Quoted in W. L.Stone, Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea, including the Border Wars of the American Revolution, 2 vols., New York 1838, vol. II, pp. 337–38.
RENAISSANCE AND BAROQUE MASTERWORKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON
Sold to Benefit The Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation
The sale will also present nine Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Estate of Barbara Piasecka Johnson (1937-2013) - art connoisseur, philanthropist and wife of the late John Seward Johnson, heir to the Johnson and Johnson medical and pharmaceutical firm. The group is led by three remarkably rare Florentine drawings, including the only Botticelli drawing to appear on the market in a century (est. £1-1.5 million / €1.2-1.8 million / $1.7-2.5 million) and two magnificent drapery studies, executed circa 1470 in one of the most important workshops of the Renaissance, the bottega of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488) (est. £1.5-2 million each, €1.8-2.4 million/ $2.5-3.4 million). In addition to the Renaissance drawings, the selection features an extraordinary depiction of The Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio’s gifted follower, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, which is the most important and powerful Italian Caravaggesque painting to appear on the open market in a generation (est. £3-5 million / €3.7-6 million / $5-8.4 million). The proceeds of the sale, expected to fetch over £8.6 million, are to benefit the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation, the primary focus of which is helping children with autism.
Sandro Botticelli (Florence 1444/5-1510), Study for a seated St Joseph, his head resting on his right hand, Pen and brown ink heightened with white over black chalk, on beige-pink washed paper. Squared in black chalk for transfer;bears attribution in pencil at the bottom: Giotto, 129 by 124 mm. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: George Le Hunte of Artramont, County Wexford,
thence by descent to the Misses M. H., L. E. and M. D. Le Hunte,
their sale and others, London, Sotheby's, 9 June 1955, lot 45 (as Workshop of Sandro Botticelli, purchased by Hewett, £ 300);
Miss A.J. Martin;
sale, London, Sotheby's, 26 June 1957, lot 10 (as Workshop of Sandro Botticelli, purchased by Tooth, £ 290);
with William Schab Gallery, New York, Master Drawings and Prints, 1960;
Benjamin Sonnenberg, his sale New York, Sotheby's, 5-9 June 1979, lot 125 (as Circle of Botticelli, $26,000);
sale, New York, Sotheby's, 13 January 1988, lot 88 ($ 80,000);
Barbara Piasecka Johnson
Exhibited: Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar College Art Gallery, and New York, Wildenstein and Co., Centennial Loan Exhibition, 1961, no. 2, reproduced;
Warsaw, The Royal Castle, Opus Sacrum from the Collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson, 1990, pp. 94-97, note 14 (entry by K. Oberhuber), reproduced p. 95;
Warsaw, The Royal Castle, The Masters of Drawing, Drawings from the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection, 2010-11, pp. 38-39, reproduced p. 39
Literature: R. Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli, Life and Works, London 1978, vol. II, p. 138, under no. C42;
The Faringdon Collection, Buscot Park, 1990, p. 47, under no. 47;
Buscot Park, The Faringdon Collection, 2004, p. 63, under no. 47
Notes: A very rare late drawing by Sandro Botticelli, the present sheet is closely related to the figure of St. Joseph to the left of The Nativity with adoring St John the Baptist, at Buscot Park (fig. 1), a tondo now believed to be a substantially autograph work by the artist, dating from the late 1480s. It seems to be the only surviving drawing by Botticelli that can be clearly linked with one of his paintings, and is also the only study by the artist that remains in private hands. The drawing, squared for transfer, shows minor but significant differences from the final painted work, especially in the position of the head of St. Joseph, which is higher and slightly tilted to the right. Moreover, some faint chalk lines, noticeable to the right of St. Joseph's head, indicate a revision in the position of his head, which appears initially to have been drawn leaning forward and turned, looking down towards the Child, an interesting but discarded alternative.
When the drawing was last sold in 1988 (see Provenance) the attribution to Botticelli was fully endorsed by Philip Pouncey and other scholars, and the study was rightly associated with the graphic style of the late Botticelli, although mistakenly believed to relate to the figure of St. Peter in the artist's painting, The Agony in the Garden, now in the Royal Chapel, Granada (fig. 2).1
In this remarkable drawing, the strong and firm contours are animated by deep and sculptural folds, executed in pen and ink, suggesting St. Joseph's seated pose and his abundant garments. The figure retains a strongly Gothic flavour and rhythm in its essential elegance and fluency of lines. The severity and solidity of the image is softened by the intricacy of the folds, and it is also lightened by the very dynamic and skilfully applied white heightening. The latter contrasts strikingly with the black chalk underdrawing, and with the parallel pen lines in the upper part of St. Joseph's body and sleeves, used most effectively to emphasize areas of shadow, which correspond closely with those seen in the Buscot Park painting. The use of abundant parallel lines is also noticeable in Botticelli's late allegorical figure of Faith, now in the British Museum, London, datable to circa 1490-1500.2 A further stylistic comparison can be made with another late study for a kneeling male figure, executed in the same media as the present sheet, now in the Ambrosiana.3 The subject of the Ambrosiana sheet was rightly identified by Berenson as St Thomas receiving the Virgin's girdle, and associated with the Botticellesque engraving of The Assumption of the Virgin, of circa 1495.4
Botticelli has here washed the paper in a beige-pink colour, leaving this grounding slightly unfinished to the right edge of the sheet. He possibly felt no need to complete the preparation which seems to be applied solely to enhance the coloristic effects achieved by the combination of other media that the artist has employed. This is most certainly a working drawing, but is also the type of record-drawing that the workshop of Botticelli would have used over and over again, also with some slight variations. The practice of creating a graphic archive, often preserved in albums or ‘pattern books,’ was common in the botteghe of the 15thcentury. It was not only a way to preserve and disseminate the master's style, but also a practical way to speed up the process when looking for motifs to incorporate in some newly-created composition. Such a finished drawing would certainly have been preserved in an album of this type.
Although this studio practice should have ensured the preservation of Botticelli's drawings, of which, according to Giorgio Vasari’s life of the artist, there were originally a substantial number, today only around a dozen original sheets are known to survive, plus the famous series of ninety-two drawings that Botticelli made around 1480-95 to illustrate Dante's Divina Commedia, drawings that are now divided between the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.5 Vasari writes: Disegnò Sandro bene e fuor di modo, e tanto, che dopo lui un pezzo s'ingegnarono gli artefici d'avere de' suoi disegni; e noi nel nostro Libro n'abbiamo alcuni che son fatti con molta pratica e giudizio.6
The present sheet seems to be the only drawing that can be directly connected with one of Botticelli's painted compositions, which makes it an extraordinary and important testimonianza of the artist’s working method. In its restrained style this sheet testifies to the severe influence and profound spiritual crisis which affected Botticelli at the time of Savonarola (1452-98), the Dominican reformer and preacher who ruled the city of Florence in the mid-1490s.
The present sheet seems to be the only drawing that can be directly connected with one of Botticelli's painted compositions, which makes it an extraordinary and important testimonianza of the artist’s working method. In its restrained style this sheet testifies to the severe influence and profound spiritual crisis which affected Botticelli at the time of Savonarola (1452-98), the Dominican reformer and preacher who ruled the city of Florence in the mid-1490s.
1. R. Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli, Life and Works, London 1978, reproduced vol. I, pl. 50
2. inv. no. 1895, 0915.448; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, Fra Angelico to Leonardo, Italian Renaissance Drawings, exh. cat., London, British Museum, 2010, and Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, 2011, p. 179, no. 38, reproduced
3. Codice Resta, f.14.bb. 569; G. Bora, I disegni del Codice Resta, Bologna 1976, 18, p. 14
4. G. Mandel, L'opera completa del Botticelli, Milan 1978, reproduced p. 117
5. Lightbown, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 147-151 and Sandro Botticelli, The Drawings for the Dante's Divine Comedy, exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2000
6. G. Vasari, Le Vite de più eccellenti pittori scultori ed architettori, ed. G. Milanesi, Florence 1878, vol. III, p. 323
Workshop of Andrea Del Verrocchio, circa 1470, traditionally attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, Drapery study of a kneeling figure facing left. Drawn with the brush in brown-grey wash, heightened with white, on linen prepared grey-green, laid down on paper; Numbered in brown ink: X, 288 by 181 mm. Estimate 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Everhard Jabach, his posthumous inventory of 1695, as Dürer,
thence by inheritance to his widow Anna Maria de Groote, then probably to their elder son, Everhard Jabach (1658-1721);
acquired by Pierre Crozat, Paris, at an unknown date between 1695 and 1721, his sale, Paris, 10 April 1741, part of lot 5, catalogued by Pierre Jean Mariette, as Leonardo,
acquired by Jean-Baptiste-François Nourri;
an unidentified black chalk paraphe on the verso of the backing sheet;
thence by inheritance to his son-in-law, Henri Dumesnil (L.739),
his sale, Paris, 10-12 May 1900, lot 255, as Leonardo;
Comtesse Martine Marie-Pol de Béhague;
Marquis Hubert de Ganay;
Marquis Jean Louis de Ganay,
his sale, Monaco, Sotheby's, 1 December 1989, lot 73, as Leonardo
Exhibited: Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Leonardo da Vinci, Mostra di disegni, manoscritti e documenti, 1952, no. 10;
Vinci, et al., La Raccolta Leonardesca della Contessa de Béhague, 1980-81;
Paris, Louvre, Leonard de Vinci: Dessins et manuscrits, 1989-1990, (catalogue by Françoise Viatte), no. 8
Literture: B. Degenhart, ‘Eine Gruppe von Gewandstudien des jungen Fra Bartolommeo’,Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst, vol. XI, 1934, p. 224, note 6 (as Fra Bartolommeo);
B. Berenson, The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, Chicago 1938, vol. I, p. 62, vol. II, no. 1071A, vol. III, fig. 525 (as Leonardo);
K. Clark, Leonardo da Vinci, Cambridge 1939, p. 12, under note 1 (as Leonardo);
B. Berenson, I Disegni dei Pittori Fiorentini, Milan 1961, vol. I, p. 102, vol. II, p. 211, no. 1071A, vol. III, fig. 445 (as Leonardo);
C. Ragghianti and G. D. Regoli, Disegni dal modello, Pisa 1975, p. 31, under note 10 (as Leonardo);
G. D. Regoli, ‘Il piegar de’panni’, Critica d’Arte, XXII, November-December 1976, pp. 47-48, under note 16 (mentions de Ganay group and attributes them to Leonardo);
A. Vezzosi and C. Pedretti, La Raccolta Leonardesca della Contessa de Béhague, Vinci 1980, p. 19, fig. 2 (as Leonardo);
A. Vezzosi and C. Pedretti, Leonardo’s Return to Vinci, The Countess of Béhague Collection, New York 1981, p. 21, fig. 2 (as Leonardo);
J. Snow-Smith, The Salvator Mundi of Leonardo da Vinci, Seattle 1982, pp. 53-54, fig. 51 (as Leonardo);
J. Cadogan, ‘Linen Drapery Studies by Verrocchio, Leonardo and Ghirlandaio’,Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 1983, vol. 46, p. 56, fig. 22, reproduced (as Leonardo);
Leonardo da Vinci, exhib. cat., London, South Bank Centre, 1989, p. 50, under cat. no. 3 (as Leonardo);
D. Scrase, ‘Paris and Lille, Leonardo: Italian Drawings’, The Burlington Magazine, February 1990, pp. 151-153 (as Leonardo);
K. Christiansen, ‘Leonardo drapery studies’, Burlington Magazine, August 1990, p. 572 (as Ghirlandaio);
D.A. Brown, Leonardo da Vinci: Origins of a Genius, London 1998 (discusses the group exhibited in 1989 and attributes it to Verrocchio and his Workshop);
P.C. Marani, Leonardo una carriera di pittore, Milan 1999 (as Verrocchio and his Workshop);
B. Py, Everhard Jabach, collectionneur (1618 – 1695), Paris 2001, pp. 20 and 274;
Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003, pp. 116 and 119, under note 18;
Leonard de Vinci. Dessins et manuscrits, exhib. cat., Paris, Louvre, 2003, p. 56, under note 6, p. 57 and note 18 (as Leonardo);
C. Bambach, ‘Leonardo and drapery studies on ‘tela sottilissima de lino’’, Apollo Magazine, January 2004, p. 53, under note 30 (as Verrocchio);
B. Py, 'Everhard Jabach: Supplement of Identifiable Drawings from the 1695 Estate Inventory,' Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007, p. 6, and p. 36 note 15;
A. Gauthier, ‘From Crozat to The Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes: The Origins of the Drawings Collection of the Marquis De Robien’, Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007, p. 95;
L. Bicart-Sée, 'Some Archival References for Jean-Baptiste-François Nourri,' Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007, p. 88;
G. Aubert, ‘From Crozat to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes: The Origins of the Drawings Collection of the Marquis De Robien,’ Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007, p. 95
Sixteen Drapery Studies from the Workshop of Verrocchio
These two remarkable drapery studies from the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection belong to a hugely important group of some 16 similarly drawn draperies on fine linen (‘tela sottilissima di lino’), which bear witness to the brilliance and originality of one of the most important of all Renaissance workshops, that of Andrea del Verrocchio (circa 1435-1488). There sculpture, painting and architecture came together in a unified artistic expression of monumentality, anticipating what Vasari would later describe as the nuova maniera. The achievements of Verrocchio’s workshop were essentially the product of his own incredible vision and talent, but also grew out of the innovative contributions of the various brilliant young artists in his bottega, most notably the young Leonardo da Vinci, who seems to have begun his apprenticeship between 1464 and 1469. Leonardo joined Verrocchio’s workshop more or less at the peak of the master’s career, when he was involved in major commissions for the Medici family, having rapidly taken over the mantle of the family’s favourite artist after the death of Donatello in 1466. Interestingly in the context of these drapery studies, Donatello was the first sculptor to experiment, already in the middle of the 15th century, with the use of actual fabric in casting the draperies of his figures, a famous example being the bronze of Judith and Holofernes, in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
This was a time of great dynamism and change, to which an innovative and restless intellect such as Verrocchio was perfectly suited. Vasari characterized Verrocchio not only as an artist interested in painting and sculpture, but also as a studioso who devoted time to ‘scienze’ and ‘geometria’,and a ‘musico perfettissimo’.1 His workshop was famous even beyond the borders of Tuscany as an educational centre for young artists, and in the mid-1470s no other workshop in Florence was producing comparable quantities of important paintings. Verrocchio’s bottegaembodied the highest formula of success for a Renaissance workshop, namely total command of different media.
The pivotal group of 16 drapery studies to which the Johnson drawings belong were produced in the febrile environment of Verrocchio’s studio during the 1470s, and constitute a unique contribution to the history of Italian Renaissance drawing. From this group, only the present two drawings remain in private hands; the others are all in European public collections.2 It was Giorgio Vasari, in the second (1568) edition of his Lives of the Artists, who first credited Leonardo da Vinci with having invented the highly experimental and original technique seen in these studies: drawn with the point of the brush in tempera, heightened with white body-colour, on finely woven linen prepared with a thin layer of grey-green, these remarkable drawings are at once both painterly and sculptural. If Vasari was correct in attributing the invention of this technique to Leonardo, the teenage prodigy clearly transformed both the technique and usage of drapery studies.
Vasari’s description of Leonardo’s drapery studies on tela di lino follows his mention of the young artist’s apprenticeship in the bottega of Verrocchio. Vasari writes that Leonardo ‘studiò assai in ritrar di natural’ and continues: ‘e qualche volta in far modegli di figure di terra; e adosso a quelle metteva cenci molli interrati, e poi con pazienza si metteva a ritrargli sopra a certe tele sottilissime di rensa o di panni lini adoperati, e gli lavorava di nero e bianco con la punta del pennello, che era cosa miracolosa, come ancora ne fa fede alcuni che ho di sua mano in sul nostro Libro de’ disegni’ (and sometimes in making models of figures in clay, over which he would lay soft pieces of cloth dipped in clay, and then set himself patiently to draw them on a certain kind of very fine Rheims cloth, or prepared linen: and he executed them in black and white with the point of the brush, so that it was a marvel, as some of them by his hand, which I have in our book of drawings, still bear witness).3 Although Vasari mentions that he himself owned some of these studies, none of the surviving examples are on his distinctive mounts, nor can any be associated with him by other means; yet clearly Vasari was not only familiar with these works, but also fascinated by the visual effect and remarkable impact of these revolutionary studies on linen.
Yet despite this subsequent acclaim, drapery studies of this kind, drawn with a technique that transcends the boundaries between drawing and painting – and indeed sculpture – seem not to have been popular with the following generations of Florentine artists, and were only produced during a brief period during the last quarter of the 15th century, although some of them, such as the famousDrapery study for a seated figure in the Louvre4 (a drawing that is accepted by the majority of scholars as the work of Leonardo himself), were copied at the time, and reused in paintings well into the sixteenth century.5
The two Johnson studies, executed in the bottega of Verrocchio in the 1470s, were clearly drawn from three-dimensional models consisting of an underlying figure made of wood, clay or wax, draped with real cloth dipped in liquid clay or wax that has been arranged so as to create deep folds and draperies, emphasising the sculptural qualities of the ensemble, an effect that is enhanced in the drawings through the carefully and brilliantly applied white distemper.
In the first study of a kneeling figure, unlike the other drawings in the group, there is no obvious indication of a mannequin underneath, yet the complex forms of the folds do provide a clear sense of a body beneath, and also create an impression of the folded left arm, which acts as a divider for the upper part of the body. The deep and intricate folds are studied in a subtle and coherent way, without losing the overall effect of elegance and harmony. The sculptural symmetry and dynamism of the mantle is enhanced by the skilful chiaroscuro effects: a flash of light falls theatrically from the left. The artist has here used very subtle shades and gradations of grey-green, but it is the white distemper that captures the light, helping to distinguish the variety of folds. These highlights somehow manipulate the pose and create vitality, in striking contrast to the fundamentally static elements of this monumental, powerfully rooted image, enhancing the three-dimensional effect of the cascading mantle. As Françoise Viatte noted in her 1989 Louvre exhibition catalogue entry for this drawing, there is a close similarity between the forms of these draperies and those of another drapery study of a kneeling female figure (fig. 1), formerly in the Malcolm collection and now in the British Museum (where currently listed as Leonardo da Vinci), writing: ‘L’attitude correspond à celle de l’étude de la collection Malcolm,….Le profile est plus marqué ici et le corps n’est pas indiqué…..’. 6
In the second Johnson study, which shows a standing figure, in profile and looking to the right (see following lot), the outlines of a lay model can, in contrast, be easily discerned, its right arm folded and resting on its chest, while at the top of the drawing we see the lightly suggested outlines of the neck. These quick notations of a mannequin, drawn with the point of the brush in a dark shade of grey, help the viewer to understand the fall of the draped cloth and the position of the body beneath. The light, which falls dramatically from the right, is, however, concentrated only on the draped cloth, leaving in darkness the back of the figure and the upper part of the body, as well as the last ample fold of cloth just below the arm. Like the kneeling study, this drawing is very subtly executed with the point of the brush and different shades of grey-green tempera, heightened with white distemper which captures the light. The focus on a side view of the cascading, draped cloth is paralleled in another drawing from the group, in the Louvre, where the model appears slightly more rotated to the left, and the drapery is studied from a closer viewpoint.7
Carmen Bambach has suggested that the technique of painting drapery studies on linen support had its origin in ‘practicality…as fine woven fabric provides a more durable and flexible support than paper for the application of a layer of tempera pigment.’8 This must indeed have been an important factor in the choice of support, combined with the fact that the surface of the linen catches the light very differently from paper, creating a visual texture that is a singularly effective and appropriate vehicle for a drapery study. Both the Johnson drawings seem to encapsulate Leonardo’s theoretical views on the depiction of drapery, as articulated in one of his notes for an ultimately unrealised treatise on art, where he emphasised that drapery is most correctly rendered when life is sensed beneath and not when it is simply a mass of cloth falling from a body, as many artists seem to think it should be depicted, without properly considering the overall effect.9
In 15th-century Italy there was a well-established tradition of artists seeking inspiration from antique art, and especially from antique sculpture, which they studied and copied relentlessly. Although this reverence for antiquity would, of course, endure for centuries to come, the developing practice of drawing from life gave rise to a completely different approach to the study of the human body. This practice of life drawing, ritrar di natural, was fundamental in enabling young artists (or even experienced masters) to develop their ability to create and communicate the infinite variety of poses required to paint or sculpt successfully. Above all, life drawing helped them understand and master the use of light in depicting a figure; yet in drawings such as these, the light almost becomes the subject, and in their near-abstract impact, these astonishing works transcend their period of creation, and are both essentially modern and fundamentally timeless.
Given their technique, with carefully applied layers of tempera and only very slight, outlined underdrawings, these studies on linen are executed in what Popham already described in 1946 as an ‘impersonal medium’, where the personal ductus of an individual artist is rather hard to identify.10 It is therefore not surprising that opinions continue to differ regarding the attribution of individual studies within the group. In a workshop such as Verrocchio’s, several artists would probably have drawn the same three-dimensional model at the same time, from different viewpoints, and the style and execution of the works they produced, under the close direction of the master, would have been rather similar. Verrocchio would have seen drawing instruction as a key way to shape the style of his young apprentices, thereby guaranteeing the greatest possible uniformity of execution when he and his studio assistants worked together on the paintings that would issue forth from his studio, under his name. Yet even if there is no clear consensus of opinion regarding the attribution of these drapery studies, as Carmen Bambach observed at the outset of her 2004 article, little can match ‘..the aesthetic beauty, monumentality of expression, and technical innovation of the much-debated group of drapery studies painted in tempera with the brush on finely woven linen, prepared with a thin layer of blue-green, grey, or beige, or nearly brown colour.’ 11
What is, perhaps, surprising is the fact that so few drapery studies like these two have survived, given the importance of Verrocchio’s workshop and the studio assistants it produced,12 the general tendency at the time for drawings to be kept together as a sort of graphic archive of the studio, and the fact that the technique in which these particular works were made was seen even by Vasari, hardly a century later, as extraordinarily original and brilliant.
The History of the Drawings, and of their Attribution:
The journey taken by the 16 surviving drapery studies of this type from their creation in the 1470s to the present day is clearly a fascinating one. Regarding the first 150 years or so of the story, we know nothing, but during these years – and maybe even at the time of their creation – eight of the studies, including both the Johnson drawings, were inscribed, some by the same hand, in the upper left or right corners with numberings in Roman numerals, drawn with the point of the brush in brown ink. The highest of these numberings is, however, XIII, so at least five more drawings must originally have borne these numbers than do so today. There is no way of knowing whether those five were surviving drawings from which the numbers have subsequently been cut, or additional sheets that are now lost.
In the collection of Everhard Jabach (1618-1695), as by Albrecht Dürer
In 2001, Bernadette Py published the highly important discovery that fourteen of the sixteen surviving drapery studies, including the two from the Johnson Collection, had been in the collection of the German-born banker and great collector, Everhard Jabach (1618-1695), thereby adding a vital passage to the provenance of this group of drapery studies.13 The drawings appear in the posthumous inventory of Jabach’s collection, compiled on 6 March 1695, but this reference had previously gone unnoticed because in this inventory the drawings are attributed to Dürer: ‘Études de draperie d’Alber Dure [Durer] sur toile collée sur papier et haussé de blanc en détrempe’. It would be fascinating to know where and when Jabach acquired the drapery studies, and also when and how the association with Verrocchio’s workshop was lost. Py’s conclusion was that the attribution to Dürer was simply the result of the fact that at that time no signed drapery studies by Leonardo were known, whereas others bearing Dürer’s distinctive monogram were very familiar.14 In any case, the fact that the connection of this important and rare group of drawings with Verrocchio and Leonardo had, relatively rapidly, been totally lost, suggests that they had left Italy at a fairly early stage, probably some considerable time before they were acquired by Jabach. It is also interesting to note, in this context, that Jabach had acquired more than a thousand drawings from Lady Arundel in 1653,15 and it is tempting to speculate that this might have been the route by which the drapery studies entered Jabach’s collection; they are certainly the type of works that might have appealed to the Earl of Arundel’s extraordinarily discerning eye.
While in the Jabach collection, it seems that the white heightening in many of the drapery studies was embellished, an issue discussed, in relation to the drapery studies in the Louvre, by both Viatte and Bambach,16 and which has also been extensively studied by Catherine Monbeig Goguel. In the Johnson Drapery Study of a Kneeling Figure Facing Left, an area of thicker, denser white pigment is apparent in the lower part of the draped mantle, which contrasts with the much more lightly applied white distemper on the rest of the study, and in the Drapery Study of a Standing Figure Facing Right there is a small area of densely applied white to the lower right of the draped cloth, which appears to disguise an area of abrasion.
In the collection of Pierre Crozat (1665-1740), as Leonardo da Vinci
The first documented occasion when the drapery studies were attributed to Leonardo da Vinci was when they appeared in the month-long sale of the great collection of Pierre Crozat (10 April-13 May 1741), a catalogue written by none other than that supreme drawings connoisseur, Pierre Jean Mariette. Lot 5, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, was described as: ‘Dix-huit, idem, dont plusieurs études de Têtes et de Draperies’. In his own copy of the Crozat sale catalogue, however, Mariette wrote: ‘4 P. [ pieces?] testes, le reste pour de robes’, so fourteen of the eighteen items in the lot were drapery studies – clearly the fourteen sheets formerly owned by Jabach.17 Crozat owned a large number of drawings from the Jabach collection, but it is not known when he acquired them; perhaps, as Py has suggested, they were bought between 1695 and 1721, probably from Jabach’s elder son, also named Everhard Jabach (1658-1721).18
In the collection of Jean-Baptiste-François Nourri (1697-1784), once more as Dürer
The Conseiller Nourri, who purchased the lot including the drapery studies at the Crozat sale, must have bought some of the drawings for other collectors or sold them afterwards, as by the time of his own sale, in Paris on 24 February 1785, only two drapery studies, not including either of the Johnson drawings, remained: they were included, under the name of Albrecht Dürer, within lot 736:‘Sept compositions et etudes; à la plume et au bistre rehaussées dè blanc, dont une étude de femme et deux de draperies’.
In the collection of Pierre Defer (1798- 1870), and by descent to his son-in-law Henri Dumesnil (1823-1898), as Leonardo
Both the Johnson drawings appear, under the name of Leonardo, in the catalogue of the Dufer-Dumesnil sale, Paris, 10-12 May 1900, as lots 251 (Drapery Study of a standing Figure Facing Right, in profile) and 255 (Drapery Study of a Kneeling Figure Facing Left). Both lots were acquired by the Countess Martine Marie-Pol de Béhague.
Recent History of attribution:
In the literature, the two Johnson drapery studies shared the same attribution from 1934 until 1983; initially given by Degenhart to Fra Bartolommeo, they were subsequently attributed by almost all scholars to Leonardo. Since the pivotal Louvre exhibition of 1989-90, the previous assumption that they were all by the same hand has, however, been extensively debated. The exhibition, organised on the occasion of the museum’s acquisition of two of the draperies from the de Ganay family, to complement the four that were already in the collection, provided a unique opportunity to see together and compare all sixteen surviving drawings from this extraordinary series. The following is a summary of the subsequent published opinions regarding the attribution of the Johnson drawings (for full citations, see Literature):
David Scrase, 1990: both drawings as by Leonardo.
Keith Christiansen, 1990:
Drapery Study of a Kneeling Figure Facing Left: plausibly by Domenico Ghirlandaio;
Drapery Study of a Standing Figure Facing Right: plausibly by Andrea del Verrocchio;
Christiansen states the opinion that these studies are not the product of a single mind, but rather the work of a group of artists active in Verrocchio’s workshop in the late 1460s and 1470s. On stylistic grounds, he links the Drapery Study of a Kneeling Figure Facing Left with a drapery study in Berlin (Louvre/Viatte no. 9), which he relates to the seated figure of St. Matthew in Ghirlandaio’s Santa Fina chapel vault fresco, in the Collegiata at San Gimignano. TheDrapery Study of a Standing Figure Facing Right, and also five or six of the other drapery studies in the group (Louvre/Viatte nos. 4, 10, 12, 13, 15 and possibly 14), Christiansen attributes to Verrocchio himself, associating the drawings with the artist’s planning of the figure of the resurrected Christ in his bronze group of Christ and Saint Thomas, begun in 1467, for Orsanmichele, Florence;
David Alan Brown, 1998: both drawings as ‘Workshop of Verrocchio’.
Brown states that the whole idea of assigning the drapery studies to individual artists remains problematic, preferring to consider them the product of a collective effort, subject to the discipline of a studio.
Pietro C. Marani, 1999: both drawings as ‘Workshop of Verrocchio’.
Marani also sees these studies as the work of a group of artists within Verrocchio’s workshop, and stresses the impossibility of distinguishing Leonardo’s hand within the group of drawings.
Françoise Viatte, 2003: both drawings as Leonardo
In her essay, ‘The early drapery studies’, in the catalogue of the major Leonardo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Viatte acknowledged that the 1989-90 exhibition at the Louvre and the juxtaposition of the sixteen drapery studies had led to intense reconsideration of their nature, date, and attribution. Despite this, she reaffirmed her opinion, as presented in 1989, that all the drawings in the group are by Leonardo. The essay also provides a very useful, more detailed account of the various scholarly opinions that have been expressed since 1989.
Carmen Bambach, 2004:
Drapery Study of a Kneeling Figure Facing Left, as Verrocchio.
1. G. Vasari, Le Vite de più eccellenti Pittori Scultori ed Architettori, vol. III, ed. Milanesi, Florence 1878, pp. 357-58
2. Six in the Louvre, including two acquired from the de Ganay family (one a gift in 1989 and the other a purchase), inv. nos. 2256, RF 41904, RF 41905, RF 1081, RF 1082, 2255 ; one in the Lugt Collection, Fondation Custodia, Paris, inv. no. 6632, offered to Frits Lugt in 1954 by the Marquis de Ganay in memory of the Comtesse de Béhague; one in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes, inv. no. 794-1-2507; three in the Uffizi, inv. nos. 420E, 437E, 433E; one in the British Museum, inv. no. 1895-9-15-489.
Two other drawings in Berlin, Staatlische Museen, inv. no. 5039 and Rennes, inv. no. 794-1-2506, were associated with the previous group in the exhibition of 1989 (Viatte nos. 9, 13)
3. G. Vasari, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects…., trans. G. du C. de Vere, vol. I, London 1996, p. 626
4. Musée du Louvre, inv. no. 2255
5. C. Bambach, ‘Leonardo and drapery studies on ‘tela sottilissima di lino’, Apollo, January 2004, p. 45 and pp. 49-50
6. London, British Museum, inv. no. 1895-9-15-489; F. Viatte, Leonard de Vinci. Les études de draperie, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre 1989-1990, p. 56, no. 7, reproduced p. 57
7. Paris, Musèe du Louvre, inv. no. RF 1082; Viatte, op. cit.,1989-1990, p. 66, no. 12, reproduced p. 67
8. C. Bambach, op. cit., 2004, p. 48
9. London, British Museum, Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi,Fra Angelico to Leonardo. Italian Renaissance Drawings,exhib. cat., 2010-2011, under no. 89, p. 284
10. A.E. Popham, The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci,London 1946, p. 35
11. C. Bambach, op. cit., 2004, p. 44
12. Vasari in his life of Verocchio seems to mention only a few of the artists which were in his bottega namely: Pietro Perugino, Leonardo da Vinci, Francesco di Simone Fiorentino, Agnolo di Polo and Lorenzo di Credi. See G. Vasari, op. cit., vol. III, ed. Milanesi, Florence 1978, pp. 371-72. Vasari does not include for example: Ghirlandaio, Biagio d’Antonio, Botticini and Cosimo Rosselli, who are know also to have been there
13. B. Py, op. cit., 2001
14. B. Py, op. cit.,2001, p. 270
15. B. Py, op. cit., 2001, p. 17
16. F. Viatte, op. cit., 2000, pp. 117-18; C. Bambach, op. cit., 2004, p. 47
17. B. Py, op. cit., 2001
18. B. Py, op. cit., 2007, p. 7
Workshop of Andrea Del Verrocchio, circa 1470, traditionally attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, Drapery study of a standing figure facing right in profile. Drawn with the brush in brown-grey wash, heightened with white, on linen prepared grey-green, laid down on paper; Numbered in brown ink: XII, 282 by 181 mm. Estimate 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Everhard Jabach, his posthumous inventory of 1695, as Dürer,
thence by inheritance to his widow Anna Maria de Groote, then probably to their elder son, Everhard Jabach (1658-1721);
acquired by Pierre Crozat, Paris, at an unknown date between 1695 and 1721,
his sale, Paris, 10 April 1741, part of lot 5, catalogued by Pierre Jean Mariette, as Leonardo,
acquired by Jean-Baptiste-François Nourri;
an unidentified black chalk paraphe on the verso of the backing sheet;
thence by inheritance to his son-in-law, Henri Dumesnil (L.739),
his sale, Paris, 10-12 May 1900, lot 251, as Leonardo;
Comtesse Martine Marie-Pol de Béhague;
Marquis Hubert de Ganay;
Marquis Jean Louis de Ganay,
his sale, Monaco, Sotheby's, 1 December 1989, lot 74, as Leonardo
Exhibited: Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Leonardo da Vinci, Mostra di disegni, manoscritti e documenti, 1952, no. 10;
Vinci, et al., La Raccolta Leonardesca della Contessa de Béhague, 1980-81;
Paris, Louvre, Leonard de Vinci: Dessins et manuscrits, 1989-1990, (catalogue by Françoise Viatte), no. 11;
Warsaw, The Royal Castle, The Masters of Drawing, Drawings from the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection, 2010-11, pp. 100-101, reproduced p. 101
Literature: B. Berenson, The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, Chicago 1938, vol. I, p. 62, vol. II, no. 1071D, vol. III, fig. 527 (as Leonardo);
K. Clark, Leonardo da Vinci, Cambridge 1939, p. 12, under note 1 (as Leonardo);
B. Berenson, I Disegni dei Pittori Fiorentini, Milan 1961, vol. I, p. 103, vol. II, p. 212, no. 1071D, vol. III, fig. 446 (as Leonardo);
C. Ragghianti and G. D. Regoli, Disegni dal Modello, Pisa 1975, p. 31, under note 10 (as Leonardo);
G. D. Regoli, ‘Il piegar de’panni’, Critica d’Arte, XXII, November-December 1976, p. 36, no. 150, fig. 1, pp. 47-48, under note 16 (mentions de Ganay group and attributes them to Leonardo);
A. Vezzosi and C. Pedretti, La Raccolta Leonardesca della Contessa de Béhague, Vinci 1980, p. 18, fig. 1 (as Leonardo);
A. Vezzosi and C. Pedretti, Leonardo’s Return to Vinci, The Countess of Béhague Collection, New York 1981, p. 20, fig. 1 (as Leonardo);
J. Cadogan, ‘Linen Drapery Studies by Verrocchio, Leonardo and Ghirlandaio’,Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, vol. 46, 1983, p. 59, fig. 27, reproduced (as Leonardo);
Leonardo da Vinci, exhib. cat., London, South Bank Centre, 1989, p. 50, under cat. no. 3 (as Leonardo);
D. Scrase, ‘Paris and Lille, Leonardo: Italian Drawings’, The Burlington Magazine, February 1990, p. 151-153 (as Leonardo);
K. Christiansen, ‘Leonardo drapery studies’, The Burlington Magazine, August 1990, p. 572 (as Verrocchio);
D.A. Brown, Leonardo da Vinci: Origins of a Genius, London 1998 (discusses the group exhibited in 1989 and attributes it to Verrocchio and his Workshop);
P. Marani, Leonardo una carriera di pittore, Milan 1999 (as Verrocchio and his Workshop);
B. Py, Everhard Jabach, collectionneur (1618-1695), Paris 2001, pp. 20, 274;
Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, exhib. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003, pp. 116 and 119, under note 18, p. 285, under no. 15;
Leonard de Vinci. Dessins et manuscrits, exhib. cat., Paris, Louvre, 2003, p. 56, under note 7, p. 64 under no. 7, p. 57 and note 18 (as Leonardo);
B. Py, 'Everhard Jabach: Supplement of Identifiable Drawings from the 1695 Estate Inventory', Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007 p. 6, and p. 36, note 15;
A. Gauthier, ‘From Crozat to The Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes: The Origins of the Drawings Collection of the Marquis De Robien’, Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007, p. 95;
L. Bicart-Sée, 'Some Archival References for Jean-Baptiste- François Nourri', Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007 p. 88;
G. Aubert, ‘From Crozat to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes: The Origins of the Drawings Collection of the Marquis De Robien,’ Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 1, 2007, p. 95
Bartolomeo Cavarozzi (Viterbo 1587-1625 Rome), The Sacrifice of Isaac, oil on canvas, 116 by 175 cm.; 45 5/8 by 68 7/8 in. Estimate 3,000,000 — 5,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: The Collection of Antonio Vives, Madrid, 1939;
The Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection, 1989.
Exhibited: Warsaw, The Royal Castle, Opus Sacrum, 10 April – 23 September 1990, no. 28 (as Caravaggio);
Rome, Palazzo Ruspoli, Caravaggio. Come nascono i Capolavori, 26 March – 24 May 1992, no. 6 (as Caravaggio);
Thessaloniki, Royal Palace, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and His first Followers, 16 April – 15 June 1997 (as Caravaggio);
Madrid, The Prado and Bilbao, Nuseo de Bellas Artes, Caravaggio, 21 September– 23 November 1999 and 28 November 1999 – 31 January 2000 (as Caravaggio);
Bergamo, Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti, La Luce del Vero, Caravaggio, La Tour, Rembrandt, Zurbarán, 10 September – 17 September 2000, no. 1 (as Caravaggio);
Rome, Palazzo Venezia, Caravaggio e il genio di Roma, 1592–1623, 10 May – 31 July 2001, no. 20 (as attributed to Caravaggio);
Seville, Hospital de Los Venerables, 29 November 2005 – 28 February 2006, and Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 20 March – 18 June 2006, De Herrera a Velázquez; el primer naturalismo en Sevilla, no. 21 (as Caravaggio);
Trapani, Museo Pepoli, Caravaggio, L'immagine del divino, 15 December 2007 – 14 March 2008, no. 3 (as Caravaggio);
Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome, 17 June – 11 September 2011, no. 53 (as Caravaggio).
Literature: Possibly J. Ainaud de Lasarte, 'Ribalta y Caravaggio', in Anales y Boletín de los museos de arte de Barcelona, Madrid 1947 pp. 385–86, cat. no. 16;
M. Gregori, 'Il Sacrificio di Isacco: un inedito e considerazioni su una fase savoldesca del Caravaggio', in Artibus et Historiae, X, 1989, vol. 20, pp. 99–142 (as Caravaggio);
M. Gregori, in J. Grabski (ed.), Opus Sacrum, Catalogue of the Exhibition from the Collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson, Warsaw 1990, pp. 166–173, cat. no. 28 (as Caravaggio, noting the many affinities with the St John the Baptist in Toledo);
M. Marini, 'Caravaggio y España: momentos de Historia y de Pintura entre la Naturalezza y la Fe', in Caravaggio, exhibition catalogue, Milan 1990 (as Caravaggio);
M. Gregori in Caravaggio. Come nascono i Capolavori, exhibition catalogue, Florence 1991, pp. 152–73, cat. no. 6, reproduced in colour (as Caravaggio);
M. Cinotti, Caravaggio: La vita e l'opera, Bergamo 1991, p. 200, cat. no. 18;
F. Bologna, L’incredulità del Caravaggio e l’esperienza delle 'cose naturali', Turin 1992, pp. 320–21 (as Cavarozzi and datable 1601–02, when the Caravaggism of Cavarozzi came into contact with that of early Simon Vouet);
M. Gregori, Caravaggio, Milan 1994, p. 13, reproduced in colour p. 15 (as Caravaggio, circa 1597–98);
M. Gallo, 'Il Sacrificio di Isacco di Caravaggio agli Uffizi come meccanica visiva della satisfacio', in S. Macioce (ed.), Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, La vita e le opere attraverso i documenti. Atti del convegno internezionale di studi, Novembre 1995, Rome 1996, pp. 331–32, reproduced p. 360 (as attributed to Caravaggio);
S. Sciuti et al., 'Analisi non distruttive e riflettografie a infrarossi su alcuni dipinti del Caravaggio esposti in Palazzo Ruspoli', in M. Gregori (ed), Come dipingeva il Caravaggio: atti della giornata di studio, Milan 1996, pp. 70, 73, 82–85 (as Caravaggio);
M. Marini in M. Gregori (ed.), Come dipingeva il Caravaggio: atti della giornata di studio, Milan 1996, p. 140, note 6 (as Caravaggio);
M. Gregori in, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and His first Followers, exhibition catalogue, Thessaloniki 1997, pp. 74–82 (as Caravaggio);
C. R. Puglisi, Caravaggio, London 1998, p. 397, cat. no. 8 (as doubtfully attributed to Caravaggio and an attribution to Cavarozzi considered more likely);
M. Gregori in Caravaggio, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 1999, pp. 92–93, (as Caravaggio);
M. Marini, 'Caravaggio y España: momentos de Historia y de Pintura entre la Naturaleza y la Fe', in C. Strinati and R. Vodret (eds), Caravaggio, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 1999, pp. 30–32, 46, n. 13, reproduced p. 31 (as Caravaggio, circa 1600–02);
M. Gregori in La Luce del vero. Caravaggio, La Tour, Rembrandt, Zurbarán, exhibition catalogue, Cinisello Balsamo 2000, pp. 82–87, cat. no. 1, reproduced in colour pp. 83–85 (as Caravaggio);
J. Spike, Caravaggio, New York/London 2001, pp. 340–41, cat. no. 94 (under 'Other works attributed to Caravaggio'; 'The work is evidently by the same hand as the Saint John the Baptist in Toledo…a work whose attribution is debated between Cavorozzi and Caravaggio');
M. Marini in C. Strinati (ed.), Caravaggio e il genio di Roma, 1592–1623, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2001, pp. 42–43, cat. no. 20, reproduced in colour (as attributed to Caravaggio);
M. Marini, Caravaggio pictor Praestantissimus. L’iter artistico completeo di uno dei massimi rivoluzionari dell’arte di tutti i tempi, Rome 2001, pp. 474–75, cat. no. 57 (as Caravaggio);
A. E. Pérez Sánchez and B. Navarrete (eds), De Herrera a Velázquez; el primer naturalismo en Sevilla, Bilbao 2005, pp. 170–71, cat. no. 21, reproduced in colour (as Caravaggio);
F. Bologna, L’incredulita del Caravaggio e L’esperienza delle ‘cose naturali’, Milan 2006, pp. 320–321, cat. no. 48 (as Cavorozzi, closely inspired by early Simon Vouet);
M. Marini, Michaelangelo da Caravaggio 1602: ‘La notte di Abramo’/Michelangelo da Caravaggio 1602: ‘The night of Abraham’, Rome 2007, pp. 90–93, reproduced (as Caravaggio);
D. Mahon (ed.), Caravaggio, L'immagine del divino, exhibition catalogue, Rome 2007, unpaginated, cat. no. 3, reproduced in colour (as Caravaggio);
S. Schütze, Caravaggio: The Complete Works, Cologne 2009, p. 289, cat. no. 71, reproduced in colour (under 'Catalogue of Attributed Paintings', citing Gregori’s acceptance of the work as an autograph Caravaggio, 'an attribution that is also accepted by Marini but has yet to gain wide support');
M. Marini, 'La luce del Caravaggio e la natura di Spagna', in A. Zuccari (ed.), I Caravaggeschi, Percorsi e protagonisti, Milan 2010, vol. I, p. 216–18, 242, n. 7, reproduced in colour (as attributed to Caravaggio);
M. Pupillo, 'Bartolomeo Cavarozzi', in A. Zuccari (ed.), I Caravaggeschi, Percorsi e protagonisti, Milan 2010, vol. II, pp. 356 and 359, n. 33 (as Cavarozzi, painted in Spain);
M. von Bernstorff, Agent und Maler als Akteure im Kunstbetrieb des frühen 17 Jahrhunderts; Giovanni Battista Crescenzi und Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, Roemische Studien der Bibliotheca Hertziana, vol. 28, Munich 2010, pp. 155–60, reproduced p. 158, fig. 69 and colour plate 11a (as Cavarozzi);
R. E. Spear, 'Caravaggiomania', in Art in America, December 2010, vol. 98, p. 120, reproduced in colour (as Cavarozzi);
R. E. Spear, 'Caravaggio and his Roman followers', review of the Ottawa–Fort Worth exhibition in the Burlington Magazine, September 2011, vol. CLIII, no. 1302, p. 635 (as Cavarozzi);
D. Franklin and S. Schütze (eds), Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome, exhibition catalogue, Florence 2011, pp. 275–77, 321, cat. no. 53, reproduced in colour p. 273 (listed as by Caravaggio but an alternative attribution to Cavarozzi is listed in the catalogue);
W. Prohaska, review of 'Agent und Maler als Akteure im Kunstbetrieb des frühen 17 Jahrhunderts; Giovanni Battista Crescenzi und Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, Der Maler und sein Agent: eine Doppelmonographie zu Cavarozzi und Crescenzi', in Kunstchronik, 66, 5, May 2013, p. 246 (as Cavarozzi);
G. Papi, 'Gli anni oscuri di Bartolomeo Cavarozzi', in Storia dell'arte, vol. 135, May–August 2013, p. 79 (as by Cavarozzi, painted circa 1615–16).
The composition had been known for many years from old copies and was first associated with Caravaggio by Juan Ainaud de Lasarte (see Literature). The large number of copies attests to the importance of the composition and the effect it had on contemporary painters so it was understandable that the presumed lost original was proposed to be by Caravaggio, particularly when the composition was viewed through the distorting prism of a copy.1 When the prototype – undoubtedly the present picture – was finally discovered in Spain it was hailed by Mina Gregori (see Literature, 1989) and others as the lost Caravaggio, and datable circa 1598, thereby preceding the celebrated painting of the same subject from 1603 by Caravaggio, today in the Uffizi in Florence (see fig. 1). Conjectural hypotheses advanced the idea that the painting made its way from Rome to Naples and left soon after for Spain with the collection of Don Pedro Téllez y Girón, Duke of Osuna and Viceroy of Naples from 1616–20. Before his time in Naples Osuna had been Viceroy of Sicily and is known to have made numerous trips to Rome, during one of which he could have acquired the present work. This would account for the copies known in Naples. The painting’s first stop would have been in Valladolid (where a copy is known nearby in Peñafiel), Osuna’s native city, before possibly being recorded as part of the dowry of Dona Antonia Cecilia Fernandez de Hijar on the occasion of her marriage to Don José Fuentebuena (or Fombuena), later Marqués of Lierta.2
Revisionist scholarship has proposed a more likely solution to the painting’s attribution and history. It is in fact far more likely to have been painted by Cavarozzi in Spain soon after his arrival there in 1617. That would certainly account for the overwhelming majority of the copies being in that country, many of them recorded in and around Toledo. The painting’s links to Spain, however, go further for it displays remarkably close stylistic affinities with aSaint John the Baptist in the cathedral in Toledo (see fig. 2). Also ascribed by some to Caravaggio but today overwhelmingly thought to be a beautiful work by Cavarozzi, the Toledo picture shares with the present work the same model used for the figure of Isaac and is imbued with an interest in light and texture that displays an evident understanding of Caravaggio’s radical innovations but, like the present work, points to a marked stylistic development and evolution in the Caravaggesque style. It also confirms to what extent Cavarozzi’s art had matured since his early works in Rome.
Born in Viterbo in 1587, Cavarozzi arrived in Rome in circa1600. He soon came into contact with the Crescenzi family, who would become his most important patrons: not only would Cavarozzi study in the academy of art established by Giovanni Battista Crescenzi (1577–1635) but he eventually assumed the name of Bartolomeo del Crescenzi. He moved into the family palazzo near the Pantheon, where he was probably trained by the late-mannerist painter Cristoforo Roncalli, known as Pomarancio, who was also closely associated with the Crescenzi family. Pomarancio's influence can be felt in Cavarozzi's earliest known work, dated 1608, a Saint Ursula and her Companions, today in the church of San Marco in Rome.3 Compared with Cavarozzi’s later Caravaggesque phase it is a rather dull work which embodies that turn-of-the-century style of Roman art which had not yet embraced or understood Caravaggism. Little is known of Cavarozzi’s œuvre during the first half of the 1610s but by around 1615 he had fully adopted Caravaggio's manner. His best pictures from this period include: The Disputation of Saint Stephen, in a private collection, which fuses the influences of Caravaggio and Pomarancio; the Supper at Emmaus, in the Getty, Los Angeles; and a Saint Jerome with two angels from 1617, in the Pitti Gallery, Florence, in which an angel very similar to the one in the present work can be seen.4 The latter masterfully displays the raking light which defines the tenebrist style but is imbued with a gentleness which strays from the usual tension and action of Caravaggio's paintings. The still-life elements and figures are portrayed in the same naturalist spirit as Caravaggio but with a softer and more graceful lyricism, much as in the present work.
Towards the end of 1617 Cavarozzi travelled with Crescenzi to Madrid in the retinue of Cardinal Antonio Zapata Cisneros (1550–1635) for an unknown period of time, though he is recorded back in Rome by 1621. Crescenzi and Cavarozzi were to have a lasting effect on Spanish art: the former became an arbiter of taste at the court in Madrid, helping with the decorations of the Escorial and being awarded the title of Marchese de la Torre and Knight of Santiago by King Phillip III; the latter was to influence subsequent artists key to the Spanish school, among them Zurbarán, Velázquez and Murillo, in part through his Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine from 1617–19 in the Prado, but mostly by introducing his unique interpretation of the Caravaggesque vision which offered a more accessible alternative to Caravaggio's violence. Though there is no documentary evidence, stylistically everything points to the aforementioned Saint John the Baptist in Toledo (fig. 2) being by Cavarozzi, an idea first proposed by Longhi as long ago as 1943.5 The fact that Cardinal Zapata himself was the administrator of the Toledan Archdiocese and governor of the cathedral surely lends weight to a stylistic attribution which is entirely convincing. The handling of the background foliage of the Saint John is entirely in keeping with the still-life elements in Cavarozzi’s work, both in the various versions of the Lament of Arminta and in theSupper at Emmaus, while the physiognomy of the youth, the play of shadows and the three-dimensionality of the folds all point to the same hand as the author of the GettyEmmaus.6 Gianni Papi has in fact convincingly proposed that the 'Master of the Acquavella Still Life', Cavarozzi's supposed collaborator who specialised in still lifes, was Cavarozzi himself.7 The still-life elements in the Saint Jerome, Lament of Arminta and Emmaus do indeed point to an accomplished and independent painter of still life, and support Papi's theory that they are by Cavarozzi’s own hand. The case is made all the more explicit in the careful realism of the present work, for example in the shadow from the curls on Abraham’s neck, the great care taken to describe the wide range of textures in the folds of drapery but also in the ram’s wool, the figures' hair and beard, and in the angel’s wings. The quality of the smouldering log, lower right, is of the very first order, comparable to the best still lifes from any period.
Though the attribution to Caravaggio for the present work proposed by Gregori and others cannot be upheld, comparison with Caravaggio’s painting of the same subject (fig. 1) provides a useful example of how Caravaggio and Cavarozzi’s interests varied. The latter did not necessarily see the Uffizi picture, which had been painted for Cardinal Maffeo Barberini around 1603 in Rome, but he did benefit from witnessing his contemporaries’ reactions to Caravaggio's revolutionary style in the years before his departure for Spain. While the two pictures show the same moment on Mount Moriah, when the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from taking his son's life, the artistic interpretation could not be more different. The Uffizi picture, set in daytime, stands out for its violence and physical harshness, particularly in the tension running through Abraham's body and arms as the screaming Isaac is pinned down. The angel, pointing towards Canaan, the Promised Land which Abraham has now earned for himself and his offspring, takes on a more human appearance than in the present work, his wings just visible, his strong arms bare. Cavarozzi’s interpretation shows to what extent he had absorbed Caravaggio’s style and made it his own: darkness, surely indicative of Abraham's confusion, is all around him; the movements are gentle, with a surprising calm dominating the scene as the ethereal angel silently holds back Abraham’s arm. Both Abraham and Isaac have their faces in shadow and away from the light source which pierces the composition from the right. By contrast, it is almost exclusively the elements of salvation, both spiritually and physically, which are directly illuminated: the serene face of the angel who prevents the murder; the ram which the angel ushers into the scene and which will be sacrificed in the place of Isaac; Abraham’s hands, one of which holds the knife which is moments away from killing Isaac, the other which holds Isaac still; the small meticulously observed pyre, lower right, which will consume the sacrifice.
The spiritual message of the story lends itself well to the psychological intensity of the baroque aesthetic. Through the drama of the acute pain and fear both father and son must have been experiencing, the viewer is drawn into the potential meaning of the events which took place on Mount Moriah: the sacrifice of the son is an obvious prefiguration of the Crucifixion, with the wood of the pyre to be replaced in the future by the wood of the Cross. The sheep also plays its role: in this case it will be sacrificed instead of Isaac but in the future it would be Jesus, the lamb of God Himself, who would be sacrificed to redeem mankind’s sins. The Apostle Paul identified the story as the ultimate exemplum of Faith (Hebrews 11: 17–19). While today it may raise uncomfortable questions about the nature of a deity who would demand such an act from his faithful servant, the seventeenth-century mind, steeped in post-Tridentine theology, would instead have focused on Abraham’s submission and obedience through faith. He was to be proved right for it was his very obedience which resulted in the ultimate blessing for Abraham: God announced that ‘by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you obeyed my voice’ (Genesis 22: 18). For the Old Testament mind, that was some reward for a man who not long before believed that he and his wife Sarah would die childless.
1. Alfred Moir, in his Caravaggio and His Copyists, New York 1976, pp. 117–18, lists 16 copies, only a handful of which are in Italy and the rest in Iberia. Bernstorff, see Literature, lists a further three. One copy, sold Rome, Christie’s, 13 April 1989, lot 188, was exhibited by D. Mahon et al. as an autograph second version of the present work and as by Caravaggio (see Mahon, under Literature, cat. no. 4).
2. See Ainaud de Lasarte, under Literature, p. 386, note 73, who quotes V. Carderera, Discursos practicables del nobilísimo Arte de la Pintura, Madrid 1866, p. 215 ff: 'Un quadro de Abraham y sacrificio de Isaac di Michael Angelo Carabaggio', valued at 200 libbre.
3. See D. Sanguineti, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, 'Sacre Famiglie' a confronto, exhibition catalogue, Turin 2005, p. 14, reproduced fig. 1.
4. Ibid., pp. 16–17, reproduced respectively figs 3, 5 and 6.
5. See R. Longhi, 'Ultimi studi sul Caravaggio e la sua cerchia', in Proporzioni, 1, 1943, p. 54, note 69.
6. Sanguineti, op. cit., p. 15, reproduced fig. 2.
7. See G. Papi, 'Riflessioni sul percorso caravaggesco di Bartolomeo Cavarozzi', in Paragone, 1999, vols 5–6–7, pp. 85–96.
FLEMISH OLD MASTER PAINTINGS FROM THE COPPÉE COLLECTION
Assembled by the Belgian industrialist Evence Coppée III (1882-1945) in the 1920s, the Coppée Collection comprised almost exclusively 16th and 17th century works, with an emphasis on the works of Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1637/8) and the Brueghel family. Of the paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Younger that Baron Coppée collected, three of the best will feature in the sale, including an imposing landscape with the Crucifixion (est. £3-4 million / €3.4 – 4.9 million/ $5-7 million), an Outdoor Wedding Dance, recognised as one of the most popular works in the artist’s oeuvre (est. £1-1.5 million / €1.2-1.8 million / $1.7-2.5 million) and what is widely considered the best extant example of his Winter Landscape with a bird trap, one of the most enduring images in western art (est. £1-1.5 million / €1.2-1.8 million / $1.7-2.5 million). The selection also encompasses impressive paintings resulting from a collaboration between Jan Brueghel the Younger and artists such as Frans Francken the Younger and Hendrik van Balen the Elder, as well as works from the North Netherlandish School and the School of Northern France. Passed on by direct descent from Baron Coppée, these works have not appeared on the market for almost a century. They will be auctioned as part of a group of 19 paintings from the Coppée Collection in Sotheby’s London Old Master sales on 9 and 10 July 2014.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Brussels 1564 - 1637/8 Antwerp), Calvary, signed and dated lower left: P . BRVEGHEL .1615 ., oil on oak panel, 99.9 by 147.5 cm.; 39 3/8 by 58 in. Estimate 3,000,000 — 4,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Count Henri de Buisseret (1877–1929), Antwerp;
With Galerie de Heuvel, Brussels;
Acquired from or through the agency of the above by Baron Coppée 15 October 1930;
Thence by descent.
Exhibited: Amsterdam, Kunsthandel P. de Boer, De helsche en de fluwelen Brueghel en hun invloed op de kunst in de Nederlanden, 10 February – 26 March 1934, no. 24;
Brussels, Exposition universelle internationale, Cinq siècles d'arts, I: Peintures arts anciens bruxellois et sections étrangers, 24 May – 13 October 1935, no. 181;
Brussels, Galerie Robert Finck, Trente-trois tableaux de Pierre Brueghel le Jeune dans les collections privées belges, 1969, no. 7;
Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, Bruegel. Une dynastie de Peintres, 18 September – 18 November 1980, no. 92;
Tokyo, Tobu Museum of Art, The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, 29 March – 25 June 1995, no. B24.
Literature: H. Gerson, Art and Architecture in Belgium 1600–1900, Brussels and London 1960, p. 57, reproduced fig. 42;
G. Glück, Das Große Bruegel Werk, Vienna and Munich 1963, p. 115;
G. Marlier, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels 1969, pp. 288–290, no. 1, reproduced fig. 167;
P. Roberts-Jones, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Bruegel. Une dynastie de Peintres, Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, 1980, pp. 154, no. 92;
U. Härting, Frans Francken der Jüngere, Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Freren 1989, p. 197, n. 194;
P. Sutton, Northern European paintings in the Phildelphia Museum of Art from the 16th through the 19th century, Philadelphia 1990, p. 46, under no. 15, version no. 1, reproduced fig. 15-1;
U. Härting, 'Fragen an eine 'Kreuzerrichtung' mit dem heiligen Bavo?', in Niederländische Beiträge zur Kunstgesichte, vol. 30, Munich 1991, p. 106;
S. Leclercq et al., La Collection Coppée, Liège 1991, pp. 42–45, reproduced;
M. Wilmotte, in the catalogue of the exhibition The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, Tokyo 1995, pp. 98–99, no. B24, reproduced;
K. Ertz, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Brueghel–Brueghel, Essen, Villa Hügel, and Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Lingen 1997, pp 100–101, reproduced fig. 1;
K. Ertz, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Brueghel–Brueghel, Essen, Villa Hügel, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum and Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Lingen 1998, pp. 63–66, reproduced fig. 13a;
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere 1564–1637/1638. Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen 1998–2000, vol. I, pp. 417, 420, 423, 426, 431, 435, 457, cat. no. E414, reproduced fig. 292;
C. Currie and D. Allart, The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, Brussels 2012, vol. II, pp. 615–44, vol. III, pp. 738, 788, 805, 809, 930–31, 1010, 1017–19, reproduced figs 418, 422–33, 435, 442, 548, 667, 491, 495, 498, 500, 502–10, 513, 603, 649, 652, 672.
In this huge and imposing landscape Pieter Brueghel sets out the scene of Christ’s crucifixion as narrated by the Gospels. The events unfurl on a bumpy plateau, overlooked on the right by a vertiginous series of rocky and forested cliffs, and further back on the left by a cliff top stronghold, while beyond them in the centre can be seen the city of Jerusalem, distinguished by the circular form of the Holy Sepulchre. The scene is viewed from above, the scale of the protagonists deliberately left small to accent their insignificance in the face of nature and the events taking place. Christ and one of the two thieves are already in place upon their crosses, while the soldiers struggle to hoist the third and last cross into place. Behind them in the middle distance a fourth cross still carries the remains of its earlier victim. Behind the right hand cross, almost indistinguishable by their tiny scale, the figures of Mary and her companions can be seen fallen to the ground in their grief. With the exception of a small group of soldiers, who can be seen in the left foreground squabbling and playing dice over Christ’s clothes, all the protagonists have their attention turned away from the spectator and focused upon the figure of Christ. Among them, a curious cowled figure raises the tablets of the law to the crucified thief above. The soldiers below raise a lance towards Christ, upon which sits a sponge soaked in vinegar, meant to torment the thirst of its victim. All are seemingly oblivious to the great darkening pall which is spreading across the sky from behind the cliffs and towards Calvary and Jerusalem. In the very centre of the picture, the figure of the crucified Christ stands out, pale and isolated against the coming darkness.
In his catalogue of the works of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Klaus Ertz lists only twenty-one known paintings which reflect Brueghel’s different treatments of the theme of the Crucifixion.1 Of these he considers only eight to be autograph works, and of this group only two are signed and dated: the present painting and that now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, which is signed and dated 1617 (fig. 3).2 The latter, however, differs significantly in its format and landscape setting, and in fact only four other works follow the composition of the Coppée version. These are the panel in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp, that last recorded in the collection of Karl Landegger in New York in 1961, another in the church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet in Paris,3 and a fourth, which Ertz accords doubtfully autograph status but which Marlier lists as signed, last recorded at the dispersal of the collection of Countess Gatterburg in Hanover in 1949.4 The panels are of very similar size: that in Antwerp, at 102 x 149 cm., is slightly larger than the Coppée and Hanover panels (100 x 147 cm.), while that in Paris is much the smallest (90 x 130 cm.). Three other related panels, all seemingly the work of the Brueghel workshop or its following, follow the general disposition of the Coppée original, but abandon the hilltop castle to the left of the composition, replace the towering crags to the right with a lesser and more densely forested bluff, and change completely the distant vista of Jerusalem that we see here. These were those formerly in the Van Gysel collection in Brussels, and that of Dr. R. Piloty in Wurzburg, while the third was sold London, Christie’s, 5 July 1996, lot 17.5 Lastly, another panel in s’-Hertogenbosch, Noordbrabants Museum (fig. 2), also follows the Coppée prototype in the disposition of the figures, and here the landscape includes a view of Jerusalem, but set within an earlier type of ‘World landscape' in the tradition of painters such as Joachim Patinir or Lucas Gassel.6 A final group is also known, although unrelated to the present type, in which the principal figure groups are reversed and placed in a landscape before a large castle. The composition may well have been arranged by the younger Brueghel, and Ertz hesitantly suggests a panel formerly in the Lubbert collection as a possible prototype. It was certainly known to Frans Francken the Younger, whose own interpretation survives today in the Niedersächsiche Landesgalerie in Hanover.7
Although the majority of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s works are derived from those of his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder, in this instance no example of any older prototype for the Crucifixion has survived. The fact that in all three basic variants of the composition, the essential arrangement of the Crucifixion and other figures remains largely unaltered would suggest that Pieter Brueghel the Younger or his workshop may well have had access to some original painting or drawing by the hand of the elder Bruegel, or at least a tracing of either, but none such has survived. Recent examination by infra-red reflectography has revealed detailed underdrawing on both the present panel and that in Antwerp. The underdrawing in the Coppée panel is very much more assured but, remarkably, does not seem to include the distant vista and city of Jerusalem (fig. 4).8 There can be little doubt that it is the design of the present panel, which is the earliest of all the extant examples, which most closely reflects the work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. As in much of the Elder’s work, it is the landscape which dominates the scene. Its spectacular birds-eye viewpoint, figures in contemporary dress and rocky terrain are all familiar aspects of the 'World landscape' tradition of the sixteenth century. The imposing rocky bluffs which so dominate the scene are surely inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s depictions of those seen on his journey across the Alps in the early 1550s. Similar or more spectacular outcrops recur, for example, in his Large Alpine landscape engraving of 1555–56, or in his painting of The Flight into Egypt of 1563 today in the Courtauld Galleries (Seilern Bequest) in London (fig. 1).9 The multitude of characters and their diverse facial types certainly recall those of Bruegel’s multi-figural inventions, such as the Combat between Carnival and Lentof 1559 in Vienna. There is some evidence to suggest that such an original by Pieter Bruegel the Elder may have existed. In the inventory of Hendrik Bartels made in 1672, there is a record of: ‘Een schilderey van de Cruyssingh Cristy. Van den Ouden Breugel f.150’ (‘A painting of the Crucifixion of Christ. By the Elder Bruegel 150 florins’).10Although the posited value of 150 florins is well below that a genuine work by Bruegel might have been expected to fetch at that date, such a record does at least suggest that a known composition by the Elder may have existed. Perhaps more importantly, the famous antiquarian Aernout van Buchel, known as Buchelius (1583–1639) describes in his journal Diarium Res Pictoriæ a 'Crucifix' by the elder Bruegel, which was dated 1559 and which he saw in the collection of Bartholomeus Ferreris in Leyden, the man to whom Karel van Mander dedicated part of Het Schilder Boeck of 1603–04.11 His description, which implies that parts of the design were painted in monochrome, does not however fit with any surviving examples of Bruegel's work.
The absence therefore of any certain record of a work by Pieter Brueghel’s father, either a painting, drawing or engraving, led several scholars such as Gluck to assert that the design of the Crucifixion was that of Pieter Brueghel the Younger alone. Hulin de Loo believed that the rocky landscape was a feature added by Pieter Brueghel the Younger to his father's design.12 The evidence of the lack of underdrawing in the central part of the picture would certainly support this view, and suggest that this section was entirely the invention of Pieter Brueghel the Younger's own imagination. While Marlier refrained from making a definitive statement, he concluded that the younger Brueghel had merely elaborated on his father's design. Ertz, whose recent study represents the most in-depth analysis of this question, is inclined to believe that such an original must have existed, which provided inspiration for Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his brother Jan, as well as other contemporaries such as Joos de Momper (1581–1642).13Walter Gibson has recently proposed that the panel in the Noordbrabants Museum suggests that Bruegel himself may have been influenced by the work of Jan van Amstel or the drawings of Mathys Cock.14
In contrast to all these works, however, it is clear that by 1617, the year of the Budapest panel (fig. 3), painted only two years after the present panel was completed, Pieter Brueghel the Younger had begun to evolve a very different setting for his depictions of the Crucifixion. Gone are the towering rocky outcrops which dominate the Coppée prototype, and in their place is introduced the edge of a forest on the right, and on the left a series of panoramas of either hills or towns. The height of the two panels is very different – the Budapest panel is over 20 cms shorter – and with it the elevated viewpoint of the original is lowered, almost to that of the spectator. Although the same tracing seems to have been used for the complex multi-figural groups, as with other variants the landscape and townscape settings vary considerably. In some cases the landscape itself has been passed to another workshop for completion; that in Budapest, for example, is quite clearly the work of Brueghel’s Antwerp contemporary Joos de Momper and his shop. It may be that the ex-Van Gysel and Piloty versions represent an intermediate stage in the evolution of this change in the composition, one in which Pieter Brueghel the Younger seems to have begun to reflect the developments in contemporary landscape painting which de Momper, among others, had introduced. This relatively rare partnership was repeated again in anotherCrucifixion, that now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.15 Perhaps Pieter Brueghel the Younger was responding to the example of his brother Jan, whose own painting of this subject, painted in 1598 and today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, had already decisively explored new boundaries in its extensive mountain landscape setting.
1. See Ertz, op. cit., 2000, vol. II, pp. 435–38, catalogue nos. E414 – A434.
2. Exhibited, Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Brueghel–Brueghel. Une famille de peintres flamands vers 1600, 3 May – 26 July 1998, no. 13, reproduced.
3. Ertz, op. cit., 2000, pp. 435–36, nos. E416, E418 and E419.
4. Auction, Hanover, Zell, 18 May 1949, lot 109. Ibid., p. 437, no. F426; see also Marlier under Literature 1969, p. 290, no. 2. The signature form was apparently BRVEGHEL, the form adopted by Pieter Brueghel the Younger after 1616.
5. Ertz, op. cit., 2000, pp. 436–38, nos. F424, F428 and F434, only the last reproduced.
6. Inv. no. 2400. Panel, 116 x 160 cm. Ertz, op. cit., 2000, p. 437, no. A432.
7. For both versions see Ertz, op. cit., 2000, pp. 427–29, figs. 307 and 311, and p. 435–36, cat. nos. 417 and 321.
8. For which see Currie and Allart under Literature, 2012, vol. II, pp. 623–27, figs 426a, 427a, 428a, 429a.
9. Reproduced in F. Grossmann, Breugel. The Paintings, London 1955, pp. 194–95, no. 66, reproduced (with detail)
10. Cited by, inter alia, Marlier, op. cit., 1969, p. 287, and Wilmotte, under Exhibited, 1995, p. 98.
11. ‘Vidi apud Fererium een crucifix van Breugel, admodum divine pictum frequentibus admodum icunculis cum fenestris ex colore aqueo ovium albidini temperatum fenestres vero superius sive exterius errant oleo depictae albo nigro coloribus. Annus erat 1559’. See J. Hoogewerff and J. Q. van Regteren Altena ed., Arnoldus Buchelius: Res Pictoriae 1583–1649, The Hague 1928, p. 78.
12. R. van Bastelaer and G. Hulin de Loo, Pierre Breugel l'ancien: Son œuvre et son temps, Brussels 1907, pp. 161–62, cat. no. C15.
13. Ertz, op. cit., 1998–2000, pp. 417–33.
14. W. S. Gibson, Mirror of the Earth. The World Landscape in Sixteenth-Century Flemish Painting, Princeton 1989, p. 69.
15. See Sutton under Literature, 1990, p. 46, no. 15, reproduced.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Brussels 1564 - 1637/8 Antwerp), The outdoor wedding dance. Oil on oak panel, 41.6 by 62 cm.; 16 3/8 by 24 3/8 in. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Acquired by Baron Coppée by 1923;1
Thence by descent.
Exhibited: Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruegel. Une dynastie de peintres, 18 September – 18 November 1980, no. 89;
Tokyo, Tobu Museum of Art, The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, 29 March – 25 June 1995, no. B25.
Literature: G. Marlier, Pierre Brughel le Jeune, Brussels 1969, p. 190. no. 15;
F. Van Hauwaert, 'La copie chez Pierre Brueghel le Jeune', in Revue des archéologues et historiens d'art de Louvain, s.l., 1978, pp. 87–99, reproduced fig. 4;
S. Leclercq et al., La Collection Coppée, Liège 1991, pp. 51–53, reproduced;
M. Wilmott, in the catalogue of the exhibition The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, Tokyo 1995, pp.100–01, no. B25, reproduced;
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere. 1564–1637/8. Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Vol. II, Lingen 2000, pp. 684, 726, no. E935, reproduced;
C. Currie and D. Allart, The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, Brussels 2012, Vol. II, pp. 341, 573– 613, 731, 812, 834–35, 854, 930–31, 995–99, 1001, 1010, 1118–19, figs 382, 388, 391, 392, 395, 398–402, 404–05, 413–14, 416, 526, 583, 586, 660.
Notes: The Outdoor Wedding Dance has long been recognised as one of the most popular works in Pieter Brueghel the Younger's œuvre, and indeed Georges Marlier, the great scholar of Flemish art, went so far as to describe it as 'one of the most popular of all subjects in Flemish painting at the beginning of the seventeenth century'.2 The extent of its popularity among Brueghel's patrons can readily be ascertained from the fact that over sixty extant versions have been assigned to his hand. Of these Klaus Ertz accepts nearly thirty as fully autograph works, including the present panel.3 Of these paintings, about half are signed and almost as many dated. The dated works range from two panels of 1607, today in Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, and Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts, to that of 1626 sold in these Rooms, 17 December 1998, lot 16.4 As Ertz ackowledges, although unsigned, the Coppée version is one of the finest to have survived ('zu den besten Versionen das Themas'), and remains in a remarkable state of preservation. Recent dendrochronological analysis of the oak panel suggests that the earliest the panel could have been constructed would have been around 1610, so a date of execution somewhere in the second decade of the century would seem most likely.5
Although no painting by him has come down to us, the composition of the Outdoor Wedding Dance clearly originated with the artist's father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, for it is recorded by an engraving in reverse by Pieter van der Heyden which was published by Hieronymous Cock (fig. 1). Brueghel the Younger has removed some of the peripheral figures, and thus created a more open composition, with more light and landscape details. Most of the known autograph versions are painted in reverse of van der Heyden's engraving, and thus were most probably copied directly from a lost original, either a drawing or perhaps a painting.6 The claim that the painting of 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder today in the Detroit Institute of Arts could be the lost prototype is probably excluded by the numerous differences in the composition, which is itself in the same sense as the print.7 As with many of the compositions painted by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, the design was most likely transferred by tracing, which serves to explain the proximity in size of all the panels on which the versions were painted. Evidence for the use of a tracing is provided here by the underdrawing, visible under infra-red reflectography (fig. 2). In the absence of a painted original, Pieter Brueghel the Younger would probably have worked from the detailed drawings his father had made in preparation for his paintings and for his engravers.
The Outdoor Wedding Dance is one of a group of pictures painted by the Brueghels which depict different episodes during a wedding day, a tradition founded by Pieter Breugel the Elder, whose Wedding Banquet of 1568 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) is undoubtedly the most famous example. Here the bride is shown seated at a table in the centre background of the picture, before a sheet strung between two trees and beneath a painted crown that honours her as 'Queen' for the day. She is intent on receiving gifts from her guests, while her family and friends avidly look on and a careful reckoning is made. Around her the other guests dance and talk, and in some cases, answer a call of nature. It is highly doubtful whether, as some writers have claimed, the Brueghels ever intended a serious moral undertone in works such as this, warning, for example, of the attendant perils of over-indulgence, lust or greed. Rather they should be regarded as epitomising that wry and sharply observed combination of naturalism and humour that has ensured that their popularity has remained undiminished from their own day to this.
1. According to Leclercq (see Literature 1991), a certificate of authenticity signed by J. Destrée and Jean Decoen, dated 5 December 1923, was recorded in the Coppée family archives, thus providing a terminus ante quem for the acquisition of this work.
2. See Marlier under Literature, 1969, p. 188.
3. Ertz, op. cit., 2000, pp. 684–96 and 722–36, nos. E916–944 and F945–979, many reproduced.
4. Ibid, nos E916, 917 and 930.
5. See Currie and Allart under Literature, 2012, vol. II, p. 576. The Coppée panel is of Baltic oak and has a last heartwood ring of 1601 but no sapwood; allowing for a minimum of 9 missing sapwood rings would produce a terminus post quem of 1610 for felling and panel-making.
6. Some examples of those which follow the sense of the engraving are listed by Marlier, op. cit., p. 193. Others include a group of panels which may be the work of Maerten van Cleve or his workshop.
7. Reproduced in F. Grossmann, Pieter Bruegel. The Paintings, London 1955, pp. 199–200, fig. 125.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Brussels 1564 - 1637/8 Antwerp), Winter Landscape with a bird trap, signed and dated lower right: P . BREVGHEL 1626 . Oil on oak panel, 40.4 by 57.2 cm.; 15 7/8 by 22 1/2 in. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: J. E. Weber;
His sale et al., Brussels, Fiévez, 21 December 1925, lot 23 (as Jan Brueghel the Elder);
There acquired by Baron Coppée;
Thence by descent.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Brussels 1564 - 1637/8 Antwerp), Winter Landscape with a bird trap, signed and dated lower right: P . BREVGHEL 1626 . Oil on oak panel, 40.4 by 57.2 cm.; 15 7/8 by 22 1/2 in. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Exhibited: Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Exposition rétrospective du paysage flamand (XVIe, XVIIe, XVIIIe siècles), 1926, no. 74 ;
Worcester, Worcester Art Museum, 23 February – 12 March 1939 and Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 25 March – 26 April 1939, The Worcester Philadelphia exhibition of Flemish painting, no. 113;
Brussels, Galerie Robert Finck, Trente-trois tableaux de Pierre Brueghel le Jeune dans les collections privées belges, 1969, no. 23;
Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, Bruegel. Une dynastie de Peintres, 18 September – 18 November 1980, no. 88;
Tokyo, Tobu Museum of Art, The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, 29 March – 25 June 1995, no. B28;
Literature: G. Glück, Das große Bruegel-Werk, Vienna and Munich 1963, no. 43, reproduced;
G. Marlier, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels 1969, p. 242, no. 3, reproduced fig. 152;
The Worcester Philadelphia exhibition of Flemish painting, exhibition catalogue, Worcester 1939, no. 113;
Paris, Galerie d’Art St. Honoré, 1986–87, p. 18, under cat. no. 6 (cited by Ertz, 1998–2000, below);
S. Leclercq et al., La Collection Coppée, Liège 1991, pp. 63–67, reproduced;
M. Wilmotte, in the catalogue of the exhibition The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, Tokyo 1995, p. 109, no. B28, reproduced;
K. Ertz, in the exhibition catalogue, Breughel–Brueghel, Essen, Kulturstiftung and Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Lingen 1997, p. 383;
K. Ertz, in the exhibition catalogue, Breughel–Brueghel, Essen, Kulturstiftung and Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Lingen 1998, p. 370;
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere 1564–1637/1638. Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen 1998–2000, vol. I, pp. 578, 581 and vol. II, pp. 605–06, cat. no. E. 687, reproduced;
C. Currie and D. Allart, The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, Brussels 2012, vol. II, pp. 341–42, 485–523, 928–29, 995–99, 1001, 1007, 1012–13, 1018, 1020, reproduced figs 100, 103, 106, 302, 307, 311–13, 316, 319, 321–22, 325–26, 328, 661, 668.
Notes: There can be little doubt that the Winter landscape with a bird trap is not only one of the best loved of all the inventions of the Brueghel dynasty, but in its beautiful evocation of a winter’s day also one of the most enduring images in Western art. Although no fewer than 127 versions of the composition have survived, only forty-five are now thought of as autograph works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger himself, with the remainder being largely workshop copies of varying degrees of quality.1 The Coppée painting is one of only eight panels which have the distinction of being both signed and dated, and being painted in 1626 is the latest in date of those so far known.2Eleven further copies are signed, with four using the signature form P. BRVEGHEL used by Pieter Brueghel the Younger up to 1616, and three others using the form adopted here of P. BREVGHEL, indicating works executed in or after this date when his signature form changed. Ertz rightly describes this example as '...besonders strahlende und Helle Version gehört zu denbesten Vogelfallen' ('...this exceptionally light and luminous version is one of the best examples of the Bird Trap').
The prototype for this famous composition has generally thought to be the painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, signed and dated 1564, formerly in the Delporte collection and today in the Musées des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.3 The near-identical scale and the close correspondence of motifs between the painted copies and the original indicate very strongly that the former must have been based upon Bruegel the Elder's final painted composition, a master cartoon or at least very accurate tracings. The underdrawing on the Coppée panel (fig. 4) indicates beautifully the care and precision with which this was undertaken, and is here very possibly by Brueghel the Younger himself. The recent appearance of a drawing of the composition, sold in these Rooms in 2009 and recently attributed to Jan Brueghel the Elder by Klaus Ertz, would seem to indicate that he too had access to an original painting.4 The origins of the prototype itself undoubtedly lay in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s seminal cycle of paintings of the Months, and in particular his celebrated Hunters in the snow (January) of 1565, today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.5
The Winter landscape with a bird trap owes its fame to its extraordinary rendering of the atmosphere of a cold winter’s day. In contrast to the clear and biting cold of theHunters in the snow, here the atmosphere is more misty and welcoming. A blanket of deep snow lies upon a riverside village and the surrounding countryside. On the frozen river the villagers are seen playing at spinning tops, hockey and curling on the ice. The muted palette of greys, blues and pale greens is offset by the red costumes worn by many of the participants, a painterly device which harks back directly to Pieter Brueghel the Elder. But perhaps the most distinctive feature of the painting is the graphic and patterned quality of the overlapping branches of the trees and bushes, which serve to create a wonderful decorative effect. Although the scene is largely imaginary, Marlier suggested a possible identification of the village as Pede-Saint-Anne in Brabant.5 The city seen in silhouette on the horizon in the centre is almost certainly intended for Antwerp. As Marlier was the first to observe, one feature of the Coppée panel is, however, rare among the many versions of the Bird Trap. This is the inclusion of the figures of man leading a woman upon a donkey on the far bank of the river on the left hand side of the composition, presumably intended to represent the figures of Joseph and Mary on their way to Bethlehem (fig. 2). Again, the inclusion of such a small but iconographically significant detail within the larger compositon is very much a device employed by the elder Bruegel. Only four other certainly autograph versions include this detail; that in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp, another last recorded in the Hartmann collection in Rome in 1954, and those sold London, Christie’s, 9 December 1995, lot 9, and 4 July 1997, lot 32.6 It is not to be found, however, in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s own painting of 1565 in Brussels, nor any of the many purely workshop copies, and seems to have been an invention of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s. This very small group also include the additional motif of a man leading a mule across the bridge in the distance (fig. 3).
It has often been suggested that the Winter landscape with a bird trap, for all its realism, also contains an underlying message alluding to the precariousness of life. In one of his engravings of Winter – Ice skating before St. George's Gate, Antwerp, Pieter Bruegel the Elder added the inscription: 'Lubricitas Vitæ Humanæ. La lubricité de la vie humaine. De slibberachtigeyt van’s Menschen Leven' ('The precariousness of Human Life') referring to the ways in which people find themselves 'slipping and sliding through a life whose existence is more slippery and fragile than ice itself'. The eponymous bird trap itself has also, for example, been interpreted as symbolic of the brevity of life, but is much more likely to be a straightforward detail alluding to the need to lay in food for the winter months. Nevertheless the hole in the ice, or the figures of the two children running heedlessly towards their parents across the ice despite the latter’s warning cries, all clearly point to the dangers inherent in even this idyllic winter scene, and thereby the fickleness and basic uncertainty of life itself.
A note on the panel support
The recent and extremely thorough examination of the Coppée Bird trap, undertaken by Christina Currie and Dominique Allart at the IRPA in Brussels, and its comparison with versions in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh, a Belgian private collection, and the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, afford us an unprecedented wealth of technical detail regarding the construction and execution of these panels.8Dendrochronological examination has revealed that both the Coppée panel and that in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp were cut from the same tree. The last annual ring measured is from 1593, giving the year 1607 as the earliest possible date for the tree felling and the making of the panel. This is rather earlier than one might expect for panels that were completed in 1622(?) and 1626 respectively, but it is supported by the fact that the Antwerp panel bears on the reverse the brand of the panel maker's Guild in Antwerp in use between 1617 and 1626. Though all the studied examples were similarly painted on single board oak panels, with a white ground and greyimprimatura, the authors note that the Coppée panel was 'accorded particular care at the level and preparation of the paint layer', which 'may well represent the Master's own hand'. They note that the version 'stands out as being of a consistently higher quality than the others over a wide range of motifs'.
1. K. Ertz, see Literature, 2000, vol. II, pp. 605–30, cat. nos E682 to A805a, many reproduced.
2. The earliest, that now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, is dated 1601.
3. F. Grossmann, Brueghel. The Paintings, London 1956, p. 119, no. 114. For a good summary of this debate see Ertz, op. cit., 2000, vol. II, pp. 575–87.
4. Sale, London, Sotheby's, 8 July 2009, lot 32, reproduced (as Circle of Pieter Breugel the Elder).
5. F. Grossmann, op. cit. 1956, pp. 196–98, figs 87–90.
6. Marlier, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Le Siècle de Brueghel, Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, 1963, p. 69.
7. Listed in Currie and Allart, op. cit., 2012, vol. II, pp. 511, 522, n. 53. Ertz, op. cit. 2000, pp. 605–17, nos A685, A691–2, A704.
8. Currie and Allart, op. cit., 2012, vol. II, pp. 185–219, figs 302–338b.
THE WARWICK PORTRAITS
The sale also includes a series of dramatic portraits from the collection of the Earls of Warwick, by artists such as Jacob Huysmans, George Romney, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Amico Friulano del Dosso. One of the most striking works in this group is an extraordinary Portrait of Edward Wortley Montagu by George Romney (1734-1802) (est. £2-3 million / €2.4 - 3.7 million / $3.4 - 5 million). Painted in Venice in 1775, this is the only painting currently known to survive from Romney's two year trip to Italy, between 1773 and 1775. A wildly eccentric man, who distained convention and actively courted controversy, Edward Wortley Montagu (1713–1776) travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. Professing himself a Muslim, Montagu adopted eastern dress and lived in grand Oriental style. Typical of the style found in Romney's portraiture at this time, this painting is surely one of the finest examples of the fusion of 16th century Venetian modelling and colour with the 18th century English grand manner style.
George Romney (Dalton 1734-1802 Kendal), Portrait of Edward Wortley Montagu (1713-1776), inventory number 143 etched into the reverse, oil on canvas, 162.7 by 119 cm..; 64 by 46 3/4 in. Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Purchased from the artist for 50gns. by George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick (1746–1816);
Thence by descent.
Exhibited: Manchester, City Art Gallery, Art Treasures, 1857, no. 254;
London, British Institution, 1863, no. 183;
Manchester, City Art Gallery, Art Treasures Centenary Exhibition, 1957, no. 193;
Milan, Palazzo Reale, The British Council, British Painting 1660-1840, 1975;
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, George Romney 1734–1802, 8 February – 21 April 2002, no. 44;
London, National Portrait Gallery, George Romney 1734–1802, 30 May – 18 August 2002, no. 44;
San Marino, The Huntington Library, 15 September – 1 December 2002, no. 44;
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, on long term loan.
Literature: Anon., 'Pictures and Articles of Curiosity', in Inventory of the Contents of Warwick Castle, (Warwickshire Record Office CR1886/466), Ms., circa 1800, n.p., hanging in the Cedar Room;
Anon., Inventory of the Contents of Warwick Castle, Ms., 1806, hanging in the Cedar Room;
W. Hayley, The Life of George Romney Esq., London 1809, pp. 59–60;
W. Field, An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Town & Castle of Warwick and of the neighbouring Spa of Leamington, Warwick 1815, pp. 170, 177–78 (‘Portrait of - Edward Wortley Montague - an Englishman, in a Turkish dress - by Romney…with other exquisite portraits by the same master, is ranked among the choicest ornaments of that magnificent and interesting old Mansion, Warwick Castle’), as in the Cedar Drawing Room, over the mantelpiece;
Sir W. Dugdale, Warwickshire; being a concise topographical description of the different towns and villages in the county of Warwick…, Coventry 1817, p. 406, in the Cedar Drawing Room;
Rev. J. Romney, Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney, London 1830, pp. 123–24;
S. Woodburne, Notes on the Paintings at Warwick Castle, 1832, no. 39, hanging in the Cedar Drawing Room;
C. W. Spicer, Vitruvius Britannicus. History of Warwick Castle, London 1844, in the Cedar Room;
H. T. Cooke, An Historical and Descriptive Guide to Warwick Castle…, Warwick 1847, p. 49, in the Cedar Drawing Room;
Cooper’s, History of Warwick and Guide to the Castle, illustrated, 1850, p. 75;
W. Kendall, Inventory of Warwick Castle, Ms., 1853, hanging in the Cedar Drawing Room;
Anon, Inventory of Warwick Castle, Ms. circa 1860, hanging in the Cedar Drawing Room;
Sir H. Maxwell, George Romney, New York 1902, p. 61;
H. Ward and W. Roberts, Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of His Works, London 1904, vol. 1, p. 41; vol. 2, p. 107;
A. Chamberlain, George Romney, London 1910, pp. 76, 87, 267;
E. Johnston, George Romney. Paintings and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, 1961, p. 17;
C. S. Sykes, Black Sheep, London 1982, p. 171, reproduced p. 154, fig 18.
D. Buttery, ‘George Romney, and the Second Earl of Warwick’, in Apollo, August 1986, pp. 104–05, reproduced fig. 2;
J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, New Haven and London 1997, p. 670;
D. A. Cross, A Striking Likeness: The Life of George Romney, 2000, pp. 63, 67, 90;
A. Kidson, George Romney 1784–1802, exhibition catalogue, London 2002, pp. 101–102, reproduced in colour, p. 101, cat. no. 44;
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of George Romney’s paintings by Alex Kidson.
Notes: Painted in Venice, in either March or April 1775, this is the only painting currently known to survive from Romney's two year trip to Italy, between 1773 and 1775. It is one of the artist's greatest portraits and originally formed part of the famous collection of portraits amassed by the 2nd Earl of Warwick at Warwick Castle. For many years, however, it has been one of the star attractions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it has been on loan since the late 1970s.
A wildly eccentric man, who distained convention and actively courted controversy, Edward Wortley Montagu was the only son of Sir Edward Wortley Montagu (1678–1761), British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and his wife, the infamous and equally eccentric writer, traveller and orientalist, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (circa 1689–1762). Described by Isobel Grundy in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as ‘traveller and criminal’, Montagu began his adventures at a young age when, in 1716, at just three, his mother took him on a hair-raising journey across Europe to join his father at the Ottoman Porte in Constantinople (fig. 2). There, in 1718, he achieved early fame when his mother inoculated him against smallpox, according to the practise of Turkish folk medicine, a treatment which she would later help to establish back home in England. Montagu's early experience abroad bred in him a precociousness and independence beyond his years. Returning to England for his education he was sent to Westminster School, but ran away frequently, one on occasion, at the age of thirteen, enrolling himself in a course of oriental languages and taking up with a mistress seven years his senior, before being discovered by his parents and unceremoniously reduced 'to the humble condition of a schoolboy'.1 On another occasion he made it all the way to Portugal, where he found work on a vineyard, and managed to elude capture for two years. Despairing of their son, his parents packed him off to the West Indies for three years with a tutor. In 1730, by this stage back home, at the age of just seventeen, unrepentant and defiant as ever, he inexplicably married ‘a woman of very low degree'2said to be a washerwoman named Sally. The marriage did not last long however. The affair was hushed up and he was again sent abroad by his parents, whilst his father took advice about disinheriting him.
A fine scholar and a brilliant linguist, Montagu spent three years travelling through Europe on the Grand Tour with his tutor, John Anderson. Prone to excessive indulgence in both women and drink, and leaving huge debts behind wherever he went, in the autumn of 1734, having come of age, he finally gave Anderson the slip and returned to England incognito to claim an inheritance left by his paternal grandfather, a brother of the 2nd Earl of Sandwich. Setting lawyers on the case before promptly leaving the country again, he travelled in the Netherlands, before going back to Italy, where he toured Venice and Florence in 1740, and in 1741 enrolled at the University of Leiden to study oriental languages under the eminent Dr Schultens. Within three months, however, he had abandoned Leiden, having again run up significant debts, and was back in Italy living wildly and keeping low company. Ambitious to supplement the meagre allowance which he received from his father, in 1742 he returned to England and, following a short spell in debtors’ prison, with the impending War of Austrian Succession looming, he joined the army as a cornet in the 7th Hussars. Later promoted a Captain in the 1st Foot Guards, he left London for the Low Countries shortly following the Battle of Dettingen and appears to have been relatively successful as a soldier, distinguishing himself at the Battle of Fontenoy in May 1745. At Breda he made the acquaintance of a cousin, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718–72), who was then Second Sea Lord, and through whose influence Montagu managed to secure a seat in Parliament, thus gaining him much sought after immunity from his creditors.
Not deeming his military promotion swift enough Montagu resigned from the army in 1748 and returned to England to become secretary to his cousin, the Earl of Sandwich. Sandwich, who was by now First Lord of the Admiralty, had been appointed minister-plenipotentiary at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, where Montagu’s command of languages proved invaluable. In London he lived fashionably, gambled heavily, was elected to the Royal Society, and regularly frequented the Divan Club; a society formed of young Englishmen who had travelled to the East and affected admiration for the Turks, headed by Sandwich and the notorious bon vivant Sir Francis Dashwood (1708–81). Moving between London and Paris, in July 1751 Montagu bigamously married his second wife, Elizabeth Ashe. However he left her within three months having fathered a son, also Edward Wortley Montagu, one of several illegitimate children that he fathered by different women, including another son, George, as well as a daughter, Mary.
In Paris, in 1751, Montagu was embroiled in an extortion racket which involved cheating a young Jew at cards and then robbing him when he refused to pay. He was arrested and served eleven days in the notorious Châtelet before the case was overturned on appeal. Over the next few years Montagu divided his time between London and a house at Boreham Wood in Hertfordshire, keeping several mistresses. Perhaps bidding for the favour of his father he produced his one great contibution to classical learning at this time, Reflections on the Rise and Fall of the Antient Republicks, which was published in 1759. Borrowing against his expected inheritance and racking up ever increasing debts, when his father died in 1761 leaving the majority of his £1.3 million fortune to Montagu’s sister, Lady Bute, he ‘shook the dust of an ungrateful country from his feet’3 and spent the rest of his life in self-imposed exile abroad. Returning once again to the continent, this time accompanied by his eleven year old daughter and her ‘governess’, Miss Cast, Montagu re-enrolled at Leiden University in February 1761, and the following year was in Turin, before travelling on to Venice and Rome; where his scholarship attracted the admiration of Johann Winckelmann. In Rome he placed his daughter in an Ursuline convent before setting off to Leghorn, where in April 1763 he set sail for Alexandria and an extensive tour of the East. Adopting the alias 'The Chevalier de Montagu', he travelled through Armenia, Sinai and Jerusalem accompanied by Caroline Dormer Feroe, the beautiful, twenty-one year old wife of the Danish Consul in Alexandria. Montagu had persuaded Caroline to marry him having convinced her that her husband, away in Europe at the time, was dead. When she eventually discovered that she had been duped, Montagu, who had been received into the Roman Catholic faith at Jerusalem, simply declared that her marriage to a Protestant was void anyway. By then however, Caroline had rather gotten used to the idea of being 'La Contesse de Montagu', and instead of returning to her life as the wife of the rather dull Danish Consul she remained with Montagu for several years.
The exact route of his travels is hard to follow, but he lived for some time at Rosetta, on the Nile Delta in Egypt, and travelled through Ottoman held Greece. In 1767 he visited Zante, Salonica and Constantinople; and for several years travelled extensively throughout Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, and possibly even as far afield as Ethiopia; sporadically returning to Italy, which he used as a base. By this time professing himself a Muslim, Montagu adopted Eastern dress and perpetrated the story that he was the illegitimate son of the Turkish Sultan, a claim that raised no complaint from the Sultan himself, and entitled him to wear the saffron turban and jewelled aigrette of a prince of the Ottoman Empire.4 In July 1773 he finally returned to Venice, where after years of adventuring in the Middle East he lived in grand Oriental style, often to be seen sitting ‘with his legs crossed [and] a long pipe in his mouth’, his beard ‘a great length’,5 and became widely known as one of the sites of the city. A particular favourite among travelling Englishmen, his many visitors included such distinguished figures as the King’s brother, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1743–1805), and Montagu considered himself ‘part of the polite education of any noble youth who comes to this place on the grand tour’.6 According to the memoir published shortly after his death, such was his eccentricity that in later life he changed from wearing Turkish dress to Armenian ‘deeming it not only superior to the Turkish, but to all other dresses in the universe’;7 and the general description of it given by contemporaries conforms closely with Romney’s painting.8 In an era noted for its eccentrics – think of Byron, Coleridge, even his own mother Lady Mary Wortley Montagu – when young milordicapered across Europe and the Near East living fast and gambling high, few men could match Wortley Montagu for sheer exuberance.
Romney must have been introduced to Montagu by John Udny, former British consul in Venice and a well-known art collector, in whose house the artist was staying; and the two formed a strong bond during the artist's two month stay in the city. His portrayal of Montagu, who delighted Romney with tales of his adventures in the East and taught him to make Turkish coffee, bears little basis with reality for a man who by that stage was in his early 60s. Clearly captivated by his flamboyant and colourful subject, Romney’s portrayal of the notorious rogue and celebrated traveller captures a wonderfully romantic and idealised notion of Montagu’s own self-image, evocative of the spirit of the man, if not the physical reality. In contrast to Romney’s work in England, the medium, composition and handling of the painting all exhibit strong characteristics which betray a debt to sixteenth-century Venetian painting; and particularly the work of Titian and Tintoretto. Presenting a vigorous and positively war-like figure, the pose is derived from Titian's similarly exoticPortrait of Ippolito de' Medici in Hungarian costume (fig. 3: Palazzo Pitti, Florence), which the artist would have seen in Bologna in February 1775. Painted on a narrow, rough piece of canvas, the use of which carries the suggestion of a spontaneous, rather than carefully planned enterprise, the artist's choice of material may also reflect a conscious effort on Romney's part to re-create the attributes of those sixteenth-century masters. Whilst much of the brushwork is carried out with a breadth appropriate to the canvas's course weave, the head is painted with a delicacy otherwise not seen in his portraiture; an effect, as Alex Kidson has pointed out, that Romney no doubt considered Titianesque. Other elements of the picture however, such as the treatment of the drapery, the modelling of the arms and hands, and the tonality and balance of the exotically pitched colours, are typical of the style found in Romney's portraiture at this time, and this painting is surely one of the finest examples of the fusion of sixteenth-century Venetian modelling and colour with the eighteenth-century English grand manner style.
On the artist's return to England Romney sold the picture for fifty guineas to the great collector George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick (1746–1816), a nephew of the antiquarian and diplomat Sir William Hamilton (1731–1803). Warwick was Romney's first and most important aristocratic patron and had commissioned the artist to procure paintings for him, especially portraits, while he was in Italy (see lot 44). Via the Earl’s agent, the dramatist Richard Cumberland (1732–1811), Romney had learned of a magnificent room at Warwick Castle ‘where a picture of consideration is wanting according to the proportion of sixty three inches by forty three wide… the subject historical, where more than one figure is employed’.9 The space referred to was a recess in the panelling above the fire place in the Cedar Room, the most important of the state room interiors at the castle. Whether Romney had intended this picture for Lord Warwick from the outset, and planned to extend it when back in England; or whether the idea came to him later and he adapted the composition accordingly is unclear. However his extensions to the picture, painted on English canvas of a finer weave than that available in Italy, and therefore presumably executed in London, bring the dimensions of the painting up to precisely the width stipulated by Cumberland, and almost the height. The addition of an Arab skirmish in the background, over the canvas extensions, completed the composition, and neatly complied with the Earl’s desire for an historical subject. Given that Romney wrote to the his close friend Charles Greville, the Earl’s brother, from Venice in February 1775 declaring, ‘I am exceedingly concerned that I have not hitherto had it in my power to make any purchase for Lord Warwick’,10 it would seem likely that his failure to find suitable alternatives resulted in his decision to adapt the portrait of Montagu, who was a distant relative of Warwick’s, for this prestigious spot. A copy, painted by Romney before he dispatched the original to Lord Warwick, hung in the artist's painting studio for many years, where it was greatly admired and served to increase the artist’s fame. That picture was eventually sold to John Milnes of Wakefield in 1788, and now forms part of the collection of the Sheffield Museum.
Interestingly enough the mace held here by Wortley Montagu, and possibly the sword, were also acquired by the 2nd Earl of Warwick and have until recently been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. These will be exhibited alongside the painting (see fig. 1).
1. Letter from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her sisiter Frances, July 1726, quoted in C. S. Sykes, Black Sheep, London 1982, p. 155.
2. M.W. Montagu, Letters and Works, 1861, 1:III.
3. J. Curling, Edward Wortley Montagu, 1713–1776, The man in the iron wig, New York 1954, p. 161.
4. E. Johnston, George Romney. Paintings and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, 1961, p. 16.
5. From the letters of Lady Mary Coke, Coke Letters, 4:258, quoted in J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701–1800, New Haven and London 1997, p. 670.
6. E. Johnston, George Romney. Paintings and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, 1961, p. 16.
7. J. Wallis (ed.), Memoirs of the late Edw. W-ly Montague Esq., 1778, pp. 113–14.
8. A. Kidson, George Romney 1784–1802, exhibition catalogue, London 2002, p. 101.
9. A. Kidson, ibid., p. 102.
10. D. Buttery, ‘George Romney, and the Second Earl of Warwick’, in Apollo, August 1986, p. 104.
Another highlight is a beautifully preserved portrait of a man by Jan Sanders Van Hemessen (1504-1556), which was painted at a time when the artist was heavily influenced by the art of Bronzino (est. £800,000 - 1.2 million / €975,000 - 1,460,000 / $1.3 - 2 million).
Jan Sanders Van Hemessen (Hemessen circa 1504-1556 Antwerp), Portrait of a bearded gentleman, aged 34, before an extensive landscape, inscribed on the card: AETATIS SVAE 34/ FORTVNE/ LE VEVLT, stamped on versowith the royal insignia of William, Prince of Orange (1792–1849), inventory number 178 etched into the reverse, oil on panel, 92 by 73.5 cm.; 36 1/4 by 29 in. Estimate 800,000 — 1,200,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: William, Prince of Orange, later King William II of the Netherlands (1792–1849);
Probably Henry Richard Greville, 3rd Earl of Warwick (1779–1853);
Francis Richard Charles Greville, 5th Earl of Warwick (1853–1924);
Thence by descent.
Exhibited: Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Le Siècle de Bruegel. La peinture en Belgique au XVIe siècle, 27 September – 24 November 1963, no. 134, reproduced ill. 132;
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, on long term loan.
Literature: F. E. Warwick, ‘Warwick Castle’, in The Pall Mall Magazine, vol. XI, January–April 1897, p. 40 (‘Portrait of a Man, with the inscription Aetatis suae 24 fortunae, by Porbus [sic]’), in the Red Sitting Room;
B. Wallen, ‘The Portraits of Jan Sanders van Hemessen’, in Oud Holland, vol. LXXXVI, 1971, p. 70 ff.;
B. Wallen, Jan van Hemessen. An Antwerp Painter between Reform and Counter-Reform, Michigan 1983, p. 309, no. 35, reproduced fig. 120.
Hemessen’s portraiture is perhaps so alluring because of the lessons he learned on an extended trip to Italy in the late 1520s. There he studied both models from classical antiquity, such as the Laocoön (discovered in 1506), as well as Michelangelo and Raphael, basing many of his early compositions on the work of these two great masters. His work following the return to Antwerp is a lucid illustration of the impact of Italian painting on the pictorial idioms of northern artists and the portrait presented here describes as well as any other the synthesis that Hemessen would achieve between the classicizing tendencies of Italian portraiture of the sixteenth century and the fundamental strain of realism and frigid pathos of the great northern exponents of the genre, such as Jan Gossaert, Joos van Cleve and others. Hemessen may have first encountered Gossaert early in his career at the royal court at Mechelen where he is believed to have worked briefly with the Master of the Magdalen Legend and where Gossaert and Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen were court painters.
Hemessen had been elected to the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp in 1524, having completed his pupilage under Hendrik van Cleve I, and, as with Jan Gossaert before him, his journey to Italy brought him into contact with the classicising style and idiom of the great painters of the Italian High Renaissance. While Michelangelo and Raphael remain the obvious influences in his religious work, his later portraiture owes more to the great master of the 1530s and ’40s, Agnolo Bronzino. It has been said of the present portrait that it owes much to Bronzino and in many respects this is true: it demonstrates most markedly the influence of his portraits of the mid to late 1530s, examples or reproductions of which it is inconceivable that Hemessen did not somehow see or study. While there is no evidence of a second trip to Italy in the 1530s, he would have seen and learned more of the stylistic developments of his Italian counterparts on his trip to Fontainebleau in the mid-1530s, and from other northern artists returning to the Netherlands from Italy throughout the decade, such as Michel Coxcie.
Bronzino’s influence is marked in this portrait both by its pictorial intensity, which is achieved through its highly polished finish and the placement of the dark figure before a pallid backdrop; and its observational intensity, which we see in the extraordinary level of detail throughout the figure, particularly in the physiognomy, the beard and the intricately modelled fabric of the vestment. In these respects it closely resembles Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man with a Lute in the Uffizi, Florence, of circa 1535 (fig. 1):1 in both works, the mottled surface of the highly textured and similarly pleated cape is painstakingly rendered and, atop the shoulder pad, the uneven surface is silhouetted against a lighter backdrop. Both portraits follow the half- to three-quarter length mise-en-page popularised by Bronzino, but begun by Titian in Venice (whose La Schiavona is probably the first three-quarter length portrait in Western art); they both show a similar arrangement of the hands: the proper right hand grasping an item meaningful to the sitter’s interests or identity, the other resting lower down the plane. Such an arrangement would become standard practice in High Renaissance and Mannerist portraiture, one holding an item that may identify the sitter, the other resting on the hilt of a sword, column or chair. In all these respects Hemessen’s portrait can be compared with a myriad of works by Bronzino, but particularly those of the 1530s such as the Portrait of a Man with a Book in the Metropolitan Museum and also the famous Portrait of Bartolomeo Panticichi, also in the Uffizi.2
Hemessen’s portrait however differs in one key feature: the external setting. Where the sitter (and his dress) might just as easily belong in a Florentine portrait, it is the landscape that roots it firmly back in the north. We see beyond a ‘world landscape’ popularised in preceding decades by Joachim Patinir, Massys and others. It is however painted in the more developed style of the 1530s, reminiscent of the landscapes of Mathys Cock. It is a curious idiosyncrasy that such an Italianate portrait should sit before such a wholly Flemish landscape and it is indeed difficult to conjure another portrait that fuses these two elements so successfully. This, though, would not be the only time Hemessen would employ such a tactic: his version of Raphael’s Holy Family of Francis I (Musée du Louvre, Paris) that he saw in Fontainebleau is personalized by the animation we see through the window behind the protagonists: in Raphael’s original we see essentially a luminous blue sky, but in Hemessen’s version (now in the Groeningen Museum, Bruges) we see a far-reaching panorama, another ‘world landscape’ that, like here, wrenches the Italianate design back to Flanders (fig. 2).
In its graceful and refined appearance and pose the portrait is the very antithesis of the twisting figures and grotesque facial types of Hemessen’s genre scenes for which he is perhaps best-known. This and the few other portraits given to Hemessen, such as the signed double portrait from 1532 in the collection of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, Fife, and the two in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, reveal an unusual classicizing elegance and restraint.3 The portrait was first recognised as the work of Hemessen by Paul Philipott and was one of the stars of the 1963 exhibition in Brussels, Le siècle de Bruegel.4 Its rediscovery at that show was the catalyst behind Burr Wallen’s dedicated article in Oud Holland in 1971 and thus for the re-evaluation of Hemessen as a painter of portraits. Wallen dated the portrait to the 1540s. Peter van den Brink, to whom we are grateful, has proposed Hemessen’s date of execution to be in the 1530s or early 1540s.
The reverse is stamped with the insignia (in wax) of William, Prince of Orange (1792–1849), later William II of the Netherlands. The painting does not however match any of the entries in C. J. Nieuwenhuys' Description de la Galerie des Tableaux de S.M. Le Roi des Pays-Bas of 1843, nor does it appear to feature in the sales following the King's death, held in Amsterdam on 12 August 1850 and 9 September 1851. The form of the insignia denotes that the painting was in the collection prior to William's accession in 1840, and must have been sold prior to the compilation of the 1843 inventory. It may have been acquired by Henry, 3rd Earl Warwick, at some point in the 1820s or 1830s. It is interesting to note another link between Warwick and the King: one of the greatest portraits formerly at Warwick Castle, Moroni's Don Gabriel de la Cueva, later Duke of Alburquerque (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie) was also in the collection of King William II; it is listed in 1843 inventory, and was sold in the 1850 sale of his collection; the RKD's copy of the sale catalogue marks the buyer as 'Nieuwenhuys' who was at the time operating out of London and thus presumably buying on behalf of the 3rd Earl at the sale.
The painting would thus appear to be one of the later additions to the Warwick collection. The first watertight mention of it in the literature is in the 1897 article on Warwick Castle where it is described as by Pourbus. More summary entries in earlier inventories, lists and descriptions of the castle and its contents refer in only general terms to male portraits which may be identifiable with this work but only conjecture can lead to a link with any of them. There is, for example, mention in several places of a 'Burgomaster'. Samuel Woodburne, for example, refers to a ‘Burgomaster – In the bedroom – very fine’, in his Notes on the Paintings at Warwick Castle, 1832, and at the back, the 3rd Earl notes of it: ‘Burgomaster. Is this not by Sir Anthony Moor? An original’.
The motto on the piece of paper held in the sitter’s right hand has been assigned in the past to several families, including the Dubois family of Antwerp and the Sersanders of Ghent.5
1. See M. Brock, Bronzino, Paris 2002, reproduced in colour p. 113.
2. Brock, op. cit., reproduced in colour pp. 117–118.
3. See Wallen, under Literature, figs 2, 11 and 12.
4. See under Exhibited.
5. See J. Dielitz, Die Wahl- und Denksprüche, Frankfurt 1884, p. 114
TYGERS AT PLAY - ONE OF GEORGE STUBBS’ MOST CELEBRATED WORKS
Painted circa 1770-75, this masterful depiction of two leopard cubs ranks among Stubbs’ most popular subjects. The painting has rarely been seen in public, having been exhibited only four times since its original appearance at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Testament to the artist’s exceptional eye for capturing the animal form, this admirably preserved work boasts impeccable provenance, having been sold only once since it was commissioned from the English painter. It remained in the possession of a single family until 1962, when it was acquired by the present owners. Coming from a distinguished British aristocratic collection, Tygers at Play will be offered with an estimate of £4-6 million / €4.9 - 7.3 million / $6.7 - 10 million).
George Stubbs, A.R.A. (Liverpool 1724-1806 London), Tygers at Play, oil on canvas, 101.5 by 127 cm.; 40 by 50 in. Estimate 4,000,000 — 6,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Presumably commissioned or purchased by George Brodrick, 4th Viscount Midleton (1754–1836);
Thence by descent to his son George Alan Brodrick, 5th Viscount Midleton (1806–1848);
By inheritance to his cousin, Charles Brodrick, 6th Viscount Midleton (1791–1863);
By inheritance to his brother, William John Brodrick, 7th Viscount Midleton (1798–1870), Dean of Exeter and Chaplain to Queen Victoria;
By descent to his son, William Brodrick, 8th Viscount Midleton (1830–1907);
By descent to his son, William St John Fremantle Brodrick, 9th Viscount Midleton and 1st Earl of Midleton (1856–1942);
By descent to his son, George Brodrick, 2nd Earl of Midleton (1888–1979);
With Oscar & Peter Johnson, London, from whom acquired by the present owners in 1962.
Exhibited: Probably London, Royal Academy, 1776, no. 293 (as Tygers at Play);
London, Oscar & Peter Johnson Gallery, Pictures and Drawings from Yorkshire Houses, 1963, no. 15;
London, Tate Gallery, George Stubbs 1724–1806, 17 October 1984 – 6 January 1985, no. 78;
New Haven, Yale Centre for British Art, George Stubbs 1724–1806, 13 February – 7 April 1985, no. 78;
Leeds, City Art Gallery, Whistlejacket & Scrub: Large as Life; The Great Horse Paintings of Stubbs, 12 September – 9 November 2008, unnumbered
Literature: Sir W. Gilbey, Animal Painters of England, vol. II, London 1900, p. 205;
B. Taylor, The Prints of George Stubbs, London 1969, p. 24;
B. Taylor, Stubbs, London 1971, p. 208, no. 39, reproduced pl. 39 (as ‘Leopards playing in a rocky landscape’);
C. A. Parker, Mr Stubbs the Horse Painter, London 1971, p. 198;
L. Parris, George Stubbs A.R.A., ‘Leopards at Play’ and ‘The Spanish Pointer’, London 1974, pp. 8–11, reproduced p. 9;
C. Lennox-Boyd, R. Dixon and T. Clayton, George Stubbs. The Complete Engraved Works, London 1989, pp. 173–74;
J. Egerton, ed., George Stubbs 1724–1806, exhibition catalogue, London 1984, p. 113, cat. no. 78, reproduced in colour;
J. Egerton, George Stubbs, Painter. Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London 2007, pp. 308–09, no. 122, reproduced in colour;
K. Harker (ed.), Whistlejacket & Scrub: Large as Life, exhibition catalogue, Leeds 2008, pp. 10, 18, & 40, reproduced in colour p. 18;
P. Johnson, Heart in Art. A Life in Paintings, London 2010, reproduced in colour p. 14.
This sensational picture is one of the great works of eighteenth century English animal painting. Indeed, in many ways, it is one of the great lost works from any age in British Art. Lost, for although it was one of the artist’s most celebrated works during his lifetime, and has been known through innumerable prints (which are taken from a later version of the composition, see fig.2), it has only been exhibited four times since it was painted. Having spent the whole of the nineteenth century virtually unseen, it was exhibited only twice in the twentieth, once in a small dealer’s exhibition, shortly after it had been bought by the present owners, in 1963; and again when it featured in the major retrospective of Stubbs’s work at the Tate Gallery in London, and the Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven. It then again lay dormant for over another twenty years until 2008, when it appeared in a small exhibition in Leeds, focused on Stubbs’s depiction of horses. As well as being largely hidden from public view for so long, the painting has been in only two private collections since it was acquired from the artist by the 4th Viscount Midleton, who’s family had been prominent patrons of Stubbs early in his career. It remained in the possession of the Midleton family, passing from generation to generation, until it was sold by the 2nd Earl of Midleton, who never had any children, in 1962, and acquired by the present owners; thereby transferring discreetly from one English aristocratic collection to another. This seclusion in which the picture has been carefully cherished accounts for its spectacularly well preserved condition; so rare anyway in paintings of this date but particularly remarkable for a work by this artist, and only serves to heighten the painting's allure.
The painting depicts two leopard cubs frolicking in a spacious and exotic landscape of the artists's imagination. The topography and vegetation is evocative of the creatures' natural habitat, conjuring visions of the African bush or the Indian jungle, with thick vegetation, dense palm fronds and craggy rocks. The background is dominated by a towering rocky prominence, which gives weight and drama to the scene, before receding to distant mountains and untold distant plains, which melt into the soft hues of warm sunlight. The effect of the whole is to imbue the picture with an emotive power which contemporaries would have deemed sublime, at once arousing emotions of desire and romance, as well as an awe and fear appropriate to the wild and ferocious nature of the leopards themselves. Despite the playfulness of these cubs contemporaries were all too aware of the potential ferocity of these animals, and it was precisely this frisson of danger which made Stubbs’s paintings of wild animals so appealing. Highly detailed and intimately observed this painting is a tour-de-force of anatomical observation and painterly skill in rendering the soft texture of the animal’s fur, and the intricate patina of their coats. It is observed with all the underlying knowledge Stubbs had acquired over a decade of studious dissection and anatomical study. Rarely, if ever, do works of this quality, importance and rarity appear on the open market for auction. The emergence of this picture for sale presents an exciting, once in a generation opportunity to acquire one of the masterpieces of eighteenth century British painting.
Stubbs’s paintings of exotic animals are among his most original and innovative works. They have always been hugely popular with both critics and the public alike, and have long been highly sought after by collectors. In 1807, during the two day sale of the contents of Stubbs’s studio held by Peter Cox following the artist’s death, the highest price of the sale was for lot 92, one of the three versions of Stubbs’s Portrait of the Royal Tiger, which sold for the astronomical sum of 350 guineas. Of the other portraits of exotic animals in the sale, lot 88, his Portrait of the celebrated Zebra (Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven), fetched 132 guineas, lot 95, Lion devouring a Stag (Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle), sold for 210 guineas, and lot 80,Lion and Lioness in a Rocky Cavern, made 101 guineas. By comparison the 16 portraits of horses painted for the Turf review series, which were also left in the artist’s studio at his death, sold for an average of just 28 guineas, with the exception of the portrait of Gnawpost, a celebrate grandson of the Godolphin Arabian, which made 155 guineas.
Today demand for the enduring appeal of Stubbs’s exotic animal portraits remains as high as it was during the artist’s lifetime. Combined with the extreme rarity of these pictures, this has meant that in modern times, whenever they have come on the market they have consistently set new records for the artist’s work at auction, and pushed the boundaries of Stubbs’s place in the market. This is particularly true of his paintings of big cats. On 18 March 1970 the sale in these rooms of George Stubbs’s celebrated Portrait of a Hunting Tyger; A Cheetah and a Stag with two Indian handlers (Manchester Art Gallery, see fig. 3) for £220,000 was an undoubted watershed not only for Stubbs prices, but for British art in general. Not only was it the world record for a painting by Stubbs at auction, but it was the highest price ever paid for a work by any British artist to date. Like Tygers at Play, the picture combined an impeccable provenance and a sophisticated composition with exceptional condition, and created an astonishing level of interest from around the world. Twenty five years later, on 8 June 1995, Stubbs’s Portrait of the Royal Tiger (see fig. 5), the same picture that had set the record at Stubbs’s studio sale in 1807, was sold from the collection of the Portman family for £3.2 million, again setting a world record for the artist, and one that would not be exceeded until 2010, with the sale of Macclesfield Mares and Foals for £10.1 million at Sotheby’s.
Stubbs’s ‘Tygers at Play’
The seemingly incorrect title, Tygers at Play, was the name given to this painting by Stubbs himself when he exhibited the picture at the Royal Academy in 1776. It was also the title used by the artist in the lettering that accompanied his engraving of the subject, published in 1780. Broadly speaking, before about 1750 the term tiger was used as a generic classification to define any striped or spotted member of the cat family. In effect it could be used to describe any large feline that was not a lion. By Stubbs’s day, however, following the precepts of the Compte de Buffon and with the rapid increase in global exploration, natural historians and zoologists had come a long way in classifying the natural world and the animals within it.1 His contemporaries could certainly have distinguished between the tiger, the leopard, the panther and the cheetah, each of which Stubbs painted with accurate precision, though he referred to them all as ‘tygers’. This nomenclature seems curiously old fashioned given the artist’s studious and observant depiction of what are quite clearly leopards, and his pains which he was gone to accurately depict their distinctive rosette, or broken moon shaped spots, which are painted with such delicacy. The title is all the more puzzling for having been applied by an artist with such strong links to the scientific community, a man who was not only friends with two of the leading anatomists of their generation, William and John Hunter, but had himself studied anatomy for almost a decade, and continued to practise it on a regular basis. Though the question is at present unanswerable, Stubbs’s use of the title perhaps reflects a contemporary ambiguity, or unresolved debate among natural historian as to the applicable boundaries of the word ‘tigers’, and serves to remind the viewer of the rarity and mystique that still surrounded these animals. If they remain exotic to our eyes, in a post Attenborough era, how exotic and exciting must they have appeared to an eighteenth century audience. One can only imagine the sensation this picture must have caused upon its exhibition, and the ambiguity of its title certainly did nothing to prevent it becoming one of the artist’s most popular subjects.
What is certainly not old fashioned about the picture, indeed it is positively revolutionary, is Stubbs’s treatment of the animals themselves. Deeply embedded in the eighteenth century mind was the concept that animals could be classified into two distinct groups; they were either ‘wild’ or they were ‘tame’. This idea, as old as Aristotle, stemmed from a principally religious, rather than scientific view of the world, and returned to the Judaeo-Christian account of the creation and man’s fall from grace. Intimately related to ideas of human destiny, it was believed that, since the fall, the animal kingdom had experienced a separation. A division according to their natural service or hostility to man, which determined the nature and boundaries of the physical spaces that they were permitted to occupy. Whereas some animals, those that were ‘tame’, had been taken under the protection of man and were permitted to live alongside him, those that were hostile were condemned to find a precarious refuge in the desert places, and their resulting ‘wildness’ was not a natural condition, but a state of rebellion against the divinely conferred dominion of man which had condemned them to exile.2 In paradise man and beast had lived in harmony, and sixteenth and seventeenth century paintings by artist’s such as Rubens and Jan Bruegel often depict this sense of relaxed co-habitation (see fig. 4). Man’s expulsion from the garden, however, had created a state of war in nature, and the lions, tigers, wolves, hyenas and bears which had once gambolled harmlessly in Eden were destined to become Man’s enemy, part of God’s curse on disobedient humanity.3
Thus the ferocious behaviour of wild animals was explained as a sort of derangement, a moral divide drawn between the calm, dutiful behaviour of domestic animals and what John Wesley called the 'variously distorted' passions of wild predators.4 Gaining the status of outcasts and bandits they were thought to thrive only in inhospitable strongholds, far from the 'civilising' influence of man, like Satan and his rebel angels in Hell. As late as 1793 the naturalist Thomas Pennant (1726–1798) wrote in hisHistory of Quadrupeds that the 'rage' of lions was 'tremendous, being inflamed by the influence of a burning sun, on a most arid soil... They live in perpetual fever, a sort of madness fatal to every animal they met with', whilst William Smellie (1740–1795), writing in 1790, defined the tiger as 'perhaps the only animal who's ferocity is unconquerable', often being compelled to 'devour his own young, and tear their mother to pieces'. 5 Such damning characteristics were reinforced in numerous popular histories, and painted depictions of wild animals from the seventeen and early eighteenth centuries. Look for example at the compacted fury of Rubens's lion hunts, where man and beast are depicted in a state of perpetual a combat, or the work of Frans Snyders which portrayed the deranged madness of wild animals. Yet Stubbs's cats are beautiful and serene. They frolic and romp innocently like domestic kittens, their expressions suggesting an almost human smile. They are at peace with their environment; their exquisitely mottled coats melting into the textures of the undergrowth and foliage, uniting them to the landscape through the play of texture and tone. Far from being outcasts from the civilised dominion of man, driven to the limits of the habitable world, they are masters of their own primitive paradise, a pristine creation free from man's intrusion. Indeed their playful rolling seems almost to echo that of the frolicking tiger and leopard in Jan Bruegel's painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Royal Collection, London), painted in 1615 and reproduced in engravings (see fig. 4). As Sir Edwin Landseer recognised, Stubbs, who was profoundly interested in the character of the big cats and who's pictures were based upon studies from the living animals, portrayed the 'gentler emotions' of these predators and sought to depict them in a state appropriate to their true nature. Breathtakingly lifelike, the cats themselves are brought close to the picture plane and convey to the viewer the experience of an intimate encounter with actual wild animals, in their own environment. They are wholly different from the stereotype of ravenous monsters which the eighteenth century had inherited and must have struck contemporaries as something entirely new.
Stubbs's revolutionary depictions of wild animals reflected a growing awareness of the natural world among his contemporaries in the late eighteenth century. European expansion and exploration was increasingly pushing the limits of mankind's understanding and knowledge of nature, and with the discovery of new lands new species were constantly being uncovered, studied, codified, and brought back to Europe. Explorers such as Cook and de Bongainville noticed that on islands where humans had never been the animals were frequently perfectly tame and free from the ferocious habits prescribed to them, as if Eden had been restored. Britain was at the centre of this maritime exploration, and with the ever increasing influx of rare and exotic species came a growing fascination with such animals. In 1766 Captain Cook’s pioneering expedition to the South Pacific, and his subsequent discovery of Australia in 1770, brought back to England numerous species which were previously unknown to Europeans, and men like Warren Hasting brought wild beasts and exotic specimens from Indian, the Middle East and Africa. In this exquisitely detailed and beautifully rendered painting Stubbs captures the contemporary taste for exoticism, and opens a window on a world enthralled by the unknown.
Almost certainly Stubbs’s leopards are based on real animals, cats that he would have seen and made preliminary chalk studies of from life. Although no direct studies for this painting are known, under the items listed in the section entitled ‘Drawings, Drawing Books, Studies from Nature, Sketches, &c’ in the artist’s studio sale in 1807, lot 27 was described as ‘One Book with 34 tigers in black chalk’, whilst the following lot was listed as ‘One book with 7 Cats, in black Chalk…’. Like the majority of the drawings, studies and sketchbooks offered in Stubbs’s studio sale, these have now all disappeared.6 However, from the studies that do survive and with the artist’s training as an anatomist, it would seem implausible that he would not have afforded himself of the opportunity presented by London’s many public menageries, as well as those private collections available to him, to study these beautiful creatures first hand. Indeed Stubbs’s interest in wild and exotic animals was fuelled by, and is partly a reflection of, the growing number of menageries in London, and the powerful allure which they held in the public imagination.
Exotic animals were not a new thing in Britain. Since the reign of King John wild animals had been kept for the entertainment and curiosity of the Royal Court, and the first record of a menagerie at the Tower of London dates to 1210. Until the mid-eighteenth century the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London was still the main site in England for the display of foreign animals, particularly large carnivores, and access to these animals was therefore necessarily limited to a small elite. As the century wore on, however, the Royal menagerie began to be rivalled by an increasing number of institutions, both private and public, which stocked exotic animals for the enjoyment of a much broader section of society.
Outside of the Royal collection, the rise of public menageries in England and the mass import of exotic animals from around the world to Britain, finds cultural roots in the collecting habits of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.7 In the mid-1600s Dutch influence in the East Indies, primarily in the hands of the Dutch United East Indies Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie), transformed Amsterdam into the entrepôt of Europe for all manner of exotic commodities; from tea, coffee, spices, tobacco and textiles, to wild animals. In the 1670s William III and Mary II established a menagerie at their Het Loo residence near Apeldoorn, where the court artist Melchior d’Hondecoeter painted waterfowl, pheasants, parrots, monkeys and pelicans roaming the formal gardens of the estate. Although initially, as in early eighteenth-century England, exotic animals in seventeenth century Holland tended to populate the gardens and houses of the aristocratic and mercantile elite, in 1675 Jan Westerhof opened a restaurant with a difference on the Kloveniersburgwal in Amsterdam. The Menagerie Blauw Jan, as it was called, enabling his customers to view, and also to purchase, exotic animals whilst they sampled delicacies from around the world. Other proprietors were quick to follow and within a few years a number of other menageries were operating in the city, such as Casal & Ekhorsts Menagerie, or Die Witte Olifant (The White Elephant), a menagerie established by Bartel Verhagen in 1681.8 These institutions were the first permanent, public exhibitions of exotic animals in Europe, and often had touring menageries that sent animals to fairs, taverns and coffee houses in nearby cities and neighbouring countries. Indeed animals from the Blauw Jan were exhibited in London during the late seventeenth century and early 1700s, and as other Dutch exhibitors started to recognise the potential market in Britain they began to send animals over with increasing regularity.
What were already strong cultural ties between Holland and Britain in the seventeenth century, based on commerce, politics, war and religion, as well as personal dynastic bonds, were strengthened in 1688 with the Glorious Revolution which brought William III, Stadtholder of the United Provinces, and his wife Mary II, daughter of James II, to the throne of England. In the following decades this increased Anglo-Dutch exchange led to the development of more permanent sites for the trade and exhibition of exotic animals in Britain. As further cultural and economic integration shifted the dominance of world trade, London eventually replaced Amsterdam as the trade capital of Europe. With increasing volume of commodities from the both the West and East Indies flowed into London, the number of exotic animals in the capital grew dramatically as well, and from the 1690s to the 1730s coffee houses and taverns began to increasingly display exotic animals in an effort to attract customers.
However it was not until the 1750s, just at the time Stubbs was arriving in London, that animal merchants in London began to develop dedicated premises from which to exhibit and sell their exotic merchandise. The territorial gains and economic expansion made by Britain during the Seven Years War (1756–63), acquired at the expense of the French, resulted in a huge increase in shipping between Asia and England, and the British East India Company grew substantially. In the early 1700s the company had transported an average of 200,000 lbs of cargo per annum to England. By the late 1750s this had risen to over 3 million lbs per annum, and the volume of shipping entering the Port of London increased fourfold during the eighteenth century. Together with Britain’s dominance of the sea and her maritime expansion, this new economic prosperity resulted in a huge increase in both the volume and variety of exotic animals entering the capital, and a surge in popularity and public fascination with these animals.
Public menageries flourished in London in the latter decades of the eighteenth century, and into the early nineteenth century. From the 1760s a distinct geography of animal exhibitions and commerce emerged centred on Piccadilly, the Strand and St. James’s. Early institutions ranged in size from the smaller merchants such as Edmond’s Menagerie on Piccadilly, which stocked mainly song birds and small mammals from North America, to establishments with a larger repertoire of animals such as the City Menagerie, which houses monkeys, tigers, opossums and camels. On 24 December 1766 an article in the Public Adviser advertised a merchant dealing from the aptly named ‘Noah’s Ark’, offering a wolf, buffalo, crocodile, several camels and a huge variety of parrots and other caged birds. In 1763 Joshua Brookes established the first of three menageries called the Original Menagerie at Gray’s Inn Gate, Holburn. By 1765 he had open a second premises on the New Road at Tottenham Court, offering a diverse selection of species such as antelope, lions, monkeys, vultures and porcupines. In 1777 he opened a third premises on Haymarket called Brookes’ Menagerie, run by Mary Cross, the widow of his former business partner John Cross, who himself had managed a menagerie on St. James’s. Possibly the most famous menagerie in London however was that established by Gilbert Pidcock at the Exeter Exchange (popularly known as the Exeter ‘Change), which was established in about 1773 on the north side of the Strand, on the site of old Exeter House. Originally the wintering quarters for a travelling show (see fig. 6) Pidcock’s menagerie displayed a wide variety of large animals for the price of a two shilling ticket, or two shillings and six pence at feeding time, and was the first institution in the capital to really rival the royal menagerie at the Tower of London. In 1812 the animals at the Exeter 'Change included a Bengal tiger, a hyena, a lion, a jaguar, a slot a camel, monkeys, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros, an elephant, an ostrich, a cassowary, a pelican, emews, cranes, an eagle, cockatoos, elks, kangaroos and antelope. In his diary entry for 14 November 1813, Lord Byron recorded a visit he had recently made to Pidcocks, commenting: ‘Two nights ago I saw the tigers sup at Exeter 'Change. Except Veli Pacha’s lion in the Morea, who followed the Arab keeper like a dog, - the fondness of the hyaena for her keeper amused me most. Such a conversazione! – There was a ‘hippopotamus’ like Lord Liverpool in the face; and the ‘Ursine Sloth’ hath the very voice and manner of my valet – but the tiger talked too much. The elephant took and gave me my money again – took off my hat – opened a door – trunked a whip – and behaved so well, that I wish he was my butler. The handsomest animal on earth is one of the panthers; but the poor antelopes were dead. I should hate to see one here: the sight of the camel made me pine again for Asia Minor.’9
Stubbs was a regular visitor to Pidcock's menagerie, and documentary evidence survives to show that he studied a number of animals there for pictures he exhibited at the Society of Artists and the Academy, as well as for private commissions. On one occasion, in a rather wonderful tale which survives from contemporary anecdote, Stubbs was interrupted in the middle of his dinner, at about 10pm in the evening, by a message that one of the tigers at Pidcock's had died, and its carcass could be bought 'for a song'. Abandoning his meal 'his coat was hurried on, and he flew towards the well-known place and presently entered the den where the dead animal lay extended; this was a precious moment; three guineas were given the attendant, and the body was instantly conveyed to the painter's habitation, where in the place set apart for his muscular pursuits, Mr. S[Stubbs] spent the rest of the night carbonading the once tremendous tyrant of the jungle'.10 The Exeter 'Change remained an important source of inspiration and study for artists well into the nineteenth century. It would later be frequented by a younger generation of artists, inspired by Stubbs's example and the allure of his pictures, such as Edwin Landseer and Jacque Laurent Agasse, whose Two Leopards playing in the Exeter 'Change Menagerie, of 1808, sold for a colossal £3.85 million at auction in 1988 (fig. 7).
As well as the many public menageries that were being established in London in the 1760s and 1770s, Stubbs would have had access to a number of private collections of exotic animals, belonging to his wealth patrons and contacts in the scientific world. George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough kept a private menagerie at Blenheim, which included a tigress presented to the Duke by Lord Clive, Governor of Bengal, and which Stubbs painted circa1767–68 (The Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace). So too did the King’s brother, the Duke of Cumberland, in Windsor Great Park, which included the Cheetah painted by Stubbs circa 1765, which had been brought to England by Sir George Pigot and presented to the George III. Possibly Stubbs’s most important patrons in this field however were the two leading surgeons and anatomists of the century, Dr John Hunter and his elder brother Dr William Hunter. Both men were great collectors of natural history specimens and kept extensive museums of anatomical, pathological and biological specimens. John Hunter also maintained a large private menagerie attached to his house at Earl Court, just outside London, where he kept a varied collection of wild animals, including leopards. In the 1760s, whilst Stubbs was Treasurer of the Society of Artists, Hunter was invited to give a series of lectures on anatomy to the Society, whilst his elder brother, William, was appointed Professor of Anatomy at the newly created Royal Academy when it was opened in 1769, of which Stubbs would later be an Associate Academician. William Hunter’s collection was bequeathed to Glasgow University on his death and forms the basis of the Hunterian Museum, opened in 1807, whilst that of his brother John was acquired by the government in 1799 and forms the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, in London. Both men were close associates of Stubbs, and important patrons who commissioned many portraits of animals in their collections, including the artist’s famous painting of an Indian Rhinoceros (circa 1790/91, Hunterian Museum, Royal college of Surgeons), and his portrait ofThe Kongouro from New Holland (fig. 8), which recently acquired by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The Hunters admired Stubbs for his exacting eye and ability to accurately depict the natural form of new and exotic species, in much the same way that the members of the Jockey Club had admired the accuracy with which he depicted their racehorses in the early 1760s. Their patronage would result in many of the artist’s most exciting and seminal works.
George Stubbs: Animal Painter
George Stubbs’s position as the greatest animal painter of the eighteenth century was confirmed in 1766 with his publication of The Anatomy of the Horse, a project he had worked on for most of the previous decade. Born in Liverpool in 1724, the son of a currier, Stubbs had first studied anatomy at York County Hospital in 1744, under the distinguished surgeon Dr Charles Atkinson. Later, at Horkstow, in Lincolnshire, he had spent the two years between 1756 and 1758 engaged in studying and dissecting horses in preparation for the publication his great magnum opus, a work the likes of which had not been seen in Europe since Carlo Ruini’s Dell’Anatomia et dell’Infirmita del Cavallo of 1598. This unprecedented work cast Stubbs at the forefront of both science and art in his understanding and knowledge of equine anatomy and propelled him into the limelight as the leading authority on the depiction of the horse. However it also gave Stubbs the training and ability to dissect and study many other animals over the course of his career, and his knowledge and understanding of the physical make up of mammals of all kinds was unparalleled by any artist of his generation. Arriving in London in the early 1760s he quickly caught the attention of a close knit group of noblemen and members of the Jockey Club, including Lord Rockingham, Lord Grosvenor, and the Dukes of Grafton and Portland, whose patronage would dominate Stubbs’s work for the next ten years. His inclusion in Étienne Falconet’s 1769 list of the twelve most reputed artists in London, however, is testament to the broader reputation he had achieved by the end of his first decade in the capital. With a secure base of patronage and the acclaim of fellow artists, by the late 1760s and into the 1770s Stubbs’s confidence was riding high, and not wanting to be pigeon holed with the label ‘horse painter’ he appears to have purposefully expanded the range of his subject matter in order to showcase the breadth of his talent.
The first of Stubbs’s painting to depict wild animals was hisLion attacking a Horse, commissioned by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham as early as 1762 (Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven). Demonstrating the interest of both artist and patron in antique sculpture, which Stubbs had encountered on his visit to Rome in 1754, and rooted in the classical tradition of animal combats, this picture was the first in a series of paintings involving encounters between lions and horses which dealt with traditional concepts of the sublime. Simultaneously evoking emotions of terror and pity these works proved particularly attractive to print publishers, who were quick to recognise the market potential for such subjects, and prompted further ideas for paintings of wild animals. By 1763 only one of the four pictures Stubbs exhibited at the Society of Artists was a portrait of a horse. The three others consisted of two lion and horse combats, and the portrait of a Zebra belonging to Queen Charlotte, previously referred to, which had been installed in a paddock at St. James’s for the general entertainment of the populace. Much like this painting of two leopard cubs, Stubbs’s portrait of the Queen’s Zebra appears not to have been a commission, but was painted to satisfy the artists own curiosity about the animal; and from this time on his art in this vein becomes increasingly characterised by images of wild animals in their natural state.
Documentary evidence does not exist to confirm the exact date of this painting, or the circumstances of its commission or purchase. However it has always been believed to have been the picture exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1776, and was either purchased from the exhibition, or commissioned by George Brodrick, 4th Viscount Midleton (1754–1836) (fig. 9). Midleton’s father, the 3rd Viscount Midleton, had been an early patron of Stubbs, having commissioned or bought the artist’s painting of Mares and Foals on a River Bank (Tate Gallery, London) in 1765 for the new villa he had commissioned Sir William Chambers to build for him at Peper Harow, in Surrey (fig. 10). The estate had originally been bought in 1713 by the 3rd Earl’s grandfather, Alan Broderick (1656–1728), Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was created Viscount Midleton of Co. Cork in 1717. Chambers’s plans for the house were approved in March 1765, however the 3rd Viscount died in August of that year and the house was not completed until his son came of age in 1775. The 3rd Viscount also commissioned Stubbs’s Greyhound attacking a Stag (Philadelphia Museum of Art), paintedcirca 1762, as well as a third painting by Stubbs which is now unidentified. All three pictures hung in the house and were probably the pictures ‘painted on purpose’ by Stubbs to hang in the Dining Room.11 The 4th Viscount clearly had a taste for the exotic, appropriate to his purchase of this painting. Of the two marble chimney pieces designed for the Dining Room and Drawing Room by Chambers, carved by his principal sculptor Joseph Wilton, the latter is described as ‘feneer’d with verd-Antique and inlaid flutings of do., the Tablet of Bacchus and Tyger’.12 Tygers at Playdescended in the family at Peper Harow to William St John Freemantle Brodrick, 9th Viscount Midleton (1856–1942), a Conservative politician who was created Earl of Midleton in 1920. It was then inherited by his son, the 2nd Earl who, despite marrying three times, including to the actress Rene Ray (1911–1993), died without issue and sold the picture in 1962. The painting was bought directly by the present owners, in whose collection it has remained until the present day. It has therefore been in only two collections since the day it was painted, and has never appeared on the open market for sale.
By Sarah Walden
This painting has a comparatively recent lining and stretcher, perhaps from the early middle of the twentieth century. The fine even texture of the surface is perfectly secure and undisturbed by any past damage. The exceptionally pure, intact quality of the painting throughout suggests that it had a calm, stable early history with scarcely any intervention perhaps until the cleaning and restoration presumably with the lining mentioned above. The subtle transitions in the landscape, paling as it recedes into the distance, are beautifully preserved, increasing the contrast with the strength of tone of the cubs themselves, which remain in extraordinarily perfect condition down to the slightest whisker. Under ultra violet light a single, quite small, recent retouching of any consequence can be seen in the shadow on the ground just to the left of the cubs. Elsewhere there is only a little surface scratch in the mid left background and a tiny surface touch or two at upper left. Along the base edge there may be old retouching in a few places. The old varnish has been thinned, with some uneven earlier varnish also visible in places under ultra violet. The fine brushwork remains exceptionally well preserved however almost throughout, even in the delicate darker detail of the foreground and the palm tree, as well as in the fragile tracery of the mountains against the sky. Just in the upper right corner of the sky the light ground can be seen emerging unevenly through a slightly thinner film of blue paint. It is rare to find a painting so beautifully preserved.
1. See J. Roger, Buffon, A Life in Natural History, Ithaca and London 1997.
2. D. Donald, Picturing Animals in Britain 1750–1850, New Haven and London 2007, p, 160.
3. D. Donald, Ibid, p. 160.
4. D. Donald, Ibid, p. 160.
5. D. Donald, Ibid, p. 162.
6. J. Egerton, George Stubbs, Painter. Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London 2007, p. 308.
7. See C. Plumb, Exotic Animals in Eighteenth Century Britain, unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Manchester, 2010.
8. C. Plumb, Ibid.
9. T. Moore, Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, London 1839, pp. 199–200.
10. Quoted in R.D. Atlick, The Shows of London, Cambridge, Mass., 1978, p. 39.
11. C. Hussey, English Country Houses. Mid Georgian 1760-1800, London 1955, p. 114.
12. C. Hussey, ibid., p. 114.
Other highlights in the evening sale include The Annunciation, an oil sketch by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) who was without question the greatest master of the European Baroque style. The Flemish painter’s extraordinary powers as a composer and colourist and his principal elements of drama, movement and spirituality are exemplified in this panel. This picture is his preliminary study for the larger altarpiece of the same subject today in the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, which can be dated to before 1628-29, when it was bought from Rubens by the great Spanish collector Diego Messia, Marques of Leganés (est. £2-3 million / €2.4 - 3.7 million / $3.4 - 5 million).
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp), The Annunciation, oil on panel, 42 by 31.4 cm.; 16 1/2 by 12 3/8 in. Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Ludwig Borchardt (1863–1938), Basel;
His widow, Emilie, née Cohen (1877–1948);
By whom sold, Lucerne, Galerie Fischer, 20–24 May 1941, lot 1027 (as Flemish School);
With Charles Albert de Burlet, Basel;
Private Collection, Switzerland;
With Robert Noortman, Maastricht;
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Exhibited: Rotterdam, Boymans Museum van Beuningen, Olieverfschetsen van Rubens, 1953–54, no. 59;
Antwerp, Rubenshuis, 2004–08, on loan.
Literature: E. Haverkamp Begemann, in the exhibition catalogue, Olieverfschetsen van Rubens, 1953–54, p. 75, no. 59;
M. Jaffé, 'Rubens at Rotterdam', in The Burlington Magazine, CXVI, 1954, p. 57;
J. S. Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens: A critical catalogue, Princeton 1980, vol. I, pp. 441–442, no. 318, reproduced vol. II, p. 315;
M. Jaffé, Rubens, Milan 1989, p. 306, cat. no. 918, reproduced;
H. Devisscher, The Annunciation. A new oil sketch for the Rubenshuis, Antwerp 2004;
To be included in forthcoming volume V/1 of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard: The Life of Christ before the Passion, by H. Vlieghe and H. Devisscher, as no. 3a, currently in preparation.
Notes: More than any other painter of the Northern Baroque, Rubens’ artistic personality and skill is revealed in his oil sketches, a part of his working method to which he himself attached the greatest importance. Untrammelled by the possible intervention of the studio or the whims of a patron, like no other works they bear witness to his extraordinary powers as a composer and colourist. Although not the first artist to make them, Rubens certainly used such sketches to an extent that had not been seen before, and indeed his mastery of this vibrant medium has never really been equalled. The sketches formed an essential part of his creative process; in them he would flesh out in paint his ideas for a composition, perhaps relying upon earlier drawings in which the outlines of the design were first intimated, and from which he would now build up a more fully resolved idea of his painting in terms of both composition and (importantly) colour. These oil sketches were much prized at the time – Bellori famously wrote of the ‘gran prontezza e furia del penello’(‘the great speed and fury of his brush’) – not least by Rubens himself, and they have been accorded great value ever since, for they remain among the most sought after of his works.
This exceptional sketch served as the preliminary study ormodello for the large altarpiece of the same subject today in the Rubenshuis in Antwerp (fig.1). That so large a painting – over three metres in height – should find itself condensed into such a small and vibrant panel is entirely typical of Rubens’ oil sketches. The finished canvas was almost certainly acquired from Rubens during his stay in Spain between 1628–29 by the great Spanish collector Diego Messia, Marquis of Leganés (1580–1655), (fig. 2), and the sketch was no doubt painted at, or shortly before, this date, most probably in Spain as well. Besides having a rounded top, the sketch differs from the finished painting in several details. The Virgin here kneels with one knee on the step of the prie-dieu beside her, while in the painting she places both knees upon it. The putti dropping flowers on her from above are more fully resolved in the painting and shown at full-length. As well as elaborating on the symbolically important still life of flowers in a glass vase in the centre of the design, Rubens works out the details of the Virgin’s sewing by placing it in a basket, and adds in addition to this an open bible on the prie-dieu and a sleeping cat is now to be found curled up peacefully beside the basket. In both works Mary is shown turning from her prayer towards the figure of the Archangel Gabriel, who has just entered her room. She is clad modestly in a white gown, with a pale blue robe draped over it. Gabriel wears shimmering raiment in which both pink and yellow hues predominate, with the shadows rendered in a pale lilac. Behind them the space of Mary’s chamber is enclosed by a warm red curtain, while little touches of different colours denote the petals and flowers that the two putti drop from above it, and these in turn echo those of the blooms in the glass vase upon her table. In the finished painting these flowers can be clearly seen as roses, symbolic both of Mary herself, who Christian tradition referred to as ‘the rose without thorns’, and also more specifically of the Immaculate Conception to come. The simple domestic atmosphere of her chamber also serves to accentuate Mary’s ordinariness. The presence of the sewing materials reveals her as a normal woman preoccupied with normal household tasks; the flowers and the glass vase on the table behind her are equally symbolic of her purity and humility.
Both the present sketch and the altarpiece in the Rubenshuis seem to have been the last of Rubens’ paintings devoted to the subject of the Annunciation. As Julius Held noted, in his successive treatments of the theme Rubens seems to have moved towards a more dynamic evocation of the scene by varying the figure of the angel Gabriel. In his earliest approaches to the subject, such as that painted shortly after his return from Italy around 1609–10 for the Brotherhood of the Jesuit Sodality of Married Men, and today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Rubens had depicted the angel kneeling before the Virgin.1 Shortly after, on the external wings of the triptych of Saint Stephen at Valenciennes, painted around 1615–16, now in Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rubens shows the angel crouching on clouds above the standing Virgin.2 Gabriel appears in full flight first in an oil sketch for the ceiling decorations in the Jesuit Church in Antwerp, executed around 1620, and now in the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna.3 A very similar sketch, but of rectangular not oval format, is preserved in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.4 Held also drew attention to a related drawing made by Rubens for the 1627 edition of the Breviarium Romanum, now in the Albertina in Vienna, in which the Virgin is shown kneeling at a prie-dieu, and a sewing basket is also introduced, though somewhat less prominently (fig. 3).5
The evident parallels between the sketch and the Albertina drawing of 1627 would seem to support a dating of this sketch to the years 1628–29 when Rubens was in Spain, and when the finished altarpiece was probably acquired by the Marquis de Leganés. More recently, however, Hans Devisscher (see Literature) suggested that the altarpiece itself may have been created in more than one phase. While the dynamic and more fluidly painted figure of the Archangel is indeed typical of Rubens’ style in the 1620s, he suggests that the figure of the Virgin and the still-life elements are more typical of Rubens’ more descriptive and detailed style around 1614–15. This implies that the finished altarpiece may have been left unfinished – for reasons unknown – and then picked up again and completed by Rubens at a later date, during or shortly before his departure for Spain, at which time the earlier phase of the composition (the figure of the Virgin Mary) was much reworked. If Devisscher’s suggestion is correct then the sketch here would have a much earlier dating, to around 1614–15, but such a view has not been shared by other scholars. Havekamp-Begemann evidently observed variations in quality within the canvas and suggested that the Rubenshuis painting was partly the work of assistants in the Rubens studio, but continued to date it to around 1628–29. Jaffé equally assigns it a date around 1628. And in the forthcoming volume of the Corpus Rubenianum devoted to the Life of Christ before the Passion, Devisscher and Hans de Vlieghe have returned to a dating in the late 1620s. This dating has now been endorsed by recent dendronchronological of the panel itself by Ian Tyers, which shows a felling date of after circa1615, thus making a date of execution in the 1620s entirely plausible but an earlier dating of 1614-15 impossible.6
Even if the date of this sketch and the finished picture has been the subject of discussion, little reasonable doubt attaches to the identity of the latter’s first known owner. In the inventory of the Leganés art collection, drawn up on March 30, 1642, no. 264 is described as: ‘Una annunziazion de nra. Senora y un angel, de mano de Rubens, de 4 baras de alto y 2 ymedia de ancho, el cielo en oualo, y lagunos angeles hechando flores, y una cesta con la labor de nra senora, y un gato al pie della en 5,000’, (‘An Annunciation with our Lady and an angel, by the hand of Rubens, 4 by 2 ½ varas, the sky in oval, and a few angels who scatter flowers, a basket with the work of Our Lady and a cat at her feet, 5,000’).6 Diego Messia, Marquis of Leganés (1580–1655) rose to prominence at the archducal court in Brussels and became commander of the Spanish cavalry and artillery in the Spanish Netherlands. He married Doña Policena Spinola, the daughter of Ambrogio Spinola, the commander-in-chief of the Spanish armies in 1627, and his immense wealth made him one of the greatest of all collectors in Spain and the Spanish Netherlands in the seventeenth century. At his death his collection contained 1333 works, with a heavy leaning towards works of the Italian and Flemish schools, but also including Spanish pictures. His portrait was also painted by Rubens (Private Collection) and he numbered several works by him in his collection, including landscapes. Rubens himself praised the Marquis as one of the most important collectors of his time. Despite his precautions, however, disputed inheritance led to the dispersal of the collection in the decades following his death in 1655.
We are grateful to Esther Tisa Francini for her assistance with the cataloguing of the provenance of this work.
1. M. Jaffé, Rubens. Catalogo completo, Milan 1989, p. 168, no. 104, reproduced. A preliminary sketch is preserved in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, for which see J. S. Held under Literature, 1980, vol. I, pp. 439–40, no. 317, reproduced vol. II, 314.
2. Jaffé, op. cit., 1989, p. 227, nos. 422d and 422e, reproduced.
3. Held, op. cit., 1980, vol. I, p. 46, no. 16, reproduced vol. II, plate 19.
4. Ibid., vol. I, p. 47, no. 17, reproduced vol. II, plate 17.
5. Inv. no. 8205. For which see, J. S. Held, Rubens. Selected Drawings, London 1959, vol. I, p. 130, no. 147, vol. II, plate 157.
6. Report 696, dated May 2014. A copy of this is available for inspection in the Department.
7. A vara is approximately 83.5 cm., thus giving a size around 334 x 209 cm. The Rubenshuis canvas measures 310 x 187.6 cm., but such variations are common because the dimensions seem to be given to the nearest half vara,and many works that can definitely be identified with those listed in the inventory (by surviving inventory number for example) display similar discrepancies.
The Cottage Door is one of Thomas Gainsborough’s most famous compositions, and is among his most popular and enduring works. It is one of the great icons of 18th-century British landscape painting. Reflecting Gainsborough’s constant search for emotional perfection, the majestic composition to be offered in July is possibly the most successful of all Gainsborough’s treatments of this theme (est. £1.5-2 million / €1.8- 2.4 million / $2.5-3.4 million).
Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (Sudbury 1727 - 1788 London), The Cottage Door, oil on canvas, 149 by 120.5 cm.; 58 3/4 by 47 1/2 in. Estimate 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: The artist’s posthumous sale, Schomberg House, March–May 1789, either lot 69 (A Landscape with a Cottage and Figures) or lot 78 (as A landscape with a Cottage, Figures, &c);
Wynne Ellis (1790–1875);
His posthumous sale, London, Christie’s, 15 July 1876, lot 60, to Patrington for £100.5s;
Ralph Cross Johnson;
By whom given to the National Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington;
By whom deaccessioned, New York, Sotheby's, 4 June 1987, lot 135 (as After Gainsborough);
Anonymous sale, New Orleans Auction Galleries, 9–19 April 2011, lot 56 (as After Thomas Gainsborough);
With Historical Portraits Ltd, London, from whom acquired by the present owner.
Exhibited: London, British Institution, 1865, no. 161;
San Marino, Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, Revisiting the Cottage Door: Gainsborough’s Masterpiece in Focus, 1 June – 2 December 2013, no. 2.
Literature: G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. II, London 1854, p. 298 (recorded in the collection of Wynn Ellis in London: GAINSBOROUGH. – A family of country-people before their cottage : of uncommon power and warmth of colouring);
G. B. Rose, ‘The Ralph Cross Johnson Collection at the National Gallery of Art’, in Art and Archaeology, vol. X, no. 3, September 1920, pp. 342 and 354, reproduced;
J. Hayes, The Landscapes of Thomas Gainsborough, 2 vols, London 1982, p. 480;
H. Belsey, Gainsborough’s Cottage Doors. An Insight into the Artist’s Last Decade, London 2013, pp. 24, 66, 100–07, 116–17, cat. no. 2, reproduced in colour p. 117, and detail reproduced on front cover.
The Cottage Door is one of Gainsborough’s most famous compositions, and is among his most popular and enduring works. It is one of the great icons of eighteenth-century British landscape painting. The subject had huge personal significance for the artist, and such was his emotional attachment to the picture that three versions were produced, all with slight variations in tone and light, reflecting Gainsborough’s constant search for emotional perfection. The first version, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1780, was bought in 1786 by Thomas Harvey for Catton House in Norfolk, and is now one of the jewels in the crown of the Henry E. Huntington Collection at The Huntington Library, San Marino, possibly the greatest collection of eighteenth century British painting outside of the United Kingdom. However Gainsborough was so fond of the composition that a second version (the present lot), was painted for his own collection. It remained in his possession until his death and was only sold by his executors in 1789 as part of the great sale of Gainsborough’s collection and studio contents at Schomberg House when it was acquired by the great collector, politician and businessman Wynne Ellis (1790–1875). Ellis’s collection consisted of some 402 Old Master paintings, as well as a huge number of works by modern and contemporary British artists including Gainsborough, Reynolds, David Wilkie, Richard Wilson and Turner. In 1854 the great art historian Dr Gustav Friedrich Waagen, who saw this picture in Ellis’s collection and greatly admired it, described the painting in his Treasure of Art in Great Britainas being ‘of uncommon power and warmth of colouring’. At Ellis's death his staggering collection was left to the nation, however the trustees of the National Gallery selected only 44 of the paintings, with the remainder of the collection being distributed in an astonishing five day sale in 1876. Other works by Gainsborough that were disposed of in this sale included his famous Portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which was bought by Agnew’s for the incredible sum of £10,605 and later sold to the American banker John Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913). A third version, less finely detailed than the first two, also remained in the artist’s collection and now hangs in a private collection in Dallas.
The majestic composition is possibly the most successful of all Gainsborough’s treatments of this theme, which recurs many times in his art. Based on a pyramid within a pyramid, the construction of the picture and emphasis of light within, focuses attention on the concentrated figure group, which forms the emotional essence of the painting. John Constable said of Gainsborough’s landscapes that ‘on looking at them, we find tears in our eyes, and know not what brings them’. Like many contemporaries he was profoundly moved by the elder painter’s ability to conjure up ‘the depths of twilight’ and the sympathy with which he depicted ‘the lonely haunts of the solitary shepherd’ and other such ‘simple’ subject, as well as the obvious empathy which he held for the peasant men and women that inhabit his pictures. As Susan Sloman has commented, in a more cynical age such overt expressions of emotion are rarely expressed, however Gainsborough’s genius is such that the power of his pictures has endured, and he remains one of the best loved of all English artists.The Cottage Door is one of his finest achievements.
Gainsborough's Cottage Door in Context:
by Hugh Belsey
This recently identified canvas is an autograph replica of the painting shown at the Royal Academy to great acclaim in 1780. The canvas has been reused and so it is highly unlikely that the artist intended to sell it and so it must have been painted for the artist’s own amusement. It is not as finished as the 1780 painting, now in the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Collections in San Marino, California, but the structure and the handling are indisputably by Gainsborough himself. It represents a very personal moment of the artist wanting to reflect on and analyse the brilliance and balance of the composition that he had exhibited a few years before. In addition to the painting offered here and the exhibited landscape that is now in the Huntington Library in California there is a third replica presently in a private collection in Dallas. All three paintings emphasise and re-examine different aspects of the subject. The painting on offer has a particularly strong and structured figure group and the colouring of the landscape takes on greener tones and the other replica uses a higher colour key. The subject, which has become known as The Cottage Door, dominated the artist’s landscape painting from 1770 until his death eighteen years later.
A group of women and children relaxing, eating and playing around the entrance to a simple cottage was a theme frequently examined by Thomas Gainsborough during the 1770s and 1780s. The subject first appears in the background of Thomas Gainsborough’s landscape painting now in the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood where in the background a group of figures around the cottage doorway are enjoying the last rays of the evening sun and their contentment is contrasted in two other figure groups (fig. 1). One shows a posse of riders tired from trading all day at the market and in the bottom right hand corner of the canvas two pitiable peasant children beg by the roadside. It has been thought that these three contrasting groups represent differing degrees of poverty and the difficulties that recent Enclosure Acts had imposed on the peasantry. Politics was of little interest to Gainsborough but all his landscapes contain an aching nostalgia and, with the travelling figures, a restless sense of transition.
During the 1770s a series of drawings show similar groups of figures around cottage doors each with different emphases. Some have more unruly children, some cottages are almost engulfed by trees and others include a male peasant struggling with a huge bundle of sticks to provide heat and fuel to cook food. Gainsborough developed the Cottage Door theme in 1773 when he made an upright landscape that was purchased by Charles, 4thDuke of Rutland which still forms part of the collection at Belvoir Castle (fig. 2) and he repeated the composition for his friend the violinist Felice de Giardini. Both canvases shows a cottage with a large pollarded tree grown too big for its position beside the steps of a tiny cottage that indicates the length of time this particular patch of landscape had provided an income for the cottagers and their forebears. Their dependence on the landscape is shown by the peasant carrying an overlarge bundle of sticks on his back to satisfy the women and children idling their time away on the front steps. Five years later he returned to the subject painting a landscape on a horizontal-shaped canvas.
The landscape in Cincinnati Art Museum was shown at the Royal Academy in 1778 and in it the bundle of sticks had become larger and heavier, the children playing with dogs around the steps more rowdy and the women at the door more disengaged from the realities of life (fig. 3). It was described in the General Evening Post in May 1778 as ‘remarkable for the breadth and just distribution of the lights, the fine degradation of the distances, and the brilliancy and harmony of the colouring.’ Gainsborough painted the Huntington version of the theme two years later and it was also shown at the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy (fig. 4).
In the 1780 landscape Gainsborough first used a horizontal canvas similar in proportion to the Cincinnati landscape but his imagination ran beyond the confines of the edges and he extended it at both the top and bottom in order to complete his composition. In this painting the woman at the door is more beautiful, the toddlers content eating and drinking and the laden peasant is nowhere to be seen. The grandeur of the landscape adds to the tranquility of the figures and as a critic writing in A Candid Review of the Exhibition described, ‘the whole force of his genius [is concentrated] in a beautiful groupe of children and their mother’. Having calculated a facing-saving way of removing himself from the annual strictures of the Royal Academy exhibitions, Gainsborough had the time and opportunity to develop themes in his work that were of interest to him rather than his clientele. He was clearly satisfied with the 1780 painting of the Cottage Door and reproduced it twice. The act of painting it must have given him the greatest satisfaction as he reflected on a job well done.
It has been suggested that the Cottage Door theme had a personal significance for Gainsborough and this may explain why he returned to the subject so often. Aged nineteen Gainsborough had married and his wife grew to be haughty and, as the illegitimate daughter of a duke, she was anxious to establish her precarious social position. His two daughters were fashion conscious and as Gainsborough writes in one of his letters they spent their time ‘tea drinking, Dancing [and] Husband hunting’. Neither daughter had a sustained marriage and his brothers and sisters back in his native Suffolk saw the artist’s financial success as a lifeline. Perhaps the artist equated himself with the peasant labouring under the weight of the bundle of sticks and saw his wife, daughters, brother and sisters as the family group standing on the steps of the cottage dependent on his labours as the hard-working male. Each of the paintings and drawings of the Cottage Door have a different emphasis and mood and perhaps that reflected Gainsborough’s own varying attitude to his dependents.
If this speculation has any truth, by the time he painted the 1780 version of the landscape and the two replicas he made in the following decade he appears to have been more at ease with the situation and one final painting in the Hammer Museum of Art at the University of California at Los Angeles shows the male peasant seated, smoking and looking at his wife and family with pride and wonder (fig. 5).
The painting presently on offer provides an unusual insight into Gainsborough’s complex personality and it is also a remarkable summation of his thoughts about landscape, tranquility and family life.
We are grateful to Hugh Belsey for providing this catalogue entry, and for his assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.
Fig. 1 Thomas Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with Peasant Travellers, c. 1770. Oil on canvas, 47 x 57 1/2 in (119.4 x 146.1 cm). Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London
Fig. 2 Thomas Gainsborough, The Woodcutter’s Return, 1773. Oil on canvas, 58 x 48 ½ in (147.3 x 123.2 cm). Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle
Fig. 3 Thomas Gainsborough, The Cottage Door 1778. Oil on canvas, 48 ¼ x 58 ¾ in (122.5 x 149.2 cm). Cincinnati Art Museum.
Fig. 4 Thomas Gainsborough, The Cottage Door 1780. Oil on canvas, 58 x 47 in (147.3 x 119.4 cm). Henry E. Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, San Marino.
Fig. 5 Thomas Gainsborough, Peasant smoking at a Cottage Door, 1788. Oil on canvas, 77 x 62 in (195.6 x 157.5 cm). Hammer Museum, University of California at Los Angeles
The father of Dutch landscape painting, Hendrick Avercamp (1585- 1634) will be represented by A panoramic winter landscape with a multitude of figures on a frozen river. This hitherto unpublished picture was painted early in the artist’s career, probably around 1610. Monumental in its scale and composition, it is the most significant addition to Avercamp’s œuvre in modern times. Estimated at £1-1.5 million (€1.2 1.8 million / $1.7 – 2.5 million), the work is being sold to benefit the following charities: The Tuberous Sclerosis Association; The Glasallt Fawr Camphill Community; The Multiple Sclerosis Trust and Eton Action.
Hendrick Avercamp (Aùsterdam 1585- 1634 Kampen), A panoramic winter landscape with a multitude of figures on a frozen river, oil on oak panel, current dimensions: 69.2 by 109 cm.; 27 by 43 in., original dimensions: circa 55 by 109 cm. Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's
Provenance: Possibly James Caulfeild-Browne, 2nd Baron Kilmaine (1765–1825), The Neale, Co. Mayo, Ireland;
Francis William Browne, 4th Baron Kilmaine (1843–1907), The Neale, Co. Mayo, Ireland;
Thence by direct family descent
The current appearance of the painting is shown here, but a reconstruction of its original appearance is shown as well, which includes a small section of the added plank, to recover the original proportions (see fig. 1). The lower two planks of the current panel thus comprise about 95% of the originally visible panel, allowing for the rebate of a frame. The proportions and the high horizon line are a key pointer to an early dating, and this is supported by tree-ring analysis (see below). Few of Avercamp’s pictures are dated, and latter-day scholars wisely suggest a relatively broad span of dates for undated works. Nonetheless, a comparison with one of his earliest dated pictures, the small landscape in Bergen, Norway, of 1608 shows a similarly high horizon line, also to be found in other works thought to date from the years around 1610 and the early teens. Avercamp was not consistent with horizon lines, but it is clear that by circa 1620 they are consistently lower, usually around the centre-line of the composition, and by the mid-1620s they are generally lower still. Avercamp’s early pictures are, like the present work, packed full of figures on the ice – too many to count – while many of his later works are sparser.
Details of Avercamp’s life are scant, and no biography of him was written until the latter part of the eighteenth century. His nickname was ‘De Stomme van Kampen’ (the Mute of Kampen), but we do not know for certain if he was in fact deaf or mute or both, and it is more likely that he was man of few words. It has become fashionable to make a romantic connection between his alleged affliction and the isolation from the world which it implies and his subject matter, so that one exhibition a few years ago was even entitled ‘Frozen Silence’. He lived for much of his life and died in Kampen, a city without a strong native artistic tradition in the eastern Dutch province of Overijssel. Avercamp included its fortified walls in several of his winter landscapes. He was however born in Amsterdam and spent some years there, perhaps as many as six, during his apprenticeship to the painter Pieter Isaacsz., whose elegant mannerist style, however, left no visible imprint on him. The present work was very likely painted during Avercamp’s Amsterdam sojourn.
Avercamp liked to re-use particular figures and elements in diverse compositions. Some of these evolved over through several pictures over a span of dates, but many are generally found in paintings of roughly the same period. In many-figured paintings such as the present one, a list of such motifs would be a long one, but here follows a sample with its location in the present work listed first:
The rough wooden privy with a naked arse in the moment of defecation to the extreme left occurs first in a work ofcirca 1605 in Vienna. Similar structures occur in later pictures, but of different architecture and with greater modesty.
Several motifs from the present picture are found in a painting in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, of circa 1608.2These include the figure kneeling on the ice tying the laces of his skates in the extreme foreground, who is similarly placed in the Amsterdam work, the bird trap to the centre-left – a motif made famous in the works of Pieter Brueghel the Younger where a re-used old wooden door also serves as the trap – found in the lower left of the Amsterdam work, and the man right-of-centre stepping forward on his skates holding a fishing spear found nearer the right foreground in the Amsterdam picture.
A similar, though not identical castle with round tower that dominates the central background occurs in reverse in a similar position in a tondo winter landscape, also of circa1608, in the National Gallery, London. The boat equipped with runners and flying a flag from its stern sailing away from us close hauled that occurs in the distance is to be found in several winter landscapes by Avercamp.3 Likewise the cartwheel fixed horizontally to a post found to the left, the largely submerged rowing boat to the right, and the remains of a horse frozen in the ice to the extreme left.4
Many other figures are similarly attired stock types that recur, though not identically depicted, in many works by Avercamp. There is a rich variety of lavishly dressed figures, both male and female, in the present picture, in which everyone who can is showing off their finery. Many of the ladies are wearing black sleeveless full-length cloaks, with headdresses with upstanding spikes. These cloaks, of which Avercamp painted in a number of forms, were calledhuiken, and originated in North Africa, passing via Spain to the Spanish Netherlands, and are often seen in Flemish painting from the late sixteenth century onwards. They would have been less common in Avercamp’s Kampen in the Eastern Netherlands, but were the height of fashion in Brabant, and Avercamp may have seen them in Amsterdam.5 They occur in several other works by him, including the winter landscapes on long-term loan from the Rijksmuseum to The Mauritshuis, The Hague, of circa 1610, and in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, of circa1620.6 Groups of couples skating away from the viewer, like the ones in the centre of the present picture, are found in several other early works, including the picture dated 1608 in Bergen. Most of the ladies are wearing bell-shaped hooped skirts, originally Spanish, called verdugado or farthingale in English, which were fashionable in Flanders at the end of the sixteenth century, but one has the slightly later drum-shaped hoop skirt which arrived from France in the first decade of the seventeenth century.7 Many of the women in the present picture and many other Avercamps wear black masks, whether to remain incognito or to preserve a desirable complexion, or most likely to protect them from the cold.8 Familiar too from many of the artist’s works are figures playing colf on the ice – here near the river bank to the left.
A familiar characteristic of many of Avercamp’s ice-scenes are the shadows of figures that the artist first included and then, changing his mind, painted out. The gradually increasing translucence of the overpaint often causes these to re-emerge. Perhaps because the artist used thicker paint in the present picture, they are less evident to the naked eye, but several of them can be seen in the infra-red image reproduced here (Fig. X), especially in the right foreground.
We are most grateful to Pieter Roelofs of the Rijksmuseum for his help in cataloguing this picture. He has suggested that the soldiers laying down arms in the left foreground, a motif not found in other works by the artist, may indicate that the painting dates from shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Antwerp in 1609, an armistice which initiated the Twelve Years Truce between the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Netherlands.
A tree-ring analysis of the three planks currently comprising the panel was conducted by Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd in April 2013.9 The two lower planks were sawn from the same slow-growing and long-lived Baltic oak tree which was felled after 1590, and they were almost certainly available for use during the first decade of the seventeenth century. The original panel was composed of these two planks alone. The added upper plank, also of Baltic oak, was sawn from a tree felled after 1627, and thus unlikely to have been available for use during Avercamp’s lifetime.
An X-Ray taken by Art Access Research in June 2013 shows clearly the consistent character of the lower two planks, and the very different appearance of the upper one, which seems to have a different ground layer (see Fig. 3). Remnants of a painted structure in the upper right corner suggest that the added plank had previously been used as part of the support of another panel painting. This makes it likely that the present panel was enlarged rather later than the earliest likely date of use of the upper plank in the mid-seventeenth century.
Infra-red imaging (IRR) made by Art Access Research in June 2013 underscores the different character of the upper plank, and clearly shows a pattern of receding black and white floor tiles in the upper right corner, indicating that the previous use of this plank was as the right-hand plank of an upright panel, probably a portrait (see Fig. 2).
The early history of this painting is as yet unknown. Although not securely documented in the present family until 1907, it is very probable that the painting entered the collection at a much earlier date. According to family history, the 2nd Baron Kilmaine, M.P. for Carlow 1790–1794, was acquiring paintings in the 1790s as his diary entry records when visiting London on 20 October 1795: ‘Go to Christy’s auction in Pal Mal’. Despite the fact there is no documentary evidence, some of the seventeeth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings and eighteenth-century Irish landscapes purchased at this period are illustrated in nineteenth-century watercolours of the Interiors of The Neale.
The painting is listed in the 1907 Inventory and Valuation of Paintings at The Neale produced by Bennett & Sons at the death of the 4th Baron Kilmaine and a letter and bill addressed to the 5th Baron Kilmaine (1878–1957) at The Neale in September 1909 from John & Edward Tracey, ‘Picture Cleaners, Restorers and Liners to the National Gallery of Ireland’, 13, Heytesbury Street, Dublin: ‘the panel picture, Skating Scene, is also very good. For setting 5 pictures to rights, this including touching up the frame will be £3’.
The painting remained at The Neale until 1925 when the 5th Baron Kilmaine sold his estates in Ireland and the family moved to England. The painting has remained in the collection of the present family hidden from public view until its recent discovery.
1. On the basis of a photograph, Dr Roell, Director General of the Rijksmuseum, wrote in a letter dated 21 February 1949 that in his opinion the present work is ‘a genuine and excellent work by Hendrick Avercamp’. Earlier attributions to Molenaer and Brueghel are recorded.
2. See P. Roelofs, Winter landscape with skaters. Hendrick Avercamp, Amsterdam 2013, 78pp.
3. See P. Roelofs, Hendrick Avercamp, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam 2009, p. 62, fig. 61.
4. Idem, p. 73, fig. 88.
5. See B. M. du Mortier, in Roelofs, op. cit., pp. 154–6, figs. 201–05.
6. See Roelofs, op. cit., pp. 46, 50, reproduced figs 35 and 42.
7. See du Mortier, op. cit., p. 148, fig. 187 and p. 151, figs 191 and 192.
8. Idem, p. 152.
9. Report 603. A printed copy of this is available on request and will be posted with the online catalogue of this sale.
CONTEMPLATION OF THE DIVINE
Sotheby’s London First Selling Exhibition of Old Master Paintings and Sculpture (6-15 July 2014)
From 6 until 15 July, as part of London Art Week, Sotheby’s London will stage its first selling exhibition of Old Master Paintings and Sculpture in its New Bond Street galleries. Entitled ‘Contemplation of the Divine’, the show comprises some twenty paintings, predominantly Spanish, Italian and early Netherlandish, ranging in period from the early Renaissance to the late Baroque, together with seven Spanish sculptures from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
James Macdonald, Worldwide Head of Old Master Paintings Private Sales: “The twenty works exhibited in London this July share a common aesthetic in as much as they are powerful, in some cases even harrowing, images. Through their immediacy and directness, they create a strong connection with contemporary collectors”.
The contemporary art of their day, works such as Francisco de Zurbarán’s late monumental masterpiece of Christ on the Cross and Bernardo de Rincón’s uncompromising life-size sculpture of Christ Victorious remain as shocking as they were when produced some three centuries ago.
The resurgence of interest in Spanish sculpture and its inextricable link with painting is due largely thanks to the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Sacred Made Real’ held at the National Gallery in London in 2009. Whilst that great occasion showcased many of the finest Spanish paintings and sculpture – many loaned from the great cathedrals and museums of Spain – our exhibition offers one distinct advantage, namely that these remarkable artworks on display can be acquired and enjoyed by collectors today.