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LONDON.- Christie’s Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale in London on Tuesday 8 December 2015 will offer an exceptional selection of pictures from private collections, several of which have never before been offered at auction. The sale is led by an exceptionally rare work, in excellent condition, from a private collection: A hare among plants by Hans Hoffmann (Nürnberg 1545-1591 Prague), (estimate: £4-6 million). Monogrammed and dated 1582, just three years before Hoffmann went to Prague to become court painter to Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612), at the time “the greatest art patron in the world” (Karel van Mander, 1548–1606, Het Schilderboek, 1604), the drawing is inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s magnificent Hare of 1502, today in the Albertina in Vienna. One of Hoffmann’s largest drawings and greatest masterpieces, the present work can be seen as a paragon of the so called Dürer Renaissance, an intense revival of interest in Dürer’s work at the end of the 16th Century, about fifty years after the artist’s death. A hare among plants is not a direct copy but an inventive adaptation and variation of Dürer’s iconic Hare. Hoffmann represents the hare among plants while in the Albertina drawing the background is left blank. Every species is individualised and the artist excels equally at representing beautiful flowers in full bloom, lively insects, a lizard and a frog as well as faded, diseased, or pest-eaten foliage. Cobwebs and a faded dandelion and even a tick attached to the hare’s fur are drawn with extraordinary detail. A hare among plants was part of the extraordinary collection assembled by Nürnberg born trading businessman Paulus Praun (1548-1616), very probably its first owner and the artist’s most important patron. After 1801 it was acquired by Johann Friedrich Frauenholz, Nürnberg, and after 1945 sold to the Stapf family in Tyrol, from where it was acquired in 1975 by the father of the present owner. Christie’s is proud to be able to offer international collectors the rare opportunity to acquire a technical tour de force in remarkable condition, which stands as a perfect embodiment of the Dürer Renaissance, a movement that lasted not more than twenty years but certainly helped fix the perception of Dürer’s work and affected the way in which succeeding generations were to receive him. 

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Hans Hoffmann (Nuremberg 1545-1591 Prague), A hare among plants, signed twice with monogram and dated 'Hh / 1582' (upper centre), and '[...]582 / Hh' (below the hare), watercolour and bodycolour with gum arabic on vellum, 24½ x 22 7/8 in. (62.3 x 58 cm.). Estimate £4,000,000 – £6,000,000 ($6,040,000 - $9,060,000). Unsold. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: Paulus von Praun (1548-1616), Nuremberg, where recorded in the ‘Praunsches Kabinett’ inventories of 1616 (no. 90), 1719 (no. 128), and 1797 (no. 128) until at least 1801, from whom acquired by Johann Friedrich Frauenholz, Nuremberg, after 1801.
with Erna Burmeister, Berlin, by 1937 (where recorded in an letter of 28 October 1938) by whom offered to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg (declined).
Carl Geyer, Berlin 
with Prause, Innsbruck, after 1945, by whom sold to,
Stapf family, Imst, Tyrol, and by descent to
E. Stapf, from whom acquired in 1975 by the father of the present owner.

Literature: C.T. de Murr, Description du Cabinet de Monsieur Paul de Praun à Nuremberg, Nuremberg, 1797, p. 16, no. 128.
K. Pilz, ‘Hans Hoffmann. Ein Nürnberger Dürer-Nachnahmer aus der 2. Hälfte des 16 Jahrhunderts’, Mitteilungen des Vereins für die Geschichte der Stadt Nürnberg, Nuremberg, 51, 1962, pp. 258-9, no. 20, fig. 8
H. Geissler, Zeichnungen in Deutschland - Deutsche Zeichner 1540-1640, Stuttgart, 1979-80, I, p. 192, no. E6, illustrated.
Auction catalogue, Sotheby’s, London, 30 November 1983, Old Master Paintings, under lot 49.
Hundert Zeichnungen aus fünf Jahrhunderten, Galerie Bruno Meissner, Zurich, 1984, p. 28, under no. 2, note 2.
F. Koreny, ‘A Hare among Plants by Hans Hoffmann’, Art at Auction, London, 1984, pp. 21-2, fig. 3.
J. Bialostocki, Dürer and his Critics, 1500-1971: Chapters in the History of Ideas, Including a Collection of Texts, Baden-Baden, 1986, p. 69, fig. 24.
K. Achilles, ‘Naturstudien von Hans Hoffmann in der Kunstsammlung des Nürnberger Kaufmanns Paulus II. Praun’,Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, 1986-87, p. 250, no. 1, fig. 195.
F. Fuciková, ‘Historisierende Tendenzen in der rudolfnischen Kunst - Beziehungen zur älteren deutschen und niederländischen Malerei’, Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, 1986-87, pp. 189-90, illustrated.
S. Bodnár, ‘Hans Hoffmanns Zeichnungen in Budapest’, Acta Historiae Atrium Qcademiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 1987, pp. 85, 103 under no. 25, 119 notes 46-8, 120 note 94.
C. Lloyd, in Master Drawings: The Woodner Collection, exhibition catalogue, London, Royal Academy, 1987, p. 166 note 3, under no. 59.
I. Bergström, ‘Hans Hoffmann’s Oil-Painting The Hare in the Forest’, in Prag um 1600. Beiträge zur Kunst und Kultur am Hofe Rudolfs II, Freren, 1988, p. 17.
F. Koreny, ‘Hans Hoffmann - Entdeckungen und Zuschreibungen’, Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, 1989-90, p. 65 and note 20.
Auction catalogue, Sotheby’s, London, 4 July 1990, Old Master Paintings, under lot 14.
C. Lloyd, in Master Drawings: The Woodner Collection, exhibition catalogue, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990, p. 190, note 3, under no. 71.
K. Achilles-Syndram, Die Kunstsammlung des Paulus Praun: die Inventare von 1616 und 1719, Nuremberg, 1994, pp. 117, no. 90 and 203, no. 121, illustrated p. 443, fig. 44.
Auction catalogue, Sotheby’s, New York, 25 January 2001, Arts of the Renaissance, under lot 91.

Exhibited: Vienna, Albertina, Albrecht Dürer und die Tier-und Pflanzenstudien der Renaissance, 18 April-30 June 1985, no. 47.

Notes: At the end of the 16th century, about fifty years after the death of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), there was an intense revival of interest in his work which has been described as ‘The Dürer Renaissance’. A general increase in collecting activity appears to have triggered this development. The taste of princely collectors, above all Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) in Prague and Duke Maximilian of Bavaria (1573-1651), but also of wealthy middle-class patrons, contributed decisively to the demand for Dürer’s works. Demand came to exceed supply and, as a result, a surprisingly large number of artists began copying and imitating the master. The best-known among them and the leading protagonist of this movement was Hans Hoffmann.

Inspired by Dürer’s magnificent Hare of 1502, today in the Albertina (fig. 1), the present work can be seen as a paragon of the Dürer Renaissance. One of Hoffmann’s largest drawings and greatest masterpieces, it is not a direct copy but an inventive adaptation and variation which is trying to beat Dürer at his own game. The hare depicted in the present work is in fact not the same as the one drawn by Dürer and is shown in a slightly different position. According to Tony Brown, who we thank for his help, both animals are adult brown hares (Lepus europaeus). The one in the present work, with smaller ears, may be slightly younger than the one represented in the Albertina watercolour. Hoffmann represents the hare among plants while in the Albertina drawing the background is left blank. All the plants and animals (see the chart below for the botanical and zoological identifications) in Hoffmann’s work are his own inventions and do not derive from Dürer’s prototypes. When Hoffmann executed this watercolour, Dürer’s Hare was in the collection of Willibald Imhoff (1519-1580) in Nuremberg. Imhoff was a member of one of the city’s wealthiest patrician families. He was the grandson and heir of Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530), an eminent humanist and friend of Dürer. As a result, he had inherited a number of the artist’s drawings, and had added to them, assembling an album with more than one hundred of Dürer’s foremost drawings and watercolours, the so-called Kunstbuch. Hoffmann, also a native of Nuremberg, seems to have been a friend of Imhoff and to have gained access to the latter’s Kunstkammer and Dürer’s Kunstbuch, and as a result to one of its greatest treasures, the Hare. Fritz Koreny has listed thirteen copies after this masterpiece, including seven by Hans Hoffmann (op. cit., 1988, p. 132). None of these works remains a mere imitation and the present drawing is the only one to be signed and dated (an additional work on vellum with Hoffmann’s monogram and date ‘1582’ recently appeared at Lempertz, Cologne, 17 May 2008, lot 1081. It is a precise copy of Dürer’s original). The present watercolour constitutes a reliable basis for further attributions and the chronological arrangement of the other versions.

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Fig. 1. Albrecht Dürer, A hare © Vienna, Albertina

Closely related to the present work is another work on vellum, slightly smaller (57 x 49 cm.), today in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome (fig. 2; Koreny, op. cit., 1988, no. 48). There the hare appears closer to Dürer’s prototype and is represented among a few plants and insects. In both the Rome version and the present one, the whole space seems tilted forward and the plants are arranged in a semicircle around the animal, carefully spaced so as not to overlap, silhouetted against the light ground. 

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Fig. 2. Hans Hoffmann, A hare among plants © Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Corsini

An oil painting on panel, rediscovered in 1983 and today in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (fig. 3; Koreny, op. cit., 1988, no. 49), is closely related in composition to the Rome watercolour although Hoffmann has added plants, animals and trees to evoke a forest. This painting was commissioned by Emperor Rudolf II and cost the considerable sum of two hundred Rhenish guilders in 1585. That same year Hoffmann had moved to Prague to become Rudolf’s court painter. There in addition to creating works for the Emperor he advised him on his acquisitions of other works of art. It was Hoffmann who approached the heirs of Willibald Imhoff (he had died in 1580) to initiate the sale of the Dürer collection which was finally completed in 1588. The drawings entered the collection of the Albertina in 1796, and since then Dürer’s Hare has become the institution’s emblematic work and probably the most famous depiction of an animal in the history of European art. It was the most copied of the artist’s works during the Dürer Renaissance and its fame has never faded since.

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Fig. 3. Hans Hoffmann, A hare in a forest, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum © Courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Repeatedly printed in textbooks, published in countless reproductions, embossed in copper, wood or stone, represented three-dimensionally in plaster or plastic, encased in plexiglas, painted on ostrich eggs, printed on plastic bags, the Hare still remains a constant source of inspiration for contemporary artists, such as Sigmar Polke, Fluxus or Zeng Fanzhi who reinterpreted it in his distinctive style and on a gigantic scale (fig. 4; oil on canvas, 400 x 400 cm.).

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Fig. 4. Zeng Fanzhi, Hare, painted in 2012, oil on canvas, 400 x 400 cm. © 2015 Zeng Fanzhi Studio

Hoffmann’s skill at depicting plants and animals is wonderfully apparent in the present watercolour. Each element is individualised and the artist excels equally at representing beautiful flowers in full bloom, lively insects, a lizard and a frog as well as faded, diseased, or pest-eaten foliage. Cobwebs and a faded dandelion and even a tick attached to the hare’s fur are drawn with extraordinary detail. Among the plants rendered with scientific accuracy, the red bloom of the African marigold in the centre of the picture (no. 9 in our botanical chart) represented a rarity to Hoffmann’s contemporaries, being indigenous to Mexico and brought to Europe only in 1573. Hoffmann must have prepared for this work with many drawings, but only one of them has survived. It is a study for the frog, which is now in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts (fig. 5; S. Bodnár, op. cit., pp. 102-3, no. 25). One curious detail is the window reflected large and distinctly in the hare’s eye, although the creature is sitting out-of-doors. In Dürer’s watercolour, the same device is adopted although less obviously. 

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Fig. 5. Hans Hoffmann, A bullfrog, Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts © Szépmüvészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2015

The present work was part of the extraordinary collection assembled by Paulus Praun (1548-1616), very probably its first owner. Born in Nuremberg, Praun entered the family trading business and spent his time between Germany and Italy. It was after his father’s death in 1578 that he started to purchase many drawings by Hoffmann becoming the artist’s most important patron. The inventory of his collection, made after his death in 1616, lists more than one hundred works by Hoffmann. The Hare is described as ‘Ein gemalthen hencketen hassen, uf pergament in einer ram, in obbemelter gröss’ (K. Achilles-Syndram, op. cit., 1994, p. 117, no. 91). Another inventory of the collection made in 1719 listed the present works as ‘Von Hannss Hoffmann. Ein haass mit blumwerk auf pergament gemahlt, 1 schuh 10 zoll hoch und 1 shuh 8 zoll breit, darüber ein deckle, darauf ein grosser mannskopf mit kraussen haar und grauen bart’ (K. Achilles-Syndram, op. cit., 1994, p. 2003, no. 121). A printed catalogue of the collection was published by Christophe Théophile de Murr in 1797, and the present Hare is the frst work by Hoffmann to be described (‘128. Un Lièvre au g”te entre plusieurs herbes, feurs et insectes, peint en détrempe, sur vélin, 1582’). Praun’s collection remained with his descendants until 1801, when it was sold to the Nuremberg art dealer Johann Friedrich Frauenholz (1758-1822). It is now widely dispersed, a large group being preserved in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 

Inventively elaborating Dürer’s prototype, The hare among plants has probably like its predecessor no symbolic meaning. A technical tour de force in remarkable condition, it stands as a perfect embodiment of the Dürer Renaissance, a movement that lasted not more than twenty years but certainly helped fix the perception of Dürer’s work and affected the way in which succeeding generations were to receive him.

Botanical identification
1. Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.)
2. Raspberry
3. probably Marigold (Calendula offcinalis L.)
4. Mullein (Verbascum spec.)
5. Hoary plantain (Plantago media L.)
6. Hollyhock (Althaea rosea cultivar)
7. Chicory with blue flowers (Cichorium intybus L.)
8. Garden poppy (double form of Papaver somniferum L.)
9. African marigold (Tagetes patula)
10. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.)
11. Borage (Borago offcinalis L.)
12. Forking Larkspur (Consolida regalis L.)
13. Field poppy (Papaver rhoeas L.)
14. probably Marigold (Calendula offcinalis L.)
15. Dandelion in seed (Taraxacum offcinale agg.)
16. Wild strawberry with fruits (Fragaria vesca L.)
17. Dock (Rumex spec.)

Zoological identification
A. Southern hawker (Aeshna Cyanea)
B. Scorpion fly (Panorpa spec. ?)
C. Hoverfly
D. Grove snail (Cepaea nemoralis)
E. Flesh fly (Sarcophaga spec.)
F. Pyrrhocorid bug (Pyrrhoceris apterus L.)
G. Tiger moth (Arctia caja L.)
H. Swallowtail caterpillar (Papillio machaon L.)
I. Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis)
J. Grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus ?)
K. Burnet moth ?
L. Bullfrog (Rana esculenta L.)
M. Copse snail (Arianta arbustorum)
N. Small white butterfly

From Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573- 1621), who along with Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jacques de Gheyn was the pioneering founder of European flower painting, Christie’s will offer a hitherto unknown, jewel-like panel (estimate £600,000-800,000), which constitutes a significant addition to the artist’s small oeuvre, of some seventy accepted works. Despite the seemingly anecdotal nature of its subject, Bosschaert’s still lifes encapsulate the two key transformations of the early modern era: the dawn of the scientific age, marked by a new curiosity and inquisitiveness about the natural world, and the discovery of the Americas, which resulted in the arrival of a series of exotic plants in Europe. This painting is an archetypal work of Bosschaert’s maturity, when he was able to orchestrate a substantial number of flower species into a relatively small space while creating a real sense of volume, movement, and tonal harmony. At the heart of the picture is a mature rose, soon to crumble, beautifully framed by a group of lively narcissi, a delicate viola and an exuberant red and white carnation Bosschaert’s subtle modulation of light creates a remarkable sense of depth and by setting the crisply designed and meticulously painted flowers against a dark background, he generates a stark contrast of patterns and colours that proves strikingly modern. The panel is closely related to one of Bosschaert’s masterpieces dated from 1614 now in the National Gallery in London. According to Fred Meijer of the RLD, who dates the present panel to the same year, the two pictures were probably painted side by side, a common practice for Bosschaert who would sometimes repeat his most accomplished compositions. Parrot tulips, a rose, a fritillary, daffodils, narcissi and other flowers in a roemer, with a Meadow Brown butterfly and a fly, on a stone table will be offered from a private collection. 

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Ambrosius Bosschaert I (Antwerp 1573-1621 The Hague), Parrot tulips, a rose, a fritillary, daffodils, narcissi and other flowers in a roemer, with a Meadow Brown butterfly and a fly, on a stone table, oil on oak panel, 10 x 7 5/8 in. (25.3 x 19.4 cm.). Estimate £600,000 – £800,000 ($906,000 - $1,208,000). Unsold. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Notes: ‘...we are twice pleased when we see a painted flower competing with a living one. In one we admire the artifice of nature, in the other the genius of the painter, in each the goodness of God.’ Erasmus of Rotterdam, Convivium Religiosum, 1552.

This hitherto unknown, jewel-like panel by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, who along with Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jacques de Gheyn was the pioneering founder of European flower painting, constitutes a significant addition to the artist’s small oeuvre, of some seventy accepted works.

Despite the seemingly anecdotal nature of its subject, Bosschaert’s still lifes encapsulate the two key transformations of the early modern era: the dawn of the scientific age, marked by a new curiosity and inquisitiveness about the natural world, and the discovery of the Americas, which resulted in the arrival of a series of exotic plants in Europe. Bosschaert’s prosperous city of Middelburg –where the artist and his family took refuge around 1587, feeing the religious persecutions occurring in their native Antwerp – was a buoyant centre for this new interest in the botanical field: the city boasted some of the most comprehensive gardens in Holland; the town doctor, Mattias de L’Obel, wrote one of the most important herbals of the period and his colleague Pelletier published the first account of the fora of Zeeland, listing eighteen hundred plants. Although Bosschaert registered at the guild of Saint Luke as a master in 1593, his first dated paintings are of 1605. It is presumed that the artist spent the intervening years producing individual watercolour ‘portraits’ of flowers for this circle of plant enthusiasts. Bosschaert’s acute knowledge of rare specimens and the frequent inclusion of exotica in his paintings suggest a privileged access and a close involvement with Middleburg flower collectors and their gardens.

Although they may seem to depict real bundles of plants, Bosschaert’s flower pieces were in fact carefully selected on the basis of individual flower ‘portraits’ harmoniously and symmetrically arranged to offer the viewer an ideal combination of extraordinary specimens. A master of combining intense, unwavering realism with the deliberate, composed artificiality these flower pieces required, Bosschaert almost invariably depicted flowers which blossom in differing seasons. His paintings meant both to preserve the fleeting beauty of a plant and serve as a substitute for the purchase of an actual bulb, which had become extraordinarily expensive in early seventeenth-century Holland. Apparently exempt from the Christian symbolism that had been previously attached to pictorial depictions of flowers, this new interest in the natural world was nonetheless still embedded within a religious frame and, echoing Erasmus’s quote heading this entry, these pictures meant to inspire ‘a joint admiration for the Creator’s ability to forge such a marvellous variety of natural objects and for the artist’s capacity to imitate it so convincingly.’ (M. Westermann, A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic, 1585-1718, p. 90). Combining aesthetic pleasure with these scientific and spiritual concerns, Bosschaert’s exquisite still lifes were intended to delight the eye as well as elevate the mind. 

This painting is an archetypal work of Bosschaert’s maturity, when he was able to orchestrate a substantial number of flower species into a relatively small space while creating a real sense of volume, movement, and tonal harmony. Towering over the composition is a semi-open striped tulip, a rare and precious specimen resulting from cross breeding. Contrasting with the tulip’s vitality is a drooping fritillary with characteristically chequered petals. At the heart of the picture is a mature rose, soon to crumble, beautifully framed by a group of lively narcissi, a delicate viola and an exuberant red and white carnation. Bosschaert’s subtle modulation of light creates a remarkable sense of depth and by setting the crisply designed and meticulously painted flowers against a dark background, he generates a stark contrast of patterns and colours that proves strikingly modern.

The panel is closely related to one of Bosschaert’s masterpieces dated from 1614 now in the National Gallery in London. According to Fred Meijer, who dates the present panel to the same year, the two pictures were probably painted side by side, a common practice for Bosschaert who would sometimes repeat his most accomplished compositions (other examples include two still lifes, one formerly in Antwerp, private collection and the other in Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts; see L.J. Bol, The Bosschaert Dynasty: Painters of Flowers and Fruit, Leigh-on-Sea, 1960, pp. 61-62, nos. 18-18A). The National Gallery picture, painted on copper rather than panel, displays a Short-tailed Blue moth instead of the Meadow Brown butterfly visible on the present work.

We are grateful to Fred Meijer for confirming the attribution after inspecting the original.

Also offered for sale at auction for the first time is an exceptional nocturne, The Agony in the Garden, by Jacopo Bassano (1510-1592), (estimate £500,000-800,000). Bassano was a contemporary of Titian and Tintoretto and was hugely influential on El Greco. This picture, which was first published in 2004, dates to the 1570s and is a key example of Bassano’s speciality and talent in depicting nocturnes. It has previously been on loan to the Museo Civico in Bassano, the artist’s hometown, and was included in an exhibition at the Louvre, Titien, Tintoret, Véronèse, Rivalités à Venise, in 2009-2010.  

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Jacopo da Ponte, called Jacopo Bassano (Bassano del Grappa c. 1510-1592), The Agony in the Garden, oil on canvas, 39 1/8 x 54 3/8 in. (99.3 x 138.1 cm). Estimate £500,000 – £800,000 ($755,000 - $1,208,000). Unsold. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Literature: R. Rearick, ‘Titian and artistic competition in Cinquecento Venice, Titian and His Rivals’, Studi Tizianeschi, Annuario della Fondazione Centro studi Tiziano e Cadore, II, 2004, pp. 41-3. 
A. Galansino, ‘Des nocturnes dans la peinture vénetienne du XVIe siècle’, in the 2009-10 Paris exhibition catalogue, pp. 357-8 and 437, notes 143-4.

Exhibited: Paris, Musée du Louvre, Titien, Tintoret, Véronèse, Rivalités à Venise, 17 September 2009-4 January 2010, no. 83 (catalogue entry by G. Ericani).
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico, Jacopo Bassano e lo stupendo inganno dell’occhio, 6 March-13 June 2010, no. 35 (catalogue entry by G. Ericani).
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico, on loan until 2015.

Notes: Jacopo Bassano, the son of a painter, Francesco, to whom he was apprenticed at Bassano, north-west of Venice, evolved a wholly personal and realistic style, influenced by prints and by the example of his major Venetian contemporaries, Titian and Tintoretto. He in turn was hugely influential on younger artists, including El Greco and Annibale Carracci; and the workshop he built up was maintained by his surviving sons, Leandro and Gerolamo until their deaths in 1622 and 1621 respectively. Justly celebrated for his altarpieces, Bassano was a pioneer as a painter of genre scenes and clearly had a particular interest in nocturnes, anticipating in some respects Elsheimer and Saraceni who would have had ample opportunity to examine pictures by him in Venice. First published by Roger Rearick in 2004, this canvas is a key late example of this speciality of the artist, Rearick proposing a date about 1575: Ericani, in the 2010 exhibition catalogue, dates this variously to 1575-8 and, at the foot of her entry, to the 1570s (her reference to the ‘ottavo decennio’ is incorrectly given as the 1580s in the English translation).

Radiographs taken at the Louvre exhibition in 2009 (see Ericani in the 2010 catalogue) reveal pentimenti in the head of Saint Peter, the bald disciple on the right, and also that Bassano initially conceived a bright area of light below the angel, implying the primacy of the picture over the version of this at Modena (Galleria Estense, no. 416). Throughout his career, Bassano had a tendency to reconsider favourite, or popular, subjects, as for example the sequence of his earlier treatments of the Flight to Egypt or the Adoration attest. In addition to this canvas, he at much the same date, about 1575, as Professor Ballarin recognised (Jacopo Bassano, Scritti 1964- 1995, Cittadella, 1995, II, pp. 107-8 and 347-9), painted the smaller upright Agony in the Garden at Burghley (Exeter Collection) as well as the horizontal repetition of this picture at Modena. Writing before the emergence of the picture under discussion, Ballarin identified a drawing in the Louvre (no. 2897, datable to 1575 as a study on the reverse relates to a fresco of that year; fig. 1) as a study for the Saint Peter in the Modena picture: it was no doubt reused for that work. Ericani observed (2009-10 catalogue, p. 408) that this picture was ‘en effet la modèle d’un sujet souvent reperis par la suite’, a view endorsed by Galansino (p. 437, note 144). The variations between it and the Burghley picture are subtle, exemplifying the way Jacopo redeployed favourite and successful motifs: in the chromatically more muted Burghley canvas Christ is seen in profile perdu, his arms outstretched, while the angel descends; the disciple on the left corresponds with his counterpart in this picture, but his companions, John and Peter, are different in design, if not in characterisation.

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Fig. 1. Jacopo Bassano, Study of a Reading Apostle © RMN-Grand Palais, musée du Louvre / Michèle Bellot

The subject was in turn treated by Bassano’s eldest son, Francesco, on at least three occasions, in pictures now at Lucca, at Sarasota and at Bassano: of these, the vertical composition at Sarasota reverses the position of Christ, and shows him with hands held apart, while following the Saint Peter and the Saint John of the picture under discussion; in the less emphatically vertical work at Bassano the composition adheres as closely as the format allowed to this prototype, but also shows Christ with his hands held apart and, as in the Sarasota Agony, places the disciple on the left in a pose better adapted for the shape of the canvas. The several horizontal versions of the subject executed in the Bassano workshop depend very closely on the design of this picture, but mostly eliminate the section on the right. Of these, one was sold in these Rooms, 20 July 1983, and another successively at Sotheby’s, London, 9 December 1987, lot 280 and 11 December 1996, lot 127; one, evidently of good quality, with the addition of a prominent rabbit, was sold at Sotheby’s Monaco, 6 December 1991, lot 245; another, in which Christ’s hands are held apart, with different figures of Saints John and Peter, was with the Wightman Gallery, Indiana; a fine picture from Wardour, with Agnew’s in 1956, corresponds except in the pose of Saint Paul; another, given to Francesco, also with Christ’s hands held apart and omitting the right section of the composition, is in the Galleria Nazionale, Rome; a variant corresponding with that work in the pose of Christ was sold by Fischer, Lucerne, 20-1 June 1975, lot 4; while a canvas with alterations to the figure of Christ was with Duits in Amsterdam. That so many derivations of the picture are recorded testifies to the immediate popularity of the composition, and reminds us that in the context of the 1570s this Agony in the Gardenwas a work of profound originality.

Jacob van Ruisdael's (1628/9-1682) A wooded river landscape with figures crossing a bridge is offered for sale for the first time in over 100 years (estimate £250,000-350,000). It was once part of the collection of Alexander Hugh Baring (1835-1889), 4th Lord Ashburton, of the legendary Baring dynasty of bankers, philanthropists, and art collectors. Ashburton’s collection included paintings by Greuze and Weenix now in the Wallace Collection and Murillo’s The Infant Saint John with the Lamb today in the National Gallery in London. The reappearance of this picture, known through an engraving, but untraced since it was sold in Paris in 1879, returns one of Ruisdael’s celebrated wooded landscapes to his documented oeuvre. This classic subject by the greatest landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age depicts a transitional space, where the wild forest and the cultivated cornfield and nearby hamlet meet. From the Baring collection the painting went to the collection of Max Kahn in Paris before entering the collection of Léon Emile Brault (1825-1910) in 1879, in whose family it has remained ever since. 

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Lot 24. Jacob van Ruisdael (Haarlem 1628/9-1682 Amsterdam), A wooded river landscape with figures crossing a bridge, signed 'JvRuisdael' ('JvR' linked, lower right), oil on canvas, 24 x 29 ¾ in. (60.9 x 75.4 cm). Estimate £250,000 – £350,000 ($377,500 - $528,500). Price realised GBP 290,500. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: Redron collection.
Alexander Baring, 4th Baron Ashburton (1835-1889), London; Christie’s, London, 8 June 1872, lot 59 (320 gns. to Everard). 
Thomas Nunn Gladdish, Pettings, Ash, Kent; his sale, Christie’s, London, 23 June 1877, lot 126 (147 gns. to Lesser).
Max Kahn; his sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, 3 March 1879, lot 56, where described as ‘beau tableau du maître d’une parfait conservation’ (10,000 francs), when acquired by
Léon Émile Brault (1825-1910), and by descent to the present owner

Literature: C. Hofstede de Groot, A catalogue raisonné of the works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, London, IV, 1912, p. 213, no. 675b.
A.I. Davies, Jan van Kessel (1641-1680), Doornspijk, 1992, pp. 36, 41 and 171, under no. 79.
S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael, New Haven and London, 2001, p. 306, no. 404.

Engraved: Léon Gaucherel (1816-1887).

Notes: The reappearance of this picture, known through an engraving, but untraced since it was offered for sale in 1879, returns one of Ruisdael’s celebrated wooded landscapes to his documented oeuvre. Described at the 1879 Kahn sale as ‘beau tableau du maître d’une parfait conservation’, this classic subject by the greatest landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age depicts a transitional space, where the wild forest and the cultivated cornfield and nearby hamlet meet. With his characteristic compositional fair, the artist dramatises the encounter between raw nature and civilisation, contrasting the dark, mysterious forest in the left foreground with the sunlit, auspicious field and village in the right background. The thin silhouette of the wooden bridge in the middle distance provides a transition between these two worlds. Towering over the scene, a half-barren beech tree offers its majestic lines to the viewer. Leafless and covered with a sepulchral silvery white bark, it stands out defantly against the dark mass of the grove beyond offering a meditation on the transience of earthly things. 

Ruisdael’s technique displays an astounding range in rendering different surfaces, from the reflective water, to the light, feathery touch visible in the foliage, or the fuid, painterly brushstrokes in the imposing sky. His attention to texture is further evident in the remarkable way he leaves some of his reddish-brown priming exposed to convey the damaged bark and moss on the tree trunks. Dated by Seymour Slive on stylistic grounds to the 1660s, the painting was certainly executed before 1664, the year inscribed on a replica now given to Jan van Kessel (see A. Davies, op. cit., no. 79). Another copy, by an unidentified hand, is recorded by Slive (op. cit., p. 306, fg. 404b). These copies attest to the popularity of this work, which can now reasonably be considered among the most successful and romantic wooded landscapes of Ruisdael’s maturity, albeit not on such an ambitious scale as such examples as Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield (Forth Worth, Kimbell Art Museum), or A Wooded Landscape with a Flooded Road (Paris, Musée du Louvre).

The picture was first documented in the possession of Alexander Hugh Baring, 4th Lord Ashburton, of the legendary Baring dynasty of bankers, philanthropists, and art collectors. Ashburton’s collection included paintings by Greuze and Weenix now in the Wallace Collection and Murillo’s The Infant Saint John with the Lamb today in the National Gallery in London. The Ruisdael landscape was later part of a group of distinguished Dutch pictures owned by Max Kahn in Paris before entering the collection of Léon Emile Brault (1825-1910) in 1879, in whose family it has remained ever since.

The sale also includes a beautifully preserved view painting by Francesco Guardi (1712-1793), The Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, (estimate £1,500,000-2,500,000), one of his and his patron’s most celebrated vedute. This view, taken from the Molo and showing the island monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore with its façade designed by Andrea Palladio and the eastern end of the Giudecca, now the site of the Cipriani Hotel, is a work from the artist’s full maturity. Throughout the 1770s and 1780s, the period when this picture and its pendant, Santa Maria della Salute with the Dogana di Mare (now Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena) can be dated, Guardi gradually developed his technique to what was to become his most admired style; the brushwork became looser and freer, his palette lightened and his images softened into a suffused pale glow.  

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Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793), The island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, with the Punta della Giudecca, oil on canvas, 16 ¼ x 20 1/8 in. (41.3 x 51.2 cm.)Estimate £1,500,000 – £2,500,000 ($2,265,000 - $3,775,000). Unsold. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: (Possibly) Sceriman collection, Venice.
(Probably) Conte Lodovico Miari de Cumani (b. 1872), Venice.
with Agnew’s, London, from whom acquired by
Mr and Mrs. Edward W. Carter, Los Angeles, California, from whom acquired by the following,
with Agnew’s, London, 1983, from whom acquired by
Jaime Ortiz-Patiño; Sotheby’s, New York, 22 May 1992, lot 44 ($1,150,000).
Private collection, Switzerland.
with Noortman, London, from whom acquired by the present owners.

Literature: G.A. Simonson, Francesco Guardi, London, 1904, p. 97, no. 252.
R. Pallucchini, ‘Tiepolo e Guardi alla Galleria Cailleux di Parigi’, Arte Veneta, 1952, p. 231.
A. Morassi, Guardi, Venice, 1973 and 1984, I, p. 391, no. 425, pl. XLIV (detail); II, fig. 450.
L. Rossi Bortolatto, L’opera completa di Francesco Guardi, Milan, 1974, p. 104, no. 247.

Exhibited: Paris, Galerie Cailleux, Tiepolo et Guardi, 1952, no. 71.
London, Agnew’s, Venetian Eighteenth Century Painting5 June-19 July 1985, no. 9.
Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Francesco Guardi. Vedute Capricci Feste, 28 August-21 November 1993, no. 42.

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The present lot, with its former pendant shown below.

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Francesco Guardi, View of the Santa Maria della Salute with the Dogana di Mare, c. 1780 © The Norton Simon Foundation

Notes: This sparkling canvas is one of a sequence of variants of one of Guardi’s most successful compositions. Morassi regarded it as a mature work ‘di qualità eccellente’ (of excellent quality), while Magrini, in the 1992 exhibition catalogue fairly wrote:

In quest’opera permeata di luminosità, in cui acqua e cielo sembrano quasi confondersi, e animata dalle vivaci macchiette in primo piano, rese palpitanti da una pennellata sfrangiata, che sole riescono a infrangere il silenzio che sembra pervadere lo sfondo della composizione, la ripresa oggettiva viene vivifcata da un’intensa vibrazione atmosferica raggiungendo un momento di profonda emozione poetica

(In this work, full of light, where water and sky seem almost to merge, animated by lively figures in the foreground, brought to life by jagged brushstrokes, figures who alone manage to break the silence that seems to pervade the composition, the view itself is brought to life by an intense atmospheric shimmer, achieving a moment of deep poetry)

The precise chronology of Guardi’s mature works is not easily defined, but this canvas in all probability dates from the 1770s; Morassi followed by Magrini placing it in the second half of that decade. The composition is dominated by the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, with the west façade (1602-10) of the great church of that saint built to the design of Andrea Palladio from 1565 onwards. On the right is the eastern extremity of the Isola della Giudecca with the campanile of the church and convent of San Giovanni Battista, which was suppressed in 1767 but not demolished until the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Unusually for Guardi, who often varied his light source, and therefore the implied time at which a particular view was taken, the nineteen pictures of San Giorgio from the same angle (i.e. from the Piazzetta or the Bacino di San Marco) listed by Morassi (nos. 322 and 418-35), all show this by afternoon sunlight, so that the shadows give relief to the façade, an effect that the architect himself must have intended. But if the angle of the light in his views of San Giorgio hardly changes, the field of his compositions varies very considerably. Thus while the early picture at Glasgow (mid 1760s; Morassi, no. 422) shows even less of the Giudecca than this picture, the large canvas at Waddesdon (Morassi, no. 419) of the same decade extends this to the right to include not only the church of the Zitelle on the Giudecca, but also the Dogana and the church of Santa Maria della Salute. Magrini compares the ex-Carter picture with one of the two variations of the subject in the Wallace Collection (Morassi, no. 429). In the ex-Carter picture, as in many of the artist’s other variants of the subject (eg. Morassi, nos. 423-4 and 427-32) Guardi follows the Waddesdon and Glasgow canvases in using the masts and sails of vessels moored – as the ropes the artist so carefully indicates – along the Molo to frame his composition. The central gondola in this, the ex-Carter picture, is a motif that is introduced in many of the variants (nos. 423-4, 427-32 and 435), appearing at the same slightly diagonal angle in both the Wallace Collection pictures (nos. 429 and 432) as well as in others, at Toledo and from the Schäffer Collection, Zurich (nos. 428 and 431). What distinguishes this work from these is that the boats in the distance are less prominent and thus the picture is exceptionally compelling in the sense of space it conveys. Guardi, among view painters, had a rare ability to return to familiar subjects without experiencing any loss of spontaneity and indeed one senses that the inspired minimalism of the ex-Carter picture is in part due to the fact that he was returning to a subject he had previously explored.

The sale will also feature a Holy Family by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), (estimate £400,000-600,000), formerly in the renowned collection of Lucien Bonaparte, a rare still life by Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629), (estimate £100,000-150,000, one of only five surviving flower pieces by the artist, and a fine version of the Birdtrap by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (estimate £1-1.5 million).

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Nicolas Poussin (Villers 1594-1665 Rome), The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 x 26 5/8 in. ( 51.8 x 67.8 cm). Estimate £400,000-600,000 ($604,000 - $906,000). Unsold. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: Lucien Bonaparte, Prince of Canino (1775-1840), by 1804 (possibly acquired in Spain, see below); his sale, New Gallery, London, 6 February 1815, lot 50, as ‘Nic Poussin. The Riposo in Egypt. The works of Poussin may be considered among the greatest ornaments of the French School... The present elegant composition will be found a fne example of this master’s work in his strong manner. The drawing of the fgures is correct and the draperies are cast in a great manner’; unsold and reoffered, Stanley, London, 14-16 May 1816, lot 42, as ‘Nicolo Poussin. The Holy family, a riposo. The elevated conceptions of the Master are conspicuous in the dignifed simplicity of his composition. Disdaining the aid of meretricious ornaments, he commands attention by the genuine beauties of the art: his Figures emulate the Antique, and at the same time possess expressions that are particularly his own’; unsold and reoffered, Stanley, London, 14 May 1816, lot 42 (54 gns. to anonymous).
Sale; Paris, 25 December 1823-10 January 1824, lot 49 (3,000 Francs).
Guillaume Bertrand Scipion de Saint Germain (1810-1884), and by descent, near Montauban, France; Christie’s, London, 10 December 2003, lot 66 (£565,250). 
with Agnew’s, London.

Literature: D.C. Bozzani, Galleria Bonaparte, Roma, 13 Giugno, Archivio di Stato, Rome Camerale II, Antichità e Belle Arti, 7, fasc. 204, no. 13. 
A. Guattani, Galleria del Senatore Luciano Bonaparte, Rome, 1808, p. 97, no. 52.
Choix de gravures à l’eau-forte, d’après les peintures originales et les marbres de la galerie de Lucien Bonaparte, London, 1812, no. 38, as ‘La Sainte Famille, petit tableau, sur toile, par Nicolas Poussin’.
W. Buchanan, Memoirs of paintings, with a chronological history of the importation of pictures by the great masters into England since the French Revolution, London, 1824, II, p. 289, no. 50. 
F. Boyer, Le monde des arts en Italie et la France de la Révolution et l’Empire, Turin, 1969, p. 228, note 2.
J. Thuillier, Nicolas Poussin, Paris, 1974, R.27, as ‘possibly by Charles Errard’ (opinion given on the basis of the engraving).
J. Thuillier, Nicolas Poussin, Paris, 1994, R. 30, p. 270 (idem).
D. Martinez de la Pena y Gonzales, ‘Sobre la collection de pinturas de Lucien Bonaparte’, Miscelanea de Arte, 1982, p. 252.
M. Natoli, ‘Lucien Bonaparte, le sue collezioni d’arte e le sue dimore a Roma e nel Lazio (1804-1840)’, Paragone, XLI, November 1990, pp. 105 and 108, note 22.
B. Edelein-Abadie, La collection de tableaux de Lucien Bonaparte, prince de Canino, Paris, 1997, pp. 241-2.
R. Parment, ‘Rouen pourra t-elle acquérir un nouveau Nicolas Poussin?’, Normandie, 26 November 2002.
To be included in Pierre Rosenberg’s catalogue raisonné on Nicholas Poussin (forthcoming).

Exhibited: Ajaccio, Palais Fesch, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lucien Bonaparte, mécène et collectionneur, 24 June-30 September 2010, no. 114.

Engraved: Cristof Silvestrini, 1812.

Notes: Since its reappearance in 2001, this picture has been unanimously accepted as an early work of the artist by all major Poussin scholars, including Rosenberg, Mahon and Standring. From the 1840s until 2003, it was in the possession of the same French family, having previously been owned by the prodigious collector and brother of Napoleon, Lucien Bonaparte, Prince of Canino (see fig. 1).

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Fig. 1. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Portrait of Lucien Bonaparte, private collection

Poussin arrived in Rome in the winter of 1623-4, after a brief stay in Venice. This canvas dates from his early years in Rome, 1626-7. It can be compared with others from that period such as the Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist(Budapest, Szepmuveszeti Muzeum) where a drape hung between two trees separates the group of the Virgin and children from that of Joseph absorbed in reading. The same idea is also to be found in his mythological paintings of the period such as the Cephalus and Aurora (private collection) where the dark cloth is used to separate a couple of lovers from the River God and his Acis and Galatea (Dublin, National Gallery), both of which are generally dated circa 1627. These early works, and in particular their landscapes, owe a clear debt to Titian. 

The younger brother of Napoleon, Lucien Bonaparte formed one of the great collections of the 19th century. He began to collect paintings while ministre de l’intérieur et des arts (24 December 1799-2 November 1800), and after the death of his first wife, Christine Boyer, in May 1800, he consoled himself by buying paintings and commissioning works from contemporary artists such as Greuze, François-Xavier Fabre, Jacques Sablet, and Guérin. That year he travelled on an embassy to Madrid in the company of the painters Jacques Sablet and Guillon Lethière, who advised him on a series of purchases whilst in Spain. Lucien came back with at least 100 paintings (some authors have counted 300), some of which he had been offered by King Charles IV, others that he had bought such as the Madonna del Latte by Correggio (location unknown) and The Sleep of the Infant Christ by Raphael (location unknown). It is also probably during his stay in Madrid that he acquired the Woman with a Fan by Velázquez (London, Wallace Collection), as well as two paintings by Ribera and four by Murillo. In 1804, Lucien Bonaparte went into exile to Rome after a dispute with his brother who refused to accept his remarriage with Alexandrine de Bleschamp. The collection was sent to the Palazzo Lancellotti in Rome and this work hung in a room dedicated to pictures by French masters, alongside others by La Hyre, Le Sueur, Le Nain, Jouvenet, De Champaigne, Stella and Primaticcio (‘le Primatice’). In the same room were landscapes by Claude Lorrain and Dughet, as well as contemporary pictures by Lethière and Greuze. The collection was listed (partially) on 13 June 1804 upon its arrival to comply with the Italian regulations of the time. This painting is mentioned in that list which would indicate that it was sent from Paris. No record is to be found of Lucien’s purchase of a painting by Poussin in Paris in the two previous years and it is thus possible that this work was one he bought in Spain. 

That this was so is supported by the possibility that this picture was formerly in the collection of Don Gaspar Méndez de Haro y Guzmán, 7th Marqués del Carpio y Eliche (1629-1687). Del Carpio, who was Viceroy of Naples in 1682-7, owned an exceptional collection of pictures and other works of art. Much of this was inherited from his father, the 6th Marqués del Carpio, nephew of the Conde-Duque de Olivares, but the 7th Marqués acquired such masterpieces as Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus (London, National Gallery) and Raphael’s Alba Madonna (Washington, D.C., National Gallery). The 1682 inventory of del Carpio’s collection recorded as no. 905, ‘Un quadro che rappresenta una Madonna con il Bambino, un Angelo, e San Gioseppe, di mano di Nicoló Pusino di maniera di Titiano, di palmi 2½ e 2. in circa stimato in 100 (‘Inventory of Don Gaspar de Guzmán, VII Marqués del Carpio, on the occasion of his leaving Rome, where he had been Ambassador’, Madrid, Palacio de Liria, Archivio Casa de Alba). There are discrepancies with this picture: 2½ x 2 palmi corresponds to 55 x 44 cm. (in the inventory the larger measurement is normally written first, irrespective of format), and the description of the Infant Baptist as an Angel is unusual, given the level of erudition generally displayed in the inventory’s descriptions. However, the assertion of the inventory’s authors (del Carpio’s notary, Jaime Antonio Redoutey, and the artist Giuseppe Pinacci) that the picture was painted by Poussin in the style of Titian lends weight to the possibility of it being the same picture.

In Italy, Lucien Bonaparte continued to buy from Italian dealers, including a second work by Poussin, from the Giustiniani collection: the Massacre of the Innocents (Chantilly, Musée Condé). In 1808 the Abbé Guattani published an inventory of his collections in the Palazzo Nunez (now Torlonia) in the Via dei Condotti, that he had bought with the proceeds of the sale of his mother Letizia’s Hôtel de Brienne and described the Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist as being in room 6, the largest of the thirteen rooms, which included nineteen pictures and a statue by Michelangelo. Each work was numbered by Bonaparte himself. It is possible that the number ‘52’ (the correct inventory number) could have been incorrectly copied as the ‘92’ that was visible at the time of the 2003 sale. Facing financial difficulties, Bonaparte started thinking of selling his collection en bloc and at the same time decided once again to live in exile in 1810. Leaving his collections behind in storage and taking with him the engraved plates of his paintings, he set off with his family for the United States but was captured by English troops in waters off Sardinia and taken to England, where he remained for four years. While there, he published Choix de gravures à l’eau-forte, d’après les peintures originales et les marbres de la galerie de Lucien Bonaparte. In the following years he organised two sales through his English contacts, from Rome, where he had returned in 1814. The first took place at the New Gallery, 6 February 1815 and following days. A second sale was organised by Mr Stanley, on 14 May 1816. In 1822, Lucien Bonaparte published the engravings of the unsold lots which were to be auctioned in Paris in two sales in 1816 and in 1840, just after Lucien’s death.

After the sale in Paris in 1816, this picture was acquired by Guillaume Bertrand Scipion de Saint-Germain, a doctor born in Puy en Velay in 1810 who died in Paris in 1884. The painting remained in the collection of his family until 2003. Scipion de Saint-Germain was the médecin particulier of Thiers and published several essays such as Des manifestations de la vie et de l’intelligence à l’aide de l’organisation (1847), De la diversité originelle des races humaines et des conséquences qui en résultent (1847); Descartes considéré comme physiologiste et médecin (1869) and a translation of Protagoa by Leibnitz. According to family tradition, Scipion de Saint-Germain was advised in his collecting by Aimé Charles His de la Salle (1795-1878), the well-known drawings and paintings collector who donated most of his collection to French museums.

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Lot 14. Jacques de Gheyn II (Antwerp 1565-1629 The Hague), A tulip, a Snakeshead, a Love-in-a-mist, a double variegated columbine, a Dog Rose, a Maiden’s Blush Rose, lilies of the valley and a pansy in a pot with a garden tiger moth, a shell, and a caterpillar on a ledge, a butterfly above, indistinctly signed 'IDG..' ('IDG' linked, lower centre, on the ledge), oil on copper, 7 ¾ x 5 ¼ in. (19.6 x 13.4 cm)Estimate £100,000 – £150,000 ($151,000 - $226,500). Price realised GBP 158,500. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: with Koetser, London, 1971.
with Brod Gallery, London as 'Balthasar van der Ast' (according to a label on the reverse).

Literature: I. Bergstöm, ‘Flower-Pieces of Radial Composition in European 16th and 17th Century Art’, in Album Amicorum J.G. van Gelder, The Hague, 1973, p. 23, pl. 7, as ‘Anonymous’.
F. Hopper Boom, ‘An Early Flower Piece by Jacques de Gheyn II’, Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, 8, 4, 1975-6, pp. 195-8, fig. 1.
I.Q. van Regteren Altena, Jacques de Gheyn. Three generations, The Hague, Boston and London, 1983, II, p. 20, no. 31; III, p. 13, pl. 1.
F. Meijer, ‘Jacques de Gheijn II’, in Haagse schilders in de Gouden Eeuw: het Hoogsteder Lexicon van alle schilders werkzaam in Den Haag 1600-1700, E. Buijsen (ed.), The Hague, 1998, pp. 134-5, fig. 2.

Notes: Ingvar Bergström first published this exquisite flower piece in 1973 as by an anonymous master working circa 1600 under the influence Joris Hoefnagel. By 1978 Bergström had become convinced by an attribution to Jacques de Gheyn, a view shared by E.K. Reznicek and F. Hopper Boom (1975-76), I.Q. van Regteren Altena (1983) and most recently by Fred Meijer of the RKD, to whom we are grateful. Apparently none of these scholars ever saw the present work in the original, its whereabouts having been largely unknown since 1971, which would explain why its measurements have consistently been recorded incorrectly as 15 x 10 cm., and its signature never remarked upon.

Van Regteren Altena recognised that all of the flowers in the present bouquet occur in the celebrated album of naturalistic miniatures executed by de Gheyn between 1600 and 1604, which was acquired shortly thereafter (if not commissioned by) the Emperor Rudolf II (now Paris, Fondation Custodia; see fig. 1). The flowers are of special scientific interest as they show newly cultivated varieties or rare specimens executed with minute precision and attention to detail. In this respect de Gheyn aligned himself with the rich tradition of natural history illustrations of which Dürer, Joris Hoefnagel, Hans Hoffman and Georg Flegel were key exponents. As first pointed out by Bergström, de Gheyn probably borrowed the motif of the centrally placed moth from Hoefnagel, who featured it to dramatic effect in a miniature of 1594 (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum; see fig. 2). Van Regteren Altena dates the present work slightly later than Bergström, circa 1603, rather than 1600, but at any rate before the Album left for Prague in 1604. The date places this picture among the very earliest pure flower pieces painted in oil in Holland.

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Fig. 1. Jacques de Gheyn II, Five flowers, 1602 © Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

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Fig. 2. Joris Hoefnagel, Arrangement of flowers in a vase, with insects, 1594, 
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, UK / Bridgeman images.

De Gheyn’s nascent preoccupation with small naturalia in the years around 1600 coincided with his first attempts at working in oil. Like Goltzius, de Gheyn did not take up painting until relatively late in his career when, in his mid-thirties, he switched his energies from engraving to painting. His first works in this new medium were of flowers. Van Mander described de Gheyn’s first true painting as a cleen bloempotken naar het Leven (a small pot of flowers from life), which he praised as verwonderlijck (admirable), a painting which must have closely resembled this work, or indeed, as Boom has suggested (op. cit.), may even be the same picture. Only four other fower paintings by de Gheyn survive, all substantially larger and painted a decade later than this work: A glass vase with a bouquet, dated 1612 (The Hague, Mauritshuis); A glass bowl with flowers, 1613 (private collection); Flowers in a glass vase with a curtain, 1615 (Fort Worth, Kimball Museum); and Flowers on a rocky floorcirca 1620 (private collection).  

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Lot 28. Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp), The Birdtrap, oil on oak panel, 14 3/8 x 22 ¾ in. (36.6 x 57.8 cm.). Estimate £1,000,000 – £1,500,000 ($1,510,000 - $2,265,000). Price realised GBP 1,202,500. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: (Probably) Thomé, Altena.
with de Boer, Amsterdam (according to a label on the reverse).
(Probably) Private collection, Holland.
Anonymous sale; Koller, Zurich, 16 May 1980, lot 5045, where acquired by the grandfather of the present owner.

LiteratureWeltkunst, 1 May 1979, illustrated on the front cover.
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere, Lingen, 1988/2000, II, p. 621, no. E 725*, illustrated, as 'von guter Qualität und sicher eigenhändig'.

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Galerie Pieter de Boer, De helsch en de fluweelen Brueghel: en hun invloed op de kunst in de Nederlanden, 10 February-26 March 1934, no. 5. (according to a label on the reverse)

NotesThe Birdtrap is one of the most enduringly popular compositions of the Netherlandish landscape tradition and one of the most familiar of all the works within the Brueghel corpus of paintings. Although no fewer than 127 versions from the family’s studio and followers have survived, only 45 are now believed to be autograph works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger himself, with the remainder being largely workshop copies of varying degrees of quality (see K. Ertz, op. cit., II, pp. 605-30, nos. E682 to A805a). The present panel seems to have escaped scholarship until it appeared on the market in 1980 and has subsequently been praised by Klaus Ertz as being of high quality and certainly autograph (‘von guter Qualität und sicher eigenhändig’ (op. cit., p. 621). 

There has been much debate as to which member of the Brueghel family devised the prototype for this successful composition. Traditionally it has been thought to be a painting attributed to Pieter Breugel the Elder, signed and dated 1565, now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. That view is not, however, beyond dispute: although Friedländer considered it to be an autograph work by the elder Pieter, authors as early as Groomann and Glück were doubtful of the attribution, and the question remains open. Another version dated to 1564, formerly in the A. Hassid collection in London, has also been considered to be the original by the Elder. In addition, it has been suggested that the invention could be entirely that of either Pieter Brueghel the Younger or his brother Jan (for a summary of the debate, see Ertz in Breughel-Brueghel, exhibition catalogue, Essen/Antwerp/Vienna 1997-1998, pp. 169-71). What remains unchallenged though, is that the prototype was inspired by Pieter the Elder’s famous Hunters in the Snow of 1565 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), to the middle ground of which the present composition clearly relates.

Whatever the prototype, the distinctive beauty of the composition remains unchallenged. After the Vienna picture, the view is one of the earliest pure representations of the Netherlandish landscape (in the catalogue of the exhibition Le siècle de Brueghel, Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, 27 September-24 November 1963, p. 69, George Marlier identified the village depicted as Pède-Ste-Anne in Brabant, the silhouette in the background being that of Antwerp) and one of the seminal examples of the theme of the winter landscape. In contrast to the Elder’s Hunters in the Snow, where the figures walk through rather sombre, still countryside, where the air is clear and biting cold, in Pieter the Younger’s The Birdtrap, the figures are enjoying the pleasures of winter in a more welcoming atmosphere. The painting offers, indeed, a vivid evocation of the various delights of wintertime: in the landscape blanketed in snow, a merry band of country folk are skating, curling, playing skittles and hockey on a frozen river. The cold winter air, conveyed with remarkable accuracy by the artist’s muted palette, mainly made up of blues and earthy tonalities, is intelligently broken up through the bright red frocks worn by some of the figures, enlivening the whole picture. Yet the most characteristic feature of the composition is the almost graphic, intricate network of entwined bare branches set against the snow or the light winter sky. It creates a lace-like, almost abstract pattern of the utmost decorative effect.

But beneath the seemingly anecdotal, light-hearted subject lies a moral commentary on the precariousness of life: below one of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s engravings, Winter – Ice skating before St. George’s Gate, Antwerp, is the inscription Lubricitas Vitae Humanae. La Lubricité de la vie humaine. Die Slibberachtigheyt van’s Menschen Leven, that is the ‘Slipperiness [or fragility] of human life’ was added. This label invests the Birdtrap with new meaning: the picture emphasises the obliviousness of the birds towards the threat of the trap, which, in turn, is mirrored by the carefree play of the skaters upon the flimsy ice. Likewise, the fishing hole in the centre of the frozen river, waiting for the unwary skater, and the figures of the two children running heedlessly towards their parents across the ice despite the latter’s warning cries, function as a reminder of the dangers that lurk beneath the innocent pleasures of the Flemish winter countryside. Brueghel delivers with this fine work a message of lasting poignancy about the uncertainty and fickleness of existence.