Artemisia Gentileschi, Saint Sebastian Tended By Irene, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 by 50 3/8 in.; 101 by 127.5 cm. Estimate $400/600,000. Courtesy Sotheby's
NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s unveiled the full contents of The Female Triumphant – a group of masterworks by 14 trailblazing female artists from the 16th through the 19th centuries, which they will offer across the Masters Week sales this January in New York.
Calvine Harvey, Specialist in Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department in New York, commented: “Over the past five years and across the art world, both curators and collectors have been addressing the gender imbalance in their collections, actively investing in female artists who have historically been overlooked in scholarship and undervalued in the market relative to their male counterparts. For example, Sotheby’s set a new auction record for any living female artist just last fall, when Jenny Saville’s ‘Propped’ from 2014 sold for $12.4 million. However, in looking back to the Old Masters, there is still work to be done. In 2018 alone, Sotheby’s sold only 14 works by female Old Masters – compared to 1,100 male artists. It’s important to remember that the obstacles women artists of the pre-Modern era faced were substantial, and those that broke down those barriers were truly triumphant. It is our hope that shining a spotlight on these important artists will help to grow our knowledge of their work, expand scholarship, and deepen their impact on the ever-shifting trajectory of art history.”
To mark his auction event, Sotheby’s has partnered once again with Victoria Beckham. Following a trip to The Frick Collection in New York during which she fell in love with the Masters, the fashion designer hosted an exhibition of works from Sotheby’s June 2018 auction of Old Master Paintings in the contemporary setting of her flagship Dover Street store in London. As a female designer hoping to empower women through her collections, Victoria was later inspired by the stories behind The Female Triumphant, and exhibited works by Fede Galizia, Angelika Kauffmann, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun and Marie-Victoire Lemoine in her store in December. Looking ahead to our January exhibition, Victoria will again celebrate these female artists by co-hosting a reception in Sotheby’s galleries and an intimate dinner at The Frick for the museum’s young patrons and Sotheby’s next-gen clients.
Speaking about the collaboration, Victoria Beckham said: “I am thrilled at the opportunity to collaborate once again with Sotheby’s and for the first time with The Frick during New York Masters Week. The theme of The Female Triumphant resonates strongly with me - and I am honoured to not only have been able to exhibit a small selection of the works of these female artists in my London flagship store, but to also be able to play a small part in this important moment in Old Masters sales. It is not just the quality of these breathtaking works but also the story telling of these ground-breaking women that is so fascinating and important. Both Sotheby’s and The Frick have ignited my love of the Old Masters and it is a privilege to work alongside two institutions I admire so enormously.’
The Female Triumphant will be offered across Sotheby’s Master Paintings Evening Sale on 30 January, Master Paintings & Sculpture Day Sale on 31 January and the 19th-Century European Art auction on 1 February. All 21 works will open for public exhibition in the New York galleries on 25 January.
FEMALE ARTISTS IN THE PRE-MODERN ERA
It was not until the late-16th and early-17th centuries that women painters gained prominence – though they remained a rare occurrence through the 19th century. As it was considered dangerous and inappropriate for women to receive private lessons from a male artist, they were often excluded from apprenticeships and lacked access to proper training. Additionally, most cities in Europe had laws or strict rules that barred women from entry into artist guilds and academies, where all important life-drawing classes were held.
Thus, still life and portraiture became the most common genre for women artists – in fact, Fede Galizia was one of the first artists, male or female, to paint pure still lifes in Italy. However, some artists including Artemisia Gentileschi, Giulia Lama and Angelika Kauffmann succeeded in painting religious and historical compositions, even receiving large and important commissions. Most of the women artists who succeeded had fathers, brothers or husbands who they were able to study with at a young age. It was not until societies became more progressive that restrictions eased, for example, the French Revolution led to the opening of exclusive Salons to any artist, including women.
Rome 1593 – circa-1656 Naples
With Artemisia Gentileschi the concept of the true “woman-artist” appeared for the first time in the history of painting, a field which had previously been dominated by men. The daughter of the famous painter Orazio Gentileschi, she liberated herself to claim her artistic independence after having learned the secrets of the trade from her father. Though she was raped by a tutor hired by her father, and underwent a historically famous court case, she did not let the experience stop her from pursuing painting. She called upon the style of Caravaggio – but with her own distinct brushstrokes. Her paintings were celebrated by the noble and powerful families of Rome and Naples, as well as the ruling Spanish viceroys, and fetched high prices. As her success grew, Artemisia became a valued member of society, attending the Florentine court of the Medici, as well as a friend of Galileo Galilei and of the learned Cassiano del Pozzo. She was so respected that she became the first woman in history admitted to the prestigious Accademia del Disegno, founded by Giorgio Vasari.
This January Sotheby's will offer Artemisia’s oil on canvas of Saint Sebastian, an impressive recent addition to the artist’s oeuvre (estimate $400/600,000). Sometimes presented by latter-day scholars as a proto-feminist, Artemisia reveled in depictions of female heroines such as Judith and Sisera, as well as more traditional subjects such as Cleopatra, Danaë, and female personifications of allegories. Here, she once more celebrates female virtue by showing Irene and Lucina giving relief to the Roman deserter Sebastian, after he had been repeatedly wounded by arrows.
Lot 45. Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-After january 1654 Naples), Saint Sebastian Tended By Irene, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 by 50 3/8 in.; 101 by 127.5 cm. Estimate $400,000-600,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Provenance: Anonymous sale, London, Bonham's, 3 December 2014, lot 42 (as Follower of Caravaggio), where acquired.
Note: This Saint Sebastian is an impressive addition to the oeuvre of Artemisia Gentileschi, the best known and arguably the most impressive female artist of the seventeenth century. Sometimes presented by latter-day scholars as a proto-feminist, Artemisia revelled in depictions of female heroines such as Judith and Sisera, as well as more traditional subjects such as Cleopatra, Danaë, and female personifications of allegories. Here, she once more celebrates female virtue by showing Irene and Lucina giving succour to the Roman deserter Sebastian after he had been repeatedly wounded by arrows.
The scene is marked by a development of the traditional chiaroscuro which had so informed the artists working in Europe in the wake of Caravaggio. The single source of light emanates from within the scene rather than from without, as tended to be the case in the paintings of Caravaggio, rendering the contrasts all the more theatrical and the drama all the more acute. This type of candlelight scene had been pioneered by northern artists active in Italy such as Gerrit van Honthorst and Trophime Bigot and was readily taken up by Artemisia in the latter part of her career.
Professor Spinosa dates the work to around 1630, just after the artist had left Rome and had moved to Naples. He specifically compares the painting to the Judith and her Maidservant in the Detroit Institute of Art, from 1625-30 (of which there is a second version from the 1640s in Capodimonte), as well as the Annunciation, signed and dated 1630, in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, both for the folds of the drapery and the physiognomies (Fig. 1).1 Even closer similarities can be found with another work from the early Neapolitan period: Artemisia’s Cleopatra in a private collection, Rome, finds echoes in the pose of the lying saint, and displays comparable faces which emerge from the shadow toward the pictorial plane.2 Moreover, the cartoon used for the present figure of Sebastian must have been reused and adapted for another figure of Cleopatra, in a private collection in Naples.3 The latter picture, however, while very close in design both in the disposition of the prostate figure, as well as the virtually identical figure upper left, cannot boast the delightful shadow cast by the raised hand which covers half of the figure upper left. Furthermore, the way the hands and physiognomies are delineated with gentle highlights points to an inventiveness and sophistication found only rarely in Artemisia’s Neapolitan period, and is a feature which she is likely to have borrowed from Simon Vouet, whose work in Rome she would have known very well. Indeed, Spinosa specifically mentions that the lighting of the present work recalls that of the Fenchman’s Temptation of Saint Francis in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.
Fig. 1. Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and her maid Abra with the Head of Holofernes, between c. 1645 and c. 1650. Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte.
The attribution has been independently endorsed by Professor Nicola Spinosa and Dottor Giuseppe Porzio. A copy of Professor Spinosa’s written expertise accompanies the present lot.
1. R. Ward Bissell, Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art, Pennsylvania 1999, pp. 219-20, cat. no. 14, reproduced color plate XIII, and pp. 233-34, cat. no. 24, reproduced fig. 114.
2. Ibid., pp. 230-31, cat. no. 22, reproduced color plate XV.
3. N. Spinosa, F. Baldassari and J. Mann, Artemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo, exh. cat., Milan 2016, p. 57, reproduced p. 56, fig. 1.
ELISABETH-LOUISE VIGÉE LE BRUN
Paris 1755 - 1842
Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun was a precocious and talented artist from a young age; she succeeded in gaining entrance to the Académie de Saint-Luc at just 19, a remarkable accomplishment for a woman at the time. By the late 1770s, Le Brun’s reputation as a portraitist had become well established. In 1778 she was called to Versailles to paint a full-length portrait of the young Queen Marie Antoinette. The tremendous success of this portrait led to a number of royal commissions and the continued patronage of the Queen and her circle. As a royalist and portraitist of Marie-Antoinette, Le Brun fled France during the Revolution and traveled throughout Europe for many years, spending time in Italy, Vienna, Russia, England and Switzerland. She was greeted warmly in most aristocratic circles, and in the tradition of the courtier artist, was often treated as the social equal of her sitters. As probably the most widely recognized French female artist of the 18th century, her works are highly prized. In 2016, she was the subject if a blockbuster exhibition at the Grand Palais and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Master Paintings on 30 January will offer one of the most important works by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun to come to auction. Offered with an estimate of $4/6 million, Portrait of Muhammad Dervish Khan, comes to the market for the first time in over a century. Painted in the summer of 1788 and exhibited at the Salon of 1789, when political unrest had begun to boil in France, the work is an evocative account of France’s fascination with the East as well as Vigée’s resourcefulness in acquiring this unique commission. Separate release attached.
Two additional works by the artist will be featured during Masters Week: an elegant pastel bust-length portrait of the Irish aristocrat Lady Spencer Perceval (estimate $150/250,000), completed during her time in England in 1803-5; and an early portrait done in 1774 of a Young Woman Dressed in White (estimate $40/60,000).
Lot 51. Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755 - 1842), Portrait of Mrs. Spencer Perceval, née Jane Wilson (1769-1844), bust-length, signed and dated lower right: LeBrun / 1804, pastel on paper, 19 by 14 3/4 in.; 48 by 37.5 cm. Estimate $150,000 - $250,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Provenance: Joseph-Hyacinthe-François-de-Paule de Rigaud, comte de Vaudreuil;
By descent to his widow, Victoire-Joséphine-Marie-Hyacinthe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil;
By descent to Comte Charles-Philippe-Louis-Joseph-Alfred de Vaudreuil;
His sale, Paris, 20 May 1881;
Collection Vicomtesse de Courval;
By whom sold, Paris, Sotheby's, 25 March 2014, lot 109;
There acquired by the present owner.
Literature: N. Jeffares, "Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun", Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, London, 2006; online edition [http://pastellists.com/Articles/VigeeLeBrun.pdf], updated 11 November 2016, cat. no. J.76.327.
Note: Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun was one of the most highly regarded portraitists of 18th century France and one of the most successful and internationally renowned female artists of that century. This elegant pastel portrait of the Irish aristocrat Lady Spencer Perceval is a mature work by the artist, completed during her time in England in 1803-5.
Though she is more famous for her work in oil, Vigée first trained as a pastellist under the tutelage of her father, the artist Louis Vigée (1715–1767). As her career progressed she increasingly turned to the presumably more lucrative activity of painting, though she did return to pastel throughout her life, both in her commissioned work and for herself. As a result, far fewer pastels than oil paintings by Vigée are known; the present work is a rare and particularly well-preserved example from her later years. In this fully finished yet loose portrait, her appreciation for the immediacy and softness of the medium is well on display.
Vigée was a precocious and talented artist from a young age; she succeeded in gaining entrance to the Académie de Saint-Luc at just nineteen, a remarkable accomplishment for a woman at the time. By the late 1770s Vigée Le Brun’s reputation as a portraitist had become well-established. In 1778 she was called to Versailles to paint a full-length portrait of the young Queen Marie Antoinette. The tremendous success of this portrait led to a number of royal commissions and the continued patronage of the Queen and her circle. She also served as a mentor and friend to many other female artists of her generation, such as Marie-Genevieve Lemoine (see lots 47 and 48) and the Marquise de Grollier (fig. 1). As a royalist and portraitist of Marie-Antoinette, fearing for her life, Vigée fled France during the Revolution and traveled throughout Europe for many years, spending time in Italy, Vienna, Russia, England and Switzerland. She was greeted warmly in most aristocratic circles, and in the tradition of the courtier-artist, was often treated as the social equal of her sitters.
fig. 1. Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of the Marquise de Grollier, oil on panel, 1788, 92 x 72 cm, private collection, image courtesy Galerie Canesso, Paris.
Dated 1804, the present pastel was executed while Vigée was living in London. The high society and nobility in London received the artist warmly; indeed she wrote in her memoir that “in England, I found myself surrounded by many of my compatriots, whom I had been familiar with for quite a while… at a gathering held by Lady Parceval who often received émigrés.”1
Born Jane Wilson, daughter of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, Lady Perceval married Spencer Perceval, younger son of the Earl of Egmont, in 1792. Though at the time his career as lawyer was unpromising (enough so that Sir Thomas disapproved of the marriage and the couple eloped), he soon experienced a rapid rise to power and in October 1809 became Prime Minister of England. Jane and Spencer Perceval had thirteen children, of whom twelve survived. When this pastel was made in 1804, Lady Perceval was pregnant with her 11th child and Spencer Perceval was a leading politician in the conservative Pitt administration, which supported the old regime in France. Hence it comes as no surprise that Lady Perceval was closely acquainted with Vigée. Given the kind mention in her memoir, their friendship must have been important to the artist, who mostly painted émigrés rather than British sitters while she was in England.
1. “Je retrouvai en Angleterre une grande quantité de compatriotes que je connaissais depuis longtemps … dans une réunion chez lady Parceval, qui recevait beaucoup d’émigrés” E.L.Vigée-Lebrun, Souvenirs II. Editions Des femmes, 6 rue de Mézières, Paris 1984, p. 352.
Paris 1754 - 1820
Marie-Victoire Lemoine is said to have studied under Vigée Le Brun. While many artists – including Le Brun – fled France during the Revolution given their associations with the court, others like Lemoine stayed and enjoyed fresh opportunities from the upheaval. In 1791, the new government opened up the biannual Salons to all artists, including women like Lemoine who had previously been held back by the Académie Royale’s restrictions on women members. Her breakthrough came in 1796 when she first exhibited at the Paris Salon, where she would go on to find success. Though she never married, she was able to support herself entirely by her painting – a remarkable feat at the time.
This sumptuous portrait of a young and attractive girl depicts Madame de Genlis, a writer who later became the first female governess to the royal princes, charged with the education of the sons of Philippe, duc d'Orléans (estimate $60/80,000). Marie-Victoire Lemoine painted Madame de Genlis with a soft yet commanding beauty, elegantly and directly looking out at the viewer in this sensual depiction of the young writer, alluding more to her role as mistress to the duc d'Orleans rather than as a formidable governess. The Female Triumphant also will offer the vibrant Still life of spring flowers in a basket – the only known, pure still life by Lemoine (estimate $80/120,000).
Lot 49. Marie-Victoire Lemoine (Paris 1754 - 1820), Portrait of Madame de Genlis (1746-1830), signed and dated center right: Vic. Lemoine / 1781, oil on unlined canvas, oval, 23 1/2 by 19 1/4 in.; 59.7 by 48.9 cm. Estimate $60,000 - $80,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Note: This sumptuous portrait of a young and attractive girl, holding flowers to her chest as her undershirt delicately falls open, depicts Madame de Genlis, a writer who later became the first female governess to the royal princes, charged with the education of the sons of Philippe, duc d'Orléans. Marie-Victoire Lemoine painted Madame de Genlis with a soft yet commanding beauty, elegantly and directly looking out at the viewer in this sensual depiction of the young writer.
Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin, later the comtesse de Genlis and more commonly known as Madame de Genlis, was born to a noble family in Burgundy and received her education at home. She left for Paris and married the comte de Genlis at the age of seventeen. In 1769 they moved to the Palais Royal when she became as a lady-in-waiting to Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, the new wife of Philippe d'Orléans, with whom Genlis was having a passionate affair. At the same time the comte de Genlis received an appointment as the duc's Captain of the Guard, though he left the Palais Royal a few years later to take up with his own mistress.
In 1777, Madame de Genlis became the governess to the daughters of the duc and duchess; at this time she also began writing her own books on educational theories. In 1782, the year after the present painting was completed, the duc boldly appointed Genlis as governess to his sons. This was the first time a woman had held the role, and the appointment was met with much scandal. Madame de Genlis persevered and continued to educate the children as well as publish her own books, eventually moving out of the Palais Royal and settling in Germany after the Revolution.
Dated 1781, this early work by Lemoine shows Madame de Genlis in a rather coy pose, alluding more to her role as mistress to the duc d'Orleans rather than as a formidable governess. In 1790, Adelaide Labille-Guiard painted a very different portrait of Madame de Genlis (fig. 1). In this mature portrait, she is seen in formal clothing, including gloves and an elaborate hat, and her smile has hardened, evoking a more serious, even foreboding, personality that captures the power and influence she held in the Orleans family.
fig. 1. Adelaide Labille-Guiard (1749-1803), Portrait of Madame de Genlis, 1790. © 2019 Museum Associates / LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY.
Lot 50. Marie-Victoire Lemoine (Paris 1754 - 1820), Still life of spring flowers in a basket, signed and dated lower left: m. Vicre / Lemoine / 1807, oil on canvas, an oval; 23 1/2 by 19 1/2 in.; 59.6 by 49.5 cm. Estimate $80,000 - $120,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Provenance: Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 16 April 2010, lot 37;
Note: Marie-Victoire Lemoine is said to have studied under Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, the most important female painter in Paris of her day. While many artists, including Vigée, fled France during the Revolution given their associations with the court, others like Lemoine stayed and enjoyed fresh opportunities attested by the upheaval. In 1791, the new government opened up the biannual Salons to all artists, including women like Lemoine who had previously been held back by the Académie Royale's limitations on the number of female members. Lemoine first exhibited at the Salon of 1796 and had a long career in Paris; she never married, but was able to support herself entirely by her painting, a remarkable feat at the time.
Though flowers feature prominently in Lemoine's portraiture and genre scenes (see fig. 1 and the previous lot), the present work is the only extant, pure still life by the artist. The flowers are painted with exceptional skill; her brushwork is soft yet the details are sharp and colors vivid. The work recalls the still lifes of the great Dutch masters Rachel Ruysch and Jan van Huysum, as well as the following generation of painters working in France like Gerard and Cornelis van Spaendonck. Her carefully composed basket of flowers centers around three spring blooms: a large white viburnum, a golden yellow daffodil, and a large pink rosa centifolia (known as a "hundred petal" or cabbage rose).
fig. 1. Marie-Victoire Lemoine, The Two Sisters, sold Sotheby’s New York, 8 June 2017, lot 73, for $262,500. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Milan 1578 - 1630
Daughter of the miniaturist and painter, Nunzio Galizia, Fede Galizia trained under her father. Her precocious talent was already on full display as a young teenager, and by the age of 20, she had achieved international renown as a painter of portraits and devotional compositions. Although early modern female artists rarely received commissions for major history paintings, Galizia was best known in her lifetime for devotional works and commissioned portraits. While most 17th-century painters specialized in a single genre, she produced a diverse body of work – an especially unusual feat for a woman artist. While her still lifes were virtually unknown to scholars until the 20th century, it is now apparent that Galizia was one of the female artists who would play a vital role in the emergence of the relatively new genre of still life. Although she produced fewer than 20 refined, naturalistic still life compositions on panel, these works inspired followers in her lifetime and are now considered her most important paintings.
Fede Galizia’s A glass compote with peaches, jasmine flowers, quinces, and a grasshopper (estimate $2/3 million) is a beautiful example of the revolutionary female artist’s contributions to the Italian still life genre, which she helped to invent in the early 17th century. Exhibited internationally, the work was described as one of Galizia’s finest paintings in the second edition of Flavio Caroli’s definitive monograph of the artist’s work. Despite the intimate size of the panel, Galizia has created a sense of monumental scale with her placement of objects. Her close observation of details – such as the softness of the peaches, the modulations in the green on the leaves, and even the stripes on the grasshopper’s abdomen – continues to enchant viewers today.
Lot 42. Fede Galizia (Milan 1578 - 1630), A glass compote with peaches, jasmine flowers, quinces, and a grasshopper, oil on panel, 12 by 17 in.; 30.5 by 43.2 cm. Estimate $2,000,000 - $3,000,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Lot 43. Fede Galizia, Nunzio Galizia (Milan 1578 - 1630), Double portrait of Jacopo Menochio and Margherita Candiani, in a trompe-l'oeil frame, decorated with allegories of Justice and Prudence. Period inscription on back of panel, recorded on label: Jacobus I Menochius Senatus Mediolanensis / Praeses et Margarita Candiana Uxor. / Fides pinxit, cujus Nuntius Gallitius miniatura / exornavit 1606; the portraits, oil on copper, inserted into a walnut panel, the oval portraits: 4 by 3 1/4 in.; 10 by 8 cm, the panel: 10 by 12 1/4 in.; 25.5 by 31.3 cm. Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Provenance: Alberigo XII D’Este, Principe di Barbiano e di Belgioioso (his label with crest on the the back of the panel);
Literature: A. Morandotti, "Inventare in famiglia. Un pezzo di bravura nella Milano di Federico Borromeo" , inNuovi Studi, vol. IX-X, no. 11, 2004-05, pp. 213-224.
Note: The product of a collaboration between Fede and her father Nunzio Galizia, this detailed double portrait in a trompe-l’oeil frame is the only known example of female portraiture by Fede. While celebrated as a portraitist in her lifetime, she is now better known for her still lifes (see previous lot). Nunzio, versatile painter of miniatures and illuminated manuscripts, completed the detailed frame, with many sophisticated allegorical and symbolic references to convey the moral rectitude of the sitters and the strength of the couple's marriage. The miniature portraits and their complex decorative framing device demonstrate the Galizia family’s awareness of the International Mannerist style, popular across Europe from their native Milan to the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.
Jacopo Menochio came from Pavia and was a respected teacher, lawyer, and diplomat. In 1565, Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Savoia, asked Menochio to negotiate the repossession of the territory of Monferrato from the Gonzaga. As is noted in the inscription around his image, Menochio was elected a Senator of Milan in 1592. Menochio appears here to the left of his wife, following marital portrait convention, and both wear formal dark clothing and a white collar. Margherita Candiana’s unusual headdress features a black lace oval panel ringed with flowers that attaches to a veil. Interestingly, although they depict a married couple, Fede completed the two portraits separately. According to the inscription circling each figure, she painted Jacopo Menochio at age 74 in September 1605 and Margherita Candiana at age 64 in October 1606. Despite the small scale of the portraits, Fede captured realistic likenesses of her sitters and built three-dimensionality with shadows on their faces and fine strokes to indicate hair or the thin fabric of their white collars. This portrait of Menochio was engraved by Raphael Sadeler II in 1606, the year of this painting’s completion, which suggests that Fede’s skill as portraitist was known outside of Milan early in her career.
Until Alessandro Morandotti’s publication of this double portrait in 2005, the only evidence of Nunzio Galizia’s artistic production consisted of two documents and references to both Nunzio and Fede in 16th-century art literature. The elaborate symbolism and level of minute detail on the trompe-l’oeil frame suggest that Nunzio may have worked as a book illustrator and was familiar with contemporary engraving techniques, as the motifs he used recur in frontispieces and ephemera for civic celebrations. His framing device, in the shape of a building façade, is topped with two putti stringing garlands of fruit across the cornice, with the couple’s arms featuring a deer and eagle enshrined in the center. On a pedestal to the left of Menochio, the figure of Justice holds a sword and scale, and to the right of Margherita, Prudence gazes into a mirror while grasping a snake. A winged allegorical figure stands atop an orb between the portraits and holds onto the egg-and-dart oval frames.
Above Jacopo Menochio, in silver (now oxidized), is a crane signifying Vigilance, standing on a small pedestal inscribed VIGILAT UT IUVET. Above Margherita on a similar pedestal inscribed BONUM UNITATIS is a dog resting its paw on a fruit, signifying Fidelity. Below the portraits, Nunzio included two Biblical verses in Latin referring to marriage: Ecclesiastes 25:1 (“There are three things my soul delights in, and which are delightful to God and to all people: concord between brothers, love between neighbors, and a wife and husband who live happily together”) and Psalm 90:16 (“Let your work appear unto your servants, and your glory unto their children”). These erudite symbols and inscriptions not only reflect the positive character traits of each sitter, but also announce the couple as people of faith who will leave a positive legacy for their descendants.
This rare double portrait and trompe-l’oeil frame documents a collaboration between an important female artist and her lesser-known father, and reveals the inspiration for the detailed, precise style she developed.
This note is adapted from Alessandro Morandotti’s research on the present lot (see Literature).
Venice circa 1681 - 1747
Bold in her art, refined in her intellect, yet reserved in her nature, Giulia Lama is one of the most enigmatic and fascinating figures of Venice in the early 17th-century. As an artist, poetess, embroiderer and scholar, she transcended the boundaries placed upon women during her lifetime. Born in 1681 as the eldest of four children, she remained close to her family her whole life, never marrying and largely living a life of seclusion. She was lauded for her intelligence, and her skills as a poet were stylistically linked in style to Petrarch. Economically independent, she supported herself financially through her creative talents, including her fine lacework and paintings, which ranged from large and dramatic altarpieces to mythological scenes and sensitively executed portraits.
Unlike the Rococo style of her contemporary Rosalba Carriera, Giulia Lama executed large, energetic, and naturalistic compositions, often turning to subjects and techniques considered unconventional for women at the time. The present pair of canvases – which share a simple setting, restrained color palette, and a dramatic diagonal arrangement with each other – illustrates two lesser-known stories from the Old Testament: Joseph Interpreting the Eunuchs' Dreams and Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar consoling Job (estimate $400/600,000). Untraced until recently, these two paintings serve as visual testaments to her unwavering character and artistic prowess that for many generations was overshadowed by her male contemporaries.
Giulia Lama (Venice circa 1681 - 1747), Joseph interpreting the Eunuchs' dreams; Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar consoling Job, a pair, both oil on canvas; the former: 42 by 60 7/8 in.; 106.7 by 154.8 cm; the latter: 42 3/8 by 60 7/8 in.; 107.7 by 154.7 cm. Estimate: $400,000 - $600,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Provenance: Art market, Bologna, by 1952 (as Giovanni Battista Piazzetta);
Private collection, Italy, by the early 1990s.
Exhibited: Salò, Museo di Salò, Da Giotto a De Chirico: i tesori nascosti, 13 April - 6 November 2016, nos. 91-92.
Literature: R. Pallucchini, “Per la conoscenza di Giulia Lama,” in Arte Veneta, vol. XXIV, 1970, pp. 164-165, the former reproduced p. 166, fig. 222;
U. Ruggeri, Dipinti e disegni di Giulia Lama, Bergamo 1973, pp. 12, 13, 22, reproduced figs. 4-5 (as location unknown);
R. Pallucchini, La pittura nel Veneto, Milan 1995, vol. I, p. 312, cat. nos. 508 and 510, reproduced p. 310;
M. di Dedda, in Da Giotto a de Chirico. I tesori nascosti, exhibition catalogue, Salo 2016, pp. 218-219, cat. nos. 90-91, reproduced.
Note: Bold in her art, refined in her intellect, yet reserved in her nature, Giulia Lama is one of the most enigmatic and fascinating figures of the early Venetian Settecento. As an artist, poetess, embroiderer and scholar, she transcended the boundaries placed upon women during her lifetime. Untraced until recently, these two paintings depicting accounts from the lives of Joseph and Job, rendered with a vigorous tenebrism and dynamic naturalism, serve as visual testaments to her unwavering character and artistic prowess that for many generations was overshadowed by her male contemporaries.
The life and career of Giulia Lama remained largely obscured until the twentieth century, when scholars such as Pallucchini and Ruggeri restored her as a talented force in the development of Venetian painting during the first half of the eighteenth century. Born in Venice in 1681 as the eldest of four children, she remained close to her family her whole life, never marrying and largely living a life of seclusion. She was lauded for her intelligence, and her skills as a poet were stylistically linked in style to Petrarch.1 Economically independent, she supported herself financially through her creative talents, including her fine lacework and paintings, which ranged from large and dramatic altarpieces, to mythological scenes, to sensitively executed portraits, including her own captivating self-portrait that shines a light on her graceful personality and an unassuming air (fig. 1). While it was long assumed that she was a student of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1683-1754), the two were in fact close friends who clearly exchanged ideas and a visual vocabulary. Lama regularly served as a model for some of his most arresting portraits and studies, including his portrait of her as an allegory of painting at the age of about 35 (fig. 2),2 and it is through such works that modern audiences are granted a further glimpse into the engaging, intellectual spirit of this elusive personality.
fig. 1. Giulia Lama, Self-Portrait, c. 1720. Florence, Uffizi Gallery.
Unlike the Rococo style of her contemporary, Rosalba Carriera, Giulia Lama executed large, energetic, and naturalistic compositions, often turning to subjects and techniques considered unconventional for women at the time. She competed so well with her male counterparts that many of her works have been mistakenly attributed to a number of their hands, including her Christ Crowned with Thorns recorded in the Monte Rua Hermitage in Padua, formerly considered a work of a young Tiepolo.3 Additionally, many of her works from earlier in her career, including the present pair, were once given to Piazzetta.4
Lama had an advanced understanding of how to dramatically render physiognomy in her works, particularly in the way she used athletic figures as visual anchors, often twisted in sinuous and dynamic poses. Over 200 drawings by Lama reveal her as one of the first female artists to have regularly studied nude male and female models from life, and the preparatory drawing she made for Joseph Interpreting the Eunuchs' Dreams (fig. 3) serves as an illustrative example of this practice, for clearly the eunuch seated at center arose from a live model. The central figure and the man at the far right of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar consoling Job also appear to have been arose from life, for they relate closely to two of Lama's small drawings as well.5
fig. 3. Giulia Lama, Preparatory drawing for Joseph Interpreting the Eunuchs' Dreams.
The present pair of canvases—which share a simple setting, restrained color palette, and a dramatic diagonal arrangement with each other as well as with Lama’s Judith and Holofernes in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice6—illustrate two lesser-known stories from the Old Testament. In Joseph Interpreting the Eunuchs' Dreams, the young gifted prophet, who appears here in the lower right corner wrapped in a thick coat of blue and red fabric and looking emphatically upwards towards his eunuch inmates. Pharaoh's butler is at center listening intently as Joseph interprets their dreams, while Pharaoh's baker appears nearby with his arms crossed and a downcast expression, as the prophet would foretell the former’s advancement in rank and the latter’s imminent death. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar consoling Job depicts an episode where a sinless yet suffering Job, seen at the center of the composition cowering in pain, is at first consoled by his three friends and subsequently falsely accused by them. They claimed that such punishment from God must be the result of his sinful behavior, when in fact it was a test. Once Job was through the ordeal, God blessed him with twice as much as he had before.
Coira 1741-1807 Rome
One of the most cultured and influential women of her generation, Angelika Kauffmann holds a place of particular importance in European art history. A talented musician, she was both a brilliant history and portrait painter. Born in Switzerland and trained in Rome, she first came to England in 1766. In London she quickly became a close friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who she is rumored to have nearly married at one point, as well as many of the most prominent cultural figures in England, including David Garrick. Fluent in English, French, Italian and German, her charm, wit, intelligence and skill attracted much attention. As a result, she was highly sought after as a portraitist by many of the foremost connoisseurs of the day – including members of the Royal family. In 1768, Kauffmann cemented her status by becoming one of only two female founding members of the Royal Academy. In her later years, following her marriage to the Italian decorative painter Antonio Zucchi, she returned to Rome where her studio became a popular stop for fashionable visitors on the Grand Tour, including artists, writers, aristocrats and dealers from across Europe. Her clients included many of the crowned heads of Europe, including Catherine the Great of Russia, and she was close friends with international luminaries such as Goethe, Canova and Sir William Hamilton.
One of the wealthiest families in England, the young generation of Spencers likely depicted in Angelika Kauffmann’s Portrait of Three Children were prominent figures in the English aristocracy, and amongst the artist’s earliest British patrons (estimate $600/800,000). Seated at left with a handful of flowers is Georgiana Spencer, later Duchess of Devonshire upon her marriage to William, 5th Duke of Devonshire in 1774. As Duchess, she became one of the most famous and powerful women in 18th-century British society. Her sister, Lady Henrietta Frances, later the Countess of Bessborough, is depicted at the center holding an arrow. To her right is George John, Viscount Althorp, later 2nd Earl Spencer, who would become a Member of Parliament for Northampton and later for Surrey.
Lot 52. Angelika Kauffmann RA. (Coira 1741-1807 Rome), Portrait of three children, almost certainly Lady Georgiana Spencer, later Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Henrietta Spencer and George Viscount Althorp, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 by 57 in.; 113.6 by 144.8 cm. Estimate $600,000 - $800,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Mons 1604 - 1689 Brussels
Born in 1604 in Mons, Wautier was the only daughter in a family of nine children, and appears to have begun her career later in life, around age 39. Her brother Charles was also a painter, and the two moved to Brussels in 1645, where they both remained unmarried and shared a studio. Michaelina’s absence from the art historical canon is all the more surprising given that she worked in multiple genres: portraiture, floral still life, genre painting, and history painting. The latter was the most unusual feat for a woman artist as it was considered the genre of highest importance and typically required studying live models, from which women were barred. After her death in 1689, most of her works remained with her family. This fact, combined with a lack of documentary evidence about Michaelina, led to her paintings being incorrectly attributed to others, with her artistic impact forgotten – until a recent monographic exhibition in Antwerp in 2018 introduced her work to the public for the first time.
This recently discovered Study of a young boy turned away with a red cloak over his shoulders, turned almost in profile to the left, displays Wautier’s ability to convey both the naturalistic appearance of her subjects as well as their internal mood (estimate $60/80,000). The addition of this sensitive head study to Wautier’s oeuvre reveals the careful modeling, inventive use of color and chiaroscuro, and compassionate treatment of young subjects that earned Wautier success in her lifetime and the long overdue attention she has finally received. Wautier also excelled in other genres, including still lifes, as seen in her Garland of Flowers, Suspended Between Two Animal Skulls, A Dragonfly Above (estimate $200/300,000). Drawing inspiration from her Flemish contemporaries as well as from ancient Roman iconography, the work stands out as one of only two still lifes known by her hand.
Lot 46. Michaelina Wautier (Mons 1604 - 1689 Brussels), Study of a young boy turned away, bust-length, with a red cloak, oil on canvas, unlined, 11 5/8 by 9 1/4 in.; 29.5 by 23.5 cm. Estimate $60,000 - $80,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Exhibited: Antwerp, Museum aan de Stroom, Michaelina. Baroque's Leading Lady, 1 June - 2 September 2018, no. 6.
Note: This recently discovered study of a young boy with a red cloak over his shoulders, turned almost in profile to the left, displays Wautier’s ability to convey both the naturalistic appearance of her subjects as well as their interior mood. Like her male contemporaries, Wautier probably studied live models, typically from lower social classes, and used their likenesses in larger history paintings. While the present study’s looseness and nondescript setting and costume mean that it cannot be characterized as a true portrait, it includes enough detail to identify the sitter. The strong chiaroscuro and the boy’s averted gaze contribute to a subtle sadness, and Wautier captured the emotion of her sitter with empathy. The addition of this sensitive head study to Wautier’s oeuvre, which has only recently been reconstructed, provides insight into the working process and models of this underappreciated master.
A monographic exhibition in Antwerp in 2018 introduced the work of Michaelina Wautier to the public for the first time; she had fallen into complete obscurity after her death, and only caught the attention of art historians in the late 20th century. Born in 1604 in Mons, Michaelina was the only daughter in a family of nine children, and appears to have begun her career later in life, around age 39. Her brother Charles was also a painter, and the two moved to Brussels in 1645, where they both remained unmarried and shared a studio.
Michaelina’s absence from the art historical canon is all the more surprising given that, despite the challenges she faced as a woman artist, she did not focus on a single specialty. Similar to Fede Galizia, who painted still lifes along with portraits and religious works, Wautier worked in multiple genres: portraiture, floral still life, genre painting, and history painting. The latter was the most unusual feat for a woman artist as it was considered the genre of highest importance and typically required studying live models, from which women were barred. Wautier’s religious paintings reveal her knowledge of fellow Flemish artists like Rubens and Van Dyck as well as Caravaggio and his Roman followers. Her sole mythological work, a large Triumph of Bacchus, includes a dozen—mostly male—nude figures, showing off Wautier’s inventiveness and skill in depicting the human figure even without formal study. After her death in 1689, most of her works remained with her family. This fact, combined with a dearth of documentary evidence about Michaelina, led to her paintings being incorrectly attributed to others, her artistic impact forgotten.
Wautier seems not to have created chalk or oil sketches in preparation for her compositions like other Flemish painters, but the present head study is one of several she painted on canvas of male and female sitters. Like her contemporary Jacob van Oost (1603 – 1671), Wautier had a penchant for depicting children; it is not known whether the two artists ever met, but they certainly saw one another’s work. This young boy is probably the same model as the one on the right in a genre painting currently in Seattle depicting Boys blowing bubbles (fig. 1). The hairstyle, shape of the eyebrows and nose, and coloring of the cheeks are very similar in both figures. Wautier applied a blue undertone for the thin area of skin under the boy’s eyes, which contrasts with his rosy cheeks that suggest both his youthful energy and his time spent outdoors. In both paintings, the boy gazes to the side as if lost in thought. In the Seattle painting he studies a bubble floating above him that could pop at any moment, reflecting on the frailty of life, and in the present work he seems to turn his thoughts inward.
fig. 1. Michaelina Wautier, Boys blowing bubbles, 1640s, oil on canvas, 90.5 cm × 121.3 cm (35.6 in × 47.8 in), Seattle Art Museum
Whether this study of a young boy served as a model for a future genre or history painting or was created as an independent work, it reveals the careful modeling, inventive use of color and chiaroscuro, and compassionate treatment of young subjects that earned Wautier success in her lifetime and the long overdue attention she has finally received.
Lot 47. Michaelina Wautier, A garland of flowers, suspended between two animal skulls, a dragonfly above, signed and dated upper left: Michaelina Wautier / fecit. 1652, oil on oak panel, 16 1/8 by 22 1/2 in.; 41.1 by 57.4 cm. Estimate $150,000 - $200,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Provenance: Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 8 July 1964, lot 63, for £120 to Douwes;
With Kunsthandel Gebr. Douwes, Amsterdam, 1964;
F.C. Butôt, Sankt Gilgen, Austria, by 1972;
His deceased sale, Amsterdam, Sotheby's, 16 November 1993, lot 38, when acquired for the present collection.
Exhibited: Salzburg, Museumpavillon im Mirabellgarten, 12 July – 12 September 1972; Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, 26 September 1972 – 14 January 1973, Niederländische Kunst aus dem Goldenen Jahrhundert, unnumbered;
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Hollandse en Vlaamse Kunst uit de 17e eeuw, 16 February – 1 April 1973, unnumbered;
Rotterdam, Kunsthal, At home in the Golden Age: minor masterpieces from the collection SØR Rusche, 9 February - 18 May 2008, no. 1;
Antwerp, Museum aan de Stroom, Michaelina. Baroque's Leading Lady, 1 June - 2 September 2018, no. 22.
Note: Wautier was not only a skilled portraitist, as the previous lot demonstrates, but she also excelled in other genres, including still life. The present lot is one of only two still lifes known by her hand, but the detailed and diverse arrangement of blooms suggests that she must have painted other floral still lifes which can no longer be traced. Drawing inspiration from her Flemish contemporaries as well as from ancient Roman iconography, Wautier probably painted this rare composition at the request of a specific patron.
Wautier certainly knew the work of Daniel Seghers (1590 – 1661), who specialized in the compositional format of a floral garland adorning a trompe-l’oeil image or statue, as if placed on an altar. However, while Seghers preferred roses and tulips for his bouquets, Wautier included many more diverse species: this garland includes carnations, marigold, cornflower, African marigold, daisy, foxglove, sweet pea, and hibiscus. This diversity suggests that she looked to Seghers’ teacher Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 – 1625), who also favored exotic combinations of blooms.
The two animal skulls that support the swag of flowers contribute to the memento mori theme common to still lifes: although the flowers bloom and insects gather to enjoy them, all things in nature must eventually die. At the same time, Wautier suggests with her precise rendering of the petals and leaves and the lifelike activity of the insects that as an artist she can defy nature by both bringing beautiful things to life and preserving them in their thriving state forever. Like many floral still lifes, Wautier’s includes flowers that bloom in different seasons, meaning that this exact bouquet could never exist as such in reality.
The now-untraced pendant to the present lot shares a very similar composition, almost identical dimensions, and is also signed and dated 1652. The similarity of the two paintings and their trompe-l’oeil decorative quality suggests that a patron or patrons commissioned the pair, or perhaps a series, from Wautier in order to hang them somewhere specific. The animal skulls also recall the Bucranium, the ancient Roman decorative motif of oxen skulls found on temple friezes in reference to actual sacrificial animals. Combined with the dragonfly, which symbolizes the end of life, and the butterfly, which connotes Christ’s resurrection, the imagined flowers and skulls may have communicated a message of redemptive sacrifice for a particular viewer.
Whatever its intended function, the sophisticated iconography and elegant naturalism of this still life prove that Wautier was equally skilled in several genres. As the only traceable still life securely attributed to this pioneering female artist, the present lot occupies an important place in early modern art history.
ARTFULLY DRESSED: WOMEN IN THE ART WORLD
PORTRAITS BY CARLA VAN DE PUTTELAAR
In conjunction with The Female Triumphant, Sotheby’s will host a non-selling exhibition of contemporary portraiture by the acclaimed Dutch photographer Carla van de Puttelaar. Taken from Van de Puttelaar’s inspirational and globally recognized series from 2017, Artfully Dressed: Women in the Art World, the exhibition features over 60 portrait photographs of prominent and promising women in the art world, including museum curators and directors, collectors, academics and art historians, gallerists, auction professionals, artists, art fair organizers, philanthropists, conservators, and journalists. The women span a wide range of backgrounds, nationalities, areas of expertise and ages but are united in their intelligence, achievements, influence and taste.
In addition to the existing works, Sotheby’s commissioned a continuation of the series featuring portraits of 30 prominent American women, including Elizabeth M. Eveillard, Chairman, Board of Trustees, The Frick Collection New York, NY; Renée Price, Director, Neue Galerie New York, NY; Rena M. De Sisto, Global Executive for Arts & Culture, Bank of America New York, NY, and Rachel Kaminsky of Rachel Kaminsky Fine Art LLC, New York, NY.
Portrait of Marjorie Shelley, Conservator of Works on Paper at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Carla van de Puttelaar. Courtesy Sotheby's
Portrait of Ifeanyi Awachi, Writer and Arts Curator by Carla van de Puttelaar. Courtesy Sotheby's
Portrait of Flora Crichton-Stuart, Art History Student by Carla van de Puttelaar. Courtesy Sotheby's
Portrait of Joan Bloom, Collector by Carla van de Puttelaar. Courtesy Sotheby's
Portrait of Rachel Kaminsky, Rachel Kaminsky Fine Art LLC by Carla van de Puttelaar. Courtesy Sotheby's