Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Sotheby’s On-line Sale Offers Lower Priced Old Masters


"Messy restoration aside, it’s gorgeous..."


Sotheby’s On-line Sale Offers Lower Priced Old Masters

Evident from their catalog, Sotheby’s New York will auction some fine Old Master paintings on the evening of January 30, 2019.  Anthony Van Dyck’s “Study of a Young Man in Profile” for instance blew me away.  So did Jacob van Ruisdael’s “River Landscape with an Angler, The Grote Kerk of Naarden Beyond.”  This painting brought memories of scrutinizing van Ruisdael’s handling of clouds and atmospheric conditions in graduate school.  The Old Master painting that excited me the most however was Luis Meléndez’s “Still Life with a Plate of Azaroles, Fruit, Mushrooms, Cheese and Receptacles” reason being, among the masterworks in the Prado, I’m partial to Meléndez’s still lifes.

Will the Old Master paintings be expensive?  You bet.  Recall that in November 2017 the Old Master Leonardo da Vinci’sSalvator Mundi,” not a Modern or Contemporary artwork, set a record as the most expensive painting sold at auction, when a collector snatched it at Christie's New York for $450.3 million.  I’m not trying to suggest Modern art is cheap.  In 2015 Picasso's "Women of Algiers” sold for $179.4 million at Christie's New York, the highest price paid for an artwork at auction at the time.

It seems you have the opportunity to own lower priced Old Masters.  Sotheby’s announced an Old Master On-line sale will accompany its January 30 live auction.  The on-line sale of over 60 Old Master history, mythological, religious and landscape paintings, which accepts bids until February 5, 2019, includes lower priced paintings, some without reserve.  If you find it necessary to inspect a painting before bidding, the on-line Old Masters will be on view in Sotheby’s New York galleries from January 25 to February 2.  On-line bidding closes on February 5, 2019.

Given their considerable beauty, I thought it would be fun to show a few of the lower priced paintings in Sotheby’s on-line auction, as well as look at one of the lower priced “no reserve” paintings.  For sale cheaply on-line and without reserve is Pier Francesco Cittadini’s “Portrait of a Lady in Elaborate Silk Red Dress with White Lace and a Sheer Falling Collar,” 1630s, its value estimated by Sotheby’s to be $6,000 – 8,000.  It’s gorgeous.

Why would a collector sell at auction without reserve?  The reserve is the minimum winning bid a seller is willing to accept.  With no reserve, the winning bid might be low indeed.  To sell without a minimum might indicate the seller wants to sell quickly, perhaps is forced to sell.

Or perhaps the painting is in poor condition, or suffered awful restoration.  Although it’s hard to imagine a 1630s painting that has not been structurally reinforced or repaired, touched up and painted over, when this is sloppily done, the painting is less valuable.  And believe me there’s some sorry restoration out there.  I once bought a 19th century painting with tape stuck on the back to secure its ripped canvas, new paint slapped on top of old, yet with professional restoration, it was splendid.

I checked out Sotheby’s condition report for the Cittadini.  Summarily it stated the canvas has been lined, has uneven varnish, has loss of image details, discoloration on shadows, dots of loss paint scattered along the edges, some “strengthened,” these “fluoresce under UV.”  The report goes on to mention additional retouching.

I think I understand what the report is saying.  When aimed at a painting in the dark, a UV lamp can detect repair, overpainting and over cleaning.  In fact, one of my favorite antique dealers whips out his UV light to show me condition whenever I start sticking my nose up to his antique paintings.  It’s possible the Cittadini’s condition and restoration account for it being lower priced, although we can’t know why it’s being sold without reserve.  Messy restoration aside, it’s gorgeous.



Images: Old Master Paintings Online Sale - Posted by Sotheby’s

Pier Francesco Cittadini, “Portrait of a Lady in Elaborate Silk Red Dress with White Lace and a Sheer Falling Collar,” 1630s.  Estimate $6,000 – 8,000. (Sold without Reserve.)

Michelangelo Ricciolini, “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” 1685-1690, Estimate $20,000 – 30,000.

Italian School, 18th Century, “Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti,” (1475-1564). Estimate $8,000 – 12,000.

Jacques van de Karkckhove, Called Giacomo da Castello, “A Group of Fowl Captive as Hunting Game.” (1636/7 – 1712 Antwerp and Italy), Estimate $20,000 -30,000.

Circle of Cornelis Cornelisz Van Haarlem, “The Prodigal Son,” 1638, Estimate $12,000 - $18,000.

Attributed to Joannes Hermans Called Monsu Aurora, “A Still Life of Birds as Hunting Trophies,” Estimate $8,000 – 12,000.

North Netherlandish School, 16th Century, “Ecce Homo,” Estimate $15,000 – 20,000.