Van Dyck painting, found in a farm shed and now estimated at $2-3m

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Van Dyck painting, found in a farm shed and now estimated at $2-3m
Sir Anthony van Dyck, A Study for Saint Jerome, est. $2,000,000 - 3,000,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s Master Week series in New York 18 - 30 January is set to be among the strongest ever staged, with nine sales together estimated to realize in excess of $100m. Spanning Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, Drawings and 19th- century paintings, the sales will bring to market a host of newly-discovered works, alongside renowned private collections, led by ten Baroque masterpieces from the Fisch Davidson Collection, and a group of Dutch 17th century paintings from the Theilinne Scheumann Collection.

This season, Sotheby’s will also introduce a new format sale - The One - showcasing a broad spectrum of exceptional and unique objects throughout history, spanning antiquity through to the fashion and entertainment worlds of today. Works from the inaugural auction will be on view alongside Sotheby’s Masters Week exhibitions, opening 21 January.

In addition to the extraordinary works in the Fisch Davidson collection (see press release here), and the recently re-discovered early Bronzino (sold to benefit charitable causes close to the heart of the family from the painting was seized, (see press release here), this season’s sales are characterized by further important rediscoveries and other esteemed private collections, as well as paintings by long-neglected female artists, and still lifes. Please find a synopsis of the highlights below. 


A Newly Rediscovered Portrait by Bronzino: 

One of the leading artists of the Florentine Renaissance will star in the Masters Week sales. Dating to circa 1527, this sophisticated work is a significant addition to the artist’s early corpus. Works by Bronzino are exceptionally rare on the market, with only one other fully attributed work to appear in living memory. Misattributed and lost to scholarship since the early 20th century, this painting will be published for the first time this spring by Carlo Falciani, in whose forthcoming article the idea that this may be a self-portrait of the artist will be explored. The work, which comes to sale with a fascinating and tragic history of ownership, will be sold to benefit two charities; Selfhelp Community Services, aiding holocaust survivors in North America, and The Lighthouse Guild – a Jewish healthcare organization.

An Early and Important oil sketch by Anthony Van Dyck:

A Sketch for Saint Jerome by Sir Anthony Van Dyck represents a major discovery from the early period of the artist’s work (estimate $2-3 million). One of only two large studies after live models from the Flemish artist’s oeuvre, the arresting sketch of an elderly man was probably executed by some time between 1615 and 1618, when the young artist was working alongside Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp.

Thought to have served as a study for the artist’s painting of St Jerome in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the sketch was discovered in the late 20th century in a farm shed in Kinderhook in New York. The person who found it, Albert B. Roberts, was a passionate collector of ‘lost’ pieces, describing his collection as "an orphanage for lost art that had suffered from neglect.” Convinced of the importance of the sketch, he purchased it for $600. Soon afterwards, the sketch was recognized by art historian Susan J. Barnes as a “surprisingly well preserved” autograph work by Van Dyck.

On offer from Roberts’ estate, a portion of proceeds will benefit the Albert B. Roberts Foundation Inc., which provides financial support to artists and other creatives, among other charities.

A Newly Attributed Late Work by Titian:

Another stand-out rediscovery from the Master Painting Evening sale is that of a late work by Titian – a moving and expressively painted Ecce Homo (est. $1.5 - $2M) from the first half of the 1560s. The reappearance of this work, which last appeared at auction, heavily overpainted, in 2019, marks an important addition to Titian’s corpus, and in particular to his body of late religious art. Ecce Homo comes to auction on the heels of Venus and Adonis by Titian and Workshop which reached £11.2m / $13.6m last month in London.

Recent cleaning of the centuries-old overpainting (which appears to have been applied to obscure the then-unfashionable ‘unfinished’ quality of the work) has revealed the exuberant, spontaneous brushwork characteristic of Titian’s final works in a painting now described by Paul Joannides as ‘wholly autograph’. Both he and Peter Humfrey believe the painting is likely an unfinished composition, left incomplete at the time of Titian’s death in 1576.

While the unfinished aesthetic endows the image with a sense of spontaneity, recent scientific imaging further reveals the complex and lengthy creative process behind the painting. Titian is known to have turned his new works to the wall, only returning to them several months later to scrutinize every detail, reforming and remodelling forms with precise and almost surgical detail. Here too, recent X-radiograph images reveal that Titian adjusted the placement of Christ’s rod and right arm several times while he perfected his vision.

Conceived on a large scale, the painting depicts Christ being presented to the people by Pontius Pilate during one of the most poignant moments of the Passion. Crowned with thorns, Christ is central with a soldier to his right – a composition similar to Titian’s depiction of the same subject in the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Fresh to Market Tiepolo Portraits & A Rediscovered portrait by Sebastiano Del Piombo:

A trio of recently rediscovered portraits by leading Rococo artist Giandomenico Tiepolo will emerge on the market for the first time this January. Executed circa 1757, these previously unknown and unpublished works mark an important addition to the artist’s oeuvre. They form part of a group of fantasy portraits of philosophers and exotic figures produced by Tiepolo and his father, Giambattista, and each is inscribed with the name of a Greek philosopher: a head of a bearded man in a blue and yellow collared robe, identified as Demosthenes (estimate $100,000 – $150,000); an arresting head of a man in a green and red robe with a gold clasp and necklace, identified as Socrates (estimate $100,000 – $150,000); and the third, inscribed Aristotle (estimate $80,000 – $120,000).

Making its auction debut this January, Sebastiano del Piombo’s Portrait of a woman holding a crown of laurels is a recently rediscovered mature work by the artist, one of the greatest Venetian painters of the 16th-century (estimate of $1.5 – $2 million).


Baroque: Masterpieces from the Fisch Davidson Collection:

Collected with passion and rigor over three decades, the Fisch Davidson collection distils the essence of Baroque art between 1600 and 1650, comprising some of the very finest paintings in private hands by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Guercino, Bernardo Cavallino, Valentin de Boulogne, Orazio Gentileschi and more, which together provide a comprehensive sense of the key artistic currents flowing through early 17th-century Europe.

Dutch Masterpieces from The Theiline Scheumann Collection:

Comprising twelve paintings produced in Holland during the seventeenth century, The Theiline Scheumann Collection features landscapes, seascapes, still lifes and urban views which encapsulate the artistic trends which defined the period. One of the first female collectors in America to put together such a collection, Mrs. Scheumann assembled only the finest quality pieces with distinguished provenance, showcasing the very best Dutch painting has to offer. The sale marks the first time many works have appeared on the market in over 30 years. 

There is the serene An Imaginary View of a Quiet Canal in Amsterdam by Jan van der Heyden (est. $1,000,000 – $1,500,000), the foremost painter of cityscapes in the 17th century, whose landscapes depicting Amsterdam are among his most prized works. A similar piece by the artist, Amsterdam: A View of the Sint Antoniespoort, achieved a record-breaking £4.4 million at Sotheby’s London in 2006.

Elsewhere, Aert van der Neer’s Marshy forest at sunset with harts and a view of a town beyond (est. $1,000,000 – $1,500,000) an idyllic depiction of a wintry sunset showcases the artist’s command of atmosphere and light. Van der Neer’s winter landscapes were considered revolutionary at the time, and his pioneering approach went on to influence an entire generation of Dutch romantic landscape painters in the first half of the nineteenth century. There is also the hauntingly beautiful A Young Woman Sealing a Letter by Frans van Mieris the Elder (est. $1,500,000 – $2,000,000). Completed in 1667, this work sees Van Mieris working within the fijnschilder (meaning ‘fine painting’) tradition developed by artists like Gerard Dou. The work is meticulous in detail, with some features likely executed with brushes made from a single hair.

Among the works representing still lifes is Jan van de Velde III’s Still Life with an Earthenware Jug, Tobacco Box, ‘Gouda’ Pipe, Glass of Beer and Tobacco Smoking Implements (est. $600,000 – $800,000). Highly regarded today as a subtle and inventive master of still life, Van de Velde had for many generations remained in obscurity. Works by the artist are extremely rare, this being among only forty known by the artist today. Van de Velde arranges a few objects on a tabletop, and, using a very restricted palette, creates a remarkable range of surfaces and textures. Visible at the bottom of the scene is the most flamboyant aspect of the painting; an oversized signature, the curves of which reflect the influence of his father's calligraphy.


On the heels of exceptional results for The Grasset Collection - one of the very best private collections of Dutch & Flemish still lifes and landscapes, which made an above estimate $15.5m / £12.7m in London this December - the New York sales will include further rare still lifes by renowned artists spanning the genre.  

Dating 1621, Pieter Claesz’s vibrant tablescape, A Still Life with Cherries and Strawberries in Wanli Dishes is the earliest known work by the artist. Estimated at $1-1.5m, it is also among the most significant works by the artist to come to auction in recent times. 

Embodying the hyper-refined realistic technique for which he is renowned, Gerard van Spaendonck’s Still Life with Flowers in a Stone Vase on a Pedestal Carved with Putti; with a Basket of Flowers and a Dunnock’s Nest is among the finest still lifes by the artist to appear at auction (estimate $1-1.5 million). Heir of the tradition of flower painting embodied by Jan van Huysum and teacher to the great botanical draftsman and painter, Pierre Joseph Redouté, Spaendonck represents an important bridge between two great moments in the history of still life painting.

Alongside are two works by major French painter Anne Vallayer-Coster known for her floral still lifes at the court of Marie-Antoinette - a devoted patron who helped provide a dedicated space for Vallayer-Coster at the Louvre - something extremely rare for a Woman artist at the time. The sale features both Still life of roses in a glass vase, with grapes beside (est. $150,000 - $200,000) and Still life of flowers in a crystal vase on a ledge (est. $100,000 - $200,000). A third work by the artist, coming from the same private Canadian collection, will be featured in the Old Master Paintings and Sculpture Part II sale (est. $60,000 – $80,000).


The Art of Pastel: A Swiss Private Collection

Masters Week is also distinguished by an extraordinary and unique collection of pastel drawings. An often neglected medium today, pastels were a key art form in the 18th century, immensely admired for their atmospheric qualities and technical difficulty. 

Leading the group is an extraordinary still life depicting a basket of apples, by the greatest and most enigmatic master of pastel, Liotard. Jardinière de Pommes dates to circa 1786, and, whilst simple and unpretentious in composition, demonstrates the artist’s extraordinary abilities of observation and mastery of the medium. The work draws parallels with artists such as Cezanne, but also reflects earlier masterpieces of still life by Caravaggio and Melendez, and those of contemporaries such as Chardin. This work is the finest of very few still lifes created by Liotard, all dating from very late in his life, the likes of which have not previously been seen at auction (estimate $1,200,000 – $1,800,000).

There is also a flamboyant portrait of a lady holding a fan by Maurice Quentin de La Tour (est. $200,000 – $300,000) an elegant portrait of English nobleman Joseph Spence by the Italian pastellist Rosalba Carriera (est. $40,000 – $60,000), and a surprisingly minimalist and modern Swiss landscape, one of the largest ever completed by celebrated artist Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun (est. $20,000 - $30,000).

The Collections of Seymour Slive and Ton van den Broek:

Described by Harvard University President as ‘a living portrait of ebullient erudition and human inspiration’, Seymour Slive was the first art historian trained in the United States who specialized in 17th-century Dutch art. Lecturing at Harvard University from 1954-1991 and also serving as director of the Fogg Art Museum from 1975-1982, Slive was the father figure of his discipline, inspiring and mentoring generations of scholars and curators of Dutch art in the United States and beyond.

This season’s sales include a number of paintings, drawings and prints from the collection of Seymour Slive and his wife Zoya, notably a rapid sketch by Jacob van Ruisdael, an artist on whom Slive was the world authority, and a rare painting by Jacob’s father, Isaack van Ruisdael.

There is also a group of works carefully assembled by Haarlem native Ton van den Broek, whose primary profession was gentlemen’s outfitting, but who developed an all-engrossing passion for the history and visual arts of his native city and country. The collection includes an outstanding selection of 16th -18th-century Dutch drawings and watercolours, including a captivating work by one of the defining artists of the Dutch 18th century, Cornelis Troost. ‘Harlequin, Magician and Barber: The Deceived Rivals’ (est. $100,000 – $150,000) illustrates, with Troost’s typical genius for storytelling, a scene with origins in the Italian Commedia dell’arte tradition; a cast of stock characters who crop up in these farcical scenes across the stages of Europe from the very early 18th century. A larger version of this subject, dated 1738, is held in the celebrated pastel collection at the Mauritshuis, the Hague.

A Rare Work at the Intersection of Christianity and Science:

The sale will also present a large red chalk study of The Madonna of the Zodiac (est. $100,000 – $150,000), a unique work depicting a subject that was not only theologically controversial but extremely rare. The delicate drawing is newly identified as a major work by the rare renaissance draughtsman Daniele da Volterra, best known for his close relationship with Michelangelo towards the end of the latter’s life. Michelangelesque in its grandeur and monumentality, the drawing is believed to be dated to the 1550s, completed after the artist's Assumption of the Virgin, in the della Rovere Chapel at the Trinità dei Monti in Rome, which occupied him from 1548 and was still incomplete by 1553.

The rare iconography of the sheet includes the Madonna depicted in profile - with the Christ Child to her right - indicating the Zodiac with both hands alluding to Christ’s role as ‘chronocrator’: Lord of Cosmic Time. The signs of Scorpio and Sagittarius can also be seen to the left of the Madonna who rests her right foot on a cloud over a crescent moon. The intriguing historical relationship between science and Christianity was perceived differently at different times, and not surprisingly was also often seen as a contentious combination in the context of the visual arts. Therefore, we can suppose that this rare subject must be the commission of a cultivated and refined patron particularly interested in astrology. 


Sotheby’s will present a dedicated sale of works realized and inspired by William Bouguereau alongside Contemporary artists working in the Realist figurative tradition. Bouguereau and His Circle: Then and Now, celebrates the leading 19th-century academic painter, including several fresh-to-market masterpieces as well as oil sketches and drawings realized to prepare some of his most important commissions.

These works will be offered alongside paintings by Bouguereau’s students, chief among them his wife, Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau, who during her 58-year career in Paris participated in thirty Salons with thirty-six works and who in 1872 became the only American woman to ever receive a medal at the Salon. The sale will also showcase the work of contemporary figure painters working in the realist tradition today, including George Condo, Zachari Logan, Katsu Nakajima, Han-Wu Shen, Kadir Nelson, Odd Nerdrum, Tina Garrett, and Markus Schinwald.

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