Cap­i­tal en­ter­tain­ment

Views of Lon­don star at Frieze Mas­ters, in­clud­ing one seen through the legs of Cromwellõs horse, and an­tiq­ui­ties still have in­flu­ence

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

ON a book­shelf in my study are post­cards of two por­traits of Eugène Delacroix. The first is by his friend Thales Field­ing, dat­ing from about 1825, when they shared a stu­dio as young icon­o­clasts; the sec­ond is a self-por­trait of 1837, when the suc­cess of the An­glo-french school that they had launched seemed as­sured.

It would be in­ter­est­ing to com­pare th­ese images with a 173 ∕4in by 211 ∕4in head of Delacroix (Fig 1), painted be­tween 1817 and 1819 by Théodore Géri­cault, which will be shown at Frieze Mas­ters (to­mor­row to Sun­day) by Jean­luc Ba­roni of St James’s. It must date from be­tween the very end of 1817, when Géri­cault had re­turned from Rome, where he had been study­ing the Old Mas­ters and at­tempt­ing to es­cape his af­fair with his aunt by mar­riage, and prob­a­bly be­fore he im­mersed him­self in his mas­ter­piece, The Raft of the Me­dusa. Delacroix also posed for one of the dead sailors in that paint­ing—the wavy black hair makes his head recog­nis­able, though face down.

The fa­cial de­vel­op­ment in the three por­traits—sulky late teenager, con­fi­dent leader of the young An­glo-french artists—and suc­cess­ful mid­dle age with the prom­ise of grand old man-dom—is al­most a biog­ra­phy without words. It only lacks the pho­to­graph taken of him by Nader to­wards the end of his life, when he had be­come truly mon­u­men­tal.

Frieze Mas­ters, in its tent near Lon­don Zoo (and, of course, Frieze it­self, on the south­ern edge of Re­gent’s Park) is a week ear­lier this year and it ap­pears that rather more than half of the 130 or so ex­hibitors are pri­mar­ily Mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary deal­ers, who tend to at­tract most public­ity. To main­tain bal­ance, here, I will look at the older, mas­terly spe­cial­ists.

Both Géri­cault and Delacroix would have rel­ished a vivid 161 ∕8in by 111 ∕2in oil sketch of a prophet’s head (Fig 2) by An­ni­bale Car­racci (1560–1609), who, with his brother and cousin, headed a re­turn to nat­u­ral­ism after the mon­u­men­tal ar­ti­fi­cial­ity of Man­ner­ism. It is so thinly painted on pa­per—since laid down on a panel—that writ­ing clearly shows through. It was from a su­per­an­nu­ated ac­count book— the date 1539 is very leg­i­ble —mak­ing it ev­i­dent that this was a sketch for stu­dio use, rather than any kind of com­mis­sion. The previ- ously un­known work is with Ce­sare Lam­pronti of Rome and St James’s.

Very dif­fer­ent works on pa­per are with the antiquarian book dealer and map spe­cial­ist Daniel Crouch, who is cel­e­brat­ing Lon-

Fig 3: Jo­hannes Kip’s A Prospect of the City of Lon­don, West­min­ster and St James’s Park (about 1726). With Daniel Crouch

Fig 2:

Fig 1: Delacroix by Géri­cault. With Jean-luc Ba­roni. Oil sketch of a prophet’s head by Car­racci. With Ce­sare Lam­pronti

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