Lon­don mas­ter class

The cap­i­tal’s win­ter art sales fea­tured works by Ti­tian, Jor­daens and Pi­eter Brueghel the Younger as well as some un­usual sculp­tures

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

Last sum­mer, Christie’s took £44.9 mil­lion for Lot and His Daugh­ters by Rubens (Coun­try Life, July 20, 2016). By com­par­i­son, the Lon­don Old Mas­ter win­ter sales seemed rather thin, es­pe­cially after the ne­go­ti­ated sale of Christie’s star, Land­seer’s Monarch of the Glen, but, in fact, both Christie’s and sotheby’s had in­ter­est­ing things, as well as qual­ity, to of­fer.

I have a very soft spot for Ju­dith Leyster (1609–60); who could not if they know the se­duc­tive Wash­ing­ton self-por­trait in which she sings to us the tune that we are to sup­pose is be­ing played by the street mu­si­cian she paints (Coun­try Life, March 7, 2012)? Christie’s had a sec­ond self-por­trait (Fig 2), in which she is older and more dig­ni­fied, as be­fits both a suc­cess­ful artist and the re­spectable mother of five. the sub­tle han­dling of the black dress and lace col­lar put one in mind of Frans Hals, who is thought to have been her mas­ter.

the ex­is­tence of this 121⁄8in by 85 ⁄8in oval paint­ing had been guessed at, from an en­try in the in­ven­tory made in 1668 at the death of her wid­ower, Jan Miense Mole­naer, which listed such a por­trait in pride of place, but is am­bigu­ous as to whether it was by him or her. Re­mark­ably, it turns out to have been in the same fam­ily, that of a Dutch mer­chant set­tled in Lon­don, since about 1700. I hope that it will find an­other happy home, now that it has been sold for £485,000.

the most ex­pen­sive lot at Christie’s was 37 7⁄8in by 343⁄8in The Holy Fam­ily with an Angel by Ja­cob Jor­daens (Fig 1), which sold for £1.8 mil­lion, and, at sotheby’s, two paint­ings went over the £2 mil­lion mark, a beau­ti­fully pre­served ver­sion of Pi­eter Brueghel the Younger’s 195 ⁄8in by 311 ⁄8in Re­turn from the Ker­messe (Fig 4), which re­alised £2,577,500, and a dou­ble por­trait by ti­tian and his stu­dio (Fig 3), which went for £2,108,750.

For once, the Brueghel was not copied from his fa­ther, although sev­eral groups were ‘bor­rowed’ from other artists. the com­par­a­tively sober four-fig­ure group on the left, for in­stance, came from Marten van Cleve. Might it rep­re­sent a lawyer or some such tak­ing ad­van­tage of his neigh­bours’ dis­trac­tion to do a cun­ning deal with the lo­cal squire?

the dou­ble for­mat is rare in Re­nais­sance por­trai­ture and it has been sug­gested that the

Fig 1 above: The Holy Fam­ily. £1.8 mil­lion. Fig 2 top right: Ju­dith Leyster self-por­trait. £485,000. Fig 3 right: Dou­ble por­trait by Ti­tian. £2,108,750. Fig 4 below: Re­turn from the

Ker­messe. £2,577,500

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