$880,000 Ital­ian marvel high­light­ing no­ble­woman’s sui­cide to be auc­tioned

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PARIS: A newly dis­cov­ered can­vas by the fe­male 17th-cen­tury Ital­ian painter Artemisia Gen­tileschi will go up for auc­tion in Paris next week amid a surge of in­ter­est in her ex­traor­di­nar­ily dra­matic work.

Lead­ing auc­tion house Artcu­rial will on Wed­nes­day of­fer the paint­ing “Lu­cre­tia” by Artemisia with a base es­ti­mate of 600,000800,000 eu­ros ($660,000-$880,000), it told AFP on Fri­day.

The paint­ing was dis­cov­ered only re­cently in a pri­vate col­lec­tion in the French city of Lyon, where it had been stored un­recog­nised for some 40 years, Artcu­rial said.

The paint­ing de­picts Lu­cre­tia, the an­cient Ro­man no­ble­woman who killed her­self af­ter be­ing raped, show­ing her bare-breasted and about to plunge a dag­ger into her up­per chest.

The work is “wor­thy of the great mu­se­ums of the world” and “comes to us in an ex­cep­tional state of con­ser­va­tion”, said prom­i­nent art ex­pert Eric Turquin.

It is ex­tremely rare for Artemisia works to come on the mar­ket and the paint­ing is ex­pected to go to a pri­vate buyer.

The cur­rent record for her work is the 2.8 mil­lion eu­ros reached for a paint­ing of Saint Cather­ine sold in Paris in 2017.

Af­ter sev­eral years of ob­scu­rity, Artemisia (1593-1654) is now recog­nised as one of the greatest painters of the post-car­avag­gio era and one of the few to match the great Baroque master’s sense of drama and light.

Her sta­tus as of the few fe­male painters of the pe­riod has also fu­elled a surge of in­ter­est in her work and life.

She was raped by fel­low painter Agostino Tassi and had to un­dergo ex­cru­ci­at­ing cros­sex­am­i­na­tion dur­ing a highly pub­li­cised trial which re­sulted in his con­vic­tion.

The paint­ing of Lu­cre­tia shows a “de­sire to shock, force through a point and find the viewer which is Car­avag­gio-es­que,” Turquin said.

Matthieu Fournier, di­rec­tor of the de­part­ment of old masters at Artcu­rial, de­scribed the de­pic­tion of Lu­cre­tia in the paint­ing as “au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal”.

“The story of Artemisia is just like that story (of Lu­cre­tia) ex­cept that Artemisia de­cided on an­other out­come for her life,” he told AFP.

“She was raped by Tassi who worked with her fa­ther Orazio Gen­tileschi. She de­cided to start a trial so he was con­victed. She won. Thus she gave a des­tiny of sal­va­tion to her life as a woman and ca­reer as an artist,” he added.

In a sign of Artemisia’s grow­ing promi­nence, the Na­tional Gallery in Lon­don will next year stage the first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of her work in Bri­tain, bring­ing to­gether 35 works from around the world.

Separately, an orig­i­nal score of two min­uets com­posed by Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart when he was just 16 are to be put up for auc­tion in Paris later this month, Sotheby’s said on Thurs­day.

The ask­ing price for the hand­writ­ten score dat­ing from 1772 has been set at 150,000200,000 eu­ros ($166,000-220,000), the auc­tion house said.

It goes on sale on Novem­ber 18.

“It’s the only ver­sion,” said Simon Maguire, a spe­cial­ist in mu­si­cal manuscript­s at Sotheby’s in Lon­don.

“Mozart al­ways wrote first ver­sions” with­out sub­se­quently re­work­ing them, “un­like Beethoven who re­vised (his scores) end­lessly,” the ex­pert told AFP.

The min­uets — which are types of dances — have never been pub­lished and the au­to­graph score con­tains a few cor­rec­tions and mi­nor mod­i­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing one or two that might be in the hand of Mozart’s fa­ther, Leopold.

The man­u­script was kept in Salzburg by the com­poser’s sis­ter, Nan­nerl, and later found its way into the vast col­lec­tion of Aus­trian writer Ste­fan Zweig, who was “a leg­endary col­lec­tor of mu­si­cal frag­ments, notably those by Mozart,” Maguire said.

The score, the only one of the com­poser’s “Six Min­uets K.164” to still be in pri­vate hands, are be­ing sold as part of the li­brary of the em­i­nent Swiss bib­lio­phile, Jean-fran­cois Chapon­niere.

Mozart, a child prodigy, be­gan com­pos­ing at a very early age un­der his fa­ther’s guid­ance.

Ac­cord­ing to Sotheby’s, “danc­ing it­self too was a great pas­sion of the com­poser, to such an ex­tent that (his wife) Con­stanze Mozart could re­mark... ‘as great as Mozart’s ge­nius was, he was an en­thu­si­ast in danc­ing, and of­ten said that his taste lay in that art, rather than in mu­sic’.”

On Novem­ber 27 and 28, a por­trait of the 13-year-old Mozart is also go­ing up for sale at ri­val auc­tion house, Christie’s, again in Paris.

It is one of the very rare con­tem­po­rary por­traits of the com­poser still in pri­vate hands and the bid­ding price has been set at 800,000-1.2 mil­lion eu­ros.

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