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