Friday, January 19, 2018

Sotheby’s Old Masters 31 January in New York

Sotheby’s will offer property from the gallery and private collection of Otto Naumann, the preeminent dealer of Old Master and 19th century paintings, in a dedicated auction on 31 January in New York. After almost four decades of collecting and dealing Old Masters, Mr. Naumann is stepping down from his gallery space to allow his son, Ambrose, to establish Ambrose Naumann Fine Arts as a new venture.

Mr. Naumann is selling his collection of paintings and sculpture, including Dutch, Italian, and Spanish masterpieces by Giovanni Baglione, Carlo Dolci, Bartholomeus van der Helst, Antonio Mancini and Joaquín Sorolla which have decorated his gallery space and apartment for years. The collection will be on view alongside our public exhibitions of Old Master Paintings and Drawings from 26 – 31 January 2018.

Dealing in fine art for over 30 years , Otto Naumann is regarded as one of the most respected figures in the international art scene. A celebrated scholar, earning his master's degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in Art History from Yale, Mr. Naumann is renowned for his exceptional eye for quality and for determining difficult attributions. In 1981, he wrote the authoritative monograph on Frans van Mieris (1635 - 1681) and helped organize the 2005 exhibition on the artist at the Mauritshuis, The Hague and in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Having made a name for himself specializing in Dutch and Flemish art, Mr. Naumann expanded the breadth of his trade in 2007 to include Italian, French, Spanish and British works as well as 19th century painting .


Giovanni Baglione’s impressive and exquisitely painted Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness  (estimate $400/600,000) is a recent addition to the artist’s oeuvre. The painting was rediscovered in a private collection where it had remained since 1970, bearing a later inscription in the lower right corner, reading CARRACCI . Despite the inscription, the hand was recognized as that of Giovanni Baglione, and the painting was sold with the correct attribution at Sotheby’s London in 2012.

While in the hands of Mr. Naumann, cleaning not only revealed its rich surface and intricate detail but also the artist’s own signature and date, hidden beneath the old varnish: EQ IO. / BALGIONVS / .R.P.1610. Baglione, who had been knighted four years earlier in 1606, prominently proclaimed his title, EQ , a shorthand for Eques or “knight,” while the R.P. stood for “Roma Pinxit,” or perhaps “Roma Pictor.”

With its starkly lit figure and pronounced chiaroscuro effect, it is believed to be an early reaction to Caravaggio’s revolutionary style in Rome. Baglione's distinctive hand can be discerned in many of the details, from his characteristic way of painting the hands, feet and eyes, to the outlines of the nails. While he is known to have treated the subject of Saint John numerous times over the course of his care er, the present work is by far th e largest and most accomplished.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida’s Viejo castellano sirviéndose vino ( The Old Man of Castille ) (estimate $200/300,000) is one of a group of major life - sized figural compositions that the artist painted in 1907 . This series can be divided into themes: portraits of Spanish royals, members of Sorolla’s family and, as with the present work, depictions of regional people. Sorolla began the series in El Pardo, north of Madrid, and later Segovia, before traveling further north to Léon, where he made extensive oil sketches and drawings of local life. These studies shaped the present work and others of the period, which demonstrate the artist’s interest in ethnography and variations in Spain’s regional dress, customs, and culture.

The “old man” in the present work is enrobed by multiple layers of a heavy brown cloak , which frames his grey stubbled and sun - reddened skin, as a bandaged hand emerges to pour wine from a green and yellow glazed clay pitcher. Beyond its impressive technique and scale, this monumental portrait of the common man connects Sorolla to the foundational giants of Spanish art history, most notably Velázquez, who always sought ways to communicate the essence of his country in his art .

Giovanni Bilivert’s small -scale painting on copper, Venus, Cupid and Pan (estimate $300/500,000), with its highly -polished surface, displays the artist’s superb sense of refinement and delight in vivid colors  In this intimate painting we see Venus, the goddess of love, dipping her feet in a shallow, crystalline pond; n aked save for her pearl headdress and earrings, she is assisted by Cupid, wearing only a silk sash, who tenderly washes her left leg. Standing in the background is Pan , who holds Venus’s crimson cloak and a shepherd’s crook, the attribute by which the god of the wild and protector of flocks is normally identified. Throughout the painting, Bilivert brilliantly conveys different text ures; the fleshy body of Venus contrasts with the still -like water around her legs ; whilst the sheen of her hair, like that of Cupid's, offsets the shiny pearls of her headdress.

Highlights will be on view in Los Angeles 24 -25 October, San Francisco 1 -2 No vember, and London 1 - 7 December ahead of its New York exhibition 26 – 31 January 2018 . 5 

More on Sotheby's Master Paintings Evening Sale 1 February 2018

The Evening Sale property is led by
a pair of still life paintings from the pioneering female painter Fede Galizia (estimate $2/3 million). Celebrated for her still-life painting in Italy and throughout Europe in the first quarter of the 17th century – particularly ones depicting fruit – the present pair is a testament to her sensitive approach to subject matter and acute eye for detail. Galizia’s pared-down compositions rarely depict more than two varieties of fruit and are never overfilled or cluttered , typifying her naturalistic style . 

At the turn of the 17th-century, still lifes of fruit alone were uncommon in Italy, the earliest known being the

Basket of fruit by Caravaggio in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan. While it’s possible that Fede was influenced by the intense realism of Caravaggio’s works, her innovative approach to th e genre was unique and unpar alleled during her lifetime, inspiring generations of artists to follow. 

Safra’s collection also features a monumental landscape by Jan Wijnants, one of the most important Dutch landscape painters of the second half of the 17th century.

Painted in collaboration with Adriaen van de Velde, Wooded Evening Lands cape With A Hunter And His Dogs, was inspired by the dunes of Haarlem , the artist’s native city ($2/3 million) . 

The work is further distinguished by its provenance, having been formerly in the collection of the most important collecting dynasties in modern times. The picture entered the Viennese Rothschild collection by 1873 , and thus descended in the family for decades. Displayed in the aptly named ‘Gemäldesaal’ or ‘Museum’ room of Baron Anselm von Rothschild (1803 -1874 )’s palatial home in Vienna, it hung alongside the family’s most important pictures by the best names from the Dutch Golden Age. 

When the contents of the family’s palace in Vienna were targeted and seized by Nazi authorities in 1938, the collection – including the present work – was removed to the central depot of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna  where it was earmarked for Hitler’s planed museum-complex in Linz.

Following the conclusion of the War, the picture was recovered by The Allied Forces’ celebrated Monuments Men from the Nazi storage facilities in the Salt Mines in Alt Aussee before being restituted to Baroness Clarice de Rothschild in 1947  The Wijnants was one of 11 key paintings from the Rothschild collection for which the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna selected in exchange for the grant of a license to export the remainder of the collection to New York. Under the restitution laws introduced in Austria in 1998, the Rothschild family was able to reclaim the ir collection, and so the Wijnants was returned to the family, and sold at auction in 1999 to the present owner.

Dated to 1777, Women In Classical Dress Attending A Young Bride (estimate $400/600,000) is one of Joseph - Marie Vien’s finest works in the neo -classical style, and the first of four major works painted by the artist during his tenure as Director of the French Academy in Rome. Though history and religious painting dominated his early career, Vien went on to become one of France’s earliest proponents of neo-classicism – catering to the growing demand for antique and classical subjects. 

Commissioned by the Comte d’Angiviller, Directeur des Bâtiments du Roi, in 1776, the painting was shown at the Paris Salon of 1779  the first and only museum exhibition to include the work.

Vanvitelli’s View Of The Ripa Grande in Rome, is a beautifully -rendered depiction of the Eternal City's main river port (estimate $800,000/1.2 million). 

One of the leading fathers of the Italian vedute, the present oil on canvas provides a glimpse into daily life at the end of the 17th century. The right side of the painting shows the Via Marmorata, along which marble from the quarries at Carrara was transported, while on the opposite bank are the main ramps of the port, near the Customs House, with the tower of the church of the Santa Maria in Torre behind it. In the distance is the Church of Santa Maria in Capella, the only building in this group that is still standing to this day. Signed and dated to 1690, it is one of the earliest Italian views by the artist, and one of the finest to remain in private hands. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist

Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot, Woman at Her Toilette, 1875–1880, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago, Inv.  no.  1924.127, Photo courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY
Berthe Morisot, Woman at Her Toilette, 1875–1880, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago, Inv. no. 1924.127, Photo courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY [NOTE: The Barnes Foundation and Dallas Museum of Art presentations only]

The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Québec City, Canada), the Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia, PA), the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, TX), and the Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France) have announced an internationally touring exhibition dedicated to one of the revolutionary artists of the French Impressionist movement, Berthe Morisot (1841–1895). Co-organized by the four institutions, Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist will focus on the artist’s figure paintings and portraits through approximately 50 to 60 paintings from both public institutions and private collections. This tour will be the first dedicated presentation of Morisot’s work to be held in the United States since 1987, the very first solo exhibition of her work to be mounted in Canada, and the first time since 1941 that a French national museum will devote a monographic show to this important painter.
One of the founding members of the French Impressionists, Berthe Morisot was celebrated in her time as one of the leaders of the group, and her innovative works were coveted by dealers and collectors alike. Despite her accomplishments, today she is not as well-known as her Impressionist colleagues, such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Co-curated by Sylvie Patry, Chief Curator/Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Collections at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris and Consulting Curator at the Barnes Foundation, and Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art, Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist will both illuminate and reassert Morisot’s role as an essential figure within the Impressionist movement and the development of modern art in Paris in the second half of the 19th century.
The exhibition traces the exceptional path of a female painter who, in opposition to the norms of her time and social background, became an important member of the Parisian avant-garde from the late 1860s until her untimely death in 1895. Through her portrayal of the human figure, Morisot was able to explore the themes of modern life that came to define Impressionism, such as the intimacy of contemporary bourgeois living and leisure activities, the importance of female fashion and the toilette, and women’s domestic work, all while blurring the lines between interior and exterior, public and private, finished and unfinished.
Organized semi-chronologically, the exhibition will examine Morisot’s painterly innovations and fundamental position within Impressionism across the arc of her productive, yet relatively short life. The exhibition explores the following periods and themes of Morisot’s work:
  • Becoming an Artist – The introductory section looks at Morisot’s formative years, when she left behind the amateur artistic practice associated with women of her upbringing and established herself as both a professional artist and a key contributor to the emerging Impressionist movement in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
  • Painting the Figure en plein air – A selection of Morisot’s plein-air paintings of figures in both urban and coastal settings highlights her innovative treatment of modern themes and immersive approach that integrates her subjects within their environments through brushwork and palette.
  • Fashion, Femininity, and la Parisienne – The importance of fashion in constructing modern bourgeois femininity forms a central part of the artist’s paintings of the 1870s and 1880s. This interest is revealed in Morisot’s creations and adaptations of quintessential Impressionist subjects, such as elegant Parisian women shown at the ball or dressing in their homes, and the leisure activities associated with suburban parks and gardens.
  • Women at Work – Morisot’s depictions of the domestic servant—the majority of whom she employed in her household—reflect her own status as a working professional woman. Her interest in painting these women raises questions about bourgeois living and the intimacy of the shared domestic setting.  
  • Finished/Unfinished – The increasing immediacy of Morisot’s technique, and her radical experimentation with the concept of finished and unfinished in her work, exposes the process of painting and furthers the indeterminacy between figure and setting begun in her plein-air work.
  • Windows and Thresholds – Morisot’s interest in liminal spaces is revealed in her paintings of subjects such as doorways and windows. Within these often spatially ambiguous settings, Morisot’s masterful evocation of light and atmosphere, the most ephemeral of her subjects, serves to anchor the human figure within these transitory spaces. 
  • A Studio of Her Own – Morisot’s late career paintings from the 1890s often depict her personal  domestic space, which served as both studio and setting. During this period, Morisot reached a new expressiveness in her painting as figures become increasingly enveloped by their surroundings. The vibrant, saturated palette and sinuous brushwork that she adopted in these final works demonstrate their visual and symbolic affinities with the emerging Symbolist aesthetic of the time.
Exhibition Organization:

Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist is organized by Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Barnes Foundation, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Musées d’Orsay and de l’Orangerie. The exhibition is co-curated by Sylvie Patry, Chief Curator/Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Collections at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris and Consulting Curator at the Barnes Foundation, and Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Exhibition Catalogue:

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue that emphasizes the importance of understanding Morisot’s work in light of her dialogue with contemporary artistic movements—Impressionism, but also Post-Impressionism and Symbolism. Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist makes an important contribution to the field, with interdisciplinary scholarship and a specific focus on Morisot’s pioneering developments as a painter first, woman second. Edited by Sylvie Patry, an English- and French-language catalogue will be co-published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. and the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, in association with the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec.

A separate French-language catalogue will be published by the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. The book contains essays by Morisot scholars including the exhibition co-curators Sylvie Patry and Nicole R. Myers; Cindy Kang, Barnes Foundation; Marianne Mathieu, Musée Marmottan; and Bill Scott, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as a chronology by Amy Wojciechowski with additional research by Monique Nonne,

Berthe Morisot, Self-Portrait, 1885, oil on canvas. Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet, Fondation Denis et Annie Rouart,

Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, RF 2849 © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Berthe Morisot, Winter, 1880, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, 1981.129;
Berthe Morisot, In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight), 1875, oil on canvas, Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet, Fondation Denis et Annie Rouart, Photo by Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY; 


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Christie’s New York in the Spring of 2018

In spring of 2018, the sale of The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller  will take place at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries in New York. In keeping with David Rockefeller’s pledge to direct the majority of his wealth to philanthropy and provide for the cultural, educational, medical, and environmental causes long supported by him and his wife, all of the Estate’s proceeds from the sales across a wide variety of categories will be donated to the Rockefeller family’s charities of choice. As such, it will be the most important philanthropic auction ever held.

Impressionist & Modern Art Highlights

A Picasso Rose Period masterpiece, executed in 1905, Fillette à la corbeille fleurie is a highlight of the collection (estimate in the region of $70 million). Rich in pathos in its depiction of bohemian life at the turn of the 20th century, this rare work is a technical tour de force of draftsmanship and atmosphere. The painting maintains a storied provenance; it was acquired in 1905 by brother and sister, Leo and Gertrude Stein, and passed to Alice B. Toklas upon Gertrude’s death in 1946, where it remained throughout Alice’s lifetime for another 21 years. In 1968, David Rockefeller formed a group of important art collectors to acquire the renowned collection of Gertrude Stein. Drawing slips of numbered paper from a felt hat, David Rockefeller drew the first pick in the syndicate, and he and Peggy were able to acquire their first choice of the Young Girl with a Flower Basket, and placed it in the library of their 65th Street New York townhouse.

The most important work by Henri Matisse to be offered on the market in a generation is Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, painted in Nice in 1923 (estimate in the region of $50 million). The subject of the odalisque, the reclining female figure, held special significance for Matisse as it presented the opportunity to measure his art against past masters. Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, with its symphonic synthesis of pattern and form, has long been counted among the greatest of Matisse’s paintings in private hands. This sumptuous painting resided in the living room of Peggy and David’s Hudson Pines home. Odalisque couchée aux magnolias is also the highest estimated work by Matisse to ever be offered at auction.

Monet’s beloved garden of Giverny was a source of unending inspiration. Nymphéas en fleur is among the largest scale, most brilliantly colored, and vigorously worked canvases that the artist executed – a glorious tribute to the natural world (estimate in the region of $35 million). This work belongs to a group of paintings Monet painted in a burst of untrammeled creativity between 1914 and 1917, as Europe plunged into the chaos of war. Upon the recommendation of Alfred Barr, the first director of the Museum of Modern Art, Peggy and David Rockefeller visited the Parisian dealer Katia Granoff and purchased the present painting in 1956. “One, which was almost certainly painted in the late afternoon and in which the water is a dark purple and the lilies stand out a glowing white, we bought immediately,” David Rockefeller recalled in Memoirs.

Paul Signac - Portrait de Félix Fénéon

Also on offer: significant works by ,Georges Seurat, Juan Gris, Paul Signac, Edouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Jean Baptiste and Camille Corot, among others.

 American Art

Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), George Washington (Vaughan type), 1795. Oil on canvas. 29 x 24 in (74 x 61.3 cm). Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000.
Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), White Sentinels, 1942. Tempera on board. 15 x 22 in (38.1 x 55.9 cm). Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000.

Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Cape Ann Granite, 1928. Oil on canvas 29 x 40 in (71.1 x 102.2 cm). Estimate: $6,000,000-8,000,000
Fairfield Porter (1907-1975), The Schooner I, 1965. Oil on canvas. 37 x 54 in (94.2 x 137.5 cm). Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000. 

Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Master Paintings on 1 February 2018

An exceptional selection of European paintings, spanning from the 14th to the 19th centuries will be offered in Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Master Paintings on 1 February 2018 in New York.

The February sale features a rare and striking portrait of Cristoforo Segni, Maggiordomo to Pope Innocent X  painted and signed by Velazquez and Cremonese painter Pietro Martire Neri Martire (estimate $3/4 million). Painted around 1650, during Velazquez’s second trip to Rome, the work is one of a series of portraits painted for the Court of Pope Innocent X on the occasion of his Jubilee, the most famous being Portrait of Innocent X (1650, Galleria Doria Pamphilij). 

Having remained hidden in the present collection since the mid -20 th century, the painting was recently featured in a dedicated exhibition to Velazquez at the Grand Palais, Paris in 2015. Velazquez’s highly expressive and distinctive brushwork is clearly evident in areas of the canvas, in particular the head of the sitter.

A Wooded River Landscape with a Landing Stage, Boats, Various Figures and Village Beyond is a stunning work by 17 th -century Flemish master Jan Bruegel the Elder, and stands as one of the finest river landscapes by the artist in private hands (front page, middle, estimate $2.5/3.5 million). A primary example of his work on copper, the painting’s vibrant colors, intact glazes and thick impasto are evidence of its remarkable condition, and its meticulous attention to detail further contributes to the captivating jewel -like effect so prized in works by the major Flemish mas ter. 

The February auction offers an impressive pair of Venetian views by Canaletto, whose inimitable success in capturing the architecture of 18th -century Venice has made him the undisputed leader of the genre (estimate $3/4 million). Most likely completed in England in the 1740s, the pair offers waterfront views of two of the most recognizable façade in La Serenissima:

the Church of the Redentore

and the Prisons of San Marco. 

While there are other known views of the Church of the Redentore by Canaletto, the present view of the Prisons of San Marco is a unique composition for the artist of which no other version is known.

The sale includes a monumental painting by leading Italian Renaissance master Titian and his workshop. One of only two known versions of the subject by the artist, Saint Margaret Sotheby’s New York Evening auction of Master Paintings on 1 February 2018 will offer a monumental and striking painting by Titian and his workshop. One of only Titian, and Workshop  two known versions of the subject by the artist, Saint Margaret (estimate $2/3 million) was first recorded in the English royal collection of King Charles I (1600 – 1649), where it was displayed alongside the King's most highly prized works at Whitehall Palace. 

The present  work is being offered at a particularly poignant time, as the Royal Academy of Art’s upcoming exhibition Charles I: King and Collector (27 January – 15 April 2018) seeks to reunite the King’s treasures that were dispersed following his execution. 

During his reign, Charles I competed ferociously with the great powers of Europe to assemble an art collection rivaling to all others. Born into a family with deep ties to art, Charles I had an immense appreciation of art history and traveled across Europe to acquire works by some of the greatest artists, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Correggio. It was in the Privy Lodging Rooms at Whitehall Palace – a series of private apartments – where Charles kept his most highly- prized paintings. 

According to inventory records and notes from 1639, Saint Margaret is listed as hanging in the First Privy Lodging Room, an apartment so distinguished that no other could rival in splendor, where it was displayed alongside the King's collections of Titians, including the early 

Jacopo Pesaro Presented to Saint Peter (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp),

Venus with an Organ Player

and Alonso de Avalos addressing his Troops (both Prado, Madrid), and three other remarkable works currently hanging at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. 

Soon after the King's execution in 1649, the decision was taken by Parliament to sell off his grand collection. Much of the collection was sold quickly to raise funds for the state, while others were sold to pay off the King’s debt. 

Alexander Bell, Worldwide Co -Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department, commented: (images added)

“The inventories and valuations of Charles I’s collection compiled mainly in 1649 are unique document s that provide fascinating insights into the relative value of the works at this particular moment in time. The inventories record Saint Margaret at £100 – a little less than the more celebrated paintings by Titian, such as Venus with an Organist (Prado, Madrid) at £150 and the Allegory of Alfonso d’Avalos (Louvre, Paris) at £250, but more than the vast majority of works in the 3 enormous and storied collection, including the now-world-famous
Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci at £30.
The most renowned pictures in the King’s collection were valued considerably higher:
Raphael’s Madonna della Perla (Prado, Madrid) was recorded at £2,000,
and Correggio’s Jupiter and Antiope (Louvre, Paris) at £1,000.”

 As one of two versions of the subject of Saint Margaret signed by Titian – the other being in the Museo del Prado, Madrid – it seems probable that the works were painted alongside one another , with Titian utilizing his workshop to block in areas of the painting and finishing the key areas himself. The expressive power of Titian’s later style is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the atmospheric depiction of the city of Venice on fire in the background. On the skyline, the campanile of St Mark glows in fiery orange and pinks, whilst the stormy waves of the sea are animated by dark blue and green brushstrokes. As is characteristic with Titian’s late works, the darker tones, fiery landscape and swift handling of the paint in the present work create a sense of drama that is entirely fitting to the narrative. 

Titian depicts the legendary virgin martyr, Saint Margaret, as she emerges unscathed from the body of Satan, who had appeared to her in the form of a dragon and swallowed her whole. The cross she held in her hand irritated the monster’s insides and the dragon burst open allowing her to escape unharmed. Painted in a myriad of colors, her luminous light green tunic with its bright white sleeves and rose pink veil stand out from the earthier, brown based tones of the rest of the canvas. The dragon that occupies the bottom register of the canvas is predominantly painted in brown and blackish hues and the only flashes of color are the strokes of red and white delineating his vicious mouth. Depicted in dramatic contrapposto, the implied movement in Saint Margaret’s twisting body contrasts to the solidarity of the rock behind her , emerging from the picture plane as an impressive figure, trampling the dragon underfoot and holding her crucifix aloft.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rueland Frueauf the Elder and his Circle

Belvedere, Vienna
23 November 2017 until 11 March 2018

This exhibition at the Upper Belvedere focuses on the works of the Late Gothic painter Rueland Frueauf the Elder and his workshop. It has been organized to display the panels from Frueauf’s Salzburg altarpiece following the painstaking conservation work undertaken by the Belvedere.

These works are at the heart of the exhibition about the generation of artists preceding Albrecht Dürer , who are so rarely placed in the spotlight . Rueland Frueauf the Elder was probably born around 1440/50. He first lived and worked in Salzburg and later on, from the 1480s, in Passau, where he completed the painting of the town hall, taking over from the official city painter. Frueauf the Elder, who died in Passau in 1507, can be regarded as one of the greatest Late Gothic painters in the German-speaking area. 

At the heart of the exhibition are eight altarpiece panels by the artist. These scenes from the Passion and the Life of the Virgin were painted in 1490/91, presumably for St. Peter’s Church in Salzburg, and they are the starting point for qu estions of attribution concerning the many works associated with the Frueauf circle.
Rueland Frueauf the Elder, Portrait of the painter Jobst Seyfried, around 1495 Photo: Johannes Stoll, © Belvedere,

A further masterpiece by the artist in the Belvedere’s collection is the portrait of a man, whom recent discoveries in the archives have identified as the Passau-based painter Jobst Seyfrid.

“For this exhibition, we were able to bring togethe r more works by the Frueauf group than have ever before be en shown at one place. This opens up new perspectives on these extremely valuable paintings that have long preoccupied art history scholars and interested museum visitors,” said Björn Blauensteiner, the curator of the exhibition.

Besides the oeuvre of Frueauf the Elder, the exhibition also presents a selection of works by artists from his circle. These include several examples by the Master of Großgmain that are striking for their exquisite painting technique. 

Thanks to generous loans from Klosterneuburg Monastery art collections, all of the known works by Frueauf’s son, Rueland Frueauf the Younger, are also on display, including the famous

Legend of Saint Leopold. This first juxtaposition of the younger Frueauf’s oeuvre with his father’s work means that both painters can be compared in detail and promises plenty of food for thought conc erning questions surrounding the Frueauf circle. 

“The combination of works by the Frueauf father and son offers Klosterneuburg Monastery the unique opportunity to re-evaluate major works f rom its own picture gallery and see them in a fresh light. I am delighted about this temporary ‘family reunion’ after over 500 years,” said Wolfgang Christian Huber, custodian of the art collections at Klosterneuburg Monastery. 

The Salzburg altarpiece panels showing scenes from the Passion and the Life of the Virgin are in the Belvedere’s collection and have been painstakingly conserved in recent years. 

What was different about this project was that it was partially carried out as a public restoration at the Upper Belvedere and was thus made accessible to visitors. 

One particular challenge for the conservators was that the panels, originally painted on both sides, had been separated in the 1920s and 1930s. For a long time, this was common practice in order to be able to present both sides of the panels at the same time. However, the paintings were left very fragile as a result. 

A major aim of this conservation project was therefore to improve the stability of the paintings and secure the layers of paint. A further objective was to respectfully draw out the beauty of Rueland Frueauf the Elder’s unique art. 

Stella Rollig, CEO of the Belvedere, said: 

“The altarpiece panels by Rueland Frueauf the Elder are an example of the outstanding achievements of the Belvedere’s Conservation Department. The exhibition is the output of years of meticulous work – almost detective work – that has safeguarded the fu ture existence of these masterpieces from the Late Gothic period.” 

In addition to the eight paintings from the Salzbur g altarpiece, many other works from the Frueauf group were examined in preparation for the exhibition. 

The underdrawings hidden beneath layers of paint were brought to light using infrared reflectography, revealing original ideas that had actually been abandoned centuries ago. 

These paintings were also examined using X-rays and pigment analysis, ultraviolet light, raking light, and also under the microscope. The results are presented in the exhibition and published in the accompanying catalogue, the first monograph about Rueland Frueauf the Elder for over seventy years. 

The exhibition is curated by Björn Blauensteiner and has been organized in collaboration with Klosterneuburg Monastery.

Meister von Großgmain, Hl. Ambrosius, 1498

Rueland Frueauf the Younger, Baptism of Jesus, beginning of the 16th century
Painting on spruce wood, 74 x 43 cm