Third Master Paintings Week Reveals London’s Treasures

  • LONDON, United Kingdom
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  • June 03, 2011

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Giovanni Battista Lusieri (1751-1821) Night view of the eruption of Vesuvius. Watercolour on paper, 37.5 x 50 cm. BNB Art Consulting.

Now in its third year and established as one of the key art events in London’s summer calendar, Master Paintings Week is a collaboration between twenty-three leading galleries and three auction houses that takes place from 1 to 8 July 2011. This week of exhibitions and events offers a wonderful selection of European paintings dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries and coincides with the Old Master sales at Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s and another dealer initiative, Master Drawings London (1 to 8 July). Several new discoveries will be featured, emphasising the unrivalled expertise that is to be found in London.

Outstanding amongst the paintings to be offered at auction will be Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, a Stable-Lad, and a Jockey, a masterpiece of both British art and sporting painting, by George Stubbs (1724-1806) at Christie’s on 5 July (estimate: over £20 million). Sotheby’s will offer one of the greatest examples of Venetian view painting ever executed, Venice, a view of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon by Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) on 6 July (estimate: around £20 million). Bonhams’ sale on 6 July will include an outstanding example of 18th century Italian vedute, View of Naples looking south from Portici towards Vesuvius by Pietro Fabris (1740-1792) (estimate: £300,000-500,000).

Canaletto (1697-1768) Piazza San Marco: the North-East Corner, c. 1755 (one of a pair). Oil on canvas, 20 x 41 cm. Dickinson.

Vesuvius erupting is depicted in two stunning view paintings at BNB Art Consulting, new to Master Paintings Week this year, in their exhibition Important Works on Paper. View Paintings of the Kingdom of Naples from the 18th and 19th centuries, while a pair of Venetian views, The Piazzetta: looking East, with the Ducal Palace and Piazza San Marco: the North-East Corner by Canaletto (1697-1768), are on show at Dickinson. The pair is from a noteworthy group of Canaletto’s paintings in the collection of the Neave family for over 200 years. A view of London by a Venetian artist of the same era, Antonio Joli (1700-1777), can be seen at Robilant and Voena in their exhibition of Italian Paintings from the 17th to the 18th Centuries. Also taking part for the first time are Italian dealers Riccardo Bacarelli and Bruno Botticelli and works on view will be a striking portrait on panel in an original frame of Giovanni di Piero Bini depicted with a small dog on his arm, attributed to the Florentine artist Giovanni Maria Butteri (1540-1606).  

Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642) Mankind's eternal dilemma - the choice between Vice and Virtue. Oil on panel, 142 x 210.8 cm. Johnny Van Haeften Ltd.

Italian works are also featured at Derek Johns where visitors will find an oil sketch of the Annunciation by Santi di Tito (1536-1603), a preparatory work for the 1589 Annunciation altarpiece painted for a church in Volterra and now in the Museo Civico in Borgo San Sepolcro, the town where the artist was born. Brothers Leonardo and Emanuele Piacenti will feature two Italian allegorical works, Vertumno and Pomona by Giovanni Giacomo Sementi (1583-1642) and Judgement of Paris by Alessandro Rosi (1628-1669).  

Among the newly-discovered or previously unpublished masterpieces will be Mankind’s Eternal Dilemma – the Choice between Vice and Virtue by Frans Franken the Younger (1581-1642) at Johnny Van Haeften. The importance of this painting has long been recognised although its whereabouts were unknown until last year. An important unpublished work by Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619) will be on show at Whitfield Fine Art. Holy Family with St Catherine is arguably the most refined of a series of Holy Families dating from the early 1580s, sometimes attributed to Annibale Carracci but increasingly recognised as by his cousin Ludovico.  

Philip Mould is devoting an exhibition to Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), examining why paintings lose their attribution or identities and showing how to spot the difference between works by Old Master painters and those of their studios, or copies. Highlights will include Van Dyck’s magnificent last self-portrait, painted by the artist shortly before his death, and the newly discovered c.1630 study for the head of St Joseph. There will be a lunchtime talk on Friday 8 July.  

An entertaining recent discovery from the 20th century will be offered by Ben Elwes, a set of sixteen designs for playing cards by Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949) with such imaginative portrayals of British kings, queens and knaves as Henry VIII with the Tower of London, Guy Fawkes with St Stephen’s Chapel and Charles II holding two spaniels. The whereabouts of Ludus Pro Patria (Patriotic Games) by the French Symbolist painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was unknown until last year. The canvas was cut in two by the artist, the smaller part is in the Toledo Museum of Art, USA, while the larger will now be at Stair Sainty Gallery

Charles Beddington will show several pictures that have recently been rediscovered and not previously seen by the public including The Arch of Trajan at Benevento by Antonio Joli (1700-1777), depicting the celebrated arch constructed by Apollodorus of Damascus in 114 AD being admired by a group of visitors led by Maria Amalia of Saxony, wife of Charles of Bourbon, King of Naples and Sicily. Until recently in a private collection in Chile, The Holy Family with the Infant St John the Baptist by Bartolomeo Schedoni (1578-1615) is being shown by Agnew’s. A previously unpublished work, an unfinished large-scale oil study Man of Sorrows (Ecce Homo), by Van Dyck will be at The Weiss Gallery.  

Colnaghi will be holding an exhibition entitled A Wealth of Detail – The Art of Johann Georg Platzer and Franz Christoph Janneck featuring works by these two Austrian Rococo artists. Both specialised in painting on copper and are famed for their exquisite attention to detail and precise painting technique. There will be a lunchtime talk about the exhibition on Monday 4 July.

Dutch masterpieces will include Portrait of Nicolaes Jansz. Lossy (c.1604-1664), city organist of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam and his wife Marritgen Pieters by Gerard Donck (active 1627-1640) at Richard Green.   The Sufferings of Christ by Bartholomäus Spranger (1546-1611), dating from the 1570s, is a fine example of the artist’s individual style, which blends his Netherlandish roots with the Italian influences from his time at the Papal court. The painting would have been intended as a private devotional picture, possibly for a member of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II’s court and is exhibited by Sphinx Fine Art. The Nurture of Jupiter by Nicolaes Berchem (1620-1683), one of the most important Dutch artists and the most influenced by Italian style, can be seen at Åmells where French works will also be on view including Les Baigneuses, depicting a boy peeking at the three young beauties frolicking in a duck pond with a landscape backdrop of exquisite beauty, by François Boucher (1703-1770). French paintings will also be the focus of an exhibition at Deborah Gage entitled Senses and Sensibility: Intimate Depictions of French Society 1700-1900.

John Mitchell will be holding a loan exhibition of the work of John Thomas Serres (1759-1825), Marine Painter to King George III and one of the most interesting painters of ships and the sea in the age of Nelson. People inspired by the National Gallery’s exhibition Devotion by Design should come and see the fine Italian altarpieces at Moretti, notably a panel by Lorenzo di Credi (c.1456-1537), a fellow pupil of Leonardo.

Seventeenth century flower paintings are always sought after and Fergus Hall will feature a ravishing Still Life of Roses, Peonies, Honeysuckle, an Iris and other Flowers by Abraham de Lust (active mid 17th century), one of only two dozen works known by this rare and gifted Flemish artist. Still life is also on the menu at Rafael Valls who is staging a small exhibition of paintings of game and gamebirds. He will also offer Parrot Tulips, Poppies, Roses, Morning Glory, Narcissi and other Flowers in a Glass Vase with Acorns and a Snail on a Ledge by the accomplished flower and still-life Dutch painter Elias van den Broeck (c.1650-1708). His highly finished technique led to jealous rivals spreading rumours that he stuck real butterfly wings to his paintings. At the resulting court case, Van den Broeck painted a wing in front of an audience to prove his innocence.

While high prices for contemporary art hit the headlines, the steady and discrete collecting of rare, beautiful and important earlier works continues, especially through the highly knowledgeable dealers in the heart of London’s Mayfair and St James’s. Their galleries are a short walk from one another and will be open during Master Paintings Week on Monday to Friday 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm. The auction houses will be open from 9 am to 4.30 pm Monday to Friday, and 12 noon to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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