Artcurial announces highlights included in its prestigious sale devoted to Old Master & 19th Century Art

Art Daily
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Polidoro Caldara, known as Polidoro da Caravaggio, Joseph jeté dans le puits par ses frères, pen and brown ink, bistre wash and white gouache highlights, on black pencil lines, 21 x 27cm. Estimate: €180,000 - 220,000.
Polidoro Caldara, known as Polidoro da Caravaggio, Joseph jeté dans le puits par ses frères, pen and brown ink, bistre wash and white gouache highlights, on black pencil lines, 21 x 27cm. Estimate: €180,000 – 220,000.

PARIS.- On Tuesday 16 June, Artcurial will, as every year, be holding its grand sale of Old and 19th-Century Masters. This auction will be presenting over 200 works, including paintings by 17th-century Dutch Masters, drawings by Raphael’s gifted pupil Polidoro da Caravaggio, and a rare sculpture by French artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi that foreshadows the design for the Statue of Liberty. The House will be presenting the collection of Baron François Empain, great-uncle of Edouard-Jean Empain, known as “Wado”. This important collection assembled by Baron Empain is entitled Eloge de la folie (In Praise of Folly).

Old paintings
The Dutch Masters will be particularly prominent, with Rue d’un village animée de figures, a magnificent oil on copperplate by Jan Brueghel l’Ancien, a key figure of the Flemish School and more notably of the Antwerp School. It is estimated at €200,000 – 300,000. One of the foremost pioneers in naturalist landscape painting in the Netherlands of the early 17th century, Salomon van Ruysdael, will be represented by Scène de bataille sur un pont, an oil on canvas estimated at €80,000 – 120,000.

Where French artists are concerned, we find the neoclassical painter Antoine-Jean Gros with Portrait d’Antoine-César Becquerel (estimated at €50,000 – 80,000). Unlike official portraits of great Empire figures, this painting is very simple and subdued and focuses entirely on the model’s expression and the intensity of his gaze, thus bearing witness to the close relationship between Baron Gros and Becquerel, a cousin of the painter Girodet to whom Gros was very close. A well-known physicist, Becquerel was one of a long line of scientists (his grandson Henri would later discover radioactivity and receive the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903). Dating from the 1820s, this portrait shows him at the start of his career, with glowing eyes and dishevelled hair that signal not only his own genius but also that of the great Romantic painter who portrays him here.

The collection of Baron F. Empain, Eloge de la folie
Baron François Empain (1862-1935) was the brother of the great industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph Empain. A financier and politician, he was a senator from 1913 to 1920. He was the great-uncle of Edouard-Jean Empain, known as “Wado” (1937-2018). This collection is entitled Eloge de la folie (In Praise of Folly).

Monomaniacs, madmen, frenzied dancers, drinkers and oddly-behaved animals make frequent appearances in this collection, making it genuinely cohesive and uniquely illuminating. Collectors will be especially delighted to discover Le roi boit by the painter Pieter II Brueghel, son of Pieter l’Ancien. This oil on oak panel is estimated at €400,000 – 600,000. They will also encounter Erato, muse de la Danse amoureuse accompanied by Danseuse avec le doigt sur le menton in white marble, from the studio of Antonio Canova (estimated at €100,000 – 200,000). Another outstanding piece is an oil on canvas, Le roi boit, from the studio of Jacob Jordaens (estimated at €60,000 – 80,000).

Around the late 15th and early 16th century, the subject of Folly acquires a fresh significance in the history of thought in the Netherlands and the Germanic countries. The Fool is increasingly prominent as an iconographic figure. Although Erasmus is the most famous author to have dealt with Folly, he was not however the first. This iconography would later become more widespread, from vivid scenes of Flemish festivities in the 17th century, to 18th century scenes that were less widespread and more codified, but no less lacking in disarray and whimsicality at a time when scientific research was being conducted into the various human temperaments and the means of recognising and measuring them. The apotheosis was probably reached in the 19th century, with Romanticism and its emotional turmoil, the depiction of lunatics and the birth of psychoanalysis. Illustrations of folly over the centuries are also characterised by the way they command the viewer’s attention and interrogate the viewer about his or her own folly, the borderline between wisdom and unreason never having been clearly defined. Baron Empain’s collection, to be put up for sale on 16 June by Artcurial, illustrates the complexity of this subject that was so dear to the Old Masters.

Old drawings, including a major ensemble of Italian 16th and 17th-century drawings
Artcurial will be offering a selection of drawings by the greatest artists, such as Joseph jeté dans le puits par ses frères by Polidoro da Caravaggio. This important artist from the Italian Renaissance was Raphael’s pupil and worked with him on, among other things, the Vatican loggias. Caravaggio was also an architect and one of the artists for whom the technique of drawing was central to his career. A mason when he first came to Rome, Polidoro initially worked at the construction site for Raphael’s Loggias (1514-1519) as a manual labourer before allying himself with the painters and joining Raphael’s team. Joseph vendu par ses frères, from the cycle devoted to the story of Joseph, is also attributed to him. Our drawing picks up the same story some 10 years later. The scene of Joseph cast into a well and then extricated is interpreted as prefiguring the laying of Christ in the tomb and his subsequent resurrection. Thisvibrant drawing is estimated at €180,000 – 220,000.

18th-century drawings, the personal taste of a Brusselsbased collector
Artcurial will also be presenting a collection of 18th-century drawings from a Brusselsbased collection. The artists represented include great names in French, German and Italian art such as Watteau, Oudry, Lancret, Géricault and Mengs. Studies of seated women and various individuals by Jean-Antoine Watteau (estimated at €40,000 – 60,000), the drawing of the Jugement de Pâris by Anton Raphaël Mengs (estimated at €40,000 – 60,000) and several studies of male nudes by Théodore Géricault (estimated at €25,000 – 35,000) are some of the very best pieces reflecting the taste of this Brussels-based collector that Artcurial will be putting up for auction on 16 June 2020.

19th-century sculptures
Sculpture will also feature strongly, especially in the form of La Liberté by French artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. This is one of the rare terracotta copies, and shows one of the stages in the design of the world-famous Statue of Liberty that overlooks the Port of New York. The source of the design for this figure of a woman with raised arm holding a flaming torch goes back to the late 1860s and the project for a colossal statue for a lighthouse on the Suez Canal in Egypt. The excessive cost of that monument meant it was never built, but the research carried out for it would later be used as a starting point by Bartholdi when Edouard de Laboulaye entrusted him with making another monument commemorating American independence, as a gift from France to the United States. The terracotta we are presenting illustrates one of the stages in Bartholdi’s progress towards the final composition. The colossal copper statue on Liberty Island was officially unveiled in 1886. This sculpture by Bartholdi is estimated at €40,000 – 60,000.

A rare terracotta by Jules Dalou will also be put up for auction. Dated 1872, from the artist’s London period, it is a preparatory model for the version shown at the 1873 Exhibition. Dalou was by now a father, and his output during this period consisted mainly of intimate pieces, including various poignant mother-and-child scenes depicting the maternal love shared by all social classes. Our original terracotta, estimated at €100,000 150,000, is a touching and rare testimony to Dalou’s talent, which was to fire British artlovers with enthusiasm in the late 19th century.