Tragic love, dramatic lighting, and thinly veiled eroticism in Koller’s autumn auctions

Art Daily
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Jacob Jordaens, Venus and Adonis. Circa 1615. Oil on canvas. 119 × 152 cm. CHF 140 000/200 000
Jacob Jordaens, Venus and Adonis. Circa 1615. Oil on canvas. 119 × 152 cm. CHF 140 000/200 000

ZURICH.-Koller’s Old Masters & 19th Century Paintings auction on 25 September features a recently rediscovered “Venus and Adonis” by Jacob Jordaens, considered along with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck as one of the most important Flemish Baroque artists (lot 3029, CHF 140 000/200 000). This tender and masterful depiction shows the goddess holding her dying lover, and its probable provenance can be traced all the way back to an auction in Amsterdam in 1696. Also fresh to the art market after an absence of several decades is a dramatically lit composition depicting a penitent Mary Magdalene by the main figure of Utrecht Caravaggism, Gerrit van Honthorst. After an artistic pilgrimage to Rome, Van Honthorst and several of his contemporaries brought the style and techniques of Caravaggio back to their native Utrecht, influencing a generation of northern artists (lot 3031, CHF 150 000/250 000).

Hubert Robert’s “Washerwomen by a river with temple ruins in the background” has a distinguished provenance: it was very likely painted for an iconic landmark on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, the Hôtel du Plessis-Bellière (lot 3075, CHF 180 000/250 000). Two related paintings by Robert are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other significant works in the auction include a still life by father-and-son collaboration Cornelis de Heem and David Cornelisz. De Heem (lot 3046, CHF 120 000/150 000), and another by Haarlem painters Pieter Claesz. and Roelof Koets (lot 3030, CHF 80 000/120 000). Italian painting from the 14th century is well-represented by religious works from the circle of Catarino di Marco da Venezia (lot 3002, CHF 80 000/120 000), and a previously unpublished work by Florentine artist Giovanni del Biondo (lot 3005, CHF 90 000/140 000).

The genre scene by Louis-Léopold Boilly, “Les jeunes époux” (lot 3073, CHF 40 000/60 000) is the sort of charming subject flavoured with thinly disguised eroticism that earned him a reprimand from the French revolutionary Committee of Public Safety in 1794. His punishment was to paint a historical subject, “The Triumph of Marat”, after which he was apparently forgiven. Among the 19th-Century works in the 25 September auction is a landscape by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, which has been in the same Swiss private collection for several generations (lot 3097, CHF 60 000/90 000). Corot maintained close ties throughout his life with Switzerland, his mother’s birthplace, and so it is no surprise that a number of paintings by him can be found in Swiss collections.

Among the Decorative Arts on offer in the 24 September auction is a highly interesting group of porcelain by Meissen and other European manufactories from the Siegfried Ducret collection. Ducret was not only a passionate collector, but also author of several books on porcelain. One of the highlights of the 176-lot sale is a Meissen porcelain plate from the coronation service of August III, King of Poland and Lithuania (lot 1244, CHF 10 000/15 000).