Eye on Auctions
The New York auction season resumes next week with Americana and Old Master works of art. Pieces from a number of stellar private collections, new discoveries, and works not previously on public exhibition will be on display during previews starting this weekend. Refer to the websites for schedules, illustrated catalogues--and sometimes videos, blogs, press releases and lectures about highlights.
A single catalogue encompasses three Americana sales, each including works from the esteemed collection of Eric Martin Wunsch. Important Silver to be sold Jan 23 features a pair of sauceboats by Paul Revere, and a set of tablespoons he made for Daniel and Mary Turner Sargent of Massachusetts (her father owned the famed "House of the Seven Gables"). Among the American Furniture & Folk Art on Jan 24 are paintings and sculptures from the wide-ranging Kristina Barbara Johnson Collection. In addition to wonderful porcelains, the Jan 27 auction of Chinese Export Art contains a China Trade album and a large oil on canvas commemorating the visit of the first official envoy of the British Empire to the Celestial Kingdom.
On Jan 28, a single-owner sale of Graphic Masterpieces by Goya, with complete sets of the "Caprichos," "Desastres de la Guerra," "Tauromaquia," and "Proverbios," ushers in the Old Masters sessions. Old Master Paintings on the morning of Jan 29 showcases Artimesia Gentileschi's "Self-Portrait as a Lute Player," a number of lovely paintings from the Toledo Museum of Art being sold to benefit the Acquisitions Fund, and several paintings from the Wunsch Collection. That afternoon, a session of Renaissance Art presents more works from Toledo, paintings being sold by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to benefit European Paintings Acquisitions, and an exquisite illuminated "Book of Hours" known as the "Rothschild Prayerbook," recently restituted to the heirs of Max Stern. More Old Master Paintings, followed by Old Master and Early British Drawings & Watercolors on Jan 30 round out the series, to be discussed in a lecture, "Old Masters in Focus," on Jan 26 at 1 pm.
Of special note among the Important Americana offered on Jan 24 is a rare silver handseal for the First Continental (Rifle) Regiment. On the 25th, Visual Grace: Important American Folk Art from the Ralph O. Esmerian Collection, includes pottery, walking sticks, a weathervane, decorated furniture, and drawings by self-taught Alabama street artist Bill Traylor that have been exhibited in various museums, including the recent show at the American Folk Art Museum.
Fine Old Master Drawings on Jan 29--the Tiepolo's may remind you of the recent Venetian Drawings show at the Morgan Library--are followed by Old Master Paintings & Sculpture on Jan 30. The morning session includes spectacular paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, in particular a large close-up by Honthorst of a "Merry Group behind a Balustrade," whose delectable young woman lute player has not been on view since 1883, "Child and Nurse in an Elegant Townhouse," a subtle domestic scene with a complex composition by Jacob Ochtervelt, and what is likely a marriage portrait by Jan Molnaer of himself and his painter-wife Judith Leyster. A special early afternoon session, The Courts of Europe, exhibits princely taste from the Renaissance to the Rococo, notably Boucher's oval painting, "The Sleep of Venus" that belonged to Mme. De Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. Additional Old Master Paintings & Sculpture resume at 3 pm. Antique Carpets and Textiles from Distinguished Collections, including Azerbaijan silk embroideries and a Safavid "Topkapi" prayer rug, and final sessions of Old Master & 19th Century Paintings & Drawings follow on Jan 31.
There are nice selections of Fine American & European Furniture, Silver & Decorative Arts on Jan 23 and Maritime Paintings and Decorative Art on Jan 24, where a late 18th-early 19th century pine figurehead of a "Baroque Gentleman" upstages the ships' portraits and other maritime paraphernalia.
A manuscript draft of an historic document hidden in the archives of the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York will be offered in a single-lot sale on Jan 26. Until now, only the 1775 printed version was known, and authorship of the plea for reconciliation, addressed to the people of Britain from the American Continental Congress, was attributed to Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. Based on the handwriting, this newly discovered 12-page draft is said to be by Robert R. Livingston, with edits by Lee; as such it suggests that Livingston played a greater role in the American Revolution than previously believed. Proceeds from the sale will fund an endowment for the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan's oldest house, which was built as a summer home in 1765, served as Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and became a museum in 1904. It is one of the notable New York historic houses open to the public (morrisjumel.org)
A delightful sale of 20th Century Illustration on Jan 23 presents unique works on paper ranging from sweet nursery alphabets to racy pin-ups, including many drawings by "New Yorker" and other magazine cover artists and cartoonists, iconic book jackets and illustrations, early advertisements by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), inscribed drawings by Maurice Sendak, extending the Americana Week theme up to the present day.
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