Wednesday, August 29, 2007


This picture was painted by George Stubbs (1724-1806) born in Liverpool, son of a currier and one of five children. He had a minimum of formal instruction: in 1739 he was briefly a pupil of the minor painter Hamlet Winstanley. This was apparently enough to launch Stubbs off as a provincial portrait painter.

His interest in anatomy and its studies continued all his life and proved to be important not only to his art but also a new contribution to science. In 1766 his
Anatomy of the Horse was published. Beginning in the 1760s was Stubbs’s portrayal of wild animals.

An Associate of the Royal Academy in 1780, Stubbs was elected to full membership in 1781. Stubbs died in 1806, July 10, in poor financial circumstances.

The first recorded owner of the picture, Willoughby Lacy, an actor and theatre manager, fell into debt in later life around 1800 and it was probably at this period that he sold the picture, which then passed into successive illustrious collections before finding its way into the auction rooms : it was sold in 1966 in London for $ 211,600 by Christie's and in 1987, it sold for the then princely sum of £380,000 through the gravel of Sotheby's.

George Stubbs's ''Baron de Robeck Riding a Bay Cob'' (1791), which depicts an aristocrat on a rearing horse, was sold the same year at Sotheby's for $2.42 million. In 2006
a red and white dog painting, fetched £ 960,000 ($ 518,400) at auction at Christie's.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Degas (1834-1917) painted this picture in 1874 as from 1870 he increasingly painted ballet subjects: Dance Class (1871), Dancing Examination (1874), The Star (1876-77). Among other reasons they were easier to sell. Degas’ ballerinas have determined his popular image to his day.

He sketched from a live model in his studio and combined poses into groupings that depicted rehearsal and performance scenes in which dancers on stage, entering the stage, and resting or waiting to perform are shown simultaneously and in counterpoint, often from an oblique angle of vision.

This picture was sold in 1927 for 7200 Pounds.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


This "modello" (oil sketch of 52.1 x 50.5 cm.) of the famous night where Delilah cut off the hair of the Jewish Biblical Judge Samson was made by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Rubens was a prolific XVIIth. century Flemish Baroque painter and a proponent of an exuberant Baroque style that emphasized movement, color, and sensuality.

It was commissioned in 1608-9 by Nicolaas Rockox burgomaster of Antwerp and official of the Guild of the Arquebusiers and the painting hung in his offices until his death in 1640. During this period, it was copied by Frans Francken II (1581-1642) and Jakob Matham (1571-1631). After his death the picture was mentioned in his inventory. It reappeared in 1692 in the inventory of a Guillelmo Potteau and in the property of councillor Segars in Antwerp in 1698-1700. It 1700, the Prince of Liechtenstein said he would buy it and effectively in May 1700 the art dealer Forchoudt sold it in Vienna to an unidentified buyer.

The same month it became part of the collection of Prince Johann of Liechtenstein but was attributed to Jan van den Hoeck(1611 - 1651) , a student of Rubens. Then it stayed in this collection until 1880 when it was sold by Prince Johann II to an unnamed buyer. It resurfaced in Paris in 1929 (with slightly smaller dimensions : - 1cm, actually the tip of the toe of Samson was gone) in the hands of the German art galerie van Diemen (Berlin) but attributed this time to Honthhorst, the Dutch Caravaggist.

The German galery offered it to a German collector from Hamburg named August Neuerburg who asked an advice from a Dr. Ludwig Burchard, an art dealer associated to van Diemen Galerie under the umbrella of the Margraf Concern, until then owned by Albert Loeske. I has just passed to long time employees Jacob and Rosa Oppenheimer. In 1937 the Nazis will close down the galerie.

Dr Burchard pronounced the picture as "original work of Rubens" and on this advice Neuerburg bought it as such in 1930. Many years later in 1967 the modello appeared at a Christie's auction and was sold for $ 70,560 to Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Leyman who endowed it to the Museum of Art of Cincinnati (Ohio) in 1972.

Amusingly enough the National Gallery in London bought another Samson and Delilah by Rubens in 1980 for £2.3 million ($5.4 million)whose autenticity is now contested.


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) co-founded Cubism and produced a monumental 20,000 artworks during his 70-year career. Picasso’s torrential outpouring of work was so extensive and complex that art historians have divided it into individual periods. A prodigy in his youth, Picasso enrolled in advanced classes at Barcelona’s Royal Academy of Art at age 15.

This etching La Maternité was made in 1963, measures 19.5 x 25.4 in. and was part of the collection of William and Edith Goetz, daughter of Louis B.Mayer, founder of 20Th Century Fox. In 1988 the Goetzs sold 29 pictures for a total of $84.9 million, "La Maternité" - not to be confused with the same subject called LA Grande MAternité (35 x 24 in)- fetching $ 24.75 million and bought by Mrs. Amalita Fortabat, heiress of a cement conglomerat of South America, after a severe bidding war with Shigeki Kameyama, art collector from Tokyo.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Chatsworth House is a large country house at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England, originally built by Bess of Hardwick. It is the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, whose family name is Cavendish. The Park is expansive, and the house is backed by rocky hills covered with bracken and heather. The house contains a unique collection of priceless paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculpture and other artefacts. Chatsworth's garden is one of the most famous in England. Chatsworth has been selected as the United Kingdom's favourite country house several times.

In 1984 the 11th Duke of Chatsworth in order to pay some taxes (the family has always been plagued by death duties like many old English aristocratic families), put once more part of the House collection on auction. It was this time the 71 Old Master drawings collection, the most fabulous private collection of Old Masters, which has been formed by the 2rd Duke of Devonshire (1672-1729). The Duke's Trustees had tried to secure a deal with the Treasury and the Minister of the Arts that the nation could like a group of drawings from the collection for £5.5 million net.

The Brisith Museum flatly denied to pay such a price and offered... £ 5,25 million. On £250,ooo the Duke's offer to the nation foundered. Then the Trustees had no other recourse than an auction sale ; it was given to Christie's. Thirty-nine artists were represented at the sale and only three failed to achieve a new record price for the artist. The total of the sale was the incredible amount of £ 21.1 million and it took only two hours to the auctioneer to sell the whole of the 71 lots. For the British Museum it was an humiliation and its refutal to buy for 5,5 million an experience it was not about to forget.

Among the best sales were from above to below :

1)A Portrait of a Scholar or Cleric by Holbein sold to the Getty Museum in Malibu for $ 2 millions.
2) A Portrait of Hendrick van Balen by van Dyck sold to the same Getty for $783,675.
3) Three Groups of Apostles
by Rubens sold for $ 812,700 still to the Getty Museum.
4) A man Threshing Beside a Waggon
by Rubens for £ 765,000 ($1 million).
St Paul rending his garments by Raphael bought by the Getty for £ 1.5 million ($2 million).
6) Saints Peter, Paul, John the Evangelist and Zeno
by Raphael for £ 1.1 million ($1.5 million) bought by the P.Getty Museum .
Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari with drawings by Filippino Lippi bought by the NYC collector Ian Woodner for £ 3.2 million ($4.3 million).
8) A Man Head and Hand by Raphael (1483-1520) bought for £3.5 million ($4.7 million) by Mrs Seward Johnson, widow of the founder of the Johnson & Johnson Cy.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


The Proscribed Royalist, 1651 (made in 1853) is a painting by John Everett Millais (1829-1896) which depicts a young Puritan woman protecting a fleeing Royalist after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the decisive defeat of King Charles II by Oliver Cromwell. The Royalist is hiding in a hollow tree, a reference to a famous incident in which Charles himself hid in a tree to escape from his pursuers.

Born into an affluent middle class family in Southampton, Millais was a naturally talented artist with an engaging, unspoiled personality. He became the youngest pupil ever at the R.A. Schools when he arrived there aged 11, and the youngest to complete the course five years later. Technically he was extremely competent and was the star pupil, but he was criticized for lacking a certain breadth of imagination and vision, which is ironic given his future as a Pre-Raphaelite and a man whose many paintings kindled scandals.

Having started out as a young firebrand, Millais became a stalwart establishment figure - even becoming a baronet always faithful to the dictates of the R.A. He regularly showed at Academy exhibitions and became so influential there that he was made President in 1896, the same year that he died.

This Proscribed Royalist sold for £ 842,000 in 1983 ($1.2 million). It is part of the fabulous collection of Pre-Raphaelites of Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Friday, August 3, 2007


The Star of South Africa, a 47.69-carat old style pear-shaped diamond, was cut from a crystal of 83.50 carats, and is credited with being the diamond that started the diamond rush and turned the tides of fortune in South Africa.

In 1869, it was picked up
by a shepherd boy on the Zandfontein Farm near the Orange River. Schalk van Niekerk, a young farmer who three years earlier had had a stroke of luck with a "pebble" that proved to be a 21.25-carat diamond (the Eureka Diamond), traded the young native for the stone, giving him five hundred sheep, ten oxen, and a horse. It was practically all of Niekerk's possessions, but a few days later in Hopetown he sold the rough crystal for $56,000.

Later, the stone was purchased by Louis Hond, a diamond cutter, and fashioned to what was described as an "oval, three-sided brilliant" and was sold to the Earl of Dudley for $125,000 (or about £25,000). The Countess Dudley wore it as a hair ornament, surrounded by 95 smaller diamonds.

The diamond now resides in the Natural History Museum in London and is part of their permanent collection, donated to them by a private collector who bought it in 1973 in Geneva for
FS 1.6 million ($225,300).

Thursday, August 2, 2007


This drawing made by Vincent van Gogh in April 1882 in La Hague (Netherlands) represents a prostitute. In 1882, Vincent is 29 years old only and cast from his family home : after many professional failures, he then threw himself into his artwork and began a relationship with a low class prostitute named "Sien." She moved in with him and he became deeply empathetic with her own personal suffering. Van Gogh not only lovingly sketched her image, but because she was in poor health, he also took care of all her needs.

In 1886, at the age of 33, Van Gogh went to Paris and mingled with Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Seurat, and other painters who were later considered among the best. However, after two years of working among the Parisian artistic community, Van Gogh's delicate nervous system began to collapse. His friendship with Paul Gauguin was in Van Gogh's own words, "electric."

Many experts personally believe that the intense interest that today's society has for Van Gogh lies not only in the quality and the colours of his paintings, but in his ability to project his turbulent emotional experience onto the canvas. To my humble opinion, it is evident.

"Sorrow" belonged to the Rev. Theodor Pitcairn, son of the founder of the Pittsburgh Glass Cy. Theo Pitcairn became an art collector in 1921 and his first purchases were Mademoiselle Ravoux and Sorrow for $20,000. In 1966, Pitcairn summoned David Bathurst, director at Christie's London, to tell him he wanted to sell Mlle Ravoux and Sorrow on behalf of his foundation, Bryn Athyn, which he had founded in 1947. Sorrow went for $ 32,300 and Mlle Ravoux for $ 441,000. Forty years later, on February, 7, 2005, Sorrow went under the hammer again for $ 680,000. Vincent sold only one painting in his life.