On Wednesday, February 27, Freeman’s will hold European Art & Old Masters: 500 Years, a finely curated auction of fine art dating from the late 15th century through the early part of the 20th. With 44 lots in all, the auction offers a refined selection of portraits, Venetian vedute, horse pictures, allegorical and religious scenes by prominent artist such as Fréderic Soulacroix, Federico del Campo, Sir Alfred Munnings, Cornelis Saftleven, among others.
A rare depiction of Madonna and Child by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage is among the sale’s highlights. “Nursing Madonna” (Lot 5, estimate: $150,000-200,000), depicts the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the Infant Jesus, and is one of 10 works attributed to the Master; most are held in important museum collections such as the Louvre, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Art. The name “Master of the Embroidered Foliage” was coined in 1926 by German art historian Max Jakob Friedländer, who likened the artist’s renderings of foliage to the repeated pattern of stitches in embroidery. The composition of the present lot is based on the comparable figures of Rogier van der Weyden’s “Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin,” completed between 1435-1440 and now at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The present lot was widely exhibited, and during the 1920s belonged in the collections of Sir Francis Beaufort Palmer and Calouste Gulenkian. Ruth Farkas, who served as President Nixon’s Ambassador to Luxembourg, gifted the painting to New York University.
Two quintessential works by Sir Alfred James Munnings (British, 1878-1959) will also take center stage. Lot 39, “Irish Ponies in a Grassy Lane” (estimate: $300,000-500,000) and Lot 40, “Two of Them” (estimate: $200,000-300,000) both come from a local private collection, and were exhibited at the Brandywine River Museum within the last decade. Munnings was an enthusiastic horseman, and his sporting scenes are among the greatest of the 20th century. “Irish Ponies in a Grassy Lane” was painted at Ringland Hills, Norwich, in 1907, and depicts George Curzon, the artist’s groom during his years at Swainsthorpe. The unique level of detail displayed in the work, combined its early date in Munnings’ Ringland series, makes the lot especially remarkable. Both paintings will travel to London between February 4 and 6 for a preview exhibition in advance of the auction.
“Death, The Reaper” by Cornelis Saftleven (Dutch, 1607-1681) opens the sale (Lot 1, estimate: $8,000-12,000) and comes directly from the Virginia Museum of Arts. Born into an important family of Dutch artists in Gorinchem in 1607, Saftleven’s images of Hell and his satires of Dutch society are considered his most important contributions to Dutch painting. Lot 4, a triptych attributed to the Circle of Jacob de Backer (Flemish, c. 1540-before 1600) is an impressive and monumental depiction of the Madonna and Child with the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Assumption of the Virgin on the wings (estimate: $20,000-30,000).
Additional highlights include “Baigneuses” by Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836-1904), from a series of imaginative mythological compositions which were among the first works by the artist to enter French public collections at the turn of the 20th century (Lot 29, estimate: $20,000-30,000). Lot 14, “The Blacksmith’s Courtyard” (estimate: $25,000-40,000) by Alberto Pasini (Italian, 1826-1899) features four gentlemen caring for their horses at the blacksmith’s shop in Constantinople (modern Istanbul). Throughout his career, Pasini made many journeys to Turkey and Egypt, and his dazzling depictions of bazaars, market places and mosques earned him several honors. “Fin Octobre, Bois de Boulogne” (Lot 30, estimate: $50,000-70,000) by Ivan Fedorovich Choultsé (Russian, 1877-1932), displays the artist’s distinguished ability to render light and texture. The present lot is a quintessential representation of Choultsé’s oeuvre.