Tiepolo and Giovanni di Paolo spark excitement in underpowered Christies Old Master sale

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Jan Breughel the Elder's Lilies, tulips, roses and other flowers in an ornamental vase on a ledge, with butterflies and beetles (around 1620) Courtesy of Christie's

Fewer, thinner, with just the occasional morsel of excitement.

Such were the sales that the Londons auction houses were serving up as a Brexit-dominated general election loomed. On Tuesday night, Christies held its traditional pre-Christmas evening sale of Old Master paintings. With many would-be sellers of valuable pictures suffering from geopolitical jitters, Christies had to pad out the 44-lot offering with sculptures and drawings. Its Old Masters day sale on 4 December also mixes paintings and sculpture. The rest of the drawings were offered in an online auction ending on 5 December.

“Its difficult in all the traditional markets,” says Hugo Nathan, founding partner of the London-based art consultancy Beaumont Nathan. “There is a problem with supply. This has been exacerbated by Brexit, the election and political concerns. People dont want pounds.”

That said, international buyers like art sales held in weakened currencies. Christies new-style Old Masters evening auction raised £24.2m, 16% up on the equivalent paintings selection last year, with 86% of the lots finding buyers.

The main successes of the evening were an exquisite pair of 15th-century predella panels by the admired Sienese painter Giovanni di Paolo, recently restituted to the family of the Jewish telecommunications magnate Harry Fuld. The paintings had been seized by the Nazis and sold to the Bode Museum in Berlin in 1940.

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Giovanni di Paolo, Saint Clare rescuing the shipwrecked (around 1455-60) Image: courtesy of Christies

The narrative predella paintings at the base of an altarpiece were where late Medieval and early Renaissance Italian artists let their creative hair down, producing scenes with the sort of visual invention that can charm wealthy buyers from any collecting field.

These finely preserved examples, from an altarpiece for the Poor Clares order, now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale gallery in Siena, were thought to date from the 1450s. They respectively showed Saint Clare in full super-hero mode, flying through the air to rescue Pisans from a ship in dark and stormy sea resembling a field of molehills, and the young Saint Clare receiving the clothes of her Order from Saint Francis.

Both sold to the same telephone bidder, who saw off the opposition with a succession of intimidating £400,000 “jump” bids. The shipwreck scene predictably topped the auction with a price of £5.3m—an auction record for the rare Giovanni di Paolo—and The Investiture of Saint Clare took a further £3.6m. They had been respectively estimated to sell for at least £1.5m and £600,000.

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Punchinellos Feasting (around 1780) Image: courtesy of Christie's

The other main excitement was provided by a series of six Punchinello drawings by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. Begun in the 1780s, these enigmatic pen-and-ink studies, in which the Venetian artist uses extended families of the commedia dellarte character to create a carnivalesque running commentary on contemporary life, are much-prized by collectors, but rarely appear on the market.

This group, in fresh condition from the prestigious Brinsley Ford collection, raised £3.9m with Punchinellos Feasting settinRead More – Source