Raphael Drawing and Its Eighteenth-Century Provenance

Posted in Art Market, resources, the 18th century in the news by Editor on October 22, 2009

As reported this week by various news outlets (including The Guardian, The Telegraph, and Reuters), a drawing by Raphael is up for auction in December. The Financial Times notes that “it comes to the block after the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge was unable to raise funds over the summer to purchase the drawing by Private Treaty Sale.” As reported by Artdaily.org:

1Head-of-a-Muse-by-Raphael-001LONDON —  Christie’s will offer an exceptional drawing by Raphael (1483-1520) at the Old Masters and 19th Century Art Evening Sale on Tuesday, December 8, 2009 in London. Head of a Muse was drawn by the artist as a study for a figure in Parnassus, one of the series of four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican which was commissioned by Pope Julius II and which was executed between 1508 and 1511. This series is widely considered to be the artist’s greatest masterpiece. The drawing will be offered at public auction for the first time in over 150 years at Christie’s in December and is expected to realize £12 million to £16 million. The current record price for an old master drawing sold at auction is £8.1 million which was realized by Michelangelo’s Risen Christ at Christie’s in July 2000, and by Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse and Rider, also at Christie’s, in July 2001. . . .

The drawing was first recorded in 1725 when it was engraved by Bernard Picart to be published in Impostures Innocentes. At the time it belonged to the celebrated Dutch collector Gosuinus Uilenbroeck (d.1741) who assembled one of the most important private libraries of the period, together with a number of splendid old master drawings. The drawing was subsequently in the collections of Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), the distinguished painter who was also one of the most celebrated old master drawing collectors, and the future King William II of Holland (1792-1849) who assembled one of the finest art collections in Europe.

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Carolus de Aquino, "Sacra exequialia in funere Jacobi II. Magne Brittanniae Regis" (Rome, 1702)

Carolus de Aquino, "Sacra exequialia in funere Jacobi II. Magne Brittanniae Regis" (Rome, 1702)

From an eighteenth-century vantage point, it’s the provenance that’s especially interesting. Lawrence’s ownership is notable, but my hunch is that the “celebrated” Dutch collector, whose name is more commonly spelled Gosuinus Uilenbroek, is largely unknown even to dixhuitièmistes. Perhaps the sale of the drawing will help make him more familiar. The British Library’s Database of Book Bindings — a remarkable resource, incidentally — includes several examples from Uilenbroek’s library.

— Craig Hanson

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