At Christie’s | Women in Art

Posted in Art Market by Editor on June 6, 2021

From the press release, via Art Daily (3 May 2021) for the upcoming sale . . .

Women in Art, Sale 19614
Christie’s, Paris, 16 June 2021

Lot 10: Anne Vallayer-Coster, Vase of Flowers and Grapes on a Stone Ledge, 1781, oil on canvas, unlined, 18 × 15 inches. Estimate: 150,000–250,000€.

For the first time, Christie’s in France will hold a sale dedicated to women artists, covering all mediums—paintings, sculptures, books and autographed letters, photographs, engravings, design, jewels, and fashion (Sale 19614). The panorama will pay tribute to women artists working over five centuries, of different nationalities, all of whom have marked art history, from the 16th to the 21st century.

Alice Chevrier, specialist in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, and Bérénice Verdier, specialist in the Old Master Paintings Department, are in charge of the sale and note: “We are very proud to organise in France the first sale dedicated to women artists. In recent months, we have watched as events devoted to women artists were held by museums, including the exhibition Peintres femmes, 1780–1830 at the Musée du Luxembourg; the upcoming exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Elles font l’abstraction; and the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses), Female Artistic Creation, created by the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay through their collaboration with the Aware association. It seemed therefore a good moment for Christie’s Paris to organize a sale with this focus for the art market and we have had great support from consignors and colleagues. We have been able to assemble an impressive selection of works from different periods and mediums, which should widen the appeal to many collectors, with estimates ranging from 200 to 300,000 Euros. We hope that the sale will throw light on the careers of these women artists, some of whom have remained in the shadow for too long!”

This sale focuses on artists from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries who have often been treated unequally in art history. In the Old Master Paintings section is a beautiful painting by Louise Moillon (1610–1696), Still Life (1636), the highlight of the sale, estimated at €300,000–500,000. A leader in the genre of fruit still lifes, Moillon is one of the few female painters from 17th-century France whose work is now well identified. Still LIfe is dated and signed, allowing scholars to situate it precisely in a body of work with only sixty-nine works attributed with certainty to the artist. The meticulous realism of Moillon’s works, the precise touch, full colors, and the rendering of the velvetiness or transparency of the fruits are a testament to the painter’s mastery of her craft, inherited from Flemish art and acquired by her familiarity with the work of a group of Dutch painters working in Saint-Germain.

Further highlights include a delicate autumnal composition by Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744–1818), Vase of Flowers and Grapes on Entablature (estimate: €150,000–250,000), executed in 1781 during the artist’s mature period, after her admission to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. In an excellent state of conservation, the work has never been presented at auction and has not been exhibited since its last appearance at an exhibition in London in 1954. An artist of great modernity recognized by her peers, Vallayer-Coster inspired the Impressionists, notably Fantin La Tour.

Lot 104: Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Madame Charles Mitoire, née Christine-Geneviève Bron (1760–1842), avec ses enfants, allaitant l’un d’eux, 1783, pastel on paper laid down on canvas, 36 × 26 inches. Estimate: 150,000–250,000€.

Another important work in the section is a beautiful Portrait of a Woman by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842). Counted among the greatest portraitists of her time, the artist was successively the painter of the Court of France, the Kingdom of Naples, the Court of the Emperor of Vienna, and finally the Emperor of Russia. This is a rediscovery, as the work has never been published or offered for sale (estimate: €80,000–120,000). Collectors should be seduced by this beautiful testimony of the artist’s Parisian period.

Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614), an Italian painter who imposed her talent and erudition in the 16th century as the first woman artist elected to the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, offers here in full-length a portrait of a young boy with a dog (1585–90) a fine example of her art. A preparatory drawing for this painting is in the Uffizi Museum in Florence. The portrait is estimated at €60,000–100,000.

The sale, which will also feature a section devoted to decorative arts, includes a refined marquetry tray made by Rosalie Duvinage (Veuve ‘Widow’ Duvinage). It is one of the most original productions of the 1870s. Influenced by Japanese art, both in its technique and its iconography, it testifies by its forms to the eclecticism characteristic of the late 19th century.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Department will offer a magnificent eight-page letter by George Sand (1804–1876) addressed to Gustave Flaubert, estimated at €6,000–8,000. The writer changed her name to that of a man to ensure her work was more widely read. This letter-confession is one of the most beautiful and moving of Sand’s correspondence: “Your letters fall on me like a rain that wets, and makes what is in germ in the ground grow right away. . . .” Collectors will also be able to purchase a letter which has never been published from Edith Piaf (1915–1963) to her lover, the Italian-French actor Yves Montand (estimate: €2,000–3,000), which she wrote to him while on tour in the North of France. She announced their breakup, after receiving a telegram from Montand, saying, “You may be right—I am too young for you— Wishing you with all my heart the happiness you deserve.”

In the field of science, women have also worked in a revolutionary way, and Marie Curie (1867–1934) is perhaps one of the most important figures, especially thanks to her 1903 thesis devoted to radioactivity, for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, six months after its publication. Scientific bibliophiles will certainly be aware of the historical value of the book, offered in its first edition and signed by her hand (estimate: €10,000–15,000).

Dorothea Tanning (1910–2012) is represented in this sale through her engraved masterpiece: The 7 Spectral Perils (€25,000–35,000). Produced in 1950, these seven surrealist lithographs in exceptional condition will be presented in their original portfolio. The edition includes only 50 copies, some of which are already in the collections of the greatest international museums (including MoMA, Reina Sofia, Smithsonian American Art Museum).

Other important figures of the 20th century include Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002), Sarah Morris (b. 1967), Dora Maar (1907–1997), Sheila Hicks (b. 1934), and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908–1992). The latter’s work La ville, la nuit, estimated at €30,000–50,000, is one of the highlights of the 20th-century section. This work comes from the collection of Max-Pol Fouchet, a renowned man of culture, who was a poet, novelist, art historian, literary and music critic. This work was a gift from the artist to Max-Pol Fouchet after their meeting on the shooting of a documentary dedicated to the artist.

Fashion will also be represented with a few pieces by the daring avant-garde couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, from her personal archives and recorded by her granddaughter Marisa Berenson, as well as a few dresses by the famous Madame Grès, including a draped dress from the 1930s that was exhibited in the major retrospective La couture à l’œuvre at the Bourdelle Museum in 2011. The art of jewelry will also be present with a splendid necklace, made by the surrealist artist Leonor Fini, estimated at €10,000–15,000. It is a true sculpture-necklace stylizing ‘Horns’ in yellow gold, wearable as a head jewel or a torque necklace.

Finally, Christie’s will give carte blanche to Inès Longevial (b. 1990) who will occupy an exhibition space in parallel with the pre-sale exhibition. Longevial executes drawings and paintings in resonance with impressions, feelings, sensations from which she naturally extracts the palette. The artist approaches her memories in color and gives form to candid and absorbed faces. If, in the artist’s work, faces often become the site of whimsical ornamentation, finding their roots in a patchwork of bright colors through, this new series tends towards a greater simplicity and plays above all on chromatic variations. The silent attitude of this woman, declined in several ranges of colors and caught in a convoluted set of arms is inspired by several women artists such as Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini. The exhibition is created in collaboration with the Ketabi Projects gallery.

Artists and writers presented in the sale: Carole Benzaken, Claude Cahun, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Marie Curie, Dadamaino, Sonia Delaunay, Veuve Duvinage, Lavinia Fontana, Leonor Fini, Sarah Morris, Maria Lai, Marie Laurencin, Vernon Lee, Suzette Lemaire, Dora Maar, Louyse Moillon, Berthe Morisot, Meret Oppenheim, Alice Paalen, Alicia Penalba, Maria Pergay, Edith Piaf, Jiang Qiong Er, Bettina Rheims, Ayako Rokkaku, Niki de Saint Phalle, George Sand, Claire Stansfi, Dorothea Tanning, Boi Tran, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Renée Vivien.

Sweden Nationalmuseum Acquires Two Portraits by J. E. Alphen

Posted in museums by Editor on June 6, 2021

Johann Eusebius Alphen, Portrait of a Lady in a Blue Dress, 1767, watercolour and gouache on ivory
(Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, photo by Anna Danielsson)

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Press release (2 June 2021) from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

Nationalmuseum has acquired two portraits of women created by the Austrian court miniaturist Johann Eusebius Alphen in 1767. The portrayals of the models are unusually vivid, and the artist has even been carefully rendering the setting. The two portraits are unique because few signed works by Alphen have survived, as the artist was just 31 years old when he died.

In the mid-18th century, if a young artist wanted to further educate himself in miniature painting, Paris was one of the most interesting places to be. The city’s leading name was Jean-Baptiste Massé, a member of the academy and royal court painter. He revitalised miniature painting with his loose and unconventional brush technique. By this time Massé was no longer active as an artist, because he had started to have problems with his eyesight around 1740 and therefore declined to take on any more royal commissions.

Although Massé had essentially ceased painting, he would continue to play an important role as a teacher. In February 1764, the Austrian Johann Eusebius Alphen (1741–1772) came to Paris and was introduced to the French miniaturist. Yet Alphen was not the only student who quickly rose to favour. That same year, he faced competition from the Dane Cornelius Høyer, who also became a lodger with Massé until the master’s death in 1767. The two young artists, who were even the same age, each acquired the same technique of using loose brushwork. Alphen in particular became a virtuoso, as evidenced by the two recently acquired portraits of women. On their faces, he has combined a refined line and dot technique with a fluid brushstroke to depict clothing and other accessories. White highlights reinforce the sense of materiality and illusionism. This approach is reminiscent of pastel painting, in which Alphen was also skilled. As with his teacher Massé, the red and yellow dyes have faded into carnation, contributing to the unusually bright, powdered look of the faces. Only blue and grey halftones remain.

Johann Eusebius Alphen, Portrait of Countess van Lebel, 1767, watercolour and gouache on ivory
(Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, photo by Anna Danielsson)

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Both portraits are signed and dated “Peint par Alphen 1767.” It is unclear whether they were painted while the artist was still in Paris or recently after his arrival in Vienna. The younger lady, dressed in red, sits at a table with notes and a pen in front of her, as well as a book in one hand. The Canadian Mozart specialist Cliff Eisen of King’s College London has floated the theory that this young woman is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl, who was five years older than the composer. Alphen’s portrait has a direct counterpart in a Swiss private collection. This preliminary study purportedly has ownership-related links to other Mozart portraits. Even if this were not the case, Alphen met the Mozart family on several occasions. The first time was in Brussels in 1763, then three years later in Paris, and finally in Vienna in 1767–68. Their last encounter was in Milan in 1771, where Alphen had a one-on-one rendezvous with Mozart, who mentions their meeting in a letter to his sister Nannerl.

So who is this young woman in red? It is undoubtedly the same model as in the sketch, but is she Maria Anna Mozart? The portrait acquired by Nationalmuseum bears the signature “Comtesse von Lebel.” No countess with this name is known to have lived, but could the name could be a euphemism for the Baroness Berchtold von Sonnenburg, the real Nannerl? In truth, this woman bears little resemblance to other famous representations of Mozart’s sister from around the same time. While this little mystery may never be answered, we can still appreciate the fact that Alphen’s two portraits are unusual examples of the artist’s great virtuosity as a miniaturist.

Nationalmuseum receives no public funding for the acquisition of artworks but relies on donations and gifts from private individuals and foundations to enrich its collections. The acquisition has been made possible by generous contributions from Hjalmar and Anna Wicander’s donation funds.

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