Bellotto, Leonardo lead auctions in London

Bellotto, Leonardo lead auctions in London

Bellotto, Leonardo lead auctions in London, July 2021

On July 8th, 2021, “View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi” by Bernardo Bellotto was sold for £10.57 million at Christie’s auction of Old masters paintings, just a few hours after a small drawing by Leonardo da Vinci achieved £8.86 million. The day before, Sotheby’s auction was led by an early seascape by J.M.W. Turner.

Leonardo da Vinci — Head of a bearBernardo Bellotto — View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi — 1745–47

Source: Christie’s, Sotheby’s and own ellaboration. Images: Leonardo da Vinci: “Head of a bear” ·· Bernardo Bellotto: “View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi” (images courtesy Christie’s)

“View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi” is a rather large (133.3 x 234.8 cm.) urban landscape by Bernardo Bellotto, the niece of Canaletto, and often considered a painter one step below Francesco Guardi or Canaletto himself. On the same “Old Masters Evening Sale” at Christie’s, “The Music Lesson”, a small but really good interior scene by Frans van Mieris the Elder more than triple its highest estimate, selling for £3.5 million. Georges de La Tour’s “Saint Andrew” sold for for £4.46 million, while Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Venus and Cupid” doubled its highest estimate, fetching £2.4 million.

Just a few hours before this auction, Christie’s had held its annual “The Exceptional Sale”, highlighted by “Head of a bear” from the collection of Thomas Kaplan. It is a very small (7 x 7 cm.) and rather simple work, but hey, it is a Leonardo da Vinci, and a work by Leonardo will always attract the attention of many collectors, especially if it is signed, as is the case here. Nevertheless, albeit the Leonardo may have been the most coveted artwork at the auction, the most important lot was undoubtedly a manuscript by Isaac Newton, containing revisions to three sections of the first edition of the Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica. It sold for £1.7 million, five times less (!) than the Leonardo, which is a bit absurd.

Joseph Mallord William Turner — Purfleet and the Essex Shore as seen from Long Reach — 1808

The day before, Sotheby’s held its own “Old Masters Evening Sale”, highlighted by “Purfleet and the Essex Shore as seen from Long Reach”, a quite large and quite early (1808) painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner. Of course, the work does not have the almost magical quality of Turner’s later seascapes, such as his famous “Temeraire” or “The Slave Ship”, but it is nevertheless a good seascape by the most important seascape ever, so whoever paid £4.8 million for it has made a good purchase. In the same sale, a family portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck was sold for £2.4 million.

Image: Joseph Mallord William Turner: “Purfleet and the Essex Shore as seen from Long Reach” (images courtesy Sotheby’s)

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