One of the two artworks is a study of one of the most ambitious artistic projects of the 16th century.
Art lovers can look forward to two outstanding auctions of Old Masters and 19th-century paintings at Dorotheum, in Vienna, later this month. Both catalogues will feature some very interesting rediscoveries.
Among the Old Masters offer – to be auctioned on October 25 – is a drawing by Raphael that served as a study for his most important work commissioned by the Vatican: the fitting-out of the stanze (or Raphael's rooms), the papal flats in the Apostolic Palace.
From 1508 onwards, Raphael, commissioned by Julius II, decorated four rooms with large-scale frescoes, the most famous being The School of Athens in the Pope's study. This study takes us to the Sala di Costantino, which was the largest room used for official audiences. The frescoes here depict the events that converted the emperor Constantine to Christianity, starting with the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, in which he defeated his adversary Maxentius under the sign of God, who had appeared to him before the battle.
The study shows part of the central scene of this fresco, in which a soldier of Maxentius, already on the verge of drowning in the Tiber, tries to defend himself on his horse on the ground, while Constantine approaches from the left. Having last been sold at auction in 2015 with the attribution 'Italian school, 16th century', the study has since been identified as being by Raphael himself.
Like his original patron, Raphael did not see this major project through to completion, as he died in 1520. The work, instead, was continued by his pupils. One of them, Polidoro da Caravaggio, later used the back of this sheet for his own drawings, depicting, among other things, a column and a man with his back to it.
Raphael's study will be the last of the auction's 140 lots to be called, though there are many other wonders to discover before then.
One of these is the canvas Ecce Homo, signed and dated 1644, by Jusepe di Ribera, known as 'Lo Spagnoletto', which has been described in the past as "one of the best works by this brilliant artist". This is because the painting shows the artist at the height of his creative powers, with his typical naturalism, characterized by a reduced color palette and skillful use of light and shadow.
Also worthy of note is the panel of the Virgin and Child on the throne with Saint Michael and Saint Sebastian, attributed to the Tuscan Renaissance painter Filippo d'Antonio Filippelli. Filippelli, whose work was strongly influenced by the workshops of Ghirlandaio and Rosselli, was mainly active as a fresco painter. Several of Filippelli's frescoes from Tuscan churches and chapels can be compared with the present work.
Among the more than 200 19th-century paintings – on sale on October 24 – there is also an exciting rediscovery.
The painting in question is La Coda del Diavolo by the Italian painter Fausto Zonaro, depicting a group of young Venetian girls playing the very popular 'devil's tail game'. From 1892 to 1911, Zonaro served as court painter to the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II and was friends with his eldest son, who added many of Zonaro's works, including this one, to his collection. After the revolution, the prince took the painting with him to Europe. For a long time, it was considered lost and was known only through a photograph, until it was recently rediscovered in a private German collection.
Venetian views feature repeatedly in the work of Italian classicist Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, and one of them is now up for auction at Dorotheum. It shows the Grand Canal with the Palazzo Grimani on the left. The painting is undated, but it must have been painted after 1814, when Venice came under Austrian rule and the Palazzo Grimani was used as a post office, as reflected by the Habsburg insignia and the words 'I.R.POSTE' on the building.
Finally, we shouldn't forget to mention the Panorama of the Mangart summit in the Julian Alps by the eminent Carinthian landscape painter Markus Pernhart. Exploring and depicting the Alps was a central theme for Pernhart, who in the 1850s invented four-part panoramic views to give the viewers the feeling of being there themselves.
The sales will take place on October 24 and 25 at the Palais Dorotheum, Dorotheergasse 17, Vienna. Previews will be accessible from October 14.