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Flora
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Flora
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Flora

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About the item

William Drosts enchanting Flora was painted during the artists brief stay in Venice during the 1650s and has hitherto remained unknown to scholars.  The work should be considered one of Drosts very best paintings, comparable to his undisputed masterpiece, the Bathsheba in the Louvre (fig. 1). It is a remarkable synthesis of the artists early training in Amsterdam under Rembrandt and the more mature style he developed in Venice, when he came under the direct spell of Titian, to whom this work is a clear homage. Titian's own Flora (fig. 2) is known to have been in Amsterdam in the collection of Alfonso López, a Spaniard in the service of Cardinal Richelieu, but Drost probably did not see it in person. Rembrandt almost certainly did, and Drost would very likely have been aware of the design through drawings and prints of it. It is only once Drost arrived in Venice that he finally would have had direct access to a multitude of works by the Venetian master. Drost's interpretation of the subject thus successfully combines elements from the most important school of painting from the Dutch 17th century with the legacy of Venice's greatest artist. \nVenetian art of the 16th century was certainly quite widely known in artistic circles in Amsterdam when Rembrandt and Drost were active. Several works are recorded in some of the leading collections of the day and the dissemination of prints meant that Italian art was studied with some ease and with great interest by northern artists. Venetian depictions of courtesans by masters such as Paris Bordone and Palma Vecchio (fig. 3), were a repeated source of inspiration, as both the Louvre Bathsheba and the Young Woman in a brocade gown in the Wallace Collection, London, would suggest.2 Drosts Young Woman with Pearls in Dresden, particularly in its depiction of the puffed sleeve hanging over the balustrade, is a clear response to Titians Portrait of a Man, formerly thought to depict the poet Ariosto which is today in Londons National Gallery but which also belonged to López.3 That picture was certainly known to Rembrandt too, for his Self Portrait, also in the National Gallery, London, once more pays direct homage to Titians portrait.4 \nDrost's Bathsheba in the Louvre is signed and dated 1654, and so was painted very shortly before the artist's trip to Italy. It is of little surprise then that the present Flora should display a number of striking similarities to the Paris picture, and these extend well beyond the fact that both figures are shown bare-breasted. Both compositions are characterised by a circular movement which traces its motion through the arms. The figures are shown close to the picture plane and fill the pictorial space. The heads are tilted in the same alluring and seductive way. The expansive white sleeves glow in the warm light which allows the highlights of the hair to shimmer and emerge from the darkness behind the heads. Similar brushwork can be found in the ex-Rothschild Man with a plumed beret sold in these Rooms in 1997.5\nThe rediscovery of the present work allow us to re-evaluate Drosts stylistic development in Italy, for his Italian oeuvre reveals a strong affinity for the Tenebrist style prevalent in Venice at the time. Indeed, his Italian paintings have at times been confused with the work of the German artist Johann Carl Loth, who was active in Venice and perhaps best exemplifies Venetian tenebrism.  As Dr. Jonathan Bikker, author of the catalogue raisonné dedicated to Drost, notes, it had been assumed based on the extant paintings from the artists Italian sojourn that Drost had lost interest in the 16th century Venetian prototypes which had so informed his style while he was still in Amsterdam. However, the present Flora, which was almost certainly painted in Venice, directly contradicts that idea and confirms that Titian continued to be a crucial source of inspiration.\nWe are grateful to Dr. Jonathan Bikker for endorsing the attribution following first-hand inspection and for his kind assistance in cataloguing the work.\n\n1. See J. Bikker, Willem Drost, A Rembrandt Pupil in Amsterdam and Venice, Yale 2005, pp. 55-57, cat. no. 2, reproduced in color.\n2. Ibid., pp. 69-72, cat. no. 8, reproduced in color.\n3. Ibid., pp. 67-69, cat. no. 7, reproduced in color; see P. Humfrey, Titian, The Complete Paintings, Bruges 2007, p. 61, cat. no. 24, reproduced in color.\n4. P. Lecaldano, L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt, Milan 1969, p. 109, cat. no. 233, reproduced.\n5. Bikker, op. cit., pp. 81-84, cat. no. 14, reproduced in color.
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Drost, Willem

condition

The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in beautiful condition. It has been restored and looks attractive. The lining to the canvas at this point is allowing the cracking to be slightly raised in the background, but less so in the lighter colors of the figure. The work is probably clean; the paint layer certainly has an attractive patina and does not need to be further cleaned. When viewed under ultraviolet light, one can see that some old varnish may remain. A few spots of restoration can be seen within the breast, chest and shoulder of the figure, the largest of which are two 1 inch square areas of restoration in her upper chest and an area in her bicep on the left. There is another spot in her breast measuring half an inch square. There are a dozen or so tiny dots of retouching in her face. There is a mark across her wrist in the lower left, and three or four other restorations here. There is also a spot on the wrist of the arm on the right. All of these restorations are minor, and they are certainly the least one can expect of a work from this period. It is doubtful that any earlier restorations would become apparent if the painting were cleaned. However, although the cracking is slightly raised, no restoration is recommended at present. The work can easily be hung in its current state. "This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

dimensions

39 by 33 in.; 99 by 84 cm.

provenance

By descent in a European family.

artist_range_end

1659

artist_range_start

1633

creator_nationality_dates

Amsterdam 1633 - 1659


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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