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The Ring (Engagement)

In 1962, Roy Lichtenstein transformed the intimate moment of engagement into a thundering blast. With his audacious early masterpiece The Ring (Engagement), Lichtenstein delivered a critical crescendo at the height of the Pop Art era, cogently revealing the vicissitudes of American civilization by means of vernacular imagery appropriated directly from the heart of a universal cultural iconography. Mining public idealism toward the cultural constructions of love and its structural manifestations, The Ring (Engagement) is at once an immediately arresting and exhilaratingly complex crystallization of the style and themes that enveloped Lichtenstein’s oeuvre for the rest of his life. The years 1961 and 1962 marked the genesis of Lichtenstein’s pioneering series of paintings based on scenes of love and war from popular comic books, whose powerful graphic impact and narrative drama remain the most groundbreaking pictures from his career. Widely exhibited in a number of the artist’s most prominent museum retrospectives—from Lichtenstein’s first survey at the Tate Gallery in 1968 to his most recent that travelled to Chicago, Washington, D.C., London, and Paris in 2012-13—The Ring (Engagement) is highly regarded as a thrilling, monumental cornerstone of the artist’s output. Moreover, having resided in only two private collections in the past 53 years, the painting is a prized exemplar of the Pop icon's highest achievements in the medium of painting. When asked on the occasion of his 1968 Tate Gallery exhibition where he derived the imagery of The Ring (Engagement), Lichtenstein responded, “It was actually a box in a comic book. It looked like an explosion.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, 1968, p. 12) At an exceptionally impressive scale that magnifies the instant of proposal to epic proportions, while evoking the cinematic frame of a comic strip in its sprawling horizontality, The Ring (Engagement) is explosive in dynamism and elemental force, gripping each viewer in its pictorial exuberance and conceptual gravitas. As is archetypal of the artist’s most resonant paintings, Lichtenstein’s The Ring (Engagement) oscillates between the high emotive content of the rhapsodic imagery and the detached, readymade nature of his borrowed mass-reproduced comic-book imagery. In the artist’s own words, “I was very excited about, and interested in, the highly emotional content yet detached, impersonal handling of love, hate, war, etc., in those cartoon images.” (the artist cited in an interview with John Coplans, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 52) With sharp focus and a clear acuity for such simplified modernist precepts as line, color, and shape, Lichtenstein’s The Ring (Engagement) harnesses the affective power of culturally pervasive signs and symbols by means of the highly generalized imagery that acts as its communicative agent. Though intentionally universal in their imagery, content, and legibility, Lichtenstein’s comic paintings of the early 1960s retain a sly autobiographical undercurrent; the subjective significance of his seemingly objective, impersonal signs resonate with highly charged meaning. Lichtenstein turned to comic-book depictions of war concurrent with his love paintings, drawing on his personal experiences in the U.S. army—after entering service in 1943, the artist began his combat operations in France in 1945, continuing tactical operations in Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland before returning home to Fort Dix in 1946 after learning his father had fallen ill. If his participation in the war inspired such renowned paintings as Mr. Bellamy (1961), Bratatat! (1962), Live Ammo (Take Cover) (1962), and Whaam! (1963), it is logical to deduce that his love pictures of the same time period were similarly informed by a private dimension of his life. Paintings of romance such as Masterpiece (1962) and M-Maybe (1965) make specific reference to painters through the narrative lens of his female protagonists—heroines who either fawn over the genius of their artist lovers or distress over the painter’s occupation in the studio and subsequent romantic absence. By the winter of 1962, Lichtenstein and his wife had permanently separated. In 1949, the twenty-six year old Lichtenstein had married Isabel Wilson, with whom he had two sons, born in 1954 and 1956. When the family moved to New Jersey in the summer of 1961, Isabel was suffering from alcohol abuse that impaired their relationship, and in the fall of that year, Lichtenstein instigated a trial separation. The next year, the artist moved into a loft in downtown Manhattan with Letty Lou Eisenhauer, a graduate student and part-time Art Department secretary that he met while negotiating his divorce. The Ring (Engagement) captures this doubling of emotion: the painting at the same time satirizes the social conventions and rituals of love as inoculated by the commercial media, while embracing a universal desire for affection. The time of this painting’s production marks the end of one marriage while coinciding with the buoyant beginnings of new love, encapsulating the complexity of emotion that Lichtenstein imbues in the image. Bradford R. Collins noted, “A contextual analysis of the comic book paintings suggests that their themes presented [Lichtenstein] with an opportunity to play out subconsciously a series of satisfying fantasies, which apparently helped him to cope psychologically with the hopes and disappointments of this tumultuous time…. Looking at these paintings, it is difficult not to recall one’s own adolescent expectations about romance. Few among us ever completely give up on the dream of perfect love…” (Bradford R. Collins, "Modern Romance: Lichtenstein’s Comic Book Paintings," American Art 17, no. 2, Summer 2003, p. 62) 1962—the year he painted the present work—was also the year of his first solo show at the Leo Castelli Gallery (which sold out before it even opened), a breakthrough that cemented his long quest for success. Thus created in one of the most emotionally charged, turbulent, and transitional periods in his life, some of the expressive power of The Ring (Engagement) can be located in the artist’s own projections toward the future during the time it was painted—engaging in the dichotomous attraction and rejection of socially normalized standards of love. Lichtenstein’s The Ring (Engagement) triggers associations surrounding love, ritual, and happiness that reveal a uniformity of social experience—in causing the viewer to realize his or her own associations profoundly wrapped up with such imagery, we come to understand the deep potency that this recognizable, but otherwise contextually displaced, iconography holds. More omnipresent than the war paintings from the same moment of Lichtenstein’s production, his pictures about love resonate with attainable realities rather than unfeasible fantasies. Human relationships and the prospect of marriage are more relatable than piloting a fighter jet, yet what is so powerful here is that Lichtenstein leavens this moment with the same explosive fantasy as in paintings like Whaam! (1963) and Varoom! (1963). In fact, The Ring (Engagement) preceded these blast paintings, suggesting that this pictorial device of outbreak and detonation originated in the privacy of human relationship; as exemplified by the painting Kiss III also from 1962, which employed the same expressive red rays emanating from a central moment of embrace. In The Ring (Engagement), Lichtenstein probed a defining stereotype of our culture: the moment of engagement as the ultimate expression of true love. By dislocating it from any contextual framework as though splicing up a comic book, Lichtenstein removed the frame from its relation to the rest of the story. This distortion and magnification in scale here elevates the moment of engagement and the symbolism of the ring to the status of sign, compelling and effective in raising universal connotations without any surrounding narrative structure. Without any specificity of time, person, or place, the image swiftly becomes generalized, and thus universal. The Ring (Engagement) is particularly phenomenal for its abstracted image devoid of text, which allows for greater narrative interpretation—without the speech bubble that appears in many other of Lichtenstein’s paintings from this period, Lichtenstein opened the door for a wide raft of interpretation that is not governed by authorial intent, but rather, by receptive understanding. Removing a comic strip from its relation to other frames of the narrative abstracts the frame and seals the image as a singular stereotype of our culture. Heightening the image’s vast complexity, the artist therefore expanded the reading of the painting in both its celebrative and cynical significations, thereby adopting the very ambiguity and oscillation of meaning that both dictates the human condition and in particular defined Lichtenstein’s romantic life at the start of the 1960s. Roy Lichtenstein instinctively understood the phenomenal potential of popular imagery, and more than any artist of his generation realigned the cipher of that imagery to unveil verities behind the ever-proliferating pictorial panorama of contemporary culture in 1960s America. By so doing he revolutionized how we perceive the world around us and how, in turn, the world has subsequently been presented back unto itself. Where his great art historical counterpart Andy Warhol directly appropriated quotidian images to force issues of perception through the simple act of re-presentation, Lichtenstein's genius lay in a more subtle yet equally radical transformation. Having mastered the primary modus of industrial pictographic transmission, by almost covert means he enlisted this mass-media vocabulary to present alternate perspectives onto ideal realities. Through this methodology he shone a brilliant light on the artifice of our image-saturated society, and yet, simultaneously, he also brought his paintings closer to a veritable authenticity, for the terms of their manufacture are laid entirely bare to the viewer. In his early comic paintings from the 1960s, Lichtenstein proved himself a realist of the postwar period, in the same manner that in nineteenth century France, Gustave Courbet rejected the academic conventions of his predecessors and committed to painting only what he could see. What Lichtenstein saw, in the postwar period, were predominantly images of desire dictated by the media. In the late 1950s, television sets entered nearly every living room in America, irrevocably shaping the cultural consciousness: in 1949, about one million sets were in use, and by the end of the 1950s, more than fifty million televisions had gained a stronghold in American homes. Amplifying the pervasiveness of the mass media, the introduction of the television enforced an augmented reality driven by highly composed imagery, tightly regulated messages, and universal instantaneity. As the media increasingly constructed how we viewed the world, symbols of ritual idealism such as marriage and professional success became branded and universalized, packaging innate human desires through consumable images and acquirable realities. Turning to commercial source material, Lichtenstein’s Benday dot technique harnessed the impersonal artifice of such mass-reproduced imagery in order to convey highly emotional, charged subject matter, thereby emphasizing the very clichés that underpin the mainstream media. As Otto Hahn described, “His cool detachment creates a shock, produces an interplay, an overturning between the truth of the mechanical artifice and the falsity of the emotion—between the truth of the emotion and the falseness of its translation into image. Artifice and dream, image and language, this is what Lichtenstein speaks of, giving them a monumental grandeur which refers back to the human condition. He presents a purified and structured fact: This is how men dream and how they speak of their dreams. Love, glory, victory, force, comfort, art, travel, objects—such are the dreams that are unfolded in the papers and these dreams speak...” (Otto Hahn, "Roy Lichtenstein," in John Coplans, ed., Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 143) Lichtenstein’s pictorial economy and brusque simplification renders emotion in the most direct and conventional way, making explicit the stereotyped impersonality that is necessary for the image to be universal to the human condition and thus, retain the most affective potential. 1962 was the apogee of Lichtenstein's comic strip paintings, the series that propelled the artist to international fame. Lichtenstein was not merely an artist; he was an innovator, able to catapult mass-produced commercial images into the realm of fine art. His innate gift for editing 'found' images and subsequent presentation so as to capture the telling gesture of an emotive moment defines the Pop leader's profoundly insightful understanding of the nature of perception. Many of Lichtenstein’s early paintings are composed of heavily cropped hands in isolation, dynamically gestured in their performance of various tasks—this formal propensity is expressed perhaps nowhere as sexily or appealingly as in The Ring (Engagement). Tightly cropping the image and focusing on the very action at the center created images with heightened intensity and emphatic force, all the while maintaining the elemental primary nature of generalized signs and symbols. Lichtenstein abstracted action, foregrounding the hands and the central ring without any narrative context; as John Coplans suggested, “This paring away of the unessential led Lichtenstein to a sharper confrontation with the outside world, to a wider range and sharper focus in his use of stereotype… It is not that Lichtenstein avoids painting the whole figure because it is too complex but, rather, that the whole figure is too specific, too anecdotal for his purpose. Too much detail weakens the focus and the power of the image to immediately and recognizably signal the desired content. Thus, Lichtenstein crops away until he gets to the irreducible minimum and compresses into the format the exact cliché he desires to expose. Lichtenstein’s technique is similar to his imagery: He reduces his form and color to the simplest possible elements in order to make an extremely complex statement. In short, he uses a reductive imagery and a reductive technique for their sign-carrying potential.” (John Coplans, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 23) For Lichtenstein, whose painterly strategies over the course of his work were often concerned with the interrogation of his art historical precedents, the foregrounding of hands in motion can be read as a response to the overwhelming influence of Abstract Expressionism. Following his comic-inspired reproductions of masterpieces by Cézanne, Mondrian, and Picasso, Lichtenstein made paintings of precisely drawn cartoon brushstrokes, enlarged and exaggerated as a sardonic comment on the heroic, gestural handling of paint that epitomized the Abstract Expressionists. Here, Lichtenstein satirically confronts the legacy of gesture by drawing attention to the seeming lack of hand in the precise, photo-mechanical Ben-Day Dot while simultaneously enlarging and positioning two single hands as the primary content of the painting. Paul Schimmel explained, “In a perverse way, Lichtenstein’s works of the early 1960s exhibit a keen interest in action. He paints about process and not with it… The early cartoon paintings of romance and war are ‘action packed’ with water, wind, and explosions. Seeing these works in the context of Lichtenstein’s years of ‘desperate’ struggle with an imitation of action painting provides an insight into this critical period of transition in his work.” (Paul Schimmel in Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition 1955-62, 1993, p. 46) As The Ring (Engagement) is indeed centered around explosive action, magnified by the rays emanating away from the ring being placed on a manicured finger, this early painting represents a decisive point in Lichtenstein’s questioning of popular modes of art-making from previous generations. With the present work, Lichtenstein initiated a critical move away from the hegemonic forms of Abstract Expressionism, dominated by the macho, toward a more incisive Pop Art. In 1961, Lichtenstein began to employ his trademark Ben-Day dot technique, appropriating the commercial printing style for comic books and print advertisements where closely spaced dots coalesce into a greater image. Hand-painting through the use of a screened metal stencil each individual dot that comprises the two hands of The Ring (Engagement), Lichtenstein’s technical virtuosity here is on grand display. The highly simplified color palette of red, white, black, and yellow coupled with the procedure mimicking newspaper printing imbued his paintings with an ostensibly impersonal, anonymous style. With the precision of his colored dots, thick black outlines, and solid fields of brilliant red, Lichtenstein endeavored to make his carefully considered hand-made process appear as mechanical as possible. Paradoxically, Lichtenstein strived toward the crudest forms of illustration to efface the presence of his hand all the while devoting himself to an intensive process of production. The sharp, simplified clarity of the composition of The Ring, as well as its flattened and foreshortened perspectival space, recall modes of consumer advertising, while strengthening formal principles and pictorial conventions native to early Modernism. The eponymous Ben-Day dots are perfectly regimented to create a kinetic dynamism that in turn invests a powerful sense of tension in the gestural motion of the two hands. Moreover, in enlarging the hands of his source material, Lichtenstein emphasized the banal, abstract artificiality of the comic strips and advertisements that served as his inspiration, as opposed to the realism that they purported to convey. Lichtenstein sought to achieve an impersonal aesthetic that appears to conceal the subjectivity of  the personal experience and expression that clearly informed the painting’s creation. Expressing an extraordinarily emotive moment in his archetypally dispassionate painting technique epitomizes the artist’s complex juxtaposition of powerful imagery with Pop clarity. What is particularly compelling about The Ring (Engagement) is the subtle eroticism that charges through the disembodied hands arrested in mid-air; although the fragmented and isolated body parts appear depersonalized and universalized, Graham Bader stressed that “its iconographic rhetoric is repeatedly one of heightened, often extreme bodily sensation… We practically feel the tactile charge of 1962’s The Ring, the radiating pattern of which directs all attention to an impending act of penetration, or 1961’s Popeye, whose schematic lines communicate the bodily impact of a just-passed moment of aggression… Lichtenstein himself, for all his stated disinterest in iconography, repeatedly stressed the central importance of such paintings’ simultaneous draining and eroticization of the human body. As he told Gene Swenson in 1963, he chose to work from comics precisely for their ability ‘to express violent emotion and passion in a completely mechanical and removed style,’ an ability he sought to mimic in his own practice: ‘I was interested in anything… that was emotionally strong—usually love, war, or something that was highly charged and … opposite to the removed and deliberate painting techniques.’” (Graham Bader, Hall of Mirrors: Roy Lichtenstein and the Face of Painting in the 1960s, Cambridge, 2010, p. 97) The passionate vitality emanating from the focal climax at the center of the composition is thrillingly juxtaposed with the stark, proto-mechanical mode in which Lichtenstein painted the image. Thereby, Lichtenstein’s painting acquires a different energy—one that is suggestive of a close human charge that serves only to heighten the sensory drama and visceral reaction conjured by the image. Furthermore, the potent magnetic force that hovers in the center of the composition between the two hands calls to mind Michelangelo’s depiction of The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel. If in Michelangelo’s painting, God reaches to touch Adam and confer life upon him with the energy from the meeting of their fingers, Lichtenstein seems to suggest with his image the social perception of man carrying a similar emphatic power in his capacity to anoint woman with the symbolic ring. Honing the media’s perception of womanhood in 1950s America, Lichtenstein commented on the social power that engagement brings for the woman, as ceaselessly suggested by the cartoons and advertisements whose imagery Lichtenstein purloined—aspirational comics such as “Young Romance,” “Brides in Love,” and “Secrets of Young Brides.” With his signature sardonic bent, Lichtenstein brought to the fore an iconographic parallel between man’s conferring status on a woman to God’s gift of life, creating an image that reverberates with the same astonishing graphic energy as the Sistine Chapel. In its spectacular allure, The Ring (Engagement) represents a crucial point in the artist’s life and career, rife with a multivalent stratum of interpretation and significance. With the painting’s simply radiant intensity and cinematic vitality, Lichtenstein ensured that the only answer to his proposal is an unequivocal yes. Signed and dated '62 on the reverse; titled on the stretcher

  • USAUSA
  • 2015-05-12
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Les Pommes

Painted in 1889-90, Les Pommes encapsulates Cézanne’s artistic achievement, and displays the brilliance and economy which characterize his best work. This strikingly modern composition foregrounds the artist's unrivaled facility with the medium and his ability to imbue a still-life with all of the subtlety and emotional potency of portraiture. Cézanne’s still-lifes have long been recognized among his greatest achievements, the works which demonstrate most clearly the innovations that led to the stylistic developments of early twentieth-century art.  His vision breathed new life into the tradition of still-life painting, and his accomplishments had a profound impact on the generations of artists that followed. Picasso proclaimed that “Cézanne was like the father of us all,” and this statement has remained true to this day, with his painting, particularly still-lifes, continuing to influence artists in the twenty-first century (fig. 6). Cézanne executed a powerful series of medium-scaled still-lifes during the 1880s. His depictions of fruit from this period focus on the inherent geometry of objects and explore the spatial problems of representing three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional surface. In the present oil, several apples are arranged in a pyramid-like shape on a plate, mirrored by an adjacent grouping, on a simple, unadorned surface. Two partially visible apples, disappearing beyond the scope of the picture on the right, emphasize the artist’s radical framing. A dynamic composition is achieved through a contrast between the rounded shapes of the apples and the plate on one hand, and the pronounced horizontal of the background and the table-top on the other. Cézanne’s still-life series became increasingly complex, and would culminate in celebrated paintings such as Les grosses pommes of circa 1890 (fig. 4) and Rideau, cruchon et compotier painted in 1893-94 (fig. 3). Cézanne initially approached the genre during the first decade of his artistic production, the 1860s. He executed a number of varied still-lifes, romantic in feeling and based on close observation of reality. In the subsequent decades, his pictorial language became more sophisticated and his compositions more complex (fig. 6). Richard Kendall wrote about Cézanne’s mature paintings: “By this stage in his career, the still-life had taken on a special significance for [Cézanne], and he was to become one of the most original and dedicated exponents of the form. Far from being just a pretext for picture-making, the groups of apples, pears, cherries or flowers were for Cézanne as much a part of nature’s extravagant beauty as the trees and hillsides of Provence, and as likely to produce his ‘vibrating sensations’ as the landscape itself. According to Joachim Gasquet, Cézanne once claimed to overhear conversations between the fruit he was painting, and approached each item in a group as he would a human portrait” (Richard Kendall, Cézanne by Himself: Drawings, Paintings, Writings, London, 1988, p. 11). Les Pommes imparts the full range of expressive potential that Gasquet identified in Cézanne's still-lifes. The apples are constructed through careful geometries and intrusions of bright yellow tones. Cézanne grounds the gentle curves of the fruit with a clear horizon line provided by the table's back edge. He creates a sense of space and volume that gives the fruit a palpable presence - there is an intrinsic logic to the composition wholly unique to Cézanne's artistic vision. Cézanne’s mature still-lifes are considered the harbingers of twentieth-century Modernism, and provided a key inspiration for the Cubist compositions of Picasso and Braque (fig. 2). As they formulated a new artistic language during the early years of Cubism, these artists were inspired by Cézanne’s radical approach to form. Although Cézanne’s art was well known and widely exhibited during his lifetime, the first major retrospective of his work was held at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1907, a year after his death. This comprehensive view of his oeuvre was an instant inspiration to many artists, including Juan Gris and Henri Matisse (fig. 7). For all its modernism and avant-garde style, Les pommes, like other still-lifes Cézanne executed throughout his career, finds its origins in the trompe-l’oeil compositions of the French Old Masters that he had studied at the Louvre. Like his forebears, Cézanne set out to capture the essence and allure of each object in his works. His approach, however, was rooted in a truly modern belief that “Painting does not mean slavishly copying the object: it means perceiving harmony amongst numerous relationships and transposing them into a system of one’s own by developing them according to a new, original logic” (quoted in Richard Kendall, op. cit., p. 298). Both art historians and artists have argued that Cézanne reached the very pinnacle of his genius within the genre of still-life. This genre – unlike portrait or plein air painting – allowed him the greatest time in which to capture his subject, since in the studio environment he could create and control the composition, arranging the elements in ways that provided an infinite variety of formal problems to be solved on the canvas. The young painter Louis le Bail described how Cézanne composed a still-life, reflecting the great care and deliberation with which he approached the process: “Cézanne arranged the fruits, contrasting the tones one against the other, making the complementaries vibrate, balancing the fruits as he wanted them to be, using coins of one or two sous for the purpose. He brought to this task the greatest care and many precautions; one guessed it was a feast for him. When he finished, Cézanne explained to his young colleague, ‘The main thing is the modeling; one should not even say modeling, but modulating’” (quoted in John Rewald, Cézanne: A Biography, New York, 1986, p. 228). Discussing Cézanne’s still-life paintings, the English artist and critic Roger Fry noted that he “is distinguished among artists of the highest rank by the fact that he devoted so large a part of his time to this class of picture, that he achieved in still-life the expression of the most exalted feelings and the deepest intuitions of his nature. Rembrandt alone, and only in the rarest examples, or in accessories, can be compared to him in this respect. For one cannot deny that Cézanne gave a new character to his still-lifes. Nothing else but still-life allowed him sufficient calm and leisure, and admitted all the delays which were necessary to him for plumbing the depths of his idea. But there, before the still-life, put together not with too ephemeral flowers, but with onions, apples, or other robust and long-enduring fruits, he could pursue till it was exhausted his probing analysis of the chromatic whole. But through the bewildering labyrinth of this analysis he held always like Ariadne’s thread, the notion that the changes of color correspond to movements of planes. He sought always to trace this correspondence throughout all the diverse modifications which changes of local color introduced into the observed resultant… it is hard to exaggerate their importance in the expression of Cézanne’s genius or the necessity of studying them for its comprehension, because it is in them that he appears to have established his principles of design and theories of form” (Roger Fry, Cézanne: A Study of his Development, Chicago, 1927, pp. 37 & 50). Les Pommes has a remarkable provenance. Having first belonged to Cézanne’s dealer, Ambroise Vollard, it was later acquired by the prominent Dutch collector Cornelis Hoogendijk (1867-1911), who gathered a large number of Old Master and Modernist works. He accumulated one of the most important collections in Holland and beyond at the turn of the twentieth century. In a buying frenzy that lasted between 1897 and 1899, he acquired over thirty paintings and watercolors by Cézanne from Vollard. Some years after Hoogendijk’s death, the Paris dealer Paul Rosenberg purchased a number of Cézanne works from his estate, and sold them almost immediately to museums and French collectors. The present work was sold to the Parisian collector Jacques Laroche, whose collection included one of Cézanne’s famous self-portraits later donated to the Musée du Louvre. Les Pommes later came into the possession of the industrialist and distinguished collector of Modern art Marcel Kapferer, whose collection was sold at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris in 1934. The painting has been in the Lewyt family collection for almost sixty years.

  • USAUSA
  • 2013-05-07
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Nature morte aux tulipes

The extraordinary Nature morte aux tulipes  is one of the celebrated 'Marie-Thérèse pictures' that would ultimately establish Picasso as the most famous artist in the world. Painted in 1932, the year that is recognized as the pinnacle of Picasso's near-century long production, this magnificent painting evidences the creative explosion that defines the renderings of his incomparable golden muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter.   Nature morte aux tulipes  provides us with a synthesis of the two main media (painting and sculpture)  that Picasso utilized to represent the scale, dimensionality and physical impact of his young lover.  More than many of the pictures from this era, it evidences his desire to objectify his model in the truest sense of the word.  "Picasso pursued, embellished, transformed, deconstructed, and annexed Marie-Thérèse, as a wild beast its prey," says the artist's grand-daughter Diana Widmaier Picasso (D.W. Picasso, Picasso & Marie-Thérèse, L'Amour fou (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2011, p. 61).  This grand picture, completed in the span of less than three hours on a single day in March, is one of the most powerful examples of Picasso’s tireless pursuit, with Marie-Thérèse's image transformed into a divine object of veneration. As a singular composition,  Nature morte aux tulipes appears to be a vibrantly colorful ode to classicism:  a plaster bust positioned alongside an offering of tulips and adorned with a garland crown.   But there is much more to this picture than meets the eye, as it is the story behind the canvas that adds another powerful dimension.   What we see here is the unmistakable profile of Marie-Thérèse Walter, bathed in the warm glow of a kerosene lamp that hung in his Boisgeloup studio.  In prior years he had only referenced his extramarital affair with Marie-Thérèse in his pictures in code, sometimes imbedding her initials in a composition or rendering her strong, Grecian profile as a feature of the background.  By the end of the year, Picasso could no longer repress his creative impulse with regard to Marie-Thérèse, and she became the primary focus of art. Throughout 1931 Picasso had been working on several monumental plaster busts that incorporated the strong profile of Marie-Thérèse.  While molding wet plaster into the likeness of his lover offered Picasso a way to caress her in absentia, it also allowed him to transform her body into a fully-exploitable object.   These bright white forms, gleaming amidst the darkness of his Boisgeloup carriage house, were an irresistible spectacle, inciting Picasso’s Cubist fascination with the dimensionality of form in space.  By the end of 1931 he began to feature images of his plaster sculptures into his paintings, and it is Marie-Thérèse’s highly tactile and plasticized form that defines these magisterial paintings of 1932 (figs. 1, 4 & 5). Elizabeth Cowling has written on Picasso’s incorporation of sculptural imagery into his paintings of this era:  "Here, as in many paintings, drawings and prints of the Marie-Thérèse period, Picasso reflects on the relationship in his work between paintings ...  and sculpture...  The style of the painting as a whole seems intended to dramatise the oppositions between pictorial flatness and sculptural mass in the oppositions between pure line and bold areas of color on the one hand and gradations of light and dark on the other.  The sculpted head is a synoptic reference to the earlier series of plaster heads inspired by Marie-Thérèse.  The same head, raised on a tall plinth and sometimes garlanded with vines, in a object of veneration in several of the etchings in the 'Vollard Suite'" (E. Cowling in Picasso: Sculptor/Painter (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1994, p. 272). Although it is believed that the bust depicted in the present composition was not painted from a specific one in his studio, certain elements featured in the composition can be seen in photographs from the time (fig. 1), including the garland that is draped over the head and the dark shadows cast against the wall from the artificial light source.  Some objects are symbolic embellishments, such as the lapis-blue cloth and blooming tulips that evoke the iconography of the Blessed Virgin.  Others, like the basket, are recycled from past compositions.  A similar arched, woven basket had appeared in an earlier charcoal composition from September 1931, where it featured as a signifier for Marie-Thérèse.  In that earlier picture, the basket was positioned alongside a stark porcelain vessel -- the same minimalist one that was used to signify Picasso’s wife Olga in Still with Jug and Apples of  1920 (fig. 3). John Golding has written about  the studio environment in which this painting was depicted, and how it "evokes [Picasso's] nocturnal working habits, and the light shed by the big kerosene lamp made him particularly sensitive to the play of shadows over the white plaster sculptures.  He tended to distrust the official heaviness of bronze and declared that the Boisgeloup plaster heads in particular were more beautiful in their original white or plaster state.  While the studios were being got ready Picasso executed a series of small slender standing figures whittled out of single pieces of wood, and the respect for material that these required may have encouraged him to concentrate on more closed, self-contained sculptural forms."  (J.Golding in  Picasso: Sculptor/Painter  (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1994, p. 28). Picasso’s theme for his picture is drawn from a more literary source.  Not long after his fiftieth birthday that past October, he began a series of Ovidian etchings to celebrate a new publication of the Metamorphosis and would ultimately create a body of work over the years know collectively as the Vollard Suites (fig. 6).  The present work is one of several canvases that alludes to Ovid’s writings, specifically the harrowing story of Persephone’s abduction by Pluto to Hades: Playing, gathering flowers Violets, or white lilies, and so many The basket would not hold them all… Sorrowful to be sure, and still half frightened And still a queen, the greatest of the world Of darkness and empress, the proud consort Of the proud ruler of the world of darkness Jean Sutherland Boggs made the following association between the Persephone myth and the present picture in her research for the Picasso and Things exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art.  She writes in the catalogue entry for this picture, “It is as the goddess returned to the earth in the spring that we find her here, the wreath in her hair, the basket of tulips and three pieces of fruit before her pedestal indicating the season with which she is identified.  Although she is placed on a blue cloth of royal intensity and assurance, the background has mysterious black shadows against the dark brown, and there is a pattern of a delicate gray on the bust itself, perhaps to remind us of the shadows of the underworld” (Picasso and Things, op. cit., p. 237). Nature morte aux tulipes is one of the legendary pictures completed in anticipation of the major retrospective that Picasso was planning that summer in Paris and Zurich.   It was at this exhibition that Olga, upon seeing Picasso's numerous references to a specific face that was clearly not her own, was alerted to the presence of another woman in her husband's life (fig. 8).  Until the exhibition, Picasso's relationship with Marie-Thérèse had been a tightly guarded secret, the evidence of which he had kept sealed away at the studio he maintained at Boisgeloup.   He had purchased this property near Gisors in 1930 as a retreat house, where he could escape from Olga and spend time alone with his mistress.   The chateau at Boisegeloup was much larger than his studio in Paris, and the space allowed him to create the monumental plaster busts of Marie-Thérèse that inspired the present picture.    Nature morte aux tulipes  evidences Marie-Thérèse's role as a completely accessible aesthetic resource for Picasso's art.  Like the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, Picasso would take his sculpture off its pedestal and brought his muse to life. Signed Picasso and dated XXXII (upper right); dated 2 Mars XXXII H 9 à 11 1/2  Hs on the stretcher

  • USAUSA
  • 2012-11-08
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Bild mit weissen Linien(Painting with White Lines)

1913 A Revolutionary Year Only very rarely does a single year make its mark so completely on the collective consciousness of a culture, and none so vividly as 1913. The year 1913 is particularly important within the history of modern art, marked by events and works that fundamentally changed the way art was conceived and understood. Across Europe and America artists of every sort set down new ideas and formulas for artistic expression, and in turn some of them made their defining contributions to modern culture. In New York the Armory Show introduced the American public to the European avant-garde (fig. 1), with Marcel Duchamps Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 making its debut. Pablo Picasso continued to reinvent Cubism with his use of papier collé to establish the foundations of Synthetic Cubism; Umberto Boccioni created his Futurist masterpiece Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, and in Munich Wassily Kandinsky set about creating the most celebrated series of abstract paintings in the history of early 20th century art. No other single year in the artists career can be said to have produced so many masterpieces or such a coherent and magisterial body of work. Bild mit weissen Linien, executed on a grand scale and in dazzling colours, is one of the most important paintings by Kandinsky from this crucial year. The major works of 1913 share a monumental quality, both in scale and ambition, that Kandinsky had not attempted to achieve before, and which he would never truly attain again. It was a year of prodigious achievement and prolific creation. There was a great outpouring of studies in ink, watercolour and oil for the primary works of the year such as Komposition VI and VII (figs. 5 & 6) and other major oils such as Bild mit weissen Linien which attest to the meticulous approach Kandinsky took to preparing each unique composition. The Path to Abstraction From an early stage in his artistic career, Kandinsky was aware that his pursuit of his own form of expression was leading him toward an entirely new visual idiom. In a letter to his lover and fellow painter Gabriele Münter written on 2nd April 1904 Kandinsky wrote: Without exaggerating, I can say that, should I succeed in this task, I will be showing [a] new, beautiful path for painting susceptible to infinite development. I am on a new track, which some masters, just here and there, suspected, and which will be recognised, sooner or later. As predicted, in the years that followed Kandinsky travelled further towards abstraction than any painter previously, and in 1913 finally achieved it in a uniquely pure, lyrical form. Kandinsky's first major breakthrough was his discovery that colour, when disassociated from representational concerns, could become the principal subject of a painting. Taking his cue from musical composition, Kandinsky determined that every colour corresponded with a particular emotion or sound. For example, in his first major theoretical text On the Spiritual in Art, published in 1911, Kandinsky likened different shades of green to stringed instruments which matched his synaesthetic experience of colour, for example: mid-green sounded like the quiet, mid-range tones of a violin, whilst yellow-green was perceived to be the higher notes of the violin, in contrast to blue-green as a muted alto-violin. As Will Grohmann writes, Colour becomes increasingly crucial... [yellow, white, carmine, pink, light blue and blue-green] transport the subject to the sphere of dream and legend. This was the direction of development. The painter distributes and links the colours, combines them and differentiates them as if they were beings of a specific character and special significance. As in music, the materials now come to the form, and in this respect Kandinsky stands between Mussorgsky and Scriabin. The language of colour - just as in those composers - calls for depth, for fantasy (W. Grohmann, op. cit., p. 61). This revelation was due in part to the journey the artist took to Paris in 1906 and his acquaintance with Fauve paintings by Derain, Delaunay and Vlaminck, as well as his appreciation of Cézannes brushwork in his late works. Though, as Hans Roethel writes: when Kandinsky returned to Munich, ideologically and practically, the ground was well prepared for abstract painting and yet it needed a final spark to come into being (H. K. Roethel & J. K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, London 1979, p. 25). In his Reminiscences Kandinsky recalled the precise moment at which the spark was ignited: 'Once, while in Munich I underwent an unexpectedly bewitching experience in my studio. Twilight was falling; I had just come home with my box of paints under my arm after painting a study from nature. I was still dreamily absorbed in the work I had been doing when, suddenly, my eyes fell upon an indescribably beautiful picture that was saturated with an inner glow. I was startled momentarily, then quickly went up to this enigmatic painting in which I could see nothing but shapes and colours and the content of which was incomprehensible to me. The answer to the riddle came immediately: it was one of my own paintings leaning on its side against the wall. The next day, by daylight, I tried to recapture the impression the picture had given me the evening before. I succeeded only half way. Even when looking at the picture sideways I could still make out the objects and that fine thin coat of transparent colour, created by last night's twilight, was missing. Now I knew for certain that the subject matter was detrimental to my paintings. A frightening gap of responsibility now opened up before me and an abundance of various questions arose. And the most important of them was: what was to replace the missing object' (W. Kandinsky, quoted in ibid., p. 25). Through constant experimentation and extensive preparatory work Kandinskys artistic means developed from an essentially figurative Fauve style to pure abstraction. By 1910 he had found the language he sought, with sweeping lines, beautiful iridescent patches of colour and kaleidoscopic compositions. Figurative elements still feature, abstracted to their farthest point, but still recognisable, and often alluded to in the titles that the artist gave to the works. Among the most advanced pictures of those years were those entitled Improvisations or Compositions and numbered sequentially, which is a clear allusion to their symphonic qualities. However the source of inspiration for the main motifs Kandinsky used in his works were all based in the same romantic vision of Old Russia and folk stories that bewitched him from the beginning of his career. Landscapes were either drawn from his immediate surroundings such as the bucolic countryside around Murnau and Munich or for his major compositions concocted out of romanticised, lyrical scenarios featuring onion domed citadels presiding over mountains, lakes and streams which are inhabited by horses and people. Two preparatory watercolour studies Kandinsky produced (figs. 8 & 9) reveal how he took the most recognisable motifs of the tall-towered city in the upper left and the two horses in the immediate foreground with the three-arched red bridge in the centre and energised them with colour and line in the final work. These motifs are clearly visible in all the main works completed in 1913 and are a key part of his most celebrated works including Komposition VI (fig. 5), Komposition VII (fig. 6) and Kleine Freuden (fig. 3). Kandinsky in Russia In the first half of the decade, while resident in Bavaria, Kandinsky exhibited his works far and wide throughout Europe, America and his native Russia, gaining an impressive international following. However in December 1914 Kandinsky felt compelled to return to Russia after nearly twenty years of living in Germany. The war in Europe threatened his way of life, and as a Russian citizen he had to leave the country that he had adopted as his homeland. Prior to his own emigration, in January 1914 Kandinsky selected a few important oils from 1913 to be exhibited at the Galerie Ernst Arnolds Die Neue Malerei show, which included the present work, Bild mit weissem Rand, Bild mit grünem Mitte, Improvisation 34 (fig. 4) and Komposition VI (fig. 5) all of which are now in museum collections. Settled in Moscow, he barely painted, concentrating on producing watercolours and establishing himself in the citys artistic circle. In 1914 Kandinsky was invited to participate in the Spring collective exhibition at Odessa, and the choice of works from 1913 he sent is telling each seems to perfectly represent one of the four key types of painting he produced that year a more literal view of Dunaberg near Murnau (The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), the lyrical, highly abstract Improvisation 34 (fig. 4, National Museum of Fine Arts  of the Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan), the present work and the monumental Komposition VII (fig. 6, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). This group was subsequently exhibited in Moscow at a landmark show entitled The Year 1915, and over time each painting found a permanent home in a Russian museum. Over the next four years, the artist witnessed the Revolution and the rise of Communism as an essentially apolitical being, whose art remained ostensibly unaffected by the social situation. However, he swiftly became a member of the Department of Visual Arts in the Peoples Commissariat of Enlightenment (NARKOMPROS) and a founding member of the Institute of Artistic Culture (INKHUK). In 1919 as part of the programme to disseminate avant-garde art through the new Russia, hundreds of artworks were selected or purchased by the Museum of Painterly Culture by the museums committee, comprised entirely of artists, including Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin and Kandinsky. Bild mit weissen Linien was purchased by the State and allocated initially to the museum in Penza, an industrial city south-east of Moscow. Through schemes such as the Museum of Pictorial Culture and other cultural programmes, Kandinskys art made a profound impact on the on the artists of the Russian avant-garde. Sometimes charged with a lack of interest in the younger generations work, he was nonetheless seen an inspirational figure by younger artists, in particular the Constructivists who appreciated his dedication to abstraction. Writing in 1920 the critic Konstantin Umansky was highly supportive of Kandinsky, and stated unequivocally: The entire Russian art scene can be traced back to Kandinsky. If anyone deserves a nick name, Kandinsky does; he should be called the Russian Messiah, his work has cleared a way for the victory of absolute art, although contemporary abstract art is now moving in a different direction. [] Kandinskys art found its logical conclusion in Suprematism (quoted in Jelena Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky, Brussels, 1993, p. 243). Kandinskys Legacy It was not only in Suprematism that the influence of Kandinskys Munich period paintings can be felt. At no other time is his abstraction so lyrical, dynamic or expressive, and its lineage is clearly distinguished in the art of the Abstract Expressionists working in post-war America. Though technically innovative and ideologically different, the Abstract Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, were indebted to Kandinsky and his pioneering art for taking the first steps on the path to abstraction in 1913. Kandinskys legacy stretched far beyond those of the Abstract Expressionists and continues to influence artistic production today, though grounded in a proliferation of symbolic and romantic ideals which were born out of his own era, the raw energy of his work and prescient modernism transcends its original context. Signed Kandinsky and dated 1913 (lower left); signed Kandinsky, titled, dated 1913 and inscribed No. 178 on the stretcher

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2017-06-21
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Nymphéas

The canvas is unlined. There is a loose dust canvas at the back of the original. The paint surface is very well preserved and has retained the artist's original finish. There are two tiny abrasions on the lower right framing edge, and very faint horizontal stretcher-bar lines and a faint vertical line visible in the lower right. There is a small area of extremely fine, stable, craquelure in the lower right and in a line in the lower centre. Apart from a small spot of retouching in the centre of the lower framing edge and two tiny further retouchings just above, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although less red in tone and fresher and more vibrant in the original. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE." Signed Claude Monet and dated 1906 (lower right)

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2014-06-23
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Abstraktes Bild

“Richter’s painting explores the enigmatic juncture of sense and non-sense. His paintings encircle, enclose the real as that which it is impossible to say: the unrepresentable.” Birgit Pelzer, ‘The Tragic Desire’ in: Benjamin D. Buchloh, Ed., Gerhard Richter: October Files, Massachusetts 2009, p. 118. Chance, layering, erasure, chromatic power and compositional counterpoint are wielded to sublime effect in Abstrakes Bild from 1986. Following a corpus of nascent abstractions executed between the years of 1980-85, the present work heralds a decisive break and undeniable landmark achievement; from 1986 onwards Gerhard Richter would relinquish any planned compositional elements of form and structure in favour more predominantly of the indeterminate scrape and accretion of the ‘squeegee’. As laid down in the present work across seemingly photographic layers of pearlescent underpainting (more prominent towards the lower half of the composition), Richter has waged a battle between the squeegee and the brush. Horizontal veils of stuttering paint present a riposte to the vertical drag of wide brush-strokes, both of which are punctuated by finer and more angular accents. The result is a mesmerising field in which painterly elements both spar against and complement each other while the paint’s chromatic value injects this piece with an undisputed brilliance. Broadcasting deepest blue through to acidic yellow and red, along with all the possible permutations that exist in between these primary values, Abstraktes Bild imparts glorious light effects that verge on the experiential. In the centre, a vertical band of radiant green is pierced and intercut by a stream of luminous colour to impart a reading akin to light flooding ecclesiastical architecture or sunlight coursing through the soft miasma of cloud. Indeed, the balance between hard and soft, structural solidity and phosphorescence, photographic and the abstract, finds an apogee in this enveloping work. Towering in strident swathes of luminescent and kaleidoscopic paint, Abstraktes Bild is not only one of the largest abstract paintings by the artist, it is also one of the most chromatically, compositionally and redolently astounding. Having been on extended loan to the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, during the 1990s, this painting is a remarkable exposition of the very apogee of Richter's abstract canon. Texture, colour and structure are deployed in Abstraktes Bild with spectacular force and sensitivity to engender a seductive painterly synthesis visually aligned to an exquisite and strikingly atmospheric evocation: structural strips and impastoed ridges of thick oil paint delineate a schema of painterly revelations and under layers of diaphanous blue, green and purple that are punctuated with sunset flashes of yellow, orange, red and pink. Herein, the present work draws a uniquely evocative dialogue with late nineteenth-century landscape painting from a distinctly contemporary perspective. Invoking an utterly self-referential language of abstraction, Abstraktes Bild nonetheless shares aesthetic and atmospheric congruencies with Monet’s late Nympheas, Gustav Klimt’s jewel-like treatment of the Austrian landscape, and Seurat’s proto-scientific treatment of light and colour. Indeed, Richter’s breathtaking Abstraktes Bild captures an atmosphere akin to a post impressionistic translation of landscape scenery. However, Richter has frequently spoken of aspects of his work as ‘cuckoo’s eggs’ in that his paintings are often mistaken for something they are not, or not fully. Where this most aptly applies to the artist’s take on the sublime landscape, it is also at stake within his response to both an evocation of an Impressionist landscape and the sublime abstraction of the Twentieth Century’s great American painters. Though comprising seemingly infinite tonal variations and intimations of abyssal layers beyond the picture plane, Abstraktes Bild is nonetheless a cancellation of the kind of transcendental sacred image space pioneered by Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and perhaps most apt for the present work, Franz Kline. Ineluctably glorious in its enveloping celebration of colour, an experience of unbridled structure and boundless chromatic affect is nonetheless disrupted and offset by an enshrouding static drone. As outlined by Benjamin Buchloh: “[I]f the ability of colour to generate this emotional, spiritual quality is presented and at the same time negated at all points, surely its always cancelling itself out. With so many combinations, so many permutational relationships, there can’t be any harmonious chromatic order, or compositional either, because there are no ordered relations left either in the colour system or the spatial system” (Benjamin Buchloh, ‘An Interview with Gerhard Richter’ (1986) in: Benjamin Buchloh, Ed., Gerhard Richter: October Files, Massachusetts 2009, pp. 23-24). Much like a palimpsest in its layered surface and repeated working over, the present work resembles a restless confluence of many paintings at once. The exuberant strata of paint bear the ghosts of previous accretions and colour juxtapositions applied, erased, remade and obliterated over again. Such chromatic and compositional negations represent Richter’s rebuttal of the bold idealism of 1950s abstraction: "Pollock, Barnett Newman, Franz Kline, their heroism derived from the climate of their time, but we do not have this climate" (Richter quoted in: Michael Kimmelmann, ‘Gerhard Richter: An Artist Beyond Isms’, The New York Times, January 27, 2002, n.p.). Rather, the climate we do have, and the climate Richter’s entire production concerns itself with, is our contemporary age of the photographic. Coming full circle from the earliest Photo Paintings, the present work witnesses the full induction of the squeegee as the principal compositional agent. This in turn invited the means through which Richter was able to instigate “Photography by other means” (Kaja Silverman, Flesh of My Flesh, California 2009, p. 173). As redolent in Abstraktes Bild, the sheen of immaculate colour and endless permutations mimic the aesthetic of a cibachrome print, while a distinctly photographic quality is compounded by the out-of focus consistency of the sweeping accretions of paint. Evoking a blurred, half-seen or remembered image and imploring the same cognitive viewing experience as his photo works, the hazy coagulation of endlessly scraped pigment forms an extraordinary repost to the canon of abstraction via the photographic, mechanical and the aleatory. Within the sheer excess of layering and dynamic compositional facture this painting emits an extraordinary wealth of enigmatic yet recognisable evocation. The incessant erasure and denial of formal resolution induces a reading of phenomological forms associated with those found in nature. Readily evoking natural experiences such as rain, water erosion, or in this case light streaming through a window, the Abstract works derive their affect from a spontaneous naturalism. Where Richter’s Photo Paintings fall away into abstraction, the Abstrakte Bilder return us to a suggestion of referentiality. As made explicit by Kaja Silverman, Richter has made claims to paint “like a camera” even when photographic content is absent from his work (Gerhard Richter quoted in: ibid.). Speaking in overarching terms of his wider painterly project, in 1972 Richter explained: “I’m not trying to imitate a photograph… I’m trying to make one. And if I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light, then I am practicing photography by other means… [T]hose of my paintings that have no photographic source (the abstracts, etc.) are also photographs” (Ibid). In making this analogy with the camera, Richter embraces the fact that perception and the way we view the world today is entirely mediated by the photograph and its technological proliferation. Thus, as outlined by Richter, where the camera “does not apprehend objects, it sees them”, the Abstrakte Bilder elicit the capacity of painting to propagate a true semblance of perception and appearance. To quote Hal Foster: “The semblance that concerns Richter is of a “second nature”… a culture-become-nature bathed in the glow of the media, a semblance permeated with photographic, televisual, and now digital visualities” (Hal Foster, ‘Semblance According to Gerhard Richter’, in: Benjamin D. Buchloh, Ed., op. cit., p. 126). Redolent across the endless exposures and variegation of the present work, the crackling, distortive fuzz redolent within Richter’s endlessly applied layers of pigment unmistakably bears the aesthetic mark of photographic reproduction. Indeed, Abstrakes Bild and its oleaginous layers of unrestrained colour delivers an effect that is at once utterly evocative of natural phenomena and photographic exposure. As many scholars of Richter’s work have pointed out, it is apt to note that the collective title for the abstract paintings, Abstrakte Bilder, is not a straightforward translation; rather, the closest equivalent to the original German is Abstract Pictures: by his own admission, Richter is not creating paintings but instead making images. The abstract works thus picture a post-photographic painterly image space nascently forged within the blur of the Photo Paintings and fully articulated in the large-scale squeegee abstractions. As art historian Peter Osborne outlines: “Richter’s abstract images are images of this image space itself. In this respect they are still ‘photo paintings’, but in an ontologically deeper sense than the phrase conveys when used as a designation for the earlier, more particularistically ‘photo-based’ work” (Peter Osborne, ‘Abstract Images: Sign, Image and Aesthetic in Gerhard Richter’s Painting’ in: Benjamin Buchloh, Ed., op. cit., p. 109). Abstraktes Bild is a consummate example of the type of ‘videotic’ effect mentioned by Osborne. Via a crackling, distortive fuzz redolent within miraculous sheens of colour, this painting's purely abstract field of painterly variegation unmistakably bears the mark of televisual opticality. Having sought new ways to paint that rally against “redundant” figuration and the “inflated subjectivism, idealism, and existential weightlessness” of Modernist abstraction, Richter’s Abstrakte Bilder picture an assertion of abstract painting, not only in the face of photography which lies at the root of painting’s crisis, but immersed in its digital glow (Peter Osborne, ‘Painting Negation: Gerhard Richter’s Negatives’,October, vol. 62, Autumn, 1992, p. 104). Furnished by the mechanistic dissemination and destructive scrape of the squeegee, the present work possesses the irrepressible beauty of a Franz Kline that has been processed through Richter’s de-sublimatory lens and transfigured into a glorious post-conceptual affirmation of painting for the televisual age. Gerhard Richter’s unprecedented art of abstraction stands as ultimate culmination to the epic journey of his career, during which he has ceaselessly interrogated the limits of representation, the nature of perception and the operations of visual cognition. Variously evoking something of Monet’s translation of his garden at Giverny, Rothko’s exuberance of transformative colour, Kline’s structural expressionism, Pollock’s instigation of autonomous composition, and de Kooning’s transferal of the figural to the abstract, Richter’s abstraction is ultimately without comparison. Herein, the vast expanse of Asbtraktes Bild is utterly replete with the most spectacular colour, form and texture; a sheer cliff face of unadulterated expression as delivered by the world’s greatest living painter. Within the field of this canvas, acts of unfathomable chaos have touched something not quite of this realm, creating, in short, something that is phenomenal. Signed, dated 1986 and numbered 599 on the reverse

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2015-02-10
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Head of a Young Apostle

PUBLICATIONS CITED IN SHORTENED FORM Bambach - Carmen Bambach, Drawing and painting in the Italian Renaissance workshop: theory and practise, 1300-1600, Cambridge 1999 Fischel - Oskar Fischel, ‘Raphael’s Auxiliary Cartoons’, The Burlington Magazine, LXXI, October 1937, pp. 167-168 Henry & Joannides – Tom Henry and Paul Joannides, Late Raphael, exhib. cat., Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, and Paris, Musée du Louvre, 2012-13 Jaffé – Michael Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of Italian Drawings, 4 vols., London 1994 Joannides – Paul Joannides, The Drawings of Raphael, with a Complete Catalogue, Oxford 1983 Pouncey & Gere -  Philip  Pouncey and J. A. Gere, Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum; Raphael and his Circle, 2 vols., London 1962 Vasari  - Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori scultori ed architettori scritte da Giorgio Vasari, ed. G. Milanesi, 9 vols., Florence, 1878-85 (English translations by Gaston de Vere, published London 1912, revised edition London 1996) Raphael’s Head of a Young Apostle This highly worked and immensely powerful, large study of the head of a bearded young man relates to, and is the same size as, the figure of the young apostle to the far left of Raphael’s ground-breaking last masterpiece, the Transfiguration.  For the past three centuries or so, the drawing has resided in the Devonshire collection, as part of one of the finest collections of Old Master Drawings that has ever been assembled. One of the most important Italian Renaissance drawings to have come to the market in modern times, it is a definitive representation of the summit of Raphael’s achievements as a draughtsman, encapsulating his astonishing technical originality and his mastery of the chalk medium, through which he explores the most delicate nuances of volumes and lighting. Just as the Transfiguration was a major milestone in the history of art, anticipating elements of the much later Baroque style, so too the drawings relating to it were unlike anything previously seen in Raphael’s oeuvre or anywhere else.  In works such as this, where an intensely sculptural sense of light and a breadth and freedom in the painterly touches are combined to create a monumental, yet immensely subtle, image, Raphael effectively defined the visual language that was to underpin western art for several centuries.  We can only speculate how, had he not died aged only 37, Raphael himself might have built upon the extraordinary originality and brilliance of the Transfiguration and its related drawings. The Transfiguration: the commissioning of Raphael’s last masterpiece The Transfiguration (fig.1), the last of Raphael’s great artistic achievements, is the expression of his most mature development as a painter, and his final great bequest to posterity.  The painting can be considered Raphael’s artistic testament, a work in which the painter achieved his ultimate perfection, as the influential biographer, Giorgio Vasari, wrote in 1550: ‘Dipinse a Giulio cardinale de’Medici e vicecancelliere una tavola della Trasfigurazione di Cristo per mandare in Francia; la quale di continuamente lavorando ridusse ad ultima perfezione…’1 (‘For Giulio de’ Medici, Cardinal and Vice-Chancellor, he painted a panel-picture, to be sent into France, of the Transfiguration of Christ, at which he laboured without ceasing, and brought it to the highest perfection with his own hand’). The altarpiece was commissioned from Raphael in 1516 by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (1478-1534), later Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) (fig.2).   It appears, however, that the artist did not determine the final compositional arrangement or begin executing the painting itself until the middle of 1518, and perhaps not even until 1519, so the Transfiguration, in its final form, is in fact the product of the last two years of Raphael’s life.  It was the Cardinal’s intention that the altarpiece would be sent, once completed, to the cathedral of Narbonne, the seat of his episcopal diocese, but it never reached its original destination; after Raphael’s sudden death, on 6 April 1520, the patron decided to retain this last work by Raphael in Rome, and the large panel was installed on the high altar of the Franciscan minorate church of San Pietro in Montorio (see also Iconography, below), where it remained until 1797.  The Transfiguration is now in the Pinacoteca of the Vatican Museums. Most modern scholars agree with Vasari’s claim that the Transfiguration was still unfinished at the time of Raphael’s death, but in the following weeks the altarpiece was nonetheless displayed in the Vatican.  It is generally thought that the figures to the lower right of the panel, namely the group of the possessed boy and his family, were executed by Giulio Romano, Raphael’s chief studio assistant. The Transfiguration: the evolution of the composition The composition, which in its final form is a work of extraordinary complexity, underwent radical and significant changes as Raphael moved away from his original intention, which was to represent just the miracle of the Transfiguration itself.  This first idea was rather traditional, in terms of both composition and iconography, and much less sophisticated and original than the artist’s challenging final solution for the altarpiece, in which he integrates, in the most dramatic and theatrical way, two consecutive narratives from the Gospel of Saint Matthew: the Transfiguration, and the episode of the possessed boy. The survival of seventeen drawings related to this project enables us to follow its complex and extraordinary evolution.  These drawings are not all by Raphael himself – they also include copies made by his assistants or in their workshops – but ultimately all these works at least record lost original studies and thoughts of the master.  Although these seventeen sheets surely represent only a tiny proportion of the numerous drawings that must have been made in connection with the project, the rest of which are lost, they provide a clear record both of the various different stages in the evolution of the final composition, and of Raphael’s indefatigable pursuit of perfection.  Even very late in the creative process, he was clearly prepared to make significant changes, to clarify and further refine his ideas.  The most extraordinary proof of this highly personal working method is the small group of actual size, highly finished studies of the heads (and sometimes also the hands) of certain principal figures, drawings known as ‘auxiliary cartoons.’  These were executed very late in the creative process, and their precise role is discussed in greater detail below.   Six such drawings relating to the Transfiguration survive, four of which, including the present, very striking Head of a Young Apostle from Chatsworth, were memorably reunited in the revealing Late Raphael exhibition, held earlier this year at the Prado Museum, Madrid. Raphael’s first idea for the composition is recorded in a workshop modello (circa 1516), now in the Albertina, Vienna (fig.3).2  This shows a classic representation of the subject, with Christ on Mount Tabor standing prominently in the centre, his hands spread in a gesture of prayer, flanked by the figures of Moses and Elijah floating just above the ground.  The three chosen apostles, Peter, James and John, are kneeling in the foreground while on the extreme right, also kneeling, are two deacon saints, Justus and Pastor.  Above, in the upper part of the composition, in celestial glory and surrounded by angels, is the figure of God the Father.   As Tom Henry and Paul Joannides have pointed out in the recent Madrid exhibition catalogue, this initial representation of the subject seems to indicate a possible awareness of the frescoed version of the same subject, which was painted at almost exactly this moment by Sebastiano del Piombo, in the semi-dome of the Borgherini Chapel, in the same Roman church of San Pietro in Montorio where Raphael’s Transfiguration was to spend some 250 years (fig. 4).3 Sebastiano del Piombo may also have influenced the development of Raphael’s Transfiguration in another way.  Presumably with the support of Michelangelo, Sebastiano persuaded Cardinal Giulio de’Medici to commission from him, also for the cathedral in Narbonne, a panel of the Raising of Lazarus, which was the same size as the Transfiguration, and was clearly intended to parallel and rival Raphael’s work.  The commissioning of these two works at almost the same time put Raphael in direct competition with Sebastiano, and through him, more significantly, with Michelangelo, who had often provided Sebastiano with drawings – as, indeed, he did on this occasion.4   It has been suggested that Raphael may even have delayed completing the Transfiguration until he had had the opportunity of seeing Sebastiano’s panel, which was finished in May 1519.  The Raising of Lazarus was shown in the Vatican in December of 1519 and then again the next year, when following Raphael’s death it was displayed – for the first and only time – alongside the Transfiguration.  Soon afterwards, Sebastiano’s altarpiece was sent to Narbonne, as intended, unlike the Transfiguration which was, as we know, retained in Rome;  Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici did order a copy of the Transfiguration to be sent to Narbonne as a substitute, but not even this copy, now in the Prado,5 made it as far as France. The evidence of the surviving drawings shows that Raphael’s second compositional idea for the Transfiguration was dramatically different from his initial version, introducing another biblical episode alongside the main subject, and transforming the composition into a far more complex scene, depicted on two visual levels.  There has been much scholarly debate as to why the artist made these radical changes, but given the influence of the commissioner, the importance of the commission, and its theological complexity, it is hard to imagine that Raphael himself made these decisions.  The most recent theory, proposed by Stefania Pasti and published by Henry and Joannides in the Madrid exhibition catalogue (see Iconography, below), seems to provide the most plausible explanation so far for this sudden and revolutionary change of iconography. The new composition, incorporating a double narrative, is known from the second surviving modello for the project, in the Louvre (fig. 5),6 which is a workshop copy of a lost drawing by Raphael’s assistant Gianfrancesco Penni.  With this unprecedented combining of the two biblical episodes, the previous version of the project was entirely superseded, and at this crucial moment, Raphael’s extraordinarily resourceful and inventive mind created a far more complex and ambitious composition, in two registers, with the majority of the figures in the lower area.  The new arrangement of the scene is made possible by the introduction of a high hillock, a divider between the upper and lower episodes.  This thoroughly theatrical device, surely inspired by Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi7 (a work which had deeply affected Raphael), creates a visual – and spiritual – middle-ground that simultaneously separates and unites the two parts of the composition.   In the upper level, Christ is still in the centre, both receiving and emanating light.  The disciples, just awakened by the Saviour’s radiance, try to shelter from its blinding power, while below them, in the earthly world, human weakness and suffering are demonstrated in the episode of the family bringing their possessed son to the powerless apostles.  In this new composition, Raphael introduces echoes of two other subjects, the Agony in the Garden and the Resurrection, while eliminating the figure of God the Father, whose presence would have required a third level in the already elaborate and crowded composition.   This modello contains in nuce all the elements that would ultimately be fully developed in a more dramatic and effective way in Raphael’s final composition.  As Henry and Joannides have noted: ’…the two episodes remain juxtaposed and not unified.  There is no formal connection between the upper and the lower parts.’8 Two further drawings witness the next step in the development of the Transfiguration. The first of these, at Chatsworth (fig. 6)9, is a red chalk study for the upper register of the composition – the figures all drawn nude, in accordance with Raphael’s Umbrian training.  The Chatsworth drawing is surely the surviving upper part of what was originally a study for the whole composition, as it appears in the other drawing recording this compositional stage, now in the Albertina (fig.7) – a studio replica, in pen and ink, after a drawing by Gianfrancesco Penni.10  In both these drawings Christ appears airborne, as in the Resurrection, his powerful energy, like a magnet, drawing the two prophets and the Apostles to his aura.  In the lower register, seen in the pen and ink modello in the Albertina, Raphael has clearly succeeded brilliantly in unifying the two narrative episodes, while employing a series of powerful gestures in the figure group of the possessed boy to achieve a highly dramatic and theatrical rendering of that scene.   In addition, the artist introduced, in the far left of the foreground, the figure of the evangelist Matthew, shown with his gospel open and his left arm outstretched, in a gesture that invites the viewer to participate in the dramatic events that are unfolding just beside and above the seated evangelist, in the celestial world.  With infinite ingenuity, Raphael has here succeeded not only in unifying the two scenes, but also in involving his audience in St. Matthew’s narratives. The remaining surviving studies for the Transfiguration provide further evidence of Raphael’s working method.  After the nude modello, the next step would probably have been to make separate nude studies for individual figures, such as the squared red chalk study for the figure of St. Matthew, in the Albertina.11  This type of quick sketch was then developed in more elaborate and finished nude studies, made from the live model, which would probably, in turn, have been integrated into another, more finished modello.  Of these red chalk figure studies, only four have survived: two by Raphael and the other two by Giulio Romano, who, following Raphael’s working method, clearly also made studies of this type when preparing the parts of the Transfiguration that he, rather than Raphael, seems to have executed.  The two drawings by Raphael are the handsome red chalk study, for the same figure of St Matthew and the apostle immediately to his left, at Chatsworth (fig.8),12 and the study for two standing apostles, in the Louvre.13  Those by Giulio are for the three apostles in the centre of the composition (Vienna, Albertina),14 and for the possessed boy and his father (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana).15 The next stage in Raphael’s creative process was to clothe the figures and to focus especially on the fall of light.  The effects achieved through the subtlest nuances of chiaroscuro were of particular importance to the success of the painting, as the Transfiguration is set at dawn, and strongly lit from the left.  The surviving drawing that represents this stage in the process is a study, in the Louvre, for the standing apostle with his left arm raised, pointing at the figure of Christ.16  All these separate figure studies would subsequently have been combined into a working compositional drawing, which would have served as the basis for a complete, actual size cartoon of the whole composition, to be used to transfer it physically onto the panel on which it was to be painted.  Not surprisingly, given its size and fragility, this full-size cartoon has not survived. For most artists, the execution of the final, actual size cartoon represents the end of the creative process, at least as a draughtsman, but Raphael instead introduced yet another stage in the process, producing so-called ‘auxiliary cartoons’ (see below), a type of drawing that Raphael used at this late stage in his career for the most exceptional and exquisitely refined exploration of forms and lighting.  Six such auxiliary cartoons relating to the Transfiguration have survived, all, like this, full-size studies for the heads (and sometimes also the hands) of the most important figures in the complex figure group of the apostles, in the painting’s lower half. To all of the above, one final surviving drawing relating to the Transfiguration must be added, the fascinating study, also once in the Devonshire Collection and now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (fig.9),17 which shows the head and shoulders of one of the most striking – and certainly the most copied – of all the figures in the painting:  the woman, possibly the Magdalene, who kneels, facing away from the viewer, in the very centre of the painting’s lower register.   This drawing, too, seems to have been made at a similarly late stage in the evolution of the composition. The ‘Head of a Young Apostle’, and the ‘auxiliary cartoons’ Oskar Fischel was the first to describe, in 1937, the type of drawing of which the Chatsworth Head of a Young Apostle is an example, and to coin the term ‘auxiliary cartoon’ for such a work.18  These drawings, which are particularly associated with Raphael’s working method, were made very late in the process of creating the final painting.  Traced and pounced from the main, full-sized cartoon of the entire composition, and therefore the same size as the figures in the final work, these are studies of important details, notably the heads and hands of significant figures, which the artist wished to study, rethink and refine with particular care in the final stages of his creative process. The Chatsworth Head of a Young Apostle is one of six extant auxiliary cartoons by Raphael for the Transfiguration.  These drawings all relate to the heads and hands of the figures of the Apostles located on the left side of the composition’s lower register;  the present drawing is a detailed study for the head of the young apostle to the far left of this group.  When working on the Transfiguration, Raphael was well aware of the importance of the commission, and of that of the commissioner.  It is therefore not surprising that, in his characteristic pursuit of perfection, he was still studying these principal heads and hands, in ever greater detail, in the final stages of producing this elaborate and complex work.  In making these remarkable drawings, Raphael may also have returned to the use of the live model. These studies are totally different in character from the other known drawings for the Transfiguration, which either relate to changes in the composition, or are studies, nude or clothed, of one or two figures in their entirety.  None of the earlier drawings for the Transfiguration had focused in this way on the detailed modelling of the heads and hands of the apostles, which are realized in these ‘auxiliary cartoons’ with an unparalled intensity and subtlety of nuances.  The facial expressions of these figures are crucial in conveying the agonising drama of the powerless apostles confronted by the distressed family of the possessed boy;  Vasari, indeed, made specific mention of the extraordinary quality of Raphael’s heads in the Transfiguration, writing: ‘E nel vero, egli vi fece figure e teste, oltra la bellezza straordinaria, tanto nuove, varie e belle, che si fa giudizio comune degli artefici che questa opera, fra tante quant’egli ne fece, sia la più celebrata, la più bella e la più divina.’19 (‘And, indeed, he made therein figures and heads so fine in their novelty and variety, to say nothing of their extraordinary beauty, that it is the common opinion of all craftsmen that this work, among the vast number that he painted, is the most glorious, the most lovely, and the most divine.’) Although very few auxiliary cartoons by Raphael survive, he did in fact employ drawings of this type throughout his career, and the practice was fairly widespread in the leading botteghe of the quattrocento;  Raphael may well have learned it when working in Umbria, where he had access to the thriving workshop of Perugino.   Generally, such auxiliary cartoons focused on important details of a composition, often heads, and were drawn in black chalk or charcoal over pounced dotted outlines, referred to in Italian as spolvero, a term signifying the traces of powdered black chalk left by the process of dusting the chalk through the pricked outlines of a cartoon to transfer them onto another, blank sheet of paper.  This process replicated the outlines of the original cartoon in the same size, enabling the artist to work up specific important details on the same scale as they would appear in the final painting.  Auxiliary cartoons of this type were never themselves pricked or transferred onto another surface, so those that survive are often well preserved. As Carmen Bambach has described in her illuminating study of Italian renaissance workshop practice, these auxiliary cartoons also played a very important record-keeping role in the Renaissance bottega, providing an important basis for the replication of key figures when a copy or repetition of a composition was required.20  Raphael, however, typically seems to have made much more of this practice than his predecessors and contemporaries.  As Bambach observed: ‘Raphael would transform a semimechanical method of production into a creative tool for artistic exploration.’21 Fischel suggested that earlier in his career Raphael used these drawings for reassurance, when experimenting with the heads of figures within an elaborate composition.22  Three such head studies survive for the Vatican Coronation of the Virgin (The ‘Oddi Altarpiece’), of circa 1503-4, the earliest painting by Raphael for which auxiliary cartoons are known.23  The only other known auxiliary cartoon by Raphael prior to those for the Transfiguration, and the only drawing of this type related to the famous series of frescoes in the Vatican Stanze, is the important Head of a Muse, for the Parnassus, a fresco that Raphael executed in 1510-11, for the Stanza della Segnatura.24 The auxiliary cartoons for the Transfiguration are, however, somewhat different from Raphael’s previous works of this type: the heads are no longer so idealized, and the handling in these studies also reflects his increasing mastery, both as a draftsman and as a painter, of the sculptural rendering of forms through dramatic use of light.   The perfect design which underlies the present work is now infused with a strong painterly manner, created by dense black chalk lines that achieve a sfumato effect.  The dotted outlines from the spolvero are less visible, and the fall of light determines unequivocally, yet infinitely subtly, the volumes and forms, and creates a monumentality comparable to that which would be so admired, almost a century later, in the realistic works of Caravaggio.  Paul Joannides’ description of the present drawing captures these qualities perfectly: ’The combination of breadth and precision, relief and texture is incomparable in this auxiliary cartoon…the hair acts as a metaphoric halo…the moustache is drained of detail by the fall of light while retaining plastic form’.25 Raphael’s aim in the present study seems to have been to enhance the plasticity of the head with the fall of light, using the blank paper to enliven the subtle but strong nuances of chiaroscuro.  In defining the beauty of the young apostle’s facial features, modelled with a vigorous and instinctively perfect use of black chalk, Raphael’s image has a clarity that few draughtsmen have ever achieved.  The artist’s perfectly modulated strokes, his total control and skill in the use of his medium, have here succeeded in creating one of the most handsome masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.  This remarkable study also stands as testament to the extraordinary growth and development that Raphael’s style underwent during the latter stages of his all too short life, and the way that his last drawings both assimilated, within his own very personal style, all the artistic innovations of his own time, and defined the entire visual language of future generations. Fischel suggested that Raphael’s auxiliary cartoons for the Transfiguration were made to provide his pupils with very specific guidance in the ‘lay-out and under-painting’ of the panel,26 but given the differences between these cartoons and the corresponding figures in the final altarpiece, this seems debatable.  In the auxiliary cartoon now in Oxford, for example, Raphael altered the position of the hands of the older apostle, yet, as Joannides has noted, the hand remains unchanged in the final, painted version.27 More likely, Raphael drew these auxiliary cartoons precisely because he intended to paint the Apostles himself (though a few of the final touches may in fact have been added, after his sudden death, by studio members). Vasari records that upon Raphael’s death, his body was laid in state for a few days in the room where he worked, directly beneath the Transfiguration: ’Gli misero alla morte al capo nella sala, ove lavorava, la tavola della Transfigurazione che aveva finita per il cardinale de’ Medici, la quale opera, nel vedere il corpo morto e quella viva, faceva scoppiare l’anima di dolore a ognuno che quivi guardava: la quale tavola per la perdita di Raffaello fu messa dal cardinale a San Pietro a Montorio allo altar maggiore, e fu poi sempre per la rarità d’ogni suo gesto in gran pregio tenuta’.28 (‘As he lay dead in the hall where he had been working, there was placed at his head the picture of the Transfiguration, which he had executed for Cardinal de’ Medici; and the sight of that living picture, in contrast with the dead body, caused the hearts of all who beheld it to burst with sorrow. That work, in memory of the loss of Raffaello, was placed by the Cardinal on the high altar of S. Pietro in Montorio; and on account of the nobility of his every action, it was held ever afterwards in great estimation.’) Even if the accuracy of this account cannot be verified, it amply demonstrates the esteem in which the Transfiguration was held at the time of Raphael’s death, and this assessment of the painting’s importance has not diminished during the intervening five centuries. The iconography of Raphael’s Transfiguration There is no documentary record to explain why Raphael rejected his first idea for the Transfiguration, and decided instead to combine, as no artist before him ever had, two consecutive episodes from the Gospel of Saint Matthew (Matthew 17: 1-9 and 14-21).  In the upper part of the composition, the Transfiguration itself29, set at dawn, with the figure of Christ in the centre, receiving light from the left and emanating radiance, is a visionary prefiguration of the Resurrection and the Last Judgement.  On the edge of a circle of light, and carried aloft by the force of the ascending Christ, float the two prophets Moses and Elijah, and the three chosen disciples, Peter, James and John.  Also witnessing this vision are two early Christian Saints, Justus and Pastor, shown in ecstatic prayer, in the upper left corner. These deacon saints, both of them patron saints of the cathedral of Narbonne, are already present in the first, discarded modello for the Transfiguration (fig.3).   This upper section of the composition collectively symbolises divine order and celestial symmetry, while below in the lower register Raphael represents a dramatic earthly event, which took place during Christ’s absence, when the remaining Apostles were unable to heal the possessed boy.  Arranged in this way, the two-part composition conveys far more dynamically the spiritual message of the Transfiguration, which is brought into focus by the contrast with the reality and misery of human life, depicted in the lower register. Raphael’s final composition brilliantly unifies these two episodes within a very exciting and complex whole. A very plausible theory as to why Raphael so transformed the composition of the Transfiguration was recently proposed by Stefania Pasti, and published by Henry and Joannides in the Madrid exhibition catalogue.30 Pasti believes that the spiritual text, Apocalypsis Nova, which originated from the lost writings of a Franciscan minorate, the Blessed Amadeo Menes da Silva, who died in 1482, lies at the heart of the changes.  The Blessed Amadeo, an eminent figure in a reformed branch of the Franciscans, took charge of the Roman church of San Pietro in Montorio when it was given to his order by Pope Sixtus IV (della Rovere, 1471-1484), in 1472.  An influential friar, healer and visionary, Amadeo was the Pope’s confessor, and an active diplomat for the Vatican State.  In 1502, some time after his death, many of the Blessed Amadeo’s writings and sermons were brought together in a trattato, entitled Apocalypsis Nova.  This tract was well known in the ecclesiastical circle of Pope Julius II (della Rovere, 1503-1513) and his successor, Leo X (Medici, 1513-1521).  It also appears to have been the preferred spiritual guide of Guillaume Briçonnet, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici’s predecessor as bishop of Narbonne, and of his two sons.  At the time of the commissioning of the Transfiguration, Cardinal Giulio, who himself knew the Apocalypsis Nova, was in close contact with Briçonnet’s sons, and had encharged their cousin Michel as regent of his diocese.  They may well all have had some influence on the choice of subject for the new altarpiece being commissioned for the cathedral of Narbonne. In Amadeo’s tract, the episodes of the Transfiguration and the possessed boy are described consecutively, the Transfiguration representing a prefiguration of the Last Judgement, and of the final defeat of the Devil, something that could only be achieved by Christ, and not by the apostles, whose powerlessness is demonstrated by their inability to heal the possessed boy in the following episode.  Only after Christ’s death will the Apostles be able to perform miracles themselves, and Amadeo used the contrast between the two episodes to demonstrate the ultimate divinity of Christ.   According to Pasti, Amadeo’s analysis of the miracle of the Raising of Lazarus – the subject of the second panel commissioned for Narbonne by Cardinal Giulio – demonstrates a similar aim. The strongest argument, however, supporting the suggestion that the writings of the Blessed Amadeo were highly influential in determining the ultimate composition of Raphael’s Transfiguration is the fact that when Raphael died, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, very aware of its importance, decided to retain the altarpiece in Rome, and to install it on the main altar of the Blessed Amadeo’s own church, San Pietro in Montorio, which can hardly have been a coincidence. The altarpiece remained in situ there until 1797, when it was taken by French soldiers to Paris. Raphael’s masterpiece returned to Rome only in 1816, and from then on it has been displayed in the Vatican. The Provenance of Raphael's Head of a Young Apostle It is almost certain that this drawing, and the rest of the great series of Raphael drawings at Chatsworth, entered the Devonshire Collection during the lifetime of William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire (1672-1729), who can be given the credit for acquiring some 90 per cent of the drawings in the collection, and whose mark (Lugt 718) is present on this sheet.31  Yet although the source of a significant number of the 2nd Duke’s drawings acquisitions can be traced, no record survives of where he acquired his extraordinary group of Raphaels.  The correspondence most likely to have shed light on this was probably all destroyed in the 1733 Devonshire House fire, but it remains surprising that no other contemporary accounts make mention of the Raphaels, which would at this time already have been considered very great treasures. Quite a number of the 2nd Duke’s most important acquisitions came in the form of significant groups of drawings by the same artist.  This was surely in part a function of the period, during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, when these works were being acquired. At this time, whole albums or portfolios of drawings originating from the studios of 17th century or earlier artists often remained intact, and would have been purchased wholesale, whereas by the 19th century, many Old Master Drawings had already been circulated on the market as individual sheets.  This means that the small number of surviving collections that were largely formed at a relatively early date – in England we are speaking only of the Devonshire and Royal collections – typically contain highly important, and often very numerous, groups of drawings by certain artists, and nothing at all by others of similar significance and date.  Given that the Devonshire collection at one point contained at least twenty drawings by Raphael, including some seven studies for the Transfiguration,32 it seems likely that many of these works by Raphael – of unparalleled range and importance within the collection – may have originated from a single source.  This seems especially likely to be true for the auxiliary cartoons for the Transfiguration, of which there were at one stage very probably five in the collection.33 The 2nd Duke of Devonshire was a passionate collector of drawings, who may even have been a buyer, aged only 16, at the first dispersal of the drawings collection of Sir Peter Lely, in 1688.  He continued to buy with enormous commitment and dedication for the rest of his life, making extensive auction purchases of drawings from, among others, the Lely, Lankrink, and Resta collections, and in 1723 he also acquired directly the entire collection of Nicolaes Flinck, the son of Rembrandt’s pupil Govert Flinck.  The Flinck collection contained, inter alia, the famous series of Rembrandt landscape drawings, the Van Dyck portrait studies, and the Leonardo da Vinci caricatures, all of which have ever since been major highlights of the Devonshire collection, along with at least two of the Raphaels.34 Some 225 drawings in the Chatsworth collection bear the collector’s mark of Nicolaes Flinck, but contemporary accounts suggest there were originally around 500 sheets in the collection, so it is possible that others at Chatsworth, which do not bear the mark, nonetheless share the same provenance.  All the same, it seems unlikely that if a major group of cartoons by Raphael had come to Chatsworth by this route, this would have gone unrecorded, when the Flinck provenance of the Rembrandts, Van Dycks and Leonardos has always been very well known. Around half of the drawings by, or formerly attributed to, Raphael that are or were in the Devonshire collection bear the mark of Sir Peter Lely, and may well have been acquired at one of the two Lely sales, in 1688 or 1694, but no catalogues of these sales survive, nor is there any other documentary evidence to show that the drawings were indeed directly purchased in this way.  More importantly in the present context, there is no collector’s mark or other record that suggests that any of the Raphael auxiliary cartoons were ever in the Lely collection.  As large works that would almost certainly have been framed and hung, even in Lely’s time, it is likely that the auxiliary cartoons would have escaped the application of the mark with which Lely’s smaller drawings were stamped by his executor, Roger North, at the time of the 1688 and 1694 sales of the drawings collection, and they would very likely have been sold with Lely’s pictures in 1682, rather than in the later drawings sales;  however, the handlist of this picture sale, which does survive, makes no mention of any such drawings or cartoons by Raphael.35 In fact, the single surviving record of how a drawing by Raphael entered the Devonshire collection, though somewhat anecdotal, offers the best clue to the likely origin of the cartoons.  The 2nd Duke’s near contemporary, Jonathan Richardson Junior, reported that the Duke had, in 1720, bought a series of framed prints formerly in the collection of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (fig.11), when Viscountess Stafford, the widow of Arundel’s grandson, was selling off property from her London residence, Stafford House (previously known as Tart Hall).36  The Duke was apparently astonished to discover behind these prints ‘capital Draw[in]gs of Raph[ael], Poli[doro], Parmeg[ianino], J. Rom[ano].’37  We can never know for sure what these drawings actually were or if their attributions would hold up to modern scrutiny, but a previously unremarked entry in the inventory of pictures in the possession of the Countess of Arundel (fig.12) at the time of her death in Amsterdam, in 1654, seems to indicate that there is a real possibility that these hidden drawings may have included the Raphael auxiliary cartoons – and therefore the present work. In this inventory, written in Italian and known through a transcript now in the Public Record Office, we find the following two items, listed consecutively:38 Maniera vecchia               5. Teste messo insieme RAPHAEL D’URBINO     Monte Tabor disegno Mount Tabor was, of course, the Biblical location of the Transfiguration, so it seems almost certain that the second of these entries refers to the compositional study, now at Chatsworth, for the upper part of Raphael’s painting (fig.6).39  Within this inventory, works of similar authorship and style tend to be listed together in groups, so although the preceding entry for five depictions of heads does not specifically attribute these works to Raphael, the fact that these two entries appear consecutively in the inventory, together with our knowledge that the 2nd Duke of Devonshire most likely owned five auxiliary cartoons by Raphael for heads in the Transfiguration, suggests that these “5. Teste” may very well have been the five Raphael auxiliary cartoons for heads in the Transfiguration, which were eventually acquired by the 2nd Duke of Devonshire.   Given the complexities of the Earl and Countess of Arundel’s relationship with both the English Court and Cromwell's Protectorate regime, which held power at the time of the Countess’s death, it would not be particularly surprising to find great drawings from their collection concealed behind far less important prints, and once hidden in this way, the drawings could easily have remained in this obscurity for the decades between the Countess’s death in 1654 and the sale of the prints to the Duke of Devonshire in 1720. Though by no means proven, the previously unrecognised possibility that the Raphael auxiliary cartoons in the Devonshire collection originated from the remarkable collection of the Earl of Arundel, one of the greatest of the 2nd Duke of Devonshire’s predecessors among English patrons and collectors, is an exciting addition to our understanding of the history of the Devonshire Collection.  If the present drawing was indeed in the Arundel collection, it is very likely that the Earl acquired it in Italy, perhaps during the trip that he made there in the company of Inigo Jones, in 1613-14. Barring some future archival discovery, however, the secure provenance of the Chatsworth Head of a Young Apostle must begin with the 2nd Duke of Devonshire, one of the very greatest collectors of Old Master Drawings, and the creator of a private collection that is still, some three centuries later, only rivalled by the Royal Collection in terms of its quality, scale and importance. 1. Vasari, vol. IV,  p. 371 2. Vienna, Albertina, inv. vol. VI, 193; Joannides no. 423 3. Henry & Joannides, p. 163 4. All the same, it appears that the overall composition of this painting was ultimately devised entirely by Sebastiano. 5.  Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, inv. no. P-315; Henry & Joannides, p. 160, no. 29, reproduced 6.  Paris, Musée du Louvre, Inv. no. 3954; Henry & Joannides, pp. 160, 165, cat. 31, reproduced 7.  Florence, Gallerie degli Uffizi, inv. No. 1594; Henry & Joannides, p. 61, reproduced fig. 36 8. Henry & Joannides, p. 166 9. Chatsworth no. 904, Jaffé no. 318; Joannides no. 424 10. Vienna, Albertina, inv. Supp. Vol. IV, no. 17544; Joannides no. 430 11. Vienna, Albertina , inv. vol. VII, no. 237r; Joannides no. 425 12. Chatsworth no. 51, Jaffé no. 319; Joannides no. 426 13. Paris, Musée du Louvre, Inv. no. 3864; Joannides no. 427 14. Vienna, Albertina , inv. vol. V, no. 4880; Joannides no. 428 15.  Milan, Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Pinacoteca, inv. no. F273 inf.no. 36; Joannides no. 429 16.  Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. no. 4118; Joannides no. 431 17.  Amsterdam, Rijskmuseum, Gift of J.Q. van Regteren Altena, RP-T-1971-52; Joannides no. 432 18. Fischel, p.168 19. Vasari p. 372 20.  See, for example, Bambach, p. 321, fig. 272 (Workshop of Perugino, Head of an Angel), and p. 322, fig. 273 (Attributed to Fra Bartolommeo, a fragment, Head of a Man) 21. Ibid., p. 328 22. Fischel, p.167 23. The three drawings are: a study in the British Museum for the head of St James (inv. no. 1895,0915.610); a study for two male heads at Windsor Castle (RL 4370), which was discovered in the Royal Collection by A.E. Popham, among a series of drawings by Maratta; and one for the head of an apostle, in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille (inv. no. PL470); see Pouncey & Gere, vol. I, pp. 5-6,  no. 5, reproduced, vol. II, pl. 6, and Joannides, p. 144, nos. 48 and 49, reproduced 24. Private Collection.  Sold, London, Christies’s, 8 December 2009, lot 43.  One further auxiliary cartoon relating to the Vatican Stanze does survive, the Head of a Bishop, for the Coronation of Charlemagne (Paris, Louvre; Joannides no. 376), but that drawing is generally considered to be the work of a pupil, rather than by Raphael himself.   25. Joannides, p. 242 26. Fischel, p. 168 27.  Joannides, no. 48 28. Vasari, p. 383 29. The Biblical text describes how Christ took his disciples Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor, and became transfigured, his face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming dazzling white, thus manifesting to them for the first time his divinity.  Moses and Elijah appeared on either side, and a voice from heaven said “This is my Son”.  The Apostles fell prostrate before this vision. 30.  Henry & Joannides, pp. 164-5 31. F. Lugt, Les Marques de Collection, vol. I , 1921, pp. 127-8. 32.  Jaffé nos. 303-335 (a sequence that includes a number of workshop and studio drawings, and copies), plus the two others which the 6th Duke gave, together with Jaffé no. 322, to Sir Thomas Lawrence (see note 33 below). 33.  The 6th Duke wrote, in the 1844-5 Handbook of Chatsworth and Hardwick, about how he had given three Raphael drawings for the Transfiguration to Sir Thomas Lawrence:  ‘Sir Thomas, mad about his own collection of drawings, got from me three studies by Raffaelle for the Transfiguration: there were five of them, and I retained the two best.  I resisted long; but he was so very anxious, and so full of promises of devoted service, of painting anything for me, that I gave them at last.  The way would have been to have given them for his life: he soon after died, and the sketches were sold with his collection.’  Two of those drawings can be identified as the auxiliary cartoons now in the British Museum (inv. no. 1860,0616.96; Jaffé no. 322, Joannides no. 433) and the Rijksmuseum (Joannides no. 432), the latter of which had come to the Devonshire collection from Flinck.  The third must have been another, now unknown, sheet. 34.  Jaffé nos. 306 & 317 (Chatsworth nos. 902 & 20).  It has also traditionally been stated that the auxiliary cartoon for the Transfiguration, subsequently given by the 6th Duke of Devonshire to Sir Thomas Lawrence and now in the Rijksmuseum, came from the Flinck collection, but unlike the two sheets still at Chatsworth, that drawing does not bear the Flinck mark. 35.  ‘Sir Peter Lely’s Collection,’ editorial, The Burlington Magazine, LXXXIII, no. 485, August 1943, pp. 185-191.  We are also most grateful to Dr. Diana Dethloff for providing further information on the Lely Collection. 36.  'A Catalogue of the Pictures, Prints, Drawings...being Part of the Old Arundel Collection, and belonging to the Late Earl of Stafford..,' April (?) 1720 (copy of the sale catalogue in the British Library: General Reference Collection S.C.347.(2.)) 37.  The source of this story is a hand-written annotation by Jonathan Richardson Junior, to be found in a set of three extensively annotated volumes of bound-up proof-sheets of a French translation of the collected writings of his father, Jonathan Richardson Senior, published in Amsterdam in 1728.  The annotated volumes are in the London Library.  See: F.J.B. Watson, 'On the early history of collecting in England,' The Burlington Magazine, vol. LXXXV, no. 498, 1944, pp. 223-4. 38.  Lionel Cust and Mary L. Cox, ‘Notes on the Collections formed by Thomas Howard,’ The Burlington Magazine, XIX, no. 101, August 1911, p. 283. 39.  Jaffé no. 318 (Chatsworth no. 904); Joannides no. 424

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2012-12-05
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Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval)

Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) reveals Malevich's art at its most iconoclastic and theoretically complex.  Painted in the early 1920s in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the image here embodies the 'new world order' promoted by the Suprematist movement, Malevich's radical artistic philosophy that transformed Russian avant-garde art in the early twentieth century.  Nearly half a decade after the publication of his Suprematist Manifesto in 1915, Malevich had fine-tuned his philosophies and perfected the artistic manifestation of his ideas, eliminating many of the colors, shapes and more painterly elements that dominated his earlier Suprematist compositions. His paintings now were absolute in their dismissal of art qua art and governed by no cultural, political or religious precedent.  In his manifesto from the spring of 1920 entitled "UNOM I" ("Establishment of the New World 1"), Malevich states this unequivocally: "By this UNOM I declare myself as emerged from nations and religious denominations." Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) epitomizes this dictum in its most extreme form, with its irreverent black cruciform and oval of red paint set against an abyss of white. Suprematist painting, Malevich explained, was a universal art that was immediately accessible, unmistakably clear and "supreme" in its aesthetic intentions.  "Color and texture in painting are ends in themselves," Malevich wrote in his 1915-16 treatise, The Suprematist Manifesto.  "They are the essence of painting, but this essence has always been destroyed by the subject."  Suprematism was rooted in Malevich's desire to move beyond traditional representation towards an art of pure color and geometric form.  While this radical idea had its origins in Cubism and Futurism, Suprematism proposed something wholly new in that it rejected any subjective basis or thematic origin.  Malevich's opposition to traditional modes of representation was absolute:  "If all the masters of the Renaissance had discovered the surface of painting, it would have been much more exalted and valuable than any Madonna or Mona Lisa.  And any carved-out pentagon or hexagon would have been a greater work of sculpture than the Venus de Milo or David" (K. Malevich, "From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism. The New Realism in Painting," 1915-16, reprinted in C. Harrison and P. Wood, eds., Art in Theory, 1900-1990, London, 1991, p. 175). The genesis of Suprematist painting was preceded by Malevich's experiences as a young artist of the fledgling Russian avant-garde. In 1907, he took part in the exhibition organized by the Association of Moscow Artists with notables such as Kandinsky and Mikhail Larionov, and was later invited by Larionov to join the newly formed exhibition group, Target, in 1913. Target was influenced by Cubist and Futurist art, and also incorporated Larionov's new, almost non-objective concept named Rayism (Luchizm) which appealed to Malevich's proto-Suprematist sensibilities. After the demise of Target around 1914, Malevich became a leading member of the Russian Futurist group of artists, writers and poets, and began taking bolder steps with his painting. By the spring and summer of 1915, he finally discarded all reference to figuration in favor of colored, unadorned geometric shapes on a white background and painted strikingly reductive compositions.  The artist wrote a lengthy treatise about these paintings entitled "From Cubism to Suprematism in Art" to accompany the exhibition "The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings: 0.10" in Petrograd. The "Suprematist Manifesto," as this text is commonly known, was later reprinted in Moscow in 1916 and titled "From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism. The New Realism in Painting." In it, Malevich described his vision of art in the age of modernity: "The artist can be creator only when forms in his picture have nothing in common with nature. For art is the ability to construct, not on the interrelation of form and colour, and not on an aesthetic basis of beauty in composition, but on the basis of weight, speed and the direction of movement. Forms must be given life and the right to individual existence" (K. Malevich, op. cit., p. 175). Mystic Suprematism dates from 1920-22, at which point Malevich had moved away from the colorful constellations of shapes that had filled his canvases at the beginning of this movement. One of his first compositions to this end was his 1915 Black Square, in which a black plane takes the form of a square, adrift in space and at an oblique angle to the picture plane.  Over the next few years Malevich considered the consequences of color and form in perpetual motion, as they were propelled apart by the forces of universal energy or 'cosmic diffusion.'  The borders of his color forms now dissolved into the white background, or the forms themselves completely disappeared as they broke and drifted apart with relentless entropy into the abyss.  He pushed this premise even further in 1918 in his colorless composition White on White and then, to extreme effect, in 1920 with his exhibition of entirely blank canvases.  "There can be no speaking of painting in Suprematism," he wrote that year.  "Painting was exhausted long ago, and the artist himself is a bias of the past" (quoted in Aleksandra Shatskikh, op. cit., p. 182). Mystic Suprematist is a dramatic exploration of this cosmic destruction and dissolution in progress. In her essay for the 2011 exhibition catalogue, Aleksandra Shatskihk describes how the artist interpreted this force with his 1915 canvas, Black Cross: "Under the pressure of energetic tension, the square splits in half, and the resulting two broad posed shift upward and downward and then, spinning toward each other and intersecting at right angles, are fixed in a cruciform structure." Mystic Suprematism, created over five years later, takes this notion to a new extreme.  The cruciform is approached as a purely plastic object, vulnerable to the forces of the universe.  Entirely divorced from any religious connotations, this image was Malevich's radical expression of form at its most elemental. Instead of presenting a dislodged plane of nothingness adrift in space, Malevich breaks apart his black square and arranges the fragments in linear opposition against the red oval. The image appears aloft, rising towards the top edge of the canvas as it is propelled into oblivion. Malevich's text stated his exaltation for non-objective art (in no uncertain terms).  In the recent retrospective on the artist's work, Matthew Druitt emphasized the cataclysmic impact that the artist hoped his new aesthetic would have on the future of painting: "With the single-mindedness of a missionary or a prophet, Malevich spent nearly fifteen years of his career espousing the aesthetic and moral superiority of a system of abstract art he termed Suprematism.  A complete departure from any pictorial method theretofore recognized in art, Suprematism was characterized by Malevich as 'that end and beginning where sensations are uncovered, where art emerges "as such."'  He adopted many guises in the service of this new art, from teacher and administrator to theorist and aesthete, all fashioned to bring about a sea of change in the way people thought about art and its impact upon the world around them" (M. Druitt, Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism, op. cit., p. 17). Unlike the Russian-born artists Soutine and Chagall who left their native country in search of artistic inspiration in France, Malevich remained in Russia during the critical period of transformation and revolution and was a key figure in the revival of Russian art and culture during this period. Born in the Ukraine in 1878, he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in 1905 and remained in that city throughout the 1910s. His early paintings from 1910-13 were not without reference to the French avant-garde, and incorporated a variation of the Cubist aesthetic made popular by Picasso and Braque. But as his painting developed, Malevich began reinterpreting the styles of Cubism, as well as Italian Futurism, and devised an artistic philosophy that was decidedly his own. His Suprematist paintings revered the beauty of speed that had been championed by Futurism and Cubism's fragmenting of objects. In contrast to these two movements, Suprematism rejected the idea of objective representation and eliminated any references to nature. "I have transformed myself in the zero of form and dragged myself out of the rubbish filled pool of Academic art...." (K. Malevich, op. cit., p. 166).  This was the credo that governed Malevich's compositions of this era, and would later be regarded as one of the most radical pronouncements of early twentieth century artistic theory. The international breakthrough of Malevich's career did not occur until the seminal 1927 exhibition, Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung, in which Suprematist Composition was featured alongside seventy other of the artist's works.  According to Matthew Drutt, "No other Russian artist, not even Kandinsky, who had been celebrated in Germany long before Malevich, had ever received such distinguished attention....  The exhibition became the defining moment in Malevich's career in terms of the reception of his work in the West, not just at the time, but subsequently also; as it turns out, the works shown would become, outside Russia, the primary source of knowledge of Malevich's oeuvre for the next fifty years" (M. Drutt, Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism, op. cit., pp. 21-22).  In archival photographs from the exhibition, we can see this picture hanging on the walls. The effect that Malevich's art had on future generations of artists cannot be understated.  Unlike the pictures of his fellow Russian artist Kandinsky, whose pre-war oils were embellished with flurries of abstraction, Malevich's pictures have an unadulterated linearity and precision that was a major precursor of abstraction in the second half of the twentieth century.  Mark Rothko, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly and Donald Judd can all trace the origins of their work to Malevich's sublimely pared-down shapes, bold color and non-objective themes.  Mystic Suprematism, with its vibrancy and lyricism, transcend its historical frame of reference, earning the status of a timeless classic. Malevich predicted the great impact that his Suprematist philosophy would have on the development of modern aesthetics and artistic theory: "Our world of art has become new, non-objective, pure. Everything has vanished, there remains a mass of material, from which the new forms will be built. In the art of Suprematism form will live, like all living forms of nature. These forms announce that man has gained his equilibrium by arriving from a state of single reasoning at one of double reasoning. Utilitarian reasoning and intuitive reasoning. The new realism in painting is very much realism in painting for it contains no realism of mountains, sky, water... Until now there was realism of objects, but not of painted units of color which are constructed so that they depend neither on form, nor on colour nor on their position relative to each other. Each form is free and individual. Each form is a world" (K. Malevich, op. cit., p. 174).  Mystic Suprematism, which encapsulates these very concepts, puts forth an image of this spectacular new world. Mystic Suprematism has been featured in the collection of the Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum for the last fifty years and is regarded as a paradigmatic example of the twentieth-century avant-garde at its most radical.  Malevich's work on Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) commenced in the aftermath of the the 16th State Exhibition in Moscow in 1919-20, which established Malevich as one of the most influential artists of his era.  In 1927, the artist accompanied this picture to exhibitions in Warsaw and Berlin, introducing Western Europe to the unprecedented aesthetic that he had devised in the years leading up Lenin's triumph. In June 1927, Malevich was obliged to return to the Soviet Union and arranged for the painting to be stored in Berlin, but he was prevented from leaving the Soviet Union, where he died in 1935.  Mystic Suprematism was later entrusted to the German architect Hugo Haring, who purportedly sold it to the Stedelijk Museum.  It was finally returned to the artist's heirs in 2008.  Rarely does a single picture embody such cultural and art historical significance.

  • USAUSA
  • 2015-11-06
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Domplatz, Mailand [Cathedral Square, Milan]

A simply breathtaking triumph of Gerhard Richter's 1960s photo-painting, Domplatz, Mailand was at the time of its execution the largest figurative painting he had created and stands today as the epitome of this period of his career. Executed in his thirty-sixth year, the astounding scale (at more than 9 by 9 feet) and exquisite technical accomplishment mark this work as historic. It exemplifies a pioneering approach to source material, by which he interrogated themes of mass media from a unique perspective on the contemporary culture of Europe in the 1960s. Yet as with other examples of truly timeless art, this painting remains vital and an encounter with it today provides a strikingly resonant experience. For while generically this painting is the perfect archetype of Richter’s photo-painting, specifically it is a portrait of the two overriding socio-economic forces that have determined the history of humankind: commerce and religion, as embodied by two monuments that forever face each other across the Piazza in Milan. Ultimately Domplatz, Mailand is essential to a legacy aptly defined by the Director of The Museum of Modern Art, Glenn Lowry: "In Richter's work...there is a demonstration of the ways in which painting's resources are constantly replenished by the very problems it seems to pose, both for the painter and the viewer. Nobody in our own time has posed them better or solved them more inventively than Richter." (Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, 2002, p. 7) In 1968 Richter received a major commission from the Siemens Corporation for a large painting to install in its Milan offices and, working on a scale unprecedented in his photo-painting mode and anxious to deliver an outstanding feat, the artist primed two canvases so as to be ready to start over if it became necessary. Indeed, his first attempt at this scale proved a failure, and Richter was forced to cut that canvas into nine smaller paintings that thereafter became independent works. He then composed and executed Domplatz, Mailand, one of the most assured essays of his photo-painting style to date which was to hang in the Siemens Milan offices for 30 years between 1968 and 1998. Adopting as his source a composed snapshot of the famous view of the Piazza del Duomo in front of Milan’s Cathedral, Richter determinedly yet meticulously blurs the image of the bustling concourse. The composition is dominated by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which juts in from the left edge and recedes dramatically through the center of the canvas, leading the spectator’s eye from left to right towards the straight-on view of the Cathedral itself. The offsetting of the two monumental buildings comprises a stark juxtaposition: while the grand Gothic Duomo took six centuries to complete to become the largest cathedral in the Italian State Territory, the neo-classical Galleria is a spectacular shopping arcade, the largest in Italy, and was completed in 1877. This acutely observed distinction between commerce and religion was noted by Robert Storr: “the subject is one of the most ornate Gothic churches in Europe, and a symbol of feudal civilization in all its grandeur and vulnerability, and, to the left, the portal of a nineteenth-century shopping arcade, a symbol of bourgeois power in all its monumental self-assurance.” (Exh. Cat. New York, The Museum of Modern Art and travelling, Gerhard Richter: 40 Years of Painting, 2002–03, p. 42) The city of Milan has fascinated and enthralled Gerhard Richter for many years, and he has painted numerous scenes of its urban fabric, notably the Duomo itself in 1964 and a series of cityscapes based on aerial views in 1968-9. However, the present painting’s importance to his subsequent oeuvre was extremely significant, as the artist later explained: “Sometimes I’ve enjoyed doing commissioned work, in order to discover something that I wouldn’t have found of my own accord. And so, when Siemens commissioned my first townscape, that led to all the townscapes that followed.” (The artist interviewed by Hans-Ulrich Obrist in 1993 in Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings and Interviews, 1962-1993, Cambridge, Massachusetts,1995, p. 266) In 1963 Richter had boldly presented himself unannounced to the legendary gallery owner Ileana Sonnabend in Paris as a 'German Pop Artist' and his early photo-painting corpus, rooted in a panorama of imagery appropriated from newspaper and magazine clippings of supposedly arbitrary selection, has been critically interpreted as a European correlation to American Pop Art as developed by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Richter had first encountered Pop Art in 1962 via a reproduction of a painting by Lichtenstein, but by 1968 and the time of the present work he was well-versed with the aesthetic vernacular and pithy critique of contemporary life that had dominated the avant-garde across the Atlantic for almost a decade. In a certain way, Domplatz, Mailand can readily be considered as Richter’s model contribution to this international movement. Derived from an archetype of the picture-postcard vista – by its composition and viewpoint this is a determinedly beautified view of a famously beautiful scene – via the wholesale appropriation of a found photograph, Richter manipulates an interpretation of reality that was specifically designed for mass-consumption. The role of the photograph in this process is critical, as the artist has explicated: "When I paint from a photograph, conscious thinking is eliminated. The photograph is the most perfect picture. It does not change; it is absolute, and therefore autonomous, unconditional, devoid of style. Both in its way of informing, and in what it informs of, it is my source." (The artist in Gerhard Richter: Text, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London, 2009, pp. 29-30) For centuries, through sequential media such as engraved printing, oil painting, and color-tinted photography, the piazza in front of Milan’s Cathedral has been the subject of picturesque portrayal. With the increasing availability of international travel to Western Europe’s burgeoning middle class in the 1950s and 1960s, Milanese government and industry chose the Cathedral landmark as the clarion call for mass tourism to flock to their city. Richter’s painting presents an important commentary on this successive advertising of the city, and by creating an oil painting of a famously beautiful Italian view on a vast scale he satirizes the concept of the picture postcard as well as delivering an object of astounding beauty. However, Domplatz, Mailand also represents a moment when Richter's ambition had advanced well beyond a mere riposte to the advent of American Pop, and had developed into an independent, highly-sophisticated philosophy. Whereas American Pop readily satirized burgeoning consumerism and undermined clichés of the American Dream, late 1950s and early 1960s Western Germany lacked the widespread societal presumptions necessary for that brand of cultural parody. The art of Gerhard Richter at this time was borne of an epoch immersed in geopolitical fracture, rather than ever-expanding societal mediocrities. Indeed, the important subsequent cycle of townscape paintings that Domplatz, Mailand initiated, which are characterized by increasingly abstract and impasto brushstrokes coalescing into aerial views of urban topographies, are often cited for their parity with aerial photographs of cities bombed and devastated during the Second World War. Richter later noted that his townscape series was inevitably related to the notorious firebombing of Dresden, which had imprinted such a permanent impression on Richter as a boy living nearby. Hence while Domplatz, Mailand is unquestionably a painting related to the prefabricated iconography of mass-produced popular imagery, and Richter’s subtle re-presentation and distortion comprise a discerning social critique of contemporary modes of visual communication, it is also firmly rooted in the artist’s singular experience of life on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Having grown up and studied in Dresden before dramatically fleeing to West Berlin with his wife in 1961 and settling in Düsseldorf, Richter was acutely aware of the contrasts endemic to East and West at the height of the Cold War. 1968 was of course a year of spectacular social and cultural transformation internationally, as well as being remembered as a year of widespread student riots, including in Milan. It is fascinating that at this moment Richter portrayed a monumental portrait of two titanic forces of society, fixed forever in ideological competition yet existing side by side in pragmatic cooperation: commerce, as represented by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and religion, represented by the Milan Duomo. And of course it is no accident that these two, arguably irrepressible forces were heavily repressed in the Soviet Bloc. In concert with all the other brilliant conceptual foundations of Richter’s photo-paintings, specific understanding of Domplatz, Mailand as a portrait of commerce and religion, specifically here Capitalism and Catholicism, physically sited through the ages in a perpetual stand-off, makes this painting a defining masterwork of his entire oeuvre. Emerging from ethereal veils of medium and pigment, the tonal spectrum has been dramatically blurred by the artist's feathering of the wet paint surface with a fine dry brush to inscribe thousands of vertical furrows in a consummate exhibition of sfumato brushwork. As Robert Storr notes, “brushed in generally thin, gently seismic vertical and horizontal hatchings, the image wobbles optically, and the perspective shifts and torques as if it were emanating from a giant black-and-white television set with bad reception.” (Op. Cit.) The standardized and impersonal treatment results in a surface regulation that aptly serves the underlying objectivity of the photo-painting project, as explicated by the artist: "I blur things to make everything equally important and equally unimportant. I blur things so that they do not look artistic or craftsmanlike but technological, smooth and perfect. I blur things to make all the parts a closer fit." (in Hans-Ulrich Obrist, ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London,1995, p. 37) One of the most startling developments of mass-media in the late 1950s and early 1960s was the sudden profusion of color in photo-mechanical production – in reproductions, magazines, newspapers, and finally television – which transformed the possibilities of visual culture designed for mass-consumption. It was precisely these brilliant Technicolor primaries that provided the aesthetic vernacular for Warhol and Lichtenstein, and which consequently became emblematic of Pop Art. However, Richter’s photo-paintings, as demonstrated by Domplatz, Mailand, remained almost exclusively greyscale within the single tonal range from black to white. While his sources came from found photo images, they were not necessarily contemporary images (manifestly unlike Warhol, for example), and frequently belonged to old family photo-albums and vintage reproductions. He has since explained that working in black and white was more authentic to the feel of newspaper reproductions and photojournalism, and that harnessing the dispassionate lens of the photographer-as-eyewitness undermined the role of subject within his painting. The diaphanous layers of the monochromatic palette also align the photo-painting to the authentic experience of just glimpsing an image momentarily, when the eye can work to prioritize tonal data over chromatic information. Catching the transient glimpse of a fleeting moment, this technique also imitates the effect of movement itself, while the combination of an identifiable subject yet indeterminate atmosphere conjures the quality of a half-forgotten memory. Ultimately, through his incomparable technique, Richter confronts the viewer not only with the manipulation of paint, but also the manipulation of perception. He exposes the false autonomy and supposed objectivity ascribed to photography and challenges his audience to question and re-evaluate their perception of contemporary media. By re-establishing painterly control and enlisting his legendary handling of paint to interpret this devastatingly relevant subject-matter, he forces distance between the reproduced image and its audience to focus our eye on issues of re-presentation and visual cognition.

  • USAUSA
  • 2013-05-13
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Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre

Cézanne’s magnificent Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre is a feast for the senses.  All of the elements of the composition are fresh and enticing, and Cézanne invites us to savor them as he leads our eye across the canvas. The soft, cornflower blue highlights of the tablecloth and the earthenware jar, the mix of deep greens, plums and ultramarines in background, and the juicy, vermillion pulp of the cut melons all evoke the tastes and smells of a late summer harvest.  We can even see that the apples, still bearing their stems and leaves, have just been picked.   This glorious picture dates from 1895, when Cézanne's radical experimentations with perspective and color were at their most sophisticated.   His still-lifes of this period focus on the inherent geometry of objects and explore the spatial problems of representing three-dimensional form.   Cézanne’s approach breathed new life into the time-honored tradition of still life painting at the turn of the century, and his aesthetic accomplishments would have a profound impact on artists for generations to come. Cézanne’s still-lifes, particularly those completed in the mid-1890s, are considered the harbingers of 20th century modernism, and their influence was the driving force behind the Cubist compositions of Braque and Picasso (see fig. 1).  Even while he was working with the Impressionists in the 1870s and 1880s, Cézanne demonstrated the promise and brilliant vision that would emerge in his paintings of the 1890s.  Writing about the still-lifes from these early years, the British critic Roger Fry noted that Cézanne “is distinguished among artists of the highest rank by the fact that he devoted so large a part of his time to this class of picture, that he achieved in still-life the expression of the most exalted feelings and the deepest intuitions of his nature.  Rembrandt alone, and that only the rarest examples, or in accessories, can be compared to him in this respect.  For one cannot deny that Cézanne gave a new character to his still-lifes.  Nothing else but still-life allowed him sufficient calm and leisure, and admitted all the delays which were necessary to him plumbing the depths of his idea.  But there, before the still-life, put together not with too ephemeral flowers, but with onions, apples, or other robust and long-enduring fruits, he could pursue till it was exhausted his probing analysis of the chromatic whole.  But through the bewildering labyrinth of this analysis he held always like Ariadne’s thread, the notion that changes of colour correspond to movements of planes.  He sought always to trace this correspondence throughout all the diverse modifications which changes of local colour introduced into the observed resultant…it is hard to exaggerate their (still-life’s) importance in the expression of Cézanne’s genius or the necessity of studying them for its comprehension, because it is in them that he appears to have established his principles of design and his theories of form” (Roger Fry, Cézanne: A Study of his Development, Chicago, 1927, pp. 37 and 50). As avant-garde as this painting was for its day, Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre finds its origins in the trompe-l’oeil compositions of the French old masters that Cézanne had studied at the Louvre (see fig. 2).    Much like his forbearers, Cézanne set out to capture the essence and allure of each object in his still-lifes.   But his approach was rooted in a truly modern belief that "Painting does not mean slavishly copying the object:  It means perceiving harmony amongst numerous relationships and transposing them into a system of one's own by developing them according to a new, original logic" (Paul Cézanne, quoted in Richard Kendall, op. cit., p. 298). The ginger jar depicted in the present work was an object that appeared in several of Cézanne's compositions from the 1890s, including the Metropolitan Museum's Nature morte, pot de gingembre et aubergines (see fig. 3) and the Barnes Collection's Le vase paillé (see fig. 4). But Cézanne's recurrent use of the objects in his studio (see fig. 5) never resulted in repetitive compositions.   "It is amazing to see how the artist continued to develop new picture ideas out of the same materials," Götz Adriani observed.  For Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre he took the time to arrange these objects so that they presented  optimal challenges for his painting.  He overwhelms the table top with round, bulbous objects and a generously gathered cloth that drapes over its edge.  All of the fruits appear to be spilling off the cloth and into the foreground, but the vessel in the left corner anchors them all on the surface of the table.  Cézanne delighted in depicting contradictory perspectives, and his achievements to this end were the catalysts for the development of Cubism and even the colorful studio paintings of Matisse a decade later. Writing forty years after Roger Fry and from a considerably different viewpoint, Meyer Schapiro summarized the importance of the still-life in Cézanne's oeuvre: "Not only in the importance of still-life in general for Cézanne's art, but also in his persistent choice of apples we sense a personal trait. If he achieved a momentary calm through these carefully considered, slowly ripened paintings, it was not in order to prepare for a higher effort. These are major works, often of the same complexity and grandeur as his most impressive landscapes and figure compositions. The setting of the objects, the tables and drapes, sometimes suggest a large modeled terrain, and tones of the background wall have the delicacy of Cézanne's skies... Still-life engages the painter (and also the observer who can surmount the habit of casual perception) in a steady looking that discloses new and elusive aspects of the stable object. At first commonplace in appearance, it may become in the course of that contemplation a mystery, a source of metaphysical wonder. Completely secular and stripped of all conventional symbolism, the still-life object, as the meeting-point of boundless forces of atmosphere and light, may evoke a mystical mood like Jakob Boehme's illumination through the glint on a metal ewer" (Meyer Schapiro, "The Apples of Cézanne – An essay on the meaning of Still-life," Art News Annual, XXIV, 1968, p. 44).  In Ambroise Vollard's stockbook, this work was recorded as no. 3881 [A] Table chargé de petit melon -- dans une assiette plusieurs tranches un pot de grès fond gris bleu 46 by 61 . Nature Morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre remained in one private collection for decades and today is one of the last great still-lifes left in private hands. Fig. 1, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Cut melon and other fruit, circa 1760, oil on canvas, Musée de Louvre, Paris Fig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Le Bock, oil on canvas, 1909, Musée d'Art Moderne du Nord, Villeneuve d'Ascq Fig. 3, Paul Cézanne, Nature morte, pot de gingembre et aubergines, 1893-94, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Fig. 4, Paul Cézanne, Le vase paillé, circa 1895, oil on canvas, The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania Fig. 5, Objects, including the ginger jar, that Cézanne used for his still-life compositions.  Photograph by John Rewald, circa 1935

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-11-07
Hammer price
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A highly important and extremely rare ru guanyao brush washer northern

Finely potted with shallow rounded sides rising from a slightly splayed foot, exquisitely veiled in a luminous and translucent bluish-green glaze suffused with a dense network of glistening ice crackles, the glaze thinning at the extremities to subtly reveal the body beneath and pooling particularly along the cavetto and foot to an unctuous caesious colour, the underside with three delicate 'sesame-seed' spur marks A RU ICE CRACKLE BRUSH WASHER Regina Krahl Ru guanyao, the official ware of the late Northern Song (960-1127) court from the kilns in Ruzhou, in modern Baofeng county, Henan province, has in the course of nearly a millennium gained quasi mythical status. Ru ware is a part of Chinas history, an emblem of Chinas philosophy, a metaphor for Chinas aesthetics in short, an icon of Chinas culture. The small and unobtrusive ceramic pieces are considered the epitome of the Chinese potters craft, but they are far more than just that, they have a significant story to tell. They can be considered the crowning glory of any collection of Chinese works of art, but they are and always were virtually unobtainable. With its glowing, intense blue-green glaze, its luminous, complex interlaced ice crackle pattern, its classic, excellently proportioned shape, and its three fine sesame seed spur marks, the present brush washer, formerly in the collection of the Chang Foundation in the Hongxi Museum, Taipei, is a picture-book example of Ru guanyao and incarnates to perfection the wares revered qualities. It would be difficult to find a better ambassador for Ru ware. Although Ru ware unlike guan ware of Hangzhou is very distinctive, it still shows great variation in the glaze, which can range from a pale milky-opaque green without any crackle, as seen on the brush washer sold in these rooms in 2012 (no. 29 in our list, below), to the intense, glassy blue-green with a light-catching crackle in superimposed, horizontal, flake-like layers, known as ice or broken ice crackle, found on the present piece. While some connoisseurs expressed a preference for the former, as, for example, the early Ming (1368-1644) writer Cao Zhao in his collectors handbook Ge gu yao lun [The essential criteria of antiquities], the latter seems to have been the ideal that the Hangzhou official (guan) kilns of the Southern Song (1127-1279) tried to recreate. Both types are extremely rare, and there are many variations in between, some rather matt and greyish, others with predominating, sometimes stained, crackle lines, that cut vertically through the glaze layer without reflecting light. Whatever ones taste in this matter, there can be no doubt that this ravishingly beautiful vessel represents one of the most desirable examples extant. Pieces closest to the present piece in glaze quality would seem to be one of the examples in the Sir Percival David Collection (53), one of the pair in the Röhsska Museum (57), and the piece in the Princessehof Museum (59). The list of preserved specimens suggests, that the best glazes were achieved on the smaller and simpler vessel shapes, while on the larger and more complex forms glazes often turned out less remarkable or even untypical, as on the famous pear-shaped vase in the Sir Percival David Collection, which Wang Qingzheng therefore went as far as doubting altogether (Wang et al., 1991, p. 116). The exquisite state of preservation of this washer would have required reverential handling over thousands of generations during its nine-hundred-year long history. The extreme rarity of Ru wares, which can hardly be overstated, is due to a combination of factors. When looking through the list of extant Ru pieces, it becomes clear that the Ru kilns did not practise large-scale series production. Of many shapes, only one or two examples are known, and vessels of the same basic form tend to differ in size and proportion and may be fired on three or on five spurs. Of the five extant bottles (nos 1-5), for example, only two are similar in form; the six narcissus basins (nos 6-11) come in at least two sizes; one of the three incense burners (nos 12-14) is much larger than the other two; and the thirty-three brush washers (nos 30-62) vary in profile and range in size from 12.3 cm to 16.7 cm, without any particular size predominating. Unlike in south China, where individual dragon kilns in the Longquan area for example, could extend to lengths of 100 m, Ru kilns were small bun-shaped (mantou) kilns less than 2 m long. Their capacity was further limited by the fact that Ru pieces were fired standing upright, each in its own saggar, rather than stacked upside down, like Ding wares, and the method of firing them, precariously balanced on rings or pads with three or five thin pointed stilts, undoubtedly led to many failures. In addition, pieces were generally fired more than once, first for the biscuit, and then at least once more for the glaze. Glaze crazing, originally an undesired effect of the different contraction of body and glaze during the cooling process, was first discovered as an asset on Ru ware; yet an attractive crackle pattern refracting the light, like in mineral formations occurring in nature, requires a happy coincidence of circumstances and cannot be produced at will. Ru ware evokes patriotic sentiments and nostalgic thoughts of glorious eras of Chinas past, such as the reign of the Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r. 1101-1125), one of Chinas greatest imperial art enthusiasts and connoisseurs; or that of the Southern Song (1127-1279) Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127-1162), who strove to recreate some of the dynastys lost splendour in the new southern capital Hangzhou, although this had just been intended as a temporary abode for the court, after it had been forced to flee from invading foreigners. Ru official ware was made for only a very short period of time, generally believed not to have exceeded twenty years, during the reigns of the Northern Song Emperors Zhezong (r. 1086-1100) and Huizong. The two decades from 1086 to 1106 put forward by Chen Wanli (Chen 1951) are still largely accepted as the most likely period of its production, even though some scholars have proposed slight variations. Although we have no indication of any direct imperial involvement in its creation, an imperial complaint about the unglazed rims of the white Ding wares from Hebei apparently led to an imperial order of green wares from Ruzhou in Henan instead, the first direct commission of ceramics by an imperial court, which until then had relied on tribute wares supplied by various manufactories. A taste for a ware so extremely modest and unspectacular could only evolve from a world view that propagated modesty and honesty over ostentation and pretence. This taste in ceramics manifested itself at a period, when the influential, idealist politician Wang Anshi (1021-1086) postulated, and practised himself, an austere and frugal lifestyle, and when amateur literati painters, whose concepts differed dramatically from those of the art academy professionals, pursued simplicity and artlessness in painting. Instead of displaying complex skills in elaborate compositions, they favoured natural and spontaneous depictions of humble motifs. As painters tried to render the atmosphere of a landscape at a specific moment, at a certain time of day or in certain weather conditions, potters were admired for achieving glazes of a specific shade (approaching the blue of the sky after rain), rather than for the shiny green surface in general that in the Tang dynasty (618-907) had evoked comparisons with jade. The non-precious ceramic material, the variation of hues achieved in the firing and the accidental crackle patterns appearing during cooling accorded perfectly with the new endorsement of simplicity, subtlety and spontaneity in art a form of understatement and connoisseurship that appealed to Chinas elite. With their discerning criteria for judging proportion, glaze structure, tonal range and tactility, Song connoisseurs in many ways anticipated modern design movements and Song ceramics still provide models of style and craftsmanship for potters today. Although this taste was originally borne by the class of Chinas educated scholar-officials, its sophistication at least as far as ceramics were concerned was fully embraced by the court. With the loss of the northern part of their empire to the Jurchen and the move of the capital to Hangzhou, the Song no longer had access to either the Ru or the Ding kilns a very visible reminder of lost territory. Since no southern manufactory was in a position to fill this lacuna, Emperor Gaozong, the first to rule out of Hangzhou, had new official (guan) kilns set up right inside the capital to make wares modelled on Ru ware for imperial use. It is exactly the glaze of the present washer, with its intense colour and broken ice crackle, that some of the most admired guan wares copied (compare, for example, some of the guan vessels in the National Palace Museum: Taipei 2016, pls II-2, II-7, II-11 and 12, II-42 and 43). When in 1151 a high civil official, Zhang Jun, who had moved south together with the Song court, made a gift of sixteen pieces of Ru ware to the Gaozong Emperor, it was a spectacular gesture that unmistakeably documented his power and wealth, as well as his allegiance to the Song court, and was duly recorded for posterity (in the Wulin jiushi, a book of memories of Hangzhou written by Zhou Mi, 1232-1308). How any official however powerful could have amassed such a large number of pieces that were notoriously difficult to come by, remains an open question, as only pieces rejected by the court were supposedly allowed to be sold, and it is unlikely that Zhang Jun would have offered the Emperor rejects of that kind. The high regard for Ru ware did not wane in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when the term sesame seed markings to describe the wares characteristic minute spur marks, appears to have been coined. It appears for the first time in print in 1591 in Gao Lians Zun sheng ba jian [Eight discourses on the nurturing of life]. Unlike other Song wares, Ru was, however, virtually not copied then, presumably because too few pieces were in circulation to provide models. One notable exception is a monochrome blue-glazed porcelain version of an oval narcissus basin of Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), created by the Jingdezhen imperial kilns perhaps after a drawing (Mingdai Xuande guanyao jinghua tezhan tulu/Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, pl. 36). It was by sending originals from the palace in Beijing to the porcelain kilns in south China as models, among them a Ru narcissus basin, that the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723-1735) managed to revive Ru shapes and glazes. A list of different porcelains ordered to be made for the Emperor in 1732 lists Uncrackled Ru glaze with copper-coloured paste, copied from the colour of the glaze of two pieces of the Song dynasty, and Ru glaze with fish-roe crackle of copper-coloured paste, copied from the colours of the glaze of a piece of the Song dynasty sent from the imperial palace (Stephen W. Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art: Illustrated by Examples from the Collection of W.T. Walters, New York, 1896; reprint London, 1981, pp. 194f.). According to an inventory of 1729, thirty-one Ru brush washers of various shapes and sizes, with and without inscriptions, were kept in special, probably Japanese, lacquer boxes (Taipei, 2006, p. 25), some of them identifiable through their inscriptions among pieces extant in Taipei today. Several Ru pieces are also included in the two handscrolls titled Guwan tu (Pictures of antiquities), painted in the Yongzheng reign in 1728 and 1729, respectively, which record art objects in the imperial collection, among them the narcissus basin with metal rim (no. 7 in the list below, see Regina Krahl, Art in the Yongzheng Period: Legacy of an Eccentric Art Lover, Orientations, November/December 2005, p. 65 top right), and the bowl from the Sir Percival David Collection (no. 17, see China. The Three Emperors 1662 1795, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005, cat. no. 168 bottom left). The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) appropriated Ru ware by having twenty-two of the eighty-seven extant pieces engraved with his poems, thus contributing further to the fame of the ware, even though he did not always correctly identify Ru ware, and at least in one instance had a poem inscribed also on a Yongzheng copy (ibid., cat. no. 197). In 1923, after the fall of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and before the opening of the Forbidden City as a public museum, a fire at one of the palace halls, supposedly deliberately planted by eunuchs in an attempt to hide that objects were missing, destroyed a storage area, where ancient works of art had been kept. From the burnt remains that were cleared by an outside company only some Ru wares, and some polychrome (doucai) porcelains of Chenghua mark and period (1465-1487) were apparently deemed worth keeping in spite of damage done to their glazes. Fifteen fire-damaged pieces are among the eighty-seven Ru pieces preserved world-wide. In the West, the identity of Ru ware came to be known through the International Exhibition of Chinese Art at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-1936, to which the Chinese Government lent ten examples identified as Ru, although by that time several Western collectors already owned some, without being sure about their identity. Ru pieces from the collections of Sir Percival David and George Eumorfopoulos were also included in the exhibition. The opportunity to inspect first-hand and to handle so many Ru pieces led David to study the historical sources and to publish his ground-breaking Commentary on Ju Ware in the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society right after the exhibition (David 1936-1937). In China, many attempts had been made to locate the kiln site, but it was only in 1986 that a site considered to represent the official Ru manufactories was identified at Qingliangsi, Baofeng, Henan province, with the discovery of proper kiln remains following somewhat later. Besides a large number of sherds of typical Ru guanyao vessels that were recovered, the excavations have also shown that the potters were more ambitious than the heirloom pieces let one to believe. Whereas virtually all extant pieces of Ru official ware are small and plain, the kilns experimented with many complicated sculptural forms, openwork designs and detailed engraved decoration, of which no complete examples are preserved, or may ever have left the kilns. Other more recently excavated kiln sites are now sometimes mentioned in this context as possible official kilns of the Northern Song period, in particular the Zhanggongxiang kilns also in Ruzhou, Henan province (Beijing 2009), but almost no extant heirloom pieces can be matched to those manufactories. ________________________________________________________ THE WORLDWIDE PATRIMONY OF HEIRLOOM RU OFFICIAL WARES Regina Krahl For no other Song dynasty (960-1279) ceramic ware a complete list of extant examples could be compiled, like this is possible for Ru official wares. This is due not only to the fact that Ru represents by far the rarest category of Chinese ceramics; there are also two other important contributing factors: First, Ru wares always represented revered treasures, treated with diligent care and conspicuously handed down. Although the list of extant pieces got longer over the years, since pieces are still occasionally coming to light that have languished undiscovered in museum storerooms not surprising especially where no specialist curator is at hand, since Ru ware is at first glance unobtrusive it is becoming more and more unlikely that examples hidden, unrecognized, in private collections will be found. Second, Ru wares have never been so closely copied that later copies, or contemporary pieces from lesser kilns, could today easily be mixed up with the real wares, as would be the case, for example, when trying to establish a list of extant Song guan wares from Hangzhou. The only other Chinese ceramic ware, where the establishment of a catalogue raisonné has ever been attempted, by Julian Thompson, are the imperial porcelains of Chenghua mark and period (1465-1487); but whereas the number of extant Ru pieces amounts to less than one hundred, Chenghua wares probably run to at least six times that number. The exact figure of preserved Ru guan ware pieces has intrigued scholars for decades and recorded numbers have been rising. When in 1958 G. St. G. M. Gompertz compiled a list of extant Ru wares, he assembled thirty-one pieces outside of China, in addition to ten sent by the Chinese Government to the Royal Academy of Art exhibition in London 1935-1936 (Gompertz, 1958, p. 34). No other pieces from any Chinese collection were known at that time. Since then, many more specimens have been published, particularly pieces held in China, but also a few preserved in collections abroad, which had not been made public before. Although Gompertzs list of Ru wares included a few pieces which today would no longer qualify as such, his number was not far off the present mark of securely verified pieces abroad, which has increased only slightly to thirty-six recorded examples. In 1987, Wang Qingzheng published a list of sixty-five heirloom pieces of Ru official ware worldwide, enlarging it to sixty-nine in a revised edition in 1991, but including some pieces about which he himself expressed doubts (Wang et al., 1987, pp. 38-40; 1991, pp. 115-117). In the catalogue of an exhibition of Ru ware in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, in 2009, Degawa Tetsuro compiled a list of seventy reliable pieces (Osaka, 2009, pp. 279-87). In our last sale catalogue that presented a piece of Ru ware in Hong Kong in 2012, we were able to add nine further items to that list, arriving at a total of seventy-nine Ru pieces that can be considered heirloom, i.e. pieces that were never buried and excavated, but preserved and handed down above ground (Sothebys, 2012, pp. 40-43). These publications appear to have formed the basis for a yet more ambitious list included in a recent publication of the Palace Museum, Beijing (Beijing, 2015, pp. 260-305), where the museum made public for the first time several so far unpublished items from its collection, many of which had been damaged in the well-known palace fire in 1923 and thus had previously probably not be deemed worthy of publishing. This listing assembles a total of ninety pieces worldwide. Four pieces ought, however, be deducted from the list: a parrot-shaped fragment purchased by the Palace Museum, Beijing, in 2001 (Beijing, 2015, fig. 41); a brush washer donated to the Shanghai Museum, that was collected from and led to the discovery of the Ru kiln site (Beijing, 2015, fig. 42); a shallow bowl in the Guangdong Province Museum, which was reconstituted from a fragment (Beijing, 2015, fig. 54); and a bowl stand published and sold as Korean rather than as a piece of Ru ware (Guardian Hong Kong, 5.4. 2013, lot 414; Beijing, 2015, fig. 90). Although it is not always easy to establish beyond any doubt whether a piece has been excavated or was handed down, this author would also be inclined to suspend for the time being the inclusion in this list of four further pieces, whose heirloom status has not yet been verified: three brush washers included by the Palace Museum (Beijing, 2015, figs 34, 56, and 59) listed below as (88), (89) and (90); and one cup or small bowl that has recently come to light in Japan, listed below as (91). One further brush washer, which appeared in a publication in 1922 is presently unaccounted for, see (92) below. On the other hand, four vessels, whose status has been fully confirmed, seem to be missing from the Beijing list and can here be added: a third tripod incense burner in the Cincinnati Art Museum, here listed as 14; two brush washers in museums in The Netherlands and in Denmark, included below as 59 and 60, and a dish in the Shanghai Museum, 68 to bring the total number to eighty-seven. In 1986, when the kilns making Ru official ware for the Northern Song (960-1127) court were discovered and excavated in Qingliangsi, Baofeng county, Henan province, a large number of additional pieces, mostly damaged or fragmentary, was recovered from the kiln site. Since these pieces had obviously not been intended for delivery to the court, but were retained in the workshops due to perceived imperfection, or being unfinished (for example, in unglazed, biscuit-fired state), these are not included in our consideration here. Starting in 1940, no more than six Ru vessels have ever appeared at auction: The bottle from the Eumorfopoulos collection, now in the Sir Percival David Collection in the British Museum (no. 3), Sothebys London, 28th May 1940, lot 135. The narcissus basin with metal rim from the Ataka Collection, now in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, (no. 10), Sothebys London, 17th March 1959, lot 26, and 24th February 1970, lot 1. The brush washer from the K. S. Lo Collection, now in the Hong Kong Museum of Art (no. 51), Sothebys London, 15th April 1980, lot 140. The dish from the Stephen Junkunc III Collection, now in the collection of Au Bakling (no. 80), Christies New York, 3rd December 1992, lot 276 (fig. 3). The reduced dish from the Stephen Junkunc III Collection, now in a private collection (no. 69), Christies New York, 29th March 2006, lot 401 (fig. 5). The lobed brush washer from the Alfred Clark Collection, now in a private collection (no. 29), Sothebys Hong Kong, 4th April 2012, lot 101 (fig. 4). What is most remarkable when looking through this list of eighty-seven heirloom pieces of Ru official ware, is that virtually all examples are now preserved in museum collections and no more than three pieces are left in private hands (figs 3-5). CATALOGUE RAISONNE OF EXTANT HEIRLOOM RU OFFICIAL WARES S nos refer to fig. nos in the Appendix of the Palace Museums Selection of Ru Ware, see Beijing, 2015, pp. 260-305 [ ] denotes heirloom Ru official wares preserved in private collections Bottles, angular, no foot (2) 1  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 22.4 cm, metal rim, fenghua and Qianlong inscriptions (S 1) 2  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 20.5 cm, reduced, Qianlong inscription on ground part of base (S 2) Bottle, globular (1) 3  Sir Percival David Collection, London, ex Eumorfopoulos: 24.8 cm, metal rim (S 60) Bottle, ovoid (1) 4  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: reduced, 17.9 cm, metal rim and foot, Qianlong inscription around ground centre of base (S 3) Bottle, pear-shaped (1) 5  British Museum, London, ex Alfred Clark: 20.1 cm (S 72) Narcissus basins (6) 6  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 23 cm, Qianlong inscription (S4) 7  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 23 cm, metal rim, Qianlong inscription (S 5) 8  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 23.1 cm (S 7) 9  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 26.4 cm, feet cut down, Qianlong inscription (S 6) 10  Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, ex Ataka: 22 cm, metal rim (S 83) 11  Jilin Province Museum: 23.2 cm, cut down, metal rim (S 53) Tripod incense burners (3) 12  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 24.8 cm (S 61) 13  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 18 cm (S 22) 14  Cincinnati Art Museum: 17.8 cm (Ellen B. Avril, Chinese Art in the Cincinnati  Art Museum, Cincinnati, 1997, pl. 63) Warming bowl (1) 15  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 16.2 cm (S 8) Bowls (2) 16  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 17.1 cm Qianlong inscription (S 24) 17  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 17 cm, metal rim, Qianlong inscription (S 63) Bowl stands, lobed (2) 18  British Museum, London, ex Sir Harry Garner: 16.5 cm (S 73) 19  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 17 cm (S 62) Bowl stand, round (1) 20  Victoria & Albert Museum, London, ex Sir Harry Garner: 16.5 cm, metal rim, inscribed with palace name (S 77) Bowl stand, flat (1) 21  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ex John Gardner Coolidge: 18.7 cm (S 82) Tripod stand (1) 22  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 18.3 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 23) Basins (2) 23  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 15.9 cm, lost metal rim (S 16) 24  National Museum of China, Beijing, on loan from Palace Museum: 13.7 cm (S 35) Brush washers, oval, with twin fish (3) 25  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 14.2 cm (S 9) 26  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 14.2 cm (S 64) 27  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 14.5 cm (S 65) Brush washers, lobed (2) 28  British Museum, London, ex Alfred Clark: 13.6 cm (S 74) [29]  Sothebys Hong Kong, 4. 4. 2012, ex Alfred Clark: 13.5 cm (S 89, fig. 4) Brush washers, round (33) 30  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 13 cm, inscribed yi, (S 25, fig. 1) 31  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 12.9 cm, metal rim, inscribed yi, (S 26) 32  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.6 cm (inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 27) 33  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.4 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 28) 34  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.5 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 29) 35  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.9 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 30) 36  Palace Museum, Beijing: 12.8 cm, inscribed bing, fire damaged (S 31) 37  Palace Museum, Beijing: 12.8 cm, inscribed bing, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S32) 38  Palace Museum, Beijing: 12.8 cm, inscribed bing, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S33) 39  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 14.9 cm, inscribed jia, (S 10) 40  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 14.8 cm, inscribed jia, Qianlong inscription, (S 11) 41  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 13 cm, metal rim, inscribed bing, Qianlong inscription (S 12) 42  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 13.1 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 13, fig. 2) 43  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 12.9 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 14) 44  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 13.4 cm, metal rim (S 15) 45  National Museum of China, Beijing: 16.7 cm, metal rim, probably fire damaged (S 51) 46  Shanghai Museum: 13.5 cm, fire damaged (S 43) 47  Shanghai Museum: 12.6 cm (S 44) 48  Shanghai Museum: 12.6 cm (S 45) 49  Shanghai Museum: 12.3 cm (S 46) [50]  The present lot, ex Chang Foundation, Taipei: 13 cm (S 58) 51  Hong Kong Museum of Art, ex K.S. Lo: 13.5 cm, Qianlong inscription ground off (S 55) 52  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 13.7 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 66) 53  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 13 cm (S 67) 54  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 12.9 cm (S 68) 55  Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Sir Alan Barlow: 12.8 cm (S 78) 56  Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden: 13 cm (S 85) 57  Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden: 12.9 cm (S 86) 58  Rietberg Museum, Zurich, Meiyintang Collection: 12.8 cm, metal rim, inscribed bing (S87) 59  Princessehof Keramiek Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, ex Nanne Ottema: 13 cm (http://friesmuseum.delving.org/thumbnail/friesmuseum/princessehof/GMP%201981-111%20[01]/500) 60  Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark, ex A. Oigaard: 13 cm (Osvald Sirén, Kinas Konst under Tre Årtusenden, Stockholm, 1943, vol. II, fig. 324) 61  Philadelphia Museum of Art, ex Major General William Crozier: 13 cm (S 80) 62  Cleveland Museum of Art: 12.9 cm (S 81) Dishes, deep, rounded (7) 63  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 18.4 cm (S 38) 64  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 15.8 cm, inscribed jia, Qianlong inscription (S 17) 65  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 21.4 cm, metal foot, Qianlong inscription (S 18) 66  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 18.4 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 19) 67  British Museum, London, ex George Eumorfopoulos: 19.6 cm, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S 75) 68  Shanghai Museum: 12.3 cm (Wang et al. 1987, pl. 32; 1991, pl. 32 and cover) [69]  Christies New York, 29. 3. 2006, ex Stephen Junkunc III: 17.5 cm, reduced, fire damaged (S 88, fig. 5) Dishes, deep, flared (3) 70  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 19.3 cm, inscribed with palace name (S 36) 71  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 19.6 cm, inscribed cai (S 37) 72  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 19.5 cm, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S 70) Dishes, shallow, flared (12) 73  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 17.1 cm (S 39) 74  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 16.9 cm (S 40) 75  Shanghai Museum: 17.1 cm (S 47) 76  Shanghai Museum: 17 cm (S 48) 77  Shanghai Museum: 17 cm (S 49) 78  Shanghai Museum: 17 cm (S 50) 79  Tianjin Museum: 17.2 cm (S 52) [80]  Christies Hong Kong, 3. 12. 1982, Au Bakling, ex Stephen Junkunc III: 17.5 cm (S 57, fig. 3) 81  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 17 cm (S 71) 82  British Museum, London, ex George Eumorfopoulos: 18.4 cm, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S 76) 83  St. Louis Art Museum, ex Samuel C. Davis: 17.2 cm (S 79) 84  Tokyo National Museum, ex Kawabata Yasunari: 17.1 cm (S 84) Dishes, rounded, no foot (3) 85  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 12.8 cm, metal rim, inscribed fenghua (S 20) 86  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 10.9 cm, inscribed bing and cai (S 21) 87  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 12.1 cm, fire damaged (S 69) Potential Additions to the List Heirloom status unverified (4) (88) Brush washer, Palace Museum, Beijing, donated 1965: 13 cm (S 34) (89) Brush washer, Muwentang Collection: 13.9 cm (S 56) (90) Brush washer, Guanfu Museum: size unknown (S 59) (91) Cup, Japanese Private Collection: 10.2 cm, repaired (S ji no bi/The Beauty of Song Ceramics, The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2016, cat. no. 1) Present whereabouts unknown (1) (92) Brush washer, published as Korean, but probably Ru: 13 cm (Oscar Rücker-Embden, Chinesische Frühkeramik, Leipzig, 1922, pl. 43 a) ________________________________________________________ Selected Bibliography on Ru Official Ware David 1936-1937 Sir Percival David, A Commentary on Ju Ware, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 14, 1936-1937, pp. 18-63 Chen 1951 Chen Wanli, Ruyao zhi wo jian [My views on Ru ware], Wenwu cankao ciliao, 1951, no. 2 London 1952 Ju and Kuan Wares. Imperial Wares of the Sung Dynasty, Related Wares and Derivatives of Later Date, The Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1952 Gompertz 1958 G.St.G.M. Gompertz, Chinese Celadon Wares, London, 1958 Wang et al. 1987/1991 Wang Qingzheng, Fan Dongqing & Zhou Lili, Ruyao de faxian/The Discovery of Ru Kiln, Shanghai, 1987; rev. ed. Hong Kong, 1991 Zhao et al. 1991 Zhao Qingyun et al., Ruyao de xin faxian/New Discoveries in Ru Kiln, Beijing, 1991. Ye & Ye 2001 Ye Zhemin & Ye Peilan, eds, Ruyao juzhen/Collection of Porcelain Treasures of the Ru Kiln, Beijing, 2001. Zhao 2003 Zhao Qingyun, ed., Songdai Ruyao [Ru ware of the Song dynasty], Zhengzhou, 2003. Taipei 2006 Lin Baiting, ed., Da guan. Bei Song Ruyao tezhan/Grand View: Special Exhibition of Ju Ware from the Northern Sung Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2006 Baofeng 2008 Baofeng Qingliangsi Ruyao/Ru Yao at Qingliangsi in Baofeng, Zhengzhou, 2008 Beijing 2009 Ruyao yu Zhanggongxiangyao chutu ciqi/Ceramic Art Unearthed from the Ru Kiln Site and Zhanggongxiang Kiln Site, Beijing, 2009 Osaka 2009 Hokus Joy seiji: Kko hakkutsu seika ten/Northern Song Ru Ware. Recent Archaeological Findings, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2009 Sothebys 2012 Regina Krahl, Ru. From a Japanese Collection, Sothebys, Hong Kong, 2012 Beijing 2015 Ru ci ya ji. Gugong Bowuyuan zhencang ji chutu Ruyao ciqi huicui/Selection of Ru Ware. The Palace Museums Collection and Archaeological Excavation, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2015 Taipei 2016 Yu Peichin, Gui si chenxing. Qing gong chuanshi 12 zhi 14 shiji qingci tezhan/Precious as the Morning Star. 12th-14th Century Celadons in the Qing Court Collection, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2016

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2017-10-02
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The Ex-Jo Schlesser/Henri Oreiller, Paolo Colombo, Ernesto Prinoth, Fabrizio Violati1962-63 FERRARI 250 GTO BERLINETTAChassis no. 3851GTEngine no. 385

The Ex-Jo Schlesser/Henri Oreiller, Paolo Colombo, Ernesto Prinoth, Fabrizio Violati 1962-63 FERRARI 250 GTO BERLINETTA Coachwork by Carrozzeria Scaglietti Chassis no. 3851GT Engine no. 3851GT *Offered fresh from the 49 years in a single family ownership *Fabulously successful early Italian mountain-climb competition history *Direct provenance includes 2nd place overall in the 1962 Tour de France *More a maintained car than a restored car – active all its long life *A proven historic and vintage race winning car *One of the best-known and most often raced GTOs of them all THE FERRARI 250 GTO BERLINETTA The Ferrari 250 GT 'Omologato' needs little introduction as the most iconic, most habitable, street-useable, race-winning, World Championship-winning – and simply gorgeous – closed two-seat Coupe car from the world-famous Maranello factory. The GTO was developed to contest the 1962 3-litre class FIA GT World Championship series of classical endurance racing events. Selective production at Maranello and in the Scaglietti body plant in Modena ran on through the 1963 FIA GT World Championship and – sure enough – the Ferrari 250 GTO won the World title both seasons in succession. Over the long decades since then, the Ferrari 250 GTO has commanded ever-increasing interest from the car connoisseur and art investor alike. Valuable levels have been achieved by the relatively few examples that have come to market over the past 20 years. What we are privileged to be offering here is nothing less than GTO chassis serial '3851GT', fresh from the longest-term single ownership of any one of these mouth-watering, completely desirable and much-coveted Berlinettas. Overall, the Ferrari factory manufactured 39 cars which may be considered within the rarefied 'GTO' family. Four of the core group of 35 cars with 1962-63 style bodywork were later converted into lower, flatter, longer-nosed GTO/64 body form. So 31 of the 250GTO/62-63 series have survived, of which only 28 cars have the 3-litre V12 engine as true '250'GTOs, and three 4-litre V12 engines as '330'GTOs. Here we offer the 17th of the 3-litre true 250GTOs, first completed and campaigned right at the end of the 1962 International race season, and then as rebuilt fresh and ready for a new ownership, and a resumed career, in 1963. THE MOTORCAR OFFERED Ferrari 250GTO chassis '3851GT' offered here was acquired by young Italian enthusiast Fabrizio Violati 49 years ago, in 1965. He was scion of a wealthy family with considerable business interests in agriculture and mineral water bottling and distribution under the brand name Ferrarelle. In essence the genial, hard driving Roman became the fourth owner that '3851GT' had had during its young life. The car was the 19th Ferrari GTO to be completed and invoiced by the Maranello factory, having been signed-off initially there on September 11, 1962. Since two of the preceding examples had been 330 GTOs with 4-litre engines instead of the GT-homologated 3-litre '250' units it may be regarded as the 17th 250 GTO. It was finished in metallic pale grey with lengthwise red, white and blue centerline stripes and was collected by its first owner, the experienced and rugged 34-year-old French privateer Jo Schlesser. He committed it immediately to competition in the annual Tour de France Automobile, run that year from September 15-23. Schlesser was to co-drive the car with his 36 year-old friend Henri Oreiller. While Schlesser was then building his reputation as a leading French circuit-racer, the Parisian Oreiller was already a national celebrity. He had been a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War, and took up competitive skiing after 1945. He was nicknamed the 'Parisian of Val d'Isere' or 'The Madman of the Downhill' and – representing France in 1948 at the first postwar Winter Olympics in St Moritz – he won two gold medals and a bronze, to become the Games' most successful athlete. He won the flagship Downhill ski race with a time fully four seconds faster than the silver medalist, added a second gold medal in the combined event and then a bronze in the special slalom. He competed in the 1950 World Championships at Aspen, Colorado, finishing fourth there in the newly introduced giant slalom. He also competed in the 1952 Winter Olympics at Oslo, Norway, before retiring from competitive skiing at the age of 26 – to pursue his alternative interest in motor racing and rallying. The route of the 1962 Tour de France Automobile comprised some 5,500kms - 3,418 miles – and the event would be decided by circuit races at Rouen-les-Essarts, Le Mans, Albi, Clermont-Ferrand, round-the-houses in Pau, at Reims-Gueux and in Belgium at Spa-Francorchamps. Add grueling against-the-clock hill-climbs at Mont d'Or, the Col de Braus, Mont Ventoux, Chamrousse and Mont Revard – plus punishing public-road grinds within strict time limits between venues and the magnitude of this amazing test of man and machine is self-evident. Twelve assorted Ferrari 250 GTs disputed top honours. Drivers of the latest GTOs were favourites to win, but as model authority Jess Pourret observed: "First of all the GTO drivers were all out for the kill and they took chances at times that the car couldn't take. Meanwhile (Andre) Simon....determined to win after so many years of trying hard, had his already year-old (250GT SWB) completely overhauled at SEFAC and drove with minute attention to details. For once, he controlled his strong aggressiveness and ended up winning in front of the GTO of Oreiller and Schlesser (in '3851GT'), who had divided the work, one doing the hill climbs, the other the circuits...". For the French privateers this debut success in their new car was a great result, but second time out – at Montlhéry Autodrome in the October 7 Coupes du Salon race meeting poor Henri Oreiller crashed fatally. The car was badly damaged after hitting a trackside building, and a mourning Jo Schlesser returned it to the factory for repair to as-new condition and subsequent re-sale. While that accident occurred on October 7, 1962, the factory repair of '3851GT' progressed rapidly through the following winter and the car was sold to a new Italian owner, Paolo Colombo, in time to reappear as early as April 7, 1963, in national hill-climb competition. Paolo Colombo was an enthusiastic gentleman driver who contested that year's Italian national championship hill-climb series under the Scuderia Trentina banner. His Ferrari 250 GTO debut was made on April 7 at the near-unpronounceable VI Stallavena-Boscochiesanuova hill-climb, in which he set third fastest time in his class and placed 7th fastest overall. He then competed in no fewer than 14 further hill-climb rounds during that summer-into-Fall season. In '3815GT' now offered here he scored Gran Turismo class victories in 12 of those events, many of them at venues whose fame is written deeply into the history of European motor sport. These outstandingly challenging and prominent climbs are presented in italics in the following list of Colombo's wins with '3851GT': Castell'Arquarto-Vernasca, Bologna-Raticosa, the Coppa Consuma, in the major Alpen-Bergpreis at Rossfeld (Germany), in the Coppa Asiago, Vezzana-Casina, Bolzano-Mendola, Trento-Bondone, Trieste-Opicina, Aosta-Pila, Cividale-Castelmonte, Ascoli-San Marco and Coppa Fagioli 'climbs. At the towering Mont Ventoux in southern France, Paolo Colombo made a tiny error during his 13-mile climb and for once '3851GT' was beaten into only second place in class... At the end of that year fellow amateur owner/driver Ernesto Prinoth made Colombo an irresistible offer for his ultra-successful '3851GT' and into 1964 he, as its new owner, embarked upon an energetic programme of mixed hill-climbing and circuit racing. Born in 1923, Ernesto Prinoth was a highly regarded businessman/engineer who relaxed at the weekends by indulging his interest in motor sport. He had launched his automotive garage business in Gröden in 1951 and during the winters spent much of his time amongst the ski fraternity at Val Gardena. Fascinated by snow vehicles, he began developing mechanized snow groomers and produced his first P60 prototype in 1962. Sno-cats and snow groomer production followed and Prinoth AG survives to this day and is highly-regarded within its field. Ernesto Prinoth competed in Formula 1 racing during 1961-62, driving his privately-owned Lotus-Climax 18 as a Scuderia Dolomiti and later Scuderia Jolly Club entry. He then gave up single-seater racing to campaign this ex-Colombo Ferrari 250 GTO '3851GT' under the Scuderia Dolomiti Bolzano banner. Starting at Stallavena-Boscochiesanuova on April 5, 1964, and ending the year by winning his class yet again in the Preis von Tyrol aerodrome race at Innsbruck, Austria, on October 4, he won his GT Category six more times – at the major Trento-Bondone and Trieste-Opicina 'climbs, and in the Coppa Citta Asiago, the Trofeo Amoco, and at Cividale-Castelmonte. Ernesto Prinoth also won his class and placed second overall in the year's Preis von Wien circuit race at Aspern aerodrome outside Vienna, Austria, and set second fastest GT time at the Coppa Consuma. On September 6, 1964, he returned to International circuit racing in the important hour-long Coppa Inter-Europa GT race supporting that year's Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix at Monza Autodrome. During the race he crashed '3851GT', rolling it into the trackside undergrowth. Its cabin roof caved-in, its body panels were extensively dented but the undergrowth cushioned the worst of the impact. The damage proved to be largely cosmetic and within a mere three weeks '3851GT' was repaired to raceworthy trim in time for Prinoth to re-prepare it in his engineering workshops in time to score that circuit-racing class win and to finish second overall in the Innsbruck aerodrome race. It was during the following winter into 1965 that Prinoth considered whether his successful, but now well-used and decreasingly competitive 250 GTO, should either be cannibalized for its V12 engine to be used in a racing power boat, or to sell it complete. Fabrizio Violati stepped forward as an eager young buyer. A racing fan from childhood, he had been born in Rome on June 17, 1935. He joined the family firm after earning a degree in geology, and became general manager of the business, which produced and marketed such mineral water brands as Sangemini and the innovative, naturally-carbonated Ferrarelle: "Still, sparkling, or Ferrarelle?" as TV advertisements caroled into the 1970s. The company would eventually be sold to Danone in 1987. Fabrizio Violati's love affair with Ferrari had been sparked as far back as 1947 when – as an 11-year-old spectator – he had seen Franco Cortese score the new Ferrari marque's first-ever race victory, handling the prototype V12 Ferrari 125S in the Rome Grand Prix at Caracalla. Violati's own competition career had a far more humble beginning, with the 16-year old perfecting barrel-jumping on his Vespa scooter. When a friend sent photographs to manufacturer Piaggio of Fabrizio clearing no fewer than 12 large wine casks in one mighty leap, they engaged him as a works rider. He won his class in the Vespa Campionato Italiano di Regolarità, and in 1959 began hill-climbing competitively in a four-wheeled Fiat 600 saloon. He progressed to an Abarth 750 in 1960 only to hurt himself badly in a crash that hospitalised him for six months and triggered a 'no more motor sport' ban from his family. Ernesto Prinoth agreed to sell Violati the 250 GTO, for 2,500,000 Lire – then around $4,000 US or £1,400 Sterling, equating to around £22,000/$33,500 today. That Bill of Sale exists to this day and forms part of the car's history file. The young Roman didn't tell his family, and he always claimed that – to prevent his parents discovering what he had done – he would only take his GTO out at night. The car, then as now – 49 long years later - carried its original Modena licence plates: 'MO 80576'. During the early 1970s, Fabrizio Violati concentrated his spare-time competitiveness upon sailing. He entered a radical Carcano-designed lightweight boat 'Vihuela' as part of the Italian challenge at the 1975 50th anniversary Admiral's Cup regatta, only to be foiled by too light winds and a millpond sea. From 1974 forward he began to acquire further Ferraris, initially garaged in various locations around Rome. The competitive urge still burned bright, and from 1979 he took up Historic racing in '3851GT' and an older 250 GT Short-Wheelbase Berlinetta that he had added to his growing collection. Entering his cars under the Scuderia Campidoglio Motori banner, Violati became 1985 European FIA Historic Champion. He would also win the 1989 Targa Florio Autostoriche event in Sicily, and in between times 1980-84 he also entered full-blown World Championship endurance races with his Scuderia Bellancauto 512 BBLM, including appearances in the Le Mans 24-Hours and the Monza and Mugello 1,000-Kilometres. Characteristically, Fabrizio Violati always raced just for the fun of it. He drove hard, and very fast, and always pushed even his Historic cars to the limit and beyond, apparently oblivious to their fast appreciating monetary value... In 1984 Enzo Ferrari himself summoned Violati to Maranello and tasked him with forming the Ferrari Club Italia. Such was the mutual respect between the two that in 1989, when Violati opened his Collection to the public under one roof in the Republic of San Marino, Mr Ferrari approved his use of the title Collezione Maranello Rosso. In between energetic Historic race outings, '3851GT' was maintained and preserved on display there for many years, until in 2000 the complete Collection was re-housed into purpose-built premises between San Marino and the Italian coastal resort city of Rimini. Afflicted by ill health in later years, Fabrizio Violati passed away on January 22, 2010, aged 74. He was deeply mourned within the Ferrari world as a most pleasant and engaging acquaintance, looking somewhat piratical with his greying beard and Tyrolean hat, characterized by one friend as having "something of the Spaghetti Western anti-hero about his craggy, tanned features and the cheroot perpetually clamped in the corner of his mouth. It's hard to imagine there are many others in his position who would show the same respect for the petrol pump attendant as for the President, nor earn as much respect in return..." As offered here, this great Italian enthusiast's long-cherished Ferrari 250 GTO '3851GT' remains in its road-race/rally configuration as campaigned by its owner for 45 years until his death in 2010, and since as retained by his nearest and dearest within the Collezione Maranello Rosso. It is rigged with side-exit exhausts rather than the standard long tail-pipe system, and upon recent start-up after expert inspection and assessment, its race-tuned exhaust note is distinctively crisp, sharp (and particularly ear-splitting). We recommend, of course, detailed preparation before a new owner might choose to exercise this particular Prancing Horse in earnest, but what an automotive jewel it really is. These Ferrari 250 GTOs were built to be wielded as a competitive weapon of war. They were not show ponies to be studied contemplatively and their lines admired. They were racing cars in which functionality was foremost, their undeniable beauty and the highest possible regard of all those who competed in them being regarded as purely coincidental. Such functionality coincided most fortuitously with these now-legendary cars proving equally happy as high-speed, peerlessly nimble, point-to-point transport on the public road. Warrior drivers at both works team and private level built these cars' double World Championship-winning legend. The vast majority of the 250GTOs produced and unleashed in serious International competition were used, and abused, and dented, and dinged, and repaired and re-deployed – several of them many times over. Never forget that not all of the contemporary GTO owners were wealthy sporting gentleman expressing themselves in competition. Many were serious professional racing drivers and committed, hugely-experienced owner/entrants to whom the GTO was just their latest working tool, a machine with which to earn start, prize and bonus money...to pay for its purchase and subsequent upkeep, and to earn their living. This mouth-watering example began its long life by carrying its future Formula 1 driver, and Olympic double-Gold Medallist co-driver, to second place in the 1962 Tour de France Automobile. After poor Henri Oreiller's fatal accident at Montlhery, second time out, '3851GT' was completely rebuilt as new by the Ferrari factory, and within brief months was back in ferocious competition, in the fresh hill-climbing hands of second owner Paolo Colombo. Into 1964 it passed into the world-class engineering hands of third owner Ernesto Prinoth – another fierce Italian competitor who used, abused, crashed, repaired and raced the ageing car again. And then – come 1965 – this gorgeously mature (and experienced) lady was rescued from possible cannibalization, by Ferrari enthusiast Fabrizio Violati. In his genuinely enthusiastic and frequently active ownership, and in that - since his 2010 death - of his Estate, '3851GT' has ever since been preserved, maintained, exercised and adored... No other Ferrari 250 GTO has remained in one effective ownership for so long – 1965-2014 – 49 long years. Now it is time for a new custodian to acquire and enjoy her. Without reserve

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-08-15
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Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant)

Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) is a portrait of Picassos golden muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, dating from the pivotal year of 1932 when he announced her as an extraordinary presence in his life and art. Encapsulating his feelings for his young mistress and the excitement and optimism Picasso experienced at the beginning of their affair, these works are unique within his uvre, offering a powerful insight into his life during this important period and exemplifying the visual experimentation that makes him the most celebrated artist of the twentieth century. Picasso discovered Marie-Thérèse (fig. 2) in Paris in 1927, when she was only seventeen years old and while he was still entangled in an unhappy marriage to Olga Khokhlova. I was an innocent girl, Walter remembered years later. I knew nothing - either of life or of Picasso... I had gone to do some shopping at the Galeries Lafayette, and Picasso saw me leaving the Metro. He simply took me by the arm and said, I am Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together (quoted in Picasso and the Weeping Women (exhibition catalogue), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles & The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, p. 143). They quickly became lovers and Marie-Thérèses distinctive profile and features began to appear in his work soon after. As a result of their age difference and Picassos marriage to Olga, their relationship remained a secret and was hidden even from Picassos innermost circle of friends. Many of his depictions of her show her in solitary, private moments reading, writing, sleeping as though to underline the particular intimacy of their relationship. As Françoise Gilot would later write, Walter was the luminous dream of youth, always in the background but always within reach, that nourished his work Marie-Thérèse, then, was very important to him as long as he was living with Olga because she was the dream when the reality was someone else (quoted in Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy (exhibition catalogue), Tate Modern, London, 2018, p. 18). This changed in 1932 when Picasso staged the retrospective of his painting at the Galerie Georges Petit. As well as exhibiting works from the earlier stages of his career, he included a series of paintings inspired by Marie-Thérèse that he had been working on in the first months of that year. The works from 1932 which has been described by the artists biographer John Richardson as Picassos annus mirabilis or year of wonders mark a high point of Picassos depictions of Marie-Thérèse. Consumed by his amour fou and inspired by her presence and sometimes by her absence he worked feverishly and the paintings from this year act as a kind of diary of their evolving relationship. They are widely acclaimed and their singular importance in Picasso's uvre is reflected in the fact that they are the sole subject of the current Tate Modern exhibition (fig. 6). Conceived on an impressive scale, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) dates from April 1932 when Picasso was working at the eighteenth-century Château de Boisgeloup that he had purchased in 1930. Boisgeloup had singular importance for the artist during these years; it enabled him to experiment in new ways, installing a printing press and working on the series of monumental sculpted heads that were also inspired by Marie-Thérèse (fig. 4). In the first few months of 1932 Picasso alternated between his Parisian studio on Rue la Boétie and Boisgeloup. As John Richardson writes: Picasso spent most of this spring at Boisgeloup. While the wife stayed in Paris during the week looking after Paulo, the mistress would move into the château. Weekends, she would go home to Maisons-Alfort, and Olga would take over again. [] Picassos impersonation of a country gentleman was mitigated by self-mockery. He enjoyed playing the role, impeccably disguised in tweed suits []. In public, Picasso would match his behaviour to his costume. Snapshots taken over these weekends make it clear that when a nanny or governess was around, or friends came to visit, family life at Boisgeloup could not have been more conventional. Paintings tell a very different story (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, London, 2007, vol. III, pp. 471-472). The paintings do indeed tell a different story, revealing Picassos feelings for his young muse in all their glorious complexity. Where the paintings from early March concentrate on Marie-Thérèses overt sexuality, in Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) Picasso has sought to capture another side of his lover. A remarkably tender and intimate portrait, it celebrates her innocence and youthfulness. Picasso imagines her in the act of writing with her eyes demurely downcast, focusing on the paper in front of her in quiet contemplation. It is a scene inspired by real life and Picasso was evidently struck by the success of this compositional arrangement as he repeated it almost exactly in a smaller-scale work painted three days later. Here we see the wider scene Marie-Thérèse is seated at a table in one of the rooms at Boisgeloup accompanied by another woman probably her sister once again absorbed by her writing. The idea of writing must have had particular significance; necessarily their relationship was one characterised by long absences so it is unsurprising that when he conjured her, it was often in activities reading or writing that suggest a woman waiting. In painting her in this way, Picasso lays claim not only to her body, but to her mind as well. The setting is significant. John Richardson argues that Picasso used the backgrounds of these paintings to establish the mood: Whereas Matisse, from whom Picasso supposedly borrowed his patterned backgrounds, uses patterns decoratively, Picasso uses them dramatically to establish a mood and characterise the woman in the picture (ibid., p. 467). The heavily wallpapered interiors that characterise the Paris paintings from this spring are redolent of the secrecy, and perhaps the contingent excitement, that surrounded his clandestine relations with Marie-Thérèse. In contrast, the clarity of the light and the delicate blues and greens of the present work suggest an altogether lighter air. Boisgeloup was a place of freedom for Picasso much more so than Paris, where Olga was a permanent presence and Marie-Thérèse also represented freedom and an important sense of rejuvenation that is particularly apparent in the present work. As well as offering an important insight into Picassos feelings for Marie-Thérèse, it also reveals his continued experimentation with visual representation and the relationship between the reality of an object or person and his artistic vision of them. As Achim Borchardt-Hume argues: Representation and the triangulation this entails between physical appearance, the inner experience of this external reality and eithers translation into art remained Picassos privileged playing field (A. Borchardt-Hume in Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 19). Marie-Thérèse is rendered instantly recognisable through her yellow hair and the pale violet skin tone which characterises many of his key depictions of her during this year. However, Picasso plays with the purely figurative; the curving arabesques that form her body are particularly reminiscent of the sculptures that he created at Boisgeloup in 1931. In the distinct shapes that make up her body Picasso also plays with the idea of the sculpted bust that acts more explicitly as a cipher for Marie-Thérèse in other works from this year. Her distinctive profile is silhouetted against a window through which the pale spring sunlight shines, and again here Picasso perhaps had Matisse in mind. The 1930s mark a key point in the rivalry between these two masters of Modern art; Picassos June retrospective was in part conceived as a rejoinder to Matisses own retrospective which had taken place a year earlier at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Matisse often used the device of a window as a means of framing his depictions of women and also sometimes employed strong verticals as a counterpoint to the figures in his works. Characteristically, Picasso pushes this compositional device to its extreme; in Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) pictorial depth becomes relative, with the frame of the window visible simultaneously both behind and through her figure. These spatial distortions recall his visionary Cubist experiments but the deliberate juxtaposition of the hard horizontals and verticals of the window frame with the soft curves of her body serve to emphasise the latter. More than this though, as his Cubist paintings sought to render reality through multiple viewpoints, so here we are presented simultaneously with both her figure and the window behind; Picasso opens out the space, bringing his muse to life and, even through his refined articulation of shape, succeeding in capturing a sense both of time passing and of the delicate play of sunlight through the window panes. The paintings of 1932 have long been celebrated within Picassos uvre. They document a crucial year for the artist, marking the fullest blossoming of his love for Marie-Thérèse as well as a series of important artistic and professional developments. A work such as Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) adds a new voice to this story, articulating a further nuance of Picassos relationship with his muse and providing a touching glimpse of one of art historys most legendary romances. Signed Picasso (upper left); dated 1 Avril XXXII on the stretcher

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2018-06-19
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