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Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - 1961

Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - 1961 Carte grise française Châssis n° 2935GT Moteur n° 2935 Numéro interne n° 610 E Boîte de vitesses n° 8.61 Pont n° 383F - Certainement le plus beau cabriolet de la deuxième moitié du XXème siècle - Une des 37 California Spider SWB phares carénés construite - Entièrement originale, jamais restaurée - Histoire unique et fabuleuse - Ayant appartenu à l'une des plus grandes stars du cinéma, Alain Delon - Matching numbers - La California du Salon de Paris 1961 - Même propriétaire depuis 1971 Avec la 250, le destin de Ferrari va changer. De constructeur marginal, il va prendre une dimension industrielle et acquérir l'aura mondiale qu'on lui connaît aujourd'hui. Autour du fameux V12 3 litres, dont les qualités de puissance et de souplesse ne sont plus à démontrer, naissent deux familles d'automobiles : des Ferrari exclusivement destinées à la piste, et d'autres plutôt réservées à un usage routier et offrant donc un confort et un équipement dont étaient jusque-là dépourvues les voitures de la marque. La branche course donnera naissance à des légendes sur roues comme les Testa Rossa, berlinettes Tour de France, 250 GTO ou 250 LM alors que la famille des voitures de route produira de merveilleux coupés ou cabriolets que se disputeront stars, sportifs de haut niveau et gros industriels. Mais ce qui caractérise aussi le constructeur de Maranello, ce sont les "passerelles" constantes qui relient les deux familles, et qui fait que les voitures de route ne sont jamais très loin de la piste... Le spider 250 GT California est le fruit de ce mariage idéal. En effet, alors que le cabriolet 250 GT Pinin Farina est directement dérivé du coupé grand tourisme, le spider California s'appuie sur les berlinettes destinées à la compétition. A tel point d'ailleurs que, sur un dessin magistral de Pinin Farina, il est carrossé chez Scaglietti, à qui Ferrari confie la réalisation de ses voitures de compétition. Le spider reprend le même châssis de 2,60 m d'empattement que la berlinette Tour de France, son moteur offre des caractéristiques comparables et sa forme adopte le décrochement d'aile arrière caractéristique de la version fermée. Comme il est moins systématiquement orienté compétition, il accuse sur la balance quelques dizaines de kilos de plus que son homologue, mais reste malgré tout plus léger que le cabriolet. D'ailleurs, certains modèles plus spécialement préparés pour les joies du chronomètre vont se distinguer sur circuits : ainsi, Ginther et Hively terminent premiers de la catégorie Grand Tourisme et neuvièmes au classement général des 12 Heures de Sebring 1959 et Grossman et Tavano décrochent la cinquième place aux 24 Heures du Mans de la même année, au volant d'un spider engagé par l'écurie du NART de l'enthousiaste Luigi Chinetti. Ledit Chinetti n'est d'ailleurs certainement pas étranger à l'appellation "California" du spider 250 GT : d'origine milanaise, ami intime d'Enzo Ferrari, il participe largement et efficacement à la diffusion de Ferrari en Amérique du Nord, qui devient pour le constructeur italien un marché avec lequel le modèle va connaître une évolution parallèle à celle des versions compétition et un grand succès commercial auprès des plus exigeants amateurs fortunés. En tout, quarante sept exemplaires sont vendus en moins de deux ans dont curieusement 6 seulement en Californie. En réalité deux California de plus sont sorties des ateliers de Scaglietti à la même époque, un coupé " Boano " et un cabriolet Pinin Farina, rhabillés à la suite d'accidents. Et il convient bien sûr de ne pas oublier les 52 exemplaires sur châssis court qui ont pris la suite entre 1960 et 1962. Modèle exclusif et performant, le spider California garde une place à part dans la production Ferrari, car il réalise une synthèse inégalé entre les qualités des modèles de piste et ceux de route, les deux voies sur lesquelles Ferrari a appuyé son succès planétaire. De plus les carrosseries cabriolet de la marque sont particulièrement rares dans la production Ferrari, ce qui explique son succès grandissant au fil des décennies faisant aujourd'hui de la California la plus chère des Ferrari routières. Sur les 52 exemplaires produits sur châssis court, seuls 37 California sont sorties avec les phares carénées. Cette particularité est la plus recherchée aujourd'hui et ce, grâce à l'élégance supérieure qu'elle revêt. Lorsqu'il se rend au Salon de l'Auto, à Paris en 1961, Gérard Blain est déjà un acteur de cinéma confirmé. Á 31 ans, il a déjà une vingtaine de films à son actif et une passion pour les cabriolets Ferrari. Il vient de faire reprendre sa Ferrari 250 GT Série 1 (la voiture du Salon de Paris 1957) par la Franco-Britannic Autos, l'importateur Ferrari, et s'intéresse de très près au magnifique Spider 250 GT California châssis court, de couleur bleu foncé, hard-top bleu foncé, intérieur simili noir, exposé sur le stand de ce même importateur Ferrari. Ce châssis 2935GT, terminé le 27 septembre 1961, a été envoyé immédiatement chez l'importateur parisien pour le Salon qui a lieu du 5 au 15 octobre 1961. La première semaine du Salon sont exposées sur le stand de la Franco-Britannic une 250 GT Berlinette Lusso (#2917), une 250 GTE et une 250 cabriolet série II. La Ferrari 250 berlinette châssis court sera vendue dès le début du Salon et sera remplacée en deuxième semaine par cette Ferrari 250 California #2935. Après son achat par Gérard Blain, elle est immatriculée le 21 octobre 1961 à son nom et son adresse (9 rue de Siam, Paris XVIe arrondissement), sous le numéro 88 LR 75, 6 jours donc après la fermeture du Salon. Alain Delon est de la même génération que Gérard Blain, et les voitures de sport font évidemment partie de son environnement de star. Séduit par la belle Ferrari de son ami, il lui achète et on la retrouve immatriculée 4452 MC, à Monaco donc. Une copie du titre de circulation monégasque au nom de l'acteur nous montre qu'il l'a immatriculée précisément le 23 mai 1963 en Principauté. Il est incroyable de découvrir que Marc Bouvot, fils du troisième propriétaire, a retrouvé les plaques originales 4452 MC que son père avait conservé après l'achat auprès d'Alain Delon. A cette époque, après avoir été consacré par Plein Soleil et Rocco et ses frères, Alain Delon connaît une fantastique accélération de sa carrière d'acteur. Beau, séduisant, talentueux, il fait tourner les têtes et tomber les cœurs, et les producteurs profitent de cette fabuleuse image pour le faire tourner sans discontinuer. En 1963, il est avec Jane Fonda dans Les Félins, où René Clément l'entraîne dans une machiavélique machination. L'année suivante, on le retrouve avec Shirley MacLaine dans La Rolls Royce jaune où il séduit une riche et belle marquise. La Ferrari partage ces grands moments avec le célébrissime acteur et des photos le montrent au volant du Spider 2935GT, en compagnie des deux actrices, elles aussi des stars que le monde admire. En 1964, Alain Delon et sa femme Nathalie partent en voyage en Californie. L'acteur fait envoyer la voiture à destination afin d'en profiter dans les rues de Los Angeles. C'est certainement à ce moment-là que les répétiteurs de clignotants sur les ailes avant ont été changés afin de correspondre aux normes américaines. Nous avons retrouvé sous le siège passager les répétiteurs ronds d'origine dans leur boîte ! Sur l'attestation d'assurance de l'époque, un document original fourni par le fils du troisième propriétaire, on remarque une adresse inscrite à la main indiquant une adresse à Beverly Hills. Sans doute l'acteur avait-il noté cette indication afin de la communiquer à son assureur. Sur une photo prise aux États-Unis en 1964, la Ferrari California est surprise devant une station d'essence, avec Nathalie Delon, pendant que son mari vérifie la pression des pneus et, sur un autre cliché, on aperçoit le couple à Los Angeles, en promenade à bord de sa voiture. En juillet 1965, Alain Delon se sépare de la Ferrari California et en confie la vente à Michel Maria Urman Automobiles, 40 bis rue Guersant, Paris XVIIe, spécialiste de voitures de prestige. Elle est achetée le 2 août 1965 pour la somme de 30 000 francs par Paul Bouvot, alors que la voiture n'affiche que 37 000 km. Paul Bouvot dirige à cette époque le Centre de Style des Automobiles Peugeot, et son œil de styliste perçoit le caractère exceptionnel de la ligne de la California. Il confiera un jour à son fils : "Cette Ferrari est un chef d'œuvre ; elle est belle quel que soit l'angle sous lequel on la regarde, avec ou sans ses attributs". Il évoque bien sûr les pare-chocs, qui sont parfois démontés de la voiture comme le montrent des photos que nous a montrées son fils Marc Bouvot. Paul Bouvot immatricule la Ferrari le 18 août 1965, sous le numéro 6101 RU 75. Pendant un an, il va parcourir quelque 25 000 km, ne se gênant guère pour se rendre au volant au Centre de Style Peugeot, ce qui fera grincer des dents certains dirigeants qui auraient préféré le voir arriver dans une plus classique Peugeot. Mais Paul Bouvot est un Ferrariste passionné. Ainsi, quand il vend le Spider California en mai 1966 à son quatrième propriétaire, M. Robert Cooper (un Canadien vivant à Paris), c'est pour acheter quelques mois plus tard une autre Ferrari 250GT California châssis court que son ami Jess Pourret lui propose. Mais c'est une autre histoire... Robert Cooper gardera la voiture six mois, avant de la céder fin 1966 à un amateur de voitures de sport parisien qui en profitera jusqu'en octobre 1967. L'avant-dernier propriétaire de 2935GT est un médecin parisien qui la gardera quatre ans jusqu'à son acquisition en novembre 1971 par Jacques Baillon. 2935GT rentre alors dans une collection prestigieuse commencée dans les années 1950 par Roger Baillon, son père. Jacques Baillon roulera très peu avec la Ferrari qui, comme la plupart de ses voitures, se retrouvera vite remisée à l'abri du temps et des intempéries. Marc Bouvot, dont le père a acheté la Ferrari à Alain Delon en 1965, nous a permis de consulter ses documents originaux exceptionnels (plaques minéralogiques originales Monaco, certificats originaux d'assurance au nom d'Alain Delon, copie du titre monégasque, pochette originale en cuir). C'est également grâce à l'ouvrage de référence sur le Salon de Paris intitulé "Les Ferrari au Salon de Paris-1948 /1988" de Dominique Pascal, et avec la collaboration de Jess Pourret et Marc Rabineau, que nous avons pu constituer un dossier historique très complet. L'avis des spécialistes " Ce graal automobile se trouve aujourd'hui telle que nous l'avons découvert, le 30 septembre dernier, alors que nous ouvrions la porte du garage de la propriété. Protégée de toute humidité, elle nous fait front, recouverte d'un léger voile de poussière et de quelques piles de magazines et autres journaux. Elle a mieux résisté au poids des années qu'au poids du papier…son coffre s'en est incliné. Mais il ne s'agissait surtout pas d'y toucher tant cette particularité donne à la Belle toute son originalité, son exclusivité et son histoire unique. Chaque grain de poussière reste celui de tant d'années de stockage à l'abri des intempéries. Protégée de l'humidité, sa robe est saine, tout autant que son châssis. Les jours de portes, capot et coffre sont droits et d'origine. Lorsque vous fermez les portes, on perçoit ce bruit caractéristique d'une automobile préservée. Ses vitres latérales sont en plexiglas (serait-ce d'origine ?). Son intérieur est celui d'origine, avec sa sellerie noire en simili cuir. L'acquéreur qui se glissera derrière son volant prendra possession de la clef pour ouvrir la boîte à gants. Il y découvrira la paire de gants en cuir havane asséchée par le temps, déposé sur des vignettes automobiles des années 71 à 75, jamais collées sur le pare-brise. Lorsqu'il baissera le dossier passager, il glissera sa main dans le vide-poche pour y découvrir le manuel d'origine ainsi que les bons d'essence d'époque. Dans le vide-poches du dossier du fauteuil conducteur, il découvrira le double de clefs. En ouvrant le coffre, il découvrira deux circuits pour enfants, certainement cachés là par Jacques Baillon en vue de les offrir à ses enfants à Noël…ses enfants ne les reçurent jamais…oubliés au fond du coffre… A côté, un nécessaire de pharmacie d'époque encore dans son emballage plastique ainsi que plusieurs exemplaires du livre de Paul Frère "La conduire en compétition". La baie moteur elle semble ne jamais avoir bougée…jamais démontée, intacte avec ses deux bobines originales… rarissimes. Cette automobile est une œuvre d'art, la dernière California châssis court phares carénés dans un état d'origine intouchée depuis 45 années, probablement jamais démontée. Elle est le graal des Spiders Grand Tourisme, la référence ultime de l'histoire de l'Automobile et LE plus beau cabriolet de la seconde moitié du XXe siècle. " Une procédure d'enregistrement des enchérisseurs particulière s'applique à ce lot. Si vous souhaitez enchérir sur ce lot, merci de vous manifester auprès du département et de vous enregistrer au moins 48 heures avant la vente. French title Chassis n° 2935GT Engine n° 2935 Internal number: 610 E Gear box n° 8.61 Rear axle n° 383F - Certainly the most beautiful cabriolet of the second half of the 20th century - One of 37 California Spider SWBs with covered headlights - Completely original, never restored - Unique, fabulous history - Belonged to one of the most famous film stars, Alain Delon - Matching numbers - The 1961 Paris Motor Show California, - Same owner since 1971 Ferrari's destiny was changed by the 250. Starting as a small-scale constructor, it took on an industrial dimension and gained the international reputation that it enjoys today. Centred on the famous V12 3-litre engine, which had nothing further to prove, two Ferrari families were born : one destined exclusively for the track and the other, offering a level of comfort and equipment missing until that point, for the road. The racing line gave birth to such legendary cars as the Testa Rossa, Tour de France berlinetta, 250 GTO and the 250 LM. Meanwhile stars, tycoons and amateur enthusiasts fought over the road-going line which produced splendid coupés and cabriolets. A constant characteristic of Maranello was the strong link between these two groups, which meant that the road-going cars were never far from the race track...The 250 GT California Spider is the child of this perfect marriage. Indeed, while the 250 GT cabriolet by Pinin Farina is derived from the GT coupé, the California Spider is drawn from the competition berlinettas. So much so that the brilliant design by Pinin Farina was bodied by Scaglietti who built the competition cars for Ferrari. The Spider used the same chassis with 2.6m wheelbase as the Tour de France, had a comparable engine and featured the same rear wing styling as the closed version. Being geared less towards racing, it was a little heavier than its counterpart, but still lighter than the cabriolet. Also, there were certain models, specially prepared with a stopwatch in mind, that distinguished themselves on the circuit : Ginther and Hively finished first in the GT category and ninth overall in the 1959 Sebring 12 Hour race, and Grossman and Tavano took fifth place in the Le Mans 24 Hour race the same year, at the wheel of a spider from the NART team belonging to enthusiast Luigi Chinetti. The aforementioned Chinetti was involved in the " California " title of the 250 GT Spider: originally from Milan and a close friend of Enzo Ferrari, he was largely responsible for the widespread and efficient distribution of Ferrari throughout North America. This became an important market for the model that evolved alongside the competition versions, and enjoyed great commercial success with demanding wealthy amateur drivers. In all, forty-seven examples were sold in under two years, with surprisingly just six going to California. Two further Californias left the Scaglietti workshop at that time, a " Boano " coupé and a Pinin Farina cabriolet, both rebodied after accidents. And one must not forget the 52 short-chassis examples which followed on between 1960 and 1962. An exclusive and high-performance model, the California Spider holds a special place in the history of Ferrari, as it embodies an unrivalled fusion of qualities for road and track, the two paths on which Ferrari built its global success. The open versions of this marque are particularly rare, which explains the growing success across the decades of the California, the most expensive road-going Ferrari today. Of the 52 short wheelbase examples of the California produced, just 37 had covered headlights. This feature is the most highly sought after today, for its superior elegance. When he arrived at the Paris Motor Show in 1961, Gérard Blain was already an established film actor. He was 31, with some twenty films to his name and a passion for Ferrari convertibles. He had just returned his Ferrari 250 GT Series 1 (the 1957 Paris Motor Show car) to the Ferrari importer Franco-Britannic Autos, and was interested in the magnificent 250 GT California SWB Spider, in dark blue with dark blue hard-top and black imitation leather interior, displayed on the same Ferrari importer's stand. This particular chassis 2935GT, completed on 27 September 1961, had been sent straight to the Parisian importer to be shown at the Motor Show on 5 to 15 October 1961. During the first week of the show, a 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso (#2917), a 250 GTE and a 250 cabriolet series II were on show on the Franco-Britannic stand. The Ferrari 250 SWB berlinetta was sold at the start of the show and was replaced in the second week by this Ferrari 250 California #2935. The Ferrari was bought by Gérard Blain and registered on 21 October 1961 in his name and address (9 rue de Siam, Paris XVIe arrondissement), with the number 88 LR 75, just six days after the Motor Show had closed. Alain Delon was from the same generation as Gérard Blain, and sports cars were clearly part of his celebrity scene. Liking the look of his friend's stunning Ferrari, he bought it, and had it registered in Monaco, 4452 MC. A copy of the Monégasque registration papers in the actor's name reveals that he registered it on 23 May 1963 in the Principality. Amazingly, Marc Bouvot, the son of the third owner, found the original plates 4452 MC that his father kept after buying the car from Alain Delon. At this period, having become established through roles in Plein Soleil et Rocco et ses frères, Alain Delon's acting career suddenly took off. Handsome, charming and talented, he caused heads to turn and hearts to break. Producers profited from this fabulous image by keeping him busy in one film after another. In 1963, he starred with Jane Fonda in Les Félins (Joy House), in which René Clément weaved him into a Machiavellian plot. The following year, he appeared with Shirley MacLaine in La Rolls Royce jaune (The Yellow Rolls-Royce), in which he seduced a rich and beautiful marquise. The Ferrari shared these great moments with the celebrity actor and photos show him at the wheel of the Spider 2935GT, in the company of these two actresses, themselves stars admired worldwide. In 1964, Alain Delon and his wife Nathalie travelled to California. The actor had the car sent out so that he could enjoy driving it around the streets of Los Angeles. It must have been at this time that the indicator lights on the side of the front wings were changed to correspond with American regulations. Under the passenger seat we found the original round indicator lights in their box ! On the period insurance certificate, an original document supplied by the son of the third owner, an address in Beverley Hills is recorded by hand. No doubt the actor noted this information down for his insurance company. In a photo taken in the United States in 1964, the Ferrari California is spotted at a gas station, with Nathalie Delon, while her husband checks the tyre pressures. In another photo, the couple are seen in Los Angeles, riding in their car. In July 1965, Alain Delon parted with the Ferrari California, entrusting its sale to Michel Maria Urman Automobiles, 40 bis rue Guersant, Paris XVIIe, a specialist in prestigious cars. It was bought on 2 August 1965 for the sum of 30,000 francs by Paul Bouvot, having covered just 37,000 km. At that time, Paul Bouvot ran the Style Centre of Peugeot, and as a designer, appreciated the California's exceptional styling. One day he confided to his son : " This Ferrari is a masterpiece, it is beautiful which ever way you look at it, with or without its attributes. " He was no doubt referring to the bumpers, which were sometimes taken off the car, as photos shown to us by his son Marc Bouvot reveal. Paul Bouvot registered the car on 18 August 1965, with the number 6101 RU 75. Over the course of a year, he covered some 25,000 km, not bothered about turning up at the Peugeot Style Centre at the wheel of this car, something that must have riled certain directors who would have preferred to see him arrive in a more classic Peugeot. Paul Bouvot was a passionate Ferrarista however. When he sold the California Spider in May 1966 to its fourth owner, Mr Robert Cooper (a Canadian living in Paris), it was to buy another Ferrari 250GT SWB California a few months later offered by his friend Jess Pourret. But that is another story... Robert Cooper kept the car for six months, before selling it at the end of 1966 to a Parisian sports car enthusiast who ran it until October 1967. The last but one owner of 2935GT was a doctor from Paris who kept the car for four years until it was acquired by Jacques Baillon in November 1971. And so 2935GT entered a prestigious collection that had been started during the 1950s by Roger Baillon, his father. Jacques Baillon drove the Ferrari very little, and like the majority of his cars, it soon found itself stored away, protected from the elements and bad weather. Marc Bouvot, whose father bought the car from Alain Delon in 1965, allowed us to consult his outstanding original documents (original Monaco number plate, original insurance documents in Alain Delon's name, copy of the Monégasque registration document, original leather folder). Also thanks to the reference book on the Paris Motor Show entitled "Les Ferrari au Salon de Paris-1948 /1988" by Dominique Pascal, with the collaboration of Jess Pourret and Marc Rabineau, we were able to put together a complete history file. The specialist's view " This highly sought-after automobile is presented today exactly as we found it, on 30 September, when we opened the garage door to the property. There it sat in front of us, in the dry, covered with a light veil of dust and several piles of magazines and papers. It has held up against the passing of the years better than the weight of paper...its boot is dented. However, it was imperative not to touch anything, as this was part of the story of this Sleeping Beauty, its originality, exclusivity and unique history. Every speck of dust is a record of the years it has been stored and kept safe from the elements. Protected from moisture, the body and the chassis are both sound. The lines of the original doors, boot and bonnet are straight. When you close the doors, you hear that characteristic sound of a motor car that has been preserved. The side windows are in plexiglas (would they have been original ?). The interior is original, with black imitation leather upholstery. The future buyer who slips in behind the wheel will take possession of the key to the glove box and will find a pair of tan leather gloves, dried over time, laid on top of tax discs from 1971 to 1975 that were never stuck on the windscreen. In the pocket on the back of the passenger seat he will find the original owner's manual and some old fuel receipts. In the back of the driver's seat he will discover the spare set of keys. On opening the boot, he will find two children's tracks that must have been hidden there by Jacques Baillon, a Christmas present for his children...his children never received these and they were left, forgotten, deep at the back of the boot...Next to them, a packet from the chemist, still in its plastic wrapper, along with several copies of the book by Paul Frère " La conduite en compétition ". The engine bay looks as if it has never been moved...never dismantled, and is intact still with the two original coils...incredibly rare. This automobile is a work of art, the last short chassis California with covered headlights, in original condition and untouched for the last 45 years, and probably never dismantled. This is the Holy Grail of GT Spiders, the ultimate reference in the history of the automobile and THE most beautiful cabriolet from the second half of the 20th century." Special bidder registration procedures apply to this lot. If you intend to bid on this lot you need to register your interest with Artcurial no less than 48 hours in advance of the sale. Estimation 9 500 000 - 12 000 000 € Sold for 16,288,000 €

  • FRAFrance
  • 2015-02-06
Hammer price
Show price

A B, Brick Tower

“The titles Richter has given this group of fourteen abstract paintings are not descriptive; they refer in a general associative way to his experiences of the city – to the chapels in Westminster Abbey, to the Tower of London.” Jill Lloyd, ‘Gerhard Richter: The London Paintings’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Anthony D’Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter: The London Paintings, 1988, n.p. The group of abstract paintings created for Richter’s 1988 show at Anthony d’Offay Gallery – his first major commercial exhibition in London – are indefatigably tied to their host city. From this corpus of fourteen so-called London Paintings created in response to a trip Richter made to London in 1987, A B, Brick Tower looms in exquisite swathes of richest red accented with strident kaleidoscopic underlayers of aquamarine blue, sunset orange, canary yellow and verdant green. Indeed, echoing the exquisite light effects and chromatic intensity of Claude Monet’s depiction of the Houses of Parliament and his iconic corpus depicting his water Lillie garden at Giverny, A B, Brick Tower, was included in the seminal exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler in 2002, Claude Monet… Up To Digital Impressionism. Displayed side by side, the parity between the Impressionist Master and the Master of Digital Impressionism is startling, with the present work delivering an opulent panorama of all-encompassing colour to rival Monet’s iconic Nympheas. Sumptuous impasto passages of viscous oil paint cover and reveal magnificent sediments of intense chromatic strata; an effect that conjures organic weathering and an atmospheric intimation of the painting’s urban title. While the painting’s name immediately evokes towering power station chimneys familiar to London’s twentieth-century industrial landscape, A B, Brick Tower also encompasses a more direct connection to the City of London whose history dates back to the settlement of the Roman Empire. Specifically, Richter’s painting takes its name from William the Conquerer’s medieval castle, the Tower of London. Named after one of the perimeter towers surrounding the central keep, this painting joins both Flint Tower and Salt Tower (two further towers from the twenty-one that surround the main castle) as abstractly anchored to a specific architectural monument. Within this corpus, the Towers’ companion pieces possess names that also anchor inchoate abstract fields of painterly abstraction to the chapels and saintly characters associated with the Tower of London’s central White Tower and those of Westminster Abbey: A B, St John, A B, St Andrew; and A B, St Bridget. Furthermore works from the London Paintings reference the general location of Westminster Abbey: A B, St James; while one monumental work possesses a more abstract allusion to the spiritual nature of ecclesiastical buildings: A B, Sanctuary. As with the extant thirteen works in this ground-breaking series, each follows a particular quality which is enforced by Richter’s subsequent titling. Alongside other works in this corpus, Richter conjures a mixture of evocations that complexly negotiate ecclesiastical and cultural references whilst at the same time eschewing literal interpretation. Indeed, far from performing a narrative function, these names operate within an intensely imaginative dimension rooted in Richter’s experience and anticipation of his London exhibition. Heralding its return, the appearance of this exceptional painting at auction in London marks a truly momentous occasion. Aside from acting as a tribute to London, the present work and its counterparts marked a distinct turning point in Richter’s career. Gaining representation in London by Anthony d’Offay was a significant coup for Richter, who was flattered to be exhibiting in the same space as some of the most internationally important artists of the late Twentieth Century, including Willem de Kooning, Carl Andre, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol (it was d’Offay who commissioned Warhol to make his greatest late works, the Fright Wig series of 1986). In tandem with attaining representation in New York in the early 1980s with Marian Goodman, Richter’s new relationship with d’Offay cemented his soaring reputation on the international stage. Alongside this, The London Paintings signify a concurrent step-up in Richter’s painterly investigation, heralding the very beginning of a decade that would produce the most arresting and extraordinary abstract pictures of Richter’s career. As Jill Lloyd presciently identified in her essay for the 1988 exhibition: “The complex weave of textures, colours and rhythms in these new paintings… results in a literal presence that is fuller, richer, more all-inclusive than in his previous abstract works” (Jill Lloyd quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter: The London Paintings, 1988, n.p.). Testament to the remarkable calibre of this defining exhibition, a number of these paintings now reside in prestigious museum collections across the globe: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington., D.C.; Tate, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and La Caixa Foundation, Barcelona. Possessing an atmospheric power connected to famous British architectural monuments and affecting a viewing experience that evokes the atmospheric effects of Claude Monet, A B, Brick Tower sublimely registers beyond our sphere of cognition to deliver a rich poetic riposte to the sights and sounds of historic London. The Tower of London possesses a magnificently rich past. Built by William the Conqueror (first Norman King of England) as a battlement to subdue Londoners following his victory at the Battle of Hastings, the Tower complex is legendary for having served as an armoury, menagerie and Treasury, it is the home of the Royal Mint and Crown Jewels, and famously served as a prison during the Tudor era (Sir Walter Raleigh was in fact imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I in Brick Tower) associated with executions and the famous legend of the Princes in the Tower under the reign of Richard III. Its appearance in art history dates back to illuminated manuscripts, such as Froissart's Chronicles (circa 1400) which recount the Hundred Years War, or the Poems of Charles d’Orleans (circa 1480) in which the captive Duke of Orleans can be seen writing his manuscript from the Tower. Other famous art historical instances include various woodcuts and engravings, seventeenth-century depictions of the fire of London, Paul Delaroche’s iconic painting of The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (1833), as well as J.M.W. Turner’s maritime view of the Tower from across the River Thames of 1825. Immortalised within these art historical canons – from landscape through to history painting – in 1987 the Tower of London entered into the radical abstract canon of Gerhard Richter. As an artist who has sought a relentless and almost clinical rebuttal of representational painting within an age of photographic image distribution, Richter’s complex and deeply conceptual abstract practice is brought back to an evocation of the art historical past. One year prior to the execution of the present work, Richter stated as much in a conversation with Benjamin Buchloh: “I do see myself as the heir to a vast, great, rich culture of painting – of art in general – which we have lost, but which places obligations on us. And it is no easy matter to avoid either harking back to the past or (equally bad) giving up altogether and sliding into decadence” (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh (1986) in: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London 1995, p. 148). Intriguingly, Richter’s show at d’Offay also included a suite of landscape paintings, which at first viewing strike the viewer as natural successors to an art historical lineage of British landscape painters as epitomised by Turner, Constable or, as is oft mentioned, the sweeping panoramas of German Romantic painter, Caspar David Friedrich. This however is to simplify Richter’s highly conceptual relationship with image-making in all of its guises (both representational and abstract), which, rooted in the recognisable tropes of art history (from Romantic landscape painting through to Abstract Expressionism), looks to drive the possibility of painting into the Twenty-first Century. Herein, the astounding abstract presented in The London Paintings were the very first to fully draw a bridge between Richter’s very nascent foray into the dialectic between painting and photography. Coming full circle from the earliest Photo Paintings, the present work witnesses the full induction of the squeegee as the principle compositional agent. This in turn invited the means through which Richter was able to instigate “Photography by other means” (Gerhard Richter quoted in: ‘Interview with Rolf Schön, 1972’ in: Dietmar Elger and H. Ulrich Obrist, Eds., Gerhard Richter, TEXT: Writings, Interviews and Letters: 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 73). As redolent in A B, Brick Tower, 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 in the sweeping accretions of paint. Evoking a blurred image and imploring the same searching cognitive viewing experience as his photo-works, the hazy coagulation of endlessly scraped pigment forms an extraordinary repost to the canon of twentieth-century abstraction via the photographic, mechanical and the aleatory. Within the sheer excess of layering and dynamic compositional facture these paintings emit an extraordinary wealth of enigmatic yet recognisable evocation. The incessant erasure and denial of formal resolution induces a reading of phenomenal forms associated with those found in nature. Readily evoking natural experiences such as rain, water erosion, or in this case the weathering of a brick wall, the abstract works derive their affect from a spontaneous naturalism. Where Richter’s Photo Paintings fall away into abstraction, the Abstrakt Bilder return us to a suggestion of referential representation. Though entirely disconnected from referentiality in both method and conception, Richter’s abstractions nevertheless elusively evoke natural forms and colour configurations. As outlined by the artist: “The paintings gain their life from our desire to recognise something in them. At every point they suggest similarities with real appearances, which then, however, never really materialize” (Gerhard Richter quoted in: Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago 2009, p. 267). Thwarting the artist’s own compositional preconceptions, these works are forged by a reactive and aleatory dialogue via the means of their execution: the squeegee. The layered excavation and resonant accumulation of gossamer colour imparts an eroded surface reminiscent of myriad natural forms. Like a sunset, glorious and luminescent in reflecting the chromatic intensity of stunning optical effects, Richter’s canvas evokes the beauty frequently called forth by the contingency of natural phenomena: “amid the paintings’ scraped and layered pigments” describes Robert Storr, “shoals, riptides and cresting waves” reinforce an impression of venturing beyond abstraction (Robert Storr quoted in: Dietmar Elgar, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. XIII). Such a reading is very much linked to Richter’s methodological dialogue with chance. Dragged across an expanse of canvas the pressure and speed of Richter’s application ultimately surrenders to the unpredictability of chance in informing composition and colour. It is this separation of the artist from direct expression that bestows Richter’s paintings with their inherently natural look. The shimmering and harmoniously artful orchestration of paint within A B, Brick Tower vacillates between an act of intense evocation and a simultaneous effacement of painterly form: ingrained within the present work’s destructive and unpredictable formation is an undeniable reflection of Nature itself. As outlined by Beate Söntgen; Richter’s method “joins the painted traces of the tools together with the layering and intersections of colour to form structures that are figural or landscape like in appearance, without ever solidifying into an object that is once again recognizable” (Beate Söntgen, ‘Work on the Picture: The Discretion of Gerhard Richter’, in: Exhibition Catalogue, Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Gerhard Richter: Abstrakte Bilder, 2008-09, p. 37). Comparative in both beauty and effect to Monet’s atmospheric and optical translation of his garden at Giverny or even his depiction of the Houses of Parliament across the River Thames, Richter’s A B, Brick Tower is nonetheless analogous to a wholesale inversion of the Impressionist master’s late practice. Correspondingly expansive, enveloping and utterly breathing colour, Richter shares Monet’s tropospheric yet abyssal chromatic impact. In the work of both it is the cognitive and sensory act of looking informed by a dense chromatic structure that drives visual affect. Clement Greenberg identified this as Impressionism’s most revolutionary insight, and it is this which Richter invokes and advances in his Abstracts. Where for Monet, nature was a point of departure to link the experiential stimulus of the outer world with an ineffable inner world of sensory perception, Richter’s outwardly incomprehensible plane of abstraction projects the interior world of sensory perception back into the exterior realm of natural reference. Rather than a perceptual and intensely subjective documentation of nature that verges on the abstract, Richter’s exercise in ostensibly objective and pure abstraction skirts the peripheries of a lyrical and expressive organic topography. Herein, Richter’s A B, Brick Tower, guised in the fuzz of televisual distortion, presents the viewer with an abyssal and chromatically resplendent vista, an approach to painting that, in echoing the title of Fondation Beyeler exhibition in which this painting was included, awards Richter the distinctly twenty-first century title of Digital Impressionist. Signed, dated 1987 and numbered 643-1 on the reverse 

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2015-07-01
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Exceptionally rare and highly important fancy vivid blue diamond

Centring on a brilliant-cut fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 7.59 carats, surrounded by brilliant-cut pink diamonds together weighing approximately 1.70 carats, to shoulders set with brilliant-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum. Ring size: 6 Accompanied by GIA report numbered 2155041817, dated 1 April 2013, stating that the 7.59 carat diamond is natural, Fancy Vivid Blue colour, Internally Flawless clarity; also accompanied by diamond type classification report stating that the diamond is determined to be a Type IIb diamond. Type IIb diamonds are very rare in nature and contain small amounts of boron that can give rise to a blue or gray coloration. Further accompanied by a GIA monograph, stating that "The Premier Blue is the largest round brilliant, fancy vivid blue, internally flawless diamond that GIA has ever graded." (April 2013) __________________________________ ORIGIN Blue diamonds are so rare that according to GIA, only 0.3% of coloured diamonds submitted to the laboratory are predominately blue regardless of its colour saturation. Natural blue diamonds owe its colour to trace amounts of boron particles within the diamond’s crystal structure; otherwise known as Type IIB diamonds, a very rare category in diamonds. Historically, blue diamonds were found in what we now know as the legendary Indian mines of Golconda, presently part of the State of Hyderabad. Most of the diamonds from these mines were alluvial, streamed from their origin to the river banks and beds. Given the factual relatively late discovery of alternative blue diamond sources, most historic blue diamonds would have Indian origin attributions. This is certainly true of the famed Tavernier Blue, known through the well-documented account by Jean Baptiste Tavernier in the 17th century. With the discovery of the South African mines at the turn of last century, in particular the Cullinan (Premier) Mines, blue diamonds were more formally introduced to the world rather than belonging to the realm of the mystic past. A HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE Jewels have always historically been intertwined with the fate of man. Rumoured myths, legendary curses, stories of royalty and tales of renowned jewelers are all fascinating facets that veil famous jewels with intangible mystery. One of the most celebrated “Blues” is the 45.52 carat “Hope Diamond”, now in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.: Queen Marie Antoinette, American Heiress Evalyn Walsh McClean, House of Cartier, and Harry Winston were some of the notable owners of this famous blue diamond. The “Hope Diamond” is now considered to have been the precursor of the famed “Tavernier Blue” that had been cut twice, the first time from its original rough size of 112 carats to 67 carats, bearing the new name “Diamond of the Crown”, and then refashioned into its current weight of 45.52 carat, and renamed as the “Hope Diamond”, a cushion-shaped Fancy Dark Grayish-Blue Diamond, donated by Harry Winston in 1958. Other notable historic blue diamonds are the “Blue Heart” (Eugenie Blue), “Tereschenko Blue”, “Wittelsbach-Graff Blue”, and of course the mysterious and long-lost “Brunswick Blue.” MILLENNIUM BLUE DIAMONDS In celebration of the Millennium 2000, a unique collection of special blue diamonds was unveiled by De Beers, together with The Steinmetz Group. Titled the “Millennium Collection”, this collection showcased exceptional, rare and highly valuable diamonds in a specially designed exhibit at London’s Millennium Dome. The collection included eleven phenomenal blue diamonds of various shapes and weights totaling 118 carats, ranging in size from a 5.16 carat pear-shaped diamond to a 27.64 carat heart-shaped diamond, also known as “The Heart of Eternity.” As one of the most important collections of blue diamonds to be presented at one time, it took over two years to plan the manufacture of the diamonds and over countless decades to recover them. Nine out of the eleven diamonds have been graded by the GIA as Fancy Vivid Blue colour and two of Fancy Intense Blue colour. Very few blue diamonds in the market has had the  intensity or an even saturation as these Millennium blue diamonds. FANCY VIVID BLUE DIAMONDS AT AUCTION Whilst a very small number of important blue diamonds were sold at auction over the last two decades, it was not until 2007 when the landmark Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong sold a 6.04 carat, internally flawless emerald-cut Fancy Vivid Blue diamond for a record price of US$1,321,495 per carat, breaking the 20 year old record held by the famous “Hancock Red”, and propelling all sizable Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds to new market levels of a minimum of US$1,000,000 per carat. Other notable blue diamonds at auction include the ”Begum Blue” (1995), “Wittelsbach-Graff Blue” (2008), “Star of Josephine” (2009), “De Beers Millennium Jewel 11” (2010), and the “Reza Blue” (2010). In October 2011, Sotheby’s Hong Kong set another new record of US$1,686,505 per carat for a 6.01 carat cushion-shaped Fancy Vivid Blue diamond. It is noteworthy to mention in context of the rarity of Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds, that there has not been a sizable matched pair of Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds ever to appear at auction, except for the unique pair of 5.24 and 5.58 carat pendant earrings sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2002. Earpendants set with Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds are usually fashioned in the very chic and striking “yin-yang” vivid blue and white diamond combination. Past auction examples include the pair of Fancy Vivid Blue diamond earpendants by Bulgari from the collection of Donna Simonetta Colonna, Duchess di Cesaro, sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2003, as well as the pair of earpendants by Cartier from the Collection of Betsy Cushing Whitney, sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1998. THE PREMIER BLUE The round brilliant-cut is one of the rarest shapes for coloured diamonds, as they are usually fashioned to best maximize the weight of the often irregular-shaped rough. Furthermore, it is even rarer to find a fancy coloured diamond successfully cut into a round brilliant while still showcasing the highest strength of colour. The combination of the best colour grading of vivid blue, with an internally flawless clarity, in a substantial carat size of 7.59 carats, renders The Premier Blue a very important and exceptional rare blue diamond. GIA notes in the accompanied monograph that “even more significant is the fact that, at the time of the printing of this Monograph, The Premier Blue is the largest round brilliant, fancy vivid blue, internally flawless diamond that GIA has ever graded. Of the highest clarity and colour, The Premier Blue adds to the long and alluring history of blue diamonds.”

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2013-10-07
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1964 Ferrari 250 LM by Scaglietti

320 hp, 3,286 cc aluminum-block V-12 engine with six Weber 38 DCN carburetors, five-speed manual transmission, independent suspension with front and rear unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, and anti-roll bars, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 94.4 in. The 23rd of only 32 examples produced; considered one of the very best in existence Shown at the Earls Court in 1966 Successfully and frequently campaigned by Ron Fry, David Skailes, and Jack Maurice throughout England, with countless 1st place finishes Formerly of the renowned Matsuda Collection in Japan Ferrari Classiche certified; retains all of its original mechanical components An exceptional 250 LM in every regard; one of the most important and sought after of all Ferraris RACING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM Like all other 250 LMs, chassis number 6105, the 23rd of just 32 examples constructed, was destined for the race track. The Ferrari was ordered through Maranello Concessionaires by noted privateer Ronald Fry, a descendant of the prominent Fry family, who had made their fortune through confectionaries and chocolates in England starting in the 18th century. Ronald Fry was a seasoned racer, and it was no secret that his favorite cars were those from Maranello. Fry had traded in his 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (chassis number 3869GT), which he had campaigned quite successfully over the 1963 and 1964 seasons, and with the arrival of the 250 LM in mid-September, he was obviously quite excited to get his newest Ferrari out onto the track. The 250 LM, boasting a new mid-mounted, 3.3-liter V-12, was developed for the GT class but forced to compete as a sports prototype. This was a drastically different automobile from earlier 250-series Ferraris. Nevertheless, it proved to be highly successful on the track, exhibiting spectacular poise due to its combination of handling and horsepower, which was beautifully mastered by a number of skilled drivers lucky enough to get behind the wheel. In 1965, chassis 5893 took 1st overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, making it the last Ferrari to ever do so, cementing the car’s place in automotive history. The 250 LM is widely lauded as one of the greatest Ferraris of all time by owners, historians, and tifosi alike, and it would appear that Fry would agree. In his ownership, it was very actively campaigned on hill climbs, sprints, and club races around England for the rest of 1964 through to 1966, often placing in the top three with his weapons-grade Ferrari. Taking a 250 LM to such events was the automotive equivalent of taking a gun to a knife-fight, and the car’s results speak for themselves. Chassis number 6105 (easily recognizable thanks to its registration number, RON 54) proved to be very successful in Fry’s ownership, and he often finished 1st in class and occasionally 1st overall. During the warmer months of the year, this car would be campaigned as often as four times a month. Seemingly every possible weekend that Fry could be out on the track in his Ferrari he made his way to an event and came home with a trophy in hand. In December 1965, Enzo Ferrari presented Ron Fry with a medal of recognition for his outstanding achievements in racing, which is a testament to the success of both Fry and his 250 LM. More importantly, even though the car was campaigned with much frequency, Fry never had a major accident, and as a result, the car remained in exceptionally original condition. This is an important point to note, as 250 LMs in particular were raced hard and consequently many fell victim to the hardships of motorsport. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to find an example that is in such original condition, boasting such extensive competition history, as 6105. In October 1966, chassis number 6105 returned to the Earls Court Motor Show, where it was displayed by Maranello Concessionaires in celebration of its racing success. Prior to the 1967 racing season, Fry sold his 250 LM in January 1967 to David S. D. Skailes, of Staffordshire, the owner of Cropwell Bishop Creamery in Nottingham, who reregistered the car on plates BFB 932 B. Shortly after acquiring the car, Skailes had the engine overhauled by the Ferrari factory in Maranello and, at the same time, had body specialist Piero Drogo install a long nose on the car, giving it a more distinctive front end. Skailes continued to race the car at events in the UK and even campaigned the car, with Eric Liddell, at the nine-hour race at Kyalami in South Africa, placing 6th overall. In October 1968, the 250 LM was acquired through Maranello Concessionaires by its third owner, Jack Maurice of Northumberland, who traded in his 275 GTB in order to make the purchase, and re-registered the car on license plates JM 265. Much like Ron Fry before him, Maurice continued to campaign his 250 LM on hill climbs and sprints around the UK, and the car returned to many of the same venues that it raced at under Fry’s ownership. For the 1970 season, Maurice had accumulated eight class wins, placed 2nd in the Shell Leader’s Hill Climb Championship, and won the Baracca Trophy and the David Poter Trophy for his exploits on the track. Following the success of the 1970 season, 6105 took a brief respite from competition and was featured in a pair of articles written by Jack Maurice for the Ferrari Owners’ Club UK magazine, a five-page article in the Winter 1970–1971 issue, titled "Speed-Hillclimbing in a 250 LM", and a two page article titled "The Duchess" in Autumn 1975. Maurice had the engine rebuilt at Diena & Silingardi’s Sport Auto in Modena over the winter of 1975/1976 and sold the car in 1976. After passing through Martin Johnson, chassis number 6105 was purchased by Richard Colton, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and once more returned to the track under his ownership, participating in even more hill climbs and sprints around the UK. Following another four years of racing, Colton decided that his 250 LM was deserving of a restoration. To bring the car back to its original specifications, Colton purchased an original Scaglietti nose for a 250 LM from Robert Fehlmann, replacing the car’s Drogo long-nose, and had it fitted to the car during its restoration by GTC Engineering. Following the completion of the restoration, Colton showed the car at a pair of Ferrari Owners’ Club meetings in the UK, one in July at Eastington Hall and the other in September at Avisford Park. AFTER 20 YEARS ON THE TRACK Nearly 20 years after it was delivered new to Ron Fry, in 1984, chassis number 6105 was sold to its first owner outside of the UK, Mr. Yoshiyuki Hayashi of Tokyo. Hayashi kept the car in his collection for 11 years before it was sold to another esteemed Japanese collector, Yoshiho Matsuda, who also owned a 250 GTO and 250 Testa Rossa. In Matsuda’s ownership, the car was featured in a book on his collection, titled Rosso Corsa – Matsuda Collection, as well as pictured in issue 92 of Cavallino magazine and featured in the Japanese magazine Car Graphic. Following a brief stint in the United States for three years with Kevin Crowder, of Dallas, Texas, the car returned to Europe and was owned by Robert Sarrailh and Andrea Burani before being purchased by Pierre Mellinger, of Lausanne, Switzerland. In his ownership, Mellinger exercised the car frequently, being driven and enjoyed by him on several European driving events. Mellinger drove the car on the Italia Classica in September 2011 from Maranello to Venice and back, as well as in the Tour Auto in April 2012. Also in 2012, chassis 6105 was driven by Mellinger at the Le Mans Classic, taking to the track for the first time in more than 30 years. Prior to this, the car received over $100,000 of work at GPS Classic in northern Italy, excluding an engine and transmission rebuild. This 250 LM was sold to its current custodian later that year, as part of The Pinnacle Portfolio, and while in this collection, it has been beautifully preserved alongside other highly significant Ferraris. From the moment one first sets eyes on it, the sheer level of character and originality is instantly palatable. Although exhibiting slight signs of use from its more recent outings, it is evident that this is a very well-preserved and original example of one of Ferrari’s most celebrated racing cars. The car’s Ferrari Classiche certification only further confirms that it retains all of its original mechanical components. Additionally, it is offered with a spare, un-numbered 128 F-type engine, as well as an additional crankshaft and a set of Borrani wire wheels on Dunlop tires. Of course, the factory-correct appearance of its Scaglietti nose makes it all the more appealing. The opportunity to purchase a 250 LM at auction is a rare occurrence, but the opportunity to purchase a pure example with known history from new is an unrepeatable opportunity. As one of the finest and most original examples of the last Ferrari to win overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the importance of the 250 LM as a model, and chassis number 6105 in particular, simply cannot be understated. Race chart available within the catalogue description. Chassis no. 6105 Engine no. 6105 Gearbox no. 16

  • USAUSA
  • 2015-08-13
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A sublime blue and white 'palace' bowl mark and period of chenghua

The acme of this revered type and a most delicate feast for the senses, elegantly potted with smooth rounded sides barely flaring at the rim, finely painted in muted washes of cobalt-blue accented with sharp outlines of a deeper hue, the exterior with a musk-mallow scroll undulating gently around the sides issuing four luscious blooms with tender flaring petals, interspersed with star-shaped leaves, their edges characteristically serrated, each bloom with a leaf daintily tucked and partially concealed behind, the meander of alternating flowers and leaves unpredictably syncopated with the sudden burst of a bud and its two leaves, as though permeated with life, all between double lines at the rim and foot, the interior with a central medallion enclosing a single stylised flower head within a double circle, encircled by a musk-mallow meander similar to that on the exterior barring some refined mutation, all beneath a double-line border, the body thinly veiled in a most sensual unctuous glaze The Cunliffe Musk-Mallow Palace Bowl Regina Krahl The porcelains of the Chenghua period (1465-87) can be considered the epitome of the unceasing efforts of the Jingdezhen potters at the imperial kilns to prove their originality in design and their outstanding craftsmanship. They represent the peak of material refinement and artistry, and are among the most idiosyncratic and distinct creations in terms of their decorative style. In all these respects the present bowl is an archetypal example. It would be difficult to find a piece of Chenghua blue-and-white that better embodies the special appeal of that period. The porcelain stone and glaze used for Chenghua imperial porcelains are arguably the finest ever achieved at Jingdezhen. The sensual pleasure of the touch of a Chenghua porcelain vessel is unmatched by porcelains of any other period, and the smooth, pleasing surface texture of the present bowl is unrivalled in its tactility. The ‘softness’ of the hard material can be gleaned even from a photograph. After a beginning where the Xuande period still supplied the main inspiration, the potters of the Chenghua reign arrived at their own distinctive style towards the latter part of the period. Palace bowls were made for only a few years towards the end of the Chenghua reign – opinions still vary between late 1470s to early 1480s, or just the 1480s. Unlike the crisp and glossy glazes of the best Xuande wares, those of the Chenghua reign are more muted, covering the blue design with a most delicate veil. The cobalt pigment is much more even than it was in the Xuande period, without any 'heaping and piling'. The attractive delicate tone seen on the present bowl is one of the trademarks of Chenghua blue-and-white. After decades of importing cobalt from the Middle East to achieve a deep and intense colour, native cobalt was deliberately chosen in the Chenghua reign – either on its own or in combination with imported pigment – to create a very different effect. The decoration is of a striking artlessness and immediacy, again in a deliberate move away from earlier models, focusing special attention on the material. With such new goals and high specifications at the imperial workshops, it is not surprising that Chenghua porcelains are extremely rare, in fact, the rarest Chinese Imperial porcelains. Liu Xinyuan graphically describes the volume of fragments recovered from the site of the Ming Imperial kilns, where the Chenghua (AD 1465 – 1487) fragments equal less than half those unearthed from the Xuande stratum (AD 1426 – 1435), even though the latter period was so much shorter (Liu Xinyuan 'Reconstructing Chenghua Porcelain from Historical Records', The Emperor's Broken China: Reconstructing Chenghua Porcelain, exhibition catalogue, Sotheby's London, 1995, p. 11). The scarcity of sherds at the kiln site is mirrored by the rarity of surviving examples. Of those by far the greatest number is preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, and in Museums in mainland China. Of the remaining examples most are today in museum collections. Only some two dozen Chenghua pieces of any type are recorded to be in private hands (see Julian Thompson's 'List of Patterns of Chenghua Porcelain in Collections Worldwide', ibid., pp. 116-129). What is generally known as 'palace bowls' are bowls of fine proportion, painted in underglaze blue with a flower or fruit design of apparent simplicity. Bowls with flower scroll decoration were of course also made in the Yongle (AD 1403 – 1424) and Xuande periods, but those of the Chenghua reign are unique in the deliberate irregularity introduced to a seemingly regular pattern. In the present design, blooms basically alternate with leaves, but on the inside one sprig of leaves appears behind a bloom rather than beside it, and on the outside an added bud similarly interrupts the regular rhythm. The stems therefore do not undulate in a predictable manner, but deliberately break up any symmetry. It is this slight deviation from the orderly arrangement – a daring and unique concept for imperial works of art, where any individual touch was generally shunned and machine-like precision and perfection were required – that makes this and other palace bowl designs vibrate, as if pervaded with some quiet motion. In this respect Chenghua palace bowls like the present example are quite unlike any earlier or later imperial designs. The musk-mallow design with its combination of softly rounded, multi-lobed flower petals and contrasting pointed, serrated finger-like leaves is perhaps the most spectacular design among the various palace bowl patterns, many of which have a plain inside. Only three other patterns exist of palace bowls painted both inside and out, one showing scrolling lotus stems, one lily scrolls (figs. 1 and 2), and one a gardenia scroll outside and a mixed flower scroll inside. The musk mallow is easy to identify through the classic botanical literature. It was used already on some Yongle vessels, but extremely rarely, for example, on a ewer in Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, ed. John Ayers, London, 1986, vol. 2, no. 617, and an identical one sold in these rooms, 30th October 2002, lot 271. The depiction of the flower at that period was very different, lacking the clear distinction between darker outlines and paler washes, as well as the white rims of the petals seen on the present bowl. The present pattern exists in two slightly different variations, one with the scrolling leaf stems on the inside crossing, as in the present case, the other with the stems not crossing. The central flower-head is also derived from flower-scroll bowls of the Xuande period, see 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, cat. no. 61. Although the present flower is six-petalled, others exist with seven petals, again displaying the peculiar Chenghua tendency towards diversity. The Cunliffe musk-mallow bowl is one of only two bowls of this design still remaining in private hands, while eleven examples are in museum collection, six of them in Asia and five in Europe; none are preserved in mainland China or in the United States. Beside this piece only three such bowls have ever been offered at auction, one for the last time in 1951, another in 1973 and the third in 2009. Examples of this design have been recovered in fragments from the waste heaps of the Ming Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, and one reconstructed example was included in the exhibition The Emperor's Broken China: Reconstructing Chenghua Porcelain, Sotheby's London, 1995, cat. no. 69. Companion pieces in Asia are four bowls preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, recorded in the Museum's porcelain catalogue Gugong ciqi lu, part II: Ming, vol. 1, Taipei, 1962, p. 214, three of which have been published with illustrations, two in the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ch'eng-hua Porcelain Ware, 1465–1487, Taipei, 2003, cat. nos. 33 and 34; the third in the exhibition catalogue Ming Chenghua ciqi tezhan [Special exhibition of Ming Chenghua porcelain], Taipei, 1976, no. 80. One bowl from the collections of Lindsay Hay and R.E.R. Luff, later in the Ataka collection and now in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, sold in our London rooms in 1946 and 1973, was included in the Museum's exhibition Imperial Porcelain: Recent Discoveries of Jingdezhen Ware, Osaka, 1995, pl. 229; another bowl from the collections of C.M. Woodbridge and Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Bernat, now in the Umezawa Kinenkan, Tokyo, sold in our London rooms 8th May 1951, lot 62, formed part of the Special Exhibition of Chinese Ceramics, Tokyo, 1994, pl. 263; and one sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 20 March 1990, lot 523, and 27th April 1997, lot 73, and at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7th October 2006, lot 908, and 8th October 2009, lot 1692, is illustrated in Li Zhengzhong and Zhu Yuping, Taoci yanjiu jianshang congshu, 3: Zhongguo qinghua ci [Series on ceramics research and connoisseurship, 3: Chinese blue-and-white porcelain], Taipei, 1993, fig. 101. In Europe, a pair of bowls of this design from the collection of Axel and Nora Lundgren is in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, see Jan Wirgin, Ming Porcelain in the Collection of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. Hongwu to Chenghua, Stockholm, 1991, cat. no. 35; two similar bowls are also in the British Museum, London, one, from the collection of Sir Percival David, was included in the exhibition Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, Percival David Foundation, London, 1995, cat. no. 1; the other from the collection of Mrs. Winnifred Roberts, given in memory of A.D. Brankston, is published in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, no. 6:4; and a similar bowl in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, in the Netherlands, is illustrated in Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt, Ming Porcelain, London, 1978, pl. 66. Chenghua porcelain remained greatly treasured throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. Ts'ai Ho-pi relates many anecdotes recorded in the historical literature attesting to the value and esteem of Chenghua wares in later periods (Ts'ai Ho-pi, 'Chenghua Porcelain in Historical Context', Sotheby's London, 1995, op.cit., pp. 16 ff.). The rulers most interested in collecting ancient ceramics, the Wanli (r. AD 1573 – 1620) and Yongzheng (r. AD 1723 – 1735) Emperors both had copies commissioned from the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, the former with his own reign marks, the latter with a spurious Chenghua mark. A bowl of this design of Wanli mark and period in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museum's 1976 exhibition together with an original piece, op.cit., cat. no. 79; a Qing copy in the Percival David Foundation, is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Great Collections, vol. 6, Tokyo, New York and San Francisco, 1982, no. 252. The present bowl was one of three Chenghua palace bowls in the collection of Lord Cunliffe. The Rt. Hon. Rolf, 2nd Baron Cunliffe of Headley (1899-1963) was one of the most important collectors of Chinese art – ceramics of all periods as well as archaic bronzes, jades and snuff bottles. According to Roy Davids and Dominic Jellinek, Provenance, London, 2011, pp. 132-3, Bluett & Sons prepared a valuation of his collection after his death, which comprised some 600 items. He had acquired all three palace bowls together from Peter Boode in 1947 for a total of £ 475. Boode, an important dealer in East Asian art, had arrived in the Far East in 1913, had sourced many Chinese art works in the early Republican period and opened a gallery in Mount Street, London, in 1934, which closed around 1949. At Bluett’s selling exhibition in 1971 the present bowl was prized at £ 25,000. At Sotheby’s ten years later it sold for HK $ 4,070,000. The other two Cunliffe palace bowls were a pair, both of the lily pattern; one of them was sold in these rooms, 20th May 1980, lot 39 (fig. 1); the other was sold at Bonhams London, 11th November 2002, lot 67 (fig. 2), where the original Boode invoice was illustrated in the catalogue, and is now in the Xiling collection, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Xiling Collection, n.p., 2011, p. 40, no. 16.

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2013-10-08
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Superb and highly important fancy vivid purple-pink diamond and diamond

Centring on a pear-shaped fancy vivid purple-pink diamond weighing 8.41 carats, to a stylized mount pavé-set throughout with circular-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum, signed Sotheby's Diamonds. Ring size: 5½ Accompanied by GIA report numbered 1162202561, dated 27 June 2014, stating that the 8.41 carat diamond is natural, Fancy Vivid Purple-Pink colour, Internally Flawless clarity, with Excellent Polish; further accompanied by diamond type classification report stating that the diamond is determined to be a Type IIa diamond. Type IIa diamonds are the most chemically pure type of diamond and often have exceptional optical transparency. Also accompanied by a signed box. Most pink diamonds through the formation process tend to have less than desirable clarity and also tend to suffer from an inherent trait of internal graining, which affects the brilliance and luster. This 8.41 carat pink diamond is remarkable for its very crisp crystal and internally flawless clarity as well as being “highly transparent and very clear”. This diamond is rare for its size, beautiful hue, and exemplary rich saturation of colour. _______________________________ SOTHEBY'S DIAMONDS Since 2005, Sotheby’s Diamonds has presented limited edition collections of diamond jewellery and bespoke pieces through a partnership with the leading international expert in diamond cutting and polishing. Each stone from Sotheby’s Diamond is hand-picked and every design meticulously handcrafted by European-trained artisans. The exquisite settings and breathtaking designs are either unique or of a limited production numbering ten or fewer pieces. Weaving innovation with tradition, Sotheby’s Diamonds collections feature creative pairings, juxtaposing rare and important diamonds, sometimes with unexpected materials including wood, ceramic and steel. Whimsical while classically beautiful, each and every Sotheby’s Diamonds piece is an individual masterpiece—at the heart of which is always one-of-a-kind diamond. At Sotheby’s Diamonds salons in Hong Kong and New York, these exclusive creations, as well as magnificently set single-stones and rare diamonds and coloured diamonds of unparalleled quality, are available year round. Beyond the salons, Sotheby’s Diamonds will showcase stunning diamond jewellery at the Hong Kong Autumn Sales at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this 3-8 October. The collection will also be presented at select events in conjunction with the auction calendar throughout the year, as well as at trunk shows in Beijing, Taipei and Singapore among other locations. Contemporary yet timeless, Sotheby’s Diamonds form a perfect marriage of art and jewellery, continuing the Sotheby’s tradition of bringing together the most discerning collectors with impeccable works of art. A HISTORY OF PINK DIAMONDS “A coloured diamond is a touchstone of the universe, a little something God created that man can’t always find…they are the last frontier of collectable.” – R. Winston 1986 The story of this pink splendor was set nowhere else but in the ancient mines of South India, the land blessed with the world’s purest and most famous diamonds, and the only source of diamonds known to men before the 18th century. Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French merchant and adventurer who was best known for acquiring the Tavernier Blue Diamond the he subsequently sold to Louis XIV, first made a reference to rose diamonds in early 17th century. According to Tavernier’s account, this enormous pink rough weighing over 200 carats was shown to him by moguls in kingdoms of Golconda in 1642 during his second voyage to the East. Valued at 600,000 rupees almost four hundred years ago, this diamond named ‘The Grand Table’ is still the largest pink diamond known to date. In his book ‘The Six Voyages’, he later drew a picture of two pale rose coloured diamonds that he purchased in India circa 1668. Many of the world’s most famous pink diamonds, such as The Darya-i-Nur, Agra, Le Grand Condé, The Hortensia and Shah Jahaan, very likely originated in the famous Kollur mines, near Golconda in Southern India, adorning crowns and jewels of kings and moguls during that period. Some made their journeys into Europe and were sold or presented as largesse to monarchs and the royals. The exact source of some other famous ones is not known, and some quite large pink diamonds have been recovered from alluvial deposits in the interior of Brazil and Africa in more recent times. Natural pink diamonds over a carat are extremely rare to come by; some would say it is beyond rare. The famous ‘Williamson’ pink, currently part of the British Crown Jewels, was presented to Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) on the occasion of her wedding on 20 November 1947. Taking its name from its finder, Dr. J.T. Williamson, this pink diamond is one of the most illustrious modern day finds from South Africa. In the late 1980s, encouraging soil samples led geologists in search of diamond mines to North West Australia. After a decade looking through kimberlite sites, they finally discovered the Argyle mines, which now supply approximately 90% of the world’s pink diamonds. Yet, despite this significant discovery, their paucity remained stupefying. Only 0.1% of the twenty million carats of rough produced annually is pink, and a whole year's worth of production of these pink treasures over half a carat would fit in the palm of your hand. The majority of the produce qualified as ‘pink’ are usually around twenty points and of low clarity. Currently there are no other pink diamond mines in the world, and any discovery of pink diamond deposits would take at least a decade’s time up to the actual production. As this rare treasure draw more and more attention from gem connoisseurs and aficionadas around the world, the demand of the alluring pinks far exceeds the supply. Whenever a pink diamond over 5 carats is put up at an auction, it naturally assumes a pivotal position in the auction room, drawing waves of approving gasps when it fetches astronomical prices time after time. It does not take an expert to admire this nature’s marvel, and their dreamlike colour never disappoints. That, is the magic of pink diamonds. MYSTICAL PINK – TRANSFORMING DEFECTION INTO PERFECTION It is widely known that diamonds are formed by carbon atoms bonded together in a crystalline lattice that does not absorb any wavelengths of light, thus affording it a white or more accurately, colourless appearance. The whiter its colour, the more precious it is, such is the belief of the majority, because purity is that ultimate rarity. Yet fewer would understand that it is exactly these ‘impurities’, which gemmologists call ‘trace elements’, that account for the vibrant array of hues found in natural coloured diamonds. Each colour is nature’s unique recipe, and only the most subtle balance of ingredients can culminate in a substantial beauty too mesmerizing to be true. Nitrogen and boron are the contributing factors to yellow and blue colours in diamonds; pink, however, kept its own secret far beyond comprehension of researchers. Natural pink diamonds have what is known as a defect centre. With enough of these defect centres the diamond may take on different properties, such as absorb certain wavelength of green light, lending it a pink appearance when light reaches our eyes. How this exactly happens still baffle gemmologists and scientists around the world. What researchers are sure of is that one or more of the carbon atoms in the diamond lattice may be missing or replaced with a different element in the defect centres. This is a result of plastic deformation of the diamond during its geologic history in the earth, usually when it is in semi-solid state. Layers of carbon atoms that are parallel to the orientation of the applied stress are displaced slightly along gliding planes. These glided planes of atoms appear needle-like and are known as pink grain lines or pink graining. The concentration of these bands of graining is directly related to the strength of the pink colour, the more graining there are, the more intense the pink colour. Hence, the critical conditions required for the formation of pink diamonds and the passage as they travel to reach earth surface often result in less than desirable clarity. It is fair to say that pink diamonds come naturally with a certain extent of graining. The linear pattern of surface graining can sometimes be moderately visible; whereas internal graining may give the diamond an overall hazy appearance. For a pink diamond to exhibit a homogenous and saturated pink colour without the obvious shortcoming of graining, a very delicate balance must be achieved, needless to say, completely shunned from human intervention. At the pinnacle of Mother Nature’s mastery is this 8.41 carat fancy vivid purple-pink diamond, displaying not only an evident sweet pink colour, but to be hailed for its exceptionally rare internally flawless clarity with no graining whatsoever and of a most beautiful hue of pink of intense saturation. True perfection, by all odds. QUOTES “Crystal” is a term that is sometimes used in gemmology to describe the appearance of top quality gems that is ‘highly transparent and very clear’. The 8.41 carat Fancy Vivid Purple-Pink diamond is a gem that the term crystal is aptly applied. It is a rare combination of size and saturated colour with an Internally Flawless clarity grade. - Tom Moses, GIA Senior Vice President of Laboratory and Research “Mined by De Beers, and fashioned from a diamond rough of over 18 carats, and through meticulous cutting and polishing, this flawless 8.41 carat vivid purple-pink diamond is a remarkable gift from Mother Nature, through Man’s creative aspiration and technical mastery.” “Pink is adored for its flattering feminine colour : it is the gentle flakes of cherry blossoms in Springtime April; it is delicate cotton candy floss melting at the tips of innocent fingers: it is the cheeks of a new-born tucked into a soft woolly quilt; or a precious dream sailing on chartaceous carnations.”

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2014-10-07
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Three Studies for a Self-Portrait

Self-portraiture has played a role of unparalleled importance in the work of Francis Bacon. More so than any artist since Rembrandt, Bacon’s implacable self-portrayals weave an autobiographic thread through the exigent vicissitudes of an extraordinarily dramatic life. Lived with the deepest commitment to brutally seizing the vulnerable, vital and violent conditions of human existence in both his work and day-to-day being, Francis Bacon was an artist for whom the searing reality of life itself was the purpose. Nowhere is this more forcefully evident than in the haunting opus of Self-Portraiture. Executed in the artist’s eighth decade at the age of 71, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, richly surmises a life’s worth of retrospect locked within an emphatically urgent scrutiny of Bacon’s iconic features. Belonging to a corpus of eleven triptych self-portrayals in Bacon’s standard 14 by 12inch format, the present triptych counts among the ten executed following the death of Bacon’s closest companion, George Dyer. The profound trauma of this event would precipitate an onslaught of searing self-analyses executed across the extant years of Bacon’s life. Painted in 1980, nine years following Dyer’s suicide, these three portraits collectively embody among the most elegiac in this intimate and somewhat commemorative triptych format. The sequence of effervescent works exude muted melancholia accented with the violent facture of Bacon’s inimitably physical painterly assault. Herein, these works utterly encapsulate the strength of burning sensation and direct emotion telescoped in Bacon’s astounding corpus of portrait heads. A series and format first settled upon in 1961 and sustained in practice until the very end, these extraordinary portraits form the very staple of Bacon’s mature practice, acting as the primary locus for the “brutality of fact” and most immediate site for loosening the “valves of sensation” so frequently spoken of by the artist. Professing profound reflection accompanying the artist’s entry into old age, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait significantly preserves one of the very final depictions of Bacon's likeness in this unflinching, intimate and crucial format. Following the 1979 Three Studies for a Self-Portrait residing in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and directly preceding the very last small Self-Portrait sequence from 1984 belonging to the Honolulu Museum of Art, this work hauntingly eulogizes the penultimate occasion of Bacon's searing and intimate self-analysis in his favourite format: the triptych. These human-scaled portrait heads are translucent, air-like apparitions of an ephemeral spirit dissolving into the black ether of the void. Enshrouded in shadow and ethereally effervescent, de-formulation and re-formulation of likeness moves from one image to the next; in series as though caught in the flash of a photo booth, these fully frontal and in profile depictions glow like votive icons of an artist who himself is an icon of his age. Suited in a white collar like an echo of the anguished early portraits of anonymous male sitters from the 1950s, this ethereal triptych represents one of the most quintessential translations of Bacon’s legendary likeness. Resembling a distorted and existential mirror image of the artist’s own psyche, the three portraits compound the immediacy and unsurpassed power of the small studies. As William Fever has explained: “‘Studies’ or exercises though they are, these small paintings are central to Bacon’s art. The scale of a bathroom mirror-image makes them one-to-one, and when they are paired, or grouped in threes, the differences animate them. No rooms, no thrones, no perfunctory landscape settings are needed. Without context or posture, the heads have nothing to do but look, sometimes at one another, and wait” (William Feaver, ‘That’s It’, Exhibition Catalogue, London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Francis Bacon 1909 – 1992 Small Portrait Studies, 1993, p. 6). These works exude the nervousness of existence so cherished a part of Bacon’s artistic vision. Exuding endurance, suffering and involuntary mannerisms, the artist’s likeness emerges from underneath the surface of the paint. In Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, we witness Bacon pushing the boundaries of representation to their limits, deriving a new vocabulary of amorphous, inscrutable forms that, despite their ostensible abstraction, render with unequivocal certainty the instantly legible physiognomy of the artist with outstanding and somewhat surprising tranquillity. Charged with unparalleled melancholic beauty and framed within abyssal black grounds, these portraits combine masterfully scumbled, scraped and diffused handling of paint with arresting intensity and consummate psychological depth. Powerfully evincing Bacon’s essential artistic aim, the present triptych fulfils a compelling visual counterpart to the artist’s own desire for his work: “I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of human presence and memory trace of past events, as the snail leaves its slime” (the artist, cited in: David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London 2000, p. 33). Vaporous, ghost-like, yet dramatic physiognomies emerge out of an abyssal black ground; amorphous forms trail a presence through each image, leaving the viewer as vividly witness to some lingering apparition. In full consciousness of the waning years Bacon here paints himself in the dim-light of inexorable transience. Four years after the creation of this work Bacon mentioned to David Sylvester: “Life is all we have. I mean we are here for a moment” (the artist, cited in: Ibid., p. 231). Where the small portrait heads translate this eschatological communion most powerfully, it is Bacon’s own self-portraiture that punctuates the most exceptional moments of his oeuvre. With particular reference to the present work, Michael Peppiatt explicates: “…he was never more brilliant, more incisive or more ferocious when it came to depicting himself. In this he helped revive a genre, and Bacon’s Self-Portraits can now be seen as among the most pictorially inventive and psychologically revealing portraits of the Twentieth Century” (Michael Peppiatt in: Exhibition Catalogue, Rome, Galleria Borghese, Caravaggio Bacon, 2009-10, p. 210). In his authoritative monograph on the artist, John Russell pointedly outlines the central importance of Bacon’s small portrait format: "The single head, fourteen inches by twelve, was from 1961 onwards the scene of some of Bacon's most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them" (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 99). Russell’s descriptive conjuring of spirits and ghosts here pinpoints the powerfully enduring impact of the small portrait heads. Initiated in 1961, the very first triptych in this format was painted directly in response to the death of Pater Lacy, the object of Bacon’s first major love affair. A former RAF pilot with a self-destructive nature prone to furious outbursts, Lacy embodied a magnetic force for Bacon whose finely-tuned and receptive proclivity for the violence of existence drove all aspects of his life. By the mid-1950s Lacy had ended the tempestuous relationship and moved to Tangier, where he began to slowly and surely drink himself into oblivion. Upon hearing of his death the grief-stricken Bacon painted Lacy’s emanation as a commemorative act of resuscitation and atonement. Three Studies for a Portrait (1961) powerfully lays bare the harrowing introspective quality intrinsic to the intimately scaled triptychs: struggling to the surface of the outer panels, Bacon’s phantasmal memory of Lacy is here comingled and conjoined with the artist’s own self-portrait, present in the central canvas. As noted by Peppiatt: “For Bacon, Lacy himself had become part of the artist’s own myth of guilt and retribution. He could recapture him at his most vital by foreseeing the death that would dissolve his appearance” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: An Anatomy of an Enigma, London 2008, p. 236). Significantly, it was this event in Bacon’s life that precipitated the production of his first acknowledged Self-Portraits. That tragedy forcefully induced a mode of self-reflection in Bacon’s work was made emphatically clear following the second and most profound tragedy to beset Bacon’s life: the death of George Dyer. Ten years following Lacy’s demise and on the eve of Bacon’s Retrospective opening at the Grand Palais in Paris 1971, George Dyer - Bacon’s companion, lover and principle artistic subject since 1964 - was found dead. Marred by progressive alcoholism, suicidal desperation and a waning sense of purpose in the Bacon’s shadow, Dyer’s eight-year relationship with the artist was as fractured as it was passionate. A compelling force in life, in death Dyer’s absent-presence took on the weight of Bacon’s loss and melancholic regret; a profound grief that resonates throughout Bacon’s post-1971 opus and specifically the elegiac last paintings of himself. Echoing the posthumous depictions of Peter Lacy, where the late paintings of Dyer represent ruminations on his lost companion, they simultaneously represent deeply introverted self-reflections. What’s more, the constancy and significance of Dyer’s appearance in Bacon’s late oeuvre is surpassed only by the wealth of Self-Portraits, which from 1971 onwards, greatly increased in number. Bacon’s searching and intensely haunting self-images at once exorcise accusatory demons whilst offering deeply mournful inquiries in the face of profound bereavement: today the suite of heart-rending self-images executed during the last two decades of Bacon’s life stand among his very best works. These harrowing epic eulogies powerfully speak of the intense loss and guilt that remained with Bacon until his death. When asked by Sylvester in 1979 why there are so many self-portraits, Bacon explained: “People have been dying around me like flies and I’ve had nobody else to paint but myself… I loathe my own face and I’ve done self-portraits because I’ve had nothing else to do” (the artist, cited in: David Sylvester, Op. cit., p. 129). Anathema to such a postulation, Bacon's purported reluctance to paint his own image is largely trivialising. The artist very rarely painted from life and did not require the presence of sitters to translate a likeness in paint, instead relying upon memory and the detritus of photographs and books famously strewn across his South Kensington studio as aesthetic triggers. Alongside the countless photographs of his friends Bacon commissioned from John Deakin, hundreds of photos of himself taken over the years, comprised a core visual compost for his pictorial imagination. While the intensity of Bacon’s Self-Portrait practice undoubtedly deepened following the death of George Dyer, throughout his life Bacon maintained an abiding fascination with his own appearance. A wearer of make-up and keen subject of the photographers lens Bacon had learned the nuances of re-invention and self-presentation from a young age, spending hours scrutinising and tracing the particularities of his own appearance in the mirror. Such a reading of the mirror image is extraordinarily present in the almost 1 to 1 scale of Three Studies for a Self-Portrait. “This is how we see what we feel like in the morning”, describes William Feaver, “examining the image in the mirror that corresponds so remotely with the sense we have of ourselves. This is the face that gets worse (more ‘lived in’) over the years, the face that betrays. These heads are what we are stuck with: unsentimentally ours. Bacon dealt with his… knowing that the best he could do was to effect a phantom, a rasping whoosh of characteristics” (William Feaver, Op. cit., p. 6). Though evoking in effigy a residual and unrelenting guilt over George Dyer’s death, Bacon's self-reference and proliferation of self-portraiture during this period somewhat confirms a statement made to Sylvester in 1975: "One always has greater involvement with oneself than with anybody else. No matter how much you may believe that you're in love with somebody else, your love of somebody else is your love of yourself" (the artist, cited in: David Sylvester, Op. cit., p. 241). Where for Bacon the act of painting is tantamount to a divulging of the self into the physical matter of paint, the presence of the artist’s own features within many paintings based on Dyer, Lacy or other members of his social circle simultaneously represents a form of psychological transference and an act theatrical artistic licence. That Bacon would translate his own features into portrayals of Dyer amongst others in his close circle of friends, both male and female, is not only testament to his pluralistic technique of working from visual ephemera and memory, but also to a compulsion that can be traced back to the seventeenth-century masterpieces of Caravaggio. For an illumination of the present work, it is the theatrical way in which Caravaggio pioneered the contemporaneously non-existent genre of Self-Portraiture by gratuitously transfiguring into his work autobiographical narrative that chimes with Bacon. Self-Portrait as Bacchus (1593) and David with the Head of Goliath (1610) both purport such an autobiographical reading; whether it be an expression of illness, poverty and existential distress in the artist as Bacchus, or as persecutor and persecuted for which Caravaggio is both David and Goliath, scholars have identified the artist’s own physiognomy as surreptitiously present throughout his oeuvre. That Caravaggio would cast himself as the grotesque beheaded Goliath and as the youthful victor David speaks very much to the fugitive lifestyle undertaken after killing a man in Rome in 1606. Though far from casting himself in biblical character or mythological role, Bacon’s own beheaded likeness in Three Studies for a Self-Portrait conflates young with old, life and death in much the same self-analytical way as Caravaggio. This juxtaposition was explicitly brought to the fore when the present work was shown as part of the 2009 exhibition, Caravaggio Bacon, held within the theatrical Baroque environs of the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Alongside other major paintings from Bacon’s canon, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait was set in visual dialogue with Caravaggio’s most iconic works. Taken down from the chapels of Rome’s churches and borrowed from the most prestigious of collections, the bold and dramatic conflation of Caravaggio with Bacon revealed a parity of violent tension and relishing of bloody corporeality between artists separated by over 300 years. Plunged into penetrating blackness, both Caravaggio and Bacon share the theatricality of vision that stages human tragedy and violence as temporally dislocated, dissolving into and emerging from, the shadow-light. Though he never openly cited Caravaggio as an influence, instead privileging his Caravaggisti predecessor Velazquez, Bacon’s erudition and pluralistic absorption of Art History’s vicissitudes far from discounts a comparison. Claudio Strinati outlines the pivotal confluence between the two artists: “Bacon and Caravaggio are artists who conceived of and used painting to possess the image, as if they both thought of figurative art as a parallel, perfect world, unable to be touched by the risk of change or decay, both of which distinctive of the real world” (Claudio Strinati, ‘Bacon and Caravaggio: The Occasion for an Encounter’, Exhibition Catalogue, Rome, Galleria Borghese, Caravaggio Bacon, 2009-10, p. 48). Where Caravaggio’s theatrical lighting and penchant for dramatic mise-en-scene prefigures the filmic aesthetic of modern day cinema, Bacon’s own cinematic inclination for distributing images in threes voices simultaneity of effect. As Bacon commented in interview with Sylvester, it was this filmic deployment of images that he felt worked best: “I know the things I really like doing are the triptychs. They are the things I like doing most, and I think this may be related to the thought I’ve sometimes had of making a film. I like the juxtaposition of the images separated on three different canvases. So far as my work has any quality, I often feel perhaps it is the triptychs that have the best quality” (the artist, cited in: David Sylvester, Op. cit., p. 232). As uniquely brought to the fore in Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, that Bacon and Caravaggio shared a theatrical temperament and a lifetime fraught with pathos and tragedy is reflected in a confluence of violent immediacy between two entirely singular artistic voices utterly without parallel. By 1980, the cumulative impact of Bacon’s changing visage clearly seemed to have compounded an assertion of mortality and a desire to indelibly inscribe his own likeness within the eternal grand arc of Art History. Ancestor to Caravaggio’s pioneering of the genre perfected by revered masters from Rembrandt to Picasso, Bacon was driven by an incessant compulsion to forge an artistic legacy for the experience of his time. As a genre, Self-Portraiture purportedly reveals the private side of a public profession; nowhere can this be understood with such forthright candour than in Bacon’s oeuvre as viewed in the light of Rembrandt’s influence. Rembrandt was the very touchstone of Bacon’s inventiveness in these small scale canvases; the endless variety and successive permutations of his own visage, which meld into almost abstract dissolving matter towards the end of his life cast Rembrandt’s late Self-Portraits as a striking parallel to, and even art historical blue-print for, the present work. Bacon believed Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits to be “formally the most extraordinary paintings. He altered painting in a way by the method by which he dealt with himself and perhaps he felt freer to deal with himself in this totally liberal way” (Ibid., p. 241). When viewed close up the Rembrandt’s heads seemingly disband into a mass of non-representational marks that were doubtless an inspiration to Bacon’s own savage expressivity. In Bacon’s description of the Aix-en-Provence Self-Portrait with Beret (1659), it is almost as though he is describing the very nuances, subtleties and techniques employed in the execution of Three Studies for a Self-Portrait: “… if you think of the great Rembrandt self-portrait in Aix-en-Provence, for instance, and if you analyse it, you will see that there are hardly any sockets to the eyes, that it is almost completely anti-illustrational. I think that the mystery of fact is conveyed by an image being made out of non-rational marks… what can happen sometimes, as it happened in this Rembrandt self-portrait in Aix-en-Provence, is that there is a coagulation of non-representational marks which have led to making up this very great image. Well, of course, only part of this is accidental. Behind all that is Rembrandt’s profound sensibility, which was able to hold onto one irrational mark rather than onto another” (the artist, cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Marlborough Gallery, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, 1967, p. 28). Plunged into Caravaggesque tenebrism and built from one irrational mark scraped, daubed and smeared on top of the other, the diffused brilliance and shadow-like delicacy of Bacon’s Three Studies appear nervously held together by a masterful translation of pure sensation in paint. Like Rembrandt tallying his aged, lined and weary features with a congruent painterly treatment of disbanded corporeality, in the present work the vaporous dissolution of Bacon’s likeness tempers exigent facture with an intense yet reposed response to the concrete fact of mortality. A portrayal so quintessentially synonymous with Bacon’s own distinctive character yet far beyond mere caricature, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait truly counts as a masterpiece of Bacon’s intimately scaled triptychs. As though witness to the artist’s mirror image reflected back at us, in these incredible works we are hauntingly reminded of Bacon’s emphatic quotation of Jean Cocteau: “every day in the mirror I watch death at work”. Startlingly powerful in execution and psychological affect, these works resemble a remarkably lyrical antecedent to Michel Leiris’ magnificent word-portrait of Bacon. Three years following the execution of this triptych the preeminent man of letters and close friend to Bacon poetically penned: “… Bacon’s canvases, at once so effervescent and so controlled, provide, for the spectator who looks at them as a whole and grasps them in their diversity, a striking image of this unique contemporary artist in all his complexity” (Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, New York 1983, p. 43). Each: signed, titled and dated 1980 on the reverse

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2013-02-12
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A large imperial portrait of consort chunhui by giuseppe castiglione

Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, majestically and vividly painted in precise detail with Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui seated in formal robes (chao fu) on an elaborate throne, the full-length imperial-portrait (shengrong) of the imperial consort resplendently rendered with a well-proportioned and porcelain-complexioned face, the regal yet serene expression accentuated with a powerful gaze transmitted from her almond-shaped eyes, the lips picked out with a warm ombré coral colour, flanked by a pair of earlobes adorned with three embellished double-gourd drop earrings on each side, clad in a fur-edged ceremonial costume comprising a full-length robe (chao pao) under a further full-length sleeveless vest (chao gua) with shoulder epaulettes projecting outwards from both shoulders, the vest opening down the centre along a border enclosing stylised lingzhi blooms, the garment elaborately decorated with five-clawed scaly dragons soaring sinuously amidst multi-coloured lingzhi blooms, above stylised 'shou' roundels and brightly coloured lishui diagonal stripes, all against a rich blue ground, the grandeur further highlighted with long beaded necklaces (chao zhu) of varying colours and sizes elegantly hanging over and around the figure's upper torso, all below a kerchief under a court hat (chao guan) with a black fur brim and a crown decorated with red floss silk tassels and ornamented gold phoenix, the golden-yellow rectangular throne framed on three sides with an ornate throne-back entwined with ferocious dragons sinuously writhing around the members, all supported on dragon-head cabriole legs terminating in claw-and-ball feet, the figure seated on a thick yellow-ground cushion decorated in multi-coloured threads with auspicious emblems, inscribed on the right with five characters by the Qianlong Emperor reading Chunhui Huangguifei ('Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui'), mounted on imperial yellow silk embroidered with phoenix amidst swirling clouds Discussing the 'Portrait of Consort Chunhui in Ceremonial Costume' Nie Chongzheng There exist many portrait paintings of past emperors and their consorts, as recorded in the archives of the Qing dynasty palace, from the first Qing dynasty reign of Shunzhi, until the reign of the Xuantong Emperor at the end of the dynasty. All dressed in the full official regalia of the period, they provide us with a wealth of information about these individuals and their appearances.  This is especially the case during the Qianlong period. The Qianlong Emperor lived to the ripe old age of 89, and reigned for 60 of those years, and even after abdicating in favour of his heir the Jiaqing Emperor, he still reigned supreme for a further three years. During this long reign, he frequently and consistently commissioned artists to paint portraits of him and his empress and consorts. From his youth as the heir apparent, right through his advanced age, he was painted at various stages and intervals by different artists. Not only do these provide visual testaments of the Qianlong Emperor, but they also immortalise his consorts in these portraits. In the first half of the Qianlong Emperor’s reign, the Italian painter Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione) painted several portraits of the emperor and his consorts. He was born in 1688 (the 27th year of the Kangxi reign, Qing Dynasty) and was a painter at the imperial court from the 54th year of the Kangxi reign (1715) when he arrived in China, and never retired from his position, passing away in the 31st year of Qianlong’s reign (1766). His remains have been buried far from his homeland, in Beijing and still rest there today. Lang Shining played an important role in painting such imperial portraits. The works that remain allow us to appreciate the fruit of his labour, and are also noted down in the records of the imperial palace. Lang Shining received his basic artistic training in Europe and had a strong grasp of the fundamentals of portraiture. His true-to-life portraits were greatly admired by the Qianlong Emperor, and as such, resulted in his commissioning Lang Shining to paint many of these imperial portraits. Therefore, many of the portraits painted during the first half of Qianlong’s reign were by Lang Shining’s own hands. However, because most of these portraits do not bear the artist’s name or seal, it has created problems in attributing these works. This is because while it was deemed a great honour to be able to paint the portrait of the emperor or his consorts, it was, in fact, a duty to the ruler, and as such, to show due respect to the emperor and the members of the imperial family. Artists were not usually allowed to leave their mark on these portraits. In the Palace Museum, Beijing, and the National Palace Museum, Taipei, there are collections of imperial portraits, especially those portraying the imperial family in ceremonial costumes. Although the lack of an artist’s signature or seal may seem to present problems in the task of authentication, identification and attribution during the Qianlong period, the differences in techniques and styles between the European painters at the Chinese court, and the Chinese painters working in the Palace can be readily discerned by experts analysing this field and thus do not necessarily pose a problem. We now turn to the Portrait of Consort Chunhui. It is a portrait of one of the Qianlong Emperor’s consorts, which is painted in ink and colour on silk, and measures 198 by 123 cm. It does not bear any inscription or artist’s seal, and is also without any Qing official collector’s seal. However, on the right hand side of the subject matter, there is a line in calligraphic script, naming her Consort Chunhui. This is undoubtedly by the hand of the Qianlong Emperor. Information from records state that this consort was of Manchu origin, called Su Jiashi, daughter of Su Zhaonan, born in the 52nd year of the Kangxi reign (1713), and was two years younger than the Qianlong Emperor. During the Yongzheng period she was a lady-in-waiting, and soon after Qianlong ascended to the throne she was made imperial consort, and in the 2nd year of Qianlong’s reign (1737) was named Chunfei. In the 10th year of Qianglong’s reign (1745), she became Chun Guifei. In the 25th year of the Qianlong reign (1760), she was made Chun Huang Guifei. She passed away the same year at the age of 48.  Posthumously, she was awarded the title ‘Consort Chunhui’ by the Emperor. This painting is currently the only example of her in full ceremonial costume, and the inscription by the emperor, most likely written after her death, demonstrates his remembrance of his deceased consort. From this scroll, it is evident that the painter was skilled in analysing structure and perspective – the subject matter’s facial features are rendered using both light and shade, and are clear and distinct. In addition, the sides of the nose and cheeks have been painted to provide three-dimensionality, at the same time intricately depicting the flesh and tone of skin. The artist was also proficient in painting the throne and floor covering. Chunhui is also depicted on Lang Shining’s Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor, the Empress, and Eleven Imperial Consorts (fig. 1), now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. In this work, produced in the first year of Qianlong’s reign, Chunhui is fourth in the sequence (fig. 2). Comparing the two portraits of the imperial consort, it is clear that they are of the same person, save for the fact that the subject in the present portrait is slightly older than that in the group portrait; both portraits are by the same artist. As the Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor, the Empress, and Eleven Imperial Consorts is inarguably by the hand of Lang Shining, even though there is no seal on the painting, by inference, the European style and technique used in the present scroll attribute the painting to Lang Shining. As a distinctive European style can be detected, as well as taking into account the striking similarities, it is not unreasonable to attribute this work to Lang Shining. However as the lines of drapery, the throne and the carpet are painted with a more Chinese technique, it is likely that these areas were painted by Chinese students of Lang Shining, filling in the outline that he had left for them to complete. This style, however, still retains Qing official style. Similar portraits of consorts in ceremonial costume include the Portrait of Empress Xiaoxian (fig. 3) as well as the Portrait of Consort Huixian (fig. 4), both in the Palace Museum, Beijing. These are painted with similar stylistic features attention to detail and a distinct European flavour, and are therefore all attributed to Lang Shining. Naturally, during Lang Shining’s earlier years, his artistic victor allowed for his ability to use close detailing in the rendering of the subject, and he would have completed the whole painting single-handedly; in his later years, his advanced age did not allow for this, and he then focused on the main subject matter, leaving his Chinese students to fill in the outline of the clothing and the background, which gave rise to the latent inconsistencies in his portrait paintings. ___________________________________________________________ Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), a native of Milan, arrived in Beijing in 1715 and served under three emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong for over 51 years. As a Jesuit missionary he entered the milieu of the imperial workshops and obtained the patronage and favour of all three emperors. He was trained by his order as a painter of religious subjects before being sent to China and became an accomplished painter. At the Chinese court he was obliged to paint under the direct supervision of the emperor. Among the three rulers he served under, the Qianlong Emperor was possibly the most demanding, supervising every aspect of the work down to the smallest detail. By adapting traditions and Chinese media, he created a unique style and developed a manner of painting that was pleasing to the imperial taste. He brought Western conventions of shading and depiction of volume and space to his courtly subject matter and became an expert in painting on silk and on paper as well as doing murals. Castiglione excelled in portrait painting, a style much in demand for ceremonial occasions and in the event of an imperial death. The Qianlong Emperor’s admiration of his portraits is apparent from comments inscribed on the hanging scrolls Spring’s Peaceful Message in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and illustrated in Yu Hui, ‘Naturalism in Qing Imperial Group Portraiture’, Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, p. 81. Yu (ibid., p. 80) translates the emperor’s comments as follows: ‘Castiglione excelled in portraying likeness, (this portrait) was painted for me in my youth’. The present painting is one of the very few extant imperial portraits that can be unequivocally attributed to Castiglione. It is very close in style and identical in its setting to Castiglione’s famous Portrait of Empress Xiaoxian in the Palace Museum, Beijing, which is illustrated in Qingdai gongting shenghuo, Hong Kong, 1985, p. 184. Another painting using the same setting, but perhaps executed by other court painters working closely together with Castiglione, and not inscribed by the Emperor like the present painting, is the Portrait of Empress Xiaoyi Chu, also in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition, Empresses and their Court Arts in the Forbidden City, Tokyo, 1997, cat. no. 54. Compare also a half-portrait of another imperial consort attributed to Castiglione, Portrait of Consort Huixian in the Palace Museum, also exhibited in Tokyo, 1997, ibid., cat. no. 61. The portrait of Chunhui is painted in the traditional shengrong style, a formal portrait style made for ceremonial works depicting the subject in a still pose without any facial expression. Castiglione’s brushwork gives his subject a beauty and gentility befitting a high ranking court lady. She looks young and beautiful, with a sensitive expression on her face achieved by the use of the European pictorial technique of light ‘shadowing’. Castiglione captured the inner vitality of his subject, producing a Chinese style portrait with Western influence. In the portrait, Chunhui is wearing an official Manchu court robe for winter called chao fu and a first-rank imperial consort’s winter hat called chao guan. The chao guan is heavily adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls, resembling a crown. A similar chao guan is illustrated in Gary Dickinson and Linda Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, Berkeley, 2000, pl. 152. Sources Cécile and Michel Beurdeley, Castiglione, Peintre Jésuit à la Cour de Chine, Fribourg, 1971. Exhibition of Treasures from the Palace Museum, Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1988. Yang Boda, 'Castiglione at the Qing Court', Orientations, vol. 19, no. 11 November 1988, pp. 44-51. Zhu Jiajin, 'Castiglione's Tielu Paintings', Orientations, vol. 19, no. 11, November 1988, pp. 80-83. Wu Hung, 'Emperor's Masquerade - Costume Portraits of Yongzheng and Qianlong', Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, pp. 25-41. Yu Hui, 'Naturalism in Qing Imperial Group Portraiture', Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, pp. 42-50. Shan Guoqing, 'Gentlewoman Paintings of the Qing Palace Ateliers', Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, pp. 56-59. Empresses and their Court Arts in the Forbidden City, Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1997. Gary Dickinson and Linda Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, Berkeley, 2000. Emperor Qianlong's Grand Cultural Enterprise, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2002. The Life of Emperor Qian Long, Macao Museum of Art, Macao, 2002.

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2015-10-07
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No. 6/Sienna, Orange on Wine

To encounter the magisterial No. 6/Sienna, Orange on Wine is to be embraced by the full force of Mark Rothko’s evocation of the sublime. In accordance with the most authentic experience of Rothko’s vision, we cease to perceive this work as a dialogue between medium and support, and instead become wholly submerged within its utterly captivating compositional dynamism, chromatic intensity, and sheer scale. The artist famously stated, in what is perhaps the definitive text declaring the philosophical underpinnings to his oeuvre, “I think of my pictures as dramas; the shapes in the pictures are the performers… They are organisms with volition and a passion for self-assertion” (Mark Rothko, “The Romantics Were Prompted,” first published in Possibilities, no. 1, 1947). Indeed, our experience of No. 6/Sienna, Orange and Wine as participants in its stunning drama brings it to life, and may give new dimension to our lives. We do not look at this painting; we are absorbed into it. Being in its presence parallels a line of Nietzsche that had inspired Rothko since he had been a young man: “There is a need for a whole world of torment in order for the individual to sit quietly in his rocking row-boat in mid-sea, absorbed in contemplation” (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, translation by Francis Golffing, New York, 1956, pp. 33-34).The bars of rich, sumptuous dark hues concurrently imply a limitless abyss while the fiery orange toward the bottom surges forward, a dynamic optical experience resulting in a vibrancy that places the work at the pinnacle of the artist’s oeuvre. A sensation of rich, somatic absorption that is unparalleled by any other artist’s work, No. 6/Sienna, Orange on Wine causes us to sink deeper into our own minds. As Dore Ashton eloquently wrote: “The interior realm was where Rothko wished to or perhaps could only live, and what he hoped to express. The ‘theater of the mind,’ as Mallarmé called it, was immensely dramatic for Rothko. His darkness at the end did allude to the light of the theater in which, when the lights are gradually dimmed, expectation mounts urgently” (Dore Ashton, About Rothko, New York, 1983, p. 189). Through his technique of layering thin washes of paint one over the other, often allowing colors from initial layers to show through the subsequent coats of pigment, Rothko’s painting seems to conceal a hidden light source emanating from its very core. Twinkling through and around the elegant planes of color, the present work achieves an incandescent dimensionality that is reminiscent of Rembrandt or Caravaggio’s divine virtuosity for rendering natural light in flat oil paint. Michael Butor wrote of this series of Rothko’s works that “one of the most remarkable of Rothko’s triumphs is to have made a kind of black light shine” (Ibid., p. 189). Indeed, it is almost as if this extraordinary painting is brilliantly illuminated from within: a translucent vessel of pure color and light. It is well documented that Rothko was fixated with the literary work of Friedrich Nietzsche, above all the German philosopher's seminal opus The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, written in 1872. Nietzsche’s ideas of how the tension between Apollonian and Dionysian forces dictates the terms of human drama were important to the advancement of Rothko's color fields. Indeed, Rothko’s vast tableaux have often been discussed in the lexicon of the immediate and saturating effects of music. David Sylvester’s review of the 1961 Whitechapel Gallery exhibition in London provides an apt response to the present work in these terms: “These paintings begin and end with an intense and utterly direct expression of feeling through the interaction of colored areas of a certain size. They are the complete fulfillment of Van Gogh’s notion of using color to convey man’s passions. They are the realization of what abstract artists have dreamed for 50 years of doing – making painting as inherently expressive as music. More than this: for not even with music…does isolated emotion touch the nervous system so directly” (in New Statesman, 20 October 1961 cited in exhibition catalogue, London, The Tate Gallery, Mark Rothko: 1903-1970, 1987, p. 36). Excepting a letter to Art News in 1957, from 1949 onwards Rothko ceased publishing statements about his work, anxious that his writings might be interpreted as instructive or didactic and could thereby interfere with the pure import of the paintings themselves. However, in 1958 he gave a talk at the Pratt Institute to repudiate his critics and to deny any perceived association between his art and self-expression. He insisted instead that his corpus was not concerned with notions of self but rather with the entire human drama. While he drew a distinction between figurative and abstract art, he nevertheless outlined an underlying adherence to the portrayal of human experience. Discussing the “artist’s eternal interest in the human figure,” Rothko examined the common bond of figurative painters throughout art history: “they have painted one character in all their work. What is indicated here is that the artist’s real model is an ideal which embraces all of human drama rather than the appearance of a particular individual. Today the artist is no longer constrained by the limitation that all of man’s experience is expressed by his outward appearance. Freed from the need of describing a particular person, the possibilities are endless. The whole of man’s experience becomes his model, and in that sense it can be said that all of art is a portrait of an idea” (lecture given at the Pratt Institute 1958, cited in exhibition cataloge, London, The Tate Gallery, Ibid., p. 87). Teeming with the sheer genius of its creator’s inimitable evocation of the sublime, No. 6/Sienna, Orange on Wine is the singular summation of Mark Rothko’s fundamental artistic ambition as elucidated in his definitive Pratt Institute talk. A veritable treatise on the absolute limits of abstraction, the present work, in truth, involves both spirit and nature, and instills in us a profound sense of the spiritual whilst evincing Rothko’s abject faith in the critical role the artist plays in attaining the highest realm to which man could aspire: “For art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness” (Mark Rothko, “Personal Statement,” in Miguel López-Remiro, ed., Writings on Art, Mark Rothko, New Haven, 2006, p. 45). Signed Mark Rothko and dated 1962 and titled Sienna Orange on Wine and inscribed #6 on the reverse

  • USAUSA
  • 2015-11-05
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'the sky blue diamond'superb fancy vivid blue diamond ring, cartier

Set with a square-cut fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 8.01 carats, the geometric mount set with brilliant-cut and baguette diamonds, size 51, signed Cartier, numbered, French assay and maker's marks. Blue is the colour of trust, honesty, loyalty, reliability and responsibility. This idealistic colour inspires higher ideals, and evokes peace and tranquillity. In nature, it is the colour of water and sky. The colour sky blue, particularly, emanates calm, serenity, spirituality and infinity, and refers to the heavens and what is above. Blue is one of the primary colours and has been used by many artists as a strong component of their works. Even in the decorative arts, this colour is omnipresent. The porcelain manufacture of Sèvres is so famous for its production of blue objects that Sèvres porcelain has become synonymous with the colour: le bleu de Sèvres. Wedgewood also used the combination of blue and white to make its distinctive creations. In fine art, the great Old Master painters demonstrated their talents with their depiction of nature, recreating the delicate and fine aspects of a landscape, selecting just the right colour for the skin on portraits, and using the perfect hue for the subject in a still life. The reproduction of sky has always been one of the artists’ favourite subjects. The skies of John Constable are widely renowned and highly sought after. Many of Monet’s works feature great swathes of blue sky. During the same period, Matisse was using a warm blue to realise his Nudes. Later, Yves Klein took this colour almost as his signature and these days the term ‘Klein blue’ is commonly used. Contemporary artists are still fascinated by this colour and the reproduction of the sky, like Edward Ruscha, with his Mirror Image Level, which will be offered in the Contemporary Art auction in November. Wassily Kandinsky, in his essay Du spirituel dans l'art, assures: “Blue is a celestial colour, evoking a deep calm… The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural”. Blue attracts and fascinates people and there is no exception when this colour occurs in a diamond. Fancy Vivid Blue diamonds have a beauty that is incomparable to that of any other gem. They are greatly admired and eagerly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs. Considering that the blue colour in stones is often not evenly spread, and on occasion entirely absent, the encapsulating of a beautiful pure even blue colour is truly a professional challenge for the diamond cutter. He will spend months studying the proportions of the rough in order to guarantee the greatest standards of proportionality, colour and beauty, and to bring out this captivating colour, making fancy vivid blue one of the nature’s rarest endowments of colour in diamonds. Ever since Jean-Baptiste Tavernier sold the French Blue to Louis XIV in 1669, the world has been mesmerised by the rarity of blue diamonds. Reminiscent of the hues of the azure sea, blue diamonds owe their colouration to the trace element boron. Although other rare coloured diamonds, such as pink and red, are found in India, Brazil and Australia, blue diamonds are primarily recovered from the Cullinan mine in South Africa. Their colour may range from a pale blue to a light sky blue to a dark blue. The more intense colours, fancy vivid, are considered the rarest and most desirable. In recent years, Sotheby’s has handled some of the most notable blue diamonds at auction and holds the world auction record price per carat for any diamond and gemstone with the ‘Blue Moon of Josephine’, a 12.03 Fancy Vivid Blue diamond, sold in November 2015 in Geneva for more than USD 4 million per carat.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2016-11-16
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Abstraktes Bild

“There are few artists in the contemporary art world whose work has a presence like that of Gerhard Richter's.” Kasper König and Chris Dercon, in Ulrich Wilmes, Ed., Gerhard Richter; Large Abstracts, Cologne and Munich, 2009 "I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture...I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things I can think out for myself" The artist interviewed in 1990, in Hubertus Butin and Stefan Gronert, Eds., Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Verlag Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, p. 36 A majestic panorama of richly variegated paint cresting across a vast canvas, Abstraktes Bild comprises the epitome of Gerhard Richter’s astoundingly powerful art of abstraction. Simultaneously concealing and revealing spectacular accents of red, yellow and blue primaries, a sublime silvery-gray veil of lusciously viscous oil paint flows laterally across the canvas like a tide coursing across the geological strata of an ancient cliff face. According to the artist’s self-determined catalogue raisonné, this work was numbered as his first painting of 1990, the chronological apex of the 1988 to 1992 period when his creation of monumental essays in abstraction reached new heights. Indeed, at the start of a new decade and perhaps more than any single other, this moment witnessed his mastery of the long, hard-edged spatula ‘squeegee’ as the central instrument of his technical practice. The most comparable body of work immediately to precede this painting was the 1989 cycle of four abstract paintings entitled Eis, now a highly-prized component in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago, which, though on canvases smaller in scale than the present work, stand as direct precursor for Abstraktes Bild. The scale of this work is exceptional and it is one of only eight paintings created in 1990 to exceed two and a half meters in height, with the others today housed in prestigious collections including the Tate (number 726); the Böckmann Collection, Berlin at Kunsthalle Hamburg (727); and The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (734). Works of this scale and quality are remarkably rare (only three paintings of this scale and format from the 1988-1992 period have ever before appeared at auction) and the appearance of Abstraktes Bild today, after more than twenty years in the same private collection is a major event. The vast and intensely beautiful chromatic expanse of Abstraktes Bild stands as one of the most elegant and fully resolved exemplars of Richter's epic corpus. It embodies the fully-formed mature aesthetic of the artist's abstract vision, and is very much a paragon of "the compositionally complex, heavily impastoed and richly polychromatic Abstract Paintings" described by Roald Nasgaard (Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 106)  Seeping layers of brilliantly charged hues are dramatically scattered across the canvas, alternately coalescing and dissolving to defy conventional color patterns. Accumulations of innumerable streaking strata of lustrous oil paint forge a sublime symphony of dark and light blue-grey tracts punctuated by vibrant reds, yellows, blues and greens. This coloristic harmony and lyrical resonance broadcast an evocative atmosphere of density and chaos, while the interplay of hues and the complex smattering of thick impasto invite the viewer to look both at and through the laminas of material. We become immersed in color and movement as if confronting a natural phenomenon of the sea or sky. Absorbed by the vast surface area of the canvas, the experience is evocative of confronting a monolithic masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism by artists such as Rothko or Pollock. The result of Richter's remarkable technical aptitude, which has led to his reputation as one of the outstanding painters of our era, this work is testament to his ceaseless technical explorations in the field of abstraction and to his profoundly intellectual interrogation of the nature of images and perception. Although the title Abstraktes Bild that Richter has given to the impressive works he has produced since the 1980s is typically translated as 'Abstract Painting', the curator Robert Storr restores the meaning of Bild as 'picture', implying something beyond mere painting, and as this "reinforces the impression...of shoals, riptides, and cresting waves amid the paintings' scraped and layered pigments" (in: Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. XIII)  Here tracts of color are dragged across the canvas using the squeegee, so that the various strains of malleable, semi-liquid pigment suspended in oil are fused together and smudged first into the canvas, and then layered on top of each other as the paint strata accumulate. The painting undergoes multiple variations in which each new accretion brings color and textural juxtapositions until they are completed, as Richter himself declares, "there is no more that I can do to them, when they exceed me, or they have something that I can no longer keep up with." (Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 108)  This extensive process facilitates multiple facets of creativity: Abstraktes Bild becomes truly the sum of Richter's wide-ranging innovation. Furthermore, Richter's technique affords an element of chance that is necessary to facilitate the artistic ideology of the abstract works. As the artist has himself explained, "I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture...I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things I can think out for myself." (the artist interviewed in 1990, in Hubertus Butin and Stefan Gronert, eds., Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, p. 36)  With the repeated synthesis of chance being a defining trait of its execution, the painterly triumph of the present work becomes independent of the artist and acquires its own inimitable and autonomous individuality. Gerhard Richter's artistic contribution is internationally considered within the highest tier of this era; his inimitably diverse canon evidencing more than five decades of philosophical enquiry into the core natures of perception and cognition. Indeed, with its poignant critical reflections and groundbreaking advancements, it is undeniable that his output has opened up a wealth of possibilities for the future course of Art History. Since the early 1960s he has considered all genres of painting, delving into and pushing the boundaries of theoretical and aesthetic levels of understanding whilst exploring and challenging the fundamentals of their development. However, his extraordinary odyssey into the realm of abstract painting is often regarded as the culmination of his artistic and conceptual enquiries into the foundations of visual understanding. After decades of exploring the role of painting in relation to competing visual cultures; film and photography; and even painting itself, the emergence of the Abstraktes Bild stands as the crowning achievement of his oeuvre. As Benjamin H. D. Buchloh has highlighted, and as there can be absolutely no doubt, Richter's position within the canon of abstraction is one of “incontrovertible centrality.” (Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Gerhard Richter Large Abstracts, 2009, p. 9) In sum, Abstraktes Bild beautifully encapsulates Richter's theory that with abstraction "there is no order, everything is dissolved, more revolutionary, anarchistic" (Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 108)  As a collective corpus, the Abstraktes Bilder are destined to have a unique identity whereby the total deconstruction of perception - dismantling themes of representation, illusion, communication - becomes a sublime chaos. As a paradigm of this oeuvre the present work communes a subjective relationship with the viewer and becomes itself experience rather than object. Here Richter deconstructs the concept that abstraction demands logical framework, thereby advancing the pioneering achievements of Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian, and continuing the line of enquiry instituted by the Abstract Expressionists by delivering a visual experience of phenomenal psychological resonance. In the words of Nasgaard, "The character of the Abstract Paintings is not their resolution but the dispersal of their elements, their coexisting contradictory expressions and moods, their opposition of promises and denials. They are complex visual events, suspended in interrogation, and fictive models for that reality which escapes direct address, eludes description and conceptualization, but resides inarticulate in our experience" (Roald Nasgaard, Op. Cit., p. 110) Signed, dated 1990 and numbered 712 on the reverse

  • USAUSA
  • 2012-11-14
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Femme nue assise

In the early days of January 1965, Picasso executed a series of large canvases on the theme of a seated female nude. The present work is one of the first from this series completed at Notre-Dame-de-Vie, the home that he shared with Jacqueline in Mougins. Painted in quick succession, these works bear witness to the extraordinary energy and creative urge that characterised Picassos late years. Having gone through many phases of stylistic and technical experimentation, by this time Picasso had acquired a confidence and freedom that enabled him to paint monumental works in quick, spontaneous brush-strokes. He was able to isolate those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him, namely the symbols of erotic desire and threat embodied in the female nude, elements present since his early career.   The motif of a nude figure seated in an armchair occurred repeatedly throughout Picassos career. While varying in style and depicting different women that marked each period of the artists life, these nudes always served as a vehicle of expressing the palpable sexual tension between the painter and his model. From the soft, voluptuous curves of Marie-Thérèse Walter, to the fragmented, near-abstract nudes of his Surrealist works, and the geometrical rendering of his later years, Picassos seated nudes have a monumental, sculptural presence, and are invariably depicted with a powerful sense of psychological drama stemming from the tension between the invisible artist and his sitter. Although the figure of the painter is not portrayed within the composition, his persona is very much present in this work. Picassos concerns regarding the act of painting and the role of the artist, explored in the series of works on the theme of artist and model, carried onto his series of seated nudes, including Femme nue assise. The monumental nude in this composition, looming large on her throne like a pagan goddess, is not isolated in her own world. Her significance is in her relationship with her creator at the same time as with the viewer a tantalising relationship of attraction and menace. In his discussion of Picassos late works, David Sylvester links them to his early masterpiece, Demoiselles dAvignon, both distinguished by the raw vitality which they have as their central underlying theme: The resemblance of figures in the Demoiselles and in late Picasso to masked tribal dancers is as crucial as their scale in giving them a threatening force. It is irrelevant whether or not particular faces or bodies are based on particular tribal models: what matters is the air these personages have of coming from a world more primitive, possibly more cannibalistic and certainly more elemental than ours. Despite the rich assortment of allusions to paintings in the Renaissance tradition, the treatment of space rejects that tradition in favour of an earlier one, the flat unperspectival space of, say, medieval Catalan frescoes []. At twenty five, Picassos raw vitality was already being enriched by the beginnings of an encyclopaedic awareness of art; at ninety, his encyclopaedic awareness of art was still being enlivened by a raw vitality (D. Sylvester, Late Picasso. Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings, Prints 1953-1972 (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 144). In various periods of his work, Picassos art was closely related to his personal life, and the women depicted in his paintings were always influenced by Picassos female companions at the time. In Femme nue assise, the female figure is inspired by Jacqueline, the last love of his life, whom Picasso married in 1961, and although she is not a direct likeness of Jacqueline, with her large eyes and sharp profile, she bears the features with which Picasso usually portrayed his last muse. The essence of Jacqueline, who rarely posed as his model, is always present in his portraits of the period. As demonstrated in the present work, Picasso often depicted Jacqueline in an angular, fragmented manner, a stylistic device invented in his portraits of Dora Maar (fig. 3), but the roots of which go back to his cubist experiments with multiple view-points. Whilst borrowing elements from his own artistic past, Picasso here created an image with a force and freedom he only achieved in the last decade of his career. Signed Picasso (lower left); dated 3.1.65  5.I  8 on the reverse

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2017-03-01
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No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue Over Yellow on Gray)

Since my pictures are large, colorful and unframed, and since museum walls are usually immense and formidable, there is the danger that the pictures relate themselves as decorative areas to the walls. This would be a distortion of their meaning, since the pictures are intimate and intense, and are the opposite of what is decorative. (Mark Rothko, 1954) Mark Rothko is universally regarded as one of the preeminent artists of his generation; closely identified with the New York School, his art, like Jackson Pollock’s and Willem de Kooning’s, remains one of the most celebrated dialects of the collective Abstract Expressionist language. For nearly half a century, Rothko developed an impassioned form of abstract painting; one that transformed painted color into emotive experience. The 1940s saw him adopt a biomorphic style close to that of his fellow Abstract Expressionist, Arshile Gorky. Gradually, Rothko became increasingly reductive, paying rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth and composition. From the early 1950s, until his death in 1970, Rothko made a series of works in which any suggestion of figuration was abandoned in favor of superimposed rectangular shapes of color, with cloudy edges, that possessed an evanescence and incandescence unique to his art. Bathed in a painterly mist, these indeterminate forms project their hues out of the pictorial space, inviting the viewer to contemplate the space he has created, leading them to extreme states of feeling. No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray) is a seminal example of Rothko’s enterprise. Executed in 1954, a time many consider the zenith of Rothko’s creative powers, the present work displays Rothko’s elimination of all elements of Surrealism or mythic imagery, providing us with a nonobjective composition of amorphous forms for which the artist is so championed – here, three soft-edged, luminescent rectangles of lemony yellow, milky white and ultramarine blue stacked weightlessly on top of one another, floating horizontally against a gray ground. The effect, as in all his work, but especially with this particular painting, is utterly mesmerizing. In the spring of 1954, Rothko left the Betty Parsons Gallery and joined Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still and Willem de Kooning at the Sidney Janis Gallery. In April 1954, Katherine Kuh, the Curator of Modern Painting and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, approached Rothko and proposed that he inaugurate a series of solo exhibitions at the Art Institute. His exhibition, Recent Paintings by Mark Rothko, held in Chicago from October 18th to December 31st in the Gallery of Art Interpretation at the Art Institute, was the first one-man show Rothko had received at a major American museum. Kuh and Rothko exchanged a number of letters about his work, and this correspondence was intended to be used as the basis of a pamphlet to accompany the show. The brochure was never produced, however, as Rothko did not want to guide the viewer’s experience of his work (“While on the surface this may seem an obliging and helpful thing to do, the real result is the paralysis of the mind and the imagination” Mark Rothko’s letter to Katherine Kuh, July 14th, 1954). Crucially, Rothko was very involved in the selection of works for this important exhibition and, as David Anfam notes, “… much effort went into the selection and its arrangement. Rothko used number-titles for all the pictures, which were hung around three walls (the east one had windows), on both sides of a free-standing partition and, in one case, suspended from the ceiling of an off-white room measuring 50 [by] 41 ½ feet”. (David Anfam, Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 2001, p. 72). Rothko even prescribed the color of the walls: ‘slightly off-white’, as Katherine Kuh wrote in her letter to Rothko on July 8th, 1954. Only eight canvases were selected by Rothko and Kuh: two works from 1951; one from 1952; two from 1953 and three paintings from 1954. All were insured by the Art Institute whilst on exhibition; the present work for $2,000. Four of these works now grace the walls of the Tehran Museum of Art; The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. One painting belongs to the artist’s son; another to his daughter. Only the present work and one other from this exhibition remain in private, anonymous collections. David Anfam conjectures that the ensemble of these eight paintings “… must have been unforgettable: an ambience not unlike what John Elderfield describes with regard to Symbolist aesthetics as ‘disembodied light in an unlocatable space’ – and, in the words of the press release (which perhaps contains leads from Rothko himself transmitted via Kuh), one that ‘avoids the traditional center of interest, always stressing instead the flux and flow of light and color’.” (Ibid.) Many of the works were conspicuously tall and narrow (the present work included) serving to stress an upright, anthropomorphic aspect to their display. Anfam suggests that the keynote to this exhibition was a ‘magisterial somberness’, evident in the dark plum-black of No. 4 (1953, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) or the midnight-green of No. 7 (1953, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D. C.). This exhibition was the first to powerfully speak of Rothko’s move away from a sunny spectrum of reds, yellows and oranges, to weighty, darker, more challenging hues. Anfam notes that even “… the light fields of No. 6 [the present work] were in fact locked within a marginal black aureole”. (Op. Cit., p. 73). This shift in palette and mood is linked to Rothko’s desire to envelop his viewer with his art; to provide not an object in space, but the very space itself. Indeed, Rothko asked Kuh in a letter dated 25th September, 1954 to ensure that his larger pictures be installed in such a way “… so that they must be first encountered at close quarters, so that the first experience is to be within the picture.” (see Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Mark Rothko, 1998, p. 345). Kuh, in an earlier letter on July 18th, 1954, wrote “I think what happens to me when I am enjoying your paintings is less a thinking [her underline] than a feeling process. I seem to enter them – not just be looking at them.” As such, this famous exhibition and the extraordinary paintings included in it wonderfully reveal the conscious expansion of size, scale and seriousness made by Rothko with his art at this crucial juncture in his career. Rothko’s absolute authority over color, surface, texture and composition was never more commanding than in his paintings from the 1950’s. This was a decade in which Rothko created some of the most important, beautiful and tragic images of the Twentieth Century. Experimentation in the balance of these elements, and the proportion of weight or suspension given to each cloudy field of color, created a majestic series of sensual, enigmatic masterpieces of gripping presence. No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray) is amongst the most sensational of them all. This superlative painting reverberates, optically and intellectually; engaging us with the artist’s desire to create a pictorial language that went beyond the very boundaries of painting, encompassing a transcendent, deeply affecting relationship between the viewer and the object. Rothko’s challenge, to both himself and his audience, was to engage not only the eye, but also the mind and even the spirit. Seeking to evoke Edmund Burke’s notion of the ‘Sublime State’ - one of vastness, oneness and infinity - Rothko hoped to achieve in his painting what he called a moment of clarity: “The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity; toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea; and the idea and the observer … To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.” (Mark Rothko, “Statement on his Attitude in Painting”, The Tiger’s Eye, 1949). The reductive power of Rothko’s canvases, built upon the elimination of line in favor of a blurred demarcation of color forms, is powerfully felt in the present work. Here, veils of rich blue, opalescent white and citrus yellow are layered on top of a deep gray ground, stretched to the perimeter of the canvas, allowing the ground to frame the dazzling interaction of color within. Such color juxtapositions achieve an alchemy of optical mystery, with the evanescent vapors of blue, yellow and white evoking a myriad of contradictory responses. Here, a sense of illuminating light contrasts with the artist’s achieved obscurity; within the apparently monolithic voids, a sense of organic presence prevails. To come back to Edmund Burke, “… extreme light … obliterates all objects, so as in its effects exactly to resemble darkness”. In the same paradoxical manner, Rothko’s saturated colors transcend above and beyond the decorative, into the metaphysical realm and the tragic Void. The breathtaking quality of the oscillating color forms has always been the most accessible and the most seductive element of Rothko’s expression. Katherine Kuh considered Rothko’s paintings to have “… a kind of ecstasy of color” (letter to Rothko, July 18th, 1954). We see here a communion of color that unites each and every tone together into a unified whole. The impact of color, here layers of yellow, white and blue thrust to the front of the picture plane by the charcoal frame surrounding them, is immediate. It is striking, almost physical at first glance. Interestingly, Rothko objected to any simplistic view of vibrant color. Pulsating yellows and whites bounce with life and joy and yet, ironically, there is a deeper, more somber tone (lurking in the blues and grays) which one begins to feel the more time one spends in front of the picture. The chromatic contrasts he presents us with display a dissonance that is both ethereal and disquieting. Another formal contradiction lies in the monumentality of Rothko’s canvases. These large format surfaces surprisingly allow for the most intimate experience between the viewer and the object. Yet, for all of that, one still feels that one is experiencing the Void, is actually ‘in’ the painting and that the artist has come close to the ‘visual infinite’. Rothko’s complex relationship with color was shaped by the influence of Henri Matisse’s pure, flat color (he would paint Homage To Matisse in 1954 [The Edward R. Broida Trust]) and the thin veils of flat color in his friend Milton Avery’s work. Rothko’s technique allowed him to create these dazzling surfaces. Oil paint seems to have been soaked into the present work, achieving a finish akin to the effects of watercolor bleeding into paper. Rothko fleshes out his color bands with feathery, liquid brushstrokes that further define these passages as densely painted areas. Such brushwork serves to establish the amorphous, evanescent forms that appear to float on top of each other. It is as if we witness a miasma of form and color that has been extracted from some primordial soup. Rothko’s rectangular shapes hover on the subtly diffused canvas, lending each shape a halo-like effect that serves to simultaneously radiate out and recede in to the picture plane. A combination of opaque and translucent layers of paint come together to continually add and subtract the density of painted ‘weight’ on the support, further engendering a sense of movement within the abstract composition. A beautiful equilibrium between colors is achieved and one that chimes perfectly with the shape of the canvas. The artist has calibrated these color fields in relation to the proportions of the internal forms and the overall scale of the canvas. White and yellow fizzes against the gray ground, and is anchored by the dark blue field below it. Color literally moves, and its movement is articulated not by the artist's brush, but by our ocular reception of the painting. We move it around because we are drawn in so deeply by its scale and by the sensitivity of its painted surface. A shimmer prevails overall, one that makes the velvety tones of the surface literally breathe. No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray) is an astonishing example of Mark Rothko’s theories on painting and his craft. The emphasis on rich color heightens our senses, yet this joyous chromatic celebration is underpinned by his ability to create a temporal and spatial vacuum which draws the viewer in, forcing them to contemplate the work and themselves in a quasi-spiritual manner. This achievement draws Rothko’s work far away from the boundaries of mere decoration, and subsequently enhances the powerful concept at play here. We are not presented with an empty pattern, merely to satiate the eye, but rather with a portal into another dimension into which each individual viewer can project their own feelings and emotions. Signed and dated 1954 on the reverse; numbered #5102.54 on the stretcher

  • USAUSA
  • 2004-11-09
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Femme à la fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)

Picasso’s paintings of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter are among the greatest images of love, sex and desire in twentieth century art.   Created amidst the spiralling emotional chaos of Picasso's own personal life in the 1930s, the 'Marie-Thérèse pictures' comprise what is largely considered to be the artist's creative peak and have come to epitomize Surrealist figurative painting at its most impassioned and dramatic.  This richly-textured painting, with its thick cross-hatching, is believed to be one of the most color-saturated in Picasso’s oeuvre.  It evidences one of the first creative bursts of energy following a near year-long hiatus from painting during his stressful separation from his wife Olga.   It is also perhaps the most emotional portrayal of the woman who would go down in history as Picasso's personification of love.  Picasso had met Marie-Thérèse in Paris in 1927 when she was only seventeen, and the wealth of images she inspired over the following decade has been acclaimed as one of the greatest achievements of the artist's career.  Dating from 1936, this sumptuous and exuberantly colorful portrait of the young woman was painted in April following the birth to Picasso’s daughter Maya the previous fall, and her presentation here demonstrates the potency of her role in the artist’s life.   His biographers and descendants have claimed that Picasso’s relationship with Marie-Thérèse was the most emotionally enriching of all his love affairs, despite the numerous infidelities and his eventual marriage to his second wife Jacqueline.  Through it all, Marie-Thérèse remained the personification of sweetness and light, sustained by Picasso’s declarations of his enduring love for her. Just weeks after painting her striking likeness in Femme à la fenêtre, he described his feelings for her in no uncertain terms:  “This 23rd day of May 1936, I love you still more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.  I will always love you as they say, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you….” (quoted in L’Amour fou, Picasso and Marie Thérèse,  Gagosian Gallery, 2011, p. 40). Femme à la fenêtre bears all the hallmarks of Picasso’s sumptuous depictions of the love of his life.  Strength and vibrancy characterize the picture, with its sharp color palette, angularity and boldness of form.  An athletic, statuesque blonde, Marie-Thérèse was the embodiment of sensuality, and her physical presence elicited some of Picasso’s most visually arresting images (fig. 2).  His many inventive depictions of her asleep, reading or at play underscore how her every move fascinated him.  In the present work, he pictures her seated at a window, similar to the pose of Leonardo's Mona Lisa smiling enigmatically from within the loggia.   Now the mother of his child, Marie-Thérèse is cast in a new role, evocative of the courtly ladies of Renaissance portraiture and indicative of her more dignified status in the artist's life. Picasso was not the only one who found Marie-Thérèse’s physical presence irresistible.  “I found her fascinating to look at,” reported Françoise Gilot upon meeting her rival in 1949.  “I could see that she was certainly the woman who had inspired Pablo plastically more than any other.  She had a very arresting face with a Grecian profile. … She was very athletic; she had that high-color look of glowing good health one often sees in Swedish women. Her form was very sculptural, with a fullness of volume and a purity of line that gave her body and her face an extraordinary perfection” (quoted in L’Amour fou, Picasso and Marie Thérèse, pp. 71-72). In contrast with his depictions of a more passive Marie-Thérèse, the present painting is one of his most animated, tactile and sculptural renderings of the young woman.  Her figure is rendered with incisions into the thick paint, adding dimension to her features.  Her alertness and sharpened sensibilities are not without merit, as the composition dates from a vulnerable period in her relationship with the artist.  Picasso painted this canvas at a villa in Juan-les-Pins, where he had taken Marie-Thérèse and their infant daughter Maya during the spring of 1936 (fig. 1).  He had neglected her for months following the birth of their daughter in order to deal with his separation from his estranged wife Olga.  But another distraction had entered Picasso’s life during these months, and her influence on Picasso was becoming increasingly apparent in his art.  Dora Maar, the young Surrealist photographer whom Picasso met through Paul Eluard while Marie-Thérèse was pregnant, had already commenced her love-affair with the artist by late 1935.   By the end of the decade Dora would eclipse Marie-Thérèse as Picasso’s primary muse, becoming the inspiration for his harrowing “weeping women” series of the war years. Picasso would interpret Dora’s strength of character and fiery personality in severely abstracted and sharply linear depictions reinforced with acidic colors.  We can see iconographic traits manifesting in the present depiction of Marie-Thérèse, particularly in his rendering of her hands.  While the distinctive arches of Marie-Thérèse’s hairline and smooth curves of her face are present, it is Dora’s famously manicured fingernails that we see here, which would become her identifying features in some of Picasso’s most ambitious portraits (fig. 3).   Dora's presence also makes its way into this picture vis-a-vis the artist's focus on Marie-Thérèse's hat, which Maya Widmaier Picasso has identified as a beret that her mother purchased at Hèrmes. Picasso embellishes this accessory with textural cross-hatching, calling to mind the embossing of the golden halo on Duccio's twelfth century Madonna (fig. 5).  While the luxe accessory may have been important to the sitter, its significance in this painting becomes clear in retrospect: for it was Dora who would be immortalized in Picasso's portraits as the wearer of stylish hats.  What may have then been an important personal item for Marie-Thérèse becomes here a symbolic indicator of her status as the saintly new mother of Picasso's daughter and as the antithesis of her new rival.  In fact, the picture can be read as an amalgam of both women, and evidences a Madonna/Magdalene dichotomy that manifested in Picasso's art while he was simultaneously involved with both women. As is the case for many of the works now considered to be among Picasso’s greatest pictures, Femme à la fenêtre remained in the artist’s possession until his death in 1973.  It was then inherited by his granddaughter Marina, whose father was the son that Picasso had with his wife Olga.  Because Picasso was not able to divorce Olga due to the heavy financial penalties that would ensue, he was unable to marry Marie-Thérèse and kept their relationship a secret well into the 1930s.  Marie-Thérèse, for her part, was mostly tolerant of the situation, with Picasso forever reassuring her that she was the primary object of his affection.   Her permissive temperament, however, is alleged to have faltered upon meeting Dora only months after he finished the present canvas.  As the story goes, Picasso was painting Guernica in his studio when Marie-Thérèse met Dora for the first time.  “I kept on painting and they kept on arguing,” Picasso told Gilot in later years.  “Finally Marie-Thérèse turned to me and said, ‘Make up your mind.  Which one of us goes?’ … I was satisfied with things as they were. I told them they’d have to fight it out for themselves.  So they began to wrestle.  It’s one of my choicest memories” (quoted in ibid., 49-50).  It is Marie-Thérèse’s uncharacteristic fierceness that is perhaps alluded to in this most fascinating and provocative picture. Dated 13 avril XXXVI (upper left)

  • USAUSA
  • 2012-11-08
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