It’s hard to believe there are still undiscovered works by the most renowned artists hanging unnoticed in dusty corners of private houses. But that is what a Christie’s valuation team discovered last year.
In the corner of the drawing room of an English country house
hung La Surprise by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), a
painting lost for 200 years and presumed destroyed.
It was only known through a copy in the Royal Collection in
Buckingham Palace and a near contemporary engraving.
La Surprise was painted c.1718, probably for its first
owner Nicolas Henin (1691-1724), adviser to the French King and
friend of Watteau. It is likely that the work was painted for Henin
together with its pendant L'Accord Parfait, now in the Los
Angeles Museum of Art.
When Henin died in 1724, the two paintings went to the artist's
friend and biographer Jean de Julienne (1686-1766), who had them
engraved and published in the Recueil Julienne, but who
seems to have split the pair and sold them before 1756.
La Surprise next appears in the collection of
Ange-Laurent de La Live de Jully (1725-1779) and was published in a
catalogue of his collection in 1764.
By 1770 the painting had left the collection and, following the
tumult of revolution, next emerged in 1848 in Lady Murray's probate
valuation. She bequeathed it to the family of the present owners
who knew nothing of its attribution until last year.
The painting, which is in excellent condition, will be exhibited
in New York from April 10-14 and at Christie's King Street
salerooms in London from July 5-8. It is expected to fetch £3m to
£5m at Christie's July 8 Important Old Master and British Pictures
sale at the King Street saleroom.
By Anna Brady