Bonhams have announced that they have secured potentially the most valuable lot among the works being sold from the Dr. Gustav Rau collection.
Although Sotheby's are selling works by the likes of Monet, El
Greco and Tiepolo from the collection of the late German collector
this summer, Bonhams will offer Jean-Honoré Fragonard's (1732-1806)
portrait of François-Henri d'Harcourt at a special 94-lot sale in
London's New Bond Street on December 5.
The estimate has been set 'in excess of £10m'.
Dr Rau died in 2002 and bequeathed his extraordinary collection
to UNICEF Germany who are selling the works. Three auctioneers are
sharing the 533 works with approximately £16m worth of paintings,
sculpture and decorative arts to be offered at different Sotheby's
sales over the next few months, while Lempertz of Cologne sold
their first tranche of the collection for €1.8m (£1.59m) in
Lempertz will also be offering a second part
of the Dr Gustav Rau collection on November 15-16 which includes
250 Old Master paintings, sculpture and decorative art, meaning the
total estimate of the items consigned to Lempertz is approximately
A statement from UNICEF said that the lots were divided up
between the three separate salerooms after putting out a call for
tenders and selecting the companies on the basis of their
"convincing and favourable terms". The proceeds will be used to
As specified in Dr Rau's bequest, the core of the collection
consisting of 152 paintings and sculptures is to be on public
exhibit at the Arp Museum in Remagen near Bonn until 2026.
The Fragonard itself is one of 14 so-called 'Fantasy Portraits'
painted by the French artist in 1769, eight of which are now in the
Louvre and only two remain in private hands. These works, whether
painted from life or invented, were attempts to represent the
vision of an inspired poet and are typified by highly coloured and
broad brush strokes. The style was referred to by some
contemporaries as the 'swordplay of the brush'.
Bonhams' director of Old Master paintings Andrew McKenzie said
that this was a work of "dazzling accomplishment" and was one of
the works for which the artist acquired his reputation.
The subject, François-Henri d'Harcourt, was a high-ranking
nobleman who served as a general in the French army, as well as
governor of Normandy and guardian to the young Louis XVI. He
was elected a member of the Académie Française in 1788 but left
France the following year following the 1789 Revolution.
Serving as ambassador to the British Court for the exiled Louis
XVIII from 1792, he died in Staines in Middlesex in 1802.
This picture has only changed hands once in its 250 year history
when Dr Rau acquired the picture from the Harcourt family in
More recently it has been on temporary loan to the Getty in Los
The picture will be one of the most important sales in the
inaugural season of auctions to be held in Bonhams new saleroom in
New Bond Street which is due to open in October.
Among the other works in the December 5 sale are a 15th century
depiction of the Crucifixion by an unknown German artist (est:
£1m-1.5m); a portrait of the Duchess of Montebello by Pierre-Paul
Prud'hon (est: £700,000-1,000,000); Le grand noyer à
l'Hermitage by Camille Pissarro (£200,000-3000,000); and
Courtyard with flowers by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida
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