ONE of the more unusual characters of the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of Danish art was Sally Henriques (1815-1886). Firstly, contrary to what the name might suggest, Sally was a man. Secondly he was Jewish. And thirdly he painted for just four years from 1841-45 before becoming – in a neat reversal of the career of Georges Braque – a house painter.
As a consequence, works by Sally Henriques are extremely rare, which was borne out by the competition generated for an academic study of a female nude standing in front of a mirror auctioned on the first day of Bruun Rasmussen’s (25% buyer’s premium) September 3-6 sale of paintings, drawings and prints in Copenhagen.
This historically fascinating 2ft 101/2in by 2ft (88 x 62cm) canvas, entered in good, if re-lined condition from an old Jutland family collection, was signed and precisely dated 20.10.41, confirming that it had been painted (or at least started) in a life class at the ground-breaking academy C.W. Eckersberg established in Copenhagen in January 1833.
Just over two years ago a full-length female that was painted by either Martinus Rørbye (1803-1848) or Adam Müller (1811-1834) at the first ever life class fetched DKr1,000,000 (£85,470) at the Copenhagen auctioneers Museumsbygningen.
This Sally Henriques study was eight years later in date, having been painted at a life class the artist had shared with his brother Nathan, Professor Eckersberg, Carl Dahl, H.J. Hammer and L.A. Smith.
Eckersberg’s painting from that class survives in Copenhagen’s Hirschsprungske Collection and is an interesting contrast compositionally in that the model’s reflected face is obscured by her outstretched arm, while Henriques showed the model’s face.
This type of early 19th century Danish neoclassical painting appears to be much in vogue at the moment and there was sustained competition between two telephone bidders before the hammer fell at a double-estimate DKr520,000 (£46,140), bid by what the auctioneers termed a “collector of Danish art”.
Overall, this 700-lot sale of Danish and international art registered a total of DKr12,000,000 (£1.1m) with around 80 per cent of the material sold by volume.
Although the global pre-sale
estimate was slightly higher at DKr15,000,000, the impressive selling rate reflected the international appeal of the sale.
US bidders were noticeably active, bidding DKr370,000 (£32,830) for a poorly preserved Ferdinand Richardt (1819-1895) oil of Niagara Falls – one of no fewer than 79 versions of the subject by the artist – and a rather more surprising DKr310,000 (£27,505) for a sunlit drawing room interior with a white-dressed woman adjusting her hat, by the hitherto modestly rated Christian Clausen (1862-1911). The pure decorative appeal of the subject was apparently the key to this painting selling for some ten times the lower estimate.
Even more expensive was a decorative Belle Epoque street scene by the Copenhagen painter Paul Fischer (1860-1934), whose signed 1911 canvas of street vendors and trams in the rain-soaked square opposite Copenhagen’s City Hall, led the sale with a price of DKr1,000,000 (£88,730), slightly below the estimate of DKr1,200,000. The price paid for this 23in by 2ft 7in (58 x 79cm) canvas was impressive enough, but Fischer has sold for DKr2,000,000 at these same Copenhagen rooms.
Exchange Rate: £1 = DKr11.27