Sotheby's carries on the tradition at full pelt, its Masters Week mounting a total of no fewer than half a dozen single- and mixed-owner sales in these categories between January 31-February 2.
Christie’s, on the other hand, will be holding its Old Master paintings auctions in the Big Apple in the spring as part of its Classic Week. For the January slot Christie’s is confining itself to a works on paper element with a single, 94-lot auction of Old Master and British drawings on January 30.
Sotheby’s works on paper element this month comprises two events on January 31: a 223-lot mixed-owner Old Master drawings sale incorporating the collection of Prof Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann and a small but very select offering of the just 28 works on paper comprising the Howard and Saretta Barnet collection.
Assembled over a 40-year period from the 1970s-2007, the Barnet collection spans five centuries of art.
It encompasses masters of the Italian Renaissance, Italian Mannerists, 18th century French big-hitters such as Boucher and Watteau, and major 19th century artists through to the 20th century luminaries Picasso and Lucien Freud.
The collection is being sold by the family following Saretta Barnet’s death last year and is one of a number of auctions held by Sotheby’s featuring the Barnet property.
“An interesting aspect of the whole thing was the way they collected in several very different areas,” says Gregory Rubinstsein, Sotheby’s head of Old Master drawings.
”Works on paper was one strand, African and Oceanic art and sculpture was another, and then there were contemporary paintings bought pretty much from the artist. It is interesting to collect in three really different areas, but in each one buy extremely good things.”
The drawings collection, he added, is not at all large in numbers but the really unusual thing about it is that it covers a huge time span. Around two-thirds of the collection was amassed before Howard Barnet’s death in 1992, but the later acquisitions included what Rubinstein reckons were some important additions. These include the Fra Bartolomeo landscape of Fiesole from c.1500 acquired in 2004 and the doublesided Parmigianino pictured below.
The Barnets did not buy at auction. Instead, they used a number of different dealers but, added Rubinstein, “they were doing their own research and very much making their own judgments and decisions”.
Their pre-requisites were for “good examples in good condition – things that spoke to them”.
With many pieces on offer here that have been off the market for several decades, and the sale timed at a point in the year when the drawings world will be focusing on New York, the auction should attract wide attention from collectors and institutions alike. However, Rubinstein says that he would expect interest from some of the American museums.
Pictured here are just three of the Barnet sale highlights that will be going under the hammer this month.
The Barnet collection’s Claude Lorrain drawing of The valley of The Aniene, Near Tivoli, With The Ruins Of The Aqua Anio Novus Aqueduct is a notable work for many reasons.
On one hand, it has not been seen in public since it was shown at the Metropolitan Museum in 1976-77. It emerged on the market just a couple of years earlier at an auction in Switzerland and was acquired by the Barnets from Colnaghi in 1975.
Another attraction is that while the work typifies the skilfully rendered and detailed views of the Roman Campagna for which the artist is so well known, this view depicts a specific identifiable location (as inscribed on the verso) rather than a generalised scene.
Moreover, it is one which is still identifiable today as the ruins of the aquaduct are still standing. The 9¼ x 13¾in (23 x 35cm) pen, brown ink and pink wash drawing is estimated at $600,000-800,000 at Sotheby’s sale.
A double-sided drawing by the Italian Old Master Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (1505-40), known as Parmigianino, was acquired from Trinity Fine Art in 1994. The small, 8¼ x 6½in (21 x 16cm) sheet is covered on both sides with figure studies and vignettes in pen, ink and wash created at various times.
One side features two putti among foliage while the other has studies for an Adoration of the Shepherds, and, interestingly, a small fragment of a musical score. This chimes with the drawing’s early 17th century English provenance. It was owned by the musican and art dealer Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666). The drawing has an estimate of $300,000-500,000 in the Sotheby’s Barnet sale.
The French Impressionists are represented in the Barnet drawings ensemble by a work from Edgar Degas. Deux Jockeys depicts one of his favourite artistic subjects: horse races.
The 9½ x 12¼in (24 x 31cm) oil and gouache on brown paper, which was executed c.1868-70, was acquired by the Barnets in 1981 from the Walter Feilchenfeldt Gallery in Zurich. It is estimated at $80,000-120,000 in the Sotheby’s sale.