Alongside the unpublished Albrecht Dürer drawing showing the festive subject of the Virgin and Child for sale at Agnews, Colnaghi has set aside an entire room in its Bury Street gallery to display dozens of large-scale carved and painted figures from the golden age of Neapolitan presepe nativity scenes in the 18th century.
Said to date back to St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, the presepe blossomed in Naples under the patronage of the Bourbon King Charles III in the 1700s.
During this period, the traditional nativity scene greatly expanded to include exotic animals and a host of contemporary Neapolitan characters dressed in silks and fabrics, from shoemakers and innkeepers to fishmongers and butchers.
“Although essentially folk art, these wonderfully life-like artistic productions, combining sculpture and painting, drew inspiration from the works of some of the great 17th century Neapolitan painters such as the religious paintings of Luca Giordano and the still-lifes of Recco and Ruoppolo, as well as from Caravaggio,” notes the gallery.
The presepe is priced in the region of seven figures and is part of Colnaghi’s exhibition on the Italian city and its influence on Old Masters.
Also included is a group of landscapes of Naples painted mainly by northern artists during the heyday of the Grand Tour and into the 19th century.
The latest edition of LAW runs from December 3-10 and looks set to be a busier affair than the equivalent 2020 edition when Covid-19 restrictions stopped many from venturing into the capital.
Around 40 galleries and auction houses are taking part, offering the usual broad range of high-end art and antiques via in-gallery exhibitions, sales and LAW’s digital platform.
Two galleries have announced their participation for the first time.
Following a recent move to new galleries in Dover Street in Mayfair, silver and jewellery specialist Koopman Rare Art debuts with a display of Regency period silver.
The assemblage includes the only known set of eight candlesticks made by Paul Storr (1771-1844) in 1816 and a pair of wine coolers emulating the shape of the famous Warwick vase from antiquity made in Storr’s workshop a few years later in 1819.
The opulent silver-gilt candlesticks, billed by Koopman as among the largest and most ambitious candlesticks made in Britain in the 19th century, bear the double crest for the Jamaican plantation owner George Watson-Taylor (1771-1841) and his wife Anna.
They are thought to have been sold in an auction of the couple’s belongings following bankruptcy in 1832.
Their second owner, Harriet Beauclerk, Duchess of St Albans, married into the Coutts banking family and they last appeared on the market in 1920 as part of the Coutts Heirlooms sale at Christie’s.
The candlesticks are priced in the region of £500,000.
Fellow first-timer Patrick Bourne & Co, specialist in British art in St James’s, showcases a selection of eight 20th century drawings and watercolours depicting the human figure.
Among them is a watercolour of two bathers by Stanley Cursiter (1887-1976) from 1920, priced at £24,000, when the artist was living and working in Cassis in the south of France. Works by Pablo Picasso, Percy Wyndham Lewis, Eric Robertson and Bernard Buffet also feature.
Six centuries of drawings
Elsewhere, LAW regular Stephen Ongpin Fine Art celebrates 15 years of business and a recent move to new and larger premises off Park Lane with 25 drawings spanning six centuries of art history, including works by Thomas Gainsborough, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Egon Schiele, Giambattista Tiepolo and Antoine Watteau.
Other exhibitions include Saints & Miracles at Sam Fogg, which covers the rise in processional liturgy during the later Middle Ages and the simultaneous development in metalwork, and Scotland at The Fine Art Society with 19th and 20th century Scottish art by James McIntosh Patrick (1907-1988) and Joan Eardley (1921-1963) among others.