A ‘Monsieur D’ was the source for most of lots making the highest Old Master prices in the Oger Blanchet (24% buyer’s premium) auction at Drouot on October 20.
His collection was one of the principal groups in this small but select Paris sale of just 85 lots of paintings and furniture, which also included items from an hôtel particulier near the Champs-Elysées and the collection of the Marquis Alphonse d’Aoust.
The Monsieur D lots were led by a work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1568-1625), showing a biblical subject from the book of Genesis.
Lot and His Daughters, showing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, was an atmospheric combination of a nocturnal landscape lit by flaming buildings.
It was signed lower centre BRVEGHEL/1609 and painted on an 8 x 9in (20 x 21.5cm) parqueted oak panel, a more unusual format for the artist. It had been acquired on the Paris market c.1995 and realised a lower estimate €300,000 (£260,870).
This was followed at a mid-estimate €250,000 (£217,390) by a typical portrait by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) showing a pensive young woman and titled Rêverie. The 2ft x 20in (61 x 52 cm) oil on canvas was set in a carved oak and limewood frame of Louis XV period.
Several earlier panel paintings from Monsieur D’s collection without firm attributions were driven to much higher prices than predicted.
The most dramatic came with a 2ft 11in x 2ft 3in (90 x 70.5cm) two panel unparqueted painting of the Virgin and Child and a kneeling donor dated to c.1480 which was inscribed RW496 on the reverse. This was catalogued as by a follower of the Flemish master Rogier van der Weyden (1399-1464) and estimated at €15,000-20,000 but ended up making €182,000 (£158,260).
Carrying the same estimate but selling for €95,000 (£82,610) was a 13 x 10in (33 x 25.5cm) unparqueted panel portrait of a women in a black and white costume with ruff. This was dated to c.1565 and ascribed to the workshop of the French Renaissance portraitist François Clouet (c.1520-70).
The third high-flying lot was a humorous double-portrait c.1500 of a man and woman, she is holding out a sprig of cherries into which he is about to bite. The 13 x 18in (34 x 46cm) panel comes with the legend Tel rit que mord (such laughter that bites) written in gothic script between the two heads.
In his 1934 work Trésor des Proverbes Français Anciens et Modernes, the Comte de Vibray explains this inscription as meaning that some people made jokes to do harm.
The art historian and 15th century art scholar Charles Sterling thought this to be a Burgundian School work of c.1480. research suggests that the artist could be the painter known as the Maître de Saint-Jean-de-Luzé named for his portraits of Jeanne de Montague and Hugues de Rabutin from Saint-Jean-de Luzé, a commune near Autun, and now in the Musées des Beaux Arts in Dijon.
Again estimated at €15,000- 20,000, this ended up selling for €92,000 (£80,000).
The sale also featured a group of early, 16th century, Limoges enamels.
These were mostly from the collection of the hôtel particulier but the most expensive was actually from a different source.
This was a 20in (52.5cm) oval format dish by the artist enameller Jean Reymond (fl.1571-1602), monogrammed IR and captioned GENESE XIIII.
The obverse was decorated with another biblical scene from Genesis showing the central figure of Abraham, refusing the offer of Bera, king of Sodom, kneeling on his right, in front of a city gate with groups of soldiers in the background and was set in a border featuring a frieze of grotesques.
The scene is taken from a model by the enamel artist Pierre Reymond, which can be found in grisaille on two dishes, one in the Louvre Museum and the other in the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, the latter dated 1577. The reverse of the dish has a figure of Jupiter standing with an eagle at his feet, under a canopy decorated with further grotesques and animals.
It sold for €45,000 (£39,130) against a guide of €10,000-15,000.
Famed Goya works
Among the nine lots from the collection of the Marquis Alphonse d’Aoust (1819-1909) passed down by direct descent, there was keen bidding for a complete first edition of one of Francisco de Goya’s most famous engraved works, Los Caprichos from 1799, the 80 leaves printed on laid paper in a calf binding. It sold for €103,000 (£89,565) against a guide of €30,000-50,000.
The sale featured another set of Los Caprichos from a different source but a second edition this time from 1855 in cardboard covers and minus the title page. It made €14,000 (£12,175).
£1 = €1.15