Vespasian's White Horse by Jean Limosin

On 16 July 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Jean Limosin, a Renaissance enameller from a prominent Limoges family, produced this plate, whose magnificent workmanship on gold jeweller's foil with a midnight blue background will fire the bidding in the new autumn season.

Jean Limosin (around 1528-1610), Limoges, late 16th century, The Emperor Vespasian on horseback, plate in polychrome painted enamel and translucent enamels on jewellers' foil with gold highlights, signed "I.L.", diam. 20.8 cm.
Estimate: €15,000/20,000

Represented with youthful features and wreathed with the palm of victory, Roman Emperor Vespasian stands out splendidly on his spotless white horse. Identified by the inscription on the inner rim – "Caes. Vespasian. Imp" –, he is the central figure of a painted enamel plate produced by one of the leading names in this artistic discipline, Jean Limosin (c. 1528-1610). Enamel in Limoges underwent a revival that started in the last third of the 15th century with the arrival of painted enamels. This new technique, practiced elsewhere in France as well as in Italy and Flanders, was quickly mastered in this region. Plaques designed to be mounted as triptychs, altarpieces or paxes, always based on religious iconography, accounted for most of the initial pieces produced. They were soon joined by decorative and profane objects, and master enamellers set to work to design pieces for dinner services. Although the extremely fragile results were not at all suited to practical use, they provided evidence of their owners' wealth and refinement. The iconographic repertory developed at the same time. Antique and mythological themes appeared, with some craftsmen taking their subjects from the engravings now beginning to circulate with the development of printing. One of these was Jean Limosin, the grandson of Léonard (c. 1505-1577), recognized as the leading master by specialists. Here he was inspired by the works of Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), published in 1596 in the collection XII Caesares in equistri forma ellegantissime efficti. No one could deny the elegance of this plate and its brilliantly executed decoration. It is accompanied by a twin (with the same estimate) showing Emperor Vitellius. Originally, there were very probably twelve plates with this theme of Caesars on horseback. Making their debut at auction, these two come from a French aristocratic collection dating back to the late 19th century.

A Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme from the Moreau-Nélaton Collection

On 25 September 2020, by Sophie Reyssat

Last seen in 1900, this landscape of Paestum with a remarkable pedigree is appealing for its photographic qualities.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), Paestum, troupeau de buffles (Paestum, Buffalo Herd), oil on canvas signed and dated 1851, 65 x 81 cm (canvas), 58 x 78.5 cm (image).
Estimate: €15,000/25,000

This painting is a rediscovery. Though mentioned as lost in Gerald M. Ackerman's Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme: With a Catalogue Raisonné, in which it is reproduced, it lay hidden in a French private collection. Its last public appearance was in 1900 at the Moreau-Nélaton sale at the Georges Petit gallery in Paris: a prestigious provenance indeed. Etienne Moreau-Nélaton (1859-1927) was keen to reshape a family collection that was remarkable but a little too eclectic, he thought, so he sold various works. The sale took place from 11 to 15 May, which gives an idea of its extent. The man famous for donating 19th-century works to the Louvre, including Édouard Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) in 1906, and who bequeathed the rest of his collection to the French State in 1927, was a worthy heir to a passion for art that began with his grandfather, Adolphe Moreau (1800-1859). A wealthy stockbroker, the latter bought over eight hundred paintings by the leading artists of his time. The financier's meeting with Delacroix during a spa treatment at Eaux-Bonnes was the starting point for this collection – the finest in Paris. Alongside the master's works there are also pieces by Troyon, Chassériau, Delaroche and many others, including Gérôme, who studied with Delaroche and followed him to Italy in 1843. The young painter was fascinated by the ancient ruins of Paestum, seen in this painting, which earned him critical acclaim at the 1852 Salon. It illustrates the neo-Greek movement, symbolised by another of the artist's paintings, Jeunes Grecs faisant se battre des coqs (Young Greeks at a Cockfight), painted in 1846 and now in the Musée d'Orsay. Here we see the archaeological precision typical of classical painting, but Gérôme deviates from this by introducing an informal realism through his animals. While critics of the time praised the reconstruction of the ancient remains, today's viewers are struck by the composition's modernity. The restraint of the Doric style imbues the temple of Hera with considerable power, echoed by the tranquil strength of the buffalos. These cows also provide the picturesque touch later developed by the painter in his Orientalist works. For now, like a photograph, this work provides a snapshot of Italy.

Autumn in the Yonne Through the Eyes of Picabia

On 01 October 2020, by Claire Papon

Picabia’s Impressionist paintings are among his most sought-after works. Hopes are therefore running high for this oil-on-canvas picture he painted in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne in 1906.

Francis Picabia (1879-1953), Laveuse, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, effet d’automne, 1906, oil on canvas, 47 x 55 cm.
Estimate: €40,000/60,000

The scene is timeless. A young woman is busy washing laundry in a river. For a few months in 1906-1907, Francis Picabia lived in the quaint village of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, painting where his elders Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet and especially Alfred Sisley had before him. This experience ushered in a prolific period in his career. He observed nature with a "keen eye for light", as George Isarlov wrote in Picabia peintre in 1929. His stroke was fluid, his framing skilful. In 1905, Gustave Danthon gave him an exclusive contract and the first of three one-man shows in his prestigious boulevard Haussmann gallery. Critics and the public were both enthusiastic. But in 1908, Picabia embraced Pointillism and, later, Fauvism. He broke with Danthon, who held an auction at Drouot on 8 March 1909. Lawyer, historian and art critic Léon Roger-Milès wrote the enthusiastic preface of the catalogue, where our painting was listed as number 62. It sold for 150 francs. "Oddly, private collectors bought everything,” Danthon wrote. “Not a single work was sold to a dealer." Will history repeat itself?

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