Adjugé : 1 488 000 €
With its outsize format (118 x 213.5 cm), Biblical subject worthy of Hollywood by an outstanding Flemish painter and museum quality, this piece had all the ingredients for a splendid sale. And indeed, seven bidders from France, Holland and the UK battled it out on the phone. We don't know which nationality finally landed it for €1,488,000 (ten times its estimate of €120,000/150,000), but the work will remain with a collector in Europe. It had hitherto reigned supreme in the drawing room of a house near Troyes, sporting a certificate of authenticity issued by Ursula Härting, a specialist in the artist and author of his catalogue raisonné. When Frans II Francken (a painter as famous in his time as Rubens and Bruegel) tackled this major theme, he did it in his own way. The painting incorporates several still lifes of meticulous precision, like this group of shells on the far right filling a somewhat empty space in the composition.
The back features a mysterious decoration of arabesques in the style used at the time for coffered ceilings. This large cradled panel could possibly have been part of a piece of furniture (the lid of a chest or organ) probably connected with music, as suggested by the iconography of female musicians and dancers. But given its shape, it was not a harpsichord lid, as was sometimes the case with works by the Francken family, who often collaborated with Ruckers, the family of instrument makers.