NEW YORK—Art lovers are in for an extra treat during Christie’s auction of Old Masters & 19th Century Art on June 9, with the addition of European paintings and sculptures from the bankrupt Salander-O’Reilly Galleries in Manhattan. Public viewing at 20 Rockefeller Plaza begins June 2.
The sale starts with a selection of Old Masters & 19th Century Art, including major works by Bouguereau, Batoni, Carlevarijs, and Grimshaw, among others. Details of those works have not yet been released. Additionally, a total of 130 Renaissance era and 19th century works spanning 400 years, with a focus on Italian paintings and sculpture, will be presented from the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries.
In November 2007, Salander-O’Reilly Galleries became a debtor in a case before the United States Bankruptcy Court. In January, the Bankruptcy Court ordered a series of settlements between the Galleries and its major creditors, paving the way for the upcoming auction of selected works from the gallery’s vast inventory.
In March, Lawrence Salander, owner of the galleries, pled guilty to grand larceny and fraud in New York Supreme Court. His crimes included selling artwork he didn’t own and keeping the money.
An Allegory of Fortitude
Among the many highlights of the upcoming auction is Sir Peter Paul Rubens’ “An Allegory of Fortitude” with an estimated value of $200,000-300,000. It’s one of four panels Rubens created around 1630 to represent the four Virtues: Prudence, Fortitude, Justice, and Abundance.
With An Allegory of Fortitude, Rubens presents his main subject as a fusion of Hercules, the hero of classical mythology, and Samson, his Biblical counterpart. The hero’s strength and courage is signified both by the fractured columns he holds in his arms, and the lion pelt – which he’d skinned from the vicious Nemean lion – he wears as a protective cloak.
The Agony in the Garden
Also among the top lots of the selection is “The Agony in the Garden.” Estimated to go for $200,000-300,000, it is a superbly rendered depiction from the workshop of El Greco (1541-1614).
The painting depicts the episode after the Last Supper and immediately before Jesus’s arrest, when he retired to the Mount of Olives to pray. In the distance a group of soldiers led by Judas Iscariot approaches. Below the kneeling figure of Jesus, the disciples Peter, James, and John are portrayed as elegant, elongated figures– a characteristic of the artist’s celebrated style.
Additional highlights include the sale’s cover lot, a superb portrayal of the Madonna and Child attributed to the 16th century Bolognese painter Girolama Mirola ($60,000-80,000) and a group of 35 sculptural works dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, including bronzes, carved wood, terracotta, and sandstone figures, and relief carvings in marble and wood. A beautifully detailed sandstone figure of Saint John the Baptist is believed to have once adorned a church portal, and dates to the second half of the 15th century ($15,000-20,000).
An early 16th century carved marble portrait in relief of Alexander the Great ($10,000-15,000) portrays the renowned Macedonian king with flowing locks and wearing his iconic lion’s headdress.