Christie's presents Hans Memling painting for its Old Masters auction

Christie's New York is returning to business with upcoming auctions of Old Master Paintings and Old Master Drawings on January 25-26, 2012, offering a superb selection of rarities, rediscoveries and masterpieces.

The sales are distinguished by the inclusion of works by Hans Memling, Thomas de Keyser, Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Hals, Gerrit Dou and Giuseppe Arcimboldo that are new to the market, having come to light again after generations or having been recently authoritatively reattributed.

Rounding out these auctions, and offering collectors a range of prices on high-quality works, will be property from two distinguished private collections, the Collection of Robert H. Smith and the Collection of David E. Rust, to be sold in all sessions of the sales.

Hans Memling Virgin nursing Christ child
Hans Memling's rare work Virgin Nursing the Christ Child

Nicholas Hall, Joint International Head of Old Master and Early British Paintings, commented:

"Demand for top-quality Old Master works continues to rise among both new and experienced collectors and art dealers, and Christie's is proud to meet that demand with this unusually strong selection of paintings and drawings, almost all of which are fresh to the market.

"We are excited to feature a series of rediscovered Dutch and Flemish masterworks of the 17th century, which underscore the continuing sense of adventure in the Old Masters field."

Leading the sale is an exceptionally well-preserved roundel painting of The Virgin Nursing the Christ Child that has long been recognized as a work by Hans Memling, the leading artist in Bruges in the last third of the 15th century (estimate: $6-8m).

This devotional work in the artist's mature later style, remarkable for the quality of its execution, is stylistically linked to acknowledged masterpieces from the 1480s and 1490s by Memling, but unlike those paintings is one of the two works by the artist in private hands.

Arrival Henri III Villa Contarini by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
The Arrival of Henri III at the Villa Contarini  by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

The Virgin and Christ Child are depicted against a gold background, recalling the traditional icons of early Christian art, and the small circular format and intimacy of the subject would suggest a domestic function for the work.

Another leading work in the sale from the Collection of Robert H. Smith is The Arrival of Henri III at the Villa Contarini by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice 1696-1770 Madrid) (estimate: $4-6m).

Noble in composition, elegant in its protagonists, impressive in its display of silks and satins and overflowing with visual imagination, this painting depicts the lavish welcome accorded Henri de Valois, soon to be crowned as Henri III of France, when he came to Venice in 1574.

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