Claude Lorrain's Mediterranean port to see $4.8m at Christie's auction

Christie's Old Masters and British Paintings Evening Sale will be led by a rediscovered masterpiece by Claude Lorrain, A Mediterranean port at sunrise with the Embarkation of Saint Paula for Jerusalem.

Claude Lorrain Mediterranean port
The Lorrain work was known to scholars, but has not been seen for a generation

The sale will be held on December 3 in London, with Lorrain's spectacular  landscape valued at £2m-3m ($3.2m-4.8m).

Lorrain (1600-1682) is considered one of the finest landscape painters of the 17th century. Born in France, he spent much of his life in Italy, receiving commissions from Rome's elite, including Pope Urban VIII.

The present work was commissioned by Cardinal Domenico Cecchini. It then passed to the Earls of Portarlington in the late 18th century, and by the 19th century was owned by English retailer WH Smith.

It has remained in the Smith collection at Buckinghamshire's Hambledon Manor ever since and, while not unrecorded, has not been seen by scholars or the public since it was last shown at the Royal Academy in the early part of the 20th century.

Various copies of the composition have been claimed as the original, though the present example has been confirmed as Lorrain's original autograph version.

The market for works by Lorrain is strong, as demonstrated in Christie's January auction of Old Master and Early British Drawings, which saw a pen and ink landscape sell for $6.1m - a 666.3% increase on its $800,000 high estimate.

Rembrandt Man with Sword
Removing old varnish from the painting revealed Rembrandt's signature, confirming it as an original

Also featuring at Christie's is a portrait by Rembrandt and his studio, Man with a Sword, 1644, which shares the £2m-3m estimate.

The piece was "recently the subject of a thorough re-appraisal", according to Christie's, as many works previously considered to be originals from the master have now been attributed to his pupils. However, this painting has been found to have been signed and dated by Rembrandt, and to reveal new information about his studio practices.

The London sale comes ahead of old masters week in New York, which will be held in January and will see some of the year's top sales in the category. Christie's will hold its Renaissance sale on January 29, led by the magnificent Rothschild Prayer Book at $18m.

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