Old master drawings to star in New York sale

An auction of old master drawings at Christie's New York on January 20 offers a chance to examine the extraordinary skills of history’s greatest artists.

Usually produced as studies, experiments or blueprints for larger works, these illustrations have an appeal all of their own.

Tiepolo Pulcinello Christies

Tiepolo's Punchinello series was hugely popular in the 18th century

“To really understand and appreciate drawings you need to have physical contact”, says Furio Rinaldi, a specialist in old master drawings at Christie’s New York.

“You need to hold it in your hands. [A drawing] has a front, it has a back, the paper has a texture...the ink, the flowing lines, the chalk; it’s unvarnished, unedited.”

The star looks set to be The nursing of Punchinello by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804), valued at up to $1m.

Tiepolo produced over 100 illustrations featuring this comic character (who the British later morphed into Mr Punch, a character in a 17th century traditional beachside puppet show).

Rinaldi explans: "In Punchinello, Tiepolo fully expresses his outstanding narrative abilities and sense of humour.”

“This drawing is an homage to Venice, the land of the Commedia dell’arte, clearly channelled through the drawing’s watery and luminous wash technique, recalling the effects of light on the lagoon.”

JMW Turner’s delicate watercolour The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen, with a Steamer is valued at $1.2m.

Turner is one of Britain’s most celebrated painters. His Rome, from Mount Aventine (1835) set an artist record in 2014, when it sold for £30.3m ($42m).

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