Rubens' Samson and Delilah to lead old masters drawings in $16.6m auction

Christie's has announced it will sell "the most important collection of old master drawings to come to the market in a generation", with Sir Peter Paul Rubens' Samson and Delilah set to lead bids.

Peter Paul Rubens Samson Delilah drawing
Samson and Delilah is one of Rubens' greatest works - the final version sold at Christie's in 1980 for £5m ($8.3m)

The collection will be offered over a series of auctions in London, Amsterdam and Paris over the next two years, with a total realisation of over £10m ($16.6m) expected for the 800+ lots.

The collection was formed by Professor IQ van Regteren Altena (1899-1980), former head of the prints and drawings department at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Some of the collection was loaned to the museum following Van Regteren Altena's death, and his heirs have now allowed the museum to choose a selection of drawings for acquisition, while the remainder of the collection will feature at auction.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens' impassioned Samson and Delilah will highlight the first auction on July 10 in London, holding an estimate of £1.5m-2.5m ($2.5m-4.1m). It is the only known preparatory drawing for Rubens' masterpiece painting by the same name, which is housed in London's National Gallery.

Also featuring is Rembrant van Rijn's A young man leaning on a stick, which is a superb example of his figure drawings while in Leiden, Holland. It is expected to bring £250,000-300,000 ($415,965-499,158).

Van Regteren Altena was the world's foremost scholar on the work of Jacques de Gheyn II, bringing his long forgotten work back to the attention of the art world

As a scholar, Van Regteren Altena is perhaps best known for his rediscovery of Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629), who is considered one of the greatest draftsmen of all time today.

Van Regteren Altena published a catalogue raisonne of De Gheyn's work and a selection of his drawings will feature in the sale, with a depiction of a large beech tree expected to make £300,000-400,000 ($499,158-665,544).

The collections of the most respected scholars rarely come to auction, and collectors are sure to be drawn to the superior quality pieces with illustrious provenance. The old master collecting elite will be centred in London at the time, with Master Paintings Week taking place from July 4-11.

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