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Rubens’ masterpiece can fetch 35 million US dollars


The visceral biblical scene of Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens with the decapitated Saint John the Baptist, believed to have been lost for more than two centuries, is among 10 pieces of Baroque art to be sold at a auction prices in New York in January.

According to a Sotheby’s spokesman, the painting, which Rubens made circa 1609, was mislabeled for 220 years after it was sold into a private French collection in 1768. After being “rediscovered” ” in the 1980s, it sold for a then-record $5.5 million in 1998. It’s now estimated to be worth more than six times that, with auction house Sotheby’s expectations. bid up to US$35 million.

Titled “Salome Presented With The Dismembered Head Of Saint John the Baptist,” it is the star of a rare collection of paintings that includes works by French artists Valentin de Boulogne and Georges de la Tour. and Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi. The Baroque style, recognized for its dense shadows and strong contrasts of light and shadow, flourished throughout Europe in the early 17th century and originated in the work of artists. Italian like Caravaggio.

The 10 works come from the collections of Mark Fisch, trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and former New Jersey judge Rachel Davidson; The couple filed for divorce earlier this year. Although museum curators rarely comment on auction sales, the Met’s president of European Paintings, Keith Christiansen, has praised the “sustainable level of quality” of the artworks. .

“These are Baroque paintings that speak to contemporary voices,” he said in a press statement. “Their modernity lies in a psychological, exploratory dimension combined with dramatic flair, realized with brilliantly descriptive strokes.”

According to Sotheby’s, paintings from the collection that have accumulated over three decades have been exhibited at the Met as well as the National Gallery in London and the Prado in Madrid.

Bold and bloody scene

If Rubens’ depiction of Salome exceeds its high estimate, it will count as one of the most expensive Old Masters pieces ever sold, along with Rubens’ later painting “Lot and His Dau Girls,” sold. in 2016 for £44.9 million (then over US$58 million) at Christie’s in London. Works by Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci topped the list, with high public sales over the past decade, led by the latter’s $450.3 million “Salvator Mundi,” but the conspiracy only developed in the context of legal disputes and the picture disappeared from public view.

According to Sotheby’s, Rubens’ Salome panel was probably made for a Spanish patron and was recorded in the Spanish royal archives during the second half of the 17th century, although little is known. about this committee.

In the Bible, Salome is a young woman who claims the head of Saint John the Baptist after he was executed for condemning her mother’s unlawful marriage to Herod Antipas. In Rubens’ gruesome scene, Salome glows in red and gold as she is presented with a preacher’s head, his mouth squeaking over a plate and his body sprawled below.

“Rubens’ depiction of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist … is a work in which the still young artist fearfully explores the violent and sexual dynamics of the biblical story like it some pre-cinema Martin Scorsese,” Christiansen said.

Elsewhere in the collection, other prominent biblical female figures will be noticed. Gentileschi’s voluptuous portrait “Penitent Saint Mary Magdalene” is estimated to sell for up to $6 million, while Guilio Cesare Procaccini’s “Judith and Holofernes,” by Guilio Cesare Procaccini, can fetch $1.5 million. depicts another famous beheading scene – this time of widow Judith with the head of war tyrant Holofernes.

Paintings from the Fisch Davidson collection will travel to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London this fall before an exhibition in New York shortly before the sale.

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