Early Portraits by Picasso & Rembrandt Lead Swann Prints Auction

118-Rembrandt.jpgNew York — Swann Galleries’ offering of Old Master Through Modern Prints on Tuesday, May 8 forms a comprehensive survey of Western art history and the development of the modern style. More than 500 rare and superlative multiples are expected to garner nearly $4M.  

Leading the auction is a drypoint executed by Pablo Picasso at just 24 years old. Tête de femme, de profil, 1905, dates to the artist’s Rose (or Circus) Period. Works from this era are mostly candid representations of the lives and private moments of acrobats and gypsies near his home in Montmartre. Early proof impressions such as the current work, typically signed by the artist, are exceedingly scarce; the print is valued at $80,000 to $120,000. Picasso is represented in the sale with expressive works across a variety of printmaking techniques, as well as ceramics.

A gift from Henri Matisse to a favorite model, Nadia Sednaoui, will also be available. The evocative Grand Masque, 1948, is a stylized portrait of the young woman, who had been introduced to the artist by his son-in-law who saw her in the street. Signed and inscribed, the scarce aquatint is expected to sell between $50,000 and $80,000.

The offering is distinguished by a rich selection of works from the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries by artists popular with wealthy Europeans on their Grand Tours. The complete Le Antichitá Romane, 1756-84, by Giovanni B. Piranesi required eight years of study and established his reputation as an authority of Roman archaeology and architecture. Spanning four volumes and 220 engravings, the set documents, in exacting detail, ancient Roman art and architecture ($40,000 to $60,000). Stunning vistas of Venice, real and imagined, by Antonio da Canal, better known as Il Canaletto, were another favorite of the Grand Tourers. The Portico with the Lantern, circa 1740, blends vernacular architecture with classical motifs, as does the unusual combined sheet House with the Inscription and the House with the Peristyle (Imaginary View of Venice), circa 1740 ($6,000 to $9,000 and $4,000 to $6,000, respectively).

Nearly a century later, Francisco de Goya focused on lithographs depicting the pastimes of his native Spain. Dibersion de España, 1825, a tense scene from the scarce portfolio The Bulls of Bordeaux, was completed when Goya was 85 years old; it is estimated at $60,000 to $90,000. Equally dramatic is Eugène Delacroix’s 1829-30 portrait of a Tigre Royal about to pounce ($30,000 to $40,000).

St. Eustace, circa 1501, is an important early engraving by Albrecht Dürer of the saint in a menagerie. The work offered was previously in the collection of Pierre Mariette family of influential collectors, dated “1666” in the margin—the year it was acquired by the family. The early printing, before damage to the saint’s arm, carries an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. Additional works by the master include The Virgin and Child with Distaff and an Angel, circa 1615, and St. George on Foot, circa 1502 ($25,000 to $35,000 and $12,000 to $18,000, respectively).

Four of Rembrandt van Rijn’s eight obtainable early self-portraits make for an unparalleled overview of the master’s career. His circa 1630 ventures into printmaking display a markedly different style than that exhibited just ten years later. The rarest of the four, Self Portrait in a Cap, Laughing, carries an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. Similarly intimate is Self Portrait Open Mouthed, as if Shouting: Bust, with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. The dignified and staid Self Portrait with Curly Hair and White Collar: Bust and Self Portrait in a Fur Cap: Bust are each valued between $20,000 and $30,000.

The complete catalogue with bidding information is available at www.swanngalleries.com.

Image: Lot 118: Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait in a Cap, Laughing, etching, 1630. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.

Auction Guide