Bonham’s and Christie’s auctions in Paris

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18/4/23 - Art market - Paris - Alexander the Great faced without trembling the elephant army of Porus, rajah of the Pauravas kingdom. The battle took place on the banks of the Hydaspe in 326 BC. The Macedonian king was victorious, but he left Porus on his throne and allied himself with him. Among the works to be auctioned by Bonhams on 19 April is a large painting that may depict this victory (ill. 1). The work is attributed to Carle Van Loo by Christophe Henry, who will add it to the catalogue raisonné of the artist currently in preparation. Alessia Rizzo considers that it is more likely to be a studio work.
As Stefania Lumetta, Bonhams’ expert on early paintings, recalls, Carle Van Loo painted this subject for the Palacio de La Granja, which was then being fitted out by Filippo Juvarra. It was planned to decorate what was called the Salon de las Empresas del Rey with a cycle of large paintings depicting scenes from the life of Alexander, whose virtues - piety, continence, clemency, liberality... - obviously echoed those of Philip V. Several artists were commissioned for this ensemble, Sebastiano Conca for example painted Alexander in the Temple of Jerusalem, Donato Creti Alexander giving up Campaspe to Apelles or Francesco Trevisani The Family of Darius.

1. Circle of Charles-Andre, called Carle Van Loo (1705-1765)
Battle scene, probably Alexander and Porus
Oil on canvas - 199 x 315 cm
Bonhams Cornette de Saint-Cyr sale, Paris, 19 April 2023
Photo: Bonhams
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Van Loo was thus commissioned to paint Victory of Alexander over Porus evoking the Macedonian’s temperance. A first painting was exhibited in 1738, poorly received by the critics, in which an elephant could be seen, absent from the painting sold by Bonhams. A second version was exhibited in 1739 and delivered to Juvarra; it is now known from a sketch in the Musée des beaux-arts de Marseille. The LACMA also has an oil study quite similar to this one. The Bonhams painting may be an intermediate composition related to the La Granja commission. In any case, its dimensions are comparable to those of the other works in the cycle. The distribution of the figures - Alexander on horseback on the left, Porus on the right, who has fallen to the ground and is carried by his family - corresponds to that of the two sketches.

2 Peter Reinicke (1711-1768) after drawings by Christophe Huet (1700-1759) made in 1753
Les Cris de Paris, c. 1755
Meissen porcelain - H. 14 or 15 cm
Bonhams Cornette de Saint-Cyr sale, Paris, 19 April 2023
Photo: Bonhams
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Among the other pieces in the sale, twenty-one Meissen porcelain figures embody the "Cris de Paris" (ill. 2); they were modelled around 1755 by Peter Reinicke after drawings by Christophe Huet traced in 1753. It is rare to have such a set and it is fortunate that it was not dispersed, but sold as a whole. As Nette Megens, head of the European ceramics department at Bonhams, points out, one of the figures seems to stand out from the others in terms of its expression and its slightly smaller size, namely the graceful Seller of Lemons; the one holding a fowl is also later, made after 1760. Christophe Huet thus drew up some thirty original designs for the Meissen factory, which he annotated to better guide the modeller.
The theme of the "Cris de Paris" inspired a number of artists, Bouchardon in particular describing the small trades while avoiding the temptation of the picturesque as well as the mocking tone, in a series drawn in 1737 and published between 1737 and 1746, engraved in etching by Caylus. François Boucher also designed a series of twelve compositions, published by Huquier.

3. Manufacture des Gobelins, weaving around 1757-1764
Workshop of Michel Audran and Pierre François Cozette
Hanging of the Story of Don Quixote after Charles Antoine Coypel (1694-1752)
The False Princess Micomicon asking Don Quixote to put her back on the throne
Don Quixote knighted by the innkeeper
Wool and silk - 361,5 x x 283 cm and 361 x 275 cm
Bonhams Cornette de Saint-Cyr sale, Paris, 19 April 2023
Photo : Bonhams
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Finally, let us mention two tapestries from the famous Don Quixote hanging woven from cartoons by Charles-Antoine Coypel (ill. 3). They had already been offered by Bonhams in London in July 2022 (see new item of 6/7/22) but France is probably a better place to sell them. The hanging was woven several times and the two pieces offered are from the sixth version. The Mobilier national had pre-empted in 2020 another tapestry belonging to this same hanging (see news item of 11/6/20).

4. Set of four tapestries with children in the garden
after the drawings of Charles Le Brun (1619-1690)
Manufacture royale des Gobelins, early 18th century
In wool and silk, depicting : Winter; Summer; a fragment of the right part of the Great Spring Room and Spring
Winter: 312 x 255 cm; Summer: 311 x 254 cm
Fragment of the Large Spring Room: 329 x 163 cm
Spring: 310 x 306 cm
Christie’s Paris, live sale until 20 April 2023
Photo: Christie’s
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At Christie’s it is not the setbacks of Don Quixote, but the charms of the seasons embodied by children that have passed over the looms. The sale is online, but the works can be seen on Avenue Matignon in Paris. Four tapestries belong to the Children in the Garden hanging made from drawings by Charles Le Brun at the Gobelins factory (ill. 4). The latter is itself derived from another hanging devoted to the Seasons, which included inter-windows for which Charles Le Brun depicted winged Lovers enjoying gardening and gathering. They were taken up again to form an independent ensemble, in which they lost their wings and became child gardeners.
A total of eight hangings were woven, some of which can be seen in the Mobilier National. The first two, made for Colbert and bought by Louis XIV in 1685, were offered to the Muscovy ambassadors. The first sets consisted of six pieces each: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, as well as the large Spring piece and the small Autumn piece. The next sets consisted of five pieces, made from 1717 onwards with new models by Mathieu, Yvart, Chastelain, Fontenay and Desportes, whose animals can be recognised.

5. Manufacture de Sèvres, c. 1777
Hard porcelain - H. 35 and 34 cm
Christie’s Paris, live sale until 20 April 2023
Photo : Christie’s
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Christie’s also offers two large white and gold Sèvres vases (ill. 5). The Vase du Roy model was created in 1774 for the accession to the throne of Louis XVI. Its form is inspired by an engraving taken from the collection Collection de vases inventés et dessinés par M. de Fontanieu published in 1770, Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu being intendant and controller general of the furniture of the crown. The king bought the first copy of this vase in 1775, others were acquired by his entourage or offered as gifts. This pair probably corresponds to the one offered by Louis XVI to Joseph II, Emperor of Austria in May 1777.

6. Jean-Baptiste Sené (1748-1803)
Bergère, 1791
Moulded, carved and cream lacquered beech - 93 x 69 cm
Christie’s Paris, live sale until 20 April 2023
Photo: Christie’s
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Among the furniture pieces, the pair of commodes by Pierre Roussel had already passed at Christie’s in 2017. Roussel belonged to a dynasty of cabinet-makers on which a book published by Faton (see article) focuses. He was renowned for his flower marquetry, the naturalistic rendering of which is due to the use of engraving and stained wood that allowed for the play of colours.
A shepherdess stands out for the quality of her sculpture (ill. 6). Its patron was none other than Madame Elisabeth, sister of the king. In 1789, Lous XVI was forced to leave Versailles and the royal family moved to the Tuileries Palace. Several chairs that belonged to Marie-Antoinette furnished Madame Elisabeth’s cabinet. After the flight from Varenne in 1791 and the definitive installation of the king in the Tuileries, this furniture was completed by a commission, in particular by two bergères, including this one, known as "en demi tête-à-tête", which was made by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené although it does not bear a stamp. Sené was one of the greatest carpenters of the Louis XVI period, supplier of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne; several of his creations were in the Château de Grignon and were unfortunately dispersed recently (see article)

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