10 Unmissable Masterpieces at TEFAF Maastricht 2017
From Munch to Old Masters, and from a dazzling diamond tiara to a very, very expensive bed.
The 30th edition of the annual TEFAF fair kicked off at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre (MECC) today with a VIP and vernissage viewing. With so much to see—running the gamut from classic and tribal art, to Old Masters, Renaissance, modern, and contemporary paintings—artnet News scoured the aisles where more than 280 dealers from more than 20 countries were exhibiting.
Below, we bring you some of the rarest works on view.
Why It’s Great: As the gallery’s senior researcher Susan Morris explained to artnet News: “This was actually made as a coronation portrait. It was commissioned by Charles’s mother, the formidable Catherine de Medici. Her husband, Henry II, had been killed by an employee in a very embarrassing incident at a tournament. The French Crown was in a very worried state at the time, because it was during the religious wars against Protestantism. It’s a bit like today, where half of the UK is pro-Brexit and the other half pro-Remain. She needed to invest in making this young boy well known to all the diplomats, so she commissioned official portraits from François Clouet, who had been the the court painter for many years.”
Charles was only 11 years old at the time he ascended to the throne, but, as Morris said, “this doesn’t really look like an 11-year old boy. [The portrait is] about royal power and dignity, and stamping an image in the same way that we see portraits of Elizabeth I. They get stuck in your mind. It’s like a logo. It’s a fine example of this kind of court portraiture, and it has wallpower: You can look at it from across the room and it stands out.”
Price: $1.9 million.
Why It’s Great: This is one of the earliest known self-portraits of Chilean master Claudio Bravo, best known for his hyper-realist multimillion-dollar paintings that depict tied and wrapped paper packages. However, in this self-portrait, “you see everything in the technique and style that manifests itself later,” said gallery director Tom Davies. Further, in a booth filled with classic art and an abundance of Old Masters, Bravo’s historical references are even more pronounced. “Looking back at the Old Masters and Italian Renaissance portraiture, the way its cut—this horizontal line at the waist—and he’s holding an egg, which is a symbol that comes from a Pierro della Francesca painting—this is taken very much from classical sources,” said Davies.
Why It’s Great: This little-known painting by Munch depicts an atypical subject in the form of two female nudes, but with Munch’s signature psychological charge and recognizably intense brushstrokes. Having been acquired at auction in 1988, it resided in the same private collection for almost 30 years.
Price: €2.4 million.
4. Artist: Unknown
Title: Four-Poster Bed in Polished Steel.
Year: Late 19th century, probably Italian.
Gallery: Galerie Perrin, Paris
Why It’s Great: The elaborate 19th-century bed, which gallery director Mandy Tutim said is likely Italian, is made of steel, brass, and copper with polish. The press release for the exquisite piece of furniture touts its “rhythmic use and repetition of neoclassical motifs.” Who was it for? “We think it might have been a commission for an important person because you see the luxury of this object,” Tutim explained. “It’s made in the same spirit of furniture for the Napoleonic campaigns—light furniture that was easy to take very quickly to go to another city.”
5. Artist: Max Ernst
Title: Le Grand Génie
Year: 1967, posthumous cast 1988.
Gallery: Galerie Thomas
Why It’s Great: This edition of TEFAF is displaying an unusually high number of works by Max Ernst, pointing to a rise in the market of the Surrealist great. Le Grand Génie stands out not only in terms of scale but of its history. In 1964, the mayor of the French town of Amboise asked the German artist to created a fountain in honor of Leonardo da Vinci, who had died in 1519 at the town’s Chateau Clos Lucé, In 1968, when the fountain was inaugurated, Ernst gifted the fountain to the town, as a token of gratitude for welcoming him to the region when he moved back to Europe from the US in 1954.
The sculpture comes in an edition of 8 + 4 special casts. Other editions are in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Botero Museum in Bogotá, the Lousiana Museum in Denmark, and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich, so the piece certainly has institutional appeal.
Price: In the region of €1 million.
6. Artist: Unknown follower of Hieronimo Custodis
Title: Sir Reginald Mohun, 1st Bart. of Hall and Boconnoc and his wife Dorothy Chudleigh of Asthon, Devon.
Year: circa 1604.
Gallery: The Weiss Gallery, London.
Why It’s Great: “The picture was made by a follower of the artist Hieronimo Custodis, who likely worked in his studio and learned the patterns for painting people and then went out to the west of England where he secured his own commissions,” the gallery’s Catharine Weiss told artnet News. “This painting is also very special in that it is the earliest known record in English portraiture of affection—of a husband holding a wife’s hand. Normally they just stand in the typically stiff style seen in early English portraiture,” she added.
7. Artist: Bartolomeo Bonone
Title: The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Anthony Abbot and Two Angels.
Year: 16th century
Provenance: Private collection.
Why It’s Great: The decorative tondo painting was, not surprisingly, drawing a good deal of buzz during the VIP vernissage today. Observers remarked on its color, luminosity, and the softness in the details. Some even detected a “Zen-like” quality, while still appreciating the facial expressions on the characters—depicting empathy and adoration. Agnews acquired the work at a recent Sotheby’s Old Master auction in New York, where it had a different attribution and drew a final price of $396,500 under the catalogue attribution: “Master of the Madonna del Ponterosso, possibly identifiable as Giovanni di Papino Calderini.” Having cleaned and researched the painting further, it has a new identification at Agnews. “We saw something we loved, and bought it to take to TEFAF,” gallery director Anna Cunningham told artnet News, noting that it was cleaned after it was acquired at auction, and had previously been in a private collection in Madrid.
8. Artist: Unknown
Year: Edwardian era.
Why It’s Great: Well, its provenance is unparalleled, having belonged to Lady Di’s family. Specifically, it was given to Lady Delia Spencer by her father, the 6th earl Spencer on her wedding day in 1914. Besides that, this Edwardian tiara features a whopping 800 cut diamonds, and has an estimated total weight of 48 carats
Why It’s Great: Despite early-career success and prestige, including close friendships with stars Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino, as well as patrons like William Randolph Hearst—all of whom owned his work—Beltran Masses fell into obscurity in later decades, in part because of his decision to manage his commercial career himself, instead of with the help of a dealer.
Much of his work ended up with heirs who were not direct descendants but family members of the artist’s doctor. After several recent well-received exhibitions in London, Guy Stair Sainty told artnet News of sales of work to US and American collectors, as well as members of the Qatari Royal family.
Why does the work resonate with such a wide array of collectors? “There is a slightly erotic element to them. They’re different, and not necessarily easy to categorize or define,” said Stair Sainty.
10. Artist: Pietro Luchini
Title: La Sultana.
Gallery: Robilant + Voena
Why It’s Great: Little is known about the artist except for travels between Bergamo, Milan, and Paris, and eventually to Constantinople, where he spent about a decade. He painted quite a few portraits, including many of soldiers. No one is sure who the particular woman depicted above is, but a gallery representative told artnet News that it is almost certain she was the wife of a Sultan, and not a Westerner posing in period dress, since an expert has recently confirmed that she is in fact wearing lavish and genuine Ottoman jewels. The work was in a private collection before the gallery acquired it at auction.
Price: In the region of €900,000.
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