Abraham and the Angels by Rembrandt.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Sotheby’s, one of the world’s oldest auction houses in continuous operation and one of the largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewellery, real estate and collectibles, is bringing masterpieces by Botticelli and Rembrandt to Dubai for public viewing on Dec. 16.
The event takes place at Level 1, Gate Village Building 3, Dubai International Financial Centre, 10am — 6pm. The highest value paintings will be the first ever to be brought to the Middle East by an auction house.
The two works hold a combined estimate in excess of $100 million and their display in the Emirates takes place ahead of their auction at Sotheby’s New York in January 2021.
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“It is a real thrill to be able to bring to the UAE works by two titans of art history. Exhibiting the highest-estimated Old Masters in Sotheby’s history in the heart of Dubai not only reinforces our longstanding commitment to bringing the best of our worldwide offering to the region, but also the standing of the UAE in the global art scene.
“Both the Botticelli and Rembrandt are exceptionally beautiful to behold, and are immediately elevated by being seen in the flesh; so I look forward to welcoming as many art lovers as we can to the DIFC,” says Katia Nounou Boueiz, Head of Sotheby’s UAE.
It was in Early Renaissance Italy that portraits of notable individuals first came to be considered high art. Florentine master Sandro Botticelli was at the forefront of this transformation, depicting his subjects in the second half of the 15th century with unprecedented directness and insight — decades before Leonardo da Vinci painted his enduring Mona Lisa.
Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. His posthumous reputation suffered until the late 19th century, when he was rediscovered by the Pre-Raphaelites, who stimulated a reappraisal of his work. Since then, his paintings have been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting.
In addition to the mythological subjects for which he is best known today, Botticelli painted a wide range of religious subjects (including dozens of renditions of the Madonna and Child), and also some portraits. His best-known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera, both in the Uffizi in Florence.
He was celebrated in his own time and sought out, from an early age, by the richest of patrons for commissions that only they could afford. But while he created some of the most arresting and penetrating portraits in the history of Western Art, only around a dozen examples have survived today — with almost all of them now residing in major museum collections.
Sotheby’s will offer one of Botticelli’s very finest portraits, Young Man Holding a Roundel, with an estimate in excess of $80 million, which will establish it in art market history as one of the most significant portraits, of any period, ever to appear at auction.
One of the greatest works by Rembrandt at auction is the one measuring just 6 ½ by 8 ⅜ inches (16 x 21cm). Abraham and the Angels is a profoundly beautiful, gemlike painting on panel from 1646 that stands among the finest works Dutch Golden Age master Rembrandt van Rijn ever to come to auction.
The painting last appeared at auction in London in 1848, when it sold for £64, and returns to the block this January with an estimate of $20/30 million.
In both painting and printmaking Rembrandt exhibited a complete knowledge of classical iconography, which he moulded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene, was informed by his knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of the population of Amsterdam. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilisation”.
Of the total 136 biblical paintings he produced, the present work is one of only five remaining in private hands, with the large majority in prominent museum collections.
Among them, only 29 depict Old Testament scenes, with the present panel representing one of only two examples held privately.
In 2018, Sotheby’s unveiled a rare oil sketch portrait by Rembrandt in Dubai, which was acquired on behalf of the Louvre Abu Dhabi for their permanent collection.
Located in the heart of the DIFC, Sotheby’s Dubai presents an ever-evolving programme of year-round events, including selling and non-selling exhibitions, events and talks, watches and jewellery valuations — reflecting the spectrum of its international sales and client services.
The auction house has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744.
It became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012).
Today it has a global network of 80 offices in 40 countries and presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris.
Sotheby’s also offers collectors the resources of Sotheby’s Financial Services, the world’s only full-service art financing company, as well as the collection, artist, estate & foundation advisory services of its subsidiary, Art Agency, Partners.
Sotheby’s also presents private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby’s Global Fine Art Division, and three retail businesses, including Sotheby’s Diamonds and Sotheby’s Home, the online marketplace for interior design.
In line with the UAE’s cultural mission, the selection will promote artists from the Emirates and beyond to a new generation of art lovers around the world.
With Jafri’s most recent painting selling for a record-breaking USD$62 million, the mission aims to raise as much money as possible in aid of the some of the main concerns of the world - Health, Education, Sustainability and Equality.
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