Caravaggio’s Painting Leads Christie’s Auction of Old Masters Art

Theodoor Rombouts (Antwerp 1597-1637), A Merry Company, oil on canvas 94 x 671⁄8 in. Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Image courtesy Christie's

Theodoor Rombouts (Antwerp 1597-1637), A Merry Company, oil on canvas 94 x 671⁄8 in. Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Old Masters. Image courtesy Christie’s


Old Masters Week at Christie’s in New York sets the tone for 2015 art auction season

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Milan or Caravaggio 1571-1610 Porto Ercole) Boy Peeling a Fruit, oil on canvas 253⁄4 x 207⁄8 in. (65.4 x 52.9 cm.) Estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000. Old Masters. Image courtesy of Christie’s

NEW YORK– Boy Peeling a Fruit, one of   Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s earliest known work, will be the main feature at Christie’s Old Masters Week at New York in January 2015. The series of five auctions is dedicated to the arts and artists of the 13th through 19th century, including Caravaggio, Bronzino, Canaletto, Rombouts, and Rubens. The art auction which runs from January 27-29, 2015 has a long list of outstanding works by famous Renaissance, Baroque old masters artists, chiefly of which is Caravaggio’s Boy Peeling a Fruit

Estimated at $3,000,000-5,000,000, Boy Peeling a Fruit was painted just after Caravaggio arrived in Rome in 1591. This hallmark painting revolutionized the art world and established Caravaggio as one of the most innovative and recognizable artists in history. This painting which laid the foundation for Caravaggio’s artistic excellence is deceptively simple. It features a young boy, sitting at a table peeling a Seville or Bergamot orange that he has selected from a bunch of fruit and shafts of wheat laid out before him. Apparently painted from life, the piece bears the trademark of the artist that brought him to the forefront of his artistic career.

Using a dramatic chiaroscuro composition, Caravaggio directs our focus to the boy who seem to be enjoying his moment in the light peeling lusciously rendered oranges. Caravaggio’s dramatic chiaroscuro style became a major influence for many generation of artists and painters. From Giuseppe Ribera, Artemisia Gentileschi and Gerard van Honthorst to contemporary artists such as Frank Stella, Cindy Sherman and Vik Muniz, Caravaggio’s influences are dominant.

The appearance of Caravaggio’s Boy Peeling a Fruit has be described as a miracle by art collectors. According to Christie’s “works by Caravaggio are extraordinarily rare to the market and this painting was last on the auction block in 1976 in London.” In addition to the revolutionary nature of the painting, what is getting many art collectors excited about the painting is its provenance. In the late 18th century, the painting belonged to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Additionally, Boy Peeling a Fruit has significant exhibition history. In 1985 it was included in the definitive show The Age of Caravaggio at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Naples’ Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte. In 2001, Boy Peeling a Fruit featured prominently in The Genius of Rome exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and Rome’s Palazzo Venezia.

Although Caravaggio’s Boy Peeling a Fruit has taken the spotlight of the Christie’s Old Masters Week in New York, the three day art auction is filled with exceptional works of art. The art sale begins January 27 with The Abbott-Guggenheim Collection: A New York Kunstkammer, featuring a renowned collection of 120 lots of Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, clocks and works of art. It will be followed on January 28 by Old Master Paintings: Part I. This auction of Italian Baroque art will include Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s Boy Peeling a Fruit, Annibale Carracci’s The Madonna at prayer estimated at $800,000-1,200,000, as well as Guido Reni’s The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia estimated at $1,200,000-1,800,000. Also included in this section of the art auction is Carlo Maratti’s Tobias and the Angel estimated at $800,000-1,200,000, and new discovery by Matthias Stomer’s The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew estimated at $400,000-600,000.

January 29, has been reserved for Old Master and British Drawings. It will feature exceptional works by some of the greatest draughtsmen in European art, such as Cavaliere d’Arpino, Peter Paul Rubens, Anton Möller, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Frans van Mieris, Canaletto, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Jacques-Louis David and Johann Heinrich Füssli. Many of the major work in the art sale are from a private collection, and some have not been on the art market in decades.

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Dedicated to the arts and artist of 13th through 19th century, including Caravaggio, Bronzino, Canaletto, Rombouts, Rubens, Christie’s Old Masters Week is bound to be one of the major art auctions of 2015. T presentation of the works by these celebrated old master is a source of pride at Christie’s.   Nicholas H.J. Hall, Co-Chairman, Old Master & 19th Century Art at Christie’s auction house captures the emotions succinctly: “We are proud to be bringing to market a remarkable group of Old Master paintings spanning four centuries of artistic achievement. For the third successive year we will be presenting the popular Renaissance sale, which will include manuscripts, sculpture as well as paintings.” Although the auction of works by the old masters will be happening at the beginning of the 2015, there is no doubt that it will set the standard for the rest of the year. There are high hopes that the works will make record art auction prices, realizing in the excess of $60 million.

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