Rediscovered Old Masters highlight auctions at Koller Zurich

One of the most captivating works in the Old Master Paintings auction at Koller Zurich was also an interesting discovery: a oil study of the head of a monk, recently identified as the model for a work by Peter Paul Rubens. Representing the head of Saint Dominic in Rubens` 1618 altarpiece “Saints Dominic and Francis Saving the World from Christ’s Anger”, today in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, the painting on panel is striking in its use of minimal brushstrokes and highlighting to create a fascinating portrait which still, after four centuries, appears distinctly modern. It sold to a private collector, following spirited bidding, for CHF 336,000.

Another recently discovered 17th-century Flemish work also inspired strong bidding. A small-format oil painting depicting the Visitation, it was spotted by Koller’s specialists in a private collection and identified as the work of Antwerp artist Simon de Vos. Further research also revealed that the composition is identical to an altarpiece which has stood for almost four hundred years in St James’s church in Antwerp, and had long been attributed to Victor Wolfvoet. This startling art historical revelation tripled its pre-sale estimate, selling for CHF 30,000.

Other highlights among the Old Masters include a winter landscape by Joos de Momper and Pieter Brueghel the Elder which fetched CHF 144,000, and a mid- 16th century depiction of the Temptation of Saint Anthony by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch, which sold for CHF 204,000. A print by Martin Schongauer on the same theme from circa 1469-73 doubled its estimate in the Old Master Prints auction to sell at CHF 58,000.

Among the 19th Century works on sale, an arctic landscape by Russian painter Ivan Federovic Choultsé is particularly interesting, as it was painted from the sketches he made while on an expedition to Spitsbergen in 1907/08. Choultsé painted a dozen paintings following this expedition, some of which were used as diorama backdrops for the Alexander Koenig Natural History Museum in Bonn. This view of a glacier has now entered a private Russian collection for CHF 120,000. The 19th Century Paintings auction was led by a still life of apples by Gustave Courbet with an impressive provenance, which sold for more than five times its estimate at CHF 138,000. A plein-air view of the Maas at Dordrecht by Eugène Boudin also exceeded its pre-sale estimate, selling at CHF 118,000.