Christie’s has announced a Rubens portrait for its July Old Master sales that has compelling story having once been demoted in its attribution, de-accessioned by the Met museum in New York, and, finally, cleaned and had the attribution restored. First let’s hear from Christie’s press team, then we’ll let the Financial Times give us some of the back story:
Christie’s will offer Portrait of Clara Serena, the Artist’s Daughter by Peter Paul Rubens in the LondonOld Masters Evening Sale on 5 July, during Classic Week (estimate: £3-5 million). Never intended for public display, this seminal work offers a rare glimpse into the private life of the greatest artist of the Northern Baroque. The portrait is on public view in New York until 5 May, later going on view in Hong Kong from 24 to 28 May, before being exhibited in London in the lead up to the sale.
Henry Pettifer, Head of Old Master Paintings, Christie’s London:“Rubens’ paintings of his family members, freer and bolder than those of his wealthy clientele, count amongst his greatest achievements in portraiture. This spontaneous likeness of Clara Serena, his only daughter with his wife Isabella Brant, painted around the time of her untimely death at the age of twelve, is extraordinary for its intimacy and timeless appeal. Its appearance on the market this summer comes after the picture has featured in recent high profile exhibitions at the Rubenshuis in Antwerp and the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, and it is the first major work by Rubens to appear at Christie’s in London since the record breaking sale of Lot and his Daughters in July 2016”.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times has the market history of the work since it was de-accessioned by the Met:
Based on a reassessment of the work in the 1940s by the art historian Julius Held, the Met had assumed the painting was by a “follower of Rubens”, and put it up for sale in 2013 with an auction estimate of $20,000-$30,000 to raise money for new acquisitions. Competitive bidding in the sale drove the price up to $626,500 — an indication the buyer may have suspected it was a much more valuable work by Rubens himself. Christie’s declined to identify the current owner, who wished to remain anonymous. After the buyer had the painting cleaned — involving the removal of layers of dirt and green overpaint — scholars re-inspected the work and were convinced it was by Rubens. It was exhibited as such at the Rubens House museum in Antwerp in 2015 and appeared at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh in November last year.
Rubens painting that fooled the Met goes up for sale (Financial Times)