Old Masters Today #3

A monthly column featuring mostly lowbrow auction highlights and essential Old Masters news and events.


Dosso Dossi, c. 1486-1542, The Trojans building the Temple to Venus at Eryx and making offerings at Anchises’ grave, 1520, 59 x 85 cm, Christie’s.

Originally commissioned by Alfonso I d’Este (1476-1534), this panel (right) was sold at Christie’s and has an absolutely illustrious provenance worth a click to the lot description. The frieze corresponds to a painting at the National Gallery of Art (left) and the canvas was one of ten paintings portraying scenes from the Aeneid commissioned by Alfonso d’Este for his Camerino d’Alabastro in Castello Estense. Thankfully, it was acquired by the NGA and reunited with its counterpart.

Price realized USD 400,000—Estimate: $400,000-600,000 .

Roman School, Eight Scenes from the Life of Christ, Circa 1275-1300, 55 x 79 cm, Christie’s.

From the Alana Collection (see the Jacquemart-André exh from 2019), this is a rare surviving example of a work of this caliber from this period and was thankfully bought by MFA Boston.

Price realized USD 1,470,000—Estimate USD 1,500,000 – USD 2,500,000.

Master of the Paris Bartholomeus Anglicus (active 1430-1450), Book of Hours, use of Paris, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Anjou or Le Mans, c.1440s], 20.8 x 15.0 cm, Christie’s.

A Book of Hours realized by an artist at the court of Anjou. It’s meticulously preserved and stunning, but where are my medieval animals at?? 

Price realized USD 3,630,000—Estimate USD 1,500,000 – USD 2,500,000.

Possibly by or After Gerard Van Opstal (1594/97-1668), Franco-Flemish, Late 17th / Early 18th Century, An Ebony-Inlaid Boxwood Frame, Christie’s.

This Frame.



Price Realized USD 68,750— Estimate USD 5,000 – 8,000.

Assemblage of objects pertaining to the occult and witchcraft, 17th to 20th century, Sotheby’s.

For all you DecArts lovers out there, enjoy this outrageously overpriced witchbox: I HIGHLY recommend clicking this link to view the full lot description but highlights include:

A wood baton with a carved grotesque mask finial mounted with bone; A preserved crows head with beak; A silver-metal pendant and chain, the pendant cast with a dragon and verso engraved with a star motif and the word SATAN; A small hand-stitched cloth ‘Voodoo’ doll, fixed to a board, with nails and pins, in linen bag; A cut length of plaited hair; A pressed metal ‘claw’ spangle; A miniature Venetian glass goblet, from a dolls house; and A black scrying mirror in fold-over leather case.

Price Realized 20,160 GBP — Estimate 4,000 – 6,000 GBP.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), Académie masculine, Red chalk with heightening in white, 56 x 42,5 cm, Actéon.

Finally a bonus lot: I forgot to include this last month but a Bernini drawing set a record for the artist back in March at Actéon, going for €1.9 million. Initially catalogued as French School, 17th century, it was reattributed by Ann Sutherland Harris to Bernini.


German, possibly 13th century, A Bronze Aquamanile. 17.1 x 22.9 cm, Christie’s

If you are a self-respecting millennial, you know that porróns are SO IN right now (although who knows why / this is why I can’t wear white linen shirts). If you can’t get to Little Spain in the soulless concrete complex from Dank Lloyd Wright‘s fevered nightmare (otherwise known as Hudson Yards), why not S P L U R G E on the OG porrón, aka an aquamanile?

Price realized USD 112,500— Estimate USD 12,000 – USD 18,000.

A Pair Of Fossil Crabs, Harpactocarcinus punctulatus, Eocene, Monte Bolca, Vicenza, Italy, 23 x 12 x 18 cm, Sotheby’s.

Who cares about Palissy when ~nature~ does it better? Cute, just in time for soft shell crab season.

Price realized 2,016 USD— Estimate 3,000 – 5,000 USD.

Attributed To Severo Da Ravenna (Florence, circa 1496-1543), An Oil Lamp In The Form Of A Kneeling Figure, First Half 16th Century, Christie’s. 

So hear me out: if you think about it, the largest Ciré Trudon candle is $750 so you could buy ten of those and let the wax settle into your lungs (thanks NYT for ruining my only pandemic pleasure), or you could just buy this oil lamp and straight up burn some whale oil. The flames comes out of his feet, I think.

Price Realized USD 7,500— Estimate USD 1,500 – USD 2,500.

A silver-plated rattle and a gold-plated bouquet-holder, 16 and 15 cm, Artcurial.

It seems like everyone’s having kids and for the price of a “fair-trade organic cotton baby blanket featuring a minimalist but tasteful patchwork pattern,” you might as well get them this rattle—the bouquet holder is gratuitous and could probably double as a string cheese holder.

Price Realized 390 €— Estimate 100 – 150 €.

Huanghuali Folding Horseshoe-Back Armchair, Jiaoyi, Late Ming-Early Qing Dynasty, 17th Century, Christie’s

Finally, summer is here and I’ve been shopping for cute folding chairs to bring to parks/beaches. But nothing will flex more than this very rare Ming Dynasty chair.

Very few examples of folding horseshoe-back armchairs survive and this design is inspired by early Han Dynasty huchangs

Estimate: HKD 8,000,000 – HKD 12,000,000 (USD 1,030,098.40- 1,545,147.60).


May 14-28: Old Masters Spotlight at the IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair

May 20-22: Objects of Devotion: Religion and its Instruments in Early Modern Europe

May 21: Dürer 550

May 25-26: (Im)material Michelangelo: Toward a Visual Historiography of Sculpture – Between Reproduction and Art-Historical Enquiry

May 27-29: Paper Religion: Affordances and Uses in Christian Practices 1400 – 1800

June 10-11: The Sensory Experience in 18th Century Art Exhibitions

June 10-11: Early Modern Cultures of Copying

June 14-15: Performing Objects and the Objects of Performance in the Global Early Modern


Lucas Cranach I (Kronach 1472-1553 Weimar), The Resurrection, 1530, Oil On Panel, 54.2 X 38.3, cm, Christie’s.
  • A Lucas Cranach the Elder painting was sold on April 22 at Christie’s as part of a legal settlement between the estate of Eugene V. Thaw and the heirs of Margarete Eisenmann. The Cranach was sold by the Eisenmann family under duress as payment of an antisemitic WWII tax system known as Judenvermögensabgabe.
  • Frescos were discovered in the Uffizi, one depicting Cosimo II de’ Medici and the other of Ferdinando I.
  • A cache of objects found in April 2019 by amateur metal detectorists was declared a national treasure.

The Uffizi is minting masterpieces as NFTs, starting with Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (1505-06). Is it a good idea and an easy revenue stream for museums? Maybe not

Some New Acquisitions:

This week’s coda: 

We’re coming up on the tragic anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent explosion of protests. Additionally, the last few months have been tough for me as an art historian of Asian descent, having been a target of a hate crime here in New York and seeing both the outpour of support and simultaneous dismissal from colleagues and friends in the field. It has ostensibly been a year since museums around the world finally got around to establishing DEIA committees and working on diversifying their staff and collections.

Frieze NY’s tribute to Professor Sarah Lewis’s Vision & Justice Project and the critically lauded Speed Art Museum’s exhibition on the Life of Breonna Taylor, Promise, Witness, and Remembrance, are proof that the art world is listening. But what can we do in Old Masters, a field where the majority of the work lies on reinterpretation rather than new additions? HNA’s piercing statements of solidarity and the astounding four-part conference on “Art Museums and the Legacies of the Dutch Slave Trade,” are certainly important milestones. As the media attention fades away from injustices faced by BIPOC, it’s important to not only continue to push institutions, organizations, and associations to recognize underserved voices and narratives, but also use our platforms to promote allyship rather than reinforce gatekeeping.

DIMES SQUARE X DROUOT (aka. Derp of the Week)

Marine Officer, Coconut, early 19th century, Drouot.



J. Cabelle Ahn is a PhD Candidate in History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University where she specializes in eighteenth-century French graphic arts. Her dissertation is titled “Multiple Exposures: Drawing Exhibitions in Eighteenth-century France,” and her project maps public and private drawing displays from late seventeenth-century Florence to early nineteenth-century Paris. Beyond French drawings and prints, her research interests include early modern culinary history, artistic exchanges between the Netherlands and France, history of the art market, and the impact of the Old Masters in Contemporary Art. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.
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