Flash News: Cimabue discovery – Zao Wou Ki and Sanyu masterpieces – A major de Staël to be offered

[04 Oct 2019]

Extraordinary Cimabue discovery…

Proud as the century in which he lived, he (Cimabue) perfectly depicted the faces of the people that populate his works, especially those of the elderly, portraying them in a strong and sublime manner that later artists were unable to capture”. (L. Lanzi, Storia pittorica della Italia).

CIMABUE (c.1240/50-c.1302) on sale at an auction… on average this only happens once every 20 years. The Italian artist who taught and greatly influenced Giotto has resurfaced with a small work depicting Christ Mocked (Le Christ moqué), a tempera painting with a gold background on a poplar panel that will be offered for sale by the Actéon auction house (Senlis, Oise, France) on 27 October 2019. After in-depth examination, Eric Turquin’s team of art experts – who authenticated the famous Judith and Holofernes attributed to Caravaggio – decided that the 25.8 x 20.3 cm panel, discovered during the sale of a house in Compiegne near Paris, is an original work by Cenni di Pepo (aka Cimabue) who was active in the latter half of the 13th century. According to biographer Luciano Bellosi, Cimabue was “the most influential painter in central Italy before Giotto”. The panel has been identified as the original counterpart of two other panels: The Flagellation of Christ in the Frick Collection in New York since 1950 and The Madonna and Child at the National Gallery in London.

The newly discovered work is being offered with an estimate of 4 to 6 million euros. If the bidding matches the work’s importance and rarity, it could be the first successful sale of a Cimabue work for a very long time. The last attempt dates back to 2000 when the above-mentioned Madonna and child (surrounded by two angels) of exactly the same dimensions was bought in at Sotheby’s in London and eventually purchased by Britain’s National Gallery. According to the research and analyses conducted by the Eric Turquin’s team, the latest discovery was originally presented alongside that National Gallery’s Madonna and Child and the Frick’s Flagellation of Christ.

Zao Wou Ki and Sanyu masterpieces in Hong Kong

Sothebys has published the catalogue for its upcoming sale in Hong Kong: among the 33 lots to go under the hammer on 5 October are four Western works carefully selected to meet the demands of Asian collectors who have already shown their appetite for Bernard Buffet, Georges Matthieu, Wassily Kandinsky and Marc Chagall. But the two star lots of the sale are the Sino-French artists Sanyu and Zao Wou Ki whose cultural references straddled both East and West. Dated 21 April 1959, a powerful abstract work by ZAO Wou-Ki should fetch over 10 million dollars. His best paintings enjoy very strong demand and Hong Kong is the best city in the world for this type of work. Sothebys hammered the artists global auction record there two years ago with an outstanding 10-metre triptych that fetched $65.2 million.

SAN Yu’s Nude (Nu, 122.5 x 135 cm) is a superb solid yellow and black composition on the fringes of abstraction. It has belonged to several French collectors before being offered in Hong Kong where the price inflation on works by this emblematic Modernist artist has been the strongest. The city has already hammered four results above the $10 million threshold for Sanyu, two at Christies and two at Sothebys but such a splendid ‘nude’ has never offered. Its estimate has not yet been disclosed. We will have to wait until 5 October to find out.

A major de Staël to be offered in Paris

The work has all the qualities to set a new record for Nicolas DE STAËL… footballers painted with the energy of an abstract composition, typical of his best works from the early 1950sexcellent provenance, the work having been transmitted to the current owners by the artist’s descendants… exceptional museum-worthy dimensions (201 x 351.5 cm). Many will have seen the work at the artist’s last major retrospectives at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Pierre Gianadda Foundation in Switzerland (2003 and 2010 respectively).

Parc des Princes (Les grands footballeurs) is one of the most anticipated works of the new auction season. Carrying an estimate of $20 $28 million, it is expected to double De Staëls current record of $12.1 million hammered a year and a half ago for a 1953 Nu Debout at Christie’s New York. The renewal of de Staël’s record is therefore expected in Paris and the work is clearly the star lot in Christie’s Paris Avant-Garde sale on 17 October.