Flash News: El Greco – Pandolfini masterpieces – Da Vinci at the Louvre

[13 Sep 2019]

A major El Greco exhibition

Grand Palais, Paris: 16 October 2019 – 10 February 2020

Spectacular, colorful and sensual, the paintings of El Greco (Domenikos EL GRECO, 1541-1614) represent – according to Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau, curator of Spanish and Portuguese painting at the Louvre Museum – the “final bloom” of the Renaissance. And yet, neither the Louvre nor any other French museum has ever previously organised a ‘retrospective’ for El Greco. Due to open on 16 October, the exhibition at the Grand Palais will host 68 works by an artist considered the last great Renaissance master and the first great painter of the Golden Age. Pride of place will be given to “large monumental paintings, but there will also be smaller more intimate formats, one or two sculptures and two books that belonged to Greco as well as a number of drawings”. The exhibition has received considerable impetus from the Art Institute of Chicago which is keen to show off its restored Assumption, one of the artist’s major paintings that has not returned to Europe since 1906.

Of Cretan origin, El Greco spent time in Italy where he assimilated the influence of Titian in Venice and Michelangelo in Rome, and subsequently settled in Spain in 1577. The expressionist style of his later works – with somewhat stretched figures – earned him a reputation for eccentricity with some, while others recognised him as a genius. Late 19th and early 20th century avant-garde artists, including Picasso, were particularly sensitive to his generous creative freedom and his deliberate anti-naturalism. Indeed, it’s these later works that are the most sought-after and the most expensive on the market. One of them, depicting Saint Dominic in Prayer, fetched the artist’s record at nearly $14 million in 2013 (Sotheby’s London, 3 July 2013). On average, one or two canvases come to auction every year. The latest – Saint James the greater – was estimated $500,000 – $700,000 by Christie’s in October 2018. It sold for $1.6 million which seems a very reasonable price for a work by one of the greatest painters in art history.

Pandolfini masterpieces

A superb sale is being prepared in Milan: on 29 October, the Italian auctioneer, Pandolfini will be offering a number of Impressionist and Modern masterpieces from a splendid private collection. For Pandolfini, this exceptional sale represents a significant step up the art market ladder; active since the early 2000’s, the Milan-based auctioneer has managed to offer increasingly interesting selections. The sale brings together treasures by Pissarro, Monet, Van Gogh… but also Picasso, Picabia and Chagall, sculptures from late 19th to the mid 20th century, and works by 19th century Italian masters, including Zandomeneghi, Segantini and De Nittis.
The catalogue contains two works by Vincent VAN GOGH: Pollard Willow, a work in black chalk on paper executed between 1881 and 1882 and a still-life dated around 1885 (a period in which Van Gogh painted the most important painting of his Dutch period before settling in Paris, the famous Potato Eaters now hanging at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum,). There is also a still life with a bouquet of hyacinths by Paul GAUGUIN (estimated €150,000 – 250,000), a Francis PICABIA painting from 1912 (€150,000 – 250,000), several works by Giacomo BALLA, two works by Wassily KANDINSKY, a Tête de femme by Henri DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (€80,000 – 120,000), a watercolor painting of the Port de Collioure by Henri MATISSE (€30,000 – 50,000). Works by Chagall, Boccioni, Signac and Cézanne complete this exceptional ensemble on show this week in Parma (Fondazione Monteparma until 15 September) before reaching Florence, Rome and Milan where the collection will finally be offered.


Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre

From 24 October 2019 to 24 February 2020

It has taken ten years to prepare the exhibition dedicated to LEONARDO DA VINCI at the Louvre Museum. Among other initiatives, the preparation has involved a scientific examination of the paintings in the Louvre, the restoration of three of them, a re-examination of all the archival documents relating to the artist and a clarification of his biography.

The great genius of the Renaissance was Italian… but he died in France (at Clos Lucé, in 1519). According to the Louvre press dossier, “That is how the Louvre acquired nearly a third of the artist’s works: paintings made in France, bought by Francis I, then kept in the Royal Collections, which probably already had La Vierge aux Rochers and La Belle Ferronnière, acquired by Louis XII. To this extraordinary ensemble – which constitutes the very origin of the Louvre Museum collections – has been added an exceptional collection of twenty-two da Vinci drawings”.

The museum holds 22 drawings and 5 of the 22 paintings attributed to the great master: La Vierge aux Rochers, La Belle Ferronnière, La Vierge, l’Enfant Jésus et Sainte Anne, Saint Jean Baptiste and of course The Mona Lisa, without which the Louvre would not be exactly what it is today. The Parisian museum has managed to unite nearly 120 works (paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculptures, art objects) from prestigious European and American institutions including the Royal Collection, the British Museum, the National Gallery of London, the Vatican Pinacotheque, the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Institut de France. It is still unclear whether Salvator Mundi – the world’s most expensive work ever auctioned – will be included in this major commemorative exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. The loan has apparently been officially requested…

In view of the expected popularity of the exhibition, the Louvre Museum has decided to time-slot its access: “Due to anticipated demand and in order to optimise visitor comfort, our Leonardo da Vinci exhibition (24 October 2019 – 24 February 2020) may only be visited after reservation of a time slot. The access system applies to all visitors, including those with free or unrestricted access to the museum”. And, judging by the nearly 33,500 tickets sold in the first 30 hours online (June 18) – literally saturating the Ticket Louvre website – the Renaissance genius still commands a tremendous power of attraction. The rush will therefore be controlled… as of October 24.