Divine Brushstrokes | The Timeless Appeal of Religious Art

Divine Brushstrokes | The Timeless Appeal of Religious Art

Ahead of our 26 September Old Master, British and European Art sale, we explore the appeal of old masterpieces, from tender religious depictions to emotionally charged portrayals of Christ's life, which continues to captivate art enthusiasts and collectors, bridging the gap between tradition and innovation in the art world.

15 September 2023

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People's flaming passion for old masters never fades with the waves of new art forms and movements, as proven by both the crowds flocking to museums for their old master exhibitions and the record prices these pieces fetch in auction houses. Among the luxuriously dressed and finely jewelled portraits, the fabulous landscapes, detailed still life, and the exciting maritime art featured in this sale, there are several touching religious pieces. These range from triumphant angels on golden panels to the Madonna and Child, inspired by Raphael's Sistine Madonna.  

‘Madonna and Child’ is indeed a popular motif. Despite looking quite similar at first glance, these artworks can often have subtle symbolism and provide tender depictions of a mother and her child. In this sale, two pieces must have caught the eyes of the collectors: one after Raphael’s remarkable Sistine Madonna, however in a 19th-century gilt gesso frame with Gothic cinquefoil spandrels, which gives her a subtle blend between portrait and altar-shrine setting; the other ‘Madonna and Child with infant St John and angels’ executed in pen and ink and attributed to the circle of Girolamo Genga (Italian, c.1476-1551). In this piece, Virgin Mary appears very motherly, intervening between the two infants, which makes this piece particularly amusing and playful. Madonna art, despite the necessity to include standard iconographical symbols and being depicted in preferable manners or after great masters, never ceases to amaze the viewers with little surprising details.  

 

Manner of Simon Vouet The Lamentation over the Dead Christ oil on canvas 46 x 35.5cm (£250-350)

Manner of Simon Vouet The Lamentation over the Dead Christ oil on canvas 46 x 35.5cm (£250-350)

 

Various pieces depicting Christ and his life stories, included in this sale, emphasise the core of old master’s religious paintings and drawings: the well-known motifs with distinguishing individual touches: Crucifixion (Lot 2) and Entombment (Lot 31) are both exquisite examples. The former in red chalk, which shows the artist’s logic of planning and posing on the back, is so bombarded with emotions that only the halo can remind the viewers he is the suffering divinity. The latter, created in the manner of the French painter Simon Vouet, is richer in narrative and more dramatic. Once again, the old masters showcase their finely trained techniques with creativity in their religious storytelling. 

Worth mentioning, several paintings of female saints, varying in scale, lead us to imagine how they were once viewed. Commissioned and finished during the heyday of personal portraits, the two panels of St. Catherine and St. Dorothea as well as the oil painting of Mary Magdalene captured the subtleness, beauty and unusual status of the subjects, saints. By fusing contemporary elements with the iconographic attributes, the artists successfully maintained a delicate distance between the saints viewed and the viewers, fostering both veneration and emotional connection.  

 

Attributed to Lelio Orsi da Novellara (Italian, 1511-1587) Christ on the Cross; verso, Christ's head and right arm stamped with collector's stamp l.r., red chalk, octagonal 18 x 15cm, unframed (£1,000-1,500)

Attributed to Lelio Orsi da Novellara (Italian, 1511-1587) Christ on the Cross; verso, Christ's head and right arm stamped with collector's stamp l.r., red chalk, octagonal 18 x 15cm, unframed (£1,000-1,500)

 


 

Old Master, British & European Art
Tuesday 26 September | 10am

pictures@sworder.co.uk | 01279 817778

 

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