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Editor's choice: the three most interesting portraits at Sotheby's and Christie's

Last week, the “stars” of sales of works by old masters, who conducted two of the world's leading auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's, were the landscape of William Turner and led by Francesco Guardi. However, at the auction were sold other interesting pictures that remained in the shadow of the leaders. The editors of “Arthive” chose three works - Jan Sanders van Hemesen, Anthony van Dyck and Rembrandt Harmens van Rein - with a curious story.

Jan Sanders van Hemessen, "Portrait of Elizabeth, the jokes at the court of Anna of Hungary"

Auction house: Sotheby's
Estimate: £ 400 - 600 thousand ($ 517 - 775 thousand)
Sold out: £ 2.17 million ($ 2.8 million)

The image of an elderly woman in a strange dress suddenly became the subject of interest of collectors. As a result of their battle, the final price of the painting exceeded the preliminary estimate four times. This is somewhat strange, because the description is replete with the words "probably" and "presumably."Portrait of Elizabeth, jokes at the court of Anna HungarianJan Sanders van HemessenStart of the XVI century, 49.4 × 40.4 cm

This intriguing and very unusual portrait of the 16th century probably represents Elizabeth, a joke at the court of Anna of Hungary - the wife of Ferdinand I, Archduke of Austria and then the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The person with a certain probability was identified by the image of "Silly Els" from the collection of the Museum of Art History in Vienna. Despite the striking differences, there are similarities in both portraits. In particular, a strange attribute of the rings, strung on a cord around the neck. Perhaps it was intended to perform some kind of focus.
Left: Unknown Artist, "Stupid Els." Museum of Art History, Vienna

Attribution of the picture has been the subject of many years of controversy. Analysis of tree rings on oak boards showed that the trees were cut down on the east coast of the Baltic Sea in 1507. In 1882, at the exhibition at the British Royal Academy, the work was attributed to Lukas Krakhan, and later to his school. Another alleged author was Fleming Quentin Mussys, known for his predilection for ugly persons (a vivid example is the grotesque Ugly Duchess from the National Gallery in London). Now the most convincing is the version that the portrait belongs to the young Jan Sanders van Hemessen, who in the early years was strongly influenced by Massys.

The dates and places of birth and death of Stupid Els are unknown. It is believed that she came from the people of the Sami (Lop) in the far north of Europe. The letter in her hand indicates that the woman most likely knew how to read. In the published archives of the house of the Habsburgs, references to Elizabeth have not yet been found, and the only confirmation of its existence is this lifetime portrait (the second one, from Vienna, is made from memory). There are only two medieval portraits of female jesters in the world. One more thing - Dura-Jane (Jane The Foole), who served the English king Henry VIII, his wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr, and also the daughter of Mary I.
Left: A fragment of the family portrait of King Henry VIII from the British Royal Assembly; Jane's joke image

Anthony van Dyck, "Portrait of the engraver Jean-Bastista Barbe"

Auction house: Sotheby's
Estimate: £ 200 - 300 thousand ($ 258.5 - 388 thousand)
Sold out: £ 1.6 million ($ 2.1 million)
The final cost of this low-key portrait almost 5.5 times surpassed the most ambitious forecasts of appraisers. Grisaille Grisaille (from the French. Gris - gray) is a type of monochrome painting that appeared in the period of antiquity and is an intermediate link between painting and drawing. Most often for this technique, artists use different shades of gray. Earlier, Grisaille was used to decorate walls, imitating bas reliefs with it. Such paintings decorated buildings of the era of classicism. The desired volume was created using light and shadow. Over time, grisaille became part of easel painting, that is, created on an easel, and the range of colors has expanded significantly. Today, this method of obtaining images can be used as an independent form of painting. Read further is included in the series of “Iconographies” - a set of paintings and drawings intended for translation into etchings. Anthony van Dyck created them from the early 1630s until his death in 1641. Most likely, the painter wanted to glorify famous contemporaries - artists, printers, sculptors - and raise their status as people of noble professions. The monochrome technique of grisilee is much better suited for translation into engraving than a full-color picture.Portrait of the engraver Jean-Batista Barbe Anthony van Dijk The beginning of the XVII century, 23.6 × 16.5 cm Jean-Baptiste Barbe (1578 - 1649) was an engraver and publisher from Antwerp. In 1606, he met Rubens in Italy, for whom he later translated into etchings many paintings. Artist Jan Erasmus Quellinus noted that Barbe "had a very ugly face." But the elegant features in the portrait of Van Dyck completely refute these words.

Rembrandt Harmens van Rhine (?), "Portrait of a Bearded Old Man"

Auction house: Christie's
Estimate: on request
Sold out: £ 2.1 million ($ 2.71 million)
This work was documented in the mid-18th century, but disappeared from public view in the 1930s. She was again found in the American private collection by curator of the Washington National Gallery of Art Arthur Wheelock in 2010. Analysis of the color palette, painting techniques, pigments and soil indicated that this is one of the late works of Rembrandt. However, disagreements in the world of scientists about the final attribution still persist, therefore in the catalog Christie's portrait Portrait is a realistic genre depicting a person or a group of people. The portrait - in the French reading - portrait, from the old French portraire - "reproduce something line in line." Another facet of the name of the portrait lies in the outdated word "parsuna" - from the Latin. persona - "person; person". Read more is listed as "attributed" to the Dutchman.Portrait of a bearded old man Rembrandt Harmens van Rein 1661, 70.2 × 58.7 cm In the image there is a fuzzy date “166 [...]". The last figure is either 7, or, according to Wheelock and some of his colleagues, 1. The latest version is confirmed by a comparison with Rembrandt's 1660 self-portrait from the Metropolitan Museum in New York.Self-portraitRembrandt Harmens van Rein1660, 80.3 × 67.3 cm The identity of an elderly person is also unknown. His position and format of the picture testify against the fact that this is an official portrait. A portrait is a realistic genre depicting a person or a group of people in reality. The portrait - in the French reading - portrait, from the old French portraire - "reproduce something line in line." Another facet of the name of the portrait lies in the outdated word "parsuna" - from the Latin. persona - "person; person". Read more . A heavy fur cloak, stuck in a complex metal clasp with two pearls, is a usual trail for Rembrandt, pointing to a character from the Bible or ancient history. Most likely, the old man should not be seen as a real person, but as an allegorical, historical or spiritual figure. Despite all reservations, the description of the “Portrait of a Bearded Old Man” in the pre-sale catalog convinced an unknown buyer to put £ 2.1 million for the picture. Read: us in Telegram and look in InstagramOn the materials of the official sites of auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's