Rembrandt’s 'Christ Presented to The People' Up for Auction, Alongside Works by Ludovico Carracci and Peter Paul Rubens

Christie’s is going to offer some of the most sought after works in the Old Masters Evening Sale in London this coming July. The sale presents 61 lots, including paintings by Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn, Ludovico Carracci and Peter Paul Rubens.

Christ presented to the people (‘Ecce Homo’) by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

The top lot of the sale is Christ presented to the people (‘Ecce Homo’) by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669), expected to fetch in the region of US$3m-5m. It depicts the New Testament scene in which Pontius Pilate asks the people of Jerusalem to decide whether Jesus or Barabbas should be spared execution. The brutal-looking figure with a moustache and shaved head standing between and just behind the two principal figures is Barabbas, leader of a bloody insurrection. Christ’s humble status as a prisoner is emphasised by the fact that he is roped together with the rebel commander.

Ecce Homo was executed in 1655, at the summit of the Western printmaking tradition. The 38.7 x 44.8 cm painting (with sheet) stands together with The Three Crosses as the largest prints in Rembrandt’s oeuvre. It is printed on a sheet of fine Japan paper, which was extremely rare and expensive in Europe at the time.

Rembrandt’s signature appears at the bottom left of the print

Rembrandt, alongside Dürer, Goya and Picasso, was one of the greatest printmakers in the history of Western art. His printmaking practice peaked in the 1650s when his use of tonal shading, pure drypoint technique and experimentations with exotic papers became increasingly radical. In the course of his career he produced around 300 different prints, ranging from minuscule portraits to large, complex multi-figure scenes.

Portrait of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni

The other two highlights are both portraits. Portrait of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni in armour, three-quarter-length, wearing the Order of the Knights of Malta, the city of Bologna beyond by Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619) carries an estimate of £3.5m-5m (US$4.5m-6.5m).

The portrait depicts Carlo Alberto who is full of command and charisma. He was one of the high ranking members of the family. He fought in battle against the Turks, and was appointed to the Order of the Knights of Malta in 1592.

Portrait of the Tacconi family, circa 1590.

The virtuoso highlights on the armour, together with the splendour of the helmet, the right hand and the expert use of chiaroscuro for his face, create a unique sense of texture and form. Although Ludovico was known to have painted portraits, only a handful have come to light, perhaps the most renowned of which is his Portrait of the Tacconi family, circa 1590.

Portrait of Clara Serena

Estimated at £3m-5m (US$3.9m - 6.5m), Peter Paul Rubens’ (1577-1640) Portrait of Clara Serena depicts the artist's only daughter at the time. Clara Serena died at the age of twelve and a half in the autumn of 1623. The painting was painted during Clara Serena’s infirmity, around the time of her tragic death. Unlike any other portrait by the artist, the picture is painted with the intimacy of his preparatory sketches, while the face is more focused and drawn in greater detail, emitting the psychological complexity of his finished portraits.

Peter Paul Rubens's Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens, painted in circa 1616, shows his five-year-old daughter

The piece is one of the few surviving portraits by the artist of his daughter. When it was gifted to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1960, it was covered with a layer of green overpaint, which prevented accurate analysis of the picture and made the identity of the painter questionable. The painting was deaccessioned by the museum in 2013 and then restored. It was recognised again as an autograph work by Rubens.


Top 3 lots

Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn (1606-1669). Christ presented to the people (‘Ecce Homo’).

Lot no.: 22
Painted in: 1655
Plate 38.2 x 44.7 cm.
Sheet 38.7 x 44.8 cm.

  • Gabriel von Cronstern [II], probably acquired in the 1760s from Pierre Yver in Amsterdam.
  • By descent in the family of the Grafen Plessen-Cronstern, Schleswig-Holstein; their sale, Christie’s, London, Important Old Master Prints from a German Family of Title – Part I, 10 December 1991, lot 54.
  • Samuel Josefowitz (1921-2015), Lausanne; acquired at the above sale.
  • Then by descent to the present owners.  

Estimate on request (in the region of US$3,000,000 - 5,000,000)

Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619). Portrait of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni in armour, three-quarter-length, wearing the Order of the Knights of Malta, the city of Bologna beyond.

Lot no.: 36
Painted in: circa 1597-1600
Size: 102 x 86.2 cm.

  • Conte Luigi Amedeo Rati Opizzoni (1877-1946), Turin, to whom gifted by the city of Bologna (according to family tradition), before 1911, and thence by direct family descent (in New York by 1930), until sold in the following,
  • Anonymous sale [Property from a New York Estate]; Sotheby’s, New York, 27 January 2005, lot 125, when acquired by the present owner.

Estimate: £3,500,000-5,000,000

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Portrait of Clara Serena, the artist's daughter.

Lot no.: 7
Painted in: circa 1620-23
Size: 36.2 x 26.4 cm.

  • (Presumably) In the estate of Jan Brant (1559-1639), the artist’s father-in-law and the sitter’s grandfather, listed ‘In de groote camer aan den hoff’, ‘Twee stucxkens schilderije respective, op panneel, olieverve, in lijste, d'een van Jan Brant, des afflijvigens soontken was, ende d'ander van Clara Serena Rubens, dochterken was des voors. Hr. Rubbens’.
  • (Probably) Guillaume-Jean Constantin (1755-1816), Curator of the painting collection of Empress Josephine at Château de Malmaison; his sale (†), Rue Saint-Lazare no. 52, Paris, 18 November 1816 (=1st day), lot 285, as ‘School of Rubens’, ‘Un portrait de jeune fille bien touché et d'une grande vérité. H. 13 p., l. 10. B. [sur bois]’, sold for 22 francs to,
  • Louis-Antoine (Athanase) Lavallée (1768-1818), Secretary General of the ‘Musée Napoléon’ (Musée du Louvre) and its temporary director.
  • (Possibly) M. Camille Groult (1837-1908), Paris.
  • Sir Robert Henry Edward Abdy, 5th Bt. (1896-1976), Paris.
  • Mrs. Peter Cooper Hewitt (1842-1934), New York; her sale (†), American Art Association-Anderson Galleries, New York, 6 April 1935, lot 613.
  • Frederick R. Bay, New York, by 1936, until at least 1939.
  • Charles Ulrick Bay (1888-1955), New York, by 1942, and by inheritance to his widow,
  • Josephine Bay Paul, New York, 1955, by whom gifted as ‘Rubens’ to,
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. no. 60.169), in 1960, catalogued as ‘a copy after Rubens, probably 17th century’, and deaccessioned in 2013; Sotheby’s, New York, 31 January 2013 (=1st day), lot 107, as ‘Follower of Peter Paul Rubens’ ($626,500), when acquired by the present owner.

Estimate: £3,000,000 - 5,000,000


Auction details

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Old Masters Evening Sale
Lots offered: 61
2018/30/6, 7/1|12pm - 5pm
2018/7/2, 7/4|9am - 4:30pm
2018/7/3|9am - 8pm
2018/7/5|9am - 3pm
Sale date: 2018/7/5|7pm