Sotheby's to Offer Titian Painting Once Owned by King Charles I and His Plumber

A Titian painting from the royal collection of King Charles I (1600 - 1649) will be up for sale at Sotheby's New York on 1 February. Saint Margaret, estimated at US$2m - 3m, is one of the highlights of Sotheby's Master Paintings Evening Sale. It is being offered at the same time as the Royal Academy of Art’s exhibition Charles I: King and Collector. The exhibition will be held from 27 January - 15 April 2018, seeking to reunite the King’s treasures that were dispersed after his execution.

Royal Academy of Art’s exhibition Charles I: King and Collector

During his reign, Charles I competed ferociously with the great powers of Europe to assemble an art collection rivalling to all others. Born into a family with deep ties to art, Charles I had an immense appreciation of art history and travelled across Europe to acquire works by some of the greatest artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Correggio.

King Charles I of England

Titian's Saint Margaret is believed to be hung in the First Privy Lodging Room at Whitehall Palace, where Charles kept his most highly-prized paintings. Following King Charles I's execution in 1649, royal plumber John Embry was owed £903 for various palace repairs and thus allowed to choose works of art as debt settlement. This painting was one of the 24 artworks selected by Embry.

Titan's Saint Margaret that offered at Sotheby's coming Master Paintings sale

Satan is depicted as a dragon

Saint Margaret makes the sign of the cross

Titian signed near the skull

The painting tells the story of the legendary virgin martyr, Saint Margaret. She made the sign of the cross when Satan, in the form of a dragon, tried to devour her. The cross she held in her hand irritated the monster’s insides and the dragon burst open allowing her to escape unharmed.

Titian's Saint Margaret. Collection of Museo del Prado

The current lot is one of two versions of the same subject signed by Titian. The other one is now housed in the Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Titian's A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria

The auction record for the artist was set at Sotheby's Old Master Paintings Sale in New York on 27 Jan 2011. A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria was sold for US$16.97m to an European telephone bidder.


Saint Margaret. Titian, and Workshop

Size: 198 x 167.5 cm
Created in: circa 1485/90 - 1576

  • In the collection of King Charles I (1600 - 1649), at Whitehall Palace, recorded in the inventory of 1639 drawn up by Abraham van der Doort, as hanging in the First Privy Lodging Room, no. 3: ‘Done by Tichian/ Item the Picture of St Margarett with a little reed cross in her left hand triumphing over the Divell Being in a dragons Shape an intire figure Soe bigg as ye life In a wodden guilded frame/ 6 - 2 - 5 - 2’;
  • Recorded in the inventory of pictures at Somerset House, London, September 1649, appraised at £100: ‘287/ Margrett afraid of a Monster. by Tytsian.’;
  • Whence ceded to Embry [Embree/ Emery] in part settlement of the late King's debt to him on 21 May 1650 for £100;
  • John Embry, Serjeant Plumber, 1650;
  • Richard 'Mad Dick' Norton (d. 1732), MP, Southwick House, possibly inherited from his grandfather Colonel Norton (d. 1692); almost certainly in his collection by 24 June 1714, the date of his will; and before 1728, when inventoried in his estate;
  • Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt and Viscount Nuneham of Nuneham Courtenay (1714 - 1777);
  • Thence by descent at Nuneham Park, Nuneham Courtenay until sold, Harcourt sale, London, Christie’s, 11 June 1948, lot 184 (for 500 guineas) where acquired by Frank Sabin;
  • With Frank Sabin, London;
  • Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 27 June 1958, lot 100 (as Titian, 78 by 66 in.), for 450 guineas to Hedden;
  • With Kurt Meissner, Zurich, 1959;
  • From whom acquired by a forebear of the present owner.

Estimate: US$2,000,000 - 3,000,000


Auction details
Auction house: Sotheby's New York
Sale: Master Paintings Evening Sale
Lot offered: 75
Auction time: 2018/02/01 |6pm