Important Old Masters at Christie's NY: April 15 Christie’s New York annual Important Old Master Paintings sale is set to take place on April 15 and features a broad selection of French, German, English, Dutch and Italian masterworks.
chooses the moment of greatest drama, at the very height
of the struggle just before Hercules pulls the horn from the massive bull’s head.
The picture was owned by the current owner’s parents, who were art dealers in the former German
Democratic Republic. When the last parent died in 1976, the property passed to the consignor, who
lived with his parents in the same Berlin apartment. The picture was part of the interior of the
apartment, and as a result no heritage tax was paid at that point.
In 1984, the consignor befriended a gentleman who, unknowingly to the owner, was a Stasi
informant. A year later, the informant told the Stasi about the picture in the apartment, and the
consignor was accused of tax evasion, was taken in police custody and the picture was confiscated.
Although criminal proceedings were dropped in 1986, the picture and other objects were kept to
cover the tax debts and sent to the storage facilities of the Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen
zu Berlin). Still unaware that his friend was an informant, the consignor donated the works to him,
having been reassured that with his good connections with to the regime, he could help return them
to the owner. However, the informant, under pressure from the Stasi to secure the paintings for the
country, organized a donation to the Berlin State Museums, and the picture was declared property of
the German Democratic Republic.
In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginnings of German reunification, the consignor
began legal proceedings to have the picture returned to him. In 1997, the Berlin Regional Court
ruled that the confiscation of the picture was unlawful, as was the donation to the informant, as the
consignor was unaware of the informant’s real identity. In 2003, the same court began to process
the restitution claim, and in November 2007, the painting was finally restituted to the proper owner
Lucas Cranach The Elder’s Portrait of Sybil of Cleves
This portrait of Princess Sybille of Cleves (1512-1554) was painted
when she was fourteen years old and newly betrothed to Johann
Friedrich I, the future Elector of Saxony. Sybille grew up at
court in Düsseldorf with her sister Anne, the fourth wife of
Henry VIII, who famously was painted by Hans Holbein the
Younger for Henry VIII to view his future wife for the first
time. The union between Sybille of Cleves and Johann Friedrich
of Saxony was a far more successful union that the one between
Anne and Henry, and seems to have been genuinely affectionate.
This portrait of Sybille was painted sometime after her betrothal
in September 1526 and before her marriage on June 1527. The
jeweled and feathered wreath, the object most associated with
the bride in sixteenth-century Germany, is the most obvious indication the portrait was painted after
the betrothal at Burg on the Wupper. At the wedding ceremony at Torgau, Lucas Cranach provided
the lavish decorations.
Cranach’s linear, highly decorative and almost abstract style