Dutch Old Masters

READ the words “Old Master Paintings” and the words imply ‘old, fusty and wealthy’. They call to mind long walks through stately homes looking at dull and dark images of people I did not know and cared less about.

Though the odd image of a smiling dog did lighten the mood. As a child I was occasionally confused by the phrase and thought that perhaps the sale was of the Old Masters themselves. Perhaps a school master was being sold. If so, I idly thought, why? Is this where schools found teachers; at specialist sales. Was there a sale of Latin and Greek Masters as well as one for Geography Masters? At what age did a Mathematics teacher become an Old Master? On such speculations I passed the time and diverted my attention. Old Master Paintings are also to be found at auction houses of course. Auctioneers more or less regularly stage grand sales or auctions of Old Masters. Some of these Sales are an event of tremendous magnitude and controversy. Such as the sale of the painting “Salvator Mundi” which has been controversially attributed to the artist (and Old Master) Leonardo da Vinci or his studio and completed it is thought in 1500. That sale saw a successful bid of US$450 million for the single painting. Other auctions are lower key affairs while some are spread over more than one day. One such is the sale or rather series of four sales of the SØR Rusche Collection of 17th century works of Old Masters. Why is this series of auctions different? 225 works are on the block, a collection accumulated over four generations of the Rusche family who were guided by a principal “the best of the smallest.”

In the 17th century paintings became much more accessible.  For the first time it was possible for the wider public to collect paintings. While the most famous artists of this day and age as well as then could and do command commissions and sales from the elite and royalty lesser known painters discovered a wholly new demand and decorated the homes of the middle classes with paintings. Rooms in homes were hung conspicuously from ceiling to floor with the creations of these painters. As the Dutch economy boomed patronage of the arts which had previously been the exclusive domain of the church and royalty grew with the vastly expanded class of wealthy merchants and traders spending their new found wealth on an equally expanding art market. Georgina Eliot, Sotheby’s Associate Specialist of Old Master Paintings, added, “What is particularly exciting about this collection is that it helps us widen our understanding of the Dutch Golden Age. It shows how the artistic output of the period was so much broader than the works produced by the artists that have become household names. It is wonderful to handle a collection, formed by Egon Rusche’s philosophy, where quality has always been the focus of the acquisitions.”

Among the gems to be found at these auctions you will find in the 10th May ‘Online Sale’ a work by Jan Van Kessel the Elder, “The Christ Child as Salvador Mundi”, with an estimate of £15,000 – £25,000. While the 8th May ‘Live Sale’ has Jan Miense Molenaer’s , “Young musicians with dancing dwarf”, has an estimate of £40,000 – £60,000. Do have a look at Sotheby’s website [www.sothebys.com]and look for: SØR Rusche Old Masters Paintings. More sales from the collection will follow in the summer and autumn. Perhaps you will find a Pick at one or more of the auctions.

Nick Horne, London, England


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Nick Horne