Rare French royal lions discovered by Christie's
February 23 2017
Sharp-eyed experts at Christie's sculpture department have identified two highly important lions commissioned for the tomb of Charles V of France. The two lions are by André Beauneveu (circa 1335–1402), and date from from 1364–66. Says the Christie's press release:
Originally executed to form part of the tomb of King Charles V of France at the Abbey of St. Denis, they were brought from France in 1802 by the English aristocrat Sir Thomas Neave (1761–1848), and have remained in the same collection ever since. Known to scholars only from an engraving of the 18th century, the emergence of these lions represents a remarkable re-discovery. Celebrating the art of medieval Europe, while simultaneously representing technical brilliance, the lions’ superlative quality means that they are worthy of any major museum or private collection.
Donald Johnston, Christie’s UK, International Head of Sculpture: ‘It is extraordinarily rare to offer any medieval work of art with such a fully documented provenance. The fact that this marble group was executed by one of the most important sculptors of the period and is part of an important royal commission makes it even more remarkable. The discovery of these lions in a private English collection is wonderful news for collectors and scholars who previously thought they had been lost during the French Revolution.’
Documents show that Beauneveu was commissioned by the young King Charles V shortly after coming to the throne to execute four family tombs, including the King’s own. One of the most important sculptors of late medieval Europe, Beauneveu took two years to complete the task after which he left the employ of the French crown, spending time in Flanders and – possibly – England, before ending his career at the court of Charles’s brother, Jean, duc de Berry. The tombs in Paris were dismantled by the revolutionary government in 1793 and today only the three male effigies survive. The effigy of Charles V, lacking the lions which had rested at his feet, was restored to the Abbey of St. Denis, Paris, where it remains today.
There's no estimate yet, but the lions will be in Christie's 'exceptional sale' in July.
Update - the price on the Arts Council notification of intention to sell page is £5m.