Marquess of Bath to sell £25m Titian at Christie's

April 4 2024

Image of Marquess of Bath to sell £25m Titian at Christie's

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Exciting news from Christie's London that they will be offering the Marquess of Bath's Rest on the Flight into Eygpt by Titian in their July Old Master Paintings sale. The painting, which has been at Longleat for just shy of 150 years, will be offered carrying an estimate of £15,000,000 – 25,000,000.

On the painting:

Always regarded as a youthful masterpiece by Titian and generally dated circa 1510, there are however some inevitable variations on the precise dating. In his 2012 exhibition at the National Gallery in London: Titian, A fresh look at nature, Antonio Mazzotta, who dates the picture to circa 1508-9, observed that the monumental figure of the Virgin ‘prefigures other Titian heroines’ from the period, notably that of Judith as Justice in the detached fresco fragment from the Merceria entrance to the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, circa 1508 (Venice, Ca d’Oro), a key early commission, and that of the Magdalen in the artist’s slightly later Noli me Tangere, 1511-12 (London, National Gallery).

On it's illustrious provenance and history (which is worth reproducing in full):

The roll call of illustrious provenance for this painting begins with it being first documented in the collection of the Venetian merchant, Bartolomeo della Nave (1571/79-1632), described in 1629 as a ‘mercante da droghe’, whose activities focused on the spice trade. Della Nave's inventory reveals an astonishing collection that is unlikely to have been equalled in Venice during his day and included no fewer than fifteen works by Titian, notably including The Gypsy Madonna of circa 1511; his Violante of circa 1510-15; the Nymph and Shepherd of circa 1570 (all in Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum); and the artist’s mature masterpiece of 1565-76, The Death of Actaeon, now in the National Gallery, London. In 1636, the Longleat picture was valued at £200 in della Naves's inventory, twice the amount for the Death of Actaeon, suggesting Titian's early works were more highly prized than their later counterparts.

Through Bartolomeo’s brother, Andrea della Nave, and Basil Feilding, 2nd Earl of Denbigh, King Charles I’s ambassador to Venice, the majority of the collection was acquired en bloc by the latter’s brother-in-law, James, 1st Duke of Hamilton and sent to England. Following Hamilton’s execution by parliament in 1649, the collection was sold to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1647-1656. The picture appears in Teniers’ copper panel depicting The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Picture Gallery in Brussels (Madrid, Museo del Prado), where it is shown hanging alongside other works by Titian acquired from della Nave’s collection, among which are the Nymph and Shepherd, Violante, and his Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery, circa 1511 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), an unfinished panel that the young Anthony van Dyck had made a sketch of during his visit to see the Venetian merchant’s collection in 1622.

The Longleat picture remained in the Imperial collection – passing by descent from Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor (1685-1740), Vienna, to Maria Theresa (1717-1780), Holy Roman Empress, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, to Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor (1741-1790) – and was transferred to the Belvedere Palace in Vienna by 1781, where it was looted by French troops in 1809 for the Musée Napoléon. It was subsequently owned by Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (1797-1864), a Scottish landowner, amateur artist and one of the most important patrons of Turner. Munro formed a celebrated collection that included Rembrandt’s Lucretia (Washington, National Gallery of Art), Veronese’s Vision of St. Helena (London, National Gallery), and at least ten pictures by Bonington, of which the finest was A fishmarket near Boulogne (New Haven, Yale Centre for British Art).

Early Titians of this calibre are rarely encountered on the market, it will be very exciting to see what it makes. I remember seeing the painting at Longleat several years ago. It was hanging in a very grand room full of Italian pictures in which visitors have to peer behind a rope to view, not ideal viewing conditions. It will be a wonderful opportunity to see it up-close in the galleries during the preview, a rare treat indeed!

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